Leonhard von Blumenthal.

Journals of Field-Marshall Count von Blumenthal for 1866 and 1870-71; online

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FOR 1866 AND 1870-71






1866 AND 1870-71







publfsber to D./R. 5n0(a omcc


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• ••


The journals now published of the renowned Field-
Marshal Count von Blumenthal, relating to the years
1866 and 1870-71, were written by him to serve
as notes for further memoirs, as was also the auto-
biography which he commenced to write in 1848.
They are thus only fragments, and do not claim to
be in any way complete works.

Nevertheless, they are a guide to the characteristics
of the Field-Marshal, and will be welcomed by his
many admirers and friends as valuable records of
those days.

The letter from His Majesty the Emperor Frederick
will show how highly valued and appreciated were
his services as Chief of the Staff and counsellor to
His Majesty during the two campaigns.




The Theatre of War in Bohemia in 1866
Paris and Neighbourhood in 1870-71
Theatre of Operations round Paris -

Portrait of the Author in 1866
Portrait of the Author in 1870



To face page 74



Preface - - - - - . y

Introduction to Journal of 1866 - - - 1

The Journal of 1866 - - - - -7

Introduchon to Journal of 1870-71 - - - 69

The Journal of 1870-71 - - - - 74

Appendix I. - - - - 341

Appendix II. - - - - - . 343


Without discussing the events, political or military, which led
up to the invasion of Bohemia in 1866, the translator of this
journal hopes to enhance the pleasure of the reader by recalling
to his mind, in short narrative form, the principal phages of the
military situation during the war.

It will be remembered that in the middle of May, 1866,
Feldzeugmeister Count von Benedek, the Commander-in-Chief
of the northern Austrian Army (the southern, under Archduke
Albrecht, being occupied with the Italians in Piedmont), had
taken up his command at Olmiitz, in Moravia, there to organize
the force which, very much against Benedek's will, the Emperor
Franz Joseph had entrusted to his leadership.

As soon as war became inevitable, Moltke, the actual Com-
mander-in-Chief of the Prussian forces, proposed an energetic
forward movement with the greater part of his army into
Bohemia, making use of the gap between the Iron and the
Giant Mountains (Erz and Riesengebirge) as the main highway
of invasion.

The King of Prussia, however, William I. (the so-called
William the Great), showed great nervousness about his capital,
and a dread that it should be occupied by the Austrians, and to
this added a great dislike of being considered the aggressor in the
war. The King'^s vacillation, reminding one as it does of his
father's weakness in 1813, and of his own indecision in 1859,
tiedMoltke's hands and produced that defensive-offensive policy
of which, as we shall see, Blumenthal so much complains at the
outset of the campaign.

[1] 1


The concentration of Austria'^s main army in Moravia having
been duly reported at Prussian headquarters, the inference was
formed, and, under the circumstances just narrated, acted upon,
that Austria intended to invade Prussia over its Silesian border.

Two Army Corps, the Fifth and Sixth, under the command
of the Crown Prince of Prussia, afterwards the Emperor
Frederick, with Count von Blumenthal as Chief of the Staff,
had been detailed for the protection of this portion of Prussia"'s
dominions. To this force were now added the First Army
Corps and the Corps of Guards, the whole being formed into
what was called the Second Army.

The Prussian forces thus found themselves divided into two
separate main bodies, one concentrated round Gorlitz, the
second in the neighbourhood of Hirschberg in Silesia — a situa-
tion strategically unfavourable to success, as Moltke well appre-
ciated. In the fact of Austria's unpreparedness for war,
however, lay Moltke''s salvation. Benedek, rightly appreciating
the state of affairs, determined to strike, and for this purpose
gave orders on June 19th for a forward move of the whole army
on Josephstadt in Bohemia, selecting this town as the point to
which all the principal roads into Silesia converge. The Saxon
Army, under the late King Albert, then Crown Prince of Saxony,
having declared for Austria, had been ordered to fall back from
its capital, Dresden, on the main body of the Austrians, and to
cover this movement the Army Corps of Count Clam Gallas
in Bohemia had been reinforced to the extent of 180,000, and
pushed up towards the Iser.

The forward move of the Austrian main body on Josephstadt
determined Moltke's next move. In order to frustrate any
attempt to take him in detail, he determined to concentrate, and
to concentrate in the enemy's country.

Selecting Gitschin as the objective for both armies, he gave
orders for the First Army to commence its march on the 23rd,
and the Second Army on the 27th, the First over the passes
of the Iron Mountains, the Second over those of the Giant


To deal with this turn of events, three alternatives suggested
themselves to Benedek's advisers :

1. To occupy a central defensive position and await the

2. To 'contain' the north-western invader, and crush the
north-eastern on his debouching from the passes.

3. To crush the former while ' containing ' the latter.

Of these three plans, the first was that more highly favoured
by Krismanic, Benedek's Chief of the Staff, and the third that
to which Benedek himself was more than wedded.

It may here be mentioned that the consensus of opinion among
military writers, with but few exceptions — among the latter,
however, a very important one, and one much studied of late
years. General von Schlichting — inclines to the adoption of the
second as that containing a greater probability of success than
the others.

The weakness of Benedek's preference lay in the disadvantage
he must suffer should any mishap befall his ' containing ' factor,
for then the Crown Prince would descend upon the communica-
tions with Vienna of his main army.

At the same time it must be remembered that the separation
of Moltke's two forces was a great element of weakness for the
Prussians, as Moltke himself acknowledged ; its justification,
however, being (in Moltke's own words) that it would be im-
possible for the Austrians, in so short a time, to gain a decided
advantage over either army without the other taking them in
flank. This opinion is not, however, universally accepted.

On June 26th, therefore. Prince Frederick Charles arrived at
the Iser River, the Crown Prince being still occupied in the
passes of the Giant Mountains.

It was now Benedek's desire, by an immediate and rapid
movement of the troops then at Josephstadt, viz., his Third
and Fourth Army Corps, to crush Frederick Charles before the
Crown Prince could come to his aid, meanwhile sending two
other corps to ' contain ' the latter, involved as he was in the
mountain defiles.



By the advice of his Chief of the Staff, however (General
Krismanic), he decided to wait at Josephstadt ; and it is to this
delay that General von Schlichting, in his work * Moltke and
Benedek ' (Berlin, 1900), attributes the failure of Austria'^s
strategy, Krismanic''s desire to fight a defensive battle in a central
position being the key to this advice.

The Battles of Nachod and Trautenau, won by the Crown
Prince on the 27th, and General Steiiimetz' victorious advance,
decided Austria's next move ; for, the futility of a rapid ad-
vance to the Iser being apparent, as well as the overwhelming
superiority of the German weapon — the needle-rifle over the
muzzle-loader — Benedek found himself committed involuntarily
to a purely defensive battle practically on the ground where he

With this view, he formed up his army on the 29th in a
defensive position at Dubenitz, overlooking the Elbe.

His next blow was the news of the defeat of Clam Gallas and
his corps at Gitschin, and the retreat of the Saxons from the
Iser. As will be seen from the map, these reverses would bring
Prince Frederick Charles directly on his flank and rear, namely,,
by the roads Gitschin-Miletin and Gitschin-Horitz, and thus a
retreat became imperative. A position north-west of Koniggratz,
the Austrian right i-esting on Chlum, the left on Problus, with
the village of Sadowa in front of the centre, was now taken
up, making front to both the advancing armies of Prussia.

On July 3rd was fought the Battle of Koniggratz, or Sadowa,.
as the Prussians call it, which decided the fate of the campaign,
and gave to Prussia the leading position in the German Con-
federation. The Austrians fled in the wildest confusion, the
artillery and cavalry alone making heroic efforts to save the
situation, but in vain ; and the army, being too shattered to
rally in Bohemia, and too disorganized to make another stand
in Austria, peace was declared within a month, thus ending the
so-called Seven Weeks'* War.



Deutz-am-Rhein^ May 4.
The situation looks so warlike that I shall soon have
to be packing my war-kit. I will now begin my
journal, although I have nothing to note down.

The political situation in Prussia is a very peculiar
one, and one in which it is very hard to show what
has been the true cause of all the confusion and mis-

The motive causes and the underlying principles
are so deeply rooted in the historical development
of Prussia and the evolution of Germany that it
seems quite a matter of indiiFerence who or what is
driving the coach to destruction, or by whom the
smash is to be brought about. Come it must. It is
neither Schleswig-Holstein, nor Bismarck, nor Italy,
neither is it due to our domestic relations ; but it is
a combination of all these things together which is
hurrying us to a crisis.

It is most interesting, however, to see how
gradually and unexpectedly everything is happening,
so that the most skilled diplomatist cannot foresee by
more than eight days at the most what is going to
happen. In the last four weeks everyone has been



crying out against Prince Bismarck, who has now
become a sort of universal scapegoat. He was the
' most uncompromising of men/ and ' wanted war at
all costs'; he was 'refusing compensation to Austria
for Schleswig-Holstein'; and so on ! In a word, he
ought to be hanged, drawn, and quartered ! Now
that it is quite clear that Austria is the culprit, and
is arming, too, so extensively, Bismarck is to be
absolved, and will soon be chaired in triumph. Now
Herr von Beust, in Dresden, is beginning to bear the
sins of the multitude, and certainly he has all the
appearance of being the motive power, driving both
Saxony and Austria to arms.

To me personally it is not inconvenient that things
should come to a crisis now. My family is in England
for the moment, and I am so independent that at any
moment I can pack up my kit and march. The
necessary expenses of outfit, buying horses, etc., are
rather alarming, and will reduce my small capital to
the vanishing-point.

To-day I was going to Jiilich to inspect the battalion
there — my horses had even been sent on ahead — when
I received a telegram to say that the enrolment of
substitutes for military service was to be discontinued
and the District Commandants were to occupy their
official quarters, as the order for mobilization was
about to be issued. I must now remain here and wait

Deutz^ Saturday^ May 5.
Yesterday the Kolnische Zeitung published an
announcement that six Army Corps (not including,


however, the First, Seventh, or Eighth), as well as the
whole of the cavalry and artillery of the army, were to
be put on a war footing. This sort of news always
gives me a cold shiver. On receiving it I jumped
straight into bed and fell asleep at once !

Deutz^ May 9.

Saturday evening the mobilization orders arrived
for the Eighth Army Corps. I was awoke at eleven
o'clock at night by the arrival of divisional orders, but
turned into bed again at once, rolled over, and slept like
a top. My Adjutant (capital chap, Von Beczwarzowsky !)
worked out the whole thing, and I had no need to bother
my head about it at all. The 6th of May was our
first day of mobilization. On the 7th of May occurred
the wicked attempt on Count Bismarck's life in Berlin.

Yesterday, the 8th of May, the mobilization orders
for the First and the Seventh Army Corps were issued,
and very probably for the Second Army Corps, too,
so that now we shall soon see the whole army on
its legs.

It is truly remarkable with what tenacity ' the man
in the street ' clings to the idea that there will be no
war after all. Nobody wants it ; in fact, they all
dread it.

Things do not, however, always turn out as is wished ;
and now, even if Prussia and Austria both desired to
avoid a war, the matter is no longer in their hands.

The Italians are so far forward with their war
preparations that the enthusiasm of this excitable
people will drive everything before it, and if the first
shot is fired in Italy, who knows what it will lead to ?


Deiitz^ May 13.

The last three days have been frightfully cold and
wet. I have been reading up a lot of the newspapers,
but am none the wiser. The whole of the Prussian
Army, Landwehr included, with the exception of the
Eighth Corps, is now mobilized. All the smaller States
are likewise arming. Even Bavaria and Hanover are
adopting a hostile mien towards Prussia; so that it
looks as though only Mecklenberg, Oldenberg, Kur-
hessen, and Anhalt were not against us ; but, at the
same time, they are not for us by any means. This
looks cheerful !

Prussia appears to have only Italy, and perhaps,
France, on her side. The latter is certain not to help
us actively, but will doubtless remain neutral. If,
now, Austria decides to give back Venice to Italy,
Prussia will have her work cut out.

Here in Cologne we see and hear nothing. The
inhabitants, who think about nothing except beer-
swilling and money-grubbing, are a most pusillanimous
lot. They won't hear of war, and are all declaring
for peace. Some houses have already lost large
amounts in speculation, and are threatening to break.
We hear of attempted suicides and such things daily.
It must be indeed hard to tear one's self away from
the mammon of lucre when once the idol has been
set up ! I go every evening to the mess (casino),
where, according to our old traditions, politics are
severely eschewed. Stocks, investments, and specula-
tion form the chief subjects of conversation at present.
Alas ! the streets are full of drunken reservists and


To-day I received an order which gave me the
greatest joy. I am to go to Wetzlar on the 17th to
take up the command of a brigade, or, rather, mixed
force, consisting of the 28th and the 65th Infantry
Regiments, the 8th Battalion of Rifles (Jagers), the
7th Hussars, and two batteries of Artillery. It seems
to me that the appointment has been made in Berlin,
so that I am not to be employed on the General Staff,
but as Commander of an independent mixed force,
and this suits me exactly.

I shall now sit in the Prussian Enclave, surrounded
as it is by small States, and from which I hope I
shall be able soon to break loose.

I wish I had been able to keep the 33rd Regiment.
Now I have only Rheinlanders, who as soldiers are
still untried.

Deutz^ May 16.

Yesterday came the order, I am sorry to say, that
my little force is not to go to Wetzlar. The whole of
the Fifteenth Division is to concentrate here at
Cologne. What it means is hard to tell — perhaps
a demonstration against Hanover. We are here at
a junction of many railway-lines. To-day there is a
sort of notion of peace ; at least, many hope for it.

Yesterday stocks rose considerably, and to-day
they are going still higher ; also a lot of gold
has come into the market, and is offering at the
small bank-rate of 5 thalers 24 silver groschen,
instead of 5 thalers 27 groschen. Very likely they
are only Stock Exchange tactics ; the rich Parisian
Jews are in close relationship with the speculating


Emperor (Napoleon III.), and he seems to be
manoeuvring with them. The Oppenheims here, in
close relationship with the Foulds in Paris, must have
made enormous fortunes in the last few days.

My wife writes to me of a crowd of bankrupts in
England which overtops everything of the sort pre-
viously heard of.

The air here is so cold still that here in my
' carpet bags ' it is quite unpleasant. What a pity I
did not get to Wetzlar ; I should now be riding
round in the beautiful beech woods.

All sorts of rumours of Bismarck's dismissal, and
even of the King's abdication. The most impossible
' shaves ' are flying about the town, and always find
believers. Yesterday there was a leading article
in the Nord-Deutsch Allgemeine Zeitung which was
really too absurd. It said that if the Governments
did not wish to join on the question of reform
Prussia would be compelled to fall back on the
people, and so carry it through. From an inspired
journal like this it must be taken as an open threat
that, rather than submit to the predominant State, a
revolution will be set on foot.

Deutz^ May 18.
At noon to-day I received a telegram telling me
to pack up my traps, as I was to receive another
appointment from the King. I wonder if it is to the
staff of Prince Frederick Charles ? I think not, for
a man of his impatient temperament would have
telegraphed for me long ago. Everything is the
same to me ; der Liebe Gott will give me strength


for whatever comes, and with a light heart I shall go
wherever I am called.

According to telegrams from Paris and Vienna,
they are trying to summon a Congress in order to
settle the burning question before an outbreak of
war, or, rather, to prevent war altogether. Prussia
and Italy have, it appears, declared themselves willing,
but Austria not.

Yesterday I made an attempt to calculate the
numbers of troops on the opposing sides in Germany.
I make out that if Austria has to leave 150,000 to
180,000 in face of the Italians, and the smaller States
remain neutral, we shall not be much weaker than
the Austrians. The fortune of war and the excel-
lence of our troops will make up the difference. In
the latter respect we are, taking it all round, consider-
ably to the good. It is to be hoped that we shall not
run short of ammunition.

Deutz^ May 19.
Early yesterday I received my orders from the
War Office while in bed. I am appointed Chief of
the StafE to the Crown Prince's army. The King-
writes : ' I am showing my confidence in you in
making this appointment. I trust that you will fulfil
all my expectations' (May 17). God grant that I
may do so. I am not deficient in the spirit or will.
The position is exactly the one I should have most
desired. The youthful buoyancy of the Crown
Prince's nature suits me much more than the severe
earnestness of Prince Frederick Charles. Light-
heartedness is the spirit in which to go to battle.


Berlin^ May 21.

Yesterday morning I arrived here, and until ten
o'clock at night had to drive round, making my
official calls. Here, too, there is a peaceful tone,
and the King himself thinks that there may not be
war. He was very bitter against the smaller States,
who, if they would only declare themselves positively
as neutral, hold peace or war in their hands. He
said he could not understand them at all, for they
had everything to lose by going to war. The King
told me of his hopes for the success of his son, and
that he had specially selected me to help him. He
may count upon me to do all that lies in my power.
Unfortunately, I do not feel myself very fit in
health. A continual thirst troubles me, as formerly
in Italy.

General von Moltke put me au fait with the situa-
tion, and appeared very pleased that I shared his
views. It may all be summed up in this, that, if we
are to fight Austria with our full strength, the nine
Army Corps must be brought up and so disposed
between Hall and Neisse that they can be rapidly
concentrated. If the enemy lets us alone, the concen-
tration will be finished by the 2nd of June.

But if we are not attacked by that date we must
ourselves take the offensive, even though we make
ourselves the aggressors, which the politicals so much
deprecate. To remain stationary with 280,000 men
is impossible. I hold with Moltke entirely in all
this, but I cannot agree with him in thinking it right
to leave a division in Upper Silesia, to drive back the
weaker detachments opposed to it, and then in its


turn to retreat before superior forces on to the right
bank of the Oder by Oppeln.

I would leave the whole of Silesia, even Breslau,
unoccupied, in order to be strong for battle. We
cannot hold Upper Silesia. The Crown Prince was
most gracious, and told me quite plainly that he
wanted General von Goeben himself, but now was
very glad that it was I. I ought to know that he
had formerly several times petitioned the King to
appoint me his Adjutant. He made a most charming
impression upon me, and appears to be entering upon
the war in the most cheerful spirit, although he, too,
would willingly see it avoided if possible.

Berlin^ May 23.
Yesterday the Crown Prince came to the Palace,
where the Staff is beginning to form. I cannot
express the satisfaction which his joyous, frank bear-
ing imparts. May his spirit ever be the same under
all trials !

Berlin^ May 24.

The situation appears to be unchanged. Do the
Austrians want to gain time ? At mid-day I was with
the King, and in the evening with Count Bismarck,
who told me all about the attempt on his life by
Blind. His escape was truly marvellous. Out of six
shots fired at him, only one struck, and that merely
glanced off a rib, leaving nothing but a slight con-

May 25.

Yesterday we were at the christening of the Princess
Victoria in the New Palace at Potsdam. The babe


was most restless, and made a peculiar impression
upon me, as though we were beginning the cam23aign
in tears. In the political situation there seems to be
no change. On the contrary, in the Royal Family
the tone seems to be more inclined for peace than
ever. There were hints that we might have to wait
some time longer before the outbreak came. To-day
there is to be a conference of higher Generals (a so-
called council of war), to which I am bidden.

Berlin^ May 2Q.
Yesterday at eleven o'clock the council of war
took place in the Palace of the King. The heads of
all departments were present with their secretaries.
Bismarck was also there. The King first explained
the political-military position, Then General von
Moltke read a memoir on the situation and on the
strategical advance of the army. Voigts-Ehetz and
others spoke, and last of all the War Minister. I
remained silent, as I had nothing of moment to com-
municate. From what the King said, I could clearly
see that he still clings to hopes of peace, but thinks
that if it should come to war the Austrians will
most likely march upon Berlin down the Elbe Valley.
Voigts-Rhetz blamed the disposition of the forces,
as being too greatly extended for the first forward
movement, stretching as they do from Zeitz to
Upper Silesia — a matter of sixty miles. General
von Moltke justified it by reason of the improved
means of transport, namely, the railroads, which
alone make such an extension possible. In the suc-
cessive marches onwards the columns can always be


brought into closer touch. The general opinion was
that, instead of placing ourselves so close on the Elbe,
we ought to have the main force at Gorlitz, as an
irruption was to be expected at that point. Count
Bismarck also spoke, imparting his information with
striking simplicity and clearness.

I found my suppositions confirmed. There is a

Online LibraryLeonhard von BlumenthalJournals of Field-Marshall Count von Blumenthal for 1866 and 1870-71; → online text (page 1 of 24)