Europe After Napoleon
When we consider the political and social events in Europe between the Congress of Vienna at the end of the Napoleonic Wars and the Armistice of Versailles at the end of the Franco-Prussian War, we can see that a handful of European powers held the center of the stage. Their story is one of drastic change, culminating ultimately in the Great War. Among their ranks we find the British Empire, France (sometimes an empire), the Russia Empire, the Austrian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Prussians (becoming an empire). For the purposes of the Hyphenated Wars, we have chosen to ignore the British, Russian, and Ottoman Empires, although their various histories are well worth study.
Like many peace settlements, the Treaty of Paris in 1814 laid the ground-work for many of the problems to come. It contained a re-shuffling of territorial control, which would lead to war and revolution later in the century. It was not merely a question of what to do with Napoleon's empire, but a question of which of the members of the Sixth Coalition would exercise the most power, and what role each would play in Europe moving forward.
France went back to the monarchy displaced by the 1789 revolution - the House of Bourbon. Other minor Bourbon monarchies (such as that of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies) were restored following Napoleon's fall. The Holy Roman Empire - having been dissolved in 1806 - continued on in the form of the German Confederation, which included not only Prussia and Austria, but also some 36 or 37 other states and free cities. (This in and of itself represented a massive consolidation, as it was down from a total of 360!) What is today Belgium was brought into existence as part of a new country, the United Kingdom of the Netherlands. Poland was divided between three of the major players: Austria, Prussia, and Russia. The pre-war status quo was re-established, with some additional territory going to the victors.
The settlement embraced the idea of monarchy, as could be expected of the imperial powers sitting at the table. It rejected the notions of republicanism, equality, and revolution which had spawned the entire Napoleonic debacle in the first place. This - even more than territorial ambitions - lead to the conflicts of the mid-19th century. In essence, the Imperial and monarchical powers desired a return to a notional status quo, where they could continue their power games, secure in their control over the obedient subjects of their various populations. Such was not to be. The Treaty of Paris was fundamentally a conservative solution to the problem of European peace, ignoring the more liberal notions which were gaining currency among the masses. This is, of course, a gross over-simplification of a very complicated subject, but our goal is not to provide details of the era's politics, but merely to convey a general sense of why the Hyphenated Wars took place.
The Spring of Nations and Consequent Wars
The 19th Century was an age of revolutions and uprisings throughout Europe. These started in the 1820s and grew in intensity in the 1830s. Bonapartism in France was still an influence (read Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo for an idea of how Napoleon's political influence carried on after his defeat. The movie versions don't usually help here, I'm afraid...). Freemasonry and (in Italy) the Carbonari also furthered liberal and revolutionary ideas. The list of "-isms" is a long one: Republicanism, Socialism, Anti-Clericalism, and Nationalism are all on it, but with very different connotations than their names have today. In addition to radical new political and religious ideas, poor economic conditions resulting from crop failures and protectionist trade policies also drove civil unrest. The impact of new technologies on workers added to the mix. These factors culminated in the Spring of Nations, in 1848, an uncoordinated and spontaneous wave of revolutions and uprisings which affected more than 50 states to one extent or another.
Although the first of the 1848 revolutions took place in Sicily, the one that is credited with really kicking the party off was the one in France. After successfully dethroning one monarch, the French decided to establish the Second Republic, headed by an elected Bonaparte, which morphed in a short time into the Second Empire, with the Bonaparte in question becoming Emperor Napoleon III (he was only following the established family tradition, right?). Among the other areas most affected by the 1848 revolutions and uprisings were the states of the German Confederation, Italy, and Hungary (the latter a part of the Austrian Empire). In each case, these gave rise to significant armed conflicts.
In Sicily, there was a successful revolution against the Bourbon dynasty, establishing a liberal demoncratic government lasting for 16 months before succumbing to the Bourbon forces of reaction. Revolts in Salerno and Naples followed. In the Papal States, the liberal reforms of Pope Pius IX ended in producing dissatisfaction among the populace, and civil unrest caused him to flee Rome. The short-lived Roman Republic was established, being defeated by the French and Austrians in 1849. Pius IX's negative experience transformed him from a liberal reformer into a staunch conservative. In the north, the events in the south provided a model, leading to revolts in the Kingdom of Venetia-Lombardy and in other areas such as Bologna and Milan, which were occupied by the Austrians. The Austrians were pushed back into the fortresses of the Quadrilateral. At this point King Charles Albert of Sardinia (Piedmont) issued a liberal constitution for his realm and lead an attack on the Austrians, aided by troops from not only the revolutionary governments but also the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. After initial battles - including a victory at Gioto - many of his allies abandoned him, and the 1st Italian War of Independence ended with the defeat at Novara in 1849. Charles Albert abdicated in favor of his son, Victor Emanuel.
The Austrian Empire of the Hapsburgs was also in trouble in Hungary, always a fractious Kingdom under both the Holy Roman Empire and afterwards. An initial successful uprising in Budapest led to the creation of the Hungarian Republic and a war of independence. Austrian troops from Croatia initially responded, but the Hungarians were generally victorious. Other regions of the empire were also involved, in many cases on the Austrian side as well as that of the Hungarians. Although important concessions were extracted from the Austrians, and the hated foreign minister Metternich was forced to resign, an intervention by the forces of Imperial Russia decided the day. After defeat in battles against the Austrians and Russians, the Hungarian Revolutionaries surrendered at Világos in August of 1849. These events were a direct cause of the establishment of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
In Germany, the revolutions of 1848 had a two-fold effect. There were uprisings in many of the states of the German Confederation, with a republic declared in Baden. These were widespread, including not only the Grand Duchy of Baden but in Prussia (Berlin), Saxony (Dresden), Bavaria and the Rhenish Palatinate, the Prussian Rhineland, Austria (Vienna, Galicia, Bohemia, Moravia, the Slovaks, etc.), and the Prussian-controlled parts of Poland (Posnan). In every case Austrian, Prussian or Bavarian troops intervened and managed to suppress the uprisings - there were several altercations, some involving thousands of participants, and even government forces who had mutinied. This unrest led directly to the second major effect of the 1848 revolutions on Germany: support for the rebellious duchies in the 1st Schleswig-Holstein War. Pan-Germanism was a major motivating idea for the German revolutionaries, and Bismark realized that sending several thousand of them to fight for one of their favored causes, not within the core states of the German Confederation, but in the contested duchies of Schleswig and Holstein, on the side of those rebelling from Denmark, would be a good idea.
The duchies of Schleswig and Holstein present a political picture so complicated that the British stateman Palmerston famously said "Only three people have ever really understood the Schleswig-Holstein business — the Prince Consort, who is dead — a German professor, who has gone mad — and I, who have forgotten all about it." What is undeniable is that the politics of inheritance ran afoul of the different laws in different parts of the territories involved, and the basic ethnic divide between the German-speaking inhabitants and the Danish-speaking ones added fuel to the fire. When the cause of Pan-Germanism was added to the mix, and Bismark went looking for a way to vent its fervor, it turned a revolutionary uprising into a larger-scale war.
Schleswig-Holstein represented a significant part of the overall Danish population and economy, and it would not be easily abandoned. The conflict involved not only the Schleswig-Holsteiner and Danish forces, but also those from Sweden and Norway (then under united rule), Prussia, Hanover, Brunswick, Mecklenburg, Oldenburg, Hesse, Bavaria, Baden, Anhalt, Nassau, Waldeck, Lippe-Detmold, Wurttemburg, Saxony-Coburg-Gotha, Saxony-Meiningen, Reuss, Saxony-Weimar, Saxony-Altenburg, Schaumburg-Lippe, and Hesse-Homburg (that's nine hyphens, in case you forgot to count). It is important to note that Austria, also a member-state of the German Confederation, refused to get involved. Ultimately, the war did not produce a conclusive result: the Prussians (followed by the other forces of the German Confederation) withdrew their support for the rebels under international pressure, but the German Confederation as a whole never recognized the treaty ending the war which made Schleswig-Holstein a part of Denmark. In all, there were more than twenty engagements (including battles, sieges, and skirmishes, with most described as "battles") over the course of the war.
Further Conflicts of the Risorgimento
Throughout the 19th century, Italy was the stage for many uprisings and conflicts, an historical narrative which is broadly labelled the Risorgimento (the "Unification of Italy" in English). This event spanned many decades, and was a factor in many of the other European conflicts of the period. Following the 1st Italian War of Independence of 1848-1849, there was a decade of retrenchment. Pan-Italian sentiment did not disappear, but there were no major conflicts until 1859, when the Franco-Austrian War (aka the 2nd War of Italian Independence) took place. (Although Sardinian participation in the Crimean War was calculated to promote pro-Italian sympathies in Britain and France, it was not otherwise an important conflict for the Risorgimento.)
While there was sympathy in France and Britain for the Italian revolutionaries and reformers, the fear of conflict with Austria stopped them from providing any official support. When an Italian radical named Orsini - with backing from British sympathizers - tried to assassinate Napoleon III of France, there was massive political fallout. This episode is termed The Orsini Affair, and it is a complicated subject in its own right. One result, however, was that Napoleon III felt that the situation with revolutionaries was out of control, and that Austria, always his adversary, was somehow culpable. He decided to do something about it: he formed a secret alliance for mutual defence with the Sardinians, his logic being that a unified Italy would give people fewer reasons to throw bombs at him. Sardinia - the champion of Italian unification (under their own leadership, of course) - proceeded to provoke a war with Austria by mobilizing their army and performing military maneuvers near the border, and then rejecting the subsequent Austrian ultimatum.
Both Austria and France were seen as models of military power in the Europe of the day, and the contest was closely observed. There were several engagements (one - Magenta - large-scale), culminating in a major confrontation at Solferino, in which the Piedmontese-Sardinians and French faced off against the Austrians. The Austrians were pushed back into the fortresses of the Quadrilateral, after fighting so bloody (for the time) that it was a causative factor in the eventual establishment of the Geneva Conventions and the International Red Cross. The war came to an end with the Armistice of Villafranca in 1859, following the battle. Sardinia gained some Italian territory, but Venetia and the fortresses of the Quadrilateral remained in Austrian hands. Savoy and Nice went to France. (Italian radicals stopped trying to blow Napoleon III up, too, so I guess from a French perspective it worked.)
In the south, in 1860, with the complicity of the Sardinians, Giuseppe Garibaldi had raised a force of volunteers - his famous Redshirts - and invaded Sicily in the Expedition of the Thousand (like most things, it sounds better in Italian: Spedizione dei Mille). Interestingly, he did this in response to the transfer of Nice, where he grew up, to French control. Unlikely as it was, he managed to conquer the island and then cross the Straits of Messina. Here he was again victorious, with the Bourbon king retreating to his fortress at Gaeta and his army making a last stand at the Battle of the Volturno. Although not defeated by Garibaldi directly, the subsequent appearance of a Sardinian army, arriving after a successful invasion of the Papal States, lead to his ultimate capitulation. In plebiscites, the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies and the territories of Tuscany, Parma, Modena, and the Papal Legations (17 different parts of the Papal States) became part of Piedmont-Sardinia, leaving Rome and Venetia as the two parts of Italy remaining outside the control of the Piedmontese-Sardinian House of Savoy. The Kingdom of Italy was declared in 1861, with Rome as its capital (even though not part of the new kingdom's territory) - Victor Emanuel was now the King of Italy.*
Garibaldi was not finished, however. His goal was to take Rome, and with that intention, in 1862, he landed in Sicily, crossed the Straits of Messina without significant conflict with the Italian authorities, and moved north. The Italian government, influenced by France, whose troops protected the city in the name of the Pope, sent Cialdini (hero of earlier conflicts and bitter adversary of Garibaldi's) with some Italian forces to stop the Republicans. Garibaldi clearly did not want to fight - he marched into the Aspromonte mountains in an attempt to avoid meeting the Italian army. When he did, the "battle" lasted ten minutes, producing a total of 15 casualties, of whom Garibaldi himself was one. Garibaldi surrendered rather than fight. Even during this brief exchange, some of the Italian Bersaglieri switched sides. The friction between the monarchist Italians and Republicans continued to color politics in Italy for some time, but did at least result in a withdrawal of French troops from Rome (the Italians took over the job of protecting the Pope).
1864 (Schleswig-Holstein, Part II)
In 1863, the always-confusing situation in Schleswig-Holstein was again exacerbated by issues of succession, triggered by the death of the Danish king without a direct heir (if he had children, they were not legitimate). In contravention of the treaties which ended the first war, Denmark - now faced with a loss of Schleswig because the new Danish King, Christian IX, would not inherit the title to it - issued the November Constitution, binding it to the Danish Crown (the old king had simultaneously been Duke of Augustenburg and King of Denmark - the new one was not). Politics over the issue were complicated. Ultimately, Prussia - acting as an independent European state, rather than on behalf of the Confederation - shamed Austria into siding with it in a war against Denmark. It was clear that the Prussian goal was the annexation of Schleswig to gain control of the strategically important Kiel Canal.
In February of 1864 the two powers sent their armies across the border into Schleswig. The Danes' first major defensive position - the Dannewerk - was rapidly abandoned, causing much dismay among the Danish popuation, although a militarily sound move. The Danes then established themselves in a heavily-fortified position at Düppel. In due course this was bombarded and stormed by the Prussians, which was the decisive action of the war. There were several engagements, but in the end the Danes gave up control of the contested Duchies, which were jointly administered by the Prussians (Schleswig and Lauenburg) and Austrians (Holstein). (In the Peace of Prague, which ended the 1866 Austro-Prussian War, they went to Prussia.)
1866 - The German Bruderkreig and 3rd Italian War of Independence
Following the 1864 war, there was considerable friction between Prussia and Austria over the administration of the Elbe Duchies (Schleswig-Holstein and Lauenburg). Austria tolerated the rule of Frederick VIII, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg, which Prussia (aside from the Crown Prince) disliked. When Austria put the conflict over the administration of Holstein before the parliment of the German Confederation, Prussia declared the agreement providing for joint administration, the Gastein Convention, to have been nullified, and invaded Holstein. In response, the Confederation voted for a partial mobilization against Prussia, at which point Bismarck declared the Confederation itself ended.
These polticial maneuvers reveal that Prussia was clearly interested in a war with Austria. Prussia had made an agreement with Italy that specified a three-month period during which Italy committed to join a war against Austria if Prussia should become involved in one. Bismarck, the master of realpolitik, was behind it all (there is disagreement among historians as to whether the entire 2nd Schleswig-Holstein War had been a set-up to produce a war between Prussia and Austria, or whether it was only in the terms of the Gastein Convention where the trap was laid.) He managed to have his war with Austria within the designated three-month window, and timed it so that other European powers were unlikely to become involved, being focused on internal concerns, or committed to non-intervention by treaty or inclination. Bismarck was also counting on Prussian military superiority, resulting from the changes made by Roon and Möltke, and demonstrated in the 1864 conflict.
Some German states (mostly northern ones) sided with Prussia, others with Austria, and some remained neutral. Bohemia was the principal theatre of the Austro-Prussian War, seeing several battles between the Prussians and Austrians, with the Prussians winning the decisive one at Königgrätz. The Prussians also fought a campaign along the Main River against the Bavarians and other Federal German forces (the German Confederation still existed, even if Bismarck didn't agree). The Italians and Austrians fought in Venetia, with the Italians losing the Battle of Custozza, and also at sea in the Battle of Lissa, another Austrian victory. Garibaldi, however, led the Italians to victory at Bezzecca, and proceeded to invade the Trentino.
The war resulted in two different peace settlements. The Peace of Prague between Prussia and Austria dissolved the German Confederation and paved the way for the formation of the Prussian-lead North German Confederation, which excluded Austria and her southern German allies (the initial step in the realization of Bismarck's "Lesser German Solution"). Schleswig-Holstein, Nassau, and Hanover were directly annexed by Prussia. The Treaty of Vienna resulted in Italian control over Venetia, bringing the "3rd Italian War of Independence" to a successful if not wholly glorious conclusion for the Italians.
Mentana and the Fall of Rome
Garibaldi emerged from the 1866 war as the only victorious Italian general. On the strength of this, in 1867 he organized a force of 10,000 volunteers to again make an attempt on Rome. Garibaldi was to march into the Romagna with his army, while forces from within the city staged a revolution. The timing was not good - the uprising in Rome was suppressed, and a combined force of French and Papal troops confronted the Garibaldini at the Battle of Mentana, preventing them from reaching Rome. During this, the Italian government despatched an army to again confront the Garibaldini, but the two did not come to blows.
French troops remained in the Roman territory until 1870. When the Franco-Prussian War broke out, they were recalled to France. In the month after their departure, Rome was taken by the Italians. There was much negotiation in the hopes of avoiding hostilities and saving face, but Pope Pius IX instructed his army of some 17,000 men to resist the approaching Italian forces (numbering 50,000) sufficiently to demonstrate that the takeover of the city was indeed hostile. The Pope got his wish - relations between Italy and the Papacy were soured for the next 30 years. This event signified the effective conclusion of the Risorgimento. Only San Marino - an independent republic to this day, all 24 square miles of it - remained outside the control of the Italian crown.
Another conflict in Italy ended during this same period, albeit a minor one from an historical perspective. After 1861, the traditional brigands of southern Italy joined forces with adherents of the anti-monarchical cause and disaffected Republicans to produce a high degree of unrest. Known as the Brigantaggio, it required some 140,000 Italian troops to quell. The fighting was on a small scale, but was of an intensity that cause some to describe it as a civil war. The Italian authorities were accused of atrocities, and certainly resorted to deportations and executions. By the time Rome was finally taken by Italy, the Brigantaggio had effectively ended.
The Franco-Prussian War and the Paris Commune
The Franco-Prussian War was the result of long-standing tensions between Napoleon III's Empire and the rising power of Prussia. War was viewed as inevitable. In the event, Bismarck managed to trigger a French declaration of war over the manipulation of an innocuous telegram concerning the succession to the throne of Spain, an issue which would potentially have a major impact on the balance of power within Europe. France viewed herself as the leading military power, having put Austria in its place in 1859. In truth, the edifice of the French military establishment had decayed from within, with the actual capacity for waging a modern war being much less than what appearances would suggest.
Napoleon III had badly mis-read the situation in Germany after 1866. He intended to invade Germany, making the mistaken assumption that he would be ready for war and in the field ahead of Prussia, and the further mistaken assumption that the south-German states would join forces with him against Prussia. In fact, these states had already made secret agreements with Bismarck to fight on Prussia's side in case of war. From Bismarck's perspective, a war against a foreign enemy was needed to fully unify the German states into a single empire under Prussian leadership. The German forces emerging from the conflicts of 1864 and 1866 proved to be far better organized and prepared for a modern war than those of France.
In the event, a series of battles were fought along the border between France and the German states running from Luxembourg in the north to Switzerland in the south. Prussia emerged victorious, encircling Napoleon III and his army in the fortress of Sedan, and forcing Napoleon III's surrender. This event ended what is known as the "Imperial Phase" of the war.
Rather than accept their defeat, the French people decided to create the Third Republic, and carry on fighting, starting the "Republican Phase" of the conflict. Paris was besieged, but the French managed to pull together considerable forces and carry on the fight. In some cases, the French resorted to guerilla warfare, giving rise to the Prussian fear of the "francs-tireurs" (later used as an excuse for German attrocities committed in Belgium during the opening chapter of WWI). There were several battles, some being Prussian victories and others not. Prussia, however, had the upper hand. The new French government collapsed, and the titular head of the Third Republic officially surrendered to the Prussians in February of 1871. The Parisians and Frenchmen in some other places refused to recognize the surrender, declaring a revolution - the Commune - in March 1871. A civil war ensued, the most famous episodes of which took place in Paris, where the Commune was started.
If you have ever wondered why we refer today to the political cause formerly known as "Bolshevism" as "Communism," it is because the Paris Commune was used as a major propaganda tool by the Bolsheviks. The Paris Commune was not Bolshevist, nor entirely socialist, although it (along with its red flag) came to symbolize these ideas. Like other French revolutions of the preceding century, it was motivated by a mixture of different sentiments, socialism among them, but hatred of the Prussians being perhaps the dominant one. The National Guard sided with the Communards, with the regular army arrayed against it. There was fighting in the streets of Paris and elsewhere. (This is not as confusing on the tabletop as it sounds like it might be - the red trousers of the French regulars were replaced by blue ones in the National Guard.) The revolution was defeated, latterly being transformed in the public mind into the myth which subsequently formed the centerpiece of Bolshevik symbology.
Ultimely, the war ended in the Treaty of Frankfurt in May of 1871. Bismarck was successful. The south German states of Bavaria, Baden, Württemberg, and Hesse-Darmstadt became part of the German Empire, and a new imperial territory was formed from Alsace and parts of Lorraine which were surrendered by France. Bismarck also earned the undying emnity of the French people as a nation - the Franco-Prussian War was a major causative factor in WWI. The new German Empire destroyed the balance of power in Europe established at the Congress of Vienna after the Napoleonic Wars.
World war and Communism are not the only legacies of the Hyphenated Wars era, however - it also brought to the fore the ideas of individual rights and democratic representation which inform the various governments found in Europe - and throughout much of the world - today. We no longer live at the sufferance of kings, emperors, and princes. Most important, from our perspective, the era of the Hyphenated Wars left us with a endlessly fascinating and colorful period to wargame!