The Austro-Prussian War, also known as the German War and the Seven Weeks War, was the second of the three major wars that led to the creation of Germany as a single state. It was provoked by rivalry between Prussia and the Habsburg monarchy over supremacy in Germany, the Habsburgs claiming authority based on tradition dating from the days of the Holy Roman Empire, and Prussia based on its claim to be The Champion of German Nationalism. As with the Franco-Prussian War, there are claims that Otto von Bismarck the prime minister of Prussia deliberately provoked it, but that is unclear. However, it is clear that the authorities in Prussia, notably Otto von Bismarck and Helmuth von Moltke (the Prussian chief of staff), were expecting it for a long time.
The Prussian army under Moltke was able to mobilize faster then the Austrians due to the skillful use of their railroad and telegraph network. This allowed them to take the risk of deploying on what is called exterior lines(that is curved away from their own base to partially surround the enemy and be on his exterior with him on the interior) and converging on the Austrians to cut off the retreat of much of their army. Traditionally, other things being equal having the interior is an advantage because there is a shorter march to any given point. However Moltke had carefully spaced the army to be able to unite together whenever needed. Doing this, the Prussians were able to bring the Austrian forces to battle near Königgrätz (Czech: Hradec Králové) surrounding and destroying large parts of the Habsburg forces. This battle is often referred to as the battle of Sadova in Austria and in places like France that found "Königgrätz" hard to pronounce.
In the meantime Italy had declared war on Austria in coordination with Prussia. This did not go quite as well, Italy suffering several defeats including Lissa, one of the few naval victories credited to Austria. The Italian front however did not affect the main issue which was the fighting in Germany, where apart from the main front in Bohemia there were the minor theatres of war further west. Prussia came off a winner by a long shot and was able to annex not just Schleswig-Holstein (the original bone of contention), but also the territories of some of Austria's German allies, i.e. Hanover, Hesse-Kassel, Nassau and the Free City of Frankfurt, and to force others, e. g. Saxony, to join the North German Federation of 1867. It was thus poised to begin the founding of Imperial Germany. Italy, despite having been defeated in the field, was able to annex Venice and the adjoining territories, while France, whose intentions of acting as arbiter and annexing Luxembourg and the French-speaking parts of Belgium had been brought to nothing by the quick Prussian victory, began to look at Prussia as a potential enemy.
- A Father to His Men: Ludwig von Benedek had a reputation for this in the Austrian army.
- Ambadassador: Bismarck (though at that time, he was chancellor and foreign minister already)
- Badass Army: Prussia
- Badass Bureaucrat : The Prussian General Staff. They won the war by their ability to make railroad schedules.
- Cool Gun: The Dreyse Needlegun, the first working breechloading rifle issued to the infantry of a major power (starting in the 1840s). This provided a tremendous advantage to the Prussians, also as they did not have to stand up to load.
- The Austrian standard firearm, the muzzle-loading Lorenz rifle, seemed good enough for its time, so that the Austrian ministry of war resisted suggestions to switch to breech-loading rifles as late as 1865. Part of the reason apparently was that it was believed that breech-loading would lead to soldiers being wasteful with their ammunition.
- Cool Train: The essence of Prussia's strategy in both this and the Franco-Prussian War
- Crazy-Prepared: Prussia. Austria was crazy unprepared.
- Final Battle: Königgrätz (or Sadova)
- Hero with Bad Publicity : Ludwig von Benedek, the Austrian commander quietly accepted the blame for Austria's defeat and even urged his wife not to say anything-even though the blame could possibly be more fairly be placed on The Emperor. Benedek really did believe in My Master, Right or Wrong.
- Last Stand: "The battery of the dead", an Austrian artillery unit wiped out while trying to stem the Prussian pursuit at Sadowa.
- Military School : The Prussian General Staff was the product an elite school designed to mass produce excellent leaders.
- Stoic Woobie: Benedek
- Warrior Prince: King William I of Prussia and his son. Despite what you might expect of nineteenth century royalty they were actually quite effective in this capacity.
- What Could Have Been: Originally, Wilhelm I wanted to annex all of Austria (or, at least the parts that were in the German Confederation) however, Bismarck vetoed it because he didn't want a weakened Prussia to face the rest of hostile Europe alone. Bismarck even threatened to resign at one point as a means of stopping Wilhelm. Thus, Wilhelm, instead of marching on Vienna and bringing the Hapsburg Emperor to his knees, made a quick and easy peace that only lightly humiliated Austria. This has two effects: it allowed Germany and Austria to set aside their difference later and face the new threats of France and Russia together, but it also laid the groundwork for the European alliance system that would drag the whole continent into war less than a century later. One wonders what would have happened if Bismarck's words had gone unheeded...
Depictions in fiction
- An arc about the war has shown up in Axis Powers Hetalia, focusing on the embodiments Austria and Prussia, along with possibly Hungary's historic involvement in it.