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Flying Tiger, Hidden Eagle
SAARF – Special Allied Airborne Recon Force
Force at la Difensa
The Third Battle of Megiddo
The Third Battle of Anchialus
Sabotaging Hitler’s Heavy Water
Return of Rogers' Rangers
Soviet Offensive in the Arctic
The Siege of Mazagan, 1562
T.E. Lawrence and Asymmetric Warfare
The Borinqueneers: 65th Inf Regt
Americans in the Boer War
Logistics and Western Way of War
The Failure of Strategic Bombing
Dutch Harbor: Unraveling of Japan’s Pacific Strategy
The Third Day at Gettysburg
From Small Causes, Great Events Pt2
Ed Ramsey, 26th Cav Reg (Philippine Scouts)
Response to Everett L. Wheeler’s review
Marching to Timbuktu
US Army in Czechoslovakia '45: An Operational Overview
Strategic Culture of the IJN
Battles of Luneville: September 1944
Adolphus, Genius of Sweden
Visual Guide to US Fleet Subs Pt 1
British Infantry Tactics in WWI
Lodge Act Soldier
The Sharif and the Sultan of Fishermen
The Fate of the Kido Butai
From Small Causes, Great Events
Charge of the Polish Light Horse at Somosierra
Second Samnite War Phase 2
Air Recon in WWII
The Roman Disaster at Adrianople
Cyberwar in the 21st Century
Ninety Five Theses and the Revolution
Bullets Quickly Write New Tactics
Second Lebanon War
WWII Veteran Interview - Walter Holy
The influence of Neurotechnology on Just War
Turning East: Hitler's only option
Fury, Fumaroles and Brimstone
Resupply Operations to Malta, 1942
Son of an Artilleryman Follows Father’s Footsteps
Colonel Patrick O'Rorke
Plague of the Spanish Lady
Cairo’s Fortress on the Mountain
WWII Veteran Interview
Why Arnhem?
Hell Ship - From the Philippines to Japan
The Battleship USS Oregon
SMS Dresden's War
Air Recon in WWI
US Army in Czechoslovakia '45 to '48
Jewish Resistance in WWII
Betrayed by a Mason?
Angel of Mons
Who Killed the Red Baron?
Armenian Warriors, Japanese Samurai
Benedict Arnold in Canada
D-Day Gate Crasher
Vets Tell All -- He Listens
308th Infantry during Argonne
Battle for the Seaports
British Officers and Gentlemen
Banzai Attack on Attu
End of the Battle of the Java Sea
Texas National Guard in WWII
How Arnhem was Lost
The War between Norway and Sweden 1808
Armenians in Strategikon
Suez Canal Guerrillas
Birth of a PMC
Sir Thomas Stukeley
Cuban Missile Crisis
Saga of Ormoc Bay
Memorials Past and Future
Second Samnite War
Korea: Study In Unpreparedness
Intelligence in the Philippine Insurrection
Stanley at Shiloh: A Improbable 'Indiana Jones'
The Green Beret Affair: A Factual Review
Silent Service of the Pacific
USS Wahoo
Gulf War Press Mobilization
Special Order 191: Ruse of War?
Mexican Revolution and US Intervention 1910-1917
Polish Cavalry: A Military Myth Dispelled
Confucian Martial Culture
Operation Market Garden
War in So. Italy 342-327 BC
Avoiding World War III
Legacy of WWII Sub Veterans
Chosin Reservoir
Lausdell Crossroads
Asian Art of War
Kasserine Pass
Gonzales: Crucible of Texas Revolution
Sheridan's Southern Plains Campaign
Milvern Harrell: Dawson Massacre
Arnhem Startline
Roman Army Field Manual
15th Illinois Infantry
Bushido: Valor of Deceit
British Lion Polish Eagle
British Offensive Operations
Decisions of Disaster: Jutland 1916
Endgame in Flanders, 1918
Constantinople - Citadel at the Gate
Bacon's Rebellion
First Samnite War
Phoenix Reven
USS Charger
English Way of War
Roman Expedition into Dacia
Sir Winston Churchill
Chinese Support for Vietnam
Fannin's Regiment
Battle of Poyang Lake
German Commerce Raiders
Indecisiveness of Battles
8th New Hampshire Infantry
American Stubbornness at Rimling
Mexican American War
The OSS in Greece
China Marines
Pompey and Ancient Piracy
The Northwest Army
MacArthur and the Cavalry
Naval Infantry in US Military History
Strategy of Blitzkrieg
Giuseppe Garibaldi
Breaking Seelow Heights
Soviet Experience in Afhanistan
Apocalypse Then
American Revolution
Western Way of War
American Way of War
The Battle Tannenberg
The Rape of Nanking
The Kitona Operation
Solferino: Slaughter and Rebirth
Siege of Osaka
Confederate Railroad
Shenandoah Campaign
Fredericksburg Campaign
Commanders and Censors
Tet Offensive
Battle of Lundy's Lane
Battle of Paris
Flip Side of Containment
Small Battle: Big Implications
Unconventional Warfare
Harris Class APA
Aerial Defense of East Indies
Sun Tzu and Overland Campaign
ACW Military Theory
Why the Bulge Didn't Break
MacArthur: 1931-1935
American Forces in WWII
Shadow Warriors
Bear River Massacre
Reflections on Iran
The Success of Napoleon
Battle of Surigao Strait
Cuba's Operation Carlotta
Panzer Brigades
Adolf Eichmann
Battle of Great Bridge
Seapower in the Yuan Dynasty
Frederick: Battle of Leuthen
Nutmeggers on Antietam Creek
Nathan Bedford Forrest
G. Washington and J. Monroe
Mao and Giap On Guerrilla Warfare
Interview of a WWII Veteran
Stephen Douglas and Popular Sovereignty
The "Green Beret Affair"
The Start: Ft. Necessity
Napoleon's Campaign of 1809
Clark Field, Philippines
Winter Warfare
The Great Retreat
The Raid on Thurso, 1649
The City Point Explosion
Capture of USS President
Operation Rusty: The Gehlen-U.S. Army Connection
The Hundred Years War: An Analysis
Why France Lost the Seven Years' War
A Cold War Retrospective
Dalton to Atlanta-Sherman vs. Johnston
The Fenian Raids
Military History of War of 1812
Hitler, Germany's Worst General
A Path Across the Rhine: Remagen
Failures during the Spanish Civil War
Surface Actions of World War II
Austerlitz: Napoleon Makes His Own Luck
MacArthur's Failures in the Philippines
The Battle of Cowpens
The Failures at Spion Kop
Combatants in Black Hawk War
Japan's Monster Sub
Britain's Participation Justified?
Popski's Private Army
The Maple Leaf Adventure
An Odd Way to View WWII
America's Paradoxical Trinity
The Soviet Formula for Success
Basic Counter-Insurgency
The Onin War
The Battle of Pea Ridge
Tunisian Army in Crimean War
Japan's TA-Operation
The Cambodian Incursion
Hitler Youth: An Effective Organization
Dien Bien Phu: A Battle Assessment
After Midway: The Fates of the Warships
Lafayette Escadrille Pilots
Governor Kieft's Personal War
Barbarossa: Strategic Miscalculation
History of 138th PA
Giuseppe Garibaldi
The Story of a "Go Devil"
Long Range Desert Group
Island of Death
The Caterpillar Club
Foundation of Modern Army Regiments
One of Ten Thousand
The Design Was Not Passed On
Subverting the Sultan
John Paul Jones and Asymetric Warfare
The Liberation of Czechoslovakia 1945
Dien Bien Phu 50 Years Later
The Battle of Mogadishu
"A Time of Testing": Battle for Hue
StuIG at Stalingrad
Only the Admirals were Happy
Bicycle Blitzkrieg - Singapore
What if?
The Effect of Industrialization
Tanks in the Garden of Eden
Early Texas Military History
Office of Strategic Services
The Mitrailleuse
The Grande Armee of 1812 in Russia
Role of Artillery in Korea
Thermopylae, Balaklava and Kokoda
Battle of Mantinea
Pearl Harbor
American Revolution in the Caribbean
The French Campaign of 1859
The Battle of Midway
The Battle of Franklin
Waffen SS - Birth of the Elite
Want of a Nail: Confederate Ironclads
Changing Generalship and Tactics
Nomonhan and Okinawa
Der Bund Deutscher Mädel
Boudicca: What Do We Really Know?
Rulers of the World: The Hitler Youth
The Master's Misstep
The Order of St. Lazarus
Breakout From the Hedgerows
St. Etienne: US 36th Division in WWI
Memories of D-Day
Life and Death of the 10th NJ Infantry
The Raid on Dieppe

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Patrick Murphy Articles
The Russian Army in 1914
The Effect of Industrialization

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The Effect of Industrialization and Technology on Warfare: 1854-1878 
The Effect of Industrialization and Technology on Warfare: 1854-1878
by Patrick Murphy

Europe after 1850 was beginning to create more weapons than commanders knew what to do with. The industrial revolution brought many changes to warfare and the societies that waged them. The steam engine was the force that drove the industrial revolution. It was the power source of the vast increases in production and development during the latter half of the 19th century. It also increased the mobility of industrial weapons. All told, from the Crimean war to the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-8, industrialization affected every aspect of how humans went about killing one another.

Industry's vast increase in the scale of death forever altered the way wars were fought. Increased firepower led to scattered troops looking for cover. This dispersion and its effect on command control, was countered by the invention of the telegraph. A new officer also appeared, one that was versed equally in theoretical methods as practical ones. It would be the Staff Officers who would pull the strings of their industrial-inspired mass armies. As intelligent as war planners became, industry was always one step ahead with more devastating weapons.

Developments in small arms, such as the modern breech-loading rifle, allowed for a vast increase in the deadliness of infantry. The same technology was applied to artillery, creating the modern field guns and howitzers that still see extensive use in today's armies. This rifling was very expensive, creating disparities between the technology of the rich and poor countries. The other component of the battlefield trinity, the cavalry, ended up becoming obsolete, although it would take the wholesale slaughter of many thousands of cavalrymen and the horrors of World War One before this became fully realized by military thinkers. Over all, defensive positions benefited the most from this new technology, the added firepower in defensive roles made it difficult to dislodge entrenched troops.

With this increase in firepower came an increase in the demand for ordinance. Therefore, the change in the industrial power of nations affected their military prowess. Tactics and cunning became less important than production rates and supply ability. This also applied to the number of combatants available as, increasingly, personnel came to be seen as numbers much like ammunition consumption and weapon replacement. The larger the army, usually stemming from a larger population base, the greater the casualties it would be able to sustain, increasing the odds of victory.

Aside from the direct relationships between the industrial revolution and the military battlefield, less obvious correlations can be made. The formation of new industrial jobs manifested new sources of officers. Those in Prussia, when applying these new ideas to military thinking, created an education revolution. The development of the modern General Staff, predominantly shaped by Helmuth von Moltke, would forever change the efficiency of warfare. General Staffs depended on another development of the industrial revolution to succeed. The telegraph, first via wire, then wireless, allowed for the rapid dissemination of information to the staff officers and their subsequent orders to the front line.

Military units were not the only ones changing warfare with them. The telegraph would serve the newspaper, which affected war in an unpredictable way. Facilitated by the rapid movement of information that the telegraph created, the media would not only shape public opinion but also would change strategy, improve heath conditions and even bring about the end of wars and governments.

During the Crimean war, and for the first time in the history of warfare, the power of the fourth estate would be seen. In the opening stages of the war, public opinion, fuelled by newspapers such as The Times , accelerated and increased hostilities. At first it was the British intent to merely stem Russia's perpetual movement towards Constantinople, which they insisted on referring to, much to the chagrin of the Ottoman Turks, as Tzargrad. The religious and political tensions rose quickly and it was only the non-intervention of the German states in the war that prevented a first world war in 1854.[1]

Quickly, England's position changed to a much more aggressive policy. It aimed to severely reduce Russia's power, both in the Balkans and Eastern Europe. As Thomas Carlyle put it, "It is the idle population of editors that have done this to England. One perceives clearly the ministers go forward into it against their will . In the end, it would be these same editors who would remove the same ministers from office."[2]

France also went to war in part due to public opinion. Napoleon III would make a habit of using the military and nationalistic fervour to secure his place as Emperor of the Second Republic. In an attempt to win the favour of the staunchly Catholic peasants that were his power base, Napoleon III valiantly defied Russia's claim on Jerusalem. Additionally, on a more personal level, Napoleon desired to have revenge for the humiliation his uncle received during the ill-fated march on Moscow. When Russia moved against the Ottomans with the intent of securing the holy places for themselves France had all the motive it needed. Napoleon III quickly developed an alliance against Russia and spearheaded the attack.[3]

On the technological side, the Crimean war saw the first wide spread use of rifled infantry weapons. Previously, the large cost of producing such weapons relegated them to elite sharpshooter units, whose high level of training allowed them to make use of their vastly improved range. Rifling in artillery proved to be even more important to the outcome of the war. After Henri Paixhans invented the progenitor of the modern artillery piece in 1821, every industrialized nation rushed to produce a model superior to all others.[4]

On paper and from a strictly industrial point of view, the war should have been decided rather quickly. Technologically, Russia was far behind, having but 6,000 rifles in 1853. Their industry was in a similar state. Russia had only three factories in the entire empire, which produced an obsolete weapon, the smoothbore musket. If this wasn't bad enough, the factories only made 61,000 units a year, which was barely enough to replace the weapons that wore out. When one considers that 1,490 out of 1,500 muskets shipped to Sebastopol were defective in one way or another, the situation seems almost comical.[5]

The Allies initial plan was to defeat the Russians in the Crimea in only six weeks. They were to achieve this by the blockade of the fortress of Sebastopol, the naval bombardment of military targets and decisive ground attacks. In reality, the situation proved to be much more difficult. At the battle of Alba during September 1854, the Russians used defensive positions to inflict heavy casualties on the troops crossing the Alba River. Eventually, the industrial firepower of rifled infantry weapons over muskets drove the Russians back. Once the Russian line had collapsed, rifled artillery littered the Russian ranks with high explosives and shrapnel, creating mass casualties and panic.[6]

A month after the crossing of the Alba an infamous battle would occur. Large hills, valleys and incompetent commanders lacking understanding of the new weapons of war would set the scene for the notorious "Charge of the Light Brigade." Its commander, Lord Cardigan, doomed the light cavalry by ordering them into massed cannon barrages that obliterated the 673 men. The obsolescence of Napoleon era tactics failed to dawn on military leaders of the Crimean war. Again, at the battle of Inkerman in November of 1854, Napoleon style shock columns were used to tragic effect. Massed waves of men were hurled against the entrenched British. Vastly outranging the Russians, their tightly massed formations melted under the fire of the British rifles.[7]

After the Pyrrhic victories at Alba, Balaclava and Inkerman, the English resolved themselves to simply bombard Sebastopol from the hills and wait for the Russians to run out of food and water. This course of action was unacceptable to Napoleon III, as he needed a victory worthy of his uncle to stabilize his fragile government. Eventually, Napoleon III settled for more realistic war aims that were limited to the capture of Russia's Black Sea fortress.[8]

If the preamble to Sebastopol would prove the tactics of the European powers to be outdated, the siege itself would demonstrate the poor state of Russian industry. The allies would fire 400,000 more shells into Sebastopol than the Russians answered with. The supply of these shells necessitated construction of the world's first tactical railroad, built during 1855 by the English from the port of Balaclava to Sebastopol. Although it was an innovative invention, the single rail line installation in was no more than a footnote in history.[9] 

If one were to look at the war from a strictly medical point of view, one would find an area where industrial might would provide little support to either side.  The entirety of the war was an addendum to a huge epidemic of disease and infection, as more casualties stemmed from these than from enemy fire. Of the 500,000 Russian losses, the majority resulted from Russia only having 1,600 beds in its hospital than from enemy ordinance. A full two thirds of the 300,000 allied casualties can be attributed to these same factors. In the face of these appalling conditions came another bi-product of the industrial age, organized civilian relief. Florence Nightingale's arrival after newspapers alerted the British public to the deplorable medical situation brought much relief to the soldiers.[10]

In all, the media played a somewhat ironic part in the Crimean war. At first prodding a reluctant Parliament into full-scale war, it would later force Lord Aberdeen's government to resign in disgrace over the deplorable medical conditions. During the war, the classic war correspondence of The Times ' W. H. Russell would both set the standard for this type of reporting and inadvertently aid the Russian war effort. Russia would gain much information from the free press, which generally made the allied command's job difficult. The age of public opinion had arrived on the battlefield.[11]

While the eighty-nine reform committees occupied the British Parliament, nationalistic powers in Italy were fuelled by Cavour to bring the disparate provinces of Italy together under a unified national government. Cavour would use his 10,000 troops deployed in the Crimean War as leverage against France in his fight against Austria. Napoleon III's commitment of 300,000 men to the unification of Italy, would equal the size of the entire Austrian Army. Even so, it would be Austria that would ultimately force war, delivering an unattainable ultimatum; much like it would in 1914.[12]

To their credit, the French learned from their experiences in supplying forces on the Crimea. For the first time, railroads were used to accelerate troop deployment. Steamships took a further 74,000 men to bolster the Italian forces on the Italian peninsula. The use of steam engines allowed a mobilization that would previously have taken two months to be completed in as many weeks.[13]

However, this was still early on in the integration of steam technology into warfare. French units were often moved without their weapons or supplies, owing to the lack of pre-war planning regarding railroad appropriation. Consequently some commanders never reached their units while other units arrived piecemeal. Making matters worse were the telegraph signals that were often confused or contradicted by horse couriers.[14]

During the opening battle of Montebello on 20 May 1859, the Austrians would encounter the Napoleon , the pride of France's army. The bronze, rifled, field gun was most definitely a product of the Industrial Revolution. Developed under the close tutelage of Napoleon III, the French cannon totally out-classed the Austrian smoothbore guns dating from the Napoleonic Wars. Consequently, the French had a decisive advantage over the Austrians. Outranging them by 1.4 kilometres gave the French shock columns more than enough cover to seal the battle in France's favour.[15]

The definitive battle of the Franco-Austrian war was also the last battle to be led by the three combatants' monarchs. At Solferino, two Austrian armies collided with the French and Italian armies on the morning of 24 June 1859. While neither side was prepared for the engagement, the Austrians held the better defensive ground and were soon forced to use it. Napoleon III demanded a quick, glorious victory and used his artillery to smash the Austrian defences, opening the way for the Minie rifle-equipped infantry to lay waste to the Austrians. The Austrians primarily used smoothbore muskets as well as artillery and fared much the same as the Russians did during the Crimean war. It was only poor weather and France's lack of strategic reserve that allowed the Austrians an organized retreat.[16]

In spite of the modern weapons of war and it being the deadliest battle of the Franco-Austrian war, Solferino mirrored the Crimean war in that the majority of the causalities were non-combat related. Shock and infection would claim the most lives at Solferino. The French still gave medical supplies low priority for rail placement, hampering the situation further. Here too, the vastly increased number of fatalities that industrialization helped to add to war created another entity stemming from the Industrial Revolution, the multi-national aid organization.[17]

Much like the Crimean War before it, the deplorable medical conditions caught the attention of a civilian observer. Jean Henri Dunant organized emergency medical care for both French and Austrian wounded and proposed permanent organized relief societies to care for war wounded. This resulted in the founding of the International Red Cross in 1864. If this were not enough, he also had a major hand in drafting the Geneva Convention which, in theory, would benefit soldiers and civilians forever.[18]

On the surface, the results of the Franco-Austrian war appeared to point to the ability of shock columns even in the face of the needle rifle. The French gained victories by using their dominating artillery along with persistent attacks with columns of infantry. Further, the French victories discredited the Austrian tactic of breaking into fire groups, to minimize the threat of artillery and make best use of infantry weapons.[19]

Much of the reason for the French victory can be seen in Austrian deficiencies, not French strengths. Materially, the Austrians were totally outclassed. Lacking significant quantities of rifled weapons for both infantry and artillery, their only major successes came at the cost of the Italians, who were also equipped with smoothbore weapons. Further, Austria had to contend with its multinational make up, which proved to be unworkable in combat. As a direct result of his personal loss at Solferino, Emperor Franz Joseph was forced to create a liberal constitution. The nationalistic diversity of the Austrian Empire was pulling itself apart, both on the battlefield and in the realm of public opinion.[20]

Prussia would take notice of France's lack of reserve, changing their strategy to exploit this weakness while ensuring the creation of a substantial reserve of their own. Moltke also noticed the French half-success in rail deployment. Over the subsequent years, Moltke fully integrated the use of railroads in army mobilization, logistics and supply operations. Additionally, the supremacy of the Napoleon was of great concern to the Prussians. They made sure to modernize before the next conflict of the 19th century, the Austro-Prussian war of 1866. The French, on the other hand, would let their misleading victories at Sebastopol and Solferino blind them to the badly needed reforms that would come to haunt them in 1870.[21]

The eight years between Austria's wars proved to be more than enough time to reequip with a much-improved field gun, modeled in part on their 1859 nemesis the Napoleon. Austria also adopted a rifle with a longer range than the Prussian rifle, but fired slower and was more cumbersome to load. Contrasting with this technological progression, the Austrians would readopt the Napoleonic shock column. Taking false lessons from their loss to the French, the Austrians would give up on small unit tactics, with disastrous consequences.[22]

Politically, Europe would consider the Austro-Prussian war to be an internal German affair and a one sided one at that. Austria was much larger in landmass, with a population to match. They therefore had more resources to produce war material and a larger base from which to enlist soldiers. For instance, Austrian had a long-service professional army, along with greater numbers of breach loading artillery and rifles. On top of this there was Austria's recent war experience that was sharply contrasted with Prussia's lack of conflict since Napoleon I, a war they were hardly remembered in high regard for. Up until this point Prussia was thought of as a second rate power, clinging to the legacy of Fredrik the Great. In the next five years, Moltke and Bismarck would turn it into the most powerful, innovative military power in Europe.[23]

Taking lessons from the French deployment in the Franco-Austrian war, Moltke used rail and the pre-existing regional structure of his units to rapidly mobilize and deploy Prussian troops to the Austrian border. It was the education of the General Staff that made the rapid collection and transport of massive industrial armies possible. Moltke's early Blitzkrieg would surprise the Austrians whose cumbersome deployment reeked of overconfidence.[24]

Hindsight would show them to have little to be confident about. The ethnically diverse nature of the Austrian Empire created major problems for the Austrian mobilization. Since units could not be stationed in their homelands for fear of rebellion, they were scattered across the empire. Unsurprisingly, this added significant time to mobilization schedules. When this was combined with Austria requiring its soldiers to walk up to 60 days to reach the front line, a physically and morally depleted army faced off against a future global power.[25]

Upon engaging the Austrians, the Prussians utilized their Auftragstaktik,[26] a develoment of the Prussian General Staff, and the needle rifle to out flank the Austrians and catch them in enfilading fire. The Prussian needle rifle, the Zundnadelgewhr, was a vast improvement over smoothbore muskets. It still had its drawbacks however. Its cartridge was rather large, reducing the number of rounds each man could carry, combined with its huge increase in rate-of-fire made ammunition conservation paramount. Its biggest draw back might have been the unsealed combustion chamber. Its problems were twofold, on one hand, the escaped gasses reduced the potential range of the rifle, on the other, it invariably covered the soldiers face in back soot when fired from the shoulder. Even with the Zundnadelgewhr's faults the Prussians maintained a 4:1 casualty ratio throughout the opening battles.[27]

The largest European battle until 1914, Königgratz pitted 220,000 Prussians against a similar number of Austrians. On 3 July 1866, 10,000 Prussians and 45,000 Austrians, including 20,000 POWs were lost in what quite possibly was the most decisive battle in the unification of Germany. Neither side planned this historic battle. A lack of reconnaissance by either side made for a scrambled, indecisive battle until the Prussian Second Army arrived and out-flanked the Austrians.[28]

At Königgratz, Moltke would circumvent the advantage of defensive fire by using his tactically flexible system that was the essence of Auftragstaktik . Using the very system Austria abandoned, Prussian forces were able to dissipate, minimizing the effectiveness of Austria's 200 pieces of emplaced artillery, yet still work in conjunction to feel out the weaknesses in the fortress. Königgratz eventually fell due to Prussia's superior mobility and firepower; while Moltke would not complete the envelopment of the Austrian forces, he learned lessons that he would implement in 1870.[29]

While Königgratz was certainly a disaster for Austria, on paper it was not crippling. 200,000 men managed to escape the clutches of Prussia, a sizeable force and one that would have the advantage of fighting on home soil. However, the Austrian army now only existed on paper. The 200,000 men who escaped the encirclement were not the definition of an elite fighting force to begin with and the demoralizing effect of being routed destroyed them as an effective fighting force. The same internal dissention that shattered the Austrians in 1859 was affecting them again in 1866. This war was as successful at solidifying Franz Joseph's position as Emperor as much as the last one. Much like the British public in 1856, Austrian citizens, along with Napoleonic diplomacy, forced an end to the hostilities.[30]

Austria's disunity weakened its control over the German states. The strength and above all organization Prussia offered was very tempting to the German people. Every strategic angle had been covered by Bismarck and Moltke. Indeed, Moltke commented after the war on the true triggers and controllers according to the Prussians,

The war of 1866 did not take place because the existence of Prussia was threatened, or in obedience to public opinion or to the will of the people. It was a war which was foreseen long before, which was prepared with deliberation and recognized as necessary by the Cabinet, not in order to obtain territorial aggrandisement, but for power in order to secure the establishment of Prussian Hegemony in Germany."[31]

Thanks to the internal rot of Austria, Prussia was on its way in controlling the Germanic states and becoming a powerful influence on world politics.[32]

Until 1870 France was thought to be the foremost land power in Europe as evidenced by victories in 1859, the invasion of Mexico and various other colonial wars. The supremacy of the French army was as important to their national image as the dominance of the Royal Navy was to the British. Therefore, a large percentage of resources were assigned to fielding and equipping it. France did however, become over confidant at the ease of these victories, allowing themselves the luxury of minimizing the success of the Prussians.[33]

Materially, these resources were not wasted. They fielded one of the finest infantry weapons of the time, the Chassepot, introduced the same year as Königgratz and named after its inventor Antoine Alphonse Chassepot. The Chassepot nearly tripled the effective range of the Prussian Zundnadelgewhr; it achieved this by a rubber-sealing ring and by using much smaller ammunition. This in turn, allowed the French soldiers to carry many more rounds than their Prussian counterparts. Beside their excellent field rifle, the French also had one of the first machineguns, the Mitrailleuse. It was a rotary, hand cranked, multi-barrelled weapon, not unlike the future American Maxim gun. The Mitrailleuse could lay down up to 200 rounds of defensive fire per minute, a devastating number in 1870.[34]

The French certainly recognized the need for revised battlefield tactics to incorporate these new technological advances. After intense reviews of the Prussian victories over the Austrian army in 1866, the French wisely decided to abandon shock columns that proved so suicidal against the needle rifle. The French generals decided that the best way to utilize their new firepower was in densely packed, defensive positions, where the three-tiered defensive power of the Chassepot, Mitrailleuse and the Napoleon would decimate the Prussian forces and prepare the way for a decisive counter-attack. France's concentration on defence was absolute; all soldiers were equipped with entrenching tools and trained vigorously in their use.[35]

This entrenchment was seen as the best defence against Prussia's Auftragstaktik , which the French saw as an unorganized, unnecessary dissolvement of troop strength. This complete misreading of the Prussian tactics would go along way to explain the disastrous record of the French in the Franco-Prussian war. As noted in the Austro-Prussian war, these were, in fact, the strengths of the Prussian attack. The apparent disorganization was quite intentional, with each unit commander understanding both the overall strategy of the battle and his unit's role in it.[36]

Prussian units overarching goal was nearly always the flank manoeuvre, which were easily facilitated by the intensely static lines of the French. Moltke then, didn't see much need to reform the overwhelmingly successful Prussian tactics, save incorporate Prussia's increased industry. While retaining the rather outdated Zundnadelgewhr, the formidable Krupp cannon's numbers were tripled since meeting the Austrians four years prior. Consequently, the Kilometerschweine ,[37] as the Prussian infantry rather aptly named themselves after their tireless flank marches, would find it much the same story. It would be up to Moltke's mobilization schedule to save their all-important legs for the invasion of France.[38]

In this initial, critical phase, deployments of the two armies could not have been more different. The Prussian deployment evolved into a textbook operation. Prussian divisions and corps collected in their specified zones and units moved in autonomous trains. The path to the front was secured by the seizing of all the public and private rail lines for military use. This allowed Moltke to deploy sixteen army corps to the French border in only two weeks. When compared to the already unprecedented deployment rate of 1866, Moltke managed a 100% improvement.[39]

The French mobilization, in spite a more extensive rail network than Prussia, was a fiasco apparent to many of its most experienced soldiers. For instance, on the day that the French should have completed mobilization, the navy had yet to even begin and the army was only at half strength. Napoleon III's premature invasion in the face of such a delay in mobilization was strongly influenced by internal pressures brought by the active French press.[40]

This spelled disaster for the French. Since they were completely outnumbered with 400,000 French soldiers to Prussia's million-man army, their only hope of victory was a quick and decisive strike into southern Germany. Unless Napoleon III could shatter the Prussian mobilization, the war would be settled by simple mathematics. The French's standard operating procedure, that of le systeme D ,[41] which served the indefatigable French army in numerous campaigns from the Napoleonic wars to recent colonial wars, severely failed them against the highly organized Prussians. Indeed the difference in mobilization rates would allow Prussia to bring about the fall of the Second Republic in only seven weeks.[42]

For all intense and purposes the French were on the defensive for all but the opening stages of the war. After the French victory on 2 August at Saarbrucken, a victory considerably trumped up by the empire of Napoleon III, French forces would never again occupy German lands. Before the French media had even finished their propaganda frenzy, Moltke had surrounded the small French contingent with three armies. The defence of France was about to begin.[43]

The Second Republic was about to experience first hand how well the Prussians had adopted the innovations of the Industrial Revolution. The battle of Froeschwiller on 6 August foreshadowed the final obsolescence of horse-mounted cavalry. The near complete destruction of the French cavalry brigade was assured by the large and accurate bombardment from the Krupp cannon. The only difference from the Charge of the Light Brigade was the lack of imposing hills and the different nationalities involved.[44]

On the same day and only a short distance away from Froeschwiller, Prussian artillery would pound the French infantry nearly as hard as their cavalry. The Krupp's ordinance was armed with percussive fuses, causing them to detonate upon impact. This was a vast improvement over the French shells, which were armed with timed fuses, a technology left over from the Napoleonic wars. The percussive detonator was particularly effective against tightly grouped infantry huddled in fortifications. This, of course, was exact tactic that the French General Staff proscribed to defeat the Prussian's "haphazard" attacks. General MacMahon's army was now in disarray in involved in a general retreat.[45]

The initial stages of the war went so poorly for the French that what started out as an invasion of Germany to cement public opinion, turned into a fight for national survival. Napoleon III was now severely deflated politically and was forced to replace himself as the leader of the French army. The politics would not end at his stepping down however. His replacement was chosen for political reasons as well, much to detriment of the defence of France. Marshal Achille Bazaine was a competent unit commander, a soldier who gained popularity by rising through the ranks to general in the French Foreign Legion, but his strategic sense was to be soon proven wholly lacking.[46]

Bazaine would retreat his army to the dominating defensive position of Metz, a modernized fortress with commanding, eminently defensible heights around it. There, the French should have had no problem repelling the Prussian invasion, in spite of the numerical superiority. The entire basis of French tactics relied on defence, an attribute Metz had in spades.[47]

Moltke would again come out on top however, and create another misnomer of military history that would only become accepted after the First World War. His success at Metz, which would tie up an irreplaceable chunk of the French army, occurred due to superior artillery and numbers. 70 percent of Prussian casualties would come from rifle wounds; the Chassepot and Mitrailleuse decimated the Prussian infantry who had to make their way through many hundreds of yards before able to return fire with their antiquated weapons. Indeed, their losses were so high that it attested to the increasing tolerance for death and the consumption of war materiel industrialization was bringing to warfare. For example, the Prussians lost 20,000 men on 18 August during the battle of Gravelotte-St. Privat, equal to the losses of the Austrians at the crippling battle of Königgratz only four years earlier.[48]

On the surface, Moltke defeated the superior French defensive fire by infantry rushes aimed at closing the gap in rifle ranges and flanking the French positions. His successes gave the impression that a good infantry assault could turnout the enemy no matter how well entrenched they were, so long as you had a surplus of men to afford the horrendous casualties such tactics brought about. Unfortunately for millions of soldiers over the next 50 years, statistics told another story. French losses were caused by the exact opposite method of the Prussians but in the same numbers. That is, 70 percent of French losses came from the Krupp cannon. Moltke's infantry tactics were not all that effective after all. It was powerful and accurate bombardments of high explosives on tightly packed targets that settled the battle in Prussia's favour, not the offensive spirit that was concluded later.[49]

Even more effectual in France's loss to Prussia than the Krupp cannon was the division of the French armies caused by Bazaine's ludicrous refusal to breakout of his prison fortress. This made Prussia's numeric superiority even greater and set up one of the greatest defeats/victories in military history and the final nail in the coffin of the Second Republic, the first battle of Sedan.[50]

As the situation deteriorated in France, Napoleon III required a greater and greater victory to salvage his place as Emperor. With the understanding that Bazaine was moving his army to meet up with MacMahon, who's army had reformed after its initial thrashing during the first days of the war, Napoleon III once again personally led his armies. When MacMahon realized that Bazaine was not going to leave his position, he tried to move his army from its extremely vulnerable position, back to Paris before the Prussians could realize his predicament and close their trap.[51]

Once again, the Prussian General Staff proved to have a better understanding of military unit's new place in the technological battlefield. Moltke used his cavalry not for suicidal charges against artillery, but for recon-in-force. Constantly in contact with the enemy but never fully engaging, the Prussians had a very good idea where the French forces were at all times. If this were not enough, the French newspapers would alert Moltke of the French armies movements; the French press, many of whom were not fond of the Emperor, openly printed battle plans and troop movements, which was to the benefit of the Prussians, to say the least.[52]

At Sedan, Moltke corrected the mistakes of Königgratz and ensured there was no escape for Napoleon and his men. Before making his attack he turned the ring of heights around Sedan into artillery platforms and fired 33,134 artillery rounds, systematically pounding the 65,000 French soldiers into submission. This is not to say that the Prussian infantry played no part. On the contrary, the Kilometerschweine reconfirmed their nicknames, some marching three days straight with no water in order to complete the envelopment of the French Emperor. Once pinned by artillery and infantry, Napoleon had no choice but to surrender himself and the remaining men under his command.[53]

Thus, with the Emperor captured and the once vaunted French army effectively destroyed, the Second Republic fell. The industrial diversity of France surpassed its government, creating resources for an irregular war where the crack Prussian army made quick work of the French peasant armies and remaining French regulars. Eventually the French government, now calling themselves the Third Republic, became more afraid of the revolutionaries inside Paris than the Prussians outside it and sued for peace in January of 1871. The price Prussia asked was huge and the loss of Alsace and Lorraine would play a large part in the tensions leading up to the First World War.[54]

The Russo-Turkish war of 1877 had is roots in both the Crimean and Franco-Prussian war. Still stung by the defeat in 1856, the Russian Tzar Alexander II wanted to rebuild the Black Sea navy and re-establish Russia as a power in the Balkans. By virtue of his neutrality in 1870, Bismarck backed Russia's refutation of the severely constraining peace treaty brought on after the Crimean war. To Bismarck, a French defeat and German unification was more important than curtailing Russian hegemony in the Balkans.[55]

Since 1856, Russia had spent great sums modernizing the army, a cost so great it necessitated selling Alaska to the Americans. Unfortunately for Russia, it was too late and by the time it used the pretence of Ottoman atrocities in the Balkans to declare war in 1877, it was still out classed by every European power. This was truly a war between the sick men of Europe; Ottoman Turkey surpassed only one nation in military technology, Russia.[56]

The orchestrators of this war did not see it this way however. Russia planed on a Prussian style, swift march to Constantinople. They had carefully observed Moltke's victories in 1866 and 1870-1 and planed a similar style attack, planning on being in the Ottoman capital in a matter of weeks. While the Russians could dream like Prussians, their troops not equal to the task of fulfilling that dream. Severely lacking in training and desperately short in number, the Russian soldiers advanced only as far as Ottoman defences at Plevna, before coming to a grinding halt.[57]

Plevna is a textbook example of how not to attack entrenched positions. Over successive days, Russia launched wave after wave of frontal assaults on the Ottoman trenches. The Ottomans, armed with the American made Peabody rifle and extremely well dug in, easily weathered the Russian field gun bombardments, then decimated the following massed infantry charges. The similarities of both the preliminary battles of the Crimean war and World War One are striking.[58]

Continuing the foreshadowing of future wars, the Russians noticed the ineffectiveness of low trajectory field guns against entrenched positions. Observers noticed that once dug-in in elaborate trenches, infantry became almost unaffected by field guns. Russian artillery officers estimated it would take six field guns 24 hours to kill but a single Ottoman soldier. What was needed was a high trajectory howitzer, able to lob explosive and shrapnel shells directly into the trenches.[59]

After a hard fought, costly war, Russia emerged victorious. Ending the war closing in on Constantinople, Russia demanded, and received, huge concessions in the form of the treaty of San Stefano in 1878. Once the treaty was in place, there were no wars of empires until the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-5. There the land battles proved that defensive fire was again the commander of the battlefield and huge losses were still needed for victory. It would take a World War and the death of millions of soldiers to return strategic mobility to the battlefield.[60]

Warfare from the end of the 19th century was affected by industry just like the wars of the early 20th century. Industry would affect all aspects of war, changing parts of it at different times, making the adoption of technology difficult. The one thing that was always constant was the quest for more destructive weapons. There was always a need for a military innovator to place the industry's new weapons in their proper role in military strategy. In the last fifty years of the 19th century, military innovators predominantly came from Prussia. Their impressive victories attest to their ability to transform technological advancements into tactical advantages

The greatest advancements came in the field of infantry weapons. The move from smoothbore muskets to modern breech-loading rifles was soon followed by the creation of the first machineguns. This same technology was incorporated into artillery, whose increased destructiveness made battlefields resemble the surface of the moon. Modern artillery's destructive power would eliminate the cavalry as it once was used. Massacres in many wars of the period attest to cavalry's obsolescence. Defensive positions proved to be the most reliable way of surviving the battlefield.

Breaking the deadlock caused by industrial firepower required new ways of thinking from industrious minds. These new thoughts came out of educational centres that stressed an understanding of more than just traditional military values. These well-rounded Staff officers proved to be more innovative, independent and able with the new battlefield. Technology proved to be essential in General Staffs adapting industrialization. The telegraph made communication almost instant, allowing the removed Staff officers to make realistic decisions regarding real-time events.

Once these plans were decided on, the media used the telegraph to report the results to the masses. The newspaper, supplied by reporting via telegraph, shaped and responded to the will of the people. Governments would fall, practices changed and organizations created, all from the power of the steam driven printing press. As broad as these examples are, the permeation of industry in society is not limited to the topic discussed in this work.

The developments in naval technology were as important as those on land. Warships progressed from sailing ships of the Nelson era to the revolution of the Dreadnought class battleship. The navy's impact in the wars of the latter 18th century has been overlooked as well, mostly for their lack of impact on overall warfare. That said, the battles of Sinope and Lissa, in the Crimean and Franco-Austria wars, respectfully were instructive in how naval warfare was evolving. Finally, many important land battles were not considered. The events of the American Civil war as well as the Boer war were not considered either. While both wars have much to offer the military theorist, they had an insignificant effect on the future European wars such as the approaching World War One.


[1]. Geoffrey Wawro, Warfare and Society In Europe 1792-1914, (London: Routledge, 2000), 54, Imanuel Geiss, The Question of German Unification (New York: Routledge. 1997), 45.

[2]. Glover in Wawro, 55. Italics in original.

[3]. Wawro, 52-3.

[4]. Wawro, 53.

[5]. Dennis E. Showalter, Railroads and Rifles: Soldiers, Technology, and the Unification of Germany (Hamden: Archon Books. 1975) 99; Wawro, 56-7.

[6]. A. D. Lambert, "Crimean War" The Reader's Companion to Military History. Eds. Cowley, Robert and Parker, Geoffrey (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1996) 115; Wawro, 57.

[7]. Oscar, Browning,. Wars of the Century and the Development of Military Science, (London: W. & R. Chambers Ltd. 1903) 276; Wawro, 59.

[8]. H.A.L. Fisher, A History of Europe, vol. 2 (London: Collins. 1935) 1034; Wawro, 59.

[9]. Browning, 288-9; Wawro, 60-1.

[10]. Browning 283-5; Lambert, 116; Nicolas V Riasanovsky, A History of Russia, 2nd Ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2000) 338-9; Wawro, 60, 63.

[11]. Wawro, 54-5, 60, 63.

[12]. Fisher, 1042; Wawro, 63, 65, 67.

[13]. Browning 296; Wawro, 68.

[14]. Brian Bond, War and Society In Europe 1870-1970, (McGill-Queens University Press. Montreal & Kingston 2003) 18; Fisher, 1042; Wawro, 68-9.

[15]. Browning 298; Wawro, 68.

[16]. Showalter, 106-7; Patrick Turnbull, "Solferino 1859" War Monthy. (25) (London: Marshall Cavendish Ltd., 1976) 27-34.

[17]. Wawro, 69.

[18]. Lawrence Malkin, "Jean Henri Dunant." The Reader's Companion to Military History. Eds. Cowley, Robert and Parker, Geoffrey (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1996) 142.

[19]. Wawro, 71-2.

[20]. Turnbull, "Solferino 1859," 30; Wawro, 69.

[21]. Wawro, 71.

[22]. Showalter, 122-4; Wawro, 85.

[23]. Bond, 14; Wawro, 85.

[24]. John Keegan, A History of Warfare (New York: Alfred A Knopf. 1993) 307; Theodore Ropp, War in the Modern World (Durham: Duke University Press. 1954) 129, 142; Showalter, 42, 56-61.

[25]. Wawro, 86-8.

[26]. Mission Tactics

[27]. Showalter, 128; Wawro, 83, 86.

[28]. Bond, 14; Daniel Moran, "Battle of Königgratz" The Reader's Companion to Military History . Eds. Cowley, Robert and Parker, Geoffrey (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1996) 245.

[29]. Browning, 386-7; Martin van Creveld, Technology and War: From 2000 B.C. to the Present, (New York: The Free Press. 1991) 173; Wawro, 89.

[30]. Gordon A. Craig, Germany 1866-1945, (Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1978) 4; Wawro, 90-1.

[31]. Fischer, 1068.

[32]. Fischer, 1068.

[33]. Turnbull, "Sedan 1870" War Monthly (60) (London: Marshall Cavendish Ltd.) 1; Wawro, 100.

[34]. Keegan, 312; Turnbull, "Sedan 1870 1; Wawro, 102.

[35]. Ropp, 144-5; Wawro, 102-3.

[36]. Wawro, 102-3.

[37]. Kilometre pig

[38]. Keegan 311; Turnbull, "Sedan 1870," 2-3.

[39]. Fisher, 1080-1; Wawro, 110.

[40]. Bond, 15, 19; Keegan 307; Ropp, 154; Wawro, 109.

[41]. On se debrouillera toujours , which translates roughly to "one muddles along somehow."

[42]. Bruce I. Gudmundsson, "Franco-Prussian War" The Reader's Companion to Military History . Eds. Cowley, Robert and Parker, Geoffrey (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1996) 169, Wawro, 108.

[43]. Philip Guedalla, The Second Empire, (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons. 1922) 415, Martin Kitchen, A Military History of Germany: From the Eighteenth Century to the Present Day (Bloomington: Indiana University Press 1975) 125, Wawro, 110.

[44]. Turnbull, "Sedan 1870," 2-3, Wawro, 110.

[45]. Guedalla, 416, Wawro, 110.

[46]. Guedalla, 419, Showalter 72, Wawro, 111.

[47]. Guedalla, 422, Wawro, 113.

[48]. Guedalla, 422-3, Turnbull, "Sedan 1870," 5, Wawro, 113-5.

[49]. Wawro, 113-4.

[50]. Wawro, 115.

[51]. Guedalla, 423; Wawro, 115-6

[52]. Turnbull, "Sedan 1870," 5; Wawro, 116.

[53]. Gudmundsson, "First Battle of Sedan," 419; Keegan 309; Wawro, 116-7.

[54]. Gudmundsson, "Franco-Prussian War,"169; Kitchen, 125-6; Wawro, 117-8.

[55]. Riasanovsky, 386; Wawro, 126.

[56]. Riasanovsky, 387; Wawro, 62-3, 127.

[57]. Browning, 480; Wawro, 127.

[58]. Browning, 485-9; Wawro, 127.

[59]. van Creveld, 172; Wawro, 128.

[60]. Riasanovsky, 387

Works Cited

Bond, Brian. War and Society In Europe: 1870-1970, McGill-Queens University Press. Montreal & Kingston. 2003.

Browning, Oscar. Wars of the Century and the Development of Military Science, London: W. & R. Chambers Ltd. 1903.

Craig, Gordon A. Germany 1866-1945, Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1978.

Fisher, H.A.L. A History of Europe: From the Beginning of the 18th Century to 1935, Vol. 2. London: Collins. 1935.

Geiss, Imanuel. The Question of German Unification, New York: Routledge. 1997.

Gudmundsson, Bruce I. "Franco-Prussian War" The Reader's Companion to Military History, Eds. Cowley, Robert and Parker, Geoffrey. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1996. 168-9.

---. "First Battle of Sedan" The Reader's Companion to Military History, Eds. Cowley, Robert and Parker, Geoffrey. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1996. 419.

Guedalla, Philip. The Second Empire, New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons. 1922.

Keegan, John. A History of Warfare, New York: Alfred A Knopf. 1993.

Kitchen, Martin. A Military History of Germany: From the Eighteenth Century to the Present Day, Bloomington: Indiana University Press. 1975

Lambert, A. D. "Crimean War" The Reader's Companion to Military History, Eds. Cowley, Robert and Parker, Geoffrey. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1996. 115-6.

MacDermot, Brian. "Koniggratz 1866" War Monthly 4 (7), London: Marshall Cavendish Ltd. 1979. 38-44.

Malkin, Lawrence "Jean Henri Dunant" The Reader's Companion to Military History, Eds. Cowley, Robert and Parker, Geoffrey. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1996. 142-3.

Moran, Daniel "Battle of Königgratz" The Reader's Companion to Military History, Eds. Cowley, Robert and Parker, Geoffrey. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1996. 245-6.

Riasanovsky, Nicolas V. A History of Russia, 2nd Ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2000.

Ropp, Theodore. War in the Modern World, Durham: Duke University Press. 1954.

Showalter, Dennis E. Railroads and Rifles: Soldiers, Technology, and the Unification of Germany, Hamden: Archon Books. 1975.

Turnbull, Patrick. "Solferino 1859" War Monthly (25), London: Marshall Cavendish Ltd. 1976. 27-34.

---. "Sedan 1870." War Monthly (60), London: Marshall Cavendish Ltd. 1-10.

van Creveld, Martin. Technology and War: From 2000 B.C. to the Present, New York: The Free Press. 1991.

Wawro, Geoffrey. Warfare and Society In Europe 1792-1914, London: Routledge, 2000.

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Copyright © 2006 Patrick Murphy.

Written by Patrick Murphy. If you have questions or comments on this article, please contact Patrick Murphy at:

About the author:
Patrick Murphy is an honors student at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada studying International History with a concentration in Military History.

Published online: 03/23/2006.
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