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Background and Introduction

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Background and Introduction

Post  Mr. Digby on Sat Aug 13, 2016 2:40 pm

A New World Order

It is late January 1815, Bonaparte is securely exiled on Elba and since the late spring of last year Europe's crowned rulers have been working to build a new Europe post-Napoleon; defining borders, reinstating the princes or bloodlines of previously dismantled duchies and principalities, rewarding allies, punitively punishing those who supported the Corsican Ogre, agreeing zones of influence, deciding what indemnities France must pay those who vanquished the most detested man in Europe. The benefits Napoleon brought to France's politics and social order, as well as the seeds of national identity sown by his and the French Republic's ideas are being ignored and swept under the carpet in an orgy of depicting him as a monster and disturber of the peace; very nearly the Antichrist.

Napoleon's Legacy in Prussia

However the work of Napoleon as a great general and leader of men as well as a disturber of the Old Order has left its indelible mark, its pernicious traces. Unexpectedly the deepest cuts have been made into the fabric of his most implacable enemy - Prussia. Throughout the years she was forced to endure a humiliating treaty and the burden of enemy garrisons in her fortresses, Prussia's statesmen, army generals and philosopher minds worked towards a new vision. That vision came to glorious fruition in 1813 and 1814 when a new army was unleashed upon European battlefields, an army that was fuelled by an unrivalled nationalistic fervour, that was seen as glorious, honourable and worthy by all Prussians and which was committed to rid Germany of French influence and ideas forever. That this army was the principal political tool of those same liberal ideas the French republic had championed was ignored, or even corrupted into a new cultural ideology that professed to be wholly pure and Prussian.

The New Prussian Military

In the soldiers and officers of the Prussian military was this ethic inculcated deeper than in any other institution. In the time of Frederick the Great the army was a blunt tool, a bludgeon, expendable and crude; inhabited by criminals, mercenaries and ineffective noblemen who saw the command of regiments as a means to climb the social ladder and be noticed at court, it was slow to act on campaign, cumbersome in battle and lacked esprit de corps. Loyalty was hammered into the robotic soldiers by fear alone. Its destruction in 1806 led directly to men of thinking wishing to create it anew in a different form. The modern Prussian army is built on nationalistic ideals, loyalty to ones fellow soldiers, love of one's officers instead of fear of them, and a new ideology that places Prussian honour and glory above all else. Being a soldier is now a great calling and the responsibility of defending the Fatherland is a cause that invokes admiration in all citizens, unlike decades past when the soldiers were seen as a necessary evil who cared for nothing but personal loot, even at the expense of the German towns they marched through.

The thinking that created the new Prussian army has been fed by a unique political will. This is not the will of King Frederick Wilhelm but of his senior statesmen and generals; the senior officers of the superb Prussian General Staff in whose hands Prussia's fate now lies. Hatred of the French lies above all else. Unlike in other European states who see Napoleon as the personification of Europe's troubles for the last two decades, for Prussia the state of France herself is the sworn enemy. Prussia's new statesmen have taken up this cause to suit their other chosen course - expansion. The Rhine should be the natural western boundary and by taking up issue with France herself instead of the man who became France, Prussia promotes her aims of redefining her western borders further west than would otherwise be politically possible.

The Congress of Vienna

The assembly of statesmen that has convened since June of 1814 had, above all else, restoration of the pre-Napoleon balance as its aim. However each state brought with it an agenda unique to itself and the resurgent Prussian ideals were not alone in driving apart the statesmen who sought all things for all men - or at least, all crowned monarchs. Each nation's diplomats and representatives sought to manoeuvre the congress towards their own preferred direction.

Some agreements were made. Prussia must be awarded land for her suffering, as well as an indemnity to cover her financial ruin. The Holy Roman Empire had been dismantled and could not be restored but Austria sought influence over the southern, principally Catholic, German states and saw her role, as always, as a mediator between the west and east, the north and south of Europe. Apart from restoration of her Italian lands she sought little in gratification but used the very lack of these demands to align herself once again back into the leadership of a divided Germany - as ever split between north and south, between Protestant and Catholic.

Britain, perversely, sought a strong France. A France disrupted by weak political guidance and lacking a strong army and economy was dangerous in so far as it was a vacuum from which other states would benefit. The newly restored King Louis XVIII was a long-standing friend of Britain and had found refuge in exile in England for many years during Napoleon's reign. A case of the enemy of my enemy is my friend had resulted in England and France forming closer ties now than at any time in history. England had subsidised Louis to allow him to re-uniform and re-equip his small army and bolster France's ailing economy. In return the new French King had signed various military and trade agreements with England.

England also, as she always has done, wishes to see a balance of power maintained in Europe with no one state rising above others to threaten the critical balance. Her principal statesman in Vienna, the Duke of Wellington, has strong views on Prussian expansionism and his shrewd mind has permitted him to mould the congress along lines favourable to Britain's intent though at the cost of alienating the Prussian delegation. The Duke's anti-Prussian views are no secret.

Russia has designs upon Poland which are obvious. Austria above all others fears Russian expansion westwards into Europe and onto a political stage where she has historically held the central position. Russia and Austria have a common enemy in Turkey which complicates relations between them. Should Russia moderate her claims on Polish soil in order to secure an agreement with Austria over Turkish plans in the Balkans and Rumelia or would a treaty with Turkey better suit her plans? Austrian statesmen are carefully considering similar options with regard to a Turkish presence in Europe.

The Kingdom of the Netherlands has been reinstated with a twin state of Dutch-Belgian borders. An unlikely and ungainly marriage, the army is split into Belgian and Dutch components, neither if which is wholly effective. This state has been principally endorsed by England and Austria to build a new power in north-west Europe as a buffer against Prussia though whether this will be effective cannot be stated with any certainty.

Hanover is still loyal to Britain with close dynastic ties but she too feels the pull of the growing nationalistic tide. She is more afraid of being absorbed by a growing Prussia but she seeks greater independence.

Saxony as always finds herself in a difficult position. Her loyalty to Napoleon until late in 1813 was only broken by a defection of her officers who took their soldiers with them. The weak king, Frederick Augustus, had remained a puppet of Napoleon out of fear, causing mistrust from both Prussia and Austria.

Bavaria, Wurttemberg, Wurzburg and Baden are expected to fall under Austrian influence while the more northern German states; Saxony, Hesse-Darmstadt, Hesse-Kassel, Berg, Mecklenberg and Brunswick may look to Prussia for protection although Brunswick has developed close loyalties to Britain during the late wars which places her in an awkward position. On the French borders Nassau and Orange-Nassau are principalities of the new Dutch crown though their regional loyalties lie more with Germany, though whether they will seek Austrian, Prussian, French or Dutch guidance is unknown.

The Secret Treaties

During January 1815 two treaties that had been drawn up in secret in late 1814 became public knowledge within days of each other. The fact of their existence rocked Europe and drove an insurmountable wedge between what quickly became two power blocs. The Treaty of Posen signed by Tsar Alexander I of Russia and King Frederick Wilhelm III of Prussia stated, among other clauses, that Prussia would support, with military strength if necessary, Russian claims to large tracts of Poland (while giving Prussia control of certain northern and north-western regions) whilst in return Russia would support, again with military strength should it prove necessary, Prussian claims to all of north-west Germany south of Schleswig-Holstein, east of the Ems and from a line from Munster to Essen. The existence of this treaty threw Austria and Britain into alarm and to support the Dutch-Belgians and Hanover, Britain embarked an army from Portsmouth and Chatham which landed at Antwerp during the second and third weeks of January.

In a manner that hinted strongly of deliberate exposure, a second treaty became known about a few days shortly after. The signatories were King George III of England, Emperor Francis II of Austria and King Louis XVIII of France. Clauses in the Treaty of Metz made agreements to reinstate and defend an independent Polish Kingdom, to ensure Prussian borders remained east and north of the Elbe and to support the new French monarchy with financial subsidies and gifts of land along the Rhine.

Escalating Developments

The two treaties were incompatible. On 22nd January a Prussian army marched into Saxony, occupying Dresden. King Frederick Augustus fled to Karlsbad in Bohemia. Elements of the Saxon officer corps welcomed the Prussians as liberators while some segments stayed loyal to the King and withdrew their regiments with him into Austria. The Saxon army thus broke into two opposing loyalties and camps. High levels of desertion from many regiments followed.

In a clearly agreed move Russian troops occupied both Krakow and Warsaw three days later.


On 26th January the British ambassador to Prussia and the Austrian ambassador to Russia simultaneously presented letters to the Prussian and Russian courts demanding that their forces leave Saxony and Poland respectively within 96 hours or a state of war would then prevail. By midnight on 31st January no such withdrawals had taken place and from 1st February 1815 a state of war exists between a Prusso-Russian Alliance on the one hand and an Anglo-Austrian-French Alliance on the other. Between these two powerful enemies lie many smaller states that must choose to seek protection from one camp or the other, or try to remain neutral.

The other Martin - Charles Reille, le dernier Maréchal de France.

"Any hussar who has not got himself killed by the age of 30 is a jackass." - Antoine Charles Louis Lasalle, commander of Napoleon's light cavalry, killed in battle at Wagram 6 July 1809, aged 34.

"I had forgotten there was an objective." - Generallieutenant Mikhail Borozdin I
Mr. Digby

Posts : 4963
Join date : 2012-02-14
Age : 58
Location : UK Midlands

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