No GNW (or “Peter goes South”)

The Theater of the Absurd (naval extension)
262. The Theater of the Absurd (naval extension)
“Ahoy! Ahoy!
The balls whistle free
Ahoy! Ahoy!O'er the bright blue sea,
We stand to our guns, to our guns all day.

‘HMS Pinafore’
Hold on until the fleet comes to you!”
Tegetthoff to the garrison of Lissa​

General situation. The first sea-going ironclad was the French “Gloire” followed by the British “Warrior” and others. Everybody started building the ironclads but so far they were never used in war and experience of the ACW was not too helpful because the armored ships involved had very specific constructions limiting their usage to the coastal areas and, anyway, their duel did not produce any decisive results.

So the European naval powers had been building (or ordering) the armored ships based upon the extent of their fantasy and finances: the armored versions of the “classic” sail warships, ships with the gun turrets or barbets, ships with a ram or without a ram. So far even effectiveness of the old and new naval artillery against the armor was unclear.

Actually, the Brits tested the naval version of Armstrong gun against “Warrior”-style armor (4.5 inches of steel and 20-25 inches of oak) in 1861 with the results rather disappointing. Well, the Admiralty called them a success but at least some members of the House of Commons disagreed. Mr.OSBORNE said:
This gun was, I believe, fired on the 9th with a charge of 40 pounds of powder at a part of the Warrior, which had been battered all through the Winter and Spring, and damaged by the shot of a 68 smooth-bore. Well, at this target two shots were fired, at 200 yards, under the most favorable circumstances for the gun, and, hitting the damaged part, they penetrated the 4 1/2-inch-plate and lodged in what is technically called the skin of the ship. They did not go through, and are still sticking where they lodged, notwithstanding that the experiment was represented by the Secretary for the Admiralty as perfectly successful. Again, the gun was fired with a charge of 50 pounds of powder, and most extraordinary accounts appeared of the noble lord and others who were present climbing up the side of the target and congratulating each other on the circumstance that the shot had gone quite through it; but the fact is that it is still sticking in the skin of the ship… I now come to those which took place two or three days ago. One shot was fired last Tuesday. Did it go through the target? Not a bit of it, and with these facts before us it seems to me the public are justified in entertaining some doubt with regard to the great merits of this Armstrong gun. [Hear, hear.] Now it is a somewhat singular fact in the history of naval warfare that, notwithstanding 3,000,000 of money have been spent on these Armstrong guns, the best gun you have at the present moment is your old 68 smooth-bore. … On a very recent occasion -- Tuesday last, he thought -- there was another experiment tried, in the presence \of a large number of spectators, including several members of that and to other House of Parliament. A portion of the target about two feet square, which had not hitherto been hit, was fired at with a shot of 150 pounds, thrown with great velocity, the charge of powder being 50 pounds. The effect was perfectly clear. The armor plate was totally damaged; a great orifice was made in it, and the fragments were driven into the wooden backing and absorbed by it. And he might say that the internal skin was bulged out, but the interior itself resisted the shot. [Hear.] A person leaning against the inside would have received a severe blow, but a person standing a short distance from the inside of the section would not have received any injury. [Hear, hear.] What he deduced from this was, that as at 200 yards they could not penetrate a ship like the Warrior, it was impossible that with such a gun as the one used in these experiments they could penetrate such a ship at 1,200 yards…. The gun in question was a very large one, constructed on the Armstrong principle, and as good a one as they were likely to have produced. It consisted of a series of coils, and at the fifth or sixth of these was the chamber in which the powder and shot were placed. A strengthening coil was placed at that part of the gun.” [1]

An aspect overlooked by the speaker was that the tested guns had been making only 2-3 shots per day. How they would behave in the case of a rapid fire was a completely different question [2] but obviously even the main point was serious enough without any other considerations.

Everybody was waiting for the first serious trial by fire to analyze the results and make conclusions. How correct these conclusions were going to be is a completely different story.

Italian navy. Italy was actively building its navy assigning to this purpose 300,000,000 francs and concentrating upon construction of the armored ships. To get the new fleet fast the ships had been ordered in France, Britain, and the US with the resulting wide variety of the constructions and armaments. In total, 12 battleships of various sizes and types were built: 7 frigates (4100-5700 tons, 22-36 guns from 6 to 8 inches caliber), 2 corvettes (2700 tons, 20 guns 6-8 inch caliber), 2 gunboats (2000 tons, 4 guns 7.5 inch cal.) and 1 ram ship (4100 tons, 2 guns 10.5 inch cal.). All these vessels were protected by armor from 4.5 to 6 inches, and the artillery placed on them was part rifled, loaded from the muzzle, and partly smoothbore. In addition, the already existing wooden fleets of individual states, united now, were a significant force consisting of frigates (3200-4000 tons, 50 guns), corvettes (2000 tons, 20 guns), gunboats (250 tons, 4 guns), avisoes, etc. - a total of about 60 vessels.

The ram ship, “Affondatore”, was a rather unique piece of work. It was an ironclad built in Britain and initially designed to rely on her ram as her only weapon, but during construction she was also equipped with two 300-pounder Armstrong guns in the turrets. Its most remarkable feature was a 2.5 meters long ram [3]. It joined the fleet shortly before the battle sailing all the way from Britain.

As far as the number and parameters of the ships were involved, the Italian fleet was grossly superior to the Austrian but its crews were not trained. In addition, the fleet suffered from contradictions and envy between officers arising from the recent merger of two groups - officers of Sardinia and Naples. But the public was not aware of all these issues: construction of the navy cost enormous amount of money, the ships were there and they had to sail against the Austrians to get Venice back.

By the time war was declared only 56 out of 69 steamships and 75 sail ships were ready to sail. The last moment alterations were carried out in Taranto, from where the fleet came out on June 21 - a day after the declaration of war - to Ancona, located on the Adriatic coast. Due to the fact that several low-speed ships were included in the squadron, and the squadron speed did not exceed 4-5 knots, Ancona was reached only on June 25. Here the squadron stopped waiting for supplies and new orders.

The fleet commander, admiral Carlo Pellion di Persano, was 60 years old and while before the war he accomplished an important task pf switching from wood to armor, he hardly was an energetic commander of a battle fleet.

Austrian navy. Strictly speaking, Austrian navy was in a deep s—t. A prevailing opinion was that Austria does not need the ironclads and by the start of war the navy had only 7 of them (2800—4800 tons, 16—30 guns pf 6—10 inches) plus 45 wooden ships. One of the ironclads was not yet fully armored and two were lacking artillery: the ordered Krupp guns became unavailable and had to be replaced with the old smoothbore cannons. But it had a huge asset, Rear Admiral Tegetthoff, who was energetically training his crews paying special attention to the ability to concentrate fire, as he considered it the only way to damage armor by his weak smoothbore artillery. Since June 6, when a sufficient number of vessels were collected, he vigorously began to train his squadron in maneuvering.

Tegetthoff also was improving protection of his old wooden ships by all means possible from adding the new layers of the thick wooden planks and to fixing the rails and anchor chains on their sides.

By the time of the battle the Italians had 34 ships with 695 guns (of which 276 rifled) and a salvo weight of 53,200 pounds against 27 Austrian ships with 525 guns (of which 121 rifled) and a salvo weight of 23,500 pounds.

The battle at Lissa (on the schema below the Austrians are reddish with the ironclads solid red and Italians - the same schema in green).

The Austrian admiral built his squadron in three detachments, in the form of blunt wedges, following one after the other. At the head of the first "wedge" consisting of the ironclads, there was "Ferdinand Max" under the flag of Admiral Tegethoff. They were tasked with cutting through the enemy formation and at the same time ramming enemy ships if possible. The battleships were followed by a second wedge, whose ships had no armor, but had numerous artillery; their task was to finish off the damaged enemy ships. The last were gunboats moving, which, if necessary, had to support the main forces with the fire of their artillery. Such a combat order made it possible to nullify the superiority of the Italians in ships and artillery and deal a strong blow to them with the strongest ships.

And then the most interesting thing began. As soon as Admiral Persano received a message about the enemy, he immediately began to command and transmit so many signals to his ships that they simply did not have time to decipher them on other ships. As a result, Vice Admiral Giovanni Albini, who commanded a detachment consisting of unarmored ships - frigates and corvettes, contrary to Persano's orders, stepped aside with them and therefore did not participate in the battle! Two battleships "Terribile" and "Varez" did not have time to approach the squadron, and "Formidabile" raised the signal that it was incapable, and therefore began to withdraw. The rest of the ironclads started forming the line of bearing but the recently arrived “Affondatore” was not included into the formation. After the ships took their positions Persano suddenly ordered to form a single line ahead and while his ships were reforming the Austrians attacked. To add to everybody’s confusion Persano in the last moment went from his flag ship “Re’d Italia” to “Affondatore” which remained outside the formation. The vanguard ships of the line 13 miles long simply did not notice the signal to slow down (to give the admiral time to get from one ship to another) and kept moving away from the center. By the reason unknown Persano did not send a signal about transferring of his flag and everybody still expected directions from “Re’d Italia”.

Meanwhile, while watching the enemy, Admiral Tegetthoff saw a gap in the line of Italian ships and decided that he had every chance to repeat Admiral Nelson's maneuver at Trafalgar. He ordered to increase the move to the full and rushed into the formed gap. Italian ships met his avant-garde detachment with cruel fire, but at 11 o'clock in the morning he cut the Italian squadron just between its vanguard and the center. The first collision ended to no avail for both sides. The fire of Italian ships was inaccurate, and if their shells hit Austrian ships, the armor did not penetrate at a distance. But the Austrians also failed to ram any of the Italian battleships.

Then Rear Admiral Vacchi, who commanded the Italian vanguard, decided to take the initiative, gained momentum and tried to bypass the Austrian battleships from the east to hit the enemy's armless wooden ships behind them. But the Austrian gunboats managed to evade this attack and began to retreat, as a result of which the three battleships of Vacchi, who rushed after them in pursuit, were essentially withdrawn from the battle.

In the center 7 Austrian ironclads attacked 3 Italian ironclads and all order was lost, thanks to the dense smoke. Meanwhile, Admiral Tegetthoff , very determined, rammed Re d'Italia twice on his Ferdinand Max, but both times unsuccessfully, as the blows he struck turned out to be sliding and the ship's armor did not break through. But the hour of the Italian ironclad has already struck and nothing could save it. Now it was rammed by the battleship Kaiser Maximilian, who broke the steering wheel of the former flagship. Realizing that it was no longer possible to control a single-screw ship, Re d'Italia commander Faa di Bruno tried to withdraw his ship from the battle and headed towards the Ancona, battleship of Admiral Vacchi, counting on help. The path was cut by some Austrian battleship. And then di Bruni, instead of taking the opportunity and ramming the enemy ship, for some reason gave an order to reverse. And it was his fatal mistake, because Ferdinand Max was moving in the smoke to his left. When Tegetthoff recognized in the midst of a smoke the Italian ironclad he ordered “Full speed ahead!” and his ship hit Re’d Italia just in the middle breaking the armor and underlying wood and leaving a hole of 16 sq. meters. Re’d Italia was sinking. Its captain shot himself but the crew kept firing at the enemy till the last moment.

In the middle of a general melee the wooden Austian Kaiser first tried to ram Affondatore and then rammed the Italian ironclad Re de Portigallo (below, Kaiser after the ramming). Of course, the ironclad was only slightly damaged but Kaiser had to leave the battle.

At that point Affondatore steamed at full speed to ram Kaiser, which would be fatal for already damaged wooden ship, but in the last moment Affondatore missed it and Kaiser safely reached harbor of Lissa.

The messy encounter continued for quite a while with all ramming attempts on both sides failing and artillery fire being generally ineffective even if there were fires on two or three Italian ships. At noon the sides disengaged.

The Italian ironclad Palestro caught fire early in a battle and all the time its crew was trying to extinguish it but at 14:30 the fire got to the ammunition and the ship was blown to pieces. The Italians lost their nerve and began disorderly retreat. Tegetthoff immediately gave an order: "Start chasing the enemy!" The Austrian ships quickly reform and began to pursue in three columns. But their battleships, less fast than Italian ones, could not catch up with them. Seeing the aimlessness of the chase, Tegetthoff canceled his order in the evening. After that, at 10 a.m., Admiral Persano went with his ships to Anconu, and Tegetthoff led his squadron to the base in Paul.

Aftermath. The battle of Lissa became iconic and was included in all textbooks on naval tactics, in all manuals for naval commanders and textbooks for midshipmen, in instructions to artillerymen and shipbuilders. Needless to say that most of the conclusions made by the professionals proved to be dead wrong but for the next three decades, until China-Japanese War, Lissa was an etalon of the naval battle.

The consensus was that the ram was the only productive way to go (out of all attempt at Lissa only one was successful but this one was made into a legend). As a result, the stress was on increasing the armor protection and artillery as a winning factor remained underestimated. The main tactics of sea battle began to be considered the ramming strike, which turned the battle into a "dog dump" of individual ships. The design of the ship also began to obey its main combat purpose - a ramming strike! Which brought to live a specific type of a ship, a turreted ramming ironclad. Kind of ironic because the only ship of that type at Lissa, Affondatore, demonstrably failed. Many ships had been built with the rams and they proved to be quite dangerous … for their squadron mates: there were numerous incidents of the “friendly ramming”.

Here Tegethoff controlled the ships, standing on the bridge of his ship, ignoring the shells and fragments - "that's courage and an example for sailors," "and Persano never left the armored wheelhouse of "Affondatore" and ... "that's why he didn't have the courage to ram." In 1904 admiral Witgeft followed this “code of conduct” and was blown to pieces with all his staff leaving Russian squadron leaderless.

[1] New York Times, June 6, 1862
[2] Actually, there were quite serious issues related to the construction of the breach locking mechanism.
[3] Some sources are saying that it was 26 feet long but with the overall length of 308 feet, isn’t it a little bit too much? OTOH, I’m not a specialist and perhaps a lot depends upon what you are counting as a “ram”. I only remember that in some old description of the battle this ram is mentioned as something huge and negatively impacting operations of the ship. Not that this ship accomplished anything worth mentioning so probably it did not matter one way or another.
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Darn, that is going to have all kinds of repercussions. What madness. So they truly believe armor has won the struggle for now over mobility and armaments... until the first glass cannon with truly good guns.
Darn, that is going to have all kinds of repercussions. What madness. So they truly believe armor has won the struggle for now over mobility and armaments... until the first glass cannon with truly good guns.
There were some positive byproducts of that obsession. It was obvious that for the ram ship a traditional artillery placement on the sides is pointless because they can’t be used when the ship is attacking. As a result, the turrets had been winning as a placement for the main artillery (as was the case with the Italian ram ship).

As for the “truly good guns”, it was not simple. The Brits even had to get back from their Armstrong breech loaders to the muzzle loaders because the threaded locking mechanism for the big naval guns had problems when used outside the test ground. It had to be fully screwed into the position, which was a long process and rather difficult one when the parts became heated due to the fast fire. The crews often did not fully complete it with all types of the negative results you can easily imagine. Eventually, some French (IIRC) engineer came with an idea of a partial threading which was adopted everywhere.

The same goes for the shells. It took a while to come with a proper shape and a proper explosion mechanism (you can find all types of detailson wiki) but, IIRC, the first shells had a blunt end and were rather armor crushing than armor piercing so it is not a big surprise that their effectiveness was low. Anyway, at Lissa the Austrian artillery was simply weak and Italian crews were ill-trained and tended to miss almost at point blank range so the “naval experts” were making conclusions based upon the lousy source data. Which, as far as I can tell, still remains a popular practice in many areas. 😉

OTOH, to be fair, the rams proved to be effective and the fact that they were effective against one’s own ships is irrelevant as far as “effectiveness” applies strictly to the ability to sunk an armored ship without specifying which one. 😜
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Back to ATL
263. Back to ATL

“A fool can sometimes drive me into a dead end more effectively than a capable general.”
Turenne after being defeated by Marshal Charles de Choiseul-Praslin, Marquis of Praslin [1]
“In western Europe, the military machine, with its thousands of wheels, costing millions to maintain, cannot stand still for long. One cannot fight a war for one or two years, from position to position, in 12 day long battles until both combatants are completely exhausted and weakened and forced to sue for peace. We must attempt to defeat our enemies quickly and decisively.”
von Schlieffen
“So long as the opposing forces are at the outset approximately equal in numbers and moral and there are no flanks to turn, a long struggle for supremacy is inevitable.”
General Sir Douglas Haig
“Here, the situation is catastrophic, but not serious.”
Austrian Headquarters during WWI
The energy of action they, with a great skill, countered by the energy of inaction.”
Saltykov-Schedrin, ‘History of a town’
Day 1. Today we kicked the enemy out of the forester’s cabin.
Day 2. The enemy was reinforced by infantry battalion and kicked us out of the forester’s cabin.
Day 3. We had been reinforced by cavalry regiment and kicked the enemy out of the forester’s cabin.
Day 4. The enemy was reinforced by a battery of the heavy artillery and kicked us out of the forester’s cabin.
Day 5. Today we had been reinforced by the infantry regiment and kicked the enemy out of the forester’s cabin.
Day 6. The enemy was reinforced by a rifle brigade and the fighting keeps going inside the forester’s cabin.
Day 7. Today the forester returned to his cabin and kicked us all out of it.”

Journal of the military activities from the unidentified positional war 😂
[The last two chapters were strictly OTL: I did not see any reason to change things in Italy because they fit the general plan quite nicely. Now I’m getting back to the la-la-land 😜]

As you can see from the map below, the advancing Prussian armies had been facing, among other things, a big logistical problem. There was a single railroad going in a right, or rather more or less right, direction and even this railroad (Dresden - Prague - Vienna) was well to the west of their route(s) of advance and in its configuration that railroad looked as a drunken snake [2]. There was one more potentially useful line going from Prague Eastward to Moravia but first you would need to get stuff to Prague. Pretty much the same goes for the ordinary roads: the good ones were only near Prague and the relatively good ones tended to go to (or out) Prague forcing the Prussian armies to advance by the minor narrow countryside roads and, what was even worse, forcing the huge trains of supply wagons to travel the increasing distances between the advancing troops and the nearest available railroad station to which the supplies had been delivered.


Due to a complete disjoint between the Ministry of War and General Staff, supply by the Elbe was not even considered. As a result, the Prussian troops had take care of their own supplies or, to put it simply, to loot the locals.

Still, situation was not catastrophic by a number of reasons:
  • The area was reasonably rich and quite lootable. Of course, the troops marching at the end of humongous columns had been suffering from the shortages of supplies (already looted by those ahead of them) and, quite often, water as well, but so far the problem was more or less contained.
  • The advanced field army had been closely followed by the reserve troops which were establishing administrative control of the area without a need to weaken the main army. It was expected that in the case of a prolonged conflict the rear will be well-organized under the Prussian control and the supply issues are going to be resolved.
  • The Intendancy was already ordered to move its headquarters from Berlin to the theater of operations to improve control over supply organization.
So, after disentangling themselves out of the huge mess resulting from junction at Jicin (Gitschin) the Elbe, 1st and 2nd Prussian armies resumed their march by few rural roads. The news about the Italian defeats had been quite depressing and damaging to Bismarck’s prestige but the minor Prussian successes against the retreating Saxon army and the 1st Austrian Corps and success in Hanover helped to keep morale of the troops high enough.

On the Austrian side Benedek was, at least for a while, successful in fighting off the idiotic orders coming from Vienna: news of the Lissa and Custozza made FJI and his military advisors excessively optimistic regarding potential of an open confrontation with the Prussians and the earlier ideas of making a forced march, getting between two Prussian armies and beating them one by one had been voiced again disregarding the fact that the Prussians were now marching “shoulder to shoulder”. Well, the facts on the ground rarely deterred the Austrian military thinkers from devising the complicated war plans (which more often than not resulted in a defeat). So far, Benedek’s most effective tool was an offer of resignation. The only viable alternative was Archduke Albrecht and “the hero of Custozza” was adamantly rejecting any attempt to saddle him with any responsibility for fighting the Prussians: the Archduke’s military reputation was blown out of proportion but he was intelligent enough to maneuver himself out of the Prussian option and was not going to accept any risks now.

Intermission: The peace talks with Italy had began and VE, after suffering defeats on the land and the sea, decided that the best course of actions will be to screw his Prussian ally and make a separate peace on the conditions almost agreed upon before the war with one change: the territorial transfer (and monetary compensation) were going to be directly between Austria and Italy so that VE was not going to have any debt of a gratitude to France. Now, the main and only problem left was to get Garibaldi out of Tyrol: he and his volunteers army [3] had been fighting in Tyrol achieving (either due to Garibaldi’s military genius or to a numeric advantage) some visible successes and the Great Revolutionary Hero had no intention to pay attention to VE’s political plans as long as they did not coincide with his own. So it was now up to general Cialdini to extract him out of Tyrol using all means necessary [4]. Among other considerations, VE was not fancying an idea of having inside his kingdom a loose cannon (and a very bellicose one) with his own army and political agenda which may or may not have a word “Kingdom” in it.

These operations were taking time and had been coming in parallel with the Austrian evacuation giving Albrecht an excuse to stay for a while in Italy even if the increasing numbers of his troops had been in a process of moving to the Bohemian theater.


In a meantime Benedek was in a process of building the fortified position along the Elbe. Just for change, the explicit instructions emanating from the Austrian general staff proved to be of a certain usefulness in the terms of how the trenches should be constructed and how the infantry should be using them properly. The long pre-war instruction, much maligned and justifiably ridiculed, contained a reasonable recommendation for the shooters to replace each other allowing to maintain a steady aimed fire while the other are reloading in a safety of the trench.

Taking into the account that the Austrian Lorenz rifle had pretty slightly bigger effective fire range (225m vs. 200m) and much greater maximum range (675 vs 527m; by other source 900 vs 600) than Dreyse Rifle, the effective arrangement of fire from the protected position could compensate for a much lower rate of fire. Out of 144 batteries only 54 were equipped with Krupp’s breech-loaders (4- and 6-pounders) and the rest were old smoothbore 12-pounder muzzleloaders. The Austrians had 4- and 8-pounder rifled muzzleloaders and on a fixed position could bring, with enough time, some heavier (12-pounder) guns from their fortresses. In other words, in a well-prepared position the Austrian army may have certain advantage if its commanders manage to keep its tactics defensive and avoid the crazy bayonet charges against unbroken opponents. Of course neither Benedek nor his staff were anywhere close to being military geniuses but most of them had a considerable military experience (and not only negative) allowing to make the sensible arrangements if not being pushed into the suicidal activities by Vienna.

The construction and training were taking time and to gain it Benedek was sending some reinforcements to the retreating Ausrian-Saxon troops. These reinforcements were too small to change anything but the news about frequent arrival of the fresh troops to the Austrian rearguard were producing certain confusion in the Prussian headquarters regarding the true Austrian plans: were they just relatively small detachments or were they a vanguard of the main Austrian army? Taking into the account that the captured Austrian soldiers and even officers did not have a clue about Benedek’s plans and that the Prussian cavalry was not too good in reconnaissance, the advancing armies had to reshuffle their tactical plans practically on the daily basis with the resulting delays and logistical mess. The raids of the small units of the Austrian light cavalry on the flank of the Elba Army’s columns were pretty negligible in the terms of a practical damage but had been producing additional speculations regarding the Austrian plans with the resulting delays in march.

At least one reassuring thing was that the Prussian “strategic rear” was secure. Of course, Prussian mobilization was not unnoticed by their neighbors and King Joseph II of Poland put his army in readiness. He did not make his plans known but the region of troops allocation being close to Silesia could give all types of the ideas, especially taking into an account that the “patriotic” party in Poland became quite vocal regarding getting back the “historic lands”. However, the whole excitement died out after communication was received from the new Russian Emperor. Officially, there was a long and typically convoluted diplomatic missive from Prince Gorchakov a precise meaning of which could be speculated upon but there was a rumor that the King got a very short secret telegram from AIII saying: “If you want a war, you’ll get it” [5]. Anyway, there was the definite information that the Russian Western military districts are assembling their troops and that Sweden is doing the same in the Baltic provinces. The troops marched back to their barracks and the “patriots” (and not only them) had been limiting their activities to reading the news and cheering the Austrian successes in Italy.

There was certain uneasiness in France due to the Prussian activities on the “Western theater” but Emperor Oscar had no intention to get militarily involved and limited his activities to the letters exchange with Bismarck in which both sides discussed the mutually-acceptable options for the future of the South-Western Germany. So far, Bismarck was assuring his counterpart that, aside from a purely military aspect, Prussia is not planning absorption of this region as being too “foreign” to the Prussian values.

In Hungary the early Austrian successes in Italy produced enough of uneasiness for the Diet to change its opposition to the military expenses. Of course, nothing dramatic could happen within couple of weeks but at least mobilization and concentration of the 60,000 troops on the Leitha River was approved together with the big weapons purchase from Russia.

To remove a potential Austrian actions against the Prussian flank and to somewhat improve his army’s logistics, King Wilhelm ordered to whatever was passing for the Army of Elba (parts of the 7nd and 8th corps) to take Prague and to extend to Plzen thus improving connection with the “Army of Mainz” operating in the Western Germany. Both task had been easily accomplished due to the absence of any serious Austrian military presence in the area.

By the late June the 1st and 2nd Prussian armies reached the Austrian positions stretching between Königgrätz and Josephstadt. The first line of the defenses along the Bistritz River was lightly held just to provide some delay to the Prussian advance and the main defensive line with the bulk of Benedek’s army was behind the Elbe.

Actually, the 1st line was not a single line stretching along the Bistritze and even smaller Trotina but few lines of the separate field fortifications providing convenient fall back positions for a gradual retreat toward Elba.

There were numerous bridges across the Elbe to allow for the easy retreat of the 1st line troops with the arrangements made to destroy them immediately after retreat is completed. The troops of the Southern Army that started to arrive had been placed on the left at Pardubice with the order to entrench.

There was a dispute in the Prussian headquarters regarding the course of the next actions. Should the 1st and 2nd armies launch a headlong attack or should the 2nd Army hold the front while the 1st Army will swing to the West, crossing Elba at Kolin and then advancing Eastward thus putting Benedek between two fires? The second option, proposed by General Blumenthal (the chief of the King’s staff) got very little support. It was pointed out that each of the isolated armies can be successfully attacked by Benedek’s greater force without other army being too far away to help. As an option, Benedek could simply retreat either to Moravia or toward Vienna forcing Prussian armies to further stretch their logistical line and, in the case of the Prussian advance on Vienna with Benedek’s retreat to Moravia, to pose a very serious threat to their flank and rear. Anyway, with Italy getting out of war, it is reasonable to expect 80,000 Austrian troops arriving to the Bohemian theater through Vienna, which (together with the existing garrison) will make attack in that direction foolish if Benedek’s army is free to operate against the Prussian rear, etc. The majority’s opinion, upheld by the King, was that the war has to be ended fast with a smashing blow destroying opponent before he is being reinforced. The armies had been given 2 days to rest and bring troops to the front.

The Prussian offensive started on July 15 with the 1st Army advancing across the Bistritza River and the 2nd on its left flank advancing at the right angle between Bistriza and Elba crossing Trotina. That part of a front was relatively narrow and the 2nd Army was forced to arrange its troops in few echelons. At that point the Prussian artillery had a definite advantage against few pieces placed on the front line but even the best Prussian commanders shared the common curse of a bayonet charge and it was launched on both directions without too much of a preliminary artillery barrage. Keeping in mind that advance had to happen across the rivers, even if the minor ones, it could not be fast and there were some losses. Then, there were delays with bringing artillery across because the convenient fording places had been set with the wooden stakes placed under water. Of course, the Austrian front line troops kept retreating from one defensive point to another and the mutual damage caused on that stage was not substantial. However, it took most of the day for the advancing Prussians to get close to the Elba and in process of doing so some of the left flank units of the 2nd Army got too close to the the main line of the Austrian defenses of which until that moment they are not aware. The intensive artillery fire caused serious losses in the tightly pressed troops and they had to retreat in a rather disorderly fashion, reform and only after that to resume their advance and put forward their own artillery to counter Austrian.

As a result, only the next day the Prussians found themselves in a full occupation of the right bank of Elbe and could get at least some idea of the defenses on the other side. Few probing attempts to get across ended with a predictable failure: the river is not too wide but it is not minor and, with the strong field defenses on other side, crossing is a serious operation requiring solid preparations. The maneuver option, this time by both Prussian armies, was brought up at the military council but had been rejected after reconnaissance reported a strong Austrian presence in Pardubice.

After all, the first stage of the attack was quite successful: the Bistriza was crossed notwithstanding the opposition and the numerous Austrian fortifications had been taken with the relatively low losses. This was definitely a big success of which the Landtag and the major Prussian newspapers already were i formed with a resulting wave of a domestic enthusiasm. The troops are encouraged and full of enthusiasm. After such a success to abandon the further offensive and to march elsewhere would put the whole narrative in doubt and seriously damage the troops’ morale.


The course of actions agreed upon was to fortify the Prussian positions along the river and conduct the artillery duel while the Prussian engineers are preparing the adequate crossing means. In a meantime the 2nd echelon troops are going to establish effective Prussian control over Bohemia, the supply issues will be put in a proper order. If necessary, the heavy siege artillery can be brought from Prussia but, as general Blumenthal correctly remarked (and this time von Roon did not contradict), with the manufacturing potential of Bohemia being lost, in a long run Prussia is going to win due to its more powerful military industry. With more new guns and shells arriving, the Austrian artillery is going to be suppressed and the defensive line is going to be untenable and either will be taken by storm or to be abandoned. One way or another, the Austrian army is going to get a blow that will crush it. To compensate for the troops arriving from the South, the equal nunbers of the reserve troops (those who entered reserve most recently) can be brought to the front line.

Bismarck also supported this view arguing that it gives him time to arrange for a complete isolation of Austria and perhaps even bringing the new players on the Prussian side. Austria is already pretty much isolated, with Poland getting out of the game and France remaining strictly neutral. Hungarian military buildup on the Austrian border is forcing Austria to keep considerable numbers of troops near Vienna without an opportunity to move them elsewhere and significantly reinforce Benedek and, thanks to the lousy mobilization system, Austria is almost out of the prepared reserves and its ability to produce the new weapons and ammunition is being limited due to the loss of Bohemia.

So the Prussian engineers started construction of their own fortified positions on the Elbe’s right bank and building numerous bridges across the Bistriza.

[1] Did anybody ever heard about that marquis? Probably there is no need to explain who Turenne was.
[2] Actually, I have no idea how a drunken snake would look like and if all varieties of these reptiles would assume the same positions when being drunk. A brief search on Google did not produce any references to the scientific experiments in this area so perhaps the expression is just an innuendo (perhaps some weird form of a “speciesism” or whatever is the proper term could be) attributing to the poor innocent creatures the most unattractive human habits. OTOH, the same species are often (also by the unknown reason) ate being associated with a wisdom, which probably should prevent them from getting drunk in public. So the whole thing is quite confusing and I almost forgot what I was actually trying to say, which was (before I got distracted again) simply that the railroad’s route was not going as a straight line from Dresden to Prague. 😜
[3] I could not find any explanation of how exactly these 38-40,000 volunteers were supplied and paid. Were they on Piedmontese supply/payroll or were they …er… taking care of themselves (which seemingly was the case during his earlier exploits)?
[4] In OTL he obeyed and withdrew.
[5] Actually, this was a text of the message Genghis Khan sent to Khwaresm Shah Mohammed after the later killed his envoy. But AIII was seemingly fond of the short sentences. “When the Emperor of Russia is fishing, Europe can wait” or “If there is going to be a war so be it.”
Its the best part of the TL, which is incredible considering everything else is a masterpiece
And what I said about flattery in general obviously applies to yours as well. To return the compliment, it is quite a masterpiece with the subtle mutually-flattering implications: the masterpieces can be truly appreciated only by a limited number of the true connoisseurs (you and others) so I should not be upset with the modest numbers of the likes. 😂😂😂😂😂

Now, can you beat my flattery?😜😜
And of course because I have nothing to throw at you you automatically win and thus is proclaimed the Best Alex

The ultimate title

Which in turn means I win as I gave to you the greatest flattery, making me the Best Alex

Truly a Flattering Paradox :p
And of course because I have nothing to throw at you you automatically win and thus is proclaimed the Best Alex

And that’s it?

Nothing like “The Greatest Genius of All Times and Nations” or “The Greatest Strategist who defeated two imperialisms within life span of a single generation” or even “The Most Equal One”? I’m almost upset (stolen from LXIVs “I almost had to wait”). 😢
The ultimate title

Which in turn means I win as I gave to you the greatest flattery, making me the Best Alex

And I can always claim that you are just stating the obvious fact (which I modestly acknowledge) so this is not a flattery. 😜
Truly a Flattering Paradox :p
We are getting close to the old fable about cuckoo and a roster praising each other’s singing. 😂
Nations” or “The Greatest Strategist who defeated two imperialisms within life span of a single generation” or even “The Most Equal One”?
Why should I state the obvious as after all those are already included in the metaphorical package?
And I can always claim that you are just stating the obvious fact (which I modestly acknowledge) so this is not a flattery. 😜
Truly, your wisdom knows no bounds
We are getting close to the old fable about cuckoo and a roster praising each other’s singing. 😂
Oh God, please no
Im not eager to be either a cuck nor french
The Years of troubles
264. The Years of Troubles

“Calm water does not mean there are no crocodiles.”
Indonesian Proverb
“Never believe someone who carries fire in one hand and water in the other.”
“Hasty speed is never good.”

Dutch Proverbs
“If you see your neighbor has shaved his beard, you should start lathering yours.” [1]
Mexican Proverb
Qui court deux lievres a la fois, n’en prend aucun[2]
Il n’y a pas plus sourd que celui qui ne veut pas entendre” is a proverb “qui court les rues.” [3]
French Proverbs
“Del dicho al hecho, hay mucho trecho.” [4]
Spanish Proverb

While the Austrians and Prussians are busily building the field fortifications on both banks of the Elba, the life is going on elsewhere.

1866. The end of Batavian Republic. Batavian Republic was, seemingly, doing fine but there was a growing discontent. The country still existed predominantly by the foreign trade but competition from the ports of other countries, notably from Hamburg and Bremen, as well as from Britain, remained strong. Only in the Netherlands East Indies did the Dutch have a clear advantage over their rivals. And even in this area the East India Company had been growing increasingly inefficient [5]. The government was considered too accommodating to the Brits to whom it ceded most of the colonies in Asia, except for those in the East Indias, in exchange for the right to have some settlements within the British-controlled territories.

Settlements in Indonesia used to be the most profitable ones but there was a growing problem with the way in which VOC was conducting its affairs. To start with, it was monopolizing the trade and everything else keeping even the Dutch enterprises out as much as was possible and the same goes for the monopolistic approach to all Dutch trade in Asia. Taking into the account the modus operandi by which everything had to go through Batavia, the overhead was great and the system cumbersome.

On the top of it was coming the cultivation system, "Cultuurstelsel", implemented in 1830. Under this system it was stipulated that Indonesian farmers had to use 20% of their farmland for the cultivation of cash crops for export such as indigo, coffee and sugar. Through this system considerable profits were made but the system proved disastrous for the local population; at its height, over 1 million farmers worked under the Cultuurstelsel and the extreme incentive for profit resulted in widespread abuses. Farmers were often forced to either use more than 20% of their farmland, or the most fertile land, for cultivation of cash crops. The system led to an increase in famine and disease among Javanese peasants in the 1840s. According to one estimate, the mortality rates increased by as much as 30% during this period. Which meant two related things: (a) shrinking numbers of the producers meant less production and (b) the rebellions (and the following further loss of the revenues) can be expected. In its desire to increase the profits VOC had been cutting the expenses neglecting creation of infrastructure that could help to eliminate the problems. There was also an ongoing dispute with the Brits regarding the right to loot ….oops… control Sumatra. Since 1858, the Dutch had subjected the Sultanate of Siak Sri Indrapura to its rule, drawing protest from the British.

Then there was a general employment issue. The population was growing but the economy still was predominantly agricultural. In 1859 40.3% of the employed population had been working in agriculture, 31% in industry and 28.7% in various services. There was no more available agricultural land and it would be somewhat optimistic to expect that all appearing “surplus” is going to sail to the Cape Colony. The growing unemployment and the numbers of so-called housebound poor (‘huiszittende armen’) on permanent relief started being a problem.

The industry had a little bit of everything but by 1850 metallurgy and engineering (6.6M francs) had been dwarfed by foodstuffs (55.8), clothing (18.6), textile (18.2) and leather (7.1) all of which put together had been dwarfed by agriculture (139.5). The foreign trade was bringing 63.4M. The “questionably productive” components of the GDP, like government and domestic servants, amounted to 23 and 20.4M. Even the nominal industrial wages remained practically the same between 1820 and 1860 with the real wages even somewhat declining.

The country needed to change the situation and the current government was obviously not up to the task. As happened more than once in the Dutch history, the ready solution was there and very few had been asking a stupid question if this is a good solution. The Duchy of Limburg (purple on the map above) still was around and so was his ruler, Willem Alexander Paul Frederik Lodewijk.


The revived “Orangist party” was back again. Its platform was somewhat vague but rather pleasing to almost everyone and because William himself tended to say as least as possible, there was no reason to assume that he is not a liberal … or a reactionary. There were three additional factors in his favor:
  • With Europe being predominantly monarchist, the Batavian Republic was sticking out as a sore thumb and was not getting all respect it could expect as one of the major European traders and owner of a big colonial empire.
  • With France now being an empire, the whole “sister-republic” notion was looking quite silly and there was a clear sign of approval from the Emperor Charles regarding potential change of the Dutch status.
  • An additional bonus was the fact that William’s mother was a daughter of the late Russian Emperor, Paul. So, as far as the royal family relations are involved, he and the Russian emperors had been reasonably close relatives. To underscore this relation, Nicholas I (his uncle) in 1834, made him a honorary commander of the Grenadiers Regiment of Kiev nr. 5 in the Imperial Russian Army [6] and he had been awarded Order of St. Andrew.
It was not that the Duke or his family in general were some kind of the strangers: their duchy was quite small and its rulers routinely served in the foreign armies to make an extra buck. His father started with service in the Prussian army and later ended as a general on the Dutch service. William himself had been serving in the Dutch army starting in 1830 as a lieutenant of the Grenadiers Regiment and now was a lieutenant general.

From republic to the kingdom.
Agitation in favor of “upgrading” the status to the kingdom kept strengthening and in 1866 it achieved such a proportion that Staten-Generaal put the issue to a vote and it won with a considerable majority both in Tweede Kamer and in Eerste Kamer.

After the government had no choice and its delegation led by chairman of the Council of Ministers Thorbecke visited the Duke who, after the proper display of a modesty and hesitation, gracefully accepted the offer and in a due course was coronated as Willem I, King of the Netherlands. The Batavian Republic ceased to exist.

One of his first acts, which immediately made him enormously popular in the business circles (and not only) was liquidation of VOC. The monopoly was gone, the areas went under the direct control of the Dutch government and became open to all Dutch entrepreneurs (with some allowances for the French: the sister republic disappeared but the Big Brother was still around). Cultuurstelsel system was abolished and the economy shifted to private companies. Import of the coolies, low-wage indentured laborers from various parts of Asia became a profitable business. Large-scale plantations were built to grow cash crops and Javanese, Chinese, Malay, Batak and Indian people were shipped to the plantations in Sumatra and Java to perform harsh labor. The precise death rate among coolie laborers is unknown because nobody cared but it could be as high as 25%.

Investments in the infrastructure (railroads, telegraph, and more coordinated distribution systems) eventually contributed to famine elimination in Java with a resulting population growth. The openness led to the greater Dutch immigration into the colonial Indonesia and, because most of the immigrants were males, they were buying the “Nijai”, the indigenous women who officially served as maids but were often also used as concubines. They could be bought and sold together with the house they worked in as so-called "Indigenous Furniture" (Inlands Meubel).

The highest Dutch authority in the colony resided with the 'office of the governor-general'. During the Dutch East Indies era the governor-general functioned as chief executive president of colonial government and served as commander-in-chief of the colonial army. The governor-general ruled jointly with an advisory board called the Raad van Indie (Indies Council). Colonial policy and strategy were the responsibility of the Ministry of Colonies based in The Hague.

Sugar production doubled between 1870 and 1885; new crops such as tea and cinchona flourished, and rubber was introduced, leading to dramatic increases in Dutch profits. Changes were not limited to Java, or agriculture; oil from Sumatra and Kalimantan became a valuable resource for industrialising Europe. Dutch commercial interests expanded off Java to the outer islands with increasingly more territory coming under direct Dutch control or dominance in the latter half of the 19th century. However, the resulting scarcity of land for rice production, combined with dramatically increasing populations, especially in Java, led to further hardships but the natives’ well-being was not a high priority, especially comparing to the growing profits.

The Dutch-owned plantations were cultivated by Javanese peasants, the products were collected by Chinese intermediaries, and sold on overseas markets by European merchants. In the late 19th century economic growth was based on heavy world demand for tea, coffee and cinchona. The Dutch East Indies produced most of the world's supply of quinine and pepper, over a third of its rubber, a quarter of its coconut products, and a fifth of its tea, sugar, coffee and oil.


Ah, almost forgot. The big cities became civilized with all these railroads, telegraph, banks, shops and newspapers. The natives in their national costumes somewhat spoiled the scenery but you can’t have it all at once.

The wealth coming from the colonies helped to jump-start the industrial development in the Netherlands and, with the general well-being noticeably increasing, the fact that King Willem proved to be not as big a liberal as expected (to tell the truth, not a liberal at all) was generally ignored by his subjects. At least for a while.

Troubled years in Spain

The effective rule of Isabella II started in 1843 when she was 13 years old and it was not a calm one and definitely not effective. The country was in a state of the constant struggle between the progressives (who were divided into the “radicals” and “temperate”) , moderates and conservatives, which was impeding modernization of its economy even if there was a noticeable progress since the early XIX, especially in the areas of railroads construction and textile industry. The elections quite often had been followed by the uprisings instigated by the loosing party and the political leaders had to take their personal security quite seriously.

In 1844 the moderates led by general Narvaez came to power and one of their first measures was to prevent progressive uprisings, for which they disbanded the National Militia and re-established the Law of Town Councils to better control local governments from the central government, which prevented the creation of Juntas. The progressives could not oppose Narváez because they had no presence in the Cortes, so the doctrinaire liberal model was established, which would establish a constitutional monarchy with sovereignty shared between the Crown and the Cortes. Special courts were created to try crimes of insult against the government or the Crown, the freedom of worship was rejected and a number of the eligible voters shrunk to 0.8% of the population. The Presidents had been changing every few months and in between the winning faction of the moderates party was rewriting the constitution. So everybody was busy, which would not be such a bad thing because the government busy with the documentation should not have too much time to interfere into the peoples’ affairs. Unfortunately, the Spaniards could not live without the uprisings and there was a series of them in 1854: Saragossa, Manzanares, Barcelona, Valladolid and Valencia. The moderates had been replaced by the radicals. This period lasted for two years and was marked by a coalition between more "left-wing" moderates and more "right-wing" progressives, in which progressive laws were reinstated, such as the law on town councils and the Militia, and a new constitution was drawn up, but it was never promulgated. The main legislative work of the Biennium was the economic reforms, aimed at consolidating the middle class. There was a massive nationalization of the assets with a purpose to finance the Railway Law. The Railway Law was published in 1855 to regulate the construction of the railway network and to seek investors for its development. There were no major investors in Spain, so the capital was foreign. Predominantly French [7].

There were more uprising and in 1856 more moderate government came to power while the political fight between the moderates and liberals kept going on. The new government lasted for the whooping 4.5 years which was a record of a longevity. The most important actions were the major investments in public works, including the approval of extraordinary credits, which allowed the development of the railways and the improvement of the army; the policy of confiscation continued, although the State handed over public debt to the Church in exchange and reinstated the Concordat of 1851; various laws were passed: the Mortgage Law (1861), internal administrative reform of the Central Administration and the municipalities and the first Road Plan.

To add to the general entertainment, in 1860 there was the Carlist landing at San Carlos de la Rápita, led by the pretender to the throne Carlos Luis de Borbón y Braganza in an attempt to start a new Carlist war, which ended in a resounding failure.
And there was a big peasants uprising which was repressed and crushed in a short time with several death sentences.

In foreign policy there were some prestige actions which produced a considerable public enthusiasm: Franco-Spanish Expedition to Cochinchina in 1857 - 1862, War; the African War of 1859 and the annexation of Santo Domingo in 1861.
In 1863, the coalition of progressives, democrats and republicans won, and Narváez came to power again but not for long: there were 8 governments between 1864 and 1868 when the Bourbon monarchy was overthrown.

Trouble across the Atlantic. Quite obvious that with all that domestic excitement the governments in Spain had very little time and resources to play complicated coordination game which was holding the Spanish Empire together and while the colonies-states of the South and Central America were reasonably quiet the same could not be said about the Captain-Generalship of Mexico where the politically active part of the population was adopting the political methods of the mother-country.

In 1857 the country adopted the constitution which codified a liberal program intended to limit the political, economic, and cultural power of the Catholic Church; separate church and state; reduce the power of the Mexican Army by elimination of the fuero militar (privileges for the military class); strengthen the secular state through public education; and economically develop the nation. It should not come as a big surprise that it was met with a violent opposition resulting in a war that lasted for three years (1858-61) and, while the liberals won, the part about the economic development predictably ended up with its opposite because economy was thoroughly destroyed.

In a process of the war liberal government of President Juarez signed a treaty by which in exchange of $4,000,000 Mexico would have sold the perpetual right of transit to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec to the U.S. through the Mexican ports of Tehuantepec in the south, to Coatzacoalcos in the Gulf of Mexico free of any charge or duty, for military and commercial effects and troops. It even required Mexican troops to assist in the enforcement of the rights permanently granted to the U.S. There were some other areas through which the US would get a perpetual rights of passage and extraterritoriality. Of the $4 million for the total cost of these benefits, the U.S. would pay immediately $2 million to the Mexican government, and the rest would stay in U.S. hands in provision for payments to American citizens suing the Mexican government for damages to their rights.

The treaty caused an astonishment even in the US because it would voluntarily turn Mexico into a protectorate of the United States. Ultimately, the U.S. Senate rejected ratification of the treaty in 1860. Had it been ratified, it would have given major control over Mexican territory seen as a crucial transit point from the Caribbean to the Pacific Ocean. By the reasons not quite clear (to me) Juarez is considered to be the great Mexican patriot.

When the war was finally won, Juarez found himself with a lot of good liberal intentions, no money and a huge foreign debt (to be fair, a big part of it had been generated by the defeated conservatives) and instead of negotiating a deal, he simply declared that the payments will be suspended for two years. [8] Which, understandably, produced a noticeable amount of unhappiness among the debt holders who expected a gentler treatment. The greatest debt holder was Britain but Spain and France also were on the hook. Spain, besides financial, also had a political component involved. So all three of them decided to demonstrate some muscle as a way to get their money back (admittedly, some of the arrangements related to these debts were more than a little bit on a bizarre side because neither fighting side seemingly had a clear idea regarding the source of money beyond the general knowledge that money are something that is laying in the bank’s vaults).

On 14 December 1861, a Spanish fleet sailed into and took possession of the port of Veracruz. The city was occupied on the 17. French and British forces arrived on 7 January 1862. On 10 January a manifesto was issued by Spanish General Juan Prim disavowing rumors that the allies had come to conquer or to impose a new government. It was emphasized that the three powers merely wanted to open negotiations regarding their claims of damages. On 14 January 1862, a bill of claims was presented to the government in Mexico City. The Mexican government, in a view of the foreign squadron and the troops being on the Mexican soil, rolled back its “screw you” attitude and expressed willingness to accommodate. Eventually, the claims issue was settled and the whole thing ended as a demonstration but Juarez’ government took the Spanish participation personally and declared a complete independence of Mexico from the metropoly.

Spain found itself alone on this issue and, with its ongoing problems, simply could not even try to subdue the rebellious colony by force. The diplomatic attempts also failed: while Juarez government was quite willing to became vassal state of the US (the main obstacle was the coming ACW) it was boldly defiant toward the far away Europe. There was no option but accept the fact.

Afterwards, Juarez, whose term expired in 1865, decided that he is too important for the country to be bothered with the stupid things like the constitution. So he amended it to allow himself the third term and, to kill two birds with one stone, also strengthened the executive power over the legislative and enforced centralization by limiting rights of the states (oops, this would be the whole three birds). Even his fellow liberals became getting grumpy, finally figuring out that their leader is simply making himself a dictator but it was too late. Economy kept going down the tubes but with the congress being packed by his supporters, he not only served the third term, crushing the regular rebellions here and there, but run for the 4th election in 1871, which he won without getting a majority vote but beating both his opponents. The most energetic and talented of those, the liberal general Porfirio Diaz drafted the Plan de la Noria demanding electoral freedom and no re-election. He gained some supporters from the army and enemies of Juárez, who supported Díaz for their own reasons.

He was defeated by the government’s forces because majority of the military establishment remained loyal to Juarez. Juárez took the opportunity of the rebellion to attack entrenched groups within various states, using government forces to neutralize rebellious elements in state militias. However his next attempt to modify the constitution had been defeated by the congress.

In 1872 he died from the heart attack and got the state funerals. He was succeeded by Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada, the head of the Supreme Court. Díaz was amnestied for his rebellion by Lerdo in November 1872. Díaz later rebelled against Lerdo in 1876. He declared another revolt under the Plan de Tuxtepec and overthrew the government. After this he served as the president of Mexico in 1877-80 and then 1884-1911. Well, quite a few people tend not to apply the rules to themselves…

The French dilemmas.
Emperor Charles inherited the empire from his father Oscar as a seemingly prosperous, and influential state but it was anything but problem free because there were numerous influential forces pushing him in seemingly mutually-exclusive directions.

  • There were the Catholic fundamentalists who wanted to upheld power of the Catholic Church in France and loudly demanded to protect the Papal state from the Italian annexation.
  • There were various types of the progressives from the modest liberals to the socialists who were demanding, more or less loudly, a complete separation of the Church from government and were adamantly against any further intervention into the Italian affairs as being a waste of the French money and blood.
  • There were all types of the business people who, with the understandable occupational specifics, wanted more or less the same thing: the most favorable domestic arrangements for the French businesses and expansion of the markets both peacefully (in “civilized” world) and by the colonial expansion.
  • The military had been favoring the colonial wars but preferably those not involving some terrible jungles, deserts and other unpleasant environments. And of course they wanted money for the never-ending rearmaments.
  • The working class wanted the labor laws protecting its interests from the employers, more employment and social programs. Definitely not the money being spent on wars and the militaries.
  • The peasants wanted easily available credit and land (almost none of which was available domestically). Well, and no return of the crazy high taxes. Generally, they had been favoring the Catholic Church.
  • The entertainment industries of all types wanted more foreign tourists but, depending upon the current political situation, could be adamantly against those from some countries.
  • The newspapers wanted sensations and scandals, the more the better.
And, besides all these very important considerations there were trifles like a need to figure out fast the right attitude toward the events going on in Germany and the mutually acceptable colonial arrangement with Britain and how to handle a polite proposal of the new Emperor of Russia regarding mutual extradition of the political criminals.

It looked like the best short-term answer to all these challenges will be to organize Exposition universelle in Paris.
Preferably in 1867: hopefully, by that time Prussia and Austria will sort out their ongoing quarrel and will be able to attend.

[1] Does this mean that if your neighbor is beating his head at a stone wall so should you?
[2] “Who runs after two hares at the same time, catches none.”
[3] “No one is as deaf as the one who does not want to listen.”
[4] “Between saying and fact, there is a great divide.”
[5] In OTL it was eliminated long ago but without the napoleonic wars and with the republican government abolishing it would be much more difficult.
[6] As far as I can tell, this qualified him as a being rather minor royal potato: on one hand the grenadier regiment was not just an ordinary infantry regiment so this was a honor but OTOH, it was just one of the provincial regiments and not a member of the Guards so this honor was measurable with his importance.
[7] In OTL British, which did not favor Spanish iron and steel industries. Moreover, the track gauge was different from the European one; the railway would not become the business it was expected to be. ITTL I’m trying to be nice to Spain. Within the reasonable limits. 😉
[8] There was one more negotiated treaty negotiated by Thomas Corwin with Mexican representative Manuel Maria Zamacona which would provide mining concessions in exchange for American loans. In the event that the debts were not repaid, Mexico would agree to the cession of Baja California and other Mexican states. Ultimately, the U.S. Congress rejected the treaty on grounds that it would drain money from Civil War expenditures. Was there something wrong with the Mexican liberals or perhaps I’m missing something fundamental?
“Calm water does not mean there are no crocodiles.”
Indonesian Proverb
Yeah but it means the sewers are free for once
“Never believe someone who carries fire in one hand and water in the other.”
So not the Avatar
“Hasty speed is never good.”
Dutch Proverbs
Nor Sonic either!

So picky
To add to the general entertainment, in 1860 there was the Carlist landing at San Carlos de la Rápita, led by the pretender to the throne Carlos Luis de Borbón y Braganza in an attempt to start a new Carlist war, which ended in a resounding failure.
Silly Spain, what would you be without some Carlos starting a war every once in a while?
The treaty caused an astonishment even in the US because it would voluntarily turn Mexico into a protectorate of the United States. Ultimately, the U.S. Senate rejected ratification of the treaty in 1860. Had it been ratified, it would have given major control over Mexican territory seen as a crucial transit point from the Caribbean to the Pacific Ocean. By the reasons not quite clear (to me) Juarez is considered to be the great Mexican patriot.
I mean, cant seize territory from your country if you give the whole thing right?

We know the saying
Too close to the US , too far away from God

So maybe by becoming the US they may get closer? Might need to ask Jesus
[1] Does this mean that if your neighbor is beating his head at a stone wall so should you?
Only when it's proper and my wall well cushioned
[2] “Who runs after two hares at the same time, catches none.”
Clearly never had a dual gun
Great to See the Netherlands upgrading to a kingdom.

And it wouldnt be Spain without a Carlos causing trouble and the goverment in shambles.

Let's hope Charles can find a solution to those problems
Nice seeing a small Dutch renaissance going on. One of the major problems that I feel like the country went through but that is barely explored in TLs is that the Netherlands would essentially be Portugusied: small population with little industry, surrounded by powerful neighbors and getting eclipsed by their own colony(who often are the sole reason they're taken seriously), the Dutch were just lucky to lose their East Indies during the 20th century just after the WW2 and could absorb the shock better than like Portugal did when it lost Brazil in the 19th and never recovered. So I'm glad you covered that phenomenon here.

Also really enjoying what you're doing with Spain, with no Peninsular war to break their back they're more or less stable... Even if the country is still suffering from a lot of internal problems despite it's successes, hopefully they can work to resolve them, especially with a USA or Brazil around who would love to expand at their expanses.

Although question, when you say that they annexed Santo Domingo, you mean the whole island (including Haiti) or just the Eastern part?
Nice seeing a small Dutch renaissance going on. One of the major problems that I feel like the country went through but that is barely explored in TLs is that the Netherlands would essentially be Portugusied: small population with little industry, surrounded by powerful neighbors and getting eclipsed by their own colony(who often are the sole reason they're taken seriously), the Dutch were just lucky to lose their East Indies during the 20th century just after the WW2 and could absorb the shock better than like Portugal did when it lost Brazil in the 19th and never recovered. So I'm glad you covered that phenomenon here.

Don’t forget that ITTL the Dutch are not losing South Africa to Britain.
Also really enjoying what you're doing with Spain, with no Peninsular war to break their back they're more or less stable... Even if the country is still suffering from a lot of internal problems despite it's successes, hopefully they can work to resolve them, especially with a USA or Brazil around who would love to expand at their expanses.

As I said, the colonies except Mexico are reasonably quiet and stick to the system. There is no even Great Paraguayan War, which was quite tempting: while ago I read a book on it and it looked as a quite fascinating insanity but getting Brazil into the picture would destroy the system and I’d like to keep it at somewhat stabilize Spanish “empire” to a degree making Spanish-American War less probable. Not sure if this is plausible even in the best case scenario (European alliance supporting Spain?).

Mexico is another problem: in OTL Diaz was actively cooperating with the US, especially in the railroad construction (which was helping to build a framework for the future revolution) thus strengthening position of his Northern neighbor and contributing to the imperial ambitions at Spanish expense. As far as I can tell, there was no plausible alternative but perhaps I’m missing something.

BTW, the funny thing about GPW was that Paraguayan official propaganda was actively playing the racial card: on the caricatures the Brazilian troops had been routinely shown as the black monkeys seemingly inferior to the brave Paraguayans.

Although question, when you say that they annexed Santo Domingo, you mean the whole island (including Haiti) or just the Eastern part?
The East part as in OTL: I’m trying to keep close to the realities, within the reasonable limits, because otherwise I keep forgetting what happened differently (the PLC already gave me a lot of the headache: more than once I have to go back to the graciously provided alt maps to figure out who owned which of its pieces 😉).