Danish-Prussian Wars 1848-50 and 1864
The Evacuation of the Dannevirke Stronghold.
among the Danish public a strong nationalism that spurred the
political system to demand a "Denmark to
This meant, that the Danish
boarder should be drawn along the river Eider, and thereby south of the
duchy Schleswig. In that way the
duchy skould belong to Danish crown. Also there
was a hope for a Scandinavian political and military alliance.
In 1863 the Danish
government chose an irreversible course towards "Denmark to
It presented a proposal for a common constitution for
both Denmark and the
Duchy of Schleswig, which was adopted by the Danish
This would actually be a Denmark to the Eider.
The Danish policy was dominated by wishful thinking.
It was considered Denmark would get military assistance from Sweden, if it
come to a war with the German states.
At the same time the Danish Duchy Holstein, neighbour of Schleswig, had a strong
belief that if such a situation
would get military support from the German Confederation.
The German states were
not yet a united country untill
therefore refused any compromise on a common constitution, which did not
make each of the 3 Danish duchies of Schleswig,
the small Lauenburg full equality with the Danish kingdom, when it came
to the ability of making decisions .
At the same time Denmark's former allied Russia was weakened after the
Crimean War 1854-56, and Prussia were now
unequivocally the strongest power on the continent,
political ably led by Chancellor Bismarck.
He aimed at a military confrontation
Denmark to withdraw from international agreements that limited the
Prussian military and political maneuvers.
The Danish army began mobilizing in the fall of 1863 and the 72-year-old
General Christian de Meza was put in charge of the Army as
Denmark was badly prepared for war.
The army was being reorganized and had poorly trained sergeants and
too few officers.
Also there were also problems with the transport - and supply units,
position at the Dannevirke had
been improved, while the positions of Dybboel
and Fredericia was far from being upgraded and
ready for war.
was an exaggerated faith in the Danish military
capability both in the public and among the politicians and even by
commander, General de Meza.
The stronghold at Dannevirke was seen as a safe guard
Germans, but it was 85 kilometers long and 40,000 Danish
soldiers were too few to effectively defend a position of this
Furthermore froze the flooded areas on the flanks of the
in the extreme winter
this year, and therefore the Prussian troops were able to surround the position over the ice.
The German Army
expected to face a Danish army of 43,000 men and
possibly 25,000 Swedish volunteers.
The Federal army consisted of 6000 from Saxony, 6000 from Hannover,
35.000 Prussians and 35.000 Austrians.
General Christian de Meza
Austrian and Prussian troops crossed the river Eider
with 57,000 men
February 1th 1864.
On February 2th and 3th thefirst
on the Dannevirke outposts were launched, but were repulsed.
However, it was clear that the situation was
untenable for the Danish army.
The Danish army had 4 injured, 7 captured and 3 missing after this
The attacking Austrians and Prussians
suffered no losses.
The Prussian (General Moltke) master plan was to surround the entire
Danisah army at the Dannevirke and end the war in only three days.
evacution of the Dannevirke stronghold
The Danish outposts withdrew to
the Dannevirke position.
General de Meza realized that the stronghold, which for 8 centuries had
been the Danish
protection towards the south, could not be defended under the present
The Danish army was short of
20.000 soldiers to man the position effectively, and
because the fjord Slien
and the flooded marsh meadows to the west froze, the
enemy could move around
the Danish positions, surround them and attack the defenders from the back.
The planned surroundings
February 5th the order to vacate Dannevirke was issued, and during the night between
the Danes started
a successful and
They retreated through a fierce snowstorm and along frost hard roads back to the
Dybboel near Soenderborg and to the fortress Fredericia without the enemy noticed that
the Dannevirke was vacated.
The secret retreat thwarted the German plans to destroy the Danish army by encircling it
with a flank attack over the fjord Slien,
a maneuver the Prussians were just about to perform that night,
the Danes cleared the post.
This was much to the dismay of both
Kaiser Wilhelm, Bismarck and the Prussian
army leadership, which had predicted the outcome of
a decisive battle around
The retreat from the Dannevirke
The Danish public had,
in a very romantic way, seen Dannevirke as an almost impregnable fortress,
and the evacuation hit the
population as a shock. Both the public, and press were perceived as a betrayal of
General de Meza, leader of the government
Monrad and the King.
took place in Copenhagen, and Monrad sacrificed the general
as a scapegoat.
General de Meza was
forced to resign.
Posterity has completely absolved the Meza.
It was the only sensible action he could undertake from the present
General de Meza never recovered over the resignation he had received and he
died, disappointed, sick and broken the