The Austro-Prussian War -- Austria\'s War with Prussia in 1866

The

Austro-Prussian War -- Austria\'s War with Prussia in 1866

One nation. A single, unified nation
powerful enough to plunge Europe and the world into two of the most devastating
wars in history. That is the legacy of Germany. Two world wars
are all we remember of a unified Germany. But, we never remember
the struggle that took place to create such an entity. As Geoffry

Wawro covers well in this book, the Austro-Prussian War was the turning
point in German history that allowed Prussia to become the major figure
in German affairs and start to unify the German confederation under one
power, ending years of Austrian interference. Although wading through
the tactical and strategic events of this war in detail, Wawro does not
lose sight of the very important political aspects of this war, which began

Germany’s unification in earnest. This unification of Germany would
prove to be one of the most influential events in Europe, with its effects
being felt well into the next century. A unified Germany, and others’
fear of it, would be one of the stumbling blocks that would lead to the
first "Great War" and quickly after it, another one. But without

Prussia’s ascendance to the top of the German states, both World Wars might
not have happened. So it is about time to lavish some of the attention
given those two wars on one of its major causes, which Wawro does a great
job of.

Geoffry Wawro himself is a rather young
writer. A recent graduate of Yale, Wawro’s book is an expansion on
his doctoral dissertation, which won him a fellowship from the Austrian

Cultural Institute in 1994 for Best Dissertation on Austrian Culture.

This fellowship allowed him to spend two years converting his dissertation
into this book. Although young and relatively new to book writing,

Wawro shows a good grasp of the tools necessary to be a successful writer.

He has another book, on the Franco-Prussian of 1870, in planning.

Wawro builds his book chronologically,
beginning with the Congress of Vienna in 1815. He describes the problems
associated with the German people’s attempts to unify after the allied
defeat of Napoleon. He then goes on to detail how Austria and Prussia both
vied for supremacy in the confederation of German states. He focuses
mainly on the direct confrontations between the two nations and the abilities
of their leaders. Wawro appears almost to be a Germanophile as he
fawns over the ingenious political strategies of Prussian Chancellor Bismarck,
while constantly berating the sub-par performance of Austrian Emperor Franz

Joseph. He also uses the beginning of the book to describe past Austrian
domination in Italian affairs, and the animosity that was building between
these two states. He reviews the history of Austrian interference
in Italy that drove the Italians into a military alliance with Prussia,
and eventually into the war. Although he is less enamored of Italy’s
leaders, he still holds them above the Austrian leaders whom he portrays
as foreign interlopers trying to prevent Italian unity as much as German.

He moves through the months and years quickly, going from one crisis to
the next until the three nations were on the brink of war, with Austria
facing a double-edged sword, Italy in the south and Prussia in the north.

The main force of the book is Wawro’s
retelling of the war; planning, mobilization, and engagements. He
uses a whole chapter to detail all three nation’s problems in organization
and preparedness. He repeatedly praises the Prussians for their efficiency
in mobilization of troops and superior strategy. Wawro humbles both
the Austrians and Italians as he berates both nations’ military state in
supplies, manpower, technology, and strategy. He takes special interest
in pointing out the ineptitude of Italian and Austrian generals and the
political intrigue and maneuvering that got them their commands.

As the war begins he first covers the Prussian advance from the north and
their quick defeat of the Austrian allies, before their new envelopment
tactics on a poorly placed and poorly led Austrian army. He showers
praise on this new Prussian tactic that proved unbeatable against an Austrian
army that ignored its natural defenses, limited its own mobility, and whose
generals ignorance and laziness allowed it to be swallowed up by a superior

Prussian force. He then focuses on the belated Italian attack, which
was a case study in ineptitude, as both Italian and Austrian commanders
bungled from one battle to another. Eventually, he covers the main
battle of Custoza which the Austrians barley winning, mostly due to their
superior