Part 61: Prussian Blues
  • Part 61: Prussian Blues

    The Prussian Army Advances into Maastricht

    The decision by Prussia to aid the Dutch in their fight against the French was not a decision they had made lightly. Having signed onto the 1831 Treaty of London, Prussia was obligated to defend the integrity of the Kingdom of Belgium against any adversary that infringed upon their sovereignty. Yet, the collapse of Belgium into bloody civil war between the Walloons and the Flemings and the subsequent intervention of the Dutch and French undoubtedly muddied the waters for the Prussian Government. While the Dutch were clearly in the wrong for broadening the conflict from a simple civil war to a wider regional conflict, French ambition and their long-standing designs on the Low Countries clearly necessitated a response.

    Although the French portrayed their efforts to aid the Walloons as purely philanthropic and in keeping with their guarantee of Belgian territorial integrit, there remained a tinge of subterfuge to their motives. French designs on the low countries were well known in Europe dating back to the Carolingian Empire, the Middle Ages, and more recently the Empire of Napoleon when the region had been a province of France. Even after the Napoleonic Wars, France continued to show interest in the Low Countries; they were the first to acknowledge the independence of Belgium from the Netherlands in 1830, and the first to send soldiers to aid the Belgians in winning their freedom from the Dutch in 1831. Economically, France held a strong grip over Belgium as its largest trading partner, thanks to the hostility of their British and Dutch competition. Moreover, many thousands of Belgian workers - mostly Walloons - were invited to work in Paris, Lyon, Caen, and Toulon among many others and were permitted to send remittances to their kith and kin back home in Belgium.

    Their monarchies were also linked thanks to the efforts of the French King Louis-Philippe who championed the selection of Prince Otto of Bavaria for the throne of the nascent state. Otto was seen by the French Government as an impressionable young man that would be susceptible to French influence and would willingly bring his kingdom further into the French orbit. Louis-Philippe would even marry his youngest daughter to the new Belgian king, uniting their households both politically and personally in holy matrimony. Sure enough, King Otto would reciprocate these acts of kindness by ordering the demolition of the Barrier forts along their mutual border and establishing closer trade relations with the French, much to the chagrin of Britain and the other Powers.

    So, it was that the deposition of Otto presented both a setback and an opportunity for the French government, for while the relationship between the King of France and the King of Belgium was close, the relation between the French people and the Walloons was even closer. In many ways the Walloons were a kindred people of the French, their language Walloon was generally considered to be a regional dialect of French. Their customs and traditions were similar as were their systems of government and legal traditions which were heavily influenced by Salic Law. Even their leaders, Charles Rogier, Jean Baptiste Nothcomb, and Henri de Brouckere were Frenchmen or heavily predisposed towards France. Many Walloons had been born and bred under French rule and remembered the days of the Republic and the Empire with great fondness and admiration, with some actively advocating for the union of Belgium and France. These feelings were not shared by all however, as the Flemings despised the French, having suffered terrible persecution under the French occupation and would resist Walloon efforts to seek closer accommodations with France for many years.

    The deposition of King Otto in September 1847 and the revolt by the Flemings later that year, however, would conveniently remove the remaining constraints upon the Walloon dominated Belgian Government. Freed from any semblance of duality, the Francophile Walloon Government began moving the country even closer to France. They imprisoned known Orangists in Wallonia and the parts of Flanders under their control, and they closed down newspapers that opposed their initiatives where ever they could. They recruited French officers to fill the gaps left vacate by rebellious Fleming commanders and they hired French lawyers and accountants to fill openings in the government’s bureaucracy. They would even offer the vacant Belgian crown to King Louis-Philippe and his son, the Duc d’Nemours. Although both men wisely refrained from accepting the offer immediately. However, the Duc d’Nemours candidly refused to deny his interest in the Belgian crown, much to the concern of France’s neighbors. By the beginning of January 1848, it was clear that Belgium was an independent state in name only having completely fallen under the suzerainty of France.

    For many of the greybeards and veterans of the Napoleonic Wars in Berlin, the prospect of French dominance in the Low Countries was a terrifying development, bringing to mind the hardships and tribulations they had endured during the Napoleonic Wars. Men like Ferdinand von Rohr, Karl Freiherr von Muffling, and Prince Wilhelm who had all served during the Napoleonic Wars held great sway over King Frederick William IV, convincing him of the great threat France posed to Prussia and the German Confederation. If left unchecked, France would undoubtably press on into the Rhineland and beyond, until all of Europe lay under their banner.

    The Netherlands in contrast was a friend they argued, who had gone to great lengths to improve relations with its neighbors and friends over the years. Their economic bonds and historical friendship, as well as the mutual animosity with France - and by proxy Belgium - would help revive Anglo-Dutch relations during this time. And while Britain would not abandon their interests for an independent Belgium within their orbit, they would similarly refrain from coercing the Dutch into accepting the 1831 Treaty of London, a treaty which now seemed to benefit only the French. Dutch relations with Russia had also improved thanks to the influence of the Queen Consort Anna Pavlona of Russia who frequently corresponded with her brother Tsar Nicholas on behalf of her husband, King William II

    Dutch relations with Prussia would also improve thanks to the close familial links between the House of Orange and the House of Hohenzollern.[1] King William II of the Netherlands was the first cousin with King Frederick William IV of Prussia through his mother Queen Wilhemine of Prussia, the sister of King Frederick William III. The two kings shared a friendly, if somewhat complicated relationship with one another dating back to their childhood when King William and his family had fled to Berlin after the fall of United Provinces to the French in 1795. The true champions of a Dutch-Prussian rapprochement however, would be their brothers, Prince Frederick of the Netherlands and Prince Wilhelm of Prussia. Both had served together in the Prussian Army during the closing days of the Napoleonic Wars, fighting at Leipzig and the climactic battle of Waterloo respectively. Both men earned great accolades and honors for their effort in the war despite their relatively young age (they were only 16 at the start of the Sixth Coalition). Most importantly, the two developed a life-long friendship with one another that would be a pivotal relationship in the years ahead of them.


    Prince Frederick of the Netherlands (Left) and Prince Wilhelm of Prussia (Right)

    The Napoleonic Wars would also leave the young boys with a deep-seated hatred of the French that would remain with them for the rest of their days. It was this animosity that drove Dutch foreign policy during the 1830’s and 1840’s to seek an accommodation with Prussia, with Prince Frederick being an especially outspoken proponent of a Prussian alliance. His experience in the Prussian Army would also lead him to model the Dutch army after their vaunted Prussian counterpart, supplying his soldiers with Prussian arms and drilling them in Prussian tactics and maneuvers. Using his prerogative as Commissioner General, Prince Frederick invited Prussian officers to instruct at the Dutch Royal Military Academy in Breda and to drill young soldiers into capable fighters. Following his father’s death in 1842, however, Prince Frederick would promptly retire from public life for several years, yet throughout his life in seclusion, he continued to foster his Prussian relations on behalf of the Dutch government. These relations that would prove indispensable to the Netherlands in their fight against France, none more so than the one with Crown Prince Wilhelm.

    When the Netherlands intervened in the Belgian Civil War on behalf of the Flemings on the 9th of April, Prince Frederick and much of the Dutch Government recognized that a French response would be imminent and against France they stood little chance alone. Therefore, they began reaching out to everyone and anyone that might aid them in their cause, chief among them being Prussia. The Dutch government would find a willing ally in Prince Wilhelm who despised the French and eagerly petitioned his brother King Frederick William IV to intervene on behalf of the Dutch and Flemings. The Prince of Prussia exclaimed how the French economy lay in ruins and if the Prussian army were to deal a decisive blow against the French in the Low Countries they could be brought to the negotiating table within a matter of weeks. Frederick William remained unconvinced, however, and refused to side with the Dutch for the moment as his own Kingdom lay on the brink of revolution and ruin.

    The Kingdom of Prussia, like much of Europe, was gripped in a terrible famine and economic recession dating back to the start of 1845. Bread riots were common occurrences day in and day out, while unemployment and poverty soared across the Kingdom. The tide of liberalism that was sweeping across the German Confederation had also taken up root in Berlin as Liberals called for the creation of a constitution and a legislature, while Nationalists called for the unification of the German states into a singular German Empire. While Prussia would not experience anywhere near the levels of unrest felt in Austria or Belgium; the protestors were certainly becoming more forceful and more violent. Ultimately, they would force King Frederick William IV to establish a bicameral legislature, the Vereinigter Landtag, despite the opposition of the Conservatives, the Junkers, and the King’s brother Prince Wilhelm and promise the writing of a constitution, albeit a rather conservative one.

    Even the once vaunted Prussian army had fallen on hard times as austerity and economic stagnation would see its ranks slashed from its high of 358,000 men under arms at the end of the Napoleonic Wars to little more than 144,000 soldiers by the start of 1848. The Prussian General Staff which was once the finest in the land had also been eroded as many of the great minds and strategists of the Coalition Wars had resigned or retired long ago leaving a relatively untested crop of men in their place. France in comparison, had rebuilt its’ military following the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, boosting its ranks to well over 321,000 men by 1848, while its officer corps was considered among the best in the world having served in numerous conflicts overseas in recent years. The French Navy boasted the second largest fleet in the world after Britain, featuring high quality frigates, ships of the line, steamships. Their weaponry was top notch, having been refined after decades of use in Algiers and Egypt and their logistics system was more than adequate for the conflict at hand. On paper, King Frederick William IV was wise to resist the call for war as Prussia was not prepared for such a fight.

    While King Frederick William IV and the Prussians waited on the sideline, France acted vigorously and entered Belgium on the 18th of April. Overwhelmed by the superior numbers and tactics of the French, the Dutch army under Prince William of Orange was quickly pushed out of Wallonia and into Flanders. While certainly a bold and daring commander, the young Dutch Prince was clearly outmatched by his French foes, leading the Dutch and Flemings to be gradually pushed Northward. While Dutch and Fleming resistance would stiffen somewhat in Flanders and along the Dutch border, they were clearly losing on all fronts in the face of the French onslaught. By the 27th of April, all of Belgium, barring a small salient around Antwerp, Mechelen, Hasselt, and Maastricht had fallen to the French and the Walloons. Victory for the French and the Walloons appeared to be all but certain, yet on the verge of their great victory, they would make a crucial mistake.

    On the 28th of April, elements of the French 2nd Army corps advancing along the English Channel coast fell upon the small port city of Neuzen.[2] The French had been faced with an especially stubborn resistance by the native Flemings and Dutch forces in the area, whose hit and run tactics succeeded in inflicting terribly high casualties upon the invading French. In response, the French commander in the region, General de Brigade Lucien de Montagnac released his Walloons upon the poor town, who gladly massacred the relatively few defenders protecting Neuzen, looted the port of its riches, and put the city to the torch before continuing on to the next town in their path the following day. What would have been a normal act of war under other circumstances was regarded with utter disgust by the states of Europe as Neuzen fell within the Dutch province of Zeelandic Flanders.


    The Rape of Neuzen

    The French invasion of Dutch territory, territory which had remained with the Netherlands after the Belgian Revolution and been reaffirmed as Dutch territory under the now defunct 1831 Treaty of London, sparked panic of French conquest across the continent. While a case could have been made regarding the capture of the town as a strategic necessity to deny its use to the enemy, the harsh manner in which the French had pillaged and destroyed the city sparked mass outrage and anger against them. No longer was the war in the Low Countries portrayed as a noble defense of Belgian sovereignty against the perfidy of the Dutch, it was now a depicted by much of Europe as a French war of aggression against the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The “Rape of Neuzen” as it was so eloquently called by Dutch propaganda, provided Prince Wilhelm and the Prussian war party with all the justification for Prussian intervention that they could hope for. Yet even this was not enough for the tepid King Frederick William who continued to vacillate between going to war and staying at peace. It is fortunate then for the Prussian war hawks that agents of the British Government began to grease the wheels of war in Berlin.

    On the 1st of May, the British ambassador to the German Confederation, Sir William Fox-Strangways, 4th Earl of Ilchester arrived in Berlin requesting an audience with his Dutch counterpart Friedrich Heinrich Wilhelm van Scherff and King Frederick William IV.[3] Although the exact terms of their discussion are unknown, it is reported that Ilchester provided King Frederick William IV and van Scherff with assurances of British neutrality as well as moral support should Prussia join with the Dutch in their fight against the French. With Britain, ostensibly in their corner and the events in the Low Countries reaching a breaking point, King Frederick William finally acquiesced to the demands of the war party and moved to assist the Dutch. However, their assistance would not come cheaply.

    While fears of France and Dutch diplomacy certainly played an important role in pushing Prussia to war, the true draw for Berlin were the promises of recompense offered by the Dutch government. In return for their support against France in this present conflict, the Kingdom of the Netherlands would immediately cede, or rather renounce their claims to the contested and highly valuable zinc spar mining commune of Neutral Moresnet to the Kingdom of Prussia. Additionally, upon the successful liberation of the Southern Provinces from France, Prussia was to receive further compensation in the form of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.

    With the terms of their alliance established, the Prussian Government immediately moved to assist the Dutch, dispatching Prince Wilhelm and the Prussian 1st Army, also known as the Army of the Lower Rhine to the region with Field Marshal Karl Freiherr von Muffling acting as his Chief of Staff. The mobilization of Prussian units had been expedited thanks to the early social unrest in the region following the initial outbreak of hostilities in Belgium several months prior. On the 5th of May, Prince Wilhelm’s army comprised of the Gardekorps, III Armeekorps, VII Armeekorps, and VIII Armeekorps totaling some 86,000 men readied to march into the former Kingdom of Belgium.

    Arrayed against them was the French 1st Army, fleshly christened as the Armee du Nord under the command of Marshal Thomas Robert Bugeaud, duc d’Isly. The duc d’Isly’s army numbered over 106,000 strong, split across four army corps; his main army of 84,000 soldiers in Belgium (1st Corps, 2nd Corps, and 3rd Corps) and another 22,000 soldiers of the 4th Corps held in reserve across the border at Arras and Lille. The French were also assisted in the Low Countries by a much reduced “Belgian Army”, numbering some 18,000 men which operated under the nominal authority of the Walloon Government. In truth, the Walloons were led by French officers and relegated to a French auxiliary force of irregulars and light infantry. To his South, D’Isly was also supported by the 68,000 strong Armee du Rhin under the command of General Theodore Voirol, which was stationed along the border with the Prussian Rhineland Province.

    The other army in the theater was the combined Dutch-Fleming Army, numbering around 47,000 men under the command of the Prince of Orange, but this force, commonly referred to as the Leger van Antwerpen, was largely divided between Antwerp and a small region surrounding Maastricht. While they were certainly inferior numerically to their enemies and ally, the Dutch presented a well disciplined and highly motivated front against the French. Their weaponry was of high quality and their lines of communication and supply were well tuned for the fight at hand. Most importantly, the Dutch were now led by the experienced and battle hardened Prince Frederick who had been called out of his early retirement by his brother King William II. Taking over from his beleaguered nephew Prince William, Prince Frederick immediately stiffened the front with the French, reinforcing the threatened garrisons at Antwerp and Maastricht and dispatching skirmishers to harass the French flanks where possible, enabling the Dutch to hold a line running from the Scheldt and Antwerp in the West to Maastricht and the Maas in the East.


    Prince Frederick of Orange Leading the Defense of Mechelen

    While the return of Prince Frederick would help stabilize the front line for a time, the situation was extremely dire for the Dutch and their Fleming allies, who were outnumbered nearly 3 to 1 in theater. Therefore, the news of Prussian assistance would do much to bolster flagging Dutch morale as they would immediately rebalance the numbers more to their liking. Nevertheless, the odds remained stacked against the Allies as 133,000 Dutch, Flemings, and Prussian soldiers faced off against 192,000 French and Walloon soldiers. Although they remained outmanned by their adversary, Prince Wilhelm and the Prussians did have one major advantage on their side, surprise.

    Despite the concerns of sentries along the Prussian border, much of the French high command remained stubbornly obtuse to the movements of the Prussian army in the Rhineland, believing it to be in reaction to the uptick of revolutionary activity in the region, not a mobilization for war in the Low Countries. As a result, much of the French army in Belgium had been dispersed across the country to quickly overwhelm their Dutch adversaries. 1st Corps under the duc d’Nemours was presently besieging Mechelen and making moves to encircle Antwerp. 2nd Corps under the command of General Magnan was marching along the English Channel coast and recently started efforts to carry the fight into Zeeland and Zuid-Beveland. General Vaillant and 3rd Corps were presently besieging the formidable Dutch fortress at Maastricht and the Walloons were scattered everywhere in between.

    Hoping to take advantage of the opportunity before him, Prince Wilhelm immediately set his sights on the French 3rd Corps outside Maastricht. Of the three French army corps it was the most isolated and the furthest from support. It was also opposed to a Dutch force roughly equal to its own, albeit one that was dispersed across the region and presently under siege by the French. If the Prussians could destroy the French units outside Maastricht before any aid could arrive from the rest of the Armee du Nord, then the balance of power in the region would swing decisively in their favor. And yet, the Prussian plan relied upon speed and secrecy, as well as a certain degree of coordination with the Dutch at Maastricht which would require the relaying of information between them. Nevertheless, Wilhelm approved of the bold plan and immediately leapt into action. Leaving VII Corps behind to screen the Rhineland against any movements by the French Armee du Rhin, Prince Wilhelm and the remainder of the Prussian Army of the Lower Rhine quickly fell upon the border town of Verviers.

    As the French and Walloons had turned their focus towards the Dutch and Flemings, their flank in Luxembourg and Liege had been left criminally undermanned and underprepared for such an assault and within minutes Verviers had fallen to the Prussians. With the border crossing secured, Prince Wilhelm immediately moved to confront the French army at Maastricht with the Gardekorps and III Armee-Korps, while VIII Armee-Korps was sent to cut their lines of supply and communication by taking the city of Liege. Despite its prominence as a logistics and communication hub, Liege was defended not by regulars of the French army, but by Walloon militiamen and local partisans. While certainly brave, these men were no match for the Prussians of VIII Armeekorps who easily brushed them aside, occupied the city’s great bastions, and set off to rejoin the main army at Maastricht later that same day.

    As this was all taking place, Prince Wilhelm of Prussia made his move against the French 3rd Corps still encamped outside Maastricht. Despite the speedy advance of the Prussians, French sentries had discovered their approach and relayed this information to General Vaillant who promptly began withdrawing his men from the siege of Maastricht. Nevertheless, his forces had been widely dispersed across the area; 8. Division was scattered to the North of Maastricht, while another two (10. Division and 11. Division) were across the Meuse River. It would take some time to fully evacuate everyone, time he did not have. Barely an hour after Vaillant issued the order to retreat from Maastricht, Prince Wilhelm and the Prussian army arrived on the scene ready for battle.

    Immediately, Prince Wilhelm dispatched the Gardekorps to seize the French pontoon bridges over the Meuse near Heugem before they could be destroyed by 10. Division which was still in the process of crossing the river. The French fought valiantly as they slowly ceded ground in the face of the superior numbers of the Prussians. Nevertheless, the casualties inflicted upon the French divisions by the Prussians were grievous, some 2,000 men lay dead or dying within the first thirty minutes of fighting. The Gardekorps received its fair share of casualties as well, numbering over 700 men dead and another 500 wounded in the same time. Nevertheless, the Prussians were slowly pushing the Frenchmen to the river leading to a desperate melee at the pontoon bridges. Two of the four bridges would be destroyed, but the remaining two were captured intact by the Prussians, enabling them to surge across the Meuse.


    Charge of the Gardekorps

    The fighting was intense as the French defiantly stood against the withering fire of the Prussian guns. Nevertheless, a Corps fighting against an Army was an unfair fight by all accounts. Nevertheless, the French held an advantage in firepower. Several units of the French Armee du Nord had been equipped with new rifles, called the Minié rifle as part of a wider test of the new weapon.[4] Developed by French Major Claude-Etienne Minié, these rifles were muzzle-loaded weapons that utilized special bullets called Minié balls which fired straighter and farther than normal musket balls. The rifle and the ball had been developed by Minié as a counter to the Algerians long muskets which routinely outmatched the French guns leading to a flurry of new muskets and rifles on the market. While the guns had been designed with Algiers in mind, the conflict in Belgium provided the French government with a real testing ground for the weapon and approved a limited trial of the Minie rifle. Despite their limited usage, the weapons proved to be very adept at killing, providing the outnumbered Frenchmen at Maastricht with a sizeable force multiplier that day.

    Once across the Meuse, the men of the Gardekorps immediately came under fire from French guns embanked atop Mount Saint Peter. The Guns of Saint Peter had been emplaced on the mountain by the French as part of the siege of Maastricht, but now with the Prussians attacking they provided a desperately needed covering fire for the retreating French infantry. The withering fire of the French cannons stopped the Prussian Gardekorps in its tracks, forcing it to dig in and weather the storm. They were aided timely intervention of the Dutch garrison in Maastricht which sortied from the city, drawing away some of the French cannons. With the French atop Mount Saint Peter distracted, the Gardekorps proceeded to fight its way to the base of the mountain. Surrounded, the French gunners spiked their cannons and attempted to escape from the hill, although most were captured some did succeed in escaping to fight another day.

    Back across the river, the Prussian VII Armeekorps was sent against the isolated French 11. Division which had been surrounded in the hamlet of De Heeg. The French fiercely resisted the Prussians for several hours, under excrutiating fire, but remained disciplined and resilient throughout. Many Frenchmen barricaded themselves in barns or farmhouses, while others hid themselves behind stonewalls or wooden frences to protect themselves from the overwhelming gunfire of the Prussians. Nevertheless, they were fighting a losing battle and with the loss of the pontoon bridges to the Prussians their position had become untenable. Around mid afternoon, their commander General de Division Adolphe de Niel led a desperate sally from the little farming village, only to be gunned down immediately. Surprisingly, Niel would survive the battle, but with his incapacitation their situation became hopeless, leading them to surrender.

    With the surrender of 11. Division, the focus of the battle shifted to the west bank of the Meuse once again as the exhausted Gardekorps advanced on the remainder of the French 3rd Corps which had consolidated around the township of Kanne. The ensuing firefight would heavily strain the tired men of Gardekorps who were nearly pushed back across the Meuse by the French. By this time, elements of the Prussian VIII Armeekorps began to arrive on scene to lend its aid to the exhausted Gardekorps. With the Prussians threatening him from the South, General Vaillant ordered a general retreat from the field of battle and withdrew to the East. To prevent the Prussians and Dutch from following, General de Brigade Patrice MacMahon’s 18th Brigade was tasked with the rearguard near Vroenhoven. Against the full might of the Prussian army, MacMahon’s men stood little chance of victory, but they bravely performed their duty for three agonizing hours before finally retreating under the cover of darkness. Although Prince Wilhelm was compelled to pursue the French, his men were simply too exhausted to go forward bringing the battle to an end.

    While French 3rd Corps had managed to escape from Maastricht intact, it had suffered tremendous losses in the process; 10. Division had lost nearly a third of its 7,000 men in the fighting around the pontoon bridges, while 9. Division’s 18th Brigade suffered casualties above 60% during their rearguard action. The worst casualties came from 11. Division which effectively ceased to exist as an organized unit. Trapped on the East bank of the Meuse following the capture of the pontoon bridges, the Frenchmen of 11. Division who were slowly grinded down by the unrelenting fire of the Prussian soldiers until only 2,500 men of the original 7,000 remained. Recognizing their desperation, the Prussian commander General Karl von der Groeben offered them terms of surrender which were accepted without complaint by the beaten and battered Frenchmen of 11. Division who would spend the rest of the war in Prussia as prisoners of War.

    The Siege of Maastricht was a tremendous victory for the Dutch-Prussian Alliance over their French and Walloon adversaries, but it was not the total victory that Prince Wilhelm had hoped it to be. VIII Armee Korps had been late in arriving at Maastricht, and when it did arrive it was slow and lethargic enabling much of the French 3rd Corps to escape to the West. The 3rd Corps, while bloodied, remained a viable fighting force in Belgium. Moreover, the Prussian intervention had been detected by the French Marshal Thomas Bugeaud, duc d’Isly who called up his reserves and moved to assist Vaillant’s men with everything he could possibly spare. The Prussians had also suffered steep casualties, amounting to well over 8,000 men dead, wounded, missing, or captured on the day. Despite his promises of a quick and easy war to his brother and the Prussian Government, it was becoming increasingly clear that the Belgian War would be anything but short.

    Next Time: The End of July

    [1] King William II was the first cousin of King Frederick William IV through his mother Queen Wilhelmine of Prussia, the sister of King Frederick William III. His brother Prince Frederick of the Netherlands was also married to their cousin Princess Louise of Prussia, who was the sister of king Frederick William IV and Prince Wilhelm (OTL Kaiser Wilhelm I).

    [2] The Dutch port of Terneuzen was commonly referred to as “Neuzen” prior to the 20th Century.

    [3] As Prussia was a constituent of the German Confederation it did not receive ambassadors from other states, although it did receive legations and Charge d'Affaires from other countries.

    [4] The Minié ball was invented by Claude-Etienne Minié in 1846 in OTL and the Minié Rifle was created three years later in 1849. With the harsher relations with Britain and the continued alliance with Egypt and Persia, there is an increased demand for better weapons in France ITTL, which has resulted in a slightly earlier development of the Minié Ball and Minié Rifle.
     
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    Part 62: The End of July
  • Part 62: The End of July


    King Louis-Philippe Flees Paris

    Unbeknownst to Prince Wilhelm of Prussia, word of his intervention in Belgium had reached the ears of the Marshal of France Thomas Robert Bugeaud, duc d’Isly less than a day after the events at Maastricht. Upon hearing the news, d’Isly dispatched couriers to Paris relaying this information to the Government, to request the release of additional reinforcements, and to receive new orders on how to proceed against this new threat. d’Isly would not wait for Paris however and began to move his units into position to combat the Prussian army. Orders were sent to 4th Corps, requesting they join the main army in Belgium immediately, while the Belgian Government was persuaded into giving d’Isly temporary control over the meager Belgian (Walloon) Army. 2nd Corps’ planned invasion of Zuid-Beveland was canceled and they were instead transferred to the ongoing siege of Antwerp, thus freeing 1st Corps to move in support of General Vaillant and 3rd Corps.

    Prince Wilhelm had not been idle during this time either. After giving his men a day’s rest, the Prussian Army and Dutch 2nd Corps immediately set off in pursuit of the bloodied French 3rd Corps on the road to St-Truiden, where he managed to catch several stragglers. The few hundred Frenchmen put up a stubborn, but ultimately futile resistance before laying down their arms after an hour, but their delaying efforts had proven decisive as General Vaillant would manage to escape with the remainder of his decimated Corps yet again. Undeterred by this disappointment, Prince Wilhelm and the Prussians pushed further into Belgium, hoping to strike one last blow against the French before they fully united against him. Sure enough he would get his wish on the 11th of May when several scouts from the French 1st Cavalry Division accidentally stumbled into the vanguard of the Prussian Army near the town of Tienen.

    During a routine reconnaissance patrol, east of Tienen, the Chasseurs regiment of the 1st Cavalry Division sighted members of the Prussian 14. Division’s Jaeger Battalion exiting the Wissebos woods near Tienen. Believing the Prussians to be a scouting party, the French cavalrymen moved to engage the skirmishers near the edge of the woods. Most of the Jaegers quickly withdrew into the forests where they utilized the great linden trees for protection against the French cavalrymen, forcing many to dismount and fight on foot. Nevertheless, the French chasseurs proved to be a highly potent fighting force and would slowly push the Prussian skirmishers from the Wissebos and into the neighboring commune of Wommersom where the fiercest fighting of the day would occur. Many men barricaded themselves within the numerous houses and barns, manors and stables of Wommersom resulting in a bloody street fight. As the day progressed more and more men from both sides began to arrive on scene, turning what had originally been a small skirmish between the two Divisions into a full-scale battle between two armies, but with night beginning to fall the French ceded the village to the Germans and established their camp in before Tienen.


    The Fight for Wommersom

    Despite its numerical superiority in the country at large, the French Army was still strung out across much of Belgium; 4th Corps still the better part of a day’s march away and the Belgians were a disheveled, disorderly mess with units scattered from Oostende to Arlon. This left d’Isly with 1st Corps, the bloodied 3rd Corps, and a smattering of Walloon units to fend off the entire Prussian Armee des Niederrhein at Tienen. Nevertheless, d’Isly was well prepared to handle this challenge, having hastily erected field works around the town in preparation for the Prussians. He had also taken great care to secure the heights overlooking Tienen to the north and south of the city, providing his forces with a commanding view of the approaching plain and the opposing Prussian camp which sat upon the lower Wommersom-Linter Ridge opposite the French.

    Prince Wilhelm, confident of victory, ordered a series of attack against the French on the morning of the 12th which successfully breached the French center in some parts and the French right, which was comprised of the half strength 3rd Corps and a few Walloon troops, was quickly overwhelmed and forced to retreat some 100 meters to a second defensive line closer to the city. His attempts to seize the heights to the north of Tienen met with more difficulty as the Frenchmen of 3rd Division under the gallant leadership of General de Division Armand-Jacques Leroy de Saint Arnaud viciously beat back three separate attacks by the Prussian Gardekorps on their hills. The fighting was fierce, but Arnaud’s defiant defense of the hill which bears his name to this day helped to save the French from a complete collapse. Even still the situation remained tenuous for the French for much of the morning and early afternoon, but by late evening elements of the French 4th Corps began flooding into Tienen from the West, reinforcing their embattled countrymen and began grinding the Prussian offensive to a halt as dusk began to fall over the land.

    After two days of hard fighting, the Prussians had little to show for their efforts aside from a few thousand casualties and inconsequential gains on the ground. Worse still, the French had finally assembled a force larger than their own and were likely planning to go on the offensive the following day. Despite this setback, the Prince of Prussia would opt to go on the offensive once again, striking at first light on the third day of the battle of Tienen. At dawn, the 78 guns of the Prussian army opened fire on the French lines in a thunderous barrage of cannonade. It was an impressive, if largely ineffective spectacle that failed to meaningfully impact the French lines thanks to their higher elevation and earthworks. Nevertheless, the Prussian artillery would continue firing for much of the morning, before finally ceasing around 10:30 in the morning, when the Prussians and their Dutch allies made their assault.

    Leading the attack was General Moritz von Hirschfeld and 15. Division who advanced upon the French center, while General Friederich Wilhelm von Dunker's 16. Division and the Dutch 2nd Corps under General Hendrik Forstner van Dambenoy attacked the French Left flank. While these efforts met with some success initially, they quickly lost their momentum and came to a stop as the French steeled themselves. Prince Wilhelm was not discouraged by these developments however as his true target was the French right flank to the south which had nearly shattered under pressure the day before. As such he had sent Gardekorps and VII Armeekorps to destroy the French 3rd Corps in the South, whilst VIII Armeekorps and the Dutch held the other French forces at bay. It was hoped that the Gardekorps and VII Armeekorps could envelope the southern flank of the French army and destroy it. They were to be incredibly disappointed.

    Prince August von Württemberg and Gardekorps were sent on a daring flanking maneuver far to the south of Tienen and the commune of Hakendover which anchored the French line in an attempt to get around the French line and attack it from behind. This detour would take longer than anticipated however, resulting in them arriving well after the battle had started. Even still, their arrival would have had the intended affect had their opponent been General Vaillant and the depleted 3rd Corps rather than General de Corps Nicholas Anne Theodule Changarnier and the fresh 4th Corps which had taken their place. The well-rested Frenchmen would prove to be more than a match for the winded Prussians thanks to the brilliant leadership of General Changarnier who deftly countered every one of von Württemberg’s attempts to outmaneuver him, bringing the battle on the south end of the ridge to a frustrating standstill.



    The Prussian Offensive at Tienen

    With the Gardekorps' flanking attack a failure, the Prussian offensive effectively ground to an immediate halt and within minutes, the Prussians and their Dutch allies had been pushed back to their lines at the start of the day. The French counterattack did not stop there as they continued to press on and for a few brief moments around noon, one could hear the whistling of musket balls and cannon shells could be heard outside Prince Wilhelm’s headquarters in the village of Linter leading to much panic and confusion in the Prussian camp. The French assault would only be blunted when Prince Wilhelm committed the entirety of his reserves into the battle, bringing the battle to a merciful standstill as night began to fall over the field of battle once more. Recognizing the precariousness of his situation, Prince Wilhelm elected to withdraw to the North under the cover of darkness. The Battle of Tienen was over; the French had won, but at a great price.

    Of the 86,000 French soldiers who took part in the battle, 6,563 men lay dead or dying on the field of battle by the end of the third day. Another 15,429 suffered from minor to debilitating injuries incurred during the battle and more than 4,300 were either missing or had been captured over the three days. The Prussians and Dutch in comparison had suffered nearly 5,400 dead, over 11,000 wounded, 1,012 missing, and 2,105 captured, with most casualties occurring on the last day of the battle. Still, the French had won the day, having driven the enemy from the field of battle and stood poised to drive the Prussians out of Belgium entirely. However, their pursuit of the defeated Prussians would not proceed very far as politics would force d’Isly to turn his attention elsewhere.

    On the night of the 12th, Prince Frederick and the Dutch Army had sallied forth from their defenses in the middle of the night and engaged the unwitting French 2nd Corps in a chaotic battle. Although the French had narrowly avoided being caught in their sleep, it was clear that they had not been prepared for such a brazen attack by the Dutch and were quickly defeated as a result. The siege of Antwerp had been broken, General Magnan was in retreat, and the road to Brussels was now open to the Dutch once again. Fearful of the Dutch returning, the Belgian Government soon inundated d’Isly with missives demanding the Armee du Nord return to Brussels at once and defend the city at all costs, a demand that was later reaffirmed by his own Government the following day.

    D’Isly also had his own reasons for moving to defend Brussels against the approaching Dutch; his main line of supply ran through the Belgian capital. In the years preceding the war, a rail line from Paris to Brussels had been constructed, linking the two countries together even closer. Although the project had been intended with economic interests in mind, the military benefits were incredibly valuable as well. Faced with this threat to his lines of supply and communication as well as the political implications such a loss would entail, Marshal Bugeaud was forced to abandon his chase of Prince Wilhelm and move westward to check the advance of the Dutch Prince Frederick. Rather than offering battle however, Prince Frederick deftly withdrew to Antwerp in the face of the full French army, scorching the earth behind him and leaving skirmishers in his wake.

    While Antwerp would be placed under siege once again, these acts by the Prince of the Netherlands had provided the Prince of Prussia with invaluable time to reassemble his haggard forces near the town of Diest. When the duc d’Isly finally arrived eight days later on the 21st, the combined Prussian-Dutch Army had managed to recoup nearly half their earlier losses. Even still they remained heavily outnumbered by the French by as much as 3 to 2, and yet try as they might, the French were unable to make significant progress against their adversaries. The Prussians had learned from their mistakes at Tienen and occupied a more defensible position across the Demer, which proved resilient to French assaults. Efforts by d’Isly to seize the fords across the Demer failed and his attempts to circumnavigate the Prussian positions along the River would also prove futile. After three days of skirmishes and probing attacks d’Isly withdrew his forces and returned to Brussels to resupply and await additional reinforcements. After the battle of Diest the war in Belgium settled into a rhythm of sporadic raids and skirmishing rather than the grand campaigns and spectacular battles that had preceded it as both sides reorganized themselves for the fight ahead. While the common foot soldier certainly appreciated a few weeks of rest, the people and politicians of France, Prussia, and the Netherlands did not.


    French Reservists Called into Service

    While the people of France had been supportive of the war in Belgium initially, having been ginned on by the promise of a short and noble war to save their Walloon kinsmen from the the clutches of Dutch tyranny, they quickly soured on the conflict following Prussia's intervention. The setbacks, blunders, and defeats that followed outweighed the victories, triumphs, and successes that they had achieved thus far. Although some would continue to contend that the Prussians and Dutch could be beaten in a reasonable timetable, most recognized that the war would now become a bitter war of attrition between the two sides. Under normal circumstances, this would have played to France’s strengths; their population was over three times that of Prussia’s and the Netherland’s combined, and their army was nearly double that of the total Allied contingent; even now, tens of thousands of reinforcements were being rushed to the front lines in Belgium to fight off the Prussians and the Dutch. However, these strengths were also weaknesses for France, as the financial and material requirements needed to support such an army strained an already weakened French economy.

    The war had also disrupted the modest economic recovery France had been experiencing at the start of the year, plunging the country back into the grips of economic recession. To fund the war effort, unpopular war taxes were levied on the people leading to various bankruptcies and insolvencies across the Kingdom. Despite British assurances of naval aid, Dutch privateers frequently harassed French shipping across the globe, hurting an already struggling French merchant class. With the war floundering and the economy faltering, voluntary enlistment understandably fell short of the necessary numbers, leading the Parliament to enact conscription nationwide, angering an already irate populace. Soon draft riots became as common as bread riots in Paris, with conscription agents and debt collectors being shot in the streets. Even the French Parliament which had originally supported the war back in April, now began to buckle under the costs of continuing the war and made their growing displeasure known to the King and Prime Minister.

    It was clear that a great victory was needed now more than ever to save the Government of King Louis-Philippe and Prime Minister Francois Guizot. New orders were immediately dispatched to Marshal Thomas Bugeaud, duc d’Isly demanding he make an immediate offensive against the Dutch Army encamped at Antwerp. If the Dutch could be forced from Belgium, then the Prussian raison d’ être for being in the war would be lost and the conflict would come to a close, or so they hoped.

    D’Isly recognized the dangers of such an order, the Dutch and Flemings were well entrenched and with his focus squarely on Antwerp, the Prussians would be free to move against his flanks and rear. The arrival off 5th Corps on the 14th of June would help alleviate some of these concerns, but while his army was now nearly four times the size of the enemy force at Antwerp, most of his force was now comprised of fresh recruits and reservists who had been brought into replace his dead and injured veterans after the bloody battles at Maastricht, Tienen, Antwerp, and Diest. There was also no guarantee that Prussia or the Netherlands would seek peace if they were driven from Belgium. Nevertheless, orders were orders, and on the 17th of June, d’Isly advanced forth from Brussels for Antwerp intending to crush the enemy’s opposition once and for all.

    Assembled behind him was the largest force comprised yet in Belgium, nearly 132,000 strong consisting of 1st Corps, 2nd Corps, 3rd Corps, 4th Corps, 5th Corps and the remnants of the Belgian (Walloon) Army. Arrayed against them was the Dutch Army of Antwerp which initially numbered around 31,000 strong under the leadership of the talented Prince Frederick of the Netherlands. This number would quickly rise as news of the French offensive made its way to the Prussian Army which immediately moved in support of its Dutch Ally, bringing the total number of belligerents to 96,000 men in theater. Nevertheless, the French still enjoyed a sizeable numerical superiority and pressed forward with their advance North.

    The Armee du Nord would spend the next week reducing the Dutch and Prussian defensive positions along the road to Antwerp with relative ease until they reached the strategically situated town of Mortsel. Over the past few weeks and months, the town had shifted hands nearly a dozen times owing to the frequent campaigns in the area by the Walloons and Flemings, the Dutch and the French. To ensure it didn’t happen again, Prince Frederick had tirelessly constructed rudimentary earthworks around the village at a blistering pace, turning a former farming commune into a budding fortress that was one of the keys points in his defensive perimeter around Antwerp. Here the fighting between the French and the Allied Army would be the most intense with Prince Louis d'Orleans, duc de Nemours leading the assault against the Prince of the Netherlands. The duc de Nemours was a brave man through and through, directing his soldiers from the front and fighting down in the dirt alongside them despite his rank and his nobility. His energetic and effective leadership galvanized the French to surmount the hastily erected Dutch defenses allowing them to storm into the town with relative ease.


    Prince Louis d’Orleans, duc de Nemours

    Unfortunately for the French, it was at this pivotal moment in the battle when the duc de Nemours had his horse shout out from underneath him, throwing him to the ground. Although he would quickly regain his footing, the damage had already been done. Fearing their leader to be dead, several soldiers nearby began to flee the field sparking a greater rout among the men of 1st corps. Despite the best efforts of the duc de Nemours to rally his men to stand and fight, he had clearly lost control of the situation which the Prussians immediately took advantage of. The collapse of the French 1st Corps would open a hole in the French lines which was immediately breached by the Prussian Gardekorps who fixed their bayonets and viciously slammed into the now opened flank of the French 5th Corps inflicting terrible casualties on the inexperienced unit and forced its retreat as well. With two of his five Corps now in flight, Marshal Bugeaud was forced to cede the field of battle to the Allied Prussian-Dutch Army.

    The victory for the Allies had come at a great cost however, of the 96,000 men who took part in the battle, over 7,200 lay dead or dying, another 18,000 were wounded, and over 5,000 were missing or prisoners of the French. The French in comparison had done relatively well, only suffering 14,000 casualties in the battle although a significant number of men from 5th Corps had lost their weaponry during the ensuing rout. Despite the many rumors of his untimely death the duc de Nemours left the battle with barely a scratch on him, only suffering a sprained wrist and a wounded pride. In truth, the French defeat at Mortsel was a relatively minor setback in the grand scheme of things as the French continued to push towards Antwerp on other fronts, the Prussians and Dutch were suffering extensive losses of their own and numerous towns and villages had fallen to the French and Belgians.

    This did little to mollify the French people who blamed their Government, or more specifically the misplaced heroics of the duc de Nemours for the defeat at Mortsel. Angry mobs took to the streets of Paris in force, setting fires to government buildings, looting homes and businesses of government workers, and attacking government officials in the streets. Attempts by the July Monarchy to regain control of the city failed miserably, as several protestors outside Tuileries were shot on sight by the Gendarmerie, an act which only served to incite the mob even further. On the 28th of June a massive crowd of men, women, and children marched on Tuileries Palace demanding an end to the war and the implementation of needed reforms to the economy and government. Efforts by King Louis-Philippe to address the crowd were met with a cry of boos and a hail of stones. Fearing for his life and the lives of his family, King Louis-Philippe abdicated in favor of his eldest son Prince Ferdinand Philippe, Duc d'Orleans before departing into exile.[1]

    The new King Ferdinand-Philippe was certainly a more popular man this his father as he was a vocal champion of the rights of soldiers and he had been a prominent patron of the arts during his youth. He also cut a more handsome figure than his father, being a young man in his mid-30's rather than a decrepit old man in his 70's. However, like his father he was a politically moderate man, earning him many enemies among the Conservatives and Liberals in French society. Moreover, he continued many of his father’s hated policies regarding suffrage and the rights of the aristocracy earning him the enmity of the Parisians. More problematic for the new King was the ongoing war in Belgium against the Netherlands and Prussia which remained a millstone around the neck of France. King Ferdinand-Philippe was certainly sympathetic to the people’s plight as economic conditions in the Kingdom continued to deteriorate with overseas trade suffering extensively and the slaughter of battle was a tragedy the new King wished to avoid if possible. More than that though, the King had a personal reason for seeking an end to the conflict.

    His wife, Queen Helene of Mecklenburg-Schwerin was the cousin of King Frederick William IV of Prussia and King William of the Netherlands.[2] In fact her close relationship with the Kings of Prussia and the Netherlands had been one of the few draws benefits of the marriage, aside from her kind demeanor and petite figure which Ferdinand-Philippe found pleasing. The war in Belgium unfortunately brought an end to any hopes of an alliance with the Prussians or Dutch, but it did not preclude a diplomatic angle which the French King might use to his benefit. And so it was that on the 14th of July, King Ferdinand-Philippe announced his intentions to seek a 30-day truce with the Kingdom of Prussia and the Kingdom of the Netherlands. During which time representatives of the French government would meet with their Prussian and Dutch counterparts to discuss their respective terms for peace and hopefully bring about an end to the war.


    King Ferdinand-Philippe, his wife Queen Helene of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, and their sons Prince Philippe and Prince Robert​

    These calls for peace were surprisingly echoed in Berlin and Amsterdam which were struggling with their own waves of discontent and unrest. For one brief moment in time, it seemed as if peace was possible between the three kingdoms. It was not to be sadly. Before the peace talks even began, French Prime Minister Francois Guizot presented his Prussian and Dutch counterparts with two preconditions; first they demanded that the Belgian Government be permitted to send a delegation to the peace conference, and second, that said peace conference take place on French soil. While neither term was particularly onerous or outrageous, these caveats struck a chord with the Prussians and Dutch representatives, especially when Dutch attempts to invite a Fleming delegation were rejected out of hand by the French. A British offer to host the peace conference was similarly rejected by the French, leading Britain to withdraw its admittedly meager support from the French and Walloons. Nevertheless, the Prussians and Dutch tentatively agreed to these terms and began preliminary debate over their respective prices for peace.

    The French buoyed by their strong position in Belgium pushed for the total liberation of Belgium to its prewar borders (including the provinces of Flanders) and that the Prussians and Dutch recognized Prince Louis, duc de Nemours as the new King of Belgium. They demanded an indemnity be paid to the Belgian Government, and that the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg be ceded to Belgian as restitution of their losses. The Dutch wanted the entirety of Belgium returned to them and failing that, they wanted the French to recognize their union with the region of Flanders. The Prussians sided with their Dutch allies in return for the Dutch claim to Luxembourg, moreover, they would not accept under any conditions a French Prince upon the Belgian throne.

    Unfortunately for all, neither side was willing to compromise on their demands at this juncture leading to continued unrest and irritation. King Ferdinand-Philippe, in a fit of frustration condemned the Prussians and their Dutch allies as obstinate war mongers and would privately decry them as such before members of the French Parliament. Word of his insults would unfortunately make its way to the ears of the British ambassador to France the Marquess of Normanby who duplicitously relayed this information to his Prussian and Dutch colleagues who predictably denounced the French King's remarks in response. Matters would only worsen from there with France began sending additional men and resources to the front in Belgium as the end of the 30 day ceasefire neared, provoking Prussia and the Netherlands to do the same. With tensions rising once more it would come as no surprise that fighting would break out on the 10th of August, three days before the end of the ceasefire. Both sides understandably blamed the other for breaking the truce, and in response the French broke off peace talks entirely; the war in Belgium would continue.

    Hoping that one last push would bring the Prussians and the Dutch to terms, King Ferdinand-Philippe announced his intentions to travel in person to the front to meet with the troops and raise their morale before this vital offensive. Departing from Paris on the 17th, the King and his entourage quickly made their way to Brussels where they were met by the duc d'Isly, the duc de Nemours, their staffs, and hundreds of regular soldiers of the French Armee du Nord. By all accounts the trip to the front was a success, but the King's departure from Paris would only worsen matters in the Capital as protesters, both for and against the war poured out into the streets, sparking heated battles. Parisians in favor of the war set fire to the homes and business of politicians advocating for peace, while those demanding an end to the war attacked government officials in broad daylight and ransacked government buildings. Paris was wracked with riots and unrest for days on end until, finally on the 20th of August a band of 10,000 men, women, and children of various walks of life marched on Tuileries. The protestors hurled rocks at the royal palace and harassed the guards, they banged on the doors and smashed the palace windows. Fearing for the lives of her children, Queen Helene immediately fled the palace with her sons and several of her husband’s chief supporters. Little did she know their flight would signal the end of the July Monarchy.

    The August Revolution, as it would come to be known, would have major repercussions for France and its neighbors in the days, weeks, and months ahead. Mere moments after the flight of the Queen and her sons, Republicans and Liberal Members of Parliament moved against the now isolated Prime Minister Guizot and coerced his resignation. He was soon replaced by the liberal lawyer Jacques-Charles Dupont de l’Eure and a Provisional Government which immediately declared the abolishment of the monarchy and the establishment of a republic in its stead. With the King away in Belgium and many of his ministers and Generals with him, the Provisional Government quickly consolidated its hold over Paris thanks to the support of the National Guard which defected to the Republicans almost immediately.

    While the Republicans would quickly secure Paris, the rest of the country remained in a relative state of flux, with various provinces declaring for the Republic and others maintaining their loyalty to the House of Orleans. The King himself would learn of these developments two days later when his wife and children arrived in the army camp outside Brussels seeking refuge and safety. Several officers loyal to the House of Orleans immediately pressed the King to march on Paris with the Army and restore the Monarchy. Despite their conviction and vigor, Ferdinand-Philippe hesitated in his decision. While Marshal Bugeaud had been a loyal supporter of the House of Orleans and several other supporters and family members served in high ranking posts in the military, King Ferdinand-Philippe recognized that many officers and soldiers of the Armee du Nord vehemently supported the liberal ideals that the Provisional Government was propagating. These concerns were verified when several high ranking officers declared their support for the Provisional Government and threatened to mutiny should they be ordered to march on Paris by the King. With the army's loyalty in doubt and much of the country against him, it was clear that the July Monarchy was well and truly dead. So it was with great sadness that King Ferdinand-Philippe and his family departed into exile.[3]

    However, as one French monarch fled into exile, another was making his final arrangements to return to France. Across the Channel in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, a middle-aged man with golden locks and a distinctly Austrian accent bid farewell to his modest abode of the last 8 years. He was returning to the land of his birth, a land his father had once ruled long ago, and the land where his destiny awaited him. His name was Napoleon Bonaparte II and he was returning home.

    Next Time: L’Aiglon

    [1] In OTL, Prince Ferdinand-Philippe died as a result of injuries he sustained in a runaway carriage accident. His death was a major blow to the July Monarchy in OTL as he was quite popular among the people despite the growing unpopularity of his father. As a result a few substantial changes in France ITTL, I’ve seen fit to butterfly away his freak accident and keep the duke of Orleans around for a few more years. I had actually forgotten that he was still alive ITTL so I had to redo the entire second half of this update, so in case you were wondering why it took so long for me to finish this update, that is why.

    [2] Helene of Mecklenburg-Schwerin was the second cousin of King Frederick William IV, his brother Prince Wilhelm of Prussia, king William II of the Netherlands, and his brother Prince Frederick of the Netherlands through their mutual great grandfather Louis IX, Landgrave of Hesse-Darmstadt. Complicating relationship matters even more, her first cousin Augusta of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach was the wife of Prince Wilhelm (Kaiser Wilhelm).

    [3] The July Monarchy has ended sadly, that said some of their members will appear again in the future.
     
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    Part 63: L'Aiglon
  • Part 63: L’Aiglon


    The Bloodless Coup of Napoleon Franz

    The Provisional Government of the Second French Republic was a troubled institution right from the start with adversaries, rivals, opponents, and opportunists lining up to take its place. Mere moments after the deposition of the July Monarchy and the declaration of the Republic, cracks began to emerge in the new government as several Socialists and Fourierists began issuing demands to their more moderate partners. They called for the establishment of universal suffrage for all male citizens and the creation of national workshops to provide work for the unemployed. They demanded the abolition of the nobility and peerages in France as well as the abolition of slavery across the Empire. They wanted the freedom to assemble and the rights of the press to be respected and protected by the government. Finally, they desired an end to the war in Belgium and they wanted free and fair democratic elections.

    The Provisional Government would immediately agree to several of these initiatives, namely universal suffrage for all male citizens, the right to assemble, and the freedom of the press. However, many members of the Provisional Government deemed national workshops to be a temporary solution, rather than a long-term answer to France’s economic woes. Moreover, they were incredibly expensive and given the financial requirements of the ongoing war they were rejected out of hand by more conservative members of the Government.[1] They also disagreed over the war, namely what terms they desired for peace and how far they were willing to go to achieve those terms. And while they would agree to hold elections, they would disagree on their timing. Many of the Liberal Monarchists and Moderates supported snap elections before the end of August, while many of the Socialists and Radical Republicans like the activists Louis Blanc and Louis Auguste Blanqui wanted them to be delayed until the people could be properly educated in republican principles and manners.

    The moderates would eventually compromise with the Socialists, agreeing to hold the elections in a month’s time on the 25th of September, but no later as the ongoing crises plaguing France demanded the attention of proper government, not a temporary Assembly. These decisions by the Provisional Government would not sit well with everyone however, as conservatives and liberals alike viewed it as going too far or not far enough respectively. Soon unrest would begin to stir up across the countryside once more with both sides moving to oppose the new Government. The biggest threat initially would come from the newly deposed King Ferdinand-Philippe and his many supporters across the country.

    Despite its faults and failures, the House of Orleans remained a prestigious and relatively popular family that had earned the loyalty and respect of many Frenchmen. Their support among the burgeoning French middle class and merchant class was especially strong. They also drew a great deal of their support from the military as a number of Generals and Admirals continued to pledge their loyalty to the deposed July Monarchy rather than the newly installed Provisional Government. Fears of civil war and instability plagued France for the next few days until word reached Paris in early September of King Ferdinand-Philippe’s decision to depart into exile for the good of all France. The deposition of the last Orléanist King would not stop the rising tension in France as debate over the fate of his former supporters would sadly split the Moderates and the Radicals once again.

    Many Socialists and Republicans demanded harsh punishments for those that had supported the ousted House of Orleans, while others such as Alphonse de Lamartine called for leniency and reconciliation. The matter was made worse by the approaching National Election which was unfortunately marred with allegations of corruption and voter suppression on all sides of the aisle. When the results returned a massive victory for the Républicains modérés (Moderate Republicans) under Alphonse de Lamartine, Émile Ollivier, and Francois Arago, it came as no surprise that many Démocrate-socialistes (Democratic Socialists) viewed these results with suspicion and soon took to the streets demanding a new election.

    The Socialists were quickly joined by disgruntled laborers and workers who demanded higher wages and improved working conditions in their work environments, moreover they demanded collective bargaining and unionization. Negotiations with the workers would quickly break down, leading to strikes and protests throughout Paris as neither side showed any signs of compromise. With the war in Belgium ongoing and the country still in a state of economic recession, the French Government could ill-afford a prolonged demonstration by its craftsmen and laborers and applied greater pressure on the organizers to end the strike. Nevertheless, the demonstrations would continue for another six days before the newly elected government finally sent in the troops to break up the strike. Unfortunately, several men and women were killed in the scuffle, prompting a revolt by the workers and their socialist allies.

    Violence would soon consume all of Paris with demonstrators even marching on the Palais Bourbons, fighting their way past the guards, and even ransacking the Chamber of Deputies. Hundreds were killed in the fighting, with several deputies being counted among the dead, most Ministers and deputies would escape however, and reorganize the government outside the city at the Palace of Versailles. With much of the capital under their control, the Democratic Socialists declared the establishment of their own rival government, the Socialist Republic of France (République socialiste de France), and demanded the surrender of the Moderate Republican Government. The Moderates would only be saved from being toppled themselves by the timely support of the National Guard and its commander General Louis-Eugene Cavaignac.


    General Louis-Eugene Cavaignac

    General Cavaignac’s men had originally mustered to aid the Armee du Nord in the ongoing war in Belgium. However with the uprising of the Socialists and Workers in early October these orders were rescinded leaving the General and his men in position around Paris at the time of the riots. Moving quickly, Cavaignac quickly moved against the rebels at the The Hôtel de Ville, the Palais Bourbon, and the Place de la Bastille. The Rebels fought bravely and vigorously, having erected barricades throughout the city forcing the Guardsmen to fight for every inch and every street. However against the superior might of the French Army they stood little chance, with the Legislature building falling to the Guard by nightfall on the 5th and the Place de la Bastille capitulating on the 6th. Unrest would continue for several more days, but by the 8th of October, the rebellion was effectively over as the leaders of the Socialist Republic of France surrendered en masse to General Cavaignac. The Provisional Government had been saved, but only at a great cost as several thousand Parisians had been killed in the fighting and the legitimacy of the Republic was thoroughly shaken in the eyes of the people.[2]

    The victory by Cavaignac would greatly enhance his portfolio within the Republican Government, rising from a simple General de Division before the August Revolution to Minister of War after the October Uprising. Moreover, he would leverage his newfound influence to gain emergency powers and declare martial law across Paris, leading to the imprisonment of renowned Socialists and Royalists alike in the name of national security. With his soldiers walking the streets of Paris, General Cavaignac achieved de facto supremacy over the embattled Second Republic, becoming Dictator of France in all but name - although his authority outside of Paris was tenuous at best and not existent at worst.

    General Cavaignac's short time as dictator of France would see several important developments, namely the abolition of hereditary peerages and the abolition of the Senate. He would also do away with imprisonment for debt, working hours were reduced from 14 hours per day to 12, slavery was abolished throughout the French colonial Empire, and the Army, Navy, and National Guard were opened to all male citizens of France above the age of 16. Unfortunately, Cavaignac would also crack down on the Democratic Socialists and Conservatives, restricting newspapers, imprisoning political opponents, and maintaining martial law well after the present crisis in Paris had passed despite his promises to the contrary. His most famous, or rather infamous decision regarded the ongoing war in Belgium, which had continued unabated in the weeks since King Ferdinand-Philippe's deposition in August.

    Following the failure of the July Peace Conference, the War in Belgium had slowly, but surely turned against the French as the political situation in Paris drew men and resources away. Soldiers initially bound for the front in Flanders, were instead sent to Paris or Lyon or Caen to put down revolts by anti-Republican forces, General Cavaignac’s men being one such example. The October Uprising by the Socialists and factory workers in early October, crippled the French munitions industry as thousands of skilled laborers lay dead and dozens of factories had been thoroughly pillaged in the fighting, requiring months of repair before they could begin manufacturing weapons and munitions once again. The instability of the Government was also reflected in their orders to the Armee du Nord, which fluctuated by the day as new ministers and administrators took office.

    The transfer of administrative power from the Orléanists to the Provisional Government, and then later the Cavaignac Government, was not a smooth process either as various conservatives and Orléanists officials were purged from the state’s massive bureaucracy, while liberals were elevated and promoted to fill these new vacancies. This change in management was also felt in the French military, with various officers of suspect loyalty being reassigned to dead end posts in Algeria or the Americas, while others were pressured into early retirements. Even though the total number of effected officers was relatively low, with only a few dozen being significantly affected, it would have a disproportional effect on the Armee du Nord as its commander Marshal Thomas Robert Bugeaud and several other high-ranking officers were subjected to intense reviews by the new Republican Government.


    Thomas Robert Bugeaud, Duc d’Isly and Marshal of France


    Overall, the duc d’Isly’s command in Belgium had been largely successful; much of the country was under French/Walloon control and they had achieved several important victories over their Prussian and Dutch adversaries. However, his talented leadership betrayed an overly cautious approach that had allowed the enemy to escape his grasp on several occasions, needlessly prolonging the war. He had also refrained from enacting harsh reprisals upon the native Flemings in the vain hope of reconciling them with the Walloons, despite continued partisan activity on their part against him. Most damning of all however, D’Isly had been a vocal supporter of the July Monarchy prior to the revolution and remained sympathetic to them even after their deposition, making his loyalty to the new Republic suspect at best. Ultimately, General Cavaignac decided that the duc d’Isly was to be relieved of his post and forced into retirement, bringing an end to his impressive military career.

    The duc d’Isly’s chief lieutenant, the duc de Nemours Prince Louis of Orleans was similarly forced out of the army by the new Republican Government as were his three younger brothers, bringing an abrupt end to their military careers as well. Other officers in the Armee du Nord who had openly professed loyalty to the deposed monarchy, such as 4th Corps’ General Changarnier were reassigned to other theaters, while the much maligned General Magnan of 2nd Corps was relieved of his command for his failures at Antwerp back in early June. However, the unrest and instability of the new Government would unfortunately leave these positions unfilled for weeks on end, effectively leaving the Armee du Nord leaderless and rudderless until mid-October when General Cavaignac began appointing replacements to these vacant posts.

    In recognition of his valor at Tienen, General Jacques Leroy de Saint Arnaud was elevated to General de Corps, replacing General Magnan as 2nd Corps’ commander. General Auguste Regnaud de Saint Jean d’Angely was similarly promoted to General de Corps and assumed command of 4th Corps in place of General Changarnier. Finally, General Christophe Leon Louis Juchault de Lamoricière, a close confidant and ally of General Cavaignac, was given command of the Armee du Nord in place of the now retired Marshal Bugeaud. General de Lamoricière had been a member of Marshal Bugeaud’s staff both in Algeria and in Belgium, providing novel stratagems to counter the Dutch and Prussian forces. Unfortunately, for General Lamoricière he would take command of an army which had been much reduced over the past few months as attrition and desertion had reducing the Armee du Nord from 132,000 men at the end of June to little more than 98,000 men at the start of November.

    Added to this were the continuous skirmishes with Fleming insurgents and Prussian Jaegers who racked up a staggering body count against French scouts numbering in the hundreds and thousands. The unrest at home and the disruption of supplies and pay would also dampen morale for the French forces unfortunately as men were called away to put down uprisings and rebellions in France. In comparison the joint Dutch-Fleming-Prussian Army had increased mildly from 76,000 in June to 84,000 thanks to nationalistic fervor by the Germans. General Lamoricière’s appointment would help in some areas, as his talents as a charismatic leader reinvigorated the troops for the campaigning season ahead. His skills as a battlefield commander would unfortunately leave much to be desired in the disastrous Fall Campaign.

    Although the French offensive in the Fall of 1848 began on a good note with a pair of victories over Dutch forces at Mechelen and Willebroek on the 5th and 6th of November respectively, Lamoricière’s attempts to cross the Nete and Ruppel rivers were bloodily rebuffed by the Allied Army near Boom, Rumst, and Duffel in rapid succession. Unable to make much progress against the entrenched Prussian and Dutch forces across the River, Lamoriciere split his force in two, leaving Saint Arnaud and Vaillant behind at Walem and Ruisbroek, while the rest of the Army moved to the East, taking the lightly defended town of Lier on the 9th before turning Northwest towards Antwerp the following day. The march north from Lier was immediately countered by Prussian and Dutch skirmishers who pestered the French army for hours on end. Still, resistance proved to be surprisingly light leading Lamoricière to believe he had succeeded in drawing Prussian and Dutch attention to the South.

    However, as he approached the commune of Boechout, he began encountering more and more adversaries in his path. Still confident of victory, Lamoricière continued to push forward only to find the entire Prussian Army encamped before him ready to do battle. Prince Wilhelm had only learned of the French maneuver around their flank the night prior and had been forced to march through the night to counter it. With Lamoricier and the French cornered, Prince Wilhelm and the Prussians began their attack, viciously assaulting the unprepared French. Sporadic fighting would take place throughout the day, but by nightfall, the French were in retreat and the Prussians were hot on their tail, picking off stragglers and inflicting thousands of casualties at the cost of a few hundred of their own.

    With Lamoriciere cornered at Boechout, the Dutch carried out their own attack against Saint Arnaud and Vaillant at Walem. The battle was fierce as both sides fought for control of the frigid river. The French would manage to hold their ground against their Dutch adversaries well into the night, however, when it became clear that Lamoricière had been defeated and the Prussians were marching against them, Vaillant and Saint Arnaud withdrew southward to Brussels. Invigorated by their string of victories, the Allies went on the offensive once more, with the Dutch striking first towards Ghent and West Flanders while the Prussians chased the haggard Frenchmen to Brussels which was placed under siege by the end of November. It is at this point that we must turn our attention to the activities of Napoleon Franz (Napoleon II).

    Napoleon Franz had resided in London for much of the past 8 years, becoming somewhat of a frequent subject of gossip and rumors in the British press. In stark contrast to the disdain and ridicule that his father had endured years ago, Napoleon Franz was praised as a gentleman, a forward thinker, a patron of the arts, and a protector of the people among many other accolades. He would even appear in public with Queen Victoria on occasion at Buckingham palace, as she had become quite fascinated by the French Prince. Salacious rumors would even contend that the two were secretly lovers and that Napoleon Franz had fathered some of Victoria’s children, although these have been thoroughly debunked by most contemporary sources. However, despite presenting himself as an aloof nobleman to British society, Napoleon Franz was a very serious man who constantly kept an eye on the goings on in France for several years thanks to his network of supporters and friends within the French Government.


    Napoleon Franz meeting with Queen Victoria

    Napoleon wrote political theses defining Bonapartism as its own political ideology espousing liberalism and imperialism together as one. He penned letters to his supporters in France enabling him to stay well versed in the day to day events in the country and he meticulously planned for his eventual return to France. He stockpiled guns and horded cash, he met with French expats and merchants who were dissatisfied with the present system in France. He also met with British ministers, such as Lord Melbourne, Sir Robert Peel, and Viscount Palmerston among others who provided Napoleon Franz with clandestine support for his efforts against the French Government. However, the greatest boon to his cause would be the War in Belgium between France and Prussia.

    Despite initially bolstering support for the hated House of Orleans, fortune quickly shifted against the July Monarchy and they were soon toppled by republicans and socialists. The succeeding Provisional Government similarly began with a great deal of support and admiration among the people, yet it quickly betrayed that trust with their incompetent and corrupt rule. Choosing to strike while the iron was still hot, Napoleon Franz and a few hundred of his closest supporters departed from Britain and set sail for France on the 24th of November, just days after the fall of Bruges to the Dutch and the beginning of the siege of Brussels.

    French patrols and Dutch privateers would force the Bonapartists to wade ashore at the small fishing town of Mers-les-Bains along the Picard coast. Wasting no time, Napoleon Franz and his followers immediately set to work ginning up support among the receptive populace. His men handed out coats, hats, and gloves for the homeless, and they distributed food for the hungry, they provided alms for the poor and medicine for the sick, repeating this act of philanthropy in every village they pasted through on the road to Paris. Napoleon Franz’ efforts were not entirely altruistic however, as he openly pronounced his intentions to seek the throne as his father had before him and called upon the people of France to aid him. Promising liberal reforms, an end to the war, and the hated war taxes and conscription policies that came with it, Napoleon Franz’s company quickly swelled from 300 men to nearly 1,000 by the end of the day and within a week’s time, it had risen to more than 2,000 men.

    His landing at Mers-les-Bains did not go entirely unnoticed by the Government of General Cavaignac who immediately dispatched General Armand D’Allonville with 4,000 troops to arrest the Bonaparte Prince if possible or kill him if he could not. Setting out from Paris, D’Allonville would succeed in tracking Napoleon Franz and his followers to the city of Amiens on the 2nd of December where his cavalrymen cornered the former King of Rome and his followers. With muskets raised and bayonets fixed, it appeared as if this was the end of Napoleon Franz, he would die a sad death on the road to Paris, with his ambitions unfulfilled and his promises unkept. In a show of defiance, Napoleon Franz beckoned his followers to lower their weapons before marching before the assembled host. Throwing open his coat as if inviting a shot through his heart, he began to speak of liberty, order, and victory, all things his father had provided for France and all things he would give to France as well if given the chance to do so.[3] Impressed by his rousing words as well as his immense bravery, General D’Allonville and his men knelt before Napoleon Franz, hailing him as their Emperor.


    Napoleon Franz receiving the "surrender" of General D'Allonville


    Although evidence suggests that D’Allonville’s defection had been preordained thanks to correspondence between him and prominent Bonapartists such as the duc de Persigney and the duc de Morny, it is unknown if he himself was an ardent support of the House of Bonaparte or if his conversion to Napoleon's cause had been spontaneous as various romanticists claim. Nevertheless, his support would prove crucial in the days ahead as the embattled Republican Government sent army after army against Napoleon Franz in a desperate attempt to stop him. Following D’Allonville’s betrayal, Cavaignac and the Republican Government were forced to call upon General Magnan to confront Napoleon II. However, like General D’Allonville before him, General Magnan would side with the Bonapartists swelling the Emperor’s ranks from roughly 9,000 men to nearly 25,000 by the 10th of December. They were later joined by General Aimable Pélissier and General Rémi Joseph Isidore Exelmans and another 10,000 to 20,000 men in the ensuing days.

    The final blow to General Cavaignac’s government came from the people of Paris themselves who had grown tired of Cavaignac’s harsh regime. His resistance was also hindered by members of his own government, such as Emile Oliver, Alphonse Henri d'Hautpoul, Eugene Chevandier de Valdrome, and others who delayed and obstructed Cavaignac’s attempts to raise troops and send them against Napoleon. With the people and army against him, Cavaignac was forced to surrender as Napoleon II and his army of supporters reached the outskirts of Paris on the 20th of December before throngs of cheering people. Despite the appeals of his supporters to take the throne by force, Napoleon Franz refused to do so without the support of the French people and announced his intent to put the measure to a vote scheduled for the following Spring.

    With Paris subjugated, Napoleon II, immediately moved to fulfill his greatest promise to the people of France, the promise of peace. Riding hard for the Belgian border, Napoleon II, General d’Allonville and 10,000 men came to the aid of the besieged Armee du Nord. Rather than show gratitude or joy at Napoleon Franz’s presence, General Lamoricière resisted his attempts to take command of the Army and threatened to imprison Prince Bonaparte for treason against the French Republic. His threats were quickly proven to be hollow as General Saint Arnaud, General Vaillant, and General d’Angely quickly sided with Napoleon, forcing Lamoricière to surrender himself to Napoleon Franz. In a show of unity and magnanimity, Napoleon would quickly pardon Lamoricière for his brashness and commend him for his loyalty to France.

    With the army now pledged to him, Napoleon hastily moved to counter the Prussian and Dutch army encamped outside Brussels. Encouraged by his presence, the French soldiers would vigorously fight off the Dutch and Prussian soldiers under the watchful gaze of their Emperor. Snowfall and sloppy roads would aid the Allied Army against the attack of the reinvigorated Frenchmen, but as the day grinded on they began to succumb to the greater numbers, the greater morale, and the greater firepower of the French army. Finally around mid-afternoon, the Prussian and Dutch soldiers began to break ranks and flee north, the siege of Brussels was ended and with it the war. Rather than give chase after the broken Allied Army, Napoleon dispatched an envoy to the Prussian camp requesting a ceasefire and the holding of a peace conference to bring an end to the war.

    Despite his desire to continue the war, Prince Wilhelm recognized the perilousness of his present situation. Prussia was on the brink of revolution, the Netherlands was on the verge of bankruptcy, and the Allied Army was broken beyond recovery. While France was also hemorrhaging men and resources as a result of the war and could not continue on like this forever, they still held a superior position and superior numbers. Moreover, Napoleon II offered generous peace terms, which met most of Prussia's aims. Ultimately, the call for peace would prevail over the lingering war hawks and a time and place was established for the ensuing peace conference. Meeting in London on the 28th of January, representatives of Britain, France, Flanders, the Netherlands, Prussia, and Wallonia gathered to determine the fate of Belgium. The items of debate ranged from territorial aggrandizement to reparations, but in truth these matters were resolved quickly and the debate lasted little more than three days.

    The Treaty of London, February 1st 1849:
    • The Treaty of Antwerpen between the Provinces of Flanders and the Kingdom of the Netherlands shall be recognized by all parties present to the ongoing deliberations. Henceforth, the regions of West Flanders, East Flanders, Antwerpen, and Limburg shall be considered subject territories of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
    • The Treaty of Berlin between the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Kingdom of Prussia shall be recognized by all parties present to the ongoing deliberations. The municipality of Neutral Moresnet is henceforth ceded to the Kingdom of Prussia and all Dutch claims to the region shall be forfeited. The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg shall be ceded in part to the Kingdom of Prussia, with the Francophone municipalities in the west of the province being split from the Germanic speaking communities in the East.
    • The remaining provinces of Belgium, Hainut, Brabant, Namur, Liege, and Eastern Luxembourg shall hold in three months' time, a referendum to determine their fate, either choosing to continue as an independent country or to join a neighboring state.
    • All prisoners shall be released immediately without payment of bail or ra,nsom and all territory occupied by the parties involved, apart from the regions specified above, shall be returned without ransom.
    • With the signing of this treaty, peaceful relations shall be restored between the Nations of Belgium, Britain, France, the Netherlands, and Prussia.
    The Second Belgian War of Independence came to a close on the 1st of February 1849. Nearly 100,000 men would lose their lives in this conflict, with another 60,000 to 80,000 suffering from debilitating injuries for the remainder of their lives. The result of the war was far from conclusive either as no one side could really claim to be the victor. Although the Netherlands certainly gained territory in the War, they had fallen short of the total reconquest of the Southern Provinces envisioned in April. Moreover, their victory was a pyhrric victory as they had effectively bankrupted themselves in the process and the territory they had won had been thoroughly devastated in the fighting. Prussia had also won territory in the war, and while it was certainly rich and plentiful land, the cost needed to receive it was much too high with nearly half of all casualties suffered in the war being Prussian.

    The French for their part would initially receive little recompense for their great suffering in the war, aside from some mild reparations and renewed access to Dutch and Prussian markets. However, in the May Referendum on Belgian Independence, four provinces of the much reduced Kingdom of Belgium (Hainut, Namur, Liege, and Arlon) voted to join with France. The vote in Brabant was highly contested however, with rampant reports of wrongdoing on taking place both sides. The worst allegations came from Brussels where many thousands of Flemish refugees who had fled the city during the war, were barred from returning to the city after the conflict, providing the Walloon populace with a slight advantage over their Fleming neighbors. Ultimately, the region was split in two, with the North of the province electing to join the Netherlands and the South choosing to unite with France. The true victor of the Second Belgian War of Independence however, were the liberals of Europe who took advantage of the chaos and carnage of the war to depose the July Monarchy in France, to unite Flanders with the Netherlands and Wallonia with France. They would bring about revolutionary changes to the German Confederacy and the Italian Peninsula, and they would bring about the demise of one of Europe's greatest powers.

    Low Countries timeline Map Final.png

    The State of the Low Countries after the Second Belgian War of Independence
    The Netherlands - Orange (Dutch gains outlined in dark orange)
    France - Blue (French gains outlined in dark blue)
    Prussia - Grey (Prussian gains outlined in dark grey)
    Hannover - Pink
    Next Time: Kaiserreich
    Author's note: Now that I'm finally done with France, its time to give some much needed attention to the primary topic of this timeline, Greece!

    [1] The Provisional Government did succeed in implementing National Workshops which would employ thousands of Frenchmen until they were closed by the Conservative dominated National Assembly, an act which helped spark the June Days Uprising. Here the financial strain of the War in Belgium prohibits the French Government from establishing National Workshops.

    [2] Over 10,000 Parisians were killed in the OTL June Days Uprising and is likely around that number ITTL as well as General Cavaignac was certainly not averse to killing.

    [3] This is more or less a recreation of Napoleon’s own return to France in 1815, where he ripped open his coat and said “If any of you will shoot his Emperor, here I am.” The date is also important as it coincides with Napoleon’s Coronation as Emperor in 1805 and his victory at Austerlitz in 1806.
     
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    Part 64: Kaiserreich
  • Apologies once again for the long delay, I've been rather busy as of late with the Holidays and what not, but now I'm back and I bring a timely gift in the form of another update.
    Part 64: Kaiserreich


    German Revolutionaries Celebrate the Formation of the “German Empire”

    Just as the deposition of King Otto of Belgium sparked a wave of protests and social unrest across Europe clamoring for liberalization and reform; the abdication of French King Ferdinand-Philippe and the July Monarchy in August 1848 would release a second wave of revolutionary fervor across Europe. A wave that was to be much larger and much more pronounced than the first, a wave that would destroy states and create nations. Spanning the entire breadth of Europe, its effects could be felt from the Italian Peninsula in the South of Europe to Scandinavia in the North, from the Iberian Peninsula in the West to the vast lands of Russia in the East.

    The rebellion of the Milanese in the Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia would quickly escalate into a full-scale war between the Austrian Empire and the neighboring Kingdom of Sardinia-Piedmont which rushed headlong into the Po River Valley to aid their Lombard allies. The sudden intervention by their former ally King Charles Albert and Sardinia would successfully catch the demoralized and outnumbered Austrian Army of Italy off guard, and within a span of three weeks they had successfully driven them behind the Adige River by early June. Attempts to counter these developments in Italy by Chancellor Metternich and the Austrian Government would only spark further unrest throughout the Austrian Empire as unpopular tax increases and conscription policies would see the Kingdom of Hungary, the Kingdom of Bohemia, and the Kingdom of Galicia-Lodomeria rise in rebellion against Vienna as well, in what was to be the greatest threat to the Hapsburg Monarchy since the Napoleonic Wars.

    With the Hapsburg Empire in the throes of a multi-front war, the Serbians and Transylvanians within their borders began agitating for independence as well with the aid of their kin in the neighboring Principalities of Serbia, Wallachia, and Moldavia. Although Serbia itself remained relatively quiet during this time, the Danubian Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia would erupt into bitter conflict against the Russian and Ottoman Empires who had jointly lorded over them since the end of the last Russo-Turkish War in 1829. Despite the support of numerous volunteers from their friends and allies, the Moldavians would quickly fall to the Russians in late October, while the Wallachians succumbed to a joint Russo-Turkish invasion not long after in mid-January 1849. Nevertheless, the uprisings had an important impact on the outlook and demeanor of the Danubian Principalities in the years ahead.

    Russia was not spared from social unrest either as it would experience a massive rebellion of its own in the lands of the now defunct Kingdom of Poland. For years, Polish nationalists within the rump Kingdom had been advocating for greater autonomy from the Russian Empire, only for these petitions to go unheeded for years on end. This benign neglect would soon turn to overt hostility on the part of the Russian Government which sought to diminish the Polish Kingdom’s autonomy. Its army was subordinated to the Russian Army in 1831 following an aborted uprising the year prior, the Sejm was shuttered in 1840, and its administration was steadily filled with more Russian agents with each passing year. Worse still, the constitution of the Kingdom of Poland was steadily eroded by the Russian Government, until finally in the Spring of 1848 it was revoked entirely prompting the Polish people to rebel against Russian rule.

    On the other end of the European Continent, the War of the Matiners - or the Second Carlist War as it is more commonly known outside of Spain - had been reignited thanks to the deposition of King Ferdinand-Philippe in France. The persecution of conservatives by the new Republican Government in Paris would force Carlist General Ramon Cabrera and his followers to make a return to Spain at the head of a small army of reactionaries and conservative dissidents in the Fall of 1848.[1] Although they would be quickly put down by the Spanish Army, the conflict left a deep scar on Aragon, Catalonia, and Navarre for generations to come and would pave the way to continued conflict in the years ahead.

    Far to the North in the city of Stockholm, demonstrations calling for liberalization and greater democratic reforms in the United Kingdom of Sweden and Norway would unfortunately end in tragedy as several dozen protesters were killed when they were forcibly dispersed by the army. Switzerland would fall into civil war as the Sonderbund and Confederates came to blows over the unification of their cantons into a more unified state. Even the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was not spared from the unrest and violence of the 1848 Revolutions as the terrible famine and dire conditions in Ireland drove the local populace into revolt.


    Scene from the Sonderbund War

    In the German Confederacy, public demonstrations would continue to escalate at an alarming pace over the course of 1848 as German Nationalists and Liberals began calling for reform of the divided Confederation into a singular German state, a Deutsches Kaiserreich. Rallies advocating for the formation of a united German Empire dominated the streets of every major German city from Frankfurt and Cologne to Berlin and Vienna. Although most of these were peaceful, the sight of many thousands marching through the streets proved to be disconcerting development for the Lords of the German Confederacy. Ultimately, the persistence shown by the German Liberals and nationalists would succeed in compelling a multitude of German Kings, Princes, and Dukes to dispatch representatives to Frankfurt am Main to begin debate over the crafting of a new constitution for the Confederacy. Arriving on the 2nd of July, envoys from the Anhalt Duchies, Baden, Bavaria, Electoral Hesse, Hesse-Darmstadt, Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Oldenburg, Prussia, Saxony, the Saxon Duchies, Württemberg, and several other states slowly set to work revising the original charter of the German Confederacy. However, before they even started, several problems began to emerge.

    While the official task provided to the Delegates was to consider various amendments and revisions to the old constitution established in 1816, most delegates in attendance were against broad sweeping change of any kind. Many of these men were fervent conservatives and monarchists appointed by the various kings and Dukes of the German Confederacy who themselves had little to no interest in giving up their powers to the mob. Only the Badenese delegation, the Württemberg delegation, the Hesse-Darmstadt delegation and a few others had been popularly appointed, and as such only they supported meaningful reform. Ultimately, the Juliversammlung (July Assembly) met with very little success apart from the unanimous decision to hold a second assembly in one year’s time, a slight relaxation in the enforcement of the Carlsbad Decrees, and a minor expansion of the German Confederacy Diet's Inner Council and Plenary Session.

    By all accounts, the First Frankfurt Assembly was an abject failure and a complete insult for many of the Liberals, Nationalists, Republicans, and Socialists of Germany and within days of the Assembly’s conclusion, renewed protests began to spring up across the entire Confederation. Having been promised reform and then provided with meager scraps, it came as no surprise that they would react poorly to the Aristocracy’s misdirections and outright lies. The German Nobility, for their part believed they had offered enough concessions to sate the demands of the people, when in fact they had only inspired them to seek even more. When it became apparent that what they had offered not enough, the lords of the German Confederacy dug in their heels and refused to yield to any further demands. With neither side willing to compromise tensions would steadily build in Germany over the next month until the August Revolution in France finally spurred Germany's aristocrats and Monarchs into action.

    Frightened by the possibility of a similar development taking place within their own lands, the lords and leaders of the German Confederacy agreed to hold a second assembly on the 29th of August in the hope of calming the angered mob before revolution took their lands by storm. Unlike the First Assembly the month prior, the Second Frankfurt Assembly was more evenly split between the Liberals, the Moderates, and the Conservatives resulting in a more comprehensive dialogue from the start. Although they still disagreed over various little details, they would manage to reach meaningful compromises on most matters, concluding with the writing of the 1848 Frankfurt Constitution.

    Under the new Constitution, the German Confederation was dissolved, and all its institutions were incorporated into a new entity, the German Empire. Under the 1848 Frankfurt Constitution, the German Empire was to be a Federal Semi-Constitutional Monarchy that would consist of the former states of the German Confederacy. While the various states of the union (Prussia, Austria, Bavaria, Saxony, etc) would retain considerable autonomy and influence over matters within their own territories, the Federal Government was endowed by the Assembly with a certain level of influence over the constituent members of the Empire, namely through foreign policy initiatives and economic treaties with other powers. The Assembly would also establish a new National Parliament in Frankfurt that would supersede the German Confederacy’s Diet and it would establish an Imperial Judiciary for the Empire.

    The Assembly would also establish male suffrage across the German Empire and scheduled elections to be held over the course of September. Once seated, the Imperial Parliament would be tasked with electing the Kaiser of the German Empire, but until that time, the Assembly selected Archduke John of Austria to serve as Regent of the nascent state.[2] Finally, the Assembly established the Rights of the German People, a document which effectively established the freedom of movement throughout the Confederacy, the freedom of the press, the freedom of assembly, the freedom of conscious, the abolition of capital punishment, and the equal treatment of all Germans under the law in the German Empire among several other tenants.


    Members of the Second Frankfurt Assembly

    Despite the critical acclaim of the August Assembly, it was not without its detractors as many on both the right and the left felt that the Assembly’s reforms went too far or not far enough respectively. The Austrian Empire, or rather its embattled Chancellor, Klemens von Metternich abjectly refused to recognize the new Empire and withheld all Austrian assets from its control, namely the Austrian Military and Archduke John of Austria who was barred from assuming the Regency of the new German Empire. The highly Liberal nature of the Frankfurt Assembly was also offensive to the conservative sensibilities the Austrian Government, but more insulting than that, the Assembly had also called on Austria to abandon its non-German possessions or maintain them in personal union with the crown in order to tie itself closer to the German Nation State. It was obvious from the start that this provision was a non-starter for the Austrian Government in 1848 as it desperately fought to maintain its own empire and rejected greater integration with the other German states for now.

    On the other end of the political spectrum, members of the Badenese Diet led by the Radical Republicans Friedrich von Hecker and Gustave Struve denounced the Frankfurt Parliament as a farcical display which did little to empower the people while retaining all the vestiges of monarchism. Others believed it relied too much on the member states to function, having been barred from levying taxes as a compromise to the Conservatives. As a result, the Imperial Government was financially dependent upon the good will of the Princes to pay its own bills. Despite the vocal minority of dissension, most states within the German Confederacy generally went along with the new order, willingly or not as they trembled in fear of the alternative. Surprisingly, the Kingdom of Prussia would also accept the outcome of the Second Frankfurt Assembly.

    Despite his own personal misgivings against the populist movement, King Frederick-William IV lacked the means to oppose both the Frankfurt Assembly and the Prussian people. Protesters had been marching through the streets of Berlin on a daily basis since the early Spring, first demanding the writing of a Prussian Constitution in mid-April, then the holding of parliamentary elections in early July, and finally the King's recognition and ratification of the Frankfurt Constitution in September. With the Prussian Army engaged in a brutal war of attrition against France in the Low Countries and a substantial Polish uprising in Posen and Prussia, the Prussian King could not resist the will of the people and would reluctantly acquiesce to all their demands, one after another. Frederick William would even adopt the German Tricolor for public events, although he steadily reduced his public appearances as the weeks progressed. Even still, he and the remaining Conservatives within the Prussian court resisted the most radical initiatives of the Revolutionaries, namely the abolition of the nobility and ceding control of the Prussian Military from the King to the new Parliament. King Frederick-William IV would also appoint his uncle, Prince Frederick-Wilhelm, Graf von Brandenburg as Prime Minister of the new Prussian government in an effort to limit the excesses of the new Liberal regime.

    With the matter of recognition settled for better or worse, attention quickly shifted to other matters, namely the upcoming elections. Unfortunately, the elections that followed were marred with controversy right from the outset. Thanks to the contradictions and overly vague clauses found within the 1848 Frankfurt Constitution, the manner in which these elections were to be held was left entirely up to the states hosting them. Similarly, the number of eligible voters per state was left to the discretion of those same states, for while the Second Frankfurt Assembly declared suffrage a universal right throughout the German Empire, it also limited it to “independent” adult males.[3] Naturally some states used this controversial wording to restrict the voter rolls to groups of their choosing, disenfranchising various laborers, servants, students, or any other undesirables. As a result, as many as 20% of all adult males in the German Confederacy were denied the right to vote in the September Elections. Nevertheless, the elections were carried out for good or for ill, and on the 1st of October, 520 newly elected representatives had been selected and converged on St. Paul's Church in Frankfurt am Main.

    What should have been a moment of celebration on the parts of liberals and constitutionalists was unfortunately overshadowed by conflict and controversy elsewhere in Germany. As Austria continued to refuse Archduke John's ascent to the Regency of the Union, it fell upon the newly elected Parliament to name a replacement candidate. However, by this time cracks began to emerge between the many parties in the new Parliament. The Catholics, Conservatives, and Grossdeutschland (Greater Germany) Nationalists desired an Austrian candidate, while the Moderates, Protestants, and Kleindeutschland (Lesser Germany) Nationalists proposed a Prussian Prince for the position. Meanwhile, the Socialists and Republicans in attendance rejected the appointment of an aristocrat and they objected to the election of a monarch altogether and called for the establishment of a Republic which was vigorously opposed by the conservatives and many moderates within the Parliament.

    Another matter of intense concern was the continued obstinance of a much-diminished German Confederacy. While it had been de facto dissolved, it continued to survive through legal loopholes and contradictions in the Frankfurt Constitution which required the unanimous consent of the constituent states to officially dissolve the Confederacy, consent which Austria refused to give. Since the Confederacy continued to exist in de jure, it would unfortunately undermine the legitimacy of the new Imperial Government and limit its recognition beyond its borders. Several foreign states like Greece, Sweden, and Sardinia would still recognize the new German Empire and would dispatch ambassadors to Frankfurt, but several others like Russia did not, reducing its ability to make trade deals with other states or engaging in diplomacy with its neighbors. One such neighbor was the Kingdom of Denmark.

    Like the rest of Europe, the Kingdom of Denmark had experienced its own wave of unrest, forcing its new King Frederick VII to establish a Constitution. Under this new Constitution, absolutism was finally ended in Denmark, a two chambered legislature was established, and suffrage was guaranteed to the men of Denmark. However, these same rights were not bestowed upon the Duchies of Schleswig, Holstein, and Saxe-Lauenburg in the North of the German Empire, which were ruled by the King Frederick VII in personal union as they had been in a state of unrest for two long years after the passage of the 1846 Succession Law implemented by Frederick’s father, King Christian VIII.


    King Frederick VII of Denmark

    Schleswig, Holstein, and Saxe-Lauenburg had been Crown dominions of the Danish King for many years prior to the 1848 Revolutions, but by the start of 1846 it would appear that this arrangement was nearing its end. Frederick VII was without issue after twenty years of marriage between three wives, making a division of the realm a very real possibility upon his death as the Three Duchies continued to utilize Salic Law in regards to inheritenance. To combat this, Frederick’s father King Christian VIII unilaterally declared the end of Salic Law in all his holdings, enabling his sister, Princess Charlotte and her heirs to inherit them in the future. While this decision was well received in Denmark, it was universally condemned in the Three Duchies who were becoming increasingly enthralled by German Nationalism and despised paying tribute to a foreign king. Protests and demonstrations against Danish rule would dominate the streets of every city in the region for the next two years until 1848, when King Christian succumbed to a terrible fever and was succeeded by his son King Frederick VII.

    Upon King Frederick's ascension, he was immediately compelled by the masses to grant a Constitution to the Kingdom, but as the Three Duchies continued to refuse him, he in turn refused to grant them a constitution. Instead King Frederick and the Danish Government began taking steps towards the unilateral annexation of the Duchy of Schleswig, provoking the Germans of the Duchy to rise in armed revolt in the Summer of 1848 and were joined soon after by their comrades in Holstein and Saxe-Lauenburg. Under the leadership of Prince Frederick of Noer, the rebels would score a few quick victories against the scattered Danish garrison prompting the Duchies to declare their independence from the Danish King. Their optimism would quickly turn to dread however, as the Danes finally gathered forces in late August and began their counterattack, plunging deep into Schleswig and defeating each band of rebels found in their path. Schleswig city put under siege and the rebel government was forced into flight. With defeat looming, the desperate Germans called upon the German Confederacy, soon to be German Empire for assistance against their Danish adversaries.

    This call to arms would prove to be the first major crisis for the new Imperial Government as many states within the Empire simply refused to hand over control of their militaries to the Federal Government. Austria was vehemently opposed to the Central Government and refused to recognize its legitimacy. Despite their tepid support for the Frankfurt Constitution, Bavaria and Hanover both resisted the Imperial Government’s efforts to lay claim to their armed forces as well, even the Kingdoms of Saxony and Württemberg dragged their heels despite being hotbeds of liberalism and nationalism in Germany. Their attempts to gain Prussia's army also came to naught as they were engaged in a bloody war against France in the Low Countries and were struggling to contain a major Polish uprising in Poznan.

    Despite popular appeals to the Prussian King by the Prussian People to aid the Schleswig-Holsteiners in their fight against Denmark, they were simply stretched too thin and could not provide any help to them at present. Even if they could move to assist them, the Junkers had no intention of doing so as members of the Imperial Government had gone to great lengths to insult Prussia for aggrandizing itself against the Walloons and the Poles. Over the Course of the Fall, various liberals within the Imperial Parliament had even insinuated that Prussia be forced to relinquish its Polish territories as punishment for its hubris and despotism.[4] Although these comments were later retracted by the Parliament, the damage was already done as Prussia began to gradually distance itself from the Frankfurt Government.

    To its credit, the German Imperial Government would succeed in prying free some men from the minor principalities of the Empire with the states of Mecklenburg, Oldenburg, Hamburg, and Lubeck contributing the most. Soon several thousand volunteers began to converge on the region, intent on liberating Schleswig, Holstein, and Saxe-Lauenburg from the tyranny of the Danes. Despite their great valor, the German volunteers proved to be poor soldiers compared to the highly disciplined men of the Danish Army. Prince Frederick of Noer also proved to be an incompetent field commander leading his men into a terrible slaughter at Idstedt.


    The Danish Army routs the German Revolutionaries at Idstedt

    With their army defeated, the Duchies of Schleswig, Holstein, and Saxe-Lauenburg were quickly overrun by the Danish Army, bringing the conflict to a decisive end by late December. Although the Danish Government promised amnesty to those who surrendered peacefully, many chose to flee afield rather than remain in servitude under the Danish King. While the defeat of the German rebels in the Three Duchies was a terrible setback for the nascent German Empire, it was not the only conflict it faced at this time. The Grand Duchy of Baden, the epicenter for the German Revolutions would also erupt into civil war as the Radicals, Republicans, and Socialists under Friedrich Hecker and Gustave Struve came into conflict with Grand Duke Leopold and the Badenese Government.

    For all their faults, Friedrich Hecker and Gustave Struve genuinely believed that the resolutions adopted by the Second Frankfurt Assembly did not go far enough. They vehemently believed the monarchies and nobility of the Empire retained too much power and influence over the direction of the state, while the common man held little to no say in his Government's affairs. They denounced the Imperial Government as a fool’s façade which preserved all the vestiges of monarchism under a thin veil of popular sovereignty. They also remained opposed to the decentralization of the German Empire among several separate states that each retained their own armies, their own heads of states, and their own economies. They blamed the defeat of the Schleswig, Holstein, and Saxe-Lauenburg upon this decentralization of the Empire and the perfidy of the aristocracy. Regardless of their rationale, Hecker and Struve took it upon themselves to right the course of the German Empire through whatever means necessary.

    As such, protests remained a common fixture in Karlsruhe, Heidelberg, Freiburg im Breisgau, Offenburg, Rastatt, and other cities and townships across the Grand Duchy well after the September elections. The continued agitation on the parts of the republicans and socialists was for all intents and purposes a slap in the face of Grand Duke Leopold of Baden who had dedicated a tremendous amount of political capital to reach a compromise between the Conservatives and Liberals in the Second Frankfurt Assembly. This effort on his part however had less to do with a genuine commonality and fraternity with the Liberals, than it was an attempt to end the billowing unrest in Baden which had continued unabated for weeks following the failed July Assembly. For Hecker and Struve to summarily reject these proceedings was tantamount to a betrayal of his efforts, one which Grand Duke Leopold would not forgive.


    Grand Duke Leopold of Baden

    Spurred on by his formidable wife, Grand Duchess Sophie of Sweden, Grand Duke Leopold in conjunction with the Badenese Diet called upon the Army to end the demonstrations. Sure enough, the protests were ended, but in the process several protestors were killed in the effort. Using Leopold’s use of force against them as a casus belli, Hecker and Struve stirred their followers to take up arms and rise against the tyranny of the Grand Duke and his bourgeoise government. By themselves, the Badenese Revolutionaries would have proven no match for the Badenese Army, as only a few thousand farmers, laborers, students, and intellectuals had joined with them against Grand Duke Leopold, far short of the tens of thousands envisioned by the pair. However, they were to be aided immensely by the Badenese Army itself which summarily fell into a state of mutiny soon after the Heckerkrieg began.

    The Badenese Diet in alignment with the new Imperial Government had enacted legislation doubling the size of the Army through various means. Substitution was ended, conscription was established, and the officers’ corps was opened to commoners. While this would succeed in greatly expanding the Badenese army, it would also succeed in weakening it immensely. Officers now had precious little time to train the new recruits, non-commissioned officers now found their careers threatened by the influx of new soldiers, and many middle-class men simply resented having to serve in the army. Added to this was the continued economic recession in Baden which had unfortunately forced budgetary cuts to soldier's pay leading many to fall into arrears. When the Rastatt garrison was called upon by Grand Duke Leopold to move against the Rebels, they simply refused and when threatened with corporal punishment they mutinied en masse.

    While Grand Duke Leopold and the Badenese Government would attempt to contain the mutiny to the garrison at Rastatt, within a matter of days it had managed to spread to several other garrisons across the country, which greatly enhanced the viability of the revolt. By the middle of October, more soldiers had sided with the Revolutionaries than with the Government, whereupon the Grand Duke was forced to flee Karlsruhe and appeal to his neighbors and the Imperial Government for aid in restoring order.

    Surprisingly, Grand Duke Leopold would succeed in drawing assistance from the Kingdom of Prussia and Prince Wilhelm. Despite their engagement in the ongoing war against France in the Low Countries, Prince Wilhelm had remained well versed in the events in the German Confederacy, now the German Empire. Fortunately, by late Summer and early Fall of 1848 a desperately needed break in the fighting in Belgium enabled Prince Wilhelm to dispatch General Georg Brunsig von Brun and the 4,300 men of 16. Brigade to Baden to assist the Grand Duke. Together with elements of the Badenese Army still loyal to him and a contingent of several hundred Hessian and Württemberg soldiers sent by the Imperial Government; Grand Duke Leopold made his move against the Revolutionaries in a bid to restore the rightful order of Baden.

    They were initially successful in defeating Hecker and several of his accomplices at Karlsruhe, but Struve would manage to elude them and would successfully escape to the countryside alongside several hundred of their followers. What followed were several weeks of skirmishes and raids between the two sides as both vied for supremacy over Baden. However, the situation would take a turn in the Revolutionaries favor in early November when the French Armee du Nord advanced into Flanders once more, forcing von Brun to return to Belgium with his men posthaste.[5] The withdrawal of the Prussian forces was an unfortunate blow to Grand Duke Leopold, but not a lethal one as their short stay in Baden had helped stabilize the situation somewhat. Nevertheless, the situation in Southwest Germany remained extremely treacherous as the 1848 came to a close.

    The neighboring Kingdom of Bavaria would also experience it own wave of violence in the Fall of 1848. Although the abdication of King Ludwig in the Spring had done much to relieve the tension in the state, unrest continued to proliferate across Franconia and Pfalz. The new King Maximilian II had begun his reign with a flurry of popular reforms, ending the dues owed by the peasantry to the landed nobility, reforming the courts, and making changes to Bavaria’s election laws appeasing the Bavarian liberals. This would not last, however as the second meeting of the Frankfurt Assembly would spell disaster for the Kingdom of Bavaria. Despite promises to the contrary, King Maximilian II resisted the Assembly’s proclamations and vehemently opposed the ratification of the Rights of the German People in the Bavarian Parliament which he believed infringed upon the rights of the aristocracy and monarchy. Moreover, when the Bavarian elections returned a liberal majority in the Bavarian Parliament, King Maximilian II adjourned the body until the following Spring, and appointed an interim government comprised entirely of Moderate Conservatives in their place.

    This came as a shock to the people of Bavarian who had seen the young king as a relatively liberal monarch in the few months since his ascension to the throne in late April. Incensed at this betrayal, liberals, republicans, socialists and nationalists throughout the Kingdom of Bavaria rose in revolt against the King, with the largest centers of unrest emerging in the Provinces of Pfalz and Lower Franconia. Within a matter of days, all government forces were driven out of the Palatinate entirely, while they were forced to fight a bitter conflict in Franconia for the next several months. Having rejected the authority of the Imperial Parliament, King Maximilian could not call upon it for aid and while Austria and Prussia were certainly inclined to aid Bavaria in their struggle; they had their own battles to fight and could not send much in the way of assistance.


    Franconian Revolutionaries Combatting Bavarian Troops

    The war that followed would be incredibly disruptive for the Kingdom of Bavaria. Raids and counter raids by government troops and revolutionaries blighted the once pristine Bavarian countryside, with the lands of Franconia suffering the worst of it. Despite their great numerical and morale advantage, the revolutionaries generally lacked the same organization and resources that the Government troops had. Nevertheless, the Franconian Revolutionaries would fight long and hard to enforce their will upon their King, but it was not to be. Maximilian would ultimately succeed in his endeavors, crushing the final rebel stronghold at Ansbach on the 10th of February 1849 bringing an end to the conflict. Although sporadic fighting would continue in the following days and weeks, the resolve of the rebels had effectively collapsed following the loss of Ansbach. Efforts by the Kingdom of Bavaria to reclaim the Palatinate would meet with more trouble however.

    The prolonged fighting between the Revolutionaries and Bavarian Army in Franconia had provided the Revolutionaries in the Palatinate with desperately needed time to purchase arms from France and train militia units in preparation of the inevitable Bavarian response. That response would never come however as the Bavarian Army threatened to mutiny if they were ordered to march on Pfalz after the terrible and utterly unpopular war in Franconia. Unwilling to risk a rebellion by the Army, King Maximilian relented and offered relatively generous terms to the Pfalz rebels, bringing the Bavarian Revolution to an end in late January 1849.

    Although the Bavarian Government would offer a few concessions to the revolutionaries and pardons to most of the revolt's participants, many thousands would ultimately choose to leave Bavaria, never to return. Most would flee to neighboring states like Baden, Wurrtemberg, Hohenzollern, Hesse, or another region of the German Empire. Others would make the long journey to the Americas where they sought to make a new life for themselves and their families. A small number would even cross the Alps to the Italian Peninsula and join the Italian Revolutionaries there in the fight against Austria. Most surprisingly of all, a few German refugees would travel to the little Mediterranean Kingdom of Greece.

    Next Time: A Shining Star in a Stormy Sky

    Author's Note: I know I originally promised the next part would be a part on Greece, unfortunately the German Confederacy/Empire segment of the update rapidly expanded into its own part, so I ultimately split the update in half, the Germany Update (this one) and the Greek Update which will definitely be next. Also, some of the events in this update will directly impact Greece as will be seen in the next part.

    [1] Per OTL, with the only change being a few months delay.

    [2] While he was not a particularly Liberal man, Archduke John was a highly regarded man in Germany for both his military service in the Napoleonic Wars and for his reformist inclinations in the Austrian Court which brought him into conflict with Metternich on occasion. He was also a man with extensive experience in government administration and he came from a highly prestigious house.

    [3] Whether this was implemented by mistake or implanted intentionally by someone I have no idea, but apparently this peculiar wording was used to great effect by the many parties of the German Confederacy to suit their interests.

    [4] Some Liberals within Germany did indeed call for the independence of Poland in OTL, with men like Heinrich von Gagern, Karl August Varnhagen, and Robert Blum being in favor of the creation of a Polish nation state (allied to Germany) which would serve as a buffer state between Germany and Russia. Suffice to say, this didn’t sit well with Prussia in OTL and it won’t sit well with them ITTL either.

    [5] Prussia was heavily involved in the subjugation of the OTL 1848 German Revolutions, but with it preoccupied in a bloody war against France in the Low Countries it lacks the means to combat the Revolutionaries ITTL at present.
     
    Part 65: A Shining Star in a Stormy Sky
  • Part 65: A Shining Star in a Stormy Sky


    Athens in 1848

    One country that was spared much of the hardship and heartache of the 1848 Revolutions was the small Mediterranean Kingdom of Greece. Unlike much of Europe, Greece was a relatively liberal state for its time; it was adorned with a fully functioning constitution, a moderately liberal monarch in King Leopold, a democratically elected chamber of Parliament in the Vouli, a (mostly) free press, and a semblance of economic freedom and upward mobility for all Greeks in the years leading up to 1848. Greece also enjoyed a degree of political stability and unity in the years following its War for Independence as King Leopold and Prime Minister Ioannis Kapodistrias would strive to form broad consensuses with other parties on most legislative initiatives during this period. Sadly, this era of good feelings would not last forever as repeated crop failures and the collapse of the French economy would send Greece, along with the rest of Europe into a terrible recession beginning in late 1845/early 1846. Although Greece would weather these turbulent storms better than most, social unrest quickly followed these developments bringing an end to the political détente which had ruled Greece since 1830.

    The ruling Kapodistriakoi would bear the brunt of this displeasure as they lost 16 of their 57 seats in the 1845 National Elections, forcing then Prime Minister Andreas Metaxas into an early retirement. This in turn would cause the party to essentially collapse as its’ former members became divided among its peers. In their place emerged the Liberal Party (Fileléfthero kómma) of Alexandros Mavrokordatos who championed tax reform, lower tariffs on trade, electoral reforms, and closer relations with Britain among several other policies. Due in part to their strong support among the merchant class and the political elites of Greek society, as well as Mavrokordatos’ generally good relationship with King Leopold; Alexandros Mavrokordatos was appointed as the Third Prime Minister of Greece in mid-January of 1846.

    However, as the Liberals lacked a majority of seats in the Vouli with only 24, a coalition was made necessary with the remaining members of the Kapodistriakoi, now branding themselves as the People’s Party (Laïkó Kómma) under Panos Kolokotronis and Constantine Kanaris. While they would retain many of progressive and populist platforms of Ioannis Kapodistrias, they would also emphasize more conservative policy positions on various issues, giving the party a more traditionalist flair compared to its predecessor. In return for their support for Mavrokordatos’ new Government, Panos Kolokotronis and Constantine Kanaris would retain their previous posts as Minister of the Army and Minister of the Navy respectively, while several of their allies would be appointed to other key posts in the new administration as well. Unfortunately, this situation would not bring the desired political stability that had been hoped for by King Leopold and Alexandros Mavrokordatos as the third major player in Greek politics, Ioannis Kolettis and his Nationalist Party (Ethnikistikó Kómma) clamored for an increased portfolio within the new administration.

    Of the three major parties in Greek Politics at the time, the Nationalist Party held the most seats in the Vouli with 43; they had originally possessed 37 seats after the 1845 Elections although this number quickly grew when the Kapodistriakoi collapsed prompting several former members to caucus with the Nationalist Party. Among other things, the Nationalist Party had gained a strong following in Central Greece by advocating for the expansion of the Greek state to include all lands inhabited by Greeks. They also called for closer relations with France, the empowerment of the Legislature at the expense of the monarchy, and extensive land reform and labor reform. For these reasons, along with King Leopold's and Alexandros Mavrokordatos’ personal distaste for Ioannis Kolletis, the Nationalists were essentially barred from positions of power within the Mavrokordatos Ministry.

    Suffice to say, this arrangement did not sit well with the Nationalist politicians and their supporters within the government and the media around the country. They routinely used their numbers in the Vouli to oppose the Mavrokordatos Ministry; they filibustered key votes on crucial legislative initiatives, they slow rolled the appointment of various judges and ministers, and they would even disrupt ceremonial procedures within the Vouli just to prove a point. One particularly notorious example would see the former Strategos Yannis Makriyannis speak on the floor of the Vouli more than 15 hours just to filibuster a simple vote on the naming of a post office in Amfissa. Another case would see the renowned soldier and much admired leader of the War for Independence, Vasos Mavrovouniotis use his prerogative as the ranking member of the Vouli's Military Affairs Committee to delay key procedural votes on various funding bills and modernization efforts through the use of archaic rules and bombastic speeches. Displays like these would ultimately ground the Legislator to a halt on all but the most important measures thanks to the intransigence of Ioannis Kolettis. Meanwhile, their supporters in the press - of which there were many – routinely attacked the Mavrokordatos Government for its failings in resolving the chronic economic crises that were afflicting Greece throughout the mid-1840’s. Tensions would ultimately come to a head when the neighboring Ionian Islands burst into revolt against the British in early 1848.

    Calling for Enosis with the Kingdom of Greece, the Eptanesian protestors quickly seized control of the islands of Paxi, Ithaca, and Lefkada, while sporadic riots on Corfu, Zakynthos, Cephalonia, and Kythira nearly overwhelmed the meager British garrison on the islands. Unfortunately for the Eptanesians, the British authorities were not completely overwhelmed and once they regrouped, they began a ruthless campaign to re-subjugate each of the Ionian Islands one after the other. While they would eventually succeed in restoring British control over all the islands, they would not succeed in quenching the violence as unrest continued to simmer for weeks on end leading to an unfortunately high number of casualties among the protestors. As a result, many dozens were killed, hundreds more were imprisoned, and an untold number were forced to flee the islands or face continued persecution. The overly harsh nature of the British response would however spark tremendous outrage in the neighboring Kingdom of Greece leading many thousands of Nationalist voters to march on the British Embassy in Athens demanding justice. Demonstrations would carry on for days on end outside the British Consulate, before spreading to the Hellenic Parliament Building and the Royal Palace as the protestors demanded a response from their government.


    Protestors gather outside the Hellenic Parliament Building

    The situation in the Ionian Islands presented a serious problem for the Anglophilic King Leopold and Alexandros Mavrokordatos who had both gone to great lengths to shore up the Greco-British Relations over the years, to the point where Britain had become Greece's chief ally, trading partner, and benefactor. However, this heavy-handed response against Ionian civilians, against ethnic Greeks was simply indefensible by any measure, forcing the Greek Government to issue a diplomatic objection to London, denouncing their use of force against the people of the Ionian Islands. Surprisingly, no meaningful response would initially come from this Greek missive as the British Government was occupied with more important matters, namely the ongoing war against Persia, the war in the Low Countries, and the burgeoning revolt in Ireland which occupied the majority of their efforts throughout much of 1848. But as the situation on the Ionian Islands continued to fester unresolved, Sir Robert Peel’s government was finally forced to take action on the matter in late Summer.

    Writing to the High Commissioner of the Ionian Islands, Baron Seaton, Peel ordered him to settle the matter with the Eptanesians forthwith and by whatever means necessary as Her Majesty's Government did not wish to deal with yet another crisis at the moment. Moreover, Peel informed Seaton that given the low priority of his post in comparison to Belgium, Persia, and Ireland, he could expect little aid in the immediate future. The message was clear, Seaton was being ordered to pursue other, more peaceful methods of ending the violence on the islands rather than continuing to use force. On the 26th of August, Baron Seaton announced a general amnesty for all dissidents involved in the revolt with all those arrested going free. Additionally, those newspapers which had been shuttered under martial law were now allowed to be reopened and exiled Eptanesians were permitted to return home without fear of persecution or imprisonment. While Baron Seaton's amnesty would bring an end to much of the ongoing violence, it would not effectively resolve the preexisting issues that had sparked the revolt in the first place, namely a growing desire on the part of the Eptanesians for Enosis with the Kingdom of Greece.

    While, the situation on the Ionian Islands would temporarily settle down, the unrest in Greece was only starting as other groups of agitators and activists would try to take advantage of the demonstrations in Athens to push their own agendas, including members of Prime Minister Alexandros Mavrokordatos' own party who pushed for extensive electoral reforms. Although the Liberals pushed for a broad swath of changes and reforms ranging from expansion of the Vouli to the abolishment of the Senate; the most heated issue of contention by far was the hated 10 Drachma (₯) poll tax, with many calling for its reduction or total elimination.

    For the average laborer in Greece, 10 Drachma represented a sizeable percentage of a single month’s earnings making it a relatively expensive tax for the average man in Greece at the time.[1] Many believed that the tax had been imposed as a means of prohibiting the poor from voting as they could not easily afford this high cost to vote. Whether it was intended to do so or not, the end result was the same; those who could not afford to pay the tax could not vote, while those who could, did. Many would even consider the Poll tax to be a violation of the 1831 Constitution which proscribed suffrage as a universal right for all male citizens with no clauses pertaining to their wealth or office. Several activists and lawyers would argue that any effort to impede or otherwise disenfranchise lawful citizens of their right to vote represented an illegal act, an act which they claimed the Poll tax to be.

    The Poll taxes’ various proponents defended the payment of the fee as a noble sacrifice in the pursuit of democracy, that ensured voters were making an investment in the direction of the state. Others described it as a necessary evil meant to help finance the entire election process which were certainly expensive enterprises. However, while some funds collected did pay for the hosting of elections and the staging of debates between candidates, most funds found their way into the Government’s general fund and were spent on other things unrelated to the election process. Ultimately, the Vouli agreed, rather quickly and quietly, that the Poll Tax should be reduced from 10 Drachma to 5 and that it would only be imposed for National Elections.

    Another often overlooked reform passed by the Vouli in early 1848 regarded the National Bank of Greece, which was accused of prejudice against poor farmers and entrepreneurs. According to various editorials at the time, the Bank had been repeatedly rejecting requests for loans by small sustenance farmers and small business owners to expand their enterprises or modernize their equipment. Other accounts depict ridiculously high rates of interest on the loans they did receive, with some rates being as high as 25% in a few rare cases. Larger plantations and wealthy merchants, however, were not subject to the same high interest rates of their smaller counterparts and were, more often than not provided generous loans without much time or effort. The apparent discrimination of the Bank against poor borrowers was not something that the Government could stand by and watch, and so new regulations were imposed upon the Bank requiring it to provide loans to all interested parties regardless of wealth or property. Additionally, interest rates were to be fixed at one equal rate for all borrowers, rather than a set of differing rates for different individuals.

    The final set of reforms adopted by the Greek Government in the Spring of 1848 regarded the Government’s regulation of the press. Henceforth, the restrictions on the media’s coverage of the Church, the Royal Family, and the Government were lifted making the Greek Press a truly free press. Other efforts by the activists to diminish King Leopold’s constitutional powers met with very little success however, as the King jealously guarded his prerogative against any challengers, while the radical demands to abolish the monarchy and empower the office of the Prime Minister met with little success as well. Eventually, with the Poll tax lowered, the restrictions on the press lifted, and the National Bank regulated the protests came to end for a time. However, as 1848 wore on this began to change as boatloads of refugees started to land on Greece's shores.


    The Forty-Niners are Forced from Europe

    The first to arrive in the Fall of 1848 were a few hundred Moldavians who fled to the Kingdom of Greece after the failure of the revolutions in their homeland in late October. They were joined a few months later by the arrival of several thousand Vlach, Neapolitan, and Sicilian refugees after the collapse of the Wallachian Revolution in January 1849 at the hands of the Russian and Ottoman Empires, and the failure of the Sicilian Revolution in late April 1849 following the re-imposition of Bourbon rule over the island of Sicily. The next few months and years would also see a number of Poles, Hungarians, and Czechs journey to Greece seeking to escape the conflict and oppression in their home countries, while a small number of French liberals would travel to Greece out of contempt for the new Bonapartist regime. Of all the peoples to travel to Greece in 1848 and 1849, the most numerous group of new arrivals were by far the Germans who landed in Greek ports by the thousands.

    Generally referred to as the Forty Niners (49ers), or Sarantaenniarides in Greece, these migrants were comprised mostly of former German revolutionaries from Baden, Bavaria, and Schleswig-Holstein who fled abroad after the failure of their uprisings in their home states. Most traveled to other, more liberal states within the German Empire like Hesse and Frankfurt, while others would choose to travel abroad to the Americas or British Australia. Some would go to Switzerland and Italy, while some went to France and Great Britain. Most surprisingly of all, a few thousand would make the journey to the small Mediterranean Kingdom of Greece owing to its liberal constitution, its democratic system of government, and its free press; Greece's vibrant culture and ancient wonders were certainly a major draw to many as well.

    Some of those who traveled to Greece sought to enjoy its liberal system of government and free press which enabled them to promote and practice their political views without fear of persecution. Most however, were simply poor peasants and laborers who had unfortunately joined the losing side in these uprisings and now sought to escape the reach of the vengeful victors. Others came to Greece seeking land and work as many thousands had lost their homes, their property, and their very livelihoods thanks to the Revolutions, and while land was generally in short supply, work was not thanks to the booming shipping industry and expanding industrial sector. All told, some 38,000 men, women, and child would settle in Greece, either permanently or temporarily between 1848 and 1860 as a result of the 1848 Revolutions and the fallout that ensued.[2]

    While Greece had attracted a few hundred Philhellenes, historians, archaeologies, artists, and romanticists to its shores in years past, the arrival of such a large host of people in Greece over such a short period of time would prove to be quite disruptive to the young Kingdom. Many thousands were penniless beggars carrying with them little more than the shirts on their backs, others possessed radical agendas which proved troublesome for the Greek Government, and while none of them were particularly notorious criminals or radicals, there were numerous dissidents and former soldiers in their ranks. Most of the men in fact, had actively taken up arms against their regional lords and monarchs only a short while ago, before they were forced to flight by the resurgent Conservatives posing a slight concern to the Greek Government.

    Nevertheless, every effort was taken to house and feed these refugees at a great expense to the Greek Government initially, however, over time their services to the Greek state would prove enormous. Among their number were several hundred engineers and architects, artisans and artists, doctors and professors who quickly found work in Greece, building roads and bridges, creating works of art and composing symphonies, treating the sick, and teaching the young. They would also provide a much-needed boost to Greece’s nascent industrial sector, its media industry, the Greek Military, and the Hellenic Socialist party which rapidly grew from a small clique of fringe activists and intellectuals to a few thousand supporters by the start of 1850.



    A few of the more noteworthy 49ers to emigrate either permanently or temporarily to Greece
    (top left to top right: Louis Prang, Louis Blenker, Oswald Ottendorfer, and Carl Bergmann)
    (bottom left to bottom right: Alexander Herzen, Louis Blanc, and Włodzimierz Krzyżanowski)​

    Aside from the financial cost to care for the refugees, the language and religious difference of the Sarántaenniarides also posed a signifanct issue for the Greek Government. Many were Protestant Germans or Catholic Italians with little understanding of the Greek language or Greek Culture. Although most intellectuals were well read on the history and works of Ancient Greece, nearly all of them were ignorant of the modern nation state and its people aside from what they had been told in the often glamorized and highly inaccurate accounts of the Greek War for Independence found in their local newspapers. Efforts to accommodate these religious and cultural differences would meet with some trouble on occasion as various groups of migrants accidentally provoked violent altercations with their new Greek neighbors after committing various gaffes and faux pas.

    The most alarming incident would come about following an attempt by several refugees to establish a Catholic church in Athens, which provoked public outrage throughout the Spring of 1850. Over the course of April and May 1850, several hundred Orthodox priests, parishioners and devout practitioners demonstrated outside the proposed sight of the church on the west side of the city, denouncing the papists and their plots to subjugate the Greek Church. The protests would fortunately remain relatively peaceful for their entire duration, outside of a few minor incidents by a few violent agitators. Generally, though, these refugees were welcomed with open arms by the people of Greece whose hospitality was exemplary. Even the poorest of households in Greece considering it their duty and their honor to be gracious and generous hosts to those in need.

    Over time a few of the Sarántaenniarides would choose to leave Greece for other lands and other opportunities, but the vast majority would choose to stay with most settling in and around Athens, Crete, and the Peloponnese. A particularly large group of Germans, now known in posterity as the Morean Germans, would settle in the cities of Tripolitsa, Kalamata, and Sparta where they would manage to retain trace elements of their language and culture to this day. Many of the other Forty Niners in Greece, particularly those from smaller groups, however, would eventually assimilate into their local community, adopting the Greek language and Greek customs in the span of a few generations, with only their Hellenized family names providing any insight into their foreign origin. Despite this, the Sarántaenniarides would have a few lasting effects on Greek culture as well, namely the popularization of the Christmas Tree in Greece, the translation of various literary works into Greek, and the introduction of a few foreign dishes into the Greek culinary menu among several other innovations and developments. There would be other political repercussions for their arrival in Greece however.

    The stream of refugees journeying to Greece in 1848, quickly grew into a flood by late 1849 as nearly one thousand people arrived on Greece's shores every month, before reaching its peak of nearly 2,500 men, women, and children in July of 1849 alone. While this number would quickly subside to a few hundred by the end of the year, the damage had been done as this coincided perfectly with the 1849 National Elections. Sadly, some concerns had begun to mount of a growing erosion of Greek culture as wave after wave of foreigners came to their lands in steadily increasing numbers with apparent end in sight. Many Greeks openly disagreed with the Mavrokordatos Government's handling of the situation, which combined with the sudden resurgence of unrest on the Ionian Islands earlier that Summer and the subsequent British reprisals against the Eptanesians served to greatly undermine the Liberal Party and their coalition partners during that year's elections.

    Ioannis Kolettis and his Nationalists, would deftly take advantage of their rival's weaknesses by stoking the fears of the people. Their anti-Turkic policy positions and support for Greek communities beyond the borders of the Kingdom of Greece also aided his cause to great effect as the Mavrokordatos Government had done little to help the Greeks beyond their borders, while kowtowing to foreign interests. This fear mongering would succeed for when election day finally arrived, the Nationalists won an easy victory, securing 53 seats in the Vouli out of 94, while the remaining 41 were largely divided between the Liberals (18 seats) and the People's Party (23 seats).

    King Leopold would at first attempt to retain Alexandros Mavrokordatos as Prime Minister of a new minority Government, but recognizing that the new political environment would be disadvantageous to him, Mavrokordatos politely declined the King's offer. Leopold would then offer the position to his good friend and confidant, Panos Kolokotronis. Yet in spite of Kolokotronis' deep seated interest in the office, he would similarly decline the position and instead proposed his ally Constantine Kanaris for the office instead given his cordial relations with many of the Nationalists. Kanaris would accept the role when the King asked him, but when he attempted to form a government, he discovered to his dismay that any government he created would be largely impotent, and solely reliant upon the support of the Nationalists. This situation quickly proved untenable and Kanaris was forced to resign after little more than a month in office. This situation would continue for several more weeks, before King Leopold, under pressure from both the right and the left approached Ioannis Kolettis. Despite their differences in policy and their personal disagreements, Kolettis graciously accepted the King's offer to become the 5th Prime Minister of Greece.


    Ioannis Kolettis, the 5th Prime Minister of Greece

    The Kolettis Ministry would prove to be a rather divisive, if productive Premiership as it would see several important pieces of legislation come to the fore. In response to the recent waves of refugees, Kolettis and the Nationalists, along with some Liberals and Conservatives, passed into law several laws reaffirming Greek as the official language of the Greek Government and Greek Orthodoxy was recognized as the preeminent religion of the Kingdom of Greece. This would spur something of a controversy when several Liberal Representatives attempted to propose establishing Demotic Greek as the official language of the Greek state instead of Katharevousa Greek. This proposal was quickly shouted down by several of their peers who viciously chased the offending legislators from the Parliament building altogether, bringing an end to the debate. The Nationalists would also sponsor legislation providing a modest increase to the funding the Church of Greece received from the Government to assist it in the fulfillment of its responsibilities. Aside from this however, the Kolettis Ministry would prove to be surprisingly welcoming to the new immigrants and even encouraged it in some instances especially when the refugees in question possessed skills or practiced trades that were of value to Greece.

    Other areas of importance for the Greek Government under Ioannis Kolettis regarded land reform, education reform, and electoral reform. The National Land Cadastre was reopened by the Kolettis Ministry and subsequently empowered to purchase land from prospective sellers and distribute it to willing buyers. The University of Athens was endowed with several hundred thousand Drachma by the Greek Government to provide financial assistance to needy students, as well as those who exhibit particular worth or merit as scholars. Following the completion of the 1850 Census which returned a new total population of 1,366,551 people for Greece, Ioannis Kolettis supported the expansion of the Vouli from 94 members to 136. The measure proved immensely popular amongst all the parties and was passed without much delay. Once complete, Kolettis then called for snap elections to fill the new vacant seats and to no one's surprise, the final vote was in his favor with 81 seats for the Nationalists, 30 for the People's Party, 23 for the Liberal Party, 1 seat for the new Socialist Party, and 1 Independent Representative who caucused with the Nationalists.

    The final major policy of the Kolettis Government regarded the office of the Prime Minister itself. For years, the Prime Minister had been appointed at the discretion of the King, regardless of which party ruled in the Vouli. Most recently, King Leopold had appointed Alexandros Mavrokordatos and Constantine Kanaris to the post despite possessing less seats than the Nationalist Party. Ioannis Kolettis set out to change this, and enacted the "Dedilomeni Principle", an unspoken rule between the Legislature and the Crown, which would oblige the King to appoint Ministers from the plurality party in the Vouli. Surprisingly, the measure found a degree of support among the Liberals in the Vouli who also championed the initiative, pushing it beyond the 2/3rds majority threshold needed to overcome King Leopold's veto threats. Despite King Leopold's resistance to such an act, the Crown would eventually consent to the endeavor once an amendment was attached to the bill enabling the King to still pick his Premier from among the ranking members of the party in power, rather than its leading member providing the Monarch with a degree of flexibility in regards to his choice of Prime Minister.

    For the Kingdom of Greece, the Revolutions of 1848 would come and go without much controversy. The various protests in March and April of 1848 had been effectively dealt with and a potential crisis had been averted. While the arrival of many thousands of refugees and immigrants would prove to be a concern in 1849, by 1850 the situation had settled down once again bringing peace to the land. When that year’s Independence Day celebrations arrived on the 25th of March, the streets of Athens were filled with jubilant crowds, spectacular fireworks shows, competitions, boat races, and feasting. Despite the tension of the previous year, Athens was aflutter with activity as honored guests, foreign dignitaries, and prominent politicians gathered to witness the spectacle of the day. Singers sang their songs, musicians played their instruments, dancers danced, actors acted, and the people celebrated as the remaining veterans of the War for Independence paraded through the city like conquering heroes. The greatest spectacle of all was reserved for the King.


    King Leopold Greets the People of Athens

    Departing from the royal palace on the Eastern edge of Athens, King Leopold, his eldest son Prince Constantine, and his younger son Prince Alexander rode around the entire circumference of the city before making their way back to Syntagma Square at the head of their guard in a brilliant spectacle of pomp and circumstance. This day was a good day for Leopold. As the great crowned heads of Europe now cowered and cowed, Leopold stood tall and proud for he had succeeded where others did not. The parvenu dynasty of a parvenu state had endured while the ancient houses of Orleans, Wittlesbach, and Hapsburg struggled to survive. Whereas the streets of Paris and Vienna were filled with barricades and the blood of their people, the streets of Athens were filled with confetti and flower petals, music and merriment, joyous celebration and raucous revelry. When the King’s procession finally entered the plaza at the end of their long parade, the crowd erupted into celebration, a celebration which would continue well into the night, a celebration that would be remembered for many years to come.

    While the Kingdom of Greece was generally at peace over the course of 1848 and 1849, the same can not be said of its people as several hundred Greek citizens journeyed abroad to aid in the struggle for liberty. Many hundreds went to the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia to aid them in their revolts against the Ottomans and Russians, with a few dozen even taking part in the last, desperate stand by the revolutionaries at Targoviste. Others would make the short voyage across the Ionian sea to the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies where they would aid in the failed revolution there. Finally, several hundred men would travel to the Po river valley where they would fight alongside the Lombard Revolutionaries and the Sardinian army against the hated Austrian Empire.

    Next Time: Risorgimento

    [1] Unfortunately, I don’t have any specific sources detailing what the typical Greek laborer's wages were in the 19th Century in OTL, but I can make a generalization based on British wages around the same time for equivalent professions. The people most likely effected by a Poll tax would be unskilled to low skilled laborers. The average British worker made about 30 to 40£ a year around 1850 for a low skilled laborer job or equivalent occupation. Based on this the average Greek laborer would make somewhere around 830 to 1110 Drachma per year at an exchange rate of 27.8 Drachma to 1 Pound Sterling. However, Greece being a much poorer country than 19th Century Britain and having a much lower cost of living, this wage would likely be a good bit lower even with the changes ITTL. so while, 10₯ defiantly wouldn’t bankrupt the average voter, it would still be an unnecessarily high fee for many voters to stomach just to be able to vote in an election.

    [2] At a glance, this may appear to be an absurdly huge number of people, but it is important to note that this is the total number of people who travel to Greece between 1848 and 1860. In this same period of time in OTL, over one million German refugees traveled to the United States alone, while many more tens of thousands traveled to Australia, South America, Switzerland and the UK. Added to this were tens of thousands of Italian refugees, Polish refugees, Hungarian refugees, and Irish refugees making this one of the largest mass migrations of people in modern history.

    Its also important to note, that while the situation in Europe after the revolutions will be a good bit different than it was in OTL, there will still be many hundreds of thousands of disenfranchised and disillusioned people seeking a new beginning in a new land. Most will still go to the United States as per OTL, but a decent number of immigrants and refugees might be attracted to Greece as it is much more stable, more prosperous, and more liberal than it was in OTL.
     
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    Part 66: Risorgimento
  • Part 66: Risorgimento


    Charge of the Savoy Cavalry at the Second Battle of Goito

    While it can be said that the Kingdom of Greece enjoyed a relatively tenuous peace in 1848 and 1849, the same cannot be said for the Austrian Empire which teetered on the edge of imminent catastrophe. Beginning in the Northern Italian city of Milan in early January 1848, unrest steadily built against the hated Austrian Chancellor Klemens von Metternich and his unpopular reactionary policies. Over time, demands for more autonomy for the Northern Italian Kingdom soon developed into mass protests and demonstrations against Austrian occupation of Lombardy-Venetia in general. After a failed putsch on the Governor's palace in Milan the city would descend into a bloody conflict by late March before quickly spreading to the rest of the country.

    Despite being outnumbered and outgunned by the unruly mob and radical revolutionaries, the Austrian garrison was ordered by Vienna to hold their positions until reinforces from across the Alps could be sent to relieve them. Unfortunately for the Austrian soldiers, the promised reinforcements would not arrive in time as the Royal Sardinian Army promptly forced their way across the border on the 3rd of April; King Charles Albert of Sardinia-Piedmont had thrown in with the revolutionaries and was on his way to Milan with all haste. With the Sardinian Army charging across the border into Lombardy-Venetia and with their situation rapidly deteriorating in the city itself, Austrian Field Marshal Joseph Radetzky von Radetz was forced to order an immediate evacuation of the city and head for the Quadrilateral Fortresses, a series of defensive works centered on the fortresses of Legnano, Mantua, Peschiera del Garda, and Verona to the East where his army would regroup and await reinforcements from Austria.

    Field Marshal Radetzky’s decision to withdrawal from Milan had not come a moment too soon, as the vanguard of the Sardinian Army quickly arrived on scene as the last beleaguered battalions of the Austrian Army made their escape. Cursory skirmishing would occur over the course of the next few hours and days, but by nightfall on the 6th of April 1848, the Austrian Army had escaped. Field Marshal Radetzky had managed to save his army, but his escape had come at a great cost. The loss of nearly 5,000 soldiers in the Milanese Uprising and another 1,600 in the escape to the Quadrilateral was a tragic blow to the 1st Army of Lombardy-Venetia, but the more damaging blow to the Austrian position in Italy would be the resulting political fallout that would soon follow.

    The Fall of Milan and much of Lombardy to the Italians was a terrible humiliation for the prideful Austrian Empire and its’ embattled Chancellor Metternich as various liberal groups would quickly seize upon the news in Italy to muster in the streets of Vienna once more. Although he would weather this political storm just as he had the one prior in early March, it was clear that Metternich’s hold on the Austrian state was quickly loosening. Desperate to restore his credibility, Metternich looked to Radetzky for a scapegoat, blaming the old Field Marshal for the loss of Lombardy to the rebels and their Sardinian allies. For this “failure”, Field Marshal Radetsky was removed from command of the Austrian Army of Lombardy-Venetia. Radetzky, ever a loyal servant of Austria, accepted the decision without complaint and retired to his estates where he would live out the rest of his days in peace, dedicating himself to his family and his memoirs until the day he died. With Radetzky removed from command, Metternich would quickly move to replace him with his own man on the ground, Field Marshal Karl Ludwig von Ficquelmont.


    Count Karl Ludwig von Ficquelmont, Field Marshal of the Austrian Empire

    Count Ficquelmont was a man cut from the same cloth as Metternich; he was a nobleman, a conservative politician to his core, and a statesman renowned for his great skill as a diplomat. Unlike Metternich, Ficquelmont had served as a soldier during the Napoleonic Wars and was a gifted officer, providing him with a degree of military experience that Metternich lacked. However, he was by no means a young man by the start of 1848, having just celebrated his seventy-first birthday, and it had been many years since he had last seen the field of battle in 1814. Nevertheless, he was a trusted confidant and ally of Chancellor Metternich, one who could be relied upon to salvage the dire situation in Northern Italy for the Austrian Empire. However, while Count Ficquelmont was up to the task of reclaiming Lombardy, the army he had inherited from Field Marshal Radetzky was not.

    Conditions in the Austrian Army of Lombardy-Venetia were abysmal. Much of their weaponry had been lost in the retreat from Milan, with the most significant loss being among the Army's cannons. 21 guns were lost at Milan, having been captured by the revolutionaries or spiked by their crews, while another 11 were lost in the ensuing escape to the Quadrilatero. Nearly two thousand soldiers had lost their rifles, and more than half of the men in the army were missing pieces of their uniforms. More concerning than the dearth of military equipment was the poor morale of the Army, which had reached an all-time low following Field Marshal Radetsky's removal from command.

    Radetsky had been beloved by his men; he had lived among them, he listened to them, he cared for their concerns, and while he did drill his soldiers relentless, it was with the intent of making them the best soldiers that they could be. He was a quintessential gentleman whose stern, but fair judgement had earned him the respect and admiration of not only the men under his command, but the respect and admiration of his adversaries as well. Most importantly, he was the regular soldier’s patron in Vienna; a vocal proponent for increasing the soldiers’ salaries and military funding as a means of improving the Army’s quality in the face of mounting challengers. As such, his removal from command by Metternich, and the subsequent replacement with the aloof Count Ficquelmont was viewed as a betrayal by the men of the Army of Lombardy-Venetia. Because of this, the disastrous Milanese Uprising, and a host of other issues, desertions from the army would dramatically increase in the days and weeks ahead, depleting the Army of Lombardy-Venetia's already low numbers even further. Of the 70,000 Imperial soldiers stationed in Northern Italy at the start of the year, barely 40,000 remained under arms by mid-April 1848.

    Most of the combat losses had been suffered at Milan, but rebellions across all of Lombardy-Venetia in the subsequent days would deplete Austrian manpower tremendously as isolated garrisons were attacked by Italian patriots with near impunity. While the casualties among the German, Czech, Croat, and Hungarian troops was certainly high and incredibly harmful to Ficquelmont’s efforts, the greatest blow to Austrian strength in Northern Italy was the near total desertion of the Italian contingent within their ranks. Of the 21 Italian Infantry battalions stationed in the Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia, 18 battalions would defect in part or in full, joining with the revolutionaries, and providing them with a competent core of highly-disciplined and battle-hardened fighters. Moreover, these men were among the most capable and determined fighters on the Italians’ side, fighter longer and harder than their less skilled compatriots much to the dismay of their former allies in the Austrian Army.

    Because of this betrayal, the Italian few units that did remain loyal to Vienna were distrusted so completely by Ficquelmont and Metternich, that they were relegated to menial posts far from the front where they could do little harm if they did turn traitor. Ficquelmont would also establish a state of martial law over the territories under his control; villages found to be supporting Italian Nationalist groups were burnt to the ground, civilians accused of supporting them were imprisoned indefinitely, and any armaments of war or beasts of burden were confiscated without payment. Finally, Count Ficquelmont had any man suspected of traitorous inclinations immediately arrested, while those soldiers who were caught attempting to desert his army were to be executed by firing squad without so much as a trial in their defense. While these initiatives would certainly curtail the flood of desertions by the Italians in his ranks to a small trickle, it did little to endear him to the local populace who grew to hate him.


    Death of the Deserters

    With the Austrian morale recovering, albeit slowly, Count Ficquelmont immediately began marshaling his forces in theater. At most, he had 40,000 to 46,000 men scattered North of the Appenines with most gathering in and around the Quadrilateral Fortresses of Legnano, Mantua, Peschiera del Garda, and Verona. Another 22,000 men had been gathered in Gorzia under the command of General Laval Nugent von Westmeath and were presently beginning their march through the Alps to reinforce him, but it would be some time before they finally arrived on scene. Ficquelmont would come to need every man he could get as the forces gathering against him numbered well over thrice his own.

    Encouraged by the Austrians’ failures to subdue the revolt in Milan, other partisans and freedom fighters began to rise in rebellion across the entirety of the Italian Peninsula, stretching Austria’s already thin resources ever further. The most heated fighting outside of Milan would take place in the storied city of Venice as the people of the city rose in revolt against their Austrian occupiers. Their attempts to liberate Venice would run into an immediate problem when their raid on the Venetian Arsenal was discovered by the local authorities and crushed with ruthless brutality.[1] However, the massacre of the Arsenal rebels would prompt uprisings across the entire city, forcing the outnumbered Austrians to withdraw to the Castello where they would remain under siege by the Venetians for the next few months. Revolts elsewhere in Northern Italy would see more success for the Italians as Brescia, Cremona, Padua, and Treviso successfully managed to oust their Austrian occupiers, although Padua and Treviso would be quickly reoccupied by the Austrians later that Summer. By themselves, it was clear that the Lombards and Venetians stood little chance against the full might of the Imperial Army; it is fortunate then that they were not alone in this endeavor.

    Soon after the initial outbreak of hostilities in Milan, the various armies of the Italian states began marching to their aid, first among them was the army of the Papal States. Despite his opposition to war and his reluctance to support Italian nationalism, Pope Pius IX could not resist the will of his people who cried out for freedom, nor could he abide by the evils committed on the part of the Austrian Empire which tyrannized the poor peoples of Italy for its own benefit. Metternich’s brazen occupation of various cities and lands lawfully belonging to the Papal States were an added motivation for the Pope and the Curia as well, prompting them to dispatch their own army in support of the Lombard rebels in late March. Led by the Liberal Sardinian expat, General Giovani Durrando, the Papal State’s Army, some 20,000 strong was mostly comprised of young volunteers and eager recruits with little fighting experience or martial discipline. Despite their relative inexperience, the Papal volunteers quickly proved their worth to the Italian cause, overwhelming the meager Austrian garrisons in Ferrara, Ravenna, and Bologna, before chasing the remaining Austrians across the Po in mid-April.

    Next to declare against the Austrians were the Duchies of Modena and Lucca which had deposed their hated Dukes (Francis V of Modena and Reggio and Duke Charles of Lucca) in the days following the start of the Milanese Uprising. Comprised almost entirely of Italian nationalists and liberals, the new provisional governments of Modena and Lucca would immediately denounce the Austrian Empire’s occupation of Northern Italy before dispatching a thousand men each to join the Lombards in the fight against the Austrians. The neighboring duchy of Parma would see its ailing Hapsburg Duchess, Marie Louise coerced into issuing a more liberal constitution as well as permitting men and arms to be sent to the Lombards and Venetians.[2] Under pressure by popular sentiment, the Austrian-Este Grand Duke Leopold of Tuscany was also forced to issue a liberal constitution to appease the nationalists within his realm as liberal unrest threatened to dethrone him as well. Throwing his full support behind the Italian cause, Grand Duke Leopold would also dispatch a division of the Tuscan Army, some 7,600 strong into Northern Italy to aid the rebels. Even the conservative King Ferdinand II of the Two Sicilies was likewise compelled to send both men and munitions to the growing Anti-Austrian Alliance despite fighting his own war against the Sicilian Revolutionaries.

    The Lombard Revolutionaries would also be aided by several thousand volunteers from abroad, with most coming from Germany, France, and Spain among a few other countries, but of all the bands of foreigners to fight in Italy, the most notable were the fighters of the so called “Greco Brigade”. Despite their name, the Greco Brigade was more akin to an understrength regiment, numbering around 1100 to 1400 men, many of whom were of various backgrounds and nationalities, although most were Greek. The “Greco Brigade” would prove to be a very potent fighting force who would serve admirably throughout the war to come, inflicting serious blows on their Austrian foes in the many battles ahead, earning high honors for their bravery and potency. More worrying than the Italian rebels or the diverse amalgamation of allies fighting alongside them, however, was the Royal Sardinian Army some 65,000 strong, which marched across the Ticino River into Lombardy-Venetia virtually unopposed on the 2nd of April.



    The Royal Sardinian Army Crosses the Ticino

    In what was an unabashed betrayal of the alliance between their two states and their two houses, King Charles Albert of the Kingdom of Sardinia-Piedmont threw himself headlong into the war against Austria.[3] Although he was very much a conservative man and he was himself married to an Austrian Archduchess; his personal relationship with the Austrian government had soured over the years owing to rising commercial competition between the two states in Switzerland and Lombardy-Venetia along with the constant interference of Chancellor Metternich into Sardinian affairs. Because of this, Charles Albert would undergo somewhat of a political metamorphosis over the course of the 1840’s, adopting more liberal views on Italian Nationalism and developing a highly negative view of the Austrian occupation of much of the Italian Peninsula. The Milanese Uprising and the apparent weakness of the Austrians would also provide Charles Albert with an ample opportunity to finally fulfill the House of Savoy’s long-standing ambition to acquire Lombardy. But perhaps the most important justification for Charles Albert’s betrayal of the Austrians lay in the politics of the day.

    Sardinia-Piedmont, like much of Europe, was wracked with revolutionary activity and nationalistic fervor and to avoid the same sad fates that would befall King Otto of Belgium, King Ludwig of Bavaria, Duke Charles II of Lucca, and Duke Francis of Modena; Charles Albert, either willingly or reluctantly, played to the whims of the masses who desired war with Austria. Like his fellow Italian sovereigns, he would enact a liberal constitution establishing a popularly elected Chamber of Deputies, the right to vote, the right to assemble, freedom of the press, and a whole host other rights and liberties for the people of Sardinia-Piedmont. Finally, when the Milanese rose in revolt against the Austrians, Charles Albert readied his army for war. Assembling at the fortress town of Alessandria, the Royal Sardinian Army, comprised of 5 divisions of infantry and 2 brigades of cavalry, totaling 60,000 men and 64 artillery pieces, readied for war. Adopting the Italian tricolor as his own, King Charles Albert issued his orders and crossed the Ticino; the Milanese Uprising had become the Italian War for Independence.

    The Sardinian advance towards Milan would be blisteringly fast as King Charles Albert hoped to capture the ancient city and the Austrian Army of Field Marshal Radetsky in one fell swoop. While they would ultimately fail to meet this objective as Radetzky would retreat from the city with time to spare, they would succeed in forcing the Austrian rearguard to battle north of the town of Crema where they bloodied it extensively forcing it to flight once again. In a bid to widen the gap between them, the retreating Austrians would destroy every bridge they came across in an effort to slow the Sardinian advance and to funnel them towards the mighty fortress of Peschiera del Garda.


    Peschiera del Garda

    Under normal circumstances, the Fortress of Peschiera del Garda could be expected to hold against adversaries for months on end, but it was not to be on this day. The Austrian soldiers within its walls were demoralized after a series of terrible defeats and exhausted from the nearly 80-mile chase from Milan. Seeking to push across the Mincio River as fast as possible, King Charles Albert ordered an immediate assault on the castle walls. While the Austrians would muster all their strength to successfully repel the first Sardinian assault, albeit with heavy casualties, when the Sardinians attempted a second assault the following day, the walls fell within minutes.[4]

    The fall of Peschiera del Garda came as a shock to Field Marshal Radetzky and the Austrian General Staff, who had been relying upon a prolonged siege to occupy Sardinia’s army long enough for them to regroup. This turn of events would be quickly followed by an uprising at Mantua three days later which would successfully defeat the city's depleted garrison. Those poor soldiers unlucky enough to be captured alive would suffer a torturous fate as they were torn limb from limb by the frenzied Mantuan mob, others were drawn and quartered, while a few more were butchered beyond recognition in a terrible display of human barbarity that would come to define this conflict. With the loss of Mantua and Peschiera del Garda in rapid succession, Field Marshal Radetzky was forced to retreat even further to the East, behind the banks of the Adige in late April. It is here that King Charles Albert’s inexperience as a commander came to the fore.

    Believing that the remaining fortresses at Verona and Legnano would be taken as easily as Mantua and Peschiera del Garda, King Charles Albert would order an assault on the walls of Verona. Despite achieving some success in securing parts of Verona's walls, the Austrians would swiftly counterattack, driving them back with horrific losses. Three more assaults would also be beaten back forcing the Sardinians to dig in for a protracted siege of the fortress. To the South, the Allied Italian Army of the Two Sicilies, the Papal States, Tuscany, Parma, Modena, and Lucca forced the surrender of the Austrians at Ostiglia, Rovigo, and Adira before marching on Legnano in late April. Progress would be slow at Legnano though, as the joint Central and Southern Italian Army would encounter many of the same problems which plagued the Sardinian Army had to the North, bringing the front along the Adige to a standstill.

    As April came to an end and the stalemate continued, King Charles Albert’s interest in the day to day military affairs of the campaign began to wane, while his interest in other matters began to grow. Ultimately, on the 1st of May, he would choose to withdraw to Milan, leaving the continued prosecution of the war to his son Victor Emmanuel and his ablest generals Eusebio Bava and Ettore De Sonnaz who continued to fight with the Austrians in his stead. With management of the war no longer his chief concern, King Charles Albert immediately began consolidating his gains in the region, incorporating Lombardy into the Kingdom of Sardinia, appointing provincial governors over Lombardy, extending Sardinian laws to Lombardy, and planning his coronation in Milan among many other administrative things. Despite his best intentions, he would find a high amount of resistance to his efforts among the Milanese revolutionaries.

    While all the Milanese were unanimous in the complete ouster of the hated Austrians, they remained incredibly divided over what should take its place. The Conservatives and Moderates under Count Gabrio Casati supported the ascension of Charles Albert as King of Lombardy as a precondition of his army’s support in the ongoing conflict against Austria, without which they would surely suffer defeat. Casati had even dispatched envoys to Turin back in March, hoping to turn the Sardinian King in favor of their cause. While Casati’s efforts appear altruistic and noble, they betray a disdain for the Milanese Liberals whose radical ideals he and many others opposed just as much as the Austrians. To that end, Charles Albert was a means of defeating the Austrians as well as the Liberals.

    The Liberals, led by Carlo Cattaneo and Enricho Cernuschi opposed the coronation of Charles Albert, having come to despise him for his previous betrayals of the Carbonari and Young Italy in the 1822 and 1831 uprisings. In their eyes he was a wolf in a sheep’s clothing, pretending to be an avid supporter of Italian nationalism and liberalism, when in fact he was a loyal absolutist and conservative at heart. His past alliance with Austria also did little to ingratiate himself to the Milanese rebels which would succeed in souring many to the Sardinian King’s candidacy. Instead, the Milanese Liberals desired the creation of a Lombard Republic free from both Austrian and Sardinian tyranny.

    Ultimately the decision to immediately and totally unite the lands of Lombardy with the Kingdom of Sardinia would be put to a vote by the people of Milan on the 15th of May. Of the nearly 530,000 men who voted in the referendum, more than 140,000 would vote against the measure, requesting more time to deliberate and debate alternative solutions to the initiative. They were to be massively outvoted however, by more than 390,000 of their compatriots who voted for union with Sardinia. While many Milanese Liberals and Republicans would continue to agitate for a republic government and autonomy from Sardinia, most would eventually come to accept the resolution, bringing the matter to a close. With his mandate to rule secured, King Charles Albert finally felt the need to return to the front in late May only to find that much had changed since he had last seen the front.


    King Charles Albert Returns to War

    Although a few skirmishes had taken place between the Sardinians and Austrians over the past two months, the Sardinians had repeatedly failed to draw out the Austrians from behind their walls. The Austrian Commander at Verona, General Heinrich von Rath would vigorously oppose any Sardinian assault on his ramparts, throwing back each attempt at great cost to the Italians. Ultimately, Prince Victor Emmanuel had decided to starve the fortress into submission, sending men to secure the east bank of the Adige and cut off their access to Trentino which was a vital artery for Austrian communication and resupply in the region. However, their attempts to seize the bridges over the Adige met with failure as the Austrians had destroyed all but three bridges in the area, which were heavily defended by General Rath’s men. The Italian attempt to force these crossings met with stern resistance and high casualties forcing Prince Victor Emmanuel to end the attack. Their attempts to cut the road to Trentino would also end in failure when a squadron of Hungarian hussars and Croatian skirmishers repelled a Sardinian incursion near the commune of Rovereto.

    The Central and Southern Italian armies had little success against Legnano as well, although they would succeed in forcing the crossing at Badia Polesine, allowing them to encircle most of Legnano. Even still, progress remained slow for the Italians at Legnano as Count Ficquelmont vigorously opposed them with whatever men and resources he could muster. By mid-May though, the situation began to improve for the Austrians as General Laval Nugent von Westmeath arrived in Northern Italy with an additonal 21,000 men. These men were immediately put to work besieging the city of Treviso, which would fall two weeks later on the 29th of May, before moving to relieve the besieged garrison in Venice. Nugent’s men would quickly occupy the landward communes of Venice in early June, but their efforts to retake the Lagoon were harried by the Venetians whose galleys and ketchs ruled the lake with impunity. However, the arrival of the Imperial Austrian Navy on the 10th of June would aid immensely their efforts to retake the city.

    The Imperial Austrian Navy was an organism which was thoroughly Italian in nature. Their ships were made in Italian ports, they bore Italian names on their hulls, and they were manned almost entirely by Italians, with over 4,000 of the 5,000 sailors in the Austrian Navy being of Italian origin. Upon hearing the news of the initial uprising in Milan, Archduke Friedrich-Ferdinand of Austria, Commander in Chief of the Austrian Navy, immediately moved the Navy out to sea from Venice and set for the small port of Pula to the east. The news from Milan was kept strictly confidential from his crew so as not to provoke a mutiny by the radicals among their ranks.

    Once he had reached the safety of Pula's port, Archduke Friedrich had any sailor suspected of traitorous intent imprisoned, while rest were relieved of their duties. While this would deplete the strength of the Austrian Navy in the short term, it would prevent the Italians from mutinying and seizing their ships. Archduke Friedrich would soon bring in Croatians and Dalmatians, Germans and Hungarians, Slovenes and Slovacs to replace the Italians, and by early June they were ready for service once again. With the Navy secured, the Austrians would soon implement a blockade of the city before beginning a protracted reconquest of Venice, securing the Lagoon island by island.


    The Blockade of Venice

    The Austrians were also aided by the relative lack of cohesion and cooperation between the various Italian armies. King Charles Albert, as head of the largest Italian army in play, claimed overall authority in the war against Austria. However, this position was challenged by the various monarchs, generals, and diplomatic envoys of the Italian states who argued against his leadership for one reason or another. Some supported the candidacy of King Ferdinand II of the Two Sicilies, but his suppression of the revolution on Sicily, combined with his rather lukewarm support for the war against Austria turned many away from him. Only two other heads of states received any attention from their peers, but in spite of a vigorous campaign on the part of Grand Duke Leopold of Tuscany for the post, a majority of generals and politicians ignored him in favor of Pope Pius IX, whom they offered supreme leadership of the Italian Coalition as he had been first to declare against the Austrians.

    While the election of the Pope as the Commander in Chief of the Provisional Italian Federation, helped unite the various states of Italy together, the Pope's growing opposition to continued hostilities proved problematic in many regards. The Venetians also did themselves no favors in winning support for their independence as they rejected King Charles Albert’s call for a united Northern Italian Kingdom, choosing instead to declare their independence as the Republic of San Marco with sovereignty over the whole of Veneto. However, their failure to extend much in the way of support to the cities of Treviso, Padua, and Chioggia when they came under assault by the Austrians did much to discredit the Republic in the eyes of the mainlanders of Venetia.

    While the putative Republic of San Marco would continue to defy the Austrians for another month and a half, by mid-July 1848 the situation in the city had become untenable. Munitions were growing scarce, food was in short supply, and the Austrian noose was tightening around their necks both on land and at sea. With no other choice, the remaining defenders would attempt a final sortie on the 17th of July, cutting across the lagoon towards Chioggia where they would attempt to continue the fight. However, their escape would be short lived as the Austrians quickly discovered the Venetian breakout and fell upon them with fury and rage, forcing the beleaguered survivors to surrender.[5] With Venice secured, General Nugent turned his full attention to reducing the city of Chioggia which was subsumed a few days later and then Padua which would surrender by the end of the month, effectively bringing an end to the Republic of San Marco as every Italian city east of the Adige had fallen to the Austrians. Only the secluded townships of Este and Monselice would remain under Italian control, thanks to the difficult terrain of the Euganean Hills and the fierce resolve of their people.

    So as not to lose their last foothold in Venetia, the Papal Army and Neapolitan Army, along with thousands of Lombard and Romagnan volunteers would immediately ford the Adige River near Badi Polesine before moving to relieve Este and Monselice which had been put under siege by the Austrians. Here they would not only find General Nugent and his men, but also Count Ficquelmont and the entire Army of Lombardy-Venetia which prepared to do battle against them. Despite being caught off guard by the assembled might of the Austrian Army, the Italians exhibited a youthful exuberance and eagerness for battle. As commander of the Papal Army, General Durando assumed control of the Italian forces, arranging his force into two wings; his left was to be composed of the Neapolitan soldiers and foreign volunteers under the command of General Guglielmo Pepe, his right would be comprised of his own troops and the Lombard and Romagnan volunteers. Ficquelmont arranged his forces in kind, taking up post on the Western end of the battlefield near Este, while Nugent was arraigned further East outside Monselice.

    Despite fielding a slightly larger army than their Austrian adversaries, the Battle of Este-Monselice would be an unmitigated disaster for the Italians. Caught up in the excitement of it all, several young men from Ravenna on the Italian right wing would break ranks and recklessly charge the Austrian front line with great élan and vigor. Their jeers and jabs for blood and glory soon encouraged the boys of Ferrara, Bologna and Mantua to join them in their assault. Within minutes, thousands of their compatriots began to follow these brave patriots against the commands of their officers, pushing up the hill towards the Austrian lines with trumpets blaring, flags aflutter in the wind, and songs of victory on their lips.

    Most of these young boys would be tragically cut down far short of the Austrian line in a ruthless massacre of smoke and lead. Their bright uniforms were soon stained with mud and blood, their flags ripped full of bullet holes, and their cheers of gallantry and bravado were replaced with cries of agony and despair. Those that survived the first volley were either cut down in the second and third volleys or fled the field in terror. Before long, the ad hoc Italian offensive had been gutted as the few remaining survivors ran back into the ranks of the more disciplined Papal soldiers, sparking a cascade of panic and fear throughout the ranks that come to consume it within seconds. With the Papal Army in retreat, the Neapolitan Army was left to fend for itself and soon came under the concentrated attack of both Ficquelmont and Nugent. Despite being outnumbered now 2 to 1, they would be spared complete destruction thanks to the heroic efforts of their commander General Pepe and the dogged resistance of the Greco Brigade and a few veteran units of the Neapolitan Army which fought a desperate rearguard action for several long hours before finally retreating to safety after nightfall.


    The Battle of Este-Monselice

    Nevertheless, the battle of Este-Monselice was a complete disaster for the Italians by every definition of the word. Of the roughly 60,000 men who took part in the battle, they would lose nearly a third, with most losses occurring in the opening assault and the horrific retreat that followed. The Austrians did much better for their part, only losing 4,900 men dead, wounded, missing, or captured out of their original 56,000. Following the battle, the remainder of the Central Italian Army would retreat southward across the Adige River where they had hoped to regroup. The Austrians would not allow this however, and immediately pushed across the river, breaking the siege of Legnano, and forcing the Italian Army would retreat across the Po River where it effectively disintegrated. The Neapolitan contingent would be recalled to Naples by King Ferdinand II soon after this defeat, while Pope Pius considered recalling his forces as well. Many of the foreigners discouraged by the results in Italy would depart for other battlefields where they might find greater success. Those that remained in camp on the 5th of August would make their way Northward to join with the Sardinian Army.

    The collapse of the Republic of San Marco and the destruction of the Italian Army at Este-Monselice came as a shock to the Sardinian King and his Generals who had been confident in their total victory over the Austrians. Jolted out of their sense of complacency, the Sardinians now found themselves in a precarious position as Count Ficquelmont moved to face them with the full might of the Austrian Army of Lombardy-Venetia. Unwilling to be caught between the stone walls of Verona and the Imperial Austrian Army, King Charles Albert readied his forces for battle, leaving behind a screen to guard against an attack by the fortress’ defenders. While the situation for the Sardinians was dire, it was not irreparably so, as their scouts superbly followed the Austrian Army’s march up and down the length of the Adige. When it became clear that the Austrians were making for the bridge at Zevio, King Charles Albert moved his army to oppose them.

    Despite their haste, Ficquelmont would arrive at the small riverside commune before the Sardinians, finding the town lightly defended by Lombard militiamen who were quickly driven from the town. Unable to prevent their crossing, King Charles Albert positioned his force opposite them, however in the midst of his preparations for battle, the king fell from his saddle. Nearly 5 months of constant campaigning, often in the oppressive heat of Summer and the torrential rains of Spring, the constant stress of political intrigue and subterfuge in Milan, as well as his own poor diet would all contribute to King suffering a heart attack that day. Although he would survive, the Sardinian King would be rendered bedridden for many days to come and would suffer from terrible coughing fits every so often.[6] With the King carried from the field of battle on a stretcher, command fell to his son Prince Victor Emmanuel who readied his men for battle against the Austrians at Zevio. However, seeing their King fall as he did devastated the Sardinian morale, with many believing God had struck him down for fighting against his fellow Christians. As such, their initial attack against the Austrians was slow and poorly executed, and when the Austrians counterattacked they were able to drive them from the field with relative ease bringing the battle to a quick and decisive end.

    The battle of Zevio was a victory for Count Ficquelmont and the Austrians, but it was not the total victory which he desired as the Sardinian Army would manage to retreat in good order thanks to the efforts of the small Tuscan Army which held the Austrians at bay for several hours before escaping under the cover of darkness. With Prince Victor Emmanuel defeated at Zevio, the Sardinian force outside Verona was forced to abandon the siege of the fortress city and rejoin the main army as it retreated westward towards Milan. Over the next three days, Ficquelmont would chase Prince Victor Emmanuel and his men to the banks of the Mincio River, engaging in the occasional skirmish with the Piedmontese rearguard, but failing to bring the main army to battle. Finally, however, their chase would come to an end when he caught the Sardinians and their allies at the riverside town of Goito on the 10th of August.

    Brushing aside the meager forces Prince victor Emmanuel had left to defend the bridgehead, the Austrians would discover the Sardinians stop their retreat and intended to fight, a fight which Ficquelmont readily accepted. The Sardinians assembled their forces in three columns, the 1st Corps under General Bava on the left flank, 2nd Corps under General de Sonnaz in the center, and the Italian and foreign volunteers comprising the right flank, while Prince Victor Emmanuel’s 5th Division was held in reserve. Ficquelmont in turn arranged his force in kind, with General Konstantin d'Aspre assuming command of the right column, General Laval Nugent von Westmeath commanding the center, and General Julius Jacob von Haynau commanding the Austrian left flank, while Ficquelmont, his reserves, and the Austrian artillery were positioned on the heights on the east bank of the Mincio. With his forces properly arranged, Ficquelmont ordered his men to advance, initiating the 2nd Battle of Goito.

    The battle between the two armies would be evenly matched in the North and in the center were the fighting degenerated into a bloody melee, but the difference in quality of the Austrian soldiers and the irregulars of the Sardinian on the southern end of the battlefield would be especially stark. Most of these men were fresh conscripts from Milan, volunteers from Central and Southern Italy, or foreign adventurers like the fighting men of the Greco Brigade and while they were certainly brave and zealous to a fault, the fresh Milanese recruits proved to be no match for General von Haynau’s infamous “Tiger Corps” in open combat.[7] The ruthless commander honed his cannons on the Milanese position in particular, dealing them egregious casualties and before long they were broken underneath the weight of the Austrian cannonade. As had happened at Este-Monselice and again at Zevio, the Italian units fled the field in terror, prompting the rest of the Sardinian Right flank to collapse under the weight of the Austrian advance.


    The Second Battle of Goito

    With the Sardinian right flank routing from the field of battle, it appeared that victory was at hand for Count Ficquelmont who promptly ordered General von Haynau to continue driving the enemy from the field. The courier relaying Ficquelmont's commands to Haynau responded with vague directions rather than the precise strike that Ficquelmont had envisioned leading Haynau to misinterpret the commands for a pursuit of the fleeing men of the Sardinian Right Flank rather than an attack on the now exposed flank of the Sardinian center as originally intended. Haynau’s aggressive nature would get the better of him that day, as he would refrain from questioning his new orders and immediately set off with his men after the fleeing Milanese. Although Ficquelmont would quickly discover Haynau's mistake and dispatched another messenger to correct him, by this point in the battle it was too late.

    General von Haynau's pursuit of the fleeing Milanese had extended the Austrian line well beyond its’ means, creating a small opening which the Sardinian Prince Victor Emmanuel immediately moved to exploit.
    Throwing all his reserves, his cavalry, and his own personal guard into this one attack, Prince Victor Emmanuel’s men quickly crashed into the Austrian ranks with tremendous force and would successfully push their way through to the banks of the Mincio, effectively splitting the Austrian army in two. Now recognizing his mistake, General von Haynau would attempt to swing back and pin the Sardinian Prince between his soldiers and the Mincio river only to be confronted by the very same soldiers he had been pursuing only moments before. Having regrouped at a secondary position outside the range of the Austrian cannons, the Milanese, their foreign allies, and Italian compatriots now moved to block Haynau and his men for as long as they were able, preventing the Hapsburg Tiger from moving to assist Ficquelmont. With both sides now engaged in a brutal hand to hand melee, the discipline of the Austrians began to breakdown as the lines between each force began to blur.

    Despite this setback, the Austrian Army remained confident in their chances for victory right until Prince Victor Emmanuel’s men seized control of the Goito Bridge. Dread soon engulfed the Austrian Army as it was now cut off from its line of retreat and soon discipline began to collapse in the Austrian ranks as well. Despite this Count Ficquelmont tried desperately to restore order in his ranks, but as he was on the other side of the river, there was very little he could do to save his army. Most immediately tried to force their way across the bridge in conjuncture with Ficquelmont's reserves, but Prince Victor Emmanuel’s men held firm, denying them this route of escape despite the desperate assault by the Austrians. By this point order had all but collapsed in the army as men began jumping into the river by the thousands in a desperate attempt to make their escape from the Sardinians. While most would succeed in escaping over the river, many had been forced to leave their kit and weaponry behind as several hundred poor souls were sadly dragged beneath the surface by the weight of their heavy loads, leaving them to die terrible deaths in its watery depths. By dusk, the battle was over, the Austrians were broken, the Second Battle of Goito was a total Sardinian victory.

    Of the 62,000 Austrian soldiers to take part in the battle, over 19,000 would be captured, killed, missing, or wounded by day's end compared to 13,000 casualties for the Sardinians and their Allies. General Nugent's corps had been smashed to pieces in the battle, suffering nearly 10,000 losses alone, most of whom had been captured in the waning moments of the fight. While General A'spre's Corps managed better, having successfully managing to ford the river upstream, they had been involved in some of the toughest fighting of the day on the Northern edge of Goito and suffered upwards of 6,100 casualties, mostly dead and wounded. Surprisingly, it would be General Haynau's Corps which did the best that day, only suffering 2,900 casualties in the entire battle, with most being inflicted during their long fighting retreat eastward.

    The successful retreat of General Haynau and his men would provide Count Ficquelmont and the Austrian Government with little comfort however, as valuable men and resources that could not be easily replaced were loss by the tens of thousands, while victory had provided the flagging Italian cause with new life. In the days ahead, the Austrian position in Northern Italy all but collapsed in the face of the Italian counteroffensive. By the end of the Summer campaigning season, the Sardinians and their allies would successfully drive the Austrians from Lombardy entirely, pushing them across the Adige and setting siege to the fortress cities of Verona and Legnano once more. While Ficquelmont would manage to hold the line at the Adige River, albeit barely, it was abundantly clear that he could do little else as Venetia threatened to fly into open revolt once again.

    Desperate to fix the situation in Italy, Chancellor Metternich declared a state of emergency across the Empire and imposed new taxes on the Estates to help pay for the construction of a new army. In addition to these new taxes, Metternich also issued new draft laws that would raise another army by expanding conscription to all men age 18 to 36 from all the Empire's provinces, including Hungary despite the objection of their Diet. Rather than aid the embattled chancellor, the imposition of new war taxes and conscription plans would only worsen matters for Metternich and the Austrian Government as draft riots quickly emerged all across the Empire. Angered mobs resented seeing their young men and boys carted away to serve in Metternich’s war and would attack government officials and military recruiters where ever they could find them. By the end of August, rioters would come to rule the cities of Prague, Brno, Temeschwar, Lemberg, and Czernowitz, but by far the worst uprisings would take place in Hungary as the blatant disregard shown to their autonomy and the ongoing repression of their liberties would drive the people of Pest to rise in revolt against the Austrian authorities.

    Next Time: Anarchy in Austria


    [1] The OTL revolt in Venice was greatly inspired by the success of the revolutionaries in Vienna, which had succeeded in driving Metternich from power on the 13th of March. Metternich’s successor, Count Franz Anton von Kolowrat-Liebsteinsky was appointed a week later but was quickly forced to resign due to health problems, beginning a cycle of new Governments rising and then quickly falling in rapid succession from late March to late November, leaving the Imperial Government in utter chaos. The Venetians, as well as the other minorities of the Empire, took great advantage of this by ousting the Austrian authorities in Venice and declaring the establishment of the Republic of San Marco. As Metternich remains in charge, for now, the Venetians lack the same optimism they had in OTL following Metternich’s resignation, while the Austrians in contrast are on a much better footing, at least initially. As such, the Venetian Uprising fails to completely dislodge the Austrians.

    [2] So, for various reasons I’ve decided to keep Marie Louise, second wife of Napoleon Bonaparte and mother of Napoleon II, alive a little longer. As a result, she still retains control of the Duchy of Parma at the time of the Revolutions of 1848, which in turn means that the OTL duke of Parma at this time, Charles Louis is still Duke of Lucca.

    [3] Charles Albert had agreed to an alliance with the Austrian Empire following the July Revolution of 1830, believing that France would invade Sardinia as it had done after the 1793 French Revolution.

    [4] Owing to the protracted Milan Uprising ITTL which was 12 days as opposed to the 5-day siege of OTL, the remaining Austrian forces in Italy are reduced compared to OTL.

    [5] As the initial uprising is less successful in Venice ITTL, the Republic of San Marco has a much shorter lifespan here. In all honesty, the OTL Republic was aided immensely by the disfunction of the Austrian government in the wake of Metternich’s downfall. As that is not the case here, the Austrian response is swifter and more cohesive resulting in an early death for the Republic of San Marco. I've also chosen to spare Archduke Friedrich Ferdinand from his early death by jaundice as a means of balancing the more successful Italian offensive in Lombardy. His survival greatly helps the Austrian navy which was, apart from the problems of being manned almost exclusively by Italians and thus highly disloyal, it also struggled from a leadership standpoint IOTL, going through 4 different Commanders in Chief between Friedrich's OTL death in October 1847 to the beginning of the First Italian War of Independence in March 1848.

    [6] Before he died in OTL, King Charles Albert suffered from liver disease and several heart attacks which left him bedridden and in terrible pain.

    [7] Known to his men as the Hapsburg Tiger, Austrian General Julius Jacob von Haynau was a highly talented, yet incredibly aggressive commander who was renowned for his extreme brutality. He was personally responsible for the massacre of numerous Brescians following the 10 Days of Brescia and he ordered the execution of the 13 Rebel Hungarian Generals at Arad.
     
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    Part 67: Anarchy in Austria
  • Part 67: Anarchy in Austria


    Metternich Flees Vienna

    The Austrian defeat at Second Goito was a disaster from which they would never fully recover both militarily and politically. Bereft of nearly 15,000 experienced and battle-hardened soldiers, Field Marshal Count Karl Ludwig von Ficquelmont was forced to cede ground to the ascendant Sardinian-Italian Army, whose numbers appeared to increase by the day. By the end of August, the battered remnants of the Austrian Army of Lombardy-Venetia had retreated behind the Adige River as their few remaining outposts West of the river were ground to dust by the Italian host. Italian morale would rise further following the apparent recovery of King Charles Albert two weeks after the battle and though he would lack much of the energy and exuberance he had exuded before his illness, his mind and heart remained fully committed to the cause of Italian independence. The Battle of Second Goito would also inspire Pope Pius IX to remain in the Italian alliance against Austria despite his own misgivings towards war with another Catholic power. With the Italians united, and the Austrians on the retreat, it would have seemed that victory over Vienna was inevitable.

    Yet even with the loss of Lombardy to the Italians, the Austrian position in Northern Italy remained quite strong thanks to the complete destruction of the Venetian rebellion back in July. Imperial forces also held the passes through the Alps and their lines of supply were safely secured thanks to their control of Venice and Trent. With the territory to their rear secure, Ficquelmont and the Austrian Army of Lombardy-Venetia could focus all its efforts towards defending the Adige River, which featured the formidable defenses of Legnano and Verona. With Legnago and Verona under their control, the Italians were denied the two main bridges across the Adige, while the rest were either destroyed or placed under heavy guard. As such, Metternich and Ficquelmont continued to believe that victory over the revolutionaries was still possible if additional men and resources could be brought to bear from across the Alps. Yet in his haste to destroy nationalism and liberalism in Italy, Metternich would inadvertently succeed in spreading it further when he enacted the August Draft Laws, demanding the Crown Lands provide new conscripts for the Imperial Army.

    By itself, this act was fairly innocuous as most countries had enacted similar conscription policies during times of war as a means of supplying more men to their militaries. Austria had itself used conscription extensively during the later stages of the Napoleonic Wars and even utilized German conscripts to a small degree in the present conflict against the Italian States. But what made the 1848 August Draft Laws so controversial, was that they infringed upon the closely guarded prerogatives of Kingdom of Hungary.

    Unlike most of the Crown Lands of the Austrian Empire, the Lands of the Hungarian Crown (the Kingdom of Hungary proper, the Kingdom of Croatia, the Kingdom of Slavonia, and the Principality of Transylvania) were endowed with certain privileges, mostly in the form of tax exemptions for the local nobility and a certain degree of political autonomy from Vienna, most significantly in the form of the Diet of Hungary for the Kingdom of Hungary.[1] The Diet of Hungary was a legislative chamber which had existed in one form or another since the earliest days of the Kingdom of Hungary. Although it had changed considerably since its earliest incarnations, the Diet was usually comprised of the Kingdom’s leading magnates and nobles who possessed the sole authority to create and enact legislation within their country. The Diet was also the primary means for the Hungarian nobility to air their grievances to the King, but most importantly to the present controversy, the Diet had the sole authority to raise new military forces in its territories. While it may seem rather impotent compared to the likes of the British Parliament or the American Congress, the Diet was enshrined in the Hungarian identity and they deeply resented any attempt to infringe upon its prerogatives.

    While Metternich’s dictates were hardly the first such attempts made by an Imperial Chancellor or a Hapsburg King of Hungary, the Hungarian magnates were simply unwilling to tolerate such excesses as they had in the past. Prior to the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, the Hapsburg Kings of Hungary had gradually limited the Diet, convening it less frequently and abiding by its decisions less rigidly. As with most things, this would change immensely following the Napoleonic Wars as the people of Hungary become conscious of their desire for increased liberty and nationhood. This would manifest itself in 1823 when Emperor Francis and the Imperial Government attempted to draw men and resources from Hungary to fight the rebellion in Italy, provoking a series of terrible riots across the country. This unrest would continue sporadically until 1825 when the Emperor was finally forced to convene the Diet for the first time since 1812. It was clear that Hungary would no longer accept the old status quo, leading them to demand more influence over the direction of the Empire and more respect from the Imperial Government and the Emperor. The 1825 Diet is also important in another way as it marked the first appearance of two young Hungarian Noblemen in the Diet, Count István Széchenyi de Sárvár-Felsővidék and Lajos Kossuth de Udvard et Kossuthfalva.


    Count István Széchenyi de Sárvár-Felsővidék (Left) and Prince Lajos Kossuth de Udvard et Kossuthfalva (Right)

    The scion of a prominent Hungarian noble house with strong ties to the Hapsburg Emperors, as well as a famed officer in the Napoleonic Wars, Count István Széchenyi was a moderate man of sorts who supported important, albeit limited reforms to Hungarian society. He supported the modernization and industrialization of the Hungarian economy by constructing numerous factories, mills, mines, and railroads. He would promote engineering and the sciences in Hungarian schools, even going so far as to donate his own wealth to fund the establishment of several universities. And despite of his noble heritage, he supported the reduction in the rights and privileges of the Hungarian nobility, most notably their tax exemptions and their rights to statute labor. Yet, unlike many of his more progressive and radical colleagues, Széchenyi still supported the primacy of agriculture in Hungary and wished to develop it beyond the simple plow and fallow fields it had been for the past millennia through the introduction of modern farming tools and techniques onto Hungarian farms. Most importantly, Széchenyi vigorously supported the union with Austria and the Hapsburg Monarchy, although he wasn’t above criticizing it when necessary, nor did he object to strengthening Hungary’s role within the Empire as well.

    Despite his professed loyalty to the Hapsburg Emperors, Count Széchenyi’s efforts to convince the Imperial Government to pursue his reforms would unfortunately meet with stiff opposition from Chancellor Metternich and the rigidly conservative Staatsrat (the State Council of the Austrian Empire) who were fearful of Széchenyi’s nationalist overtones and moved to oppose him at every turn. Széchenyi would continue to travel to Vienna for month after month and year after year in a vain attempt to change the old Chancellor’s mind, but to no avail. Metternich remained set in his conservative ways and refused to budge on even the most pressing of issues, much to the chagrin of Széchenyi and his allies. Unable to produce any meaningful achievements for all his efforts and all his promises, Széchenyi’s popularity in the Diet would inevitably begin to wane. And though he remained Hungary’s favored son, he was not its only leading man as a formidable competitor soon emerged to his political left in the form of the young and highly charismatic nobleman Lajos Kossuth.

    Like Széchenyi, Lajos Kossuth was a man intent on reforming Hungary by supporting its nascent industrial sector and reducing the privileges of the nobility. However, whereas Széchenyi saw the Hungarian Nobility as a pillar of Hungarian society still capable of leading the Kingdom into a bright future, Kossuth saw them as a parasitic group who rested on their laurels while they leached off the labors of the peasantry. They would also differ from one another on Hungarian nationalism, with Kossuth becoming one of its chief sponsors and Széchenyi one of its chief opponents. Kossuth had come to regard Hungary’s relationship with Austria as backwards and unjust, and while he stopped short of calling for complete independence for Hungary, he certainly desired greater autonomy and freedom for Hungary. To that end, Kossuth agitated against the Imperial Government, organizing protests and making rousing speeches against Metternich and the State Council resulting in his periodic imprisonments by the Austrian authorities. Ironically, it would be his imprisonment in 1838 over his illegal advocation for freedom of the press which earned him his claim to fame in Hungary and the Austrian Empire writ large, catapulting him from a lesser nobleman with little political following, to one of the leading figures in Hungarian politics.

    By 1848, Széchenyi and Kossuth were roughly equal in their influence and prestige, with both featuring a number of influential and powerful Hungarian politicians and magnates on their respective sides, known in posterity as the Moderates and the Nationalists. However, whereas Széchenyi’s popularity had stagnated by this time owing to his failed negotiations with Metternich, Kossuth’s support would only rise further in Hungary following the enactment of Chancellor Metternich’s hated August Draft Law on the 11th of August 1848. Many members of the Hungarian Diet, Lajos Kossuth included, decried Metternich as a tyrant and a dictator who had overstepped his legal authority by passing laws on Hungary, that he had no right in passing and simply refused to enforce his illegal dictates. Metternich, who was in great need of more men for the war in Italy, pressed forward despite their objections and began sending conscription officers and tax collectors to every city, every town, and every village in the Panonian basin.


    The Diet of Hungary Denounces Metternich

    Over the course of the next few weeks, thousands of Hungarian youths were quite literally pulled from their homes by Austrian soldiers before being shipped off to the far corners of the Empire. To escape this fate, many men and boys fled their homes seeking safety on the far edges of the Empire; a few resorted to more drastic acts to avoid military service. One particular account details the defiance of several men and boys from Pressburg who engaged in grisly acts of self-mutilation as a means of defying the Austrian conscription agents, denying them their bounty of abled bodied men.

    Other acts of defiance against the Imperial Government soon began to appear in earnest with the Hungarian people crying out for an immediate end to the war in Italy, an end to the draft, and an end to the new taxes on the Hungarian Estates. Most importantly, they demanded that Vienna respect Hungary’s autonomy, with many calling for their privileges to be expanded even further. Some radicals and nationalists even spoke of Hungarian independence in hushed whispers, although they remained a minority of a minority at this point. As August came to an end, Austrian conscription agents began coming under attack by the angered peoples of Hungary. Although most simply resorted to throwing rocks or excrement at them as they passed, a small handful would find themselves on the wrong end of a blade or gunbarrel resulting in quite a few deaths and maimings.

    Rather than back down and reach a peaceful accord with the Hungarians, Metternich’s resolve was only hardened by the growing discontent in Hungary which only served to reinforce his rigid beliefs against liberalism and nationalism. In retaliation, soldiers were ordered to the region en masse; dissidents were imprisoned by the hundreds, crowds were broken up with blades and batons leaving thousands bloodied and bruised, some protestors would even be killed in the process, prompting even more unrest and even larger demonstrations. This crackdown by Metternich would temporarily restore order to Hungary, but when news from France arrived announcing the abdication of King Ferdinand-Philippe and the declaration of a Second Republic, the Hungarian Liberals began agitating for reform once more. Soon regions like Bohemia and Moravia, Galicia and Croatia, all provinces which had been generally peaceful and orderly, now began to exhibit signs of discontent as well diverting the Government’s limited attention and resources to other areas of the Empire. Even Vienna suffered from unrest as Liberals and German nationalists took to the streets once again, forcing the Government to call upon Field Marshal Alfred Candidus Ferdinand, Prince of Windisch-Grätz and his army to restore order to the city.

    With tensions rising to dangerous levels, Count Széchenyi would travel to Vienna once more in the vain hope he could convince the Imperial Government to come to an agreement with the Hungarian Moderates. But while Széchenyi was on the road to Vienna, Kossuth marched on Buda. Seizing upon this newfound opportunity, Kossuth rapidly organized his followers and moved on the seat of Hapsburg authority in Hungary, Buda Castle, on the 29th of August where he compelled upon the Palatine of Hungary, Archduke Stephen to accept the demands of the people. These demands, among several others included an end to the censorship of the press, the establishment of a Hungarian National Guard, the reformation of the Diet of Hungary into a Hungarian Parliament that would meet annually, ministries accountable to the Hungarian Parliament, complete religious liberty, civil liberty for all citizens before the law, the abolition of the Nobility’s tax exemptions, the abolition of serfdom and feudalism in Hungary, the creation of jury courts, and the release of all political prisoners.[2]



    Buda Castle from the Danube

    Having little communication with Vienna owing to the ongoing unrest there and the effective collapse of Imperial authority in Hungary, Archduke Stephen was forced to submit to the demands of the Kossuth and the mob who cheered the declaration with great gusto and bravado. Later that day, Kossuth would pressure Archduke Stephen into naming him as acting Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Hungary as well, an act which would essentially denude the Palatine of his temporal powers. While Stephen would attempt to delay on the grounds that only the Emperor possessed the right to name his ministers, Kossuth persisted upon Archduke Stephen, who was ultimately forced to obey. With his coup complete and his power secure, Kossuth and his allies immediately began implementing their reforms with great haste and vigor.

    An impromptu session of the Diet was convened and unanimously approved the reorganization of the Diet into a Parliamentary body, with elections scheduled for early October, while a Provisional Government led by Lajos Kossuth would govern Hungary in the interim. The formation of the National Guard would be next, as thousands of patriotic volunteers rushed to join the Honvéd Army; by the end of the first day the Provisional Hungarian Government boasted over 25,000 men under arms and nearly 100,000 by the end of the week. The Buda, Óbuda, and Pest printing presses were kept busy printing pamphlet after pamphlet well into the night with each newspaper detailing various reforms and the Nemzeti dal (the Patriot Song of Hungary). Kossuth would also order the Hungarian Cockade be flown atop Buda castle, an act which was soon reciprocated in all the windows of all the houses and shops in Buda, Óbuda, and Pest. Political prisoners were released, feudal dues were abolished, and the nobility’s privileges were reduced considerably. The September Laws were generally well received by the people of Hungary as a liberating and progressive experience, but as is the case with all things, this perception was not shared by all the peoples of Hungary.

    Inspired by Hungary’s success, the minorities of the Austrian Empire; the Czechs, the Croatians, the Dalmatians, the Poles, the Ruthenians, the Serbs, the Slovaks, and the Transylvanians would begin advocating for their own representation and autonomy. While Kossuth and the Hungarian Provisional Government did support the Czechs, the Poles, and the Ruthenians in their bids for autonomy from the Imperial Government, they resisted the calls for autonomy and representation from their own minorities. Still, they would offer the Croats, the Serbs, and the Transylvanians the right to use their own languages and customs in their local courthouses, schoolhouses, and townships as a minor compromise. These privileges were not bestowed to the Slovaks however, prompting unrest to steadily build in the northern provinces of Hungary.[3] When several Slovaks in Pressburg attempted to champion their own efforts for limited regional autonomy and the use of their own language in their own communities, they quickly found themselves imprisoned by Hungarian Honvéd soldiers. It was now clear that the Hungarian Revolution would not be a movement for all the peoples of Hungary.

    The Imperial Government was not entirely pleased with these developments either, as a constituent part of the Empire had unilaterally carved out its own privileges and powers without any oversight by or consent given on the part of the Emperor or the States Council. However, there would be no immediate response by the Imperial Government as Lajos Kossuth’s march would be the least of their worries. In late August, a band of partisans under the Italian freedom fighter, Giuseppe Garibaldi managed to secret themselves across the Adige into Austrian occupied Venetia under the cover of darkness, before embarking on a campaign of sabotage and sedition. Garibaldi and his Red shirts stormed across the Venetian countryside, ambushing Austrian patrols, spoiling Austrian supply depots, and generally making life miserable for the Austrian soldiers before melting away again into the Venetian countryside. As they could live off the land and maintained the trust of the local Venetians, Garibaldi and his men easily eluded all attempts to capture them, forcing Ficquelmont to divert precious men and resources to guard his supply lines. Garibaldi’s acts were little more than a nuisance however, in preparation for the main Italian thrust in mid-September.


    Giuseppe Garibaldi and his Red Shirts fighting near Vicenza

    Beginning on the 15th, 112,000 Sardinian, Emilian, Romagnan, and Tuscan soldiers launched an offensive on the Austrian defensive line on the Adige River. Much of their focus was directed towards the Fortresses of Verona and Legnago, but some men were focused on finding other crossings across the river. Most failed, but some succeeded, resulting in a series of skirmishes between the Austrian cavalry and the Italian vanguard near San Giovani and Zevio. Despite their best efforts, the Austrians would initially hold firm, driving the Italians back across the Adige, albeit just barely. Still the Italian assault continued, bleeding the Austrians white in the process.

    To the North in Germany, the German Liberals had pushed through various reforms in the Federal Assembly, reforming the German Confederation into the Federal German Empire, despite the stern objection of the Austrian delegation. While Austria protested this development, and would continue to protest it, there was very little it could actually do change this beyond recalling its delegation from Frankfurt. To the Southeast, the neighboring Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia were plunged into revolution, which inevitably spilled over into Transylvania and Bukovina. Most worryingly of all, Poznan and Warsaw would rise in rebellion against the Prussian and Russian governments in late Summer and threatened to spread to Krakow and Galicia-Lodomeria. Even the situation in Vienna remained tenuous, with the peace only being maintained through the efforts of Field Marshal Alfred Candidus Ferdinand, Prince of Windisch-Grätz and his soldiers who patrolled the streets in the thousands.

    Metternich would also receive little assistance from Emperor Ferdinand whose condition only continued to worsen, perhaps paralleling that of his ailing Empire. This state of affairs would not last long however, as Emperor Ferdinand would be struck by a particularly severe epileptic seizure in early October, rendering him largely incapacitated. Although he would survive the attack, just as he had all the others, Metternich, Grätz, Archduke Ludwig, and Prince Felix von Schwarzenberg no longer believed him capable of continuing as Emperor and sought to replace him with his nephew Franz Joseph. Under the influence of Metternich and his ministers, Ferdinand - who was in little more than a vegetative state by this point - would be forced to abdicate the throne in favor of his nephew who was coronated on the 12th of October, while five days later Ferdinand would be dead. The ascension of the capable and highly energetic Franz Joseph would do much to restore the flagging authority of the Imperial Government, but rather than save Metternich, the new Emperor would prove to be his downfall.

    Blaming the old Chancellor’s intransigence and obstinance for most of the ailments presently plaguing his Empire, Emperor Franz Joseph, pressured Metternich to resign. Metternich had few options. His laissez faire financial policies had failed to end the ongoing recession in the Empire nor the terrible famine which gripped large swaths of the country. His handling of the war in Italy had gone from bad to worse and now teetered on imminent catastrophe, with the loss of Lombardy to the Italians. Large portions of the Empire were agitating for his removal, even Hungary flirted with revolution thanks in no small part to Metternich’s rigidity. Metternich's most stallwart allies had even begun to turn against him because of these many failings. Unable to convince the young Emperor otherwise, Metternich was forced to deliver his letter of resignation to the boy Emperor and the State Council before departing Vienna with his family, never to return. While there were many who were not saddened to see Metternich forced from office in the manner in which he was, his resignation did little to sate the appetite for liberalism that he had so vigorously opposed.


    The New Emperor Franz Joseph Meets with his Ministers

    The Hungarian Prime Minister had grown increasingly bold in the days and weeks since he had risen to power in early September as the Imperial Government would pay him little mind in those first few days as he paid lip service to Vienna, whilst he extended his influence throughout Hungary. However, the fall of Metternich would provide Kossuth and his Nationalists with their greatest opportunity yet, as the old Chancellor was replaced with by a series of inept governments under weak kneed ministers and a relatively unknown commodity in the new Emperor Franz Joseph. Interested in testing the limits of his new monarch, Kossuth and the Hungarian Parliament began enacting increasingly provocative pieces of legislation, ranging from the printing of new Hungarian currency which supplanted the Emperor’s name and profile with that of his own to the autonomy of Hungary’s domestic policy from that of Austria.[4] But by far the most controversial would be the expulsion of all Austrian tax collectors and administrators from Hungary.

    While the Hungarian Provisional Government would pledge that it would continue providing tax revenues to Vienna, albeit in a much-reduced quantity; the growing independence of the Hungarian bureaucracy from the rest of the Empire was a dangerous development. Emperor Franz Joseph was willing to tolerate much for the sake of peace and stability, but he could not accept this as it would mark a significant step towards complete independence for the Hungarian Government. Seeking to combat this, Franz Joseph in a public declaration to all the Crown Lands of the Austrian Empire, promised to acknowledge and guarantee all the privileges they had been previously awarded under his Uncle and all past Imperial Governments. And while he was willing to discuss implementing further reforms and granting further autonomy, he would not accept any constituent of the Empire unilaterally.

    So it was that he began counteracting every law that the Hungarian Government had enacted in the wake of his coronation in mid-October. Suffice to say, this was not well received throughout Hungary leading to numerous riots throughout the Hungarian countryside. Austrian officials, Austrian merchants, and Austrian soldiers would quickly find themselves under attack by angered mobs of Magyars. By the 10th of November, tensions had risen to the point where Hungarian protestors attacked Austrian merchants in broad daylight, looting their places of business, setting fires to their homes, and causing all sorts of mischief and misfortune upon their German neighbors.

    Despite this great resentment and hostility shown towards the Austrian Government and their agents by the Hungarian people, Prime Minister Kossuth and his government quietly accepted Emperor Franz Joseph’s decrees with gritted teeth. Peace between the Hapsburg Monarchy and the Lands of the Crown of St Stephen would continue for several more weeks, but it was clear for all to see that a reckoning between the two was imminent. Prime Minister Kossuth and his close allies Bartalan Szemere, Ferenc Duschek, Sebő Vukovics, and László Csány likely recognized the looming conflict with the Imperial Government and began preparing for the right opportunity to make their move. They needn’t wait long as the war in Italy turned against the Austrians once more.

    In late November, the Italian Offensive against the Adige Line finally succeeded in taking the fortress city of Legnago after a lengthy two-and-a-half-month siege of the citadel. According to legend, the citadel fell not to Italian arms, but Magyar treason, as several Hungarian soldiers within the fortress opened the gates to the Italians to spite the Austrians. Regardless of the tale’s authenticity, Legnago did fall to the Italians, opening all of Venetia to the Sardinian-Italian Army. This loss was quickly followed up by a terrible defeat at Padua for the Austrians on the 4th of December, forcing them to effectively abandon much of the region to the Italians who stormed across the Adige in force. The defeat at Padua would also encourage the Italians of Venetia to rebel once more, successfully driving the Austrian garrisons out of Adria and Rovigo – the only cities west of the Adige to have remained under Austrian control – as well as Este, Monselice, Padua, and Treviso. Their attempts to liberate Chioggia, Vicenza, and Venice would end in failure however, thanks to the sudden arrival of fresh Austrian reinforcements from Bohemia and Croatia, who ruthlessly cracked down on the Venetian populace.


    The Battle of Padua

    Despite the severity of the situation in Italy, the Austrians still maintained the primary mountain passes into Italy enabling them to rush further men and resources to the front as needed. Count Ficquelmont still held the city of Venice and the fortress of Verona, which was arguably the strongest and most defensible of the Quadrilateral Fortresses. The Austrians also retained control of Trent and Chioggia, securing their lines of supply to Venice and Verona, enabling them to hold out until a relief force could be mustered to save the day. With the Austrian Empire moving towards a full war footing the likes of which it had not seen since the Napoleonic Wars, the Italian states stood little chance of victory. Soon another army some 40,000 strong under the leadership of Field Marshal Ignaz Freiherr von Lederer readied to cross the Alps into Italy and reconquer Lombardy-Venetia for the Empire. They would never get the chance as events in Hungary soon drew their attention away from Italy yet again.

    Seizing upon the Austrian defeats at Legnano and Padua, Kossuth and the Provisional Hungarian Government issued an ultimatum to Emperor Franz Joseph, demanding the return of their recently revoked privileges, the independence of Hungarian Government to conduct foreign policy with foreign powers free from the influence of Vienna, the independence of the Hungarian Military from the Imperial Military, and the cessation of all remaining fortresses under Austrian control to the Hungarian Honvéd Army. It was an outrageous demand under any circumstances, as it would in effect make the Kingdom of Hungary independent of the Austrian Empire in all but name, with the two states tied together only through personal union. Naturally, as one would expect, Emperor Franz Joseph upon reading the November Ultimatum, flew into a rage, before responding with an ultimatum of his own, demanding Lajos Kossuth and his accomplices surrender themselves to the Imperial Government for trial. The die was now cast.

    With Franz Joseph unwilling to compromise and Lajos Kossuth unwilling to surrender to the Imperial authorities, war between Austria and Hungary was now inevitable. With no other choice, the Provisional Government of the Kingdom of Hungary declared its independence from the Austrian Empire on the 15th of December 1848, prompting Austria to declare war on it in turn two days later. However, despite this declaration of war, nothing would come of it immediately. Several castles in Hungary which were still under Imperial control would be placed under siege and a few pockets of resistance rose up into rebellion, but no significant battles were fought, nor was any Austrian Army sent against the Hungarians in the waning days of 1848, largely because there were no Austrian Armies ready to send against them.

    Field Marshal Lederer’s army had already departed for Italy and with the winter snows now blocking the passes through the Alps, it would be several weeks before he could return to Austria. Other armies like Field Marshal Gratz’s were busy keeping the peace in Vienna and Prague, while the Army of Galicia-Lodomeria was stuck on the other side of the Carpathian Mountains. Unable to strike against Hungary with his own forces, Emperor Franz Joseph was forced to delegate the humbling of Hungary to those magnates still loyal to the Empire, chief among them the Ban of Croatia Josip Jelačić. While Ban Jelačić of Croatia and Dalmatia was hardly the most loyal man to the Hapsburg Monarchy - he was an unabashed Croatian nationalist - his disdain for the new Hungarian Government was unmistakable. He was also one of the more capable military leaders in the Empire, and he had access to a sizeable army located right on Hungary’s doorstep. His loyalty to the Imperial Government came at a steep cost, however, namely the recognition of Croatia’s own Diet (the Sabor), the independence of the Ban of Croatia from the Kingdom of Hungary, and the union of Croatia with Dalmatia and Istria. With Hungary in revolt and the war in Italy turned decidedly against him, Franz Joseph had little choice, but to agree.


    Josip Jelačić von Bužim, Ban of Croatia

    Emperor Franz Joseph would also extend an olive branch to the embattled Slovaks as they had risen in revolt against the Hungarians several weeks before. Buda had gone to great lengths to alienate the Slovaks, ultimately driving them to rebellion against the Magyars, but without a central figure to coalesce around they were quickly cornered. Faced with the possibility of their extinction, the Slovaks willingly accepted the Emperor’s admittedly meager aid, enabling them to fight on. The Metropolitan of Vojvodina, Josif Rajačić would also approach the Imperial Government asking for aid as would the Transylvanian Bishop Andrei Șaguna when it became clear that Buda intended to annex the Principality of Transylvania into the Hungarian State, disregarding the Transylvanians calls for autonomy and respect to their culture. Franz Joseph and the Imperial Government were wary of supporting the Serbians and Transylvanians as they were receiving covert aid from their kinsmen in the Principalities of Serbia, Wallachia, and Moldavia. The interference of the Danubian Principalities was certainly irksome, but Hungary remained the more immediate threat to Vienna, a threat that needed to be dealt with quickly before it metastasized further.

    There also remained several Austrian garrisons scattered across the Kingdom of Hungary, which while certainly irritating, were little more than minor nuisances to the Hungarians. Still, General Heinrich Hentzi von Arthurm and General Anton Freiherr von Puchner continued to resist the Hungarian Honved Army throughout the Winter, denying the Hungarians desperately needed military supplies and strategic outposts and fortresses. Eventually, the Hungarians numbers would win out, with General Puchner being driven into Transylvania and Hentzi’s men being forced to surrender at Komárom Fortress after the General was wounded by Hungarian sharpshooters.

    While the Hungarians were busy chasing Puchner and besieging Hentzi, Ban Jelačić had managed to gather his army, some 50,000 strong before swiftly marching across the border into Hungary in mid-January. Bound for the Hungarian capital of Buda, Jelačić’s lighting advance across the Pannonian plain to the Danube terrified the Hungarian Government which mobilized the Honvéd Army to combat it. Choosing to lead it personally in a decidedly vain and foolhardy venture, Prime Minister Kossuth’s leadership of the 56,000 strong Hungarian Army was an abject failure. His advance was too slow, his orders were too vague, and his maneuvers were too easy to identify by Jelačić’s veteran fighters. The ensuing confrontation at Velence was very nearly the death knell for the nascent Hungarian State, as Prime Minister Kossuth very nearly lost his life and his entire army. Somehow, Kossuth would manage to escape back to Buda, with his tattered force in tow, but with the Croatians hot on his heels it seemed that this was the end of Hungarian independence.

    It is here though that Lajos Kossuth’s talent one of the greatest orators of his time came to great use. In a rousing speech, now known to posterity as the “The Defense of the Hungarian Race and the Perfidy of the Hapsburg King”, Kossuth decried the Austrian Emperor as a despot undeserving of Hungarian love or loyalty and released all those before him of their oaths of allegiance to their treacherous king. Kossuth’s vile was next turned to the Austrians and Croatians, whom he called as an insidious and treacherous people who looted and defiled the pleasant meadows and farms of holy Hungary. He called upon the men and boys of Hungary to stand and fight with all their might to defend their homeland, their culture and their families. His hoarse voice strained to contain his immense passion as his bloodshot eyes and sweaty cheeks emitted a terrible visage of rage and emotion that galvanized the formerly terrified populace of Pest, Buda, and Óbuda into a great Magyar host intent on resisting their adversaries to the last bullet and the last drop of blood.

    When the Croatian army made its attack on Buda, it found a highly motivated and frenzied mob ready to combat them. Barricades had been built in the streets and the city’s old walls were lined with thousands of men and boys, even the women of the city lined up to fight against the Croatian Army. The battle that follows was as chaotic as it was brutal, with the citizenry of the city fighting their adversaries for every inch and every city block, with each step being paid for in blood and bodies. Nevertheless, the Croatians continued to advance into the ancient city, taking street after street over the course of several long days, until they reached the walls of Buda Castle and the Danube River on the 30th of January.


    The Battle of Buda​

    This was to be their undoing however as the Honved Army sent against General Hentzi returned to Buda at this time and began maneuvering to cut off Jelačić’s line of retreat. Ban Jelačić, immediately recognizing the situation for what it was, Ban Jelačić ordered a withdrawal from the city, but by this point, it was too late as a sizeable fraction of the Croatian Army would be trapped in the city by the approaching Hungarian army. The besiegers soon became the besieged as they were cornered between the Danube River, Buda Castle, and the host of frenzied Hungarians. Despite, Jelačić's numerous attempts to lift the siege, he would only succeed in freeing a few thousand men, before he was forced to flee with the few men he had left, leaving the rest to their fate.

    Jelačić would succeed in escaping to Zagrab, he had done so only at a great cost as 4,000 Croatian men lay dead or dying in and around Buda, another 7,600 had been wounded in the fighting, but the worst loss would be the 8,000 soldiers who were captured in the Battle of Buda. The loss of such a force limited Jelačić’s ability to fight the Hungarians, but more importantly, it prompted the disgruntled Italo-Dalmatians of Dalmatia to rise in revolt against his rule, likely at the prodding of their Italian kinsmen in Venetia. With Dalmatia up in arms against him, Jelačić and his Croatians turned their attention away from Hungary and to the threat in their rear, allowing the Hungarians ample time to prepare for an offensive against Vienna.

    Once again, Lajos Kossuth would take command of the Hungarian Army, seemingly failing to learn anything of great substance from his humiliating defeat at Velence several weeks before. And while his second foray into military affairs would begin better than his first, leading the Hungarians to a series of minor victories near Gyor and Hédervár, he would be quickly outmaneuvered by Field Marshal Grätz and his army west of Pressburg, forcing him to retreat back to Buda with his tail between his legs. The defeat of Lajos Kossuth and the Hungarian Army at Pressburg would stave off the collpase of the Austrian Empire, but it did little to deter other, would be revolutionaries from making their own claims to independence as the Poles of Galicia-Lodomeria and Krakow soon rose in revolt as well.

    Next Time: The Great Polish Uprising

    [1] The Military Frontiers of Croatia, Slavonia, Serbia, and Transylvania were also technically considered parts of the Lands of the Hungarian Crown, but they were effectively autonomous regions controlled by their local commanders, with nominal authority exerted by Vienna.

    [2] A slightly modified version of the April Laws from OTL.

    [3] Despite originating from a Slovak noble house, Lajos Kossuth considered himself to be a Hungarian through and through, even going as far as to deny the existence of a Slovak people.

    [4] This is something that Lajos Kossuth actually did in OTL under his purview as Minister of Finance.
     
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    Part 68: The Great Polish Uprising
  • Part 68: The Great Polish Uprising


    Submission of the Russians

    The Great Polish Uprising of 1848 was not a sudden development made in the heat of the moment, nor was it a surprising development given the mounting oppression the Poles had endured over the past few decades. It was a decision that had been made after countless years of struggle, compromise, defeats, and disappointments in the quest for Polish independence. Aside from a brief return of independence during the Napoleonic Wars, the lands and people of Poland had existed under foreign occupation since 1795 when their Kingdom was finally swallowed up by the three partitioning powers of Austria, Prussia, and Russia. For a proud people like the Poles, this development was an unacceptable and unenviable position for them, and one which they would attempt to rectify through various revolts and rebellions over the ensuing years, all of which were doomed to failure. While these uprisings would fail to win their independence, it would succeed in winning them recognition for their cause as the Congress of Vienna in 1815 would attempt to address the Polish Question by granting the former territories of the Kingdom of Poland with various rights and local autonomy. Russia, Prussia, and Austria would agree in principle to these concessions, but the moment the Congress had ended, they began reneging on their promises.

    Under Tsar Alexander of Russia, the much reduced “Kingdom of Poland” theoretically existed in personal union with the Russian Empire through the Emperor, but in truth Poland was a state which he cared little for beyond the prestige associated with it and the annual revenue it added to his coffers. Instead, the responsibility of governing and ruling the Kingdom would be pawned off to Alexander’s younger brother, Grand Duke Konstantin Pavlovich who would rule the Kingdom in his brother’s name, effectively making him Viceroy of Poland in all but name. Konstantin would find great interest in the position, choosing to live in Warsaw year-round and would even select a prominent Polish noblewoman for his second wife, an act which would force him to privately renounce his claims to the Russian throne in favor of his younger brother Nicholas.[1]

    Despite his own interest in the position and his thoroughly Polish wife, Countess Joanna Grudzińska, Konstantin was deeply despised by the Polish people for his tyranny and oppression. He empowered the dreaded Okhrana to crack down on the Polish press with near impunity. He routinely flaunted the Polish Constitution by appointing Russians to high offices over native Poles and he regularly threatened political opponents with imprisonment without trial as required under Polish law. He physically assaulted his Polish deputies and would publicly insult them for even the slightest of errors. Beyond that, he was a personally vainglorious man, whose overly combative and arrogant personality spurned even his most stallwart supporters. He was so maligned in Poland for his tyranny that when news reached Warsaw of his death to Cholera in September 1830, the people of the city celebrated in the streets with reckless abandon. The premature death of Konstantin Pavlovich also sparked a meager revolt against Russian rule, the so-called September Rising of 1830, but due to the disorganization of the movement and the differing goals of its leaders, the rebellion was put down by year’s end.

    While the autonomy of the Kingdom of Poland had been steadily eroded by the Russian Emperors since 1815, the September Rising in 1830 would quicken this process as the Polish Kingdom found itself coming under increasing Russian control. The city of Warsaw was placed under martial law for the remainder of 1830 and much of 1831 as well, with Russian soldiers remaining a common sight in the city even after the official end of military rule in July 1831. The University of Warsaw was subject to intense surveillance by the Russian government, with many of the school’s professors and students being arrested for their involvement in the revolt. Russian bureaucrats came to replace Polish officials in the government, while the rights of the regions’ nobility were steadily curtailed. Opposition parties were barred from the Sejm and any officials deemed hostile to the Russian Government were barred from public office. The sessions of the Sejm were also steadily shortened until it was finally shuttered entirely in mid-1840 by the Russian dominated Council of State.


    Martial Law in Warsaw

    The closing of the Sejm would prompt a few minor protests and riots, mostly in and around the city of Warsaw itself, but would eventually cease after a few weeks of modest demonstrations. This limited response by the Poles likely betrayed their own malaise and contempt towards the institution which had become so notoriously corrupt in their eyes, largely for its perceived support of the union with Russia.[2] More insults were soon to follow as the Polish Army was slowly subordinated to the Russian army with a number of its officers removed from command over concerns for their loyalty to the Russian regime, while Russian and Ruthenian officers were implanted in their place. Russian products were steadily pushed into Polish markets, while the Kingdom's finances were brought into line with the rest of the Russian Empire. The Kingdom of Poland’s already limited internal autonomy would be reduced even further, with most domestic policy decisions being made in St. Petersburg rather than Warsaw, while the rest were made only with the expression permission of the Imperial Government.

    The final slight would come on the 19th of April 1848, when Emperor Nicholas of Russia formally abolished the now thoroughly gutted Polish Constitution and declared the Kingdom of Poland dissolved into the Russian Empire. The decision to finally end the nominal independence of the Kingdom of Poland was likely the result of many years of effort on the part of Emperor and his ministers who had viewed the Poles with distrust and disdain. Even though he recognized that they were a rebellious and dissentious people, Nicholas had come to believe by 1848 that they had been thoroughly beaten into submission, citing their relative peaceful acceptance of the Sejm’s closure in 1840 and every subsequent reduction in their autonomy since then as proof. While the State Council would expect there to be some level of public dissension by the Poles, they believed that it would be relatively minor and inconsequential in the grand scheme of things; something that would run its course in a matter of days before returning to peace. They would be terribly wrong.

    Instead of a few minor demonstrations, they found armed revolutionaries rising in rebellion all across the former Kingdom of Poland. Less than a week after the Tsar’s proclamation, several hundred Polish officers, soldiers, students, intellectuals, laborers, and peasants marched on the Royal Castle where they forced their way past the few guards outside - killing several of them in the process - before holding an impromptu session of the Sejm. In what was widely lauded as a show trial, the venerable Prince Michael Gedeon Radziwiłł declared Emperor Nicholas an unlawful King of Russia. Decrying his oppression of his loyal subjects and his violation of the Polish constitution, Radziwiłł stripped Nicholas of his crown in absentia, before declaring the independence of Poland to the exuberant cheers of the assembled crowd. Having declared Poland free, the gathered men committed themselves to freeing it from Russian rule.

    Departing from the Royal Castle, the Poles of Warsaw were infused with a great patriotic fervor that spread like wildfire through the city as men and women poured out into the streets by the tens of thousands armed with guns, swords, spears and whatever else they could get their hands on. The museums, manors, and castles of Warsaw were looted of their weaponry, both ancient and modern, with which they hoped to kill as many Russians as was necessary to win their independence. Standing against the entire city were a few thousand beleaguered and bemused Russian soldiers who quickly fell back to the Pałac Namiestnikowski where they endeavored to make a stand. Despite their terror, the Russians would successfully hold out for several long hours before they were finally routed by the frenzied Polish mob and forced from the city entirely. The Great Polish Uprising had begun.

    News of the liberation of Warsaw would disseminate throughout the countryside; from neighboring Pultusk where the town’s famished farmers and impoverished laborers fell upon the small, but pungently well-fed Russian garrison with terrifying ferocity; to the city of Kalisz where the cadets of the city’s military academy turned on their Russian instructors with lightning speed and brutal efficiency. Everywhere the Poles were on the march and the Russians were in retreat. The Polish Revolutionaries were aided immensely in their efforts by the quick defection of the Army of Congress Poland to their side, bringing with it several skilled officers and thousands of disciplined and well-equipped soldiers. Even though the tight cohesion of the Army had been shattered after the Russian takeover in 1846 - most of their senior commanding officers were now Russians, Ruthenians, and Russophile Poles – the rank and file soldiers, and many of the junior officers remained zealous patriots who dreamed of a free and fair Poland. With their aid, the Polish people quickly overwhelmed the isolated Russian garrisons across the country with relative impunity.

    While it would have seemed as if all of Poland was united in defiance to the Russian Empire, there were some who were not yet willing to make that leap, chief among them was Count Wincenty Krasiński who had fled from Warsaw alongside the Russian Army. Despite considering himself to be a loyal son of Poland who had fought on its behalf in the Napoleonic Wars, Count Krasiński was a realist who recognized that any confrontation between Russia and Poland would favor Russia. Instead, Krasiński believed that cooperation and friendship with Russia were the only way for Poland to achieve a better future, and so when he was forced to choose his loyalty to Poland, or his loyalty to Russia, he chose Russia in order to save Poland. However, to his former friends and colleagues in the Sejm, Krasiński was a villain of the greatest treachery, as he betrayed his countrymen to the Russians for a pair of epaulettes and a baton.

    Men like Krasiński were in the minority of the minority however, as the recent encroachments on Polish autonomy by Russia had driven most moderates and even a few Russophiles into the ranks of the Nationalists. Convening in Warsaw in late May, these notables and magnates of Congress Poland put their pens to paper, reaffirming the declaration of independence from the Russian Empire and requesting aid from all good peoples of the Earth in their fight for liberty. Despite his advanced age, Prince Radziwiłł was selected as Head of State for the Provisional Government of the Polish State with Radziwiłł choosing his close ally, the talented General Ignacy Prądzyński as commander of the Polish Army. The Sejm would also approve the implementation of conscription for the duration of the conflict, with each of Congress Poland's provinces being required to commit 10,000 men to the cause. Beyond this however, the Provisional Government busied itself establishing its control over the country, creating government ministries and preparing for the inevitable Russian response. To their great surprise, however, it would be nearly one month before that response finally came.


    The Sejm Declares Independence from Russia

    The lethargic Russian response to the Polish uprising would be a result of the false sense of complacency the Poles had provided to them over the past decade. Nicholas and the Imperial State Council had underestimated the Polish psyche so completely that troops had been reduced from Poland over the past few years, believing the province to be thoroughly pacified. As a result, the Russian Government would remain on the back foot for the remainder of April and all of May as they were forced to rely upon Count Krasiński and the few remaining soldiers already in Poland until the Russian Army could organize a meaningful response. And respond they would, for on the 16th of June, the Russian Namiestnik (Viceroy) of Poland, Field Marshal Hans Karl von Diebitsch reentered Congress Poland at the head of a sizeable force, hellbent on retaking the country.[3]

    Diebitsch, the old Prussian expat turned Russian Field Marshal who had won a series of brilliant victories at Silistra, Provadiya, and Adrianople during the Russo-Turkish War of 1828-1829, had been appointed Namiestnik of Poland after the death of Grand Duke Konstantin and the September Uprising in 1831. Even still, Diebitsch remained a military man at heart and committed himself to the Army even after his appointment as Viceroy. Moreover, his position would provide him with a degree of influence which he would use to great effect in his frequent meetings with the Emperor and the State Council, discussing all matters of business from Poland to the military. His frequent trips to St. Petersburg would be his undoing however, for it was during one of these absences from Warsaw that the Poles would strike out, taking advantage of his departure for their own gain.

    Determined to rectify his own mistake, Diebitsch gathered an army at Brest, some 76,000 strong before marching back into Poland at its head. Advancing slowly and methodically through Eastern Poland, Diebitsch and the Russian Army would easily steamroll all resistance in their path; an attempt by General Prądzyński's to oppose them near Siedlce was brushed aside with relative ease, while an engagement outside of Mińsk Mazowiecki would see the town reduced to rubble and the Polish army reduced to dust. Despite his great skill as a commander, General Prądzyński's army, comprised largely of recently conscripted farm hands and poets was a poor match for the mighty Russian Army. Unable to stop them, the Polish Army would be forced to flee all the way to Warsaw, yet upon their arrival on the outskirts of the city in early July, they committed themselves to a siege of the city. When the Russian Army arrived a day and a half later on the 29th of June, they found a well-fortified and well stocked city along with a large host of angry Poles ready to resist them no matter the cost.

    Nevertheless, the Russian siege of Warsaw began well, with the neighborhoods on the right bank of the Vistula falling under Russian control within the first week of the battle. The Northern and Southern approaches to the city were also cut off by the Russian Army rather quickly, but despite their best efforts the Western half of the city, separated by the Vistula, remained opposed to them. Polish General Prądzyński's committed his forces to holding the bridges over the Vistula, preventing Diebitsch from crossing the river in force, while earth works and hastily erected redoubts to the north and south of the city, prevented the Russian advance in those arenas. More troubling for the Russians, the roads to the west of Warsaw remained open to the Poles thanks to the tireless efforts of the Congress Army. This would allow a steady stream of supplies and reinforcements to pour into the city, stiffening the Polish resistance even further. Still, it would seem to many that the end was near for the recently revived Polish State. The Poles, for all their passion and patriotism remained incredibly outmatched, both in numbers and in munitions. As day after day passed, the situation for the Poles began to look bleaker and bleaker, until suddenly it didn’t.

    Desperate to break the siege, the Polish defenders would attempt a sortie across the Vistula in the early morning on the 22nd of July only to be driven back with heavy casualties. Spotting an opportunity, Diebitsch ordered an immediate Russian counterattack, which would succeed in gaining a small bridgehead on the other side of the Vistula before grinding to a sudden halt. Desperate fighting would continue for hours as the Russians proved unable to push further into the city and the Poles unable to push them out. Seeking to press his advantage, Diebitsch elected to join the offensive himself, throwing his guard into the action, which would succeed in pushing the Poles to the gates of the Royal Castle and the Pałac Namiestnikowski, forcing the Sejm to withdraw from the city. Once again, the Polish resistance would harden as General Prądzyński rushed more men to the area, bringing the fight to a bloody standstill. Still believing that the battle could be won there and then with one last push, Diebitsch galloped to the front lines to rally his exhuasted men, but in doing so he came into the sights of an awaiting Polish sharpshooter who found the Russian Field Marshal's backside to be a particularly attractive target. As if guided by divine providence, the sniper’s shot flew straight and true into the back of Count Diebitsch, sending the old Field Marshal plummeting to the ground as his anguished cries filled the air. Despite the quick action of his aides to tend to their commander, the wound would prove mortal and by nightfall he would be dead.

    The death of Diebitsch would be a bitter blow for the Russian Army. Forced to assume command, Diebitsch's deputy General Ivan Fyodorovich Paskevich ordered an immediate artillery barrage of the city in relatiation for his comrade's death. The cannonade that followed would be a brilliant display of Russian firepower, as 101 cannons of all sizes fired shot after shot upon the Polish capital. Although the spectacle would continue throughout the night and into the early hours of the morning its strategic effects were surprisingly minimal. Undeterred by the failure of his artillery barrage, Paskevich ordered a mass infantry assault on the city, hoping to use his men’s grief as motivation to overcome the enemy. At first, it would appear that Paskevich’s gambit would pay off as the Russian soldiers forced their way across the Vistula en masse, expanding upon their earlier bridgehead near the old Royal Castle, and even taking several other bridges further downriver. The Castle would see some of the fiercest fighting that day, with each side gaining then losing control over it a dozen times, only for the Poles to finally recapture it by midday. Further to the south, Count Krasiński's men would push the deepest into Warsaw, seizing and then immediately losing control over Łazienki Palace.


    Scene from the Battle for Warsaw

    Grief would prove to be a lesser motivator than that of dire necessity however, as their progress into the city began to wax and wane, exhaustion began to take root in the demoralized Imperial Army, enabling the frenzied Poles to start pushing the dispirited Russians back. The Russians fought not only the Congress Army, but the people of Warsaw itself as the men, women, and children all contributed to the fight against the Russians. Little by little, the Russians gave ground, until finally around mid-day they had been forced back across the river to their original starting point the day before. Sensing that victory was close at hand, the Polish commander Ignacy Prądzyński counterattacked the tired and disheartened Russians with everything he had left to throw at them. Although Paskevich would organize an admirable defense, his center was a spent force, having spent the better part of the last two days engaged in bitter urban combat. Ultimately when push came to shove, the Russian center collapsed, prompting Paskevich to sound the retreat.

    The Siege of Warsaw was over, the pursuit to Brest was now on, as Prądzyński elected to pursue the Russians with his cavalry, cutting down scores of fleeing men, and capturing hundreds more, before ceasing his pursuit just to the east of Siedlce. The shattered remnant of the Russian Army of Reconquest was so chastened by the defeat at Warsaw and the disastrous retreat that they refrain from taking the offensive for the remainder of the Summer, choosing instead to remain in Brest where it rearmed and reinforced. Still, the situation was not a good one for the Poles as another Russian force, larger than the last was presently mustering to march against them although it would still be some time before it was ready. Military supplies and munitions were also hard to come by in the Kingdom of Poland as the Russian Government had assumed complete control over the Polish Army’s logistic network over the years, denuding the country of its military resources. A few munitions factories in Warsaw, Kalisz, and Plock would mitigate this shortfall somewhat, but it was clear that the Polish state alone could not withstand the Russians indefinitely. Fortunately they wouldn’t have to as they would soon receive some much needed assistance following the revolt of the Prussian Poles in early August 1848.

    Like the Poles under Russian rule, the Prussian Poles had suffered from years of foreign occupation, in many ways it had been even worse. Rather than granting the Poles even the incredibly limited self-rule the Russians had initially done in Congress Poland, the Prussians patently rejected this approach entirely, choosing instead to rule the Grand Duchy of Posen directly. At first, the Prussian Government would present a veneer of Polish self rule by appointing the Polish Prince Antoni Henryk Radziwiłł as the First Governor of Posen, however, this was little more than a facade as Radziwiłł was little more than a Prussian puppet, with little power of his own and forced to enact whatever decrees Berlin demanded of him. With its authority affirmed, the Prussian Government would slowly begin eroding Polish rights and privileges, specifically the usage and teaching of Polish in schools and access to free and fair trials by their peers. Eventually the Prussians would do away with the entire façade of autonomy altogether following Governor Radziwiłł’s death in 1833, replacing him with the thoroughly Prussian Eduard Heinrich von Flottwell who immediately accelerated the Germanization of the Grand Duchy.

    The Prussian Government would abolish the local self-governance of the Polish Nobility upon their own lands, replacing them with German Commissioners appointed by the State. Local voting rights were affixed on the basis of wealth, a criterion which favored the objectively wealthier German settlers over the poor Polish natives, in effect making the vast majority of local government in Posen dominated by Germans. Even Polish customs and Polish dress came under attack by the Prussian Government, with their public displays being subject to fines and regulation. When the Polish people of Posen began to protest these needlessly oppressive measures, the Prussian Government cracked down on them hard; opposition leaders were imprisoned, their weapons were confiscated, soldiers were ordered to the streets, and numerous citadels were constructed across the land, cementing Prussian dominance over the Grand Duchy of Posen. The persecution of the Poles would lessen somewhat under the reign of weak-kneed King Frederick William IV, however his meager concessions and tepid platitudes did little to mollify the Polish people of Posen after nearly three decades of egregious oppression.

    The final spark would come in the Summer of 1848 when several Russian Poles were arrested by the Prussian authorities of Ostrow after they had crossed the border into Prussia. The reasons for their imprisonment differ from source to source, but the most common account implies they were charged with arms smuggling and sedition against the Prussian government. While there were some who were attempting to purchase medical supplies and foodstuffs for their kin in Warsaw, none of them were hiding weapons or attempting to smuggle illicit goods across the border. Most in fact were women and children seeking safety from the violence and fighting in Congress Poland; this made little difference to the Prussian authorities who summarily imprisoned the lot of them. Angered by this cruel display, the Poles of Ostrow began rioting in the streets demanding their immediate release. The Prussians refused and ordered the crowd to disperse and when they failed to leave in time the Prussians opened fire on the crowd, killing several dozen and wounding several more. This would be the last straw for the Poles of Posen who flew into revolt three days later, setting the entire region ablaze with revolution.


    The Battle of Wolysztn

    While the Grand Duchy of Posen would see the greatest degree of warfare between the Poles and the Prussians, the conflict was not limited solely to Posen, as both Prussian Silesia and parts of East Prussia experienced sporadic fighting in the months to come. Warmia in particular, would see some of the most dogged and vicious battles in the entire conflict, resulting in the deaths of thousands and the destruction of numerous settlements, both Prussian and Polish. Many Silesian and Wamiak Poles would also contribute to the cause of Polish independence by fighting alongside their Posen brothers against the Prussians on the field of battle and joining them in the organization of their provisional government at Posen. Under the auspices of the Polish National Committee, the Grand Duchy of Posen declared its independence from the Kingdom of Prussia before immediately joining with the neighboring Kingdom of Poland, effectively combining their two separate uprisings into one greater one. The effects of this union were largely nominal at first; aside from declaring their loyalty to the Sejm in Warsaw, the Posen Poles along with their Silesian and Warmiak allies were largely on their own. But with time, the two Polands would unite their meager resources as best they could to fight off the Russians and the Prussians.

    By itself, the Posen Uprising would have presented little issue for the vaunted Prussian army of old, but years of budget cuts had gutted it extensively, down from its former height of 358,000 men at the end of the Napoleonic Wars to a little more than a third of that on the eve of the Polish Uprising. Making matters worse for Berlin, 8 of the Prussian Army’s 18 Army Divisions were in Belgium and the Rhineland with Prince Wilhelm, fighting a bloody war against France and their Belgian lacky. The Army in the East was further drawn down by pressing concerns in Berlin, where the Radicals and Republicans threatened revolution against the House of Hohenzollern forcing the King to call upon the services of II Armeekorps. The arrival of II Armeekorps from Stettin in late May would restore peace to the city, but with the Conservatives and many Moderates fearful of anarchy in the streets should they suddenly leave, they were forced to remain in the capital indefinitely. The War in Schleswig-Holstein would also serve as a bit of a threat to Prussian interests. Although Prussia remained aloof of the conflict directly, owing to its ongoing engagement in Belgium, they did send the remainder of II Armeekorps to defend their ally Mecklenburg against a possible Danish invasion. Finally, problems in the rest of the German Confederacy, soon to be German Empire, would further stretch Prussia’s attention as the success of the Liberals in Baden, Bavaria, Hesse, and Saxony forced IV Armeekorps to remain in place near Magdeburg.

    This left only the I, V, and VI Armeekorps to fight the Poles and for a time it would prove to be more than adequate for the task. The Polish uprising in Marienburg was crushed with extreme prejudice, while the Silesian Uprising never really developed beyond minor bands of highwaymen and brigands. The Poles would find more success in the Grand Duchy of Posen itself, defeating isolated detachments of V Armeekorps near Pniewy, Wolsztyn, and Rogoźno, but they could do little against the stout walls of the many Prussian fortresses that dotted the countryside. As such, the Prussian government remained confident in their chances for total victory as the Poles in the North and in the South were being beaten back, albeit slowly. Only in the Posen did the Prussian Army know defeat and even this was minimal, as the Poles had not achieved any great victories there either. Once the Warmiaks and Silesian Poles were defeated, the I and VI Armeekorps would join their strength with the V Armeekorps and finally bring an end to the rebellion. This would change dramatically following the August Revolution in France and the rise of the Second French Republic, which immediately threw its support behind the Polish Revolutionaries.

    For many years now, France had been a sanctuary to Polish emigrants and exiles, including many former politicians, soldiers, and statesmen from the now defunct Duchy of Warsaw, with most settling in Paris where they would frequently lobby the French Government for aid in the liberation of Poland. Due to the politics of the day, however, these requests for aid were regularly denied by the conservative Bourbon and Orléanist Governments who did not wish to upset their nominal allies Austria, Prussia, and Russia. While they would permit them to reside in France with every freedom and right of a native Frenchman, the French Governments would do little to actively aid them between 1815 and 1848.


    Members of the Polish Government in Exile meeting with Representatives of the July Monarchy

    The War between Prussia and France in 1848 would begin to change this however, as the rigors of war would force the French Government to look to other means of bringing the Prussians to heel. While they would consider many different options and initiatives, Louis Philippe staunchly resisted using such methods as sedition, especially since any such support for Polish liberation would in effect undermine Russia and Austria with whom France had no significant quarrel at this time. His son and successor Ferdinand-Philippe would also share in these views for his brief 2-month reign, but unlike his father, he would humor the Polish Emigres Committee’s requests for humanitarian aid. The ban on military aid to the Poles would continue however despite the appeals of the Polonophile French people who overwhelmingly supported the Polish people. The true turning point, however, would come following the deposition of the July Monarchy in August 1848.

    The rise of the Second French Republic instantly destabilized the nature of Europe. Liberals, Republicans, and Radicals, who had formerly been on the retreat across the continent were now emboldened to fight back and strive for more. The French Republic, being the paragon of liberalism and republicanism in Europe, supported these endeavors the best it could, earning it the harsh condemnation of Austria and Russia, thus removing the only remaining deterrent to French support for Polish independence. With the War against Prussia still raging and no longer worried about the repercussions for supporting Polish Independence, the French Republican Government immediately lifted the ban on the selling of weapons to the Poles, seeking to destabilize and weaken their Prussian adversary while also distracting Austria and Russia. Thousands of crates of old muskets and rifles, hundreds of barrels of gunpowder, and even a few cannons were shipped to the Poles, but as the sea lanes were closed thanks to the war, they needed to be smuggled overland through Germany.

    Here they would find great success as the war-torn states of Baden and Bavaria would prove unable or unwilling to stop the French armaments. In many instances, the Liberal opposition in these states would prove cooperative to the French smugglers, offering them guidance and protection through their lands in return for weapons of their own, a deal to which they readily agreed. The route through Saxony proved more difficult as the Saxon Government of King John II managed to retain control over much of his country with Prussian support. Even still, the Saxon Liberals maintained large swaths of territory in the South and East of the Kingdom, enabling the French and Polish convoy to proceed through Saxony relatively unmolested. The greatest challenge would be traversing Prussia itself as the Prussian VI Armeekorps remained in their path. However, with the aid of the Silesian Poles, the supplies were successfully smuggled across the border and into Polish hands by the end of November. Some crates of weapons and barrels of gunpowder would be captured by the Prussian soldiers and some French smugglers would be shot and killed during the trek East, but the vast majority of would reach Posen, boosting the Pole's offensive capabilities immensely.


    French Smugglers Skirmish with Prussian Soldiers

    Equipped with French weapons, the Poles of Prussia would immediately go on the attack, seizing several lightly defended cities across the region and enabling them to formally lay siege to the fortress city of Posen in a battle that would push the outnumbered Prussian soldiers to the very brink. After a month-long siege, the Prussians would be forced to cede the town to the rebels but would continue to resist them from the safety of the Posen’s citadel for another few weeks. The recognition of France would also strengthen the Polish State’s position in gaining further foreign recognition, most notably in the form of Hungary, the Ottoman Empire and the Belgian state.[4] Britain was also incredibly sympathetic to the Poles, but given their complicated involvement with Prussia, they would not make any overt declarations. Still, many British politicians readily supported the Polish uprising in Russia as a means of weakening the Great Bear, prompting several prominent men to donate to the cause. Finally, the events in Prussia would inspire their countrymen across the border in the Austrian Empire, leading them to revolt against Vienna in late December 1848.

    Compared to the oppressive rule of the Prussians and Russians, the Austrian governance of Polish Galicia and Krakow was much more tolerant of the Poles than either of its neighbors. This tolerance was of little benefit to the peoples of Galicia as the region was among the poorest in all of Europe, thanks in large part to the neglect of the Imperial Austrian Government. As it was geographically and culturally cut off from the rest of the Empire, Vienna intentionally refrained from investing capital and resources into the region; there was no significant industry in the region, no great infrastructure projects, no modernization initiatives. The lands of the Kingdom of Galicia-Lodomeria were virtually indistinguishable from the Middle Ages, with the Galicians completely dependent upon agriculture for any form of sustenance. Despite being called by many the breadbasket of the Austrian Empire, Galicia was subject to terrible famines on an almost annual basis which left scores of people dead while over 70% of the region’s populace lived in abject poverty.[5]

    To their credit, the Austrian Government was not entirely oblivious to the woes of the Galicians, and when the peoples of their Empire began rising in revolt against them they offered several concessions in return for their continued loyalty, or if nothing else, their continued neutrality. Instead, when the Poles saw the success of their brothers in Warsaw and Posen they took heart and made preparations for their own rebellion. And when they saw the Austrians humbled again and again in Italy and Hungary, they realized there was no better opportunity than this and so, on the 26th of December 1848, the Poles of Galicia-Lodomeria rose in revolt against the Austrian Government.

    Unlike Russia which would quickly respond to their own Polish Uprising, or the Prussians who eventually mustered a response to their own Polish uprising, the Austrians could neither resist the initial Polish revolt completely, nor could they respond to it in any meaningful way. The region of Galicia-Lodomeria and Krakow had been almost entirely stripped of its garrison earlier in the Fall, in the vain hope of reconquering Northern Italy and when this failed, the Austrian Army of Galicia-Lodomeria was recalled to Vienna in time for the Rebellion of Hungary and Lajos Kossuth's march on the capital. Without the Army, the Crownland of Galicia-Lodomeria quickly succumbed to the Polish rebels in a matter of days. Only the cities of Lvov and Krakow held out for any significant period of time, but cut off as they were from any source of aid or rescue, they would eventually succumb by Spring of 1849.

    For the Austrian Government, the loss of Galicia was a bitter blow as it was a significant producer of foodstuffs for the Empire as well as a humiliating development for the already embattled Imperial Government. But with the Hungarians in open revolt and the Italians nearing total victory in Italy, there were other more pressing concerns for Vienna than an impoverished little backwater far from the reach of the capital. While it certainly hurt their prestige and their pride, the province was effectively written off as they were simply unable to handle yet another crisis at this time. Perhaps one day when Hungary was humbled and Italy reconquered, they could return and retake Galicia, but until that time, it would have to wait.

    Next Time: Wails and Woes

    [1] Grand Duke Konstantin Pavlovich was the former Brother in Law of Leopold of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha by way of marriage to Leopold’s sister Juliane (known in Russia as Grand Duchess Anna Fyodorovna). Konstantin and Anna would prove completely incompatible with one another right from the start as Konstantin was solely interested in military matters, while Anna was little more than a child at the time. Konstantin would also be rather cruel to Anna, locking her in her chambers and humiliating her in public. Eventually they would separate in 1801 but were not legally divorced from one another for several more years until 1820 when Tsar Alexander annulled her marriage to Konstantin. Two months later, Konstantin would marry Countess Joanna Grudzińska, but since it was a morganatic marriage, Konstantin was forced to renounce his claims to the Russian throne, which he did in private. This would cause its own issues a few years later with the Decembrist Revolt, but that is another matter altogether.

    [2] There were in fact several members of the Sejm who supported the union with Russia in OTL, especially during the early years of the Russian occupation. However, as time progressed and Russian infringements upon Polish autonomy continued the number of unionists rapidly declined. ITTL, as the Sejm was not entirely abolished following the September Rising (TTL’s much less successful November Uprising) those members opposed to the union were either arrested by the Russians or forced out of the country, leaving the Sejm largely in the hands of Russian puppets.

    [3] In our timeline, Field Marshal Hans Karl von Diebitsch was dispatched to Congress Poland in response to the November Uprising before dying to cholera soon after. As a result of the shorter and much less successful September Uprising ITTL, Diebitsch is not sent to Poland in 1830, thus avoiding his OTL death and survives to 1848.

    [4] The Ottoman Empire would be one of four countries to protest the Partitions of the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth and would even continue diplomatic relations with Poland after its final partition in 1795. The other countries to protest against the Partitions were Denmark, Spain, and Persia. Belgium is included here because by late 1848 ITTL it is a French puppet in all but name.

    [5] The poverty in Austrian Galicia was so bad that the region was almost always in a state of famine under the rule of the Hapsburgs, so much so that Galician Misery became a common proverb for the region. Galicia is comparable in many ways to Ireland during the Potato Famine, except instead of only lasting from 1845 to 1850, Galicia was in one famine or another from 1815 to 1918 with few breaks in between. It was really that bad.
     
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    Part 69: Wails and Woes
  • Part 69: Wails and Woes

    Polonia in Mourning

    The miraculous defeat of the Imperial Russian Army at Warsaw in the Summer of 1848 provided the Polish National Government with much needed time and breathing space to organize itself and prepare for the prolonged fight to come. Soon after the battle, the Polish Government began extending its control over the provinces of Congress Poland, it expelled Russian agents from the country, it conscripted able bodied men for the army, it promoted investment and development in wartime industries, and it opened diplomatic relations with anyone willing and able to lend them aid against their adversaries. As mentioned before, the Second French Republic would be Poland’s most significant supporter, providing them with financial and material support starting in the Fall of 1848. And though France was certainly the largest and most prominent supporter of Poland, they wouldn’t be the only state actively aiding the Poles.

    Like the French, the Hungarians shared a particularly close relationship with the Poles and provided them with whatever they could spare to help them in their cause, with some Hungarians even crossing the Carpathians to fight alongside the Poles. The Poles would also receive some limited assistance from the Baltic Peoples of Russia, most notably the Lithuanians, Latvians, and Estonians who would tentatively join the rebellion against Russia and would form several volunteer regiments to assist the Polish Army over the course of the war. Warsaw’s efforts to gain the support of the Ruthenians and Belarussians would meet with much less success however, as their deeply ingrained animosity towards their Polish neighbors had not diminished after 50 some years of Russian rule. Still, a few Ruthenians - mostly the Catholic Ruthenians from Galicia-Lodomeria - would join with the Poles in their quest for independence.

    Coupled with their Baltic and Hungarian allies and a steady stream of fresh conscripts and volunteers from the provinces, the Polish Army would quickly grow from a little over 57,000 men in May 1848 to nearly 139,000 by August and roughly 200,000 by December. While many of these men were inexperienced in the art of war, they were organized around the remnants of the old Congress Poland Army, whose veteran soldiers and experienced officers lent the new army a degree of potency it otherwise lacked. The Polish Army was also in short supply of rifles, muskets, and cannons leading many men to arm themselves with war scythes, polearms, and lances. Attempts to rectify these shortfalls in munitions and training would have to wait however, as two Russian Armies would invade Poland in mid-September.

    In the South, Russian Field Marshal Ivan Paskevich and the main Russian Army, some 124,000 strong, advanced from the city of Brest towards Siedlce using the same route Count Diebitsch had used the year prior. When the Russians reached the city on the 17th of Septmeber they were immediately confronted by Polish General Ignacy Prądzyński and the entrenched 1st Polish Army, numbering around 86,000 men. Despite the disparity in manpower, Prądzyński would successfully fight Paskevich to a standstill at Siedlce thanks in part to the poor morale and poor condition of the Russian troops, many of whom were recently conscripted serfs and peasants with little training of their own. Many Russian soldiers also lacked sufficient ammunition to fire their weapons, forcing many to utilize their old muskets as clubs and bludgeons.

    After exchanging several volleys, the Russians had expended the entirety of their gunpowder, forcing Paskevich to order an advance on the Polish lines; seeking to win the day with élan and a glorious bayonet charge. The Poles having rationed their powder and shot better than their Russian adversaries unloaded the remainder of their own supply on the advancing Russians, killing scores and maiming many more, still this did not stop the Russian advance and seconds later the two sides would clash. The melee that followed was hard for both sides as the uncaring, aristocratic Russian commanders utilized their numerical superiority to great effect as they threw wave after wave of men at the entrenched Polish positions to egregious effect. Soldier after soldier flung themselves into the bloody mire, only to be cut down in brutal fashion. By the end of the day, the Russians were no closer to taking the city just as the Poles were no closer to driving them out of Poland. Ultimately the only result of the 2nd Battle of Siedlce was the loss of many a good man with over 9,200 Russian and 5,700 Polish soldiers laying dead or dying by nightfall. Over the following days, the Polish and Russian forces would clash a few more times near Zbuczyn, Wiśniew, and Grabianów before the bitter cold and heavy snow forced them both into winter quarters.


    Skirmish near Siedlce

    The fighting in the North would be just as active however as Russian General von Berg advanced forth from Vilna in late September and laid siege to the Lithuanian city of Kaunas on the 25th. Kaunas had been one of the few Lithuanian cities to openly join the Polish revolt, along with the cities of Trakai and Lida. Determined to punish the Lithuanians for their impudence, Tsar Nicholas had dispatched von Berg and 94,000 men to lay low the rebellious Lithuanians before marching into Poland. Now finding themselves under siege by the vengeful Russians, the Lithuanian National Government called upon the Poles to aid them and in response the Polish National Government would dispatch General Maciej Rybiński and the Polish 2nd Army to relieve the siege of Kaunas and save their Lithuanian allies. Here again, the Poles would be outnumbered by a sizeable margin, but thanks to the surprisingly effective leadership of a Polish noblewoman by the name of Emilia Plater-Domeyko, the Poles and Lithuanians would defeat General von Berg in a series of battles along the banks of the Namen River, ultimately forcing him to abandon the siege of Kaunas altogether.

    Known to many as the Polish Valkyrie or the Mother of Poland, Emilia Plater-Domeyko would be a shining star to her people in the Great Polish Uprising. Emilia Plater-Domeyko had been a prominent supporter of Polish nationalism since her childhood, discretely donating to various causes promoting the independence of Poland during her youth and directly joining several others like the Filaret Association as a young adult. She was also friend of Adam Mickiewicz, the Great Bard of Poland through her husband, the talented geologist and philosopher Ignacy Domeyko with whom she had three children Hipolit, Michal, and Izabela. Her first real claim to fame however, would come during the botched Warsaw Rising in September 1830 when she and several of her compatriots raised a company of volunteers and marched to aid their countrymen in Warsaw only to discover to their horror that the city had already been pacified by the Russians. Plater would then be captured by the Russian authorities, but in a surprising act of mercy she was released due to her status as a woman of noble birth. The Russians would later regret this decision when the Great Polish Uprising began in April 1848, as Emilia Plater - now Emilia Plater-Domeyko - immediately moved to join the cause of Polish Independence once again.

    However, the sudden onset of poor health would leave her bedridden for some time, prompting her husband and eldest son to take to the field of battle in her stead, while she recovered and tended to their two younger children. Once she recovered in late June, she would travel to Warsaw where she aided in the defense of the city as a nurse and a seamstress during the month-long siege. However, her life would change completely when first her eldest son and then her husband fell to Russian arms in rapid succession during Diebitsch’s attack on the 19th of July. Driven mad with grief and a desire for revenge against the Russians, Plater cut her long hair, tore off her nurses' frock and adorned the uniform of a simple soldier before charging into the raging firefight happening all around her. Many Polish accounts of the Battle of Warsaw would go on to credit Plater’s great passion with galvanizing the flagging Polish resistance when the battle was most dire. Her skill as a marksman was also particularly noteworthy during the battle as various sources claim she had slain three Russian soldiers with one well aimed shot, while another, mor fanciful claim argues that she was the Polish sniper who had shot and killed Russian Field Marshal Hans Karl von Diebitsch in revenge for the death of her husband and son.

    Whether this last account is true or not, her bravery and her steadfast devotion to Poland especially in the wake of a great personal loss would earn her the recognition of General Dezydery Chłapowski and General Ignacy Prądzyński who, after some debate, commissioned her as a pułkownik (a Colonel) in the Polish Army. Using her own family fortune to purchase weapons and uniforms, Colonel Plater would raise a regiment of troops before embarking on a lightning campaign across Russian occupied Lithuania over the Summer of 1848. She would incite revolts against the Russian occupation, raid Russian supply lines, and gathering intelligence on Russian movements in the region, all of which greatly benefited the Polish cause. Her greatest achievement would be a midnight raid on the city of Vilnius where her regiment, would infiltrate the city with the aid of the city’s inhabitants and set fire to the Russian army barracks in the city before escaping back into the countryside undetected. Emilia Plater would prove to be a surprisingly adept military leader in the mold of her childhood idols the Maiden of Orleans Jean de Arc, the Heroine of Trembowlna Anna Dorota Chrzanowska, and the Greek Admiral Laskarina Bouboulina, leading her regiment to victory after victory against the Russians.[1] Her efforts during the Summer of 1848 are credited with disrupting Russian General von Berg's siege of Kaunas, enabling the city's defenders to hold out until help from Warsaw could arrive to break the siege. Sadly, her efforts would not be enough.


    Emilia Plater-Domeyko Leads her Soldiers into Battle near Kaunas

    Despite the willingness of the Baltic peoples to actively support the Poles with men and arms, they would prove hesitant to fully commit to joining the Polish cause, as outside of the aforementioned cities of Kaunas, Trakai, and Lida, only a handful of Lithuanian and Latvian towns would openly rebel against Russia, making the war against Russia a thoroughly Polish one. Poland's efforts to extend the war into the Ukraine also met with little success as well, with a Polish Army led by General Józef Bem only managing to advance to Lutsk before being forced to retreat in the face of growing local opposition. To the West, the Prussian Poles of Posen would succeed in capturing the cities of Wreschen and Bromberg in early 1849, reducing Prussian influence to a handful of isolated fortresses scattered across the Grand Duchy, but they would fail to make much progress in Warmia or Silesia. While these setbacks were certainly problematic for Warsaw, the true failure of the Great Polish Uprising was not its failure on the battlefield, but rather its failure on the diplomatic front.

    Many prominent figures in British high society publicly supported Polish Independence as a means of humbling Russia and many more donated vast sums of money to the Polish revolutionaries, but very few actually supported military intervention against Russia, Prussia, and Austria to win the Poles their freedom. By the Summer of 1848, Britain was already engaged in two other wars, the Belgian War and the First Anglo-Persian War. In addition to these two conflicts, they were struggling to contain a growing revolt in Ireland, the Ionian Islands were in a constant state of unrest, the Austrian Empire was on the verge of collapse, and the Americas were poised for a crisis. Even if they could, with British forces presently engaged in Persia, Afghanistan, Belgium, and Ireland it would have been an incredibly foolish venture destined for great tragedy and heartache. The best deal that the Polish dignitaries in London could pull from the British Government at this time was a promise to apply diplomatic and financial pressure on the Austrians, Prussians, and Russians to make peace with the Poles.

    France was in a similar state. Although the Second French Republic was Poland's closest ally, having sent them vast quantities of weapons, munitions, medical supplies, and money, France was also involved in a rather difficult war against Prussia and the Netherlands in the Low Countries. This war against Prussia was certainly to Poland's benefit, but it also exhausted France's desire to directly assist the Poles in their fight with Austria and Russia, especially when their present war against Prussia was proving much harder than initially expected. Added to this was the dreadful financial straits France found itself in at the start of 1849 and it is no wonder that they would choose to take a similar approach as Britain, opting instead for diplomacy and financial sanctions. Sadly, this would have little effect.

    Once it became clear that the British and French would not intervene militarily to aid the Poles, the Russians unilaterally rejected any attempts by the Western Powers to mediate an end to the Great Polish Uprising. Russia would accept an unconditional surrender by the Poles and only an unconditional surrender. There would be no mercy, no amnesty, and no forgiveness for the traitors and secessionists who humiliated the Russian Emperor and the Russian State. While Prussia was friendlier with Britain than Russia, they were strongly opposed to any French overtures concerning the Poles, leading Berlin to reject these missives as well. This left Austria, who would initially accept British and French calls for peace with Poland given their own ongoing struggles in Italy and Hungary. However, Vienna would soon find themselves under pressure from the Prussians and Russians who ultimately convinced the Austrians to retract their support for British and French mediation.


    Dignitaries Meet to Discuss the Conflict in Poland

    The failure to gain sufficient foreign intervention on their behalf would be an incredibly demoralizing development for the Polish National Government which had staked its future on the promise of foreign aid. Still, it was their hope that the continued escalation of the war would ultimately force the states of Western Europe to intervene on their behalf, whether they wanted to or not, but to do that they would need to hold out for as long as possible, a prospect that seemed implausible, but not impossible at the time. It was not to be however, as the war would suddenly and completely turn against them in 1849 as further Prussian and Russian reinforcements began pouring into the region.

    Infuriated by the continued resistance of the Poles into 1849, Emperor Nicholas would press Field Marshal Paskevich and General von Berg to restart their offensives as soon as they were able, before ordering a third army into the region in early April. Led by talented General Mikhail Dmitrievich Gorchakov, this Russian army, estimated to be around 89,000 men strong, assembled near Rivne and soon marched on the neighboring city of Lutsk. Lutsk had nominally joined the Polish Uprising late in the Fall, but when faced with a massive Russian Army on their doorstep, the Ruthenians of the city revolted, surprising the Polish garrison in the city, before surrendering the town to the Russians without so much as a fight. The quick fall of Lutsk would be followed up one week later by the loss of Kovel and Chelm to the Russians, setting off alarm bells in Warsaw. In response, the Polish Government would raise a third force of their own to counter Gorchakov’s advance and appointed General Józef Bem to lead the campaign against von Berg. This hastily assembled band of raw recruits and reservists would put up a stiff, but ultimately futile fight near Lublin on the 4th of April, before they were ultimately forced to retreat.

    Bem would continue to defy the Russians even after this defeat, scorching the earth in his wake and harassing Gorchakov’s army as it attempted to besiege Lublin for the next few weeks. To the North, General von Berg’s army advanced on Kaunas once more, forcing Polish General Rybiński into a disadvantageous confrontation. Over the next three weeks, Rybiński’s force would fight Gorchakov’s in a series of skirmishes and minor battles known as the 2nd Kaunas Campaign, before culminating in the battle of Garliava. Despite the valor of his men, Rybiński was outflanked and outmaneuvered by the more numerous Russian army, forcing him to retreat. The ensuing panic in the city of Kaunas would only worsen matters as terrified Polish and Lithuanian civilians clogged the roads to the west and south, hampering Rybiński’s escape route and resulting in further losses for the Polish Army. Incidentally, the Polish would inflict even worse casualties on the advancing Russians as Emilia Plater’s kosynierzy (scythemen) regiment elected to protect the fleeing refugees for as long as they were able.[2] Although they would ultimately be bloodied and brutalized, the Scythemen would inflict an impressive death toll on their Russian adversaries at a rate of 3 to 1 before finally being overrun by the Russian juggernaut and forced to retreat. The high losses incurred in the battle of Garliava would compel General von Berg to temporarily halt his offensive while he awaited reinforcements and resupply, but after a fortnight his Army would be on the march southwards once again.

    General Prądzyński would attempt to move in support of General Rybiński as he retreated towards Suwalki and then Łomża, but he was soon countered by Field Marshal Paskevich who advanced on Siedlce once again, forcing Prądzyński to remain in place. Back in the South, General Bem would briefly break General Gorchakov’s siege of Lublin on the 31st of March, but once he regrouped three days later, Gorchakov would return in force, and utterly devastate Bem’s army. With his army in tatters, Bem was forced to abandon Lublin to its fate and flee to the westward. With Bem gone, the Russians quickly stormed into Lublin and subjected its inhabitants to a malicious display of human cruelty. Those that resisted were shot on sight, while the officers, politicians, and intellectuals still remaining in the city were deported to Siberia, women were raped, children were abused, homes were vandalized, stores were looted, and monuments were smashed to pieces. The fires set by a few rowdy Russian soldiers would soon grow to consume the entire city, reducing it to ash in a matter of hours, completing the desolation of Lublin. Once the Russians had finally exhausted themselves on the poor people of Lublin, they deposited a sizeable garrison in the ruined city and marched onward to the Vistula leaving a hollowed out city in their wake. Within a matter of days, Gorchakov’s Army had reached the River and summarily defeated Bem once more, driving him southwards to Galicia. With the road now clear, Gorchakov's army forded the Vistula and began advancing north towards the city of Warsaw at a blistering pace.


    Russian Soldiers push into Lublin

    Now threatened from the South, Polish General Prądzyński was forced to withdraw to Warsaw where he began preparations for another siege of the city. Despite being outnumbered now 3 to 1, the Poles of Warsaw would attempt to hold out in the city as long as they could, hoping for Rybiński’s army to come marching south to save them or for Bem to have assembled a new force capable of rescuing them, but to no avail. General Rybiński was himself besieged at Pultusk by von Berg and despite numerous attempts to break out of the siege, he would ultimately fail and resolve himself to his fate. Meanwhile General Bem was far to the South in Galicia trying desperately to muster a new force with which to relieve Warsaw. Remarkably, he would raise yet another force and immediately moved to aid Warsaw in June, but by this time Bem would be too late.

    Lasting a little under two months, the Second Siege of Warsaw would be just as intense and bitter as the first, only this time, the Poles were now cut off from both the West and the East. The East bank of the Vistula fell under Russian occupation rather quickly, thanks to the sizeable extent of Field Marshal Paskevich’s Army. With the gallows now in place, General Gorchakov slowly tightened the noose around the necks of the Polish National Government and General Prądzyński’s Army as his soldiers advanced on the city from the West. Try as he might, Prądzyński was unable to break the siege, and despite frequent missives to Rybiński and Bem calling for aid, there would be no aid in sight. Steadily, redoubt after redoubt, bastion after bastion, and castle after castle fell to the unstoppable Russian juggernaut. With his body and mind weakened after months of constant warfare and recognizing the hopeless of the situation, Prądzyński fell into a terrible despair and in his deep despair he would shoot himself in the head, killing him instantly.[3] Prądzyński’s death would be the final nail in the coffin for the Poles of Warsaw, they had lost their captain, their chief defender, and their great hero. Without him there was no hope and even the bravest and most stalwart of fighters recognized the end was at hand and surrendered to the Russians.

    Unlike the massacre that took place at Lublin in early April, the Russian behavior at Warsaw was much more restrained. The reasoning for this is twofold, firstly, the Poles of Warsaw had surrendered before they had been overrun whereas the Poles of Lublin had resisted to the very end. Secondly, the British and the French had vehemently condemned the Russian treatment of the Poles at Lublin, with London even threatening armed intervention if such appalling behavior continued. While this was likely a baseless threat, it could not be completely ignored by St. Petersburg. A third suggestion for the more peaceful surrender in Warsaw goes to Russian Field Marshal Ivan Paskevich. Paskevich had been appointed Namiestnik of Poland following his predecessors’ untimely demise a year prior and likely did not wish to govern a pile of corpses and burnt out rubble, compelling him to rein in his troops as best he could, sparing Warsaw the same fate that had befallen Lublin.

    Still, capital punishments were carried out for officers of the old Congress Army for betraying their oaths to the King of Poland (Nicholas I), while officers of the newer Polish Army and members of the Sejm were exiled from Poland, with most being forcibly deported to Siberia. The Szlachta (the Polish Nobility) was also ruined financially as many of their estates were confiscated and their serfs were freed in a surprisingly progressive, yet entirely vindictive act on the part of the Russians. The Catholic Church in Poland was reined in considerably, with many churches coming under the surveillance of the Russian Government and numerous monasteries and abbeys being closed. Poles would be forbidden from holding government posts in Congress Poland and they would be barred from the higher ranks of the Russian Army's officer's corps. Beyond that, the civilian population of Warsaw was generally ignored, so long as they surrendered peacefully, which most did.

    With Warsaw fallen, Rybiński immediately recognized the futility of his own struggle and asked his Russian counterpart for terms, surrendering his own force two weeks later. Rybiński's surrender would not sit well with Emilia Plater-Domeyko and many of her men who still desired to fight. On the night before Rybiński officially surrendered Pultusk to the Russians, Plater and her compatriots would escape the city under the cover of darkness and continue the fight from the Polish countryside. Although the fighting in Congress Poland would continue for another few weeks, the fall of Warsaw brought about the end of any significant opposition in the region and by the end of Summer 1849, Congress Poland would be at peace. The fighting in Prussia would also come to an end around this time as well.


    Polish Revolutionaries being Exiled to Siberia

    Despite achieving a number of victories against the Prussians; the Poles of Posen, Prussian Silesia, and West Prussia would soon be faced with a tide of Prussian reinforcements from the West. Over the Winter, the War in Schleswig-Holstein had come to a decisive end in favor of the Danish crown, and while Prussia had refrained from directly joining the conflict, it had occupied the attention of II Armeekorps for several months. With the Schleswig War now over, II Armeekorps was now free to aid I, V, and VI Armeekorps in the suppression of the Polish Uprising. While their arrival would be helpful, it would not be pivotal as the fighting remained close throughout much of January and February. These soldiers would just be the first reinforcements to arrive in theater however, as in mid-March, another 10,000 men from the Prussia Gardekorps’ 1st Division arrived in Posen, followed two weeks later by the Gardekorps 2nd Division and all of III Armeekorps boosting the number of Prussian soldiers in theater from 57,000 at the end of December to 113,000 by the start of April. The arrival of these soldiers would tip the balance almost entirely in favor of the Prussians as the Polish Army of Posen was now outnumbered over 2 to 1 and outmatched in terms of quality of fighting men. Most importantly, their arrival signaled the end of the Belgian War and the aid from France.

    Under the articles of the 1849 Treaty of London, France was compelled to end its financial and material support of the Polish rebels. Despite the best efforts of the Liberals within the French Government and Napoleon Franz’s own personal support for the Poles, there was little the French Government could do. Paris was in an almost constant state of unrest, the French economy was in tatters, the French Army was on the verge of mutiny, and several Departments were in open revolt against him. Napoleon Franz's own base of support in France was also surprisingly fragile given his quick assumption of power in late 1848 as a third of the National Assembly was openly hostile towards him, while another third was completely ambivalent. The French people may have supported the Poles, but they were not willing to go to war for them, at least not after such a disastrous war in the Low Countries. That is not to say that Napoleon Franz and his diplomats completely abandoned the Poles as the French would succeed in winning some concessions from the Prussians for all their efforts.

    Prussia, under pressure from Britain and France would agree to administer an armistice over the Grand Duchy of Posen lasting from the signing of the Treaty of London (the First of February) until the First of April. Provided the Poles presently in rebellion against the Prussian crown surrendered peacefully before the of the armistice they would be granted amnesty for their crimes against the Prussian crown and their property would be guaranteed. However, if they continued to resist after the armistice, then they would be treated as traitors and brigands subject to all the punishments these charges entail. The Poles to a man, refused the Prussian demands and so, the First of April would come and go with little to show for it beyond an angered Prussia and a stalwart Posen. With the die cast, the Prussians unleashed their full might on the hapless Poles of Posen.

    The grizzled men of the Prussian Gardekorps and III Corps flooded into Posen and Silesia where they enacted a campaign of terror and retribution upon the rebellious Poles. To their merit, the Poles of Posen would resist even this great onslaught, but even they could not fight against the full might of the Prussia Army for long. Soon, city after city began to fall to the vengeful Prussian soldiers who unleashed hell upon those communities that resisted. Women were raped, men were beaten to death, children were thrown out into the streets, and the ringleaders of the revolt were executed en masse. Those who surrendered before the arrival of the Prussians were spared the worst of these abuses, but theirs would be a fate that was only slightly better than those who fought back. By the end of May, only the fortress city of Posen remained standing against Prussia and soon this too would fall in early June. The three Polands had been reduced to one, with only poor, impoverished and famished Galicia remaining.


    Prussian Soldiers ransack a Polish Home

    The continued survival of the Polish State in Galicia was less a testament to the strength of Galicia, but rather an indictment of the weakness of Austria as the Galicians had been largely ignored by the Imperial Government. Unbridled by the Austrians, the Galicians would join with Congress Poland and Posen to form a restored Poland for a few short months before Congress Poland and Posen fell to the Prussians and Russians in the Summer of 1849. Sadly there was very little Galicia could do to aid their countrymen as the only benefits the Galicians could provide Poland were its manpower and foodstuffs. However, compared to the behemoth that was the Russian Army, at nearly 930,000 regular soldiers, 340,00 irregular Cossacks and militiamen, and over 200,000 reservists, the 326,000 strong Polish Army (counting the total contributions of Congress Poland, Posen, Galicia, and their allies) looked absolutely minuscule in comparison.[4] Nevertheless, Galicia would continue on well past its wealthier and more populous counterparts, thanks in large part to the ineptitude of the Austrians, however, the Austrians would soon devise a new scheme to retake Galicia.

    The end of the Polish Uprisings in Congress Poland and Posen would present Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph with a new opportunity to salvage his crumbling Empire. Reaching out to his allies, Tsar Nicholas of Russia and King Frederick William of Prussia, Franz Joseph would beg their assistance in the restoration of order to his unruly lands. King Frederick William and the Prussian Government would regrettably decline, owing to their own exhaustion and the continued unrest in their own lands, but Tsar Nicholas needed little persuasion and immediately accepted the young Emperor’s request. As a stalwart conservative, and a committed imperialist, Nicholas opposed liberalism and nationalism with every fiber of his being. Emperor Nicholas also had a much more strategic rationale for intervening in Austria. The continued independence of the Galician Poles presented a serious problem to the sanctity and stability of the Russian Empire as it provided a refuge for traitorous Poles and a symbol of Polish resistance to foreign occupation. Already tens of thousands of Polish refugees had flooded into lawless Galicia and from there, many Polish partisans like Emilia Plater-Domeyko and Józef Bem found safe harbor to launch raids across the border into Congress Poland. Nicholas could not allow it to survive any longer and within a week of receiving Emperor Franz Joseph’s request, he would dispatch General Gorchakov to invade Galicia and crush any resistance he found there.

    Over a month later, in mid-August, General Gorchakov’s 96,000 strong army arrived outside Lwów ready to begin the pacification of Galicia-Lodomeria, but to his surprise, he would find Polish General Bem and an army some 62,000 strong ready to oppose him. Despite being outnumbered by over 30,000 men, Bem’s Galician troops were highly motivated to defend their homeland from the vile Russians, having heard of the atrocities committed against their countrymen in Posen and Lublin. These Poles would fight the Russians with everything they had and fight they would for the ensuing Battle of Lwów would be one of the worst battles of the entire Uprising. Witnessing the deaths of nearly 17,000 men over the course of three days of hard fighting, the Poles fought tooth and nail for every city block, every inch of ground and every blade of grass in and around Lwów. The Poles generally fared better than the Russians, suffering only 11,200 casualties compared to the 24,800 casualties the Russians endured but, General Gorchakov and the Russians would not be denied from taking the city and by the 20th of August, Lwów had fallen.


    Charge of the Russian Hussars at Lwów

    From Lwów, the Russian offensive into Galicia would continue westward towards the city of Krakow. Thanks to Bem’s talent as an engineer and his intricate knowledge of the Galician countryside - having spent much of his youth and young adult life in Krakow and Lwów - the Poles of Galicia would desperately fend off the Russians for much of 1849. To aid their cause and to bleed the Russians white, they implemented a brutal scorched earth campaign, stripping the countryside of its already limited bounty. Anything of value to the Russians was hidden or destroyed, fields were burned, livestock was butchered or spirited away to the mountains, wells were poisoned, and villages were abandoned. The Polish Army frequently harried their Russian adversary, inflicting a quick blow against them, before escaping into the Galician wilderness once more. The Russians did themselves no favors, as their overly aggressive tactics and outdated medical practices drained the Russian Army of manpower at a ghastly rate. Still, it was a losing battle for the Poles as more and more Russians soldiers poured into the region and by the end of November, the last free city in Galicia would fall to the Russians.

    With Galicia formally subjugated, the Russians turned their attention to Hungary as they had been asked to aid the Austrian Government in its moment of need. The Hungarians had also aided the Poles in their failed struggle making their subjugation a personal matter for the Russian Empire. However, with Winter now upon them, the snow-covered mountain passes through the Carpathians became nigh impossible to traverse. Unable to cross into Hungary, General Gorchakov would elect to remain in Galicia for the Winter where he would nominally restore Austrian oversight of the region, although in truth the country was effectively under Russian occupation. The occupation of Galicia would not end the fighting however, as guerilla warfare would continue in earnest throughout the winter.

    Roaming bands of freedom fighters would continue to strike out against Russian patrols or raid Russian supply depots in the region over the winter. They would murder various Russian officers including Gorchakov’s aide de camp in an attempted assassination attempt on the Russian commander. Gorchakov in response unleashed his Cossacks to terrorize the countryside, an act which only hardened the resolve of the Galicians against him and when Spring came in 1850, the situation in Galicia was no better than it had been the previous Fall. Unwilling to advance through the Carpathian Mountains with his supply lines in such a perilous state, Gorchakov would be forced to remain in the region for the entire Spring and much of the Summer while he chased bandits and partisans throughout the Galician countryside. After months of reprisals and terror campaigns, the Galicians would be forced into submission, finally ending the Great Polish Uprising after nearly two and a half years of fighting. With Galicia now at peace, Gorchakov, now felt confident enough to advance into Hungary, but by that time it was too late.

    Next Time: Austria's Last Gleaming

    [1] Laskarina Bouboulina was a very impressive woman and someone I wish I had included during the earlier parts of the timeline. A Hero of the Greek War for Independence, she donated her entire fortune and merchant fleet to the Greek war effort, she raised bands of fighters and armed them using her own money, and she actively engaged herself and her family in the fight for independence. She would distinguish herself during several battles and sieges, earning her the respect and interest of the crowned heads of Europe including Tsar Alexander of Russia who would make her an honorary Admiral in the Russian Navy following her death. Sadly she would be caught up in the Greek Civil Wars in 1823 and 1824 and was arrested and exiled to Spetses by the Greek Government due to her close familial relationship to Theodoros Kolokotronis (Panos Kolokotronis was married to Bouboulina's daughter Eleni). Ultimately, she would be killed in 1825 as part of a family feud with the powerful Kostis family of Spetses. I'm honestly not sure whether her fate would be any different in this timeline given the different developments in Greece in the War for Independence, but I'm inclined to think she could have survived the war if things had been a little different.

    [2] From OTL. The Kosynierzy were usually peasant soldiers known for their use of war scythes. Surprisingly, they were quite effective during the OTL Kościuszko Uprising, the November Uprising, and the January Uprising and would technically remain in use in the Polish Army as late as the German invasion of Poland in 1939.

    [3] Prądzyński would also commit suicide in OTL, allegedly drowning himself while he was in exile on Heligoland in 1850.

    [4] While that may seem absurdly large and unbelievable, the Russian Army did indeed boast that many soldiers in OTL. However, this was both a benefit and a negative for the Russians as it became impossible to effectively supply all these men, making it impossible to actually mobilize all of them at once, making that number less of an actual threat and more of a implied threat.
     
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    Part 70: Austria's Last Gleaming
  • Part 70: Austria's Last Gleaming

    Victory of the Imperial Army at Szentendre

    The start of 1849 would see a number of changes to the Austrian government and military hierarchies in the hopes of improving their flagging positions in both Italy and Hungary. Firstly, Prince Felix of Schwarzenberg was appointed by Emperor Franz Joseph as the new Imperial Chancellor of the Austrian Empire on the 12th of January 1849. Since Klemens von Metternich’s resignation in late October, the position had been a revolving door as several men would assume office and accomplish little of value, before abruptly resigning from the office in short order. As can be expected, this repeated turnover at the top of the Austrian Government greatly destabilizing the Empire and limited its capabilities trememndously. With Schwarzenberg now in charge this changed as he formed a largely bipartisan government comprised of both conservatives and liberals, as well as ministers of Bohemian and Croatian backgrounds as a reward for their continued loyalty to the Crown.[1] However, his policies were strictly conservative and imperialist in nature, and like Metternich, he doubled down on crushing the nationalists and revolutionaries within the Empire. With a firm hand, Schwarzenberg would begin stabilizing the country after months of anarchy and unrest.

    Following Schwarzenberg’s assumption of power in Vienna, Field Marshal Count Karl Ludwig von Ficquelmont would quietly resign his command of the Army of Lombardy-Venetia. Reports indicate that he had been suffering from poor health in the weeks leading up to his resignation, likely as a result of his advanced age and the high stress of the job. Other accounts reveal that his relationship with the new Emperor Franz Joseph and his new Chancellor Prince Felix of Schwarzenberg was incredibly strained owing to his close association and loyalty towards the disgraced Chancellor Metternich and for his repeated failings over the past year. Ficquelmont’s replacement as Commander of the Army of Lombardy-Venetia would be the newly promoted Field Marshal Laval Nugent von Westmeath, who had served ably and with distinction over the past year, winning a series of strategic victories over the Venetian rebels.

    Unlike Ficquelmont who had been compelled by Metternich to reconquer Northern Italy, Field Marshal von Westmeath was given a more limited task, namely, to defend the territories that he held at present to the best of his abilities until proper assistance could be provided to him. It was an unenviable assignment, outnumbered roughly 3 to 2 in theater by the Italians, Lombardy had been completely lost to Austria and the Italians had made significant inroads into both Trent and Venetia despite the Empire's best efforts to oppose them. The Italians had also begun making forays across the Adriatic to support their Dalmatian cousins, although these efforts generally met with little success. The Austrian Army in northern Italy was also in poor shape having suffered both physically and mentally after a full year of defeats and setbacks; morale was at an all-time low and many soldiers were woefully unequipped for a total war.

    Had the Italian armies combined their efforts and pushed the Austrians in their weakened state it is likely they could have delivered the coup de grâce to them, ending the war in Italy by late Spring. Instead, they would bicker and fight amongst themselves as each grandee of the “Italian” Army competed for supremacy over their peers and rivals. King Charles Albert despised General Giovanni Durando as an oath breaker and traitor to Sardinia, following the latter’s involvement in plots against the Sardinian Crown. Grand Duke Leopold of Tuscany and King Ferdinand of the Two Sicilies were both distrustful of and distrusted by the more radical revolutionaries from Milan, Modena, Parma, and Lucca. Even Pope Pius IX viewed his allies with caution and distrust, despite King Charles Albert's claims of support for the Pope's leadership various rumors had reached Rome of plots by Sardinian Generals to seize all of Italy for Turin. As a result, the Italians would accomplish little in the first few months of 1849 aside from a series of skirmishes South of Trent, a few probing actions against Verona’s stout walls, and a raid against Austrian positions outside Treviso. The same could not be said for Hungary.

    In the East, General Alfred Candidus Ferdinand, Prince of Windisch-Grätz was promoted to the rank of Field Marshal following his great victory over the Hungarian Army west of Pressburg. A week later, Gratz would be elevated again to Supreme Commander of all Imperial forces in the Hungarian Theater, giving him nominal authority over the Croatian army of Ban Josip Jelačić, the Serbian Army of Voivode Stevan Šupljikac and Patriarch Josif Rajačić, the Transylvanian Army of lawyer turned freedom fighter Avram Iancu and Metropolitan Andrei Șaguna, and the numerous Slovakian warbands commanded by various grandees and charismatic figures. The Austrian-Serbs and Transylvanians would also receive significant support from their countrymen in the Danubian Principalities, much to Vienna and Constantinople’s chagrin. Nevertheless, the aid was welcomed by Gratz who immediately begin implementing a broad strike against the Hungarian Revolutionaries.


    Field Marshal Alfred Candidus Ferdinand, Prince of Windisch-Grätz and Supreme Commander of the Austrian Army

    Known as the Danube Plan, the Austrians and Slovaks would march down the Danube River from the North towards the Hungarian Capitals of Buda and Pest, the Serbs and the Croats would march up from South and West, while the Transylvanians would march in from the East and secure the Pannonian Basin. With Buda captured and Hungary split in two, it was Grätz’ earnest belief that the Hungarians would be forced to surrender by years end if not sooner. With his strategy formulated, Grätz immediately put to work and departed from Pressburg down the Danube River on the 10th of February. Grätz’ advance was slow, but methodical, as his forces steadily reduced every Hungarian fortification in their path thanks to the flotilla of gunboats and river barges laden with artillery pieces Grätz had elected to bring with him. As result, the Austrians would successfully take Gyor on the 16th, Komárom on the 22nd, Esztergom on the 4th of March, and Vac five days later on the 9th clearing the approaches to Buda, Óbuda, and Pest.

    Hungarian General Ernő Kiss and the Northern Danube Army would attempt to impede Grätz and the Austrians along their march, but as they were outnumbered and outgunned, he opted for quick pin prick strikes at the slow moving Austrian Army before retreating into the wilderness. His strategy of trading Hungarian land for Austrian lives would achieve moderate success as the raids and skirmishes bled the Austrians white, but Kiss would soon come under mounting pressure by Hungarian Prime Minister Lajos Kossuth and the Provisional Government to stand his ground and fight the Austrians until he could fight no more. And so, when the Austrian Army reached the hamlet of Szentendre they found Hungarians ready to do battle at last. The fight that followed was by all accounts a massacre however, as the Austrians were finally able to bring their full might to bare against the Hungarians, and though they fought bravely and desperately, they were ultimately ground to dust beneath the sweltering cannonade of the Austrian guns. Within an hour the battle of Szentendre was over; the Hungarian Northern Danube Army had been broken, and the road to Buda was now open.

    Field Marshal Grätz would immediately give chase after the fleeing Hungarians, capturing hundreds in the pursuit and killing hundreds more. Worst still, the Austrian vanguard would reach the outskirts of Buda by day’s end, whereupon Grätz promptly placed the city under siege. Unlike the first siege the previous Fall, Grätz opted for caution and planned his siege lines with care and precision. His guns were sighted on the city and would methodically reduce the city's defenses. After a month long fight of artillery bombardments and bitter street fighting, the city would ultimately fall to the Austrians, followed soon after by neighboring city of Óbuda a few days later. Still, the defense of Buda and Óbuda by the Hungarians had enabled them to spirit precious men and resources across the Danube into Pest, strengthening the defenses there against the Austrians and enabling them to hold out for several more months. Still, after another three months of hard fighting, even Pest would finally fall to the Austrians.

    While the Austrians were extremely successful in the North and West, they were less so in the South and East where the Hungarians mounted a stubborn resistance against Imperial forces. The Croatians and Serbians would reach Mohacs and Pecs but would advance no further when confronted by ever stiffening opposition by the Hungarians. The Transylvanians would achieve even less, only succeeding in killing several Hungarian notables in the region and securing several of their own cities, but their attempts to take the fortress of Arad floundered before it even began. Elsewhere, the Croatians would fight several battles along the banks of the Drava River and the Slovakians would skirmish with their Hungarian neighbors in the Carpathian Mountains, but both would achieve little beyond growing piles of corpses. What’s more, the Hungarian government had successfully escaped from their clutches in Buda and would reestablish themselves in the city of Debrecen far to the East where they endeavored to continue the fight. Still, with the Hungarian capital in hand and the main Hungarian Army defeated and in retreat, it would have seemed that victory was only a matter of time for the Austrian Empire. And so, by the start of May, Chancellor Schwarzenberg and the States Council felt confident enough in its chances to begin moving several corps from Hungary to Northern Italy in the hopes of salvaging the crumbling situation there.

    The man they had chosen to lead the newest expedition to Northern Italy was a man who was quite familiar with the region and its people, having against fought them extensively over the past year. General Julius Jacob von Haynau’s aggression had betrayed him at Second Goito; costing the Austrians dearly as they lost not only the battle, but nearly a third of their army as well. For this terrible gaffe, General Haynau would be recalled to Vienna where he would face a military tribunal intent on scapegoating him for the loss. Haynau would never see trial as the war with the Hungarians erupted a few weeks later, necessitating that a soldier of his talents be reinstated and sent to the front. Thereafter, he would fight alongside Field Marshal Grätz at Pressburg where he conducted himself with great skill and bravery, and then again at Buda and Pest where he carried out his duties with great vigor and energy. While he still retained much of his infamous aggression and hideous ruthlessness, it had been tempered somewhat by a bruised ego and a slightly better appreciation of patience. With his marching orders received, General von Haynau departed for Italy alongside his newly raised corps to reinforce Field Marshal von Westmeath.


    Austrian General Julius Jacob von Haynau, the Arsonist of Padua

    The arrival of Haynau and his men in Venetia in mid-June would be a godsend for the beleaguered Austrians there as over the past few months the Imperial position in Northern Italy had steadily deteriorated. Despite the tumultuous Winter and Spring filled with politicking and infighting, the Italians finally made their move in April, with the Sardinian Army launching an offensive up the Adige Valley towards the important supply depot and road junction at Trento. Although the fighting in the hills and valleys had been incredibly difficult and incredibly slow for the Italians, the Austrian troops had suffered greatly for their stubbornness and were gradually forced to give ground to their advancing adversary. By the first of June, the vanguard of the Sardinian expedition would reach the commune of Calliano, less than a days march from Trento, and stood poised to take the city within a few weeks time. The fighting in Venetia was also beginning to intensify as the Italians of Central Italy began making a series of concentrated pushes towards Venice in late April. Their latest attack on the 1st of May would even reach the town of Mestre located on the banks of the Venetian Lagoon, forcing Field Marshal Westmeath to immediately dispatch precious men and resources there to repulse them. The fighting at Mestre would be tough, but through grit and sheer will power, the Austrians managed to overcome the Italians, albeit just barely.

    With Haynau and his reinforcements now in his possession, Westmeath could finally begin planning an offensive of his own aimed at eliminating the Italian salient around Padua. Owing to its strategic location as an important road and rail hub, the city was an important staging ground for the Italian Army’s forays into Austrian held Venetia. General Haynau and his men would spearhead the thrust against Padua, whilst the remainder of the Imperial Army moved to engage the Italian Army camped to the southeast of the city. After surveying the city’s defenses, Haynau laid out his siege lines and erected his artillery, before conducting a probing assault against the town. Surprisingly, Haynau and his men would succeed in penetrating the town’s defenses, only for the Italian defenders to quickly rally and fight them to a standstill. Many of the townspeople of Padua even joined in the battle, throwing pots and pans, rocks and debris at the Austrian soldiers, killing a few, injuring many, and incapacitating several more.

    Angered by this display of resistance, General von Haynau ordered several buildings be put to the torch to dissuade any further such acts of sedition by the people of the city. The ploy would work, in fact it would work much better than Haynau had originally intended as a gusting wind soon carried the flames to several more buildings down the road, setting part of the city ablaze. Tragically, these buildings were not vacant, many of their inhabitants had been engaged in the earlier fighting burning many of their unfortunate occupants to death. Soon the Italians broke off their fight with the Austrians to rescue their fellow countrymen and to douse the flames before they spread out of control. Haynau would use this break in the fighting to reorganize his forces before promptly counterattacking the distracted Italians to devastating effect. By the end of the day, Padua would be in Austrian hands in a stunning act of cunning and calculated ruthlessness on the part of General von Haynau.

    With Padua secured, Haynau soon rushed his exhausted soldiers south to attack the Italian army from the rear and cut off their line of retreat. Although he would ultimately fail in preventing their escape, Haynau’s efforts would inflict a stinging blow against the Italians, forcing them to abandon most of their gains in the region and retreat. Among the losses at Second Padua were several prominent officers, including Prince Ferdinando Carlo of Lucca, who had been serving in the Tuscan Army as a Colonnello (a colonel).[2] Though he was a reluctant revolutionary, having only joined the Tuscan Army out of desperation, Prince Ferdinando Carlo had proven himself to be a relatively capable, if somewhat reckless commander for the Tuscans. Needless to say it was his recklessness that cost him his life at Padua and the lifes of many of his men.

    Over the next several days, the Italians would be slowly and steadily pushed Westward until they finally regained their composure and successfully stopped the Austrian assault along the banks of the Adige. The Austrian advance on the Adige would also force King Charles Albert to abandon the offensive against Trento, as men and resources were pulled from that front to reinforce the main front to the south. Elsewhere, the battle at sea and in Dalmatia turned on a dime against the Italians with the Italo-Dalmatians being quickly overwhelmed by their Croatian neighbors, forcing them to flee their homes while on the waters of the Adriatic the Italian ships found a relatively even match in the Imperial Navy. With Venetia largely restored to Austrian control and Hungary on the verge of defeat it would have seemed as victory for the Austrian Empire was finally at hand after a year and a half of war. It was not to be however, as fate had other intentions in store for the Austrians when suddenly and surprisingly, the Hungarians successfully recouped their earlier losses.

    The sudden recovery of the Hungarians over the Summer and Fall of 1849 can be attributed almost single handedly to the herculean efforts of one General Artur Görgei de Görgő et Toporc. Artur Görgei was the son of a minor Hungarian nobleman with great debts and even greater expenses prompting Artur’s father to enroll him in a military academy for engineers at Tulln when he was but 13 years old. Upon graduation, Görgei would serve as a junior staff officer in the Austrian General Staff, a member of the prolific Hungarian Noble Guard, and a lecturer at various military schools across the Empire. Due to his noble birth and latent talents as a soldier and leader of men, Görgei would rapidly rise through the ranks, reaching the rank of Major by 1847.


    Hungarian General Artúr Görgei de Görgő et Toporc​

    Despite this great success in the Army, Artur Görgei was not a military man by choice, having only accepted the career to please his overbearing father. As a result, when his father died in early 1848, Artur quickly resigned from the Austrian Army and turned to his true passion, chemistry. Sadly, before he could make a name for himself in this field, the Kingdom of Hungary flew into open rebellion against the Austrian Empire and called upon all Hungarian men with military experience to lend their aid to their nation. Despite his reservations and his disdain for war, Görgei was a patriot at heart and gave up his burgeoning research for the life of a warrior once more.

    Given his past experience in the Austrian Army, Artur Görgei was commissioned as a Colonel in the Hungarian army and would initially be responsible for training recruits at Pest. This arrangement would only last for a few brief weeks before he and his men were ordered to march against the Ban Josip Jelačić and the Croatian Army which had just crossed the border into Hungary. Thereafter, Görgei would take part in the disastrous battle of Lake Velence, where he would earn recognition for his brave rearguard action in the hamlet of Velence, enabling the remainder of the defeated Hungarian Army to escape back to Buda before retreating later that day under the cover of darkness. Artur Görgei’s true claim to fame would come during the First Siege of Buda, where he was tasked with defending Buda Castle against the Croatians for several weeks before help finally arrived to break the siege.

    Lajos Kossuth would recognize Görgei’s talents, promoting him to the rank of General and naming him as his own personal aide-de-camp during the Hungarian offensive against Vienna. However, this appointment would do the Hungarians little good initially as the Dictator of Hungary would aggravatingly ignore every bit of advice and council General Görgei and his other advisors presented to him in the lead up to the disastrous battle of Pressburg. Had Kossuth listened to Görgei it is possible that the Hungarians could have won the day and continued their advance on Vienna, likely ending the war with one swift strike. Instead, Lajos Kossuth believed himself superior to Görgei and the rest of his councilors and ultimately chose to rely upon his own stratagems and tactics resulting in ensuing defeat at Pressburg for the Hungarians and condemning them to a longer and bloodier war.

    Still the defeat at Pressburg did have some benefits for the Hungarians as Lajos Kossuth would refrain from taking the field of battle ever again after this failure, having come to learn the error of his ways in this regard. Instead, he would err in other ways, choosing to meddle in his commanders’ affairs, remove potential rivals from positions of authority, and appointing his supporters to positions of power within the Army. Worst of all, he assigned Artur Görgei to the relatively inconsequential front with the Serbians after Görgei had advised the Government to abandon the twin capitals to the Austrians before it was too late.[3] Kossuth would eventually abandon Buda and Pest as Görgei had originally recommended, but only after it had cost the Hungarians dearly both in terms of lives and resources. The fall of Buda and Pest would only worsen the relationship between Kossuth and Görgei, prompting the Dictator of Hungary to strip the Southern Danube Army of men and munitions to reinforce other units.

    Despite this, General Görgei would make the most of a bad situation and would use his limited resources to defeat the Austro-Serbian Army at Mohacs in early May and again near Sombor two weeks later. However, his attempts to push deeper into Serbian Vojvodina were hindered by Lajos Kossuth and his sycophants in Buda who continued to deny him the necessary men and resources needed to finally defeat the Serbs. Görgei would also find a capable adversary in the Serbian General Stevan Šupljikac who would successfully repel the Hungarians in a series of pitched battles near the town of Bački Petrovac, located to the Northwest of Novi Sad. After the third day of fighting, the Hungarian attacks began to weaken substantially as both the number of infantrymen committed to the fight and the artillery and cavalry support for them gradually diminished.

    Believing that Görgei was at the end of his tether, Šupljikac ordered a general assault against the Hungarian positions. The Austro-Serbians would make some promising gains initially, before running into stouter Hungarian resistance near the enemy's camp, but Šupljikac would not be denied and swiftly committed the entirety of his reserves in the hope of destroying the Hungarian Army. In the face of the superior Serbian advance, the Hungarian resistance soon collapsed into a general retreat as scores of men fell by the wayside dead or dying. Aside from the ease at which he had crushed the Hungarian Army, most surprising for Šupljikac was the lack of any opposing Hungarian Cavalry to shield the Hungarian Army's retreat. Still, the Serbian General cared little for this as hundreds of Hungarians would be slain in the retreat and hundreds more would be captured including their acting commander, General Ernő Poeltenberg; Artur Görgei, however, was nowhere to be seen but soon after, it became very apparent where he had gone.

    Within the hour, reports from Novi Sad would begin pouring into General Šupljikac’s camp detailing reports of a Hungarian army to the East of the Capital. Unbeknownst to Šupljikac, Görgei had split his already meager force in twain, leaving his deputy General Poeltenberg to remain in place at Bački Petrovac, while General Görgei and the entirety of the Hungarian Cavalry would ride to the East across Serbian Vojvodina, before falling upon the exposed rear of Novi Sad. Wasting no time, Görgei and his cavalrymen immediately pillaged the city and arrested any Serb grandees that he could find, before falling upon Šupljikac’s undefended camp which was similarly plundered and pillaged by the Magyar horsemen. Before Šupljikac could even react the Hungarian cavalry finally appeared on the horizon and quickly charged through the disheveled and dispirited Serbian ranks who also witnessed the flames of Novi Sad in the distance. Though they were now completely exhausted after their large ride across Vojvodina, the Hungarian Cavalry charge would break through the disheartened Serbian lines with relative ease, compelling Šupljikac to retreat with what remained of his army.


    Artur Görgei leads the Hungarian Hussars through the Serbian Defenses at Novi Sad

    The final blow to the Serbians would come with the capture of Patriarch Josif Rajačić on the 3rd of June when he attempted to escape across the border into the neighboring Principality of Serbia. With their Army destroyed, their capital plundered, and their leader in fetters; the opposition of the Austrian Serbs was effectively neutralized. Some survivors of the battle would continue to resist the Hungarians, but most simply disappeared into the wilderness or across the border into Serbia where they vowed to avenge these defeats.

    For this success against the Serbians, Artur Görgei was finally provided with significant reinforcements, nearly doubling his force from 19,000 to 34,000, and new orders from Pest demanding he march to Pecs and assist General Aulich against the Croatians. For the past few months, General Aulich had fought the Croatians to a standstill in an offensive against the Croatians, but his difficulties with gout and illness would weaken his resolve and dull his senses, enabling Ban Josip Jelačić and the Croats to make moderate gains in the area. Görgei's shift to the West would blunt the Croatian offensive in its track and succeed in forcing them back to the Drava. However, his own attempts to push into Croatia and Slavonia would be delayed by news from Pest, indicating the city had finally fallen to the Austrians and that his presence was now demanded in the East.

    The fall of Buda and then Pest to the Austrians was a bitter loss for the Hungarians, but in spite of these setbacks they maintained their resolve in the face of Austrian envoys demanding their surrender. However, when it became clear that the Hungarians would not desist in their rebellion unless forced to do so, Austrian Field Marshal Grätz began planning to march on Debrecen, where he endeavored to end the rebellion once and for all. So it was that when he departed from Buda and Pest in late July he did so with an army 80,000 strong, against which the Hungarians could only field 65,000 men. Neverhtheless, the Hungarian would brazenly march out to combat him only to fail again and again as the superior numbers of the Austrian Army gradually forced the Magyars back. Hungarian General János Damjanich met with little success against Field Marshal Grätz and was ultimately forced to cede more and more territory to the advancing Austrian Army.

    With the Hungarians subjected to defeat after defeat and his other commanders failing repeatedly, Lajos Kossuth could no longer ignore Artur Görgei's immense talent as a commander. Putting aside his personal contempt and animosity for the General, Lajos Kossuth appointed General Artur Görgei as Commander in chief of the entire Hungarian Honvéd Army. This assignment did not come without its drawbacks however, as Lajos Kossuth demanded much of General Görgei and promptly ordered him to engage the Austrian Army before it reached Debrecen, lest they all be hanged as traitors. Needing no persuasion, the General immediately assumed command of the Hungarian Army of General Damjanich and moved to confront Grätz near the village of Heves on the 26th of July. The Austrians would ultimately win the battle, but at a terrible cost, having lost much of their artillery when the Hungarians broke through their lines and spiked or captured several dozen guns.

    After resting for a day and receiving reinforcements in the form of Polish volunteers, General Görgei would press the attack on the 28th of July and successfully fight the Austrians to a stalemate. The next few days would see Görgei and Grätz mirror one another up and down the length of the Panonnian Plains. Unable to find an opening to attack, the cautious Field Marshal Grätz would be forced to order a withdrawal to Pest where he hoped to receive further reinforcements from Vienna. Görgei would not allow him to retreat unhindered however, and over the course of the next eleven days, Gorgei would chase the old Austrian Commander back to Buda, skirmishing with the Austrian rearguard all the way. When the Hungarians finally arrive outside Pest in late July, they promptly place the city under siege. Within a fortnight, Pest had been liberated by the Hungarians, but attempts to cross the river met with stiffer opposition as the Austrians deliberately destroyed the newly constructed Chain Bridge to delay the Hungarians crossing. Despite this setback, the Hungarians would manage to recover Obuda the following week, followed soon after by much of Buda city. By the beginning of September, only Buda castle remains in Austrian hands, and after another month of stubborn resistance, it too was forced to surrender.


    Hungarian Soldiers Charge into Buda

    Despite the cajoling of his soldiers and demands of his superiors, Görgei would treat his Austrian captives with dignity and respect, even choosing to wine and dine with several captured officers whom he had known during his earlier years in the Imperial Army. Sadly, many Austrian soldiers would not be as fortunate and were lynched in the streets by the frenzied soldiers and civilians wherever they found them. While he had no responsibility to protect them, the fate of these men would surprisingly weigh heavily on the conscious of General Görgei for the remainder of his life, being one of his greatest regrets. Still, the Fall of Buda to the Hungarians at the end of September would provide a shot in the arm to the Hungarian revolutionaries, but that optimism would soon be chastened by news of Russian intervention in Galicia.

    By the Summer of 1849, Vienna fully recognized that it could not win on all fronts simultaneously. Instead, it looked to its allies for aid and it quickly found a willing partner in Emperor Nicholas I of Russia who immediately accepted Franz Joseph’s request for assistance without hesitation and dispatched an Army to Galicia barely a month later in August. Austria hoped that the intervention of the Russians would salvage their crumbling Empire, that they would swiftly crush the Galicians, cross the Carpathians and humble the Hungarians, while they turned to their full might against the Italians. It was not to be however as the stalwart resistance of the Galicians and the fickle Carpathian weather prevented the Russian Army from invading Hungary in 1849. While the Fall of Congress Poland had presented an opportunity to the Austrians in the form of Russian aid, it also presented a problem for them as well, namely in the form of Polish refugees who flooded across the border in the tens of thousands. These refugees went not only to Galicia-Lodomeria, but also to the Kingdom of Hungary where they joined with their Magyar allies, replenishing their flagging manpower and forwarning them of Russian intervention in Galicia.

    Recognizing the looming threat of Russian intervention, General Artur Görgei would appoint the Polish General Henryk Dembiński commander of the Army of Transylvania and ordered him to march against the Transylvanians during the height of Winter. Although the campaign was costly for the Hungarians – with many men succumbing to frostbite and exposure to the elements – the Transylvanians would suffer more so. Villages were destroyed, settlements where razed to the ground, and hundreds of innocent Transylvanian and German civilians were butchered. After three months of frantic fighting, Dembiński and the Hungarians would finally capture Weissenberg, effectively crippling the Transylvanian resistance to Hungarian rule and securing much of the region for Buda. With the threat to their rear destroyed, General Görgei was now free to turn Hungary’s full attention towards the West, sending one force under Lajos Kulich to occupy Croatia, while Dembiński's force was kept in reserve guarding the passes through the Carpathian Mountains. Gorgei would lead the remainder of the army against Vienna in the hopes that a victory there would force the Imperial Government and Emperor Franz Joseph to finally accept Hungarian independence.


    The Hungarian Army Marches to Weissenberg

    Next Time: Empire's End

    Author's note: I know I said that this would be the last update on Austria, but the update quickly grew a little too long for my liking so I've decided to split this part in two. I'll post the second half of this update tomorrow which will definitely conclude this segment on the Austrian Empire.

    [1] Prince Felix of Schwarzenberg was quite the interesting man. He was the protégé of Klemens von Metternich, having studied under him in the art of statecraft and diplomacy. He was also a archconservative, fiercely opposed to liberalism and nationalism, but unlike Metternich he was willing to accept liberals in his cabinet and take inspiration from them if there was merit to their ideas. He was also considered by many to be the Austrian equivalent to Otto von Bismarck, although Schwarzenberg died long before he could rise to the same levels that Bismarck would eventually reach.

    [2] In the OTL Revolutions of 1848, Prince Ferdinando Carlo was captured by the Italian revolutionaries in Parma and sent to Milan where he was briefly imprisoned before being forced into exile for the remainder of the War. Upon the war's end, Ferdinando's father would abdicate the throne in his favor, but he would not enjoy it for long as he was assassinated soon after in 1854. In TTL, he is captured by the revolutionaries in Lucca, but then sent to his cousin, the Grand Duke of Tuscany who is overtly engaged in the War against Austria thus far. Thereafter he serves in the Tuscan Army in an effort to help reclaim his and his father’s throne once the war ends.

    [3] In OTL, Artur Gorgei would indeed abandon Buda and Pest to the Austrians during the Winter Campaign of 1849, believing that they were indefensible. While he would ultimately be proven right, his actions soured his relationship with Lajos Kossuth and much of the Hungarian Government, leading to his later conflicts with them.
     
    Part 71: Empire's End
  • Part 71: Empire's End

    Hungary Stands Triumphant over Austria
    As 1850 arrived in Vienna, a Hungarian Army nearly 120,000 strong marched to besiege it. The Austrian Army moving to oppose it numbered little more than half that and was greatly demoralized after being wittled down by two years of defeats, disunity, and deaths. Efforts by Emperor Franz Joseph and the Imperial Government to rally more men to the flag would meet with increasing disappointment, however, as fewer and fewer men were willing to serve, even under threat of imprisonment or promises of financial benefit. The, Serbians, Slovaks, and Transylvanians had been beaten into submission by the Hungarians over the past year, having seen their armies crushed and their lands terrorized; they no longer possessed the will, nor the ability to continue fighting for the Emperor. Even the Croats and Czechs had begun balking at the thought of sending more of their men to Vienna as their own lands were threatened by Hungarian invasion (in the case of Croatia) or revolt (in the case of Bohemia).

    With the rest of the Empire unable or unwilling to provide more men to fill his armies, Emperor Franz Joseph was forced to turn once more to the weary people of Austria itself. Yet they too are tired of war, tired of defeat, tired of famine, and disease, and hardships. They were tired of sending their husbands, sons, brothers, and fathers to fight in Vienna’s wars, only to return as corpses or not return at all in many cases. So it was that when the Emperor pushed them for more blood to fight his war, they refused, prompting mass demonstrations throughout Lower and Upper Austria, Carinthia, Styria, Carniola, Salzburg, Tyrol, and Voralberg. Vienna would also see unrest, some of the worst unrest to be seen thus far in fact as the city became a battleground in its own right; divided between those who supported the continuation of the war and those who do not with both sides rallying in the streets on an almost daily basis. The Austrian Empire was on the cusp of collapse, needing only one last push to throw it over the edge and soon it would receive that push.

    On the 3rd of March 1850, several thousand students and professors, unemployed laborers and factory workers, disgruntled soldiers, artisans, and peasants led by the priest Johann Rudolf Kutschker marched on the Palace where they hoped to deliver a petition to the Emperor asking for an end to the wars and an end to absolutism. Although they were largely liberal in their political leanings, the crowd remained relatively supportive of the Emperor and declared themselves to be his loyal subjects. Unlike the more radical republicans and socialists, these March 3rd Protesters only asked for comparatively moderate reforms like a written constitution, a publicly elected legislature, and the end of serfdom among other things, in addition to their calls for peace. The march would begin well enough, with the mass of people moving towards the Palace, but once they reached the edge of Schönbrunn’s Gardens they were met by several hundred jittery soldiers and a few unsympathetic officers who denied them a meeting with the Emperor, or even access to the palace grounds.

    When the mob learned of this, they quickly grew agitated throwing insults at the officers and debris at the soldiers. Father Kutschker would attempt to calm the people by citing scripture and leading his followers in prayer, but the mood of the crowd had begun to shift from placidity to unease and anger. The situation was not helped by unrest elsewhere in the city, which had become violent in many cases usually between groups of radicals and reactionaries. Sadly, Father Kutschker’s march would be inadvertently mistaken for one such gang of anarchists and socialists presently rioting on the other side of Vienna, prompting the soldiers on guard to open fire on them by mistake when the crowd turned hostile. What followed was by all accounts a massacre. Out of 8,900 marchers, over 2,600 lay dead or dying while another 3,800 suffered varying degrees of injuries. Many of the dead had been trampled to death by their compatriots who fled in fear at the sound of gunfire, prompting the stampede of civilians and peasants.


    The Schönbrunn Massacre

    The murder of innocents outside Schönbrunn Palace would spark widespread outrage throughout Vienna, with both Conservatives and Radicals flocking to the streets to denounce this act. Under mounting pressure by the mob, Franz Joseph would immediately agree to begin implementing the protestors demands, but in the aftermath of the Schönbrunn Massacre, it is simply too little, too late. Within a matter of days mob took to the streets of Vienna, and began attacking soldiers on sight, government buildings were put to the torch, and government officials are lynched in the streets. The rioters would even murder the Interior Minister, Count Franz Stadion von Warthausen and Minister of Commerce, Karl Ludwig von Bruck when they attempted to leave the Palace after an emergency meeting of the State's Council. The violence in Vienna would become so great that Emperor Franz Joseph and the Imperial court would be forced to flee the city, seeking refuge with Field Marshal Alfred Candidus Ferdinand, Prince of Windisch-Grätz and the Imperial Army outside Pressburg.

    With the Government in flight, anarchy soon consumed the Austrian Capital as rival parties vied for supremacy. Over the course of the next few days Republicans, Socialists, Monarchists, and Anarchists would take power, only to lose it within a few hours or a few days at most. Of them all, the Commune of Viennese Laborers - one in a long list of socialist parties - would last the longest at nearly two weeks, but even its reign was short lived. Its leader, the radical lawyer Robert Blum plunged the city into a state of tyranny and terror as political opponents and ideologues were arrested and executed for crimes against the Revolution. His authority outside of Vienna was rather limited, however, as most of the Imperial Austrian Army remained loyal to the deposed Hapsburgs, thanks in large part to the loyalty of their commander Field Marshal Grätz who quickly moved his army to suppress the revolt.

    Despite the support of the Army, the situation for the Imperial Government remained incredibly dire as they were now trapped between a hostile Vienna and a Hungarian Army. Hungarian General Artur Görgei was still marching on the Austrian capital with an army nearly doubling that of the Austrians and while he was still several days away besieging Komárom Fortress, momentum had clearly shifted in favor of the Hungarians and against the Empire. Faced with defeats on all fronts, a Hungarian Army on his doorstep, his allies nowhere to be seen, and his own capital in rebellion against him; Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph was finally forced to accept that this would be the end for his Empire. His will to preserve his Empire had been shattered and now he only wished to preserve what he could. And so, on the 19th of March, Emperor Franz Joseph directed Field Marshal Grätz to retake Vienna no matter the cost.

    It was now a race against time for the Imperial Government, which had been forced to effectively abandon the front with Hungary in order to deal with the Viennese Uprising. Arriving outside Vienna three days later, Field Marshal Gratz threw caution to the wind and immediately ordered an assualt against the city, hoping to retake it before the Hungarians could arrive. It is possible that the Commune could have reached out to the Hungarians for support against the Imperial Army, but this is something that they simply refused to do for one reason or another.[1] Either out of a sense of some nationalistic disdain for the Hungarians, or out of anger for plunging their homeland into a bloody war, the people of Vienna refrained from seeking Hungarian aid, ultimately condemning the Viennese Revolution to defeat. The fighting was hard, but the Commune mob would eventually succumb to the army’s advance, smothering the burgeoning Socialist revolution in its cradle.


    Imperial Troops fight with Revolutionaries atop a Barricade in Vienna

    With Vienna recovered, some fools hoped to continue the war against Hungary and Italy, but Emperor Franz Joseph refused. The anarchy in Vienna had broken his resolve and his spirit, furthermore his army was on the verge of mutiny after the fighting in Vienna and would fight no more. Thousands had been killed in the fight to retake Vienna and thousands more had been wounded. The city was in shambles, many government buildings had been left in ruins, and the populace largely remained hostile towards the Imperial Government. When the Hungarian General Artur Görgei and the Hungarian Army arrive outside Vienna one week later, they would find to their surprise, not an army ready to fight against them, but a pair of envoys from Emperor Franz Joseph requesting terms for peace.

    Unaware of the developments in Vienna, Görgei would initially defer the decision of peace to Buda for their consideration, but when presented with a personal letter by the Emperor and testimonies by the British and French ambassadors confirming Franz Joseph’s intentions, he magnanimously agreed to a truce. Had Görgei known of the events in Vienna, it is questionable whether or not he would have pressed on to support the uprising there. While he was a soldier and a loyal Hungarian, he did not desire more fighting, nor did he desire to needlessly throw away his men’s lives when victory was so clearly at hand right then and there.

    With that, the War in Hungary was effectively over as a cease fire lasting one month was immediately put into effect between the Austrians and the Hungarians. During this time, both armies would remain encamped outside Vienna whilst their respective diplomats met to determine the details for the peace conference. The news of the truce was received with joy in Austria and Hungary, but contempt in Buda as the Hungarian Diet remained opposed to peace, whilst the Austrians remained standing. The prevailing belief in Buda, was that the Austrians would never abandon their claims to Hungarian land unless Austria lay dead at their feet. General Gorgei's truce betrayed that belief, resulting in a number of condemnations by politicians in the Diet and firebrands in the media who called for his resignation and even his arrest in some instances.

    Lajos Kossuth was absolutely furious once he learned of Artur Görgei’s decision and would immediately fly into a rage, condemning the general as a traitor and demanded his execution for treason. But for the first time in nearly two years, Lajos Kossuth would find himself largely unable to influence the people to his side, as the promise of peace proved a much stronger motivator than a call for more war. When the Diet in Buda called for a continuation of the war against Austria until they achieved total victory, they would find the same unrest in Hungary that Austria had endured in Vienna only weeks before. The Hungarian people, were ready for peace. Unable to stop the peace talks, Lajos Kossuth decided to join them directly and impact them as best he could by taking control of the entire process.


    Artur Görgei, Lajos Kossuth, and Representatives of the Austrian and Hungarian Governments meet to discuss a Cease Fire

    Eventually, the Hungarians and the Austrians would agree to a British proposal to meet in London in two month’s time where they would debate the finer details of the formal peace treaty. Until that time, both sides would refrain from further fighting, both sides would recall their forces from the other's territory, and both sides would refrain from supporting unrest in the other's territories. With a tentative agreement established with the Hungarians, the Austrian Government's immediate attention shifted to the Italian Peninsula where they hoped to conclude the conflict there as well.

    Negotiations with the Italians would prove to be more complicated than the negotiations with the Hungarians, as each member of the newly christened Italian Confederation demanded a seat at the negotiating table no matter their level of support for the War effort. Complicating matters even further; each state had their own goals and their own demands. Many Italian states would even oppose talks of peace with Austria while they remained in control of any part of Venetia and Trento. Their efforts to present a united front were scuttled almost immediately however, when Pope Pius IX instantly agreed with a proposal for peace conference, followed soon after by the King Ferdinand II of the Two Sicilies. Sardinia, Parma, Lucca, Modena, Tuscany, and the Lombards remained committed to continuing the war for a while longer, however, but when France and Britain made it known that they would intervene to restore order to the peninsula, the remainder fell into line, some begrudgingly, others more willingly. By the end of June, they too would agree to the British offer of mediation for their peace talks with the negotiations taking place in the city of London in early August.

    Meeting in London in August 1850, representatives from Austria, Britain, France, Hungary, the Italian Confederation (Lucca, Modena and Reggio, the Papal States, Parma, San Marino, Sardinia-Piedmont, the Two Sicilies, and Tuscany), Prussia, and Russia, along with observers from Denmark, Germany, Greece, Moldavia, the Netherlands, the Ottoman Empire, Portugal, Serbia, Spain, Sweden-Norway, and Wallachia gathered to discuss a conclusion to the wars plaguing the Austrian Empire. The 1850 London Peace Conference was divided into two sub-conferences; one which would resolve the War between the Austrian Empire and the Italian states, and the other concerning the War between the Austrians and the Hungarians.

    Unsurprisingly, the treaty between the Austrians and the Hungarians would be the simplest to resolve; the Kingdom of Hungary would gain its independence from the Austrian Empire, Austria would renounce all claims to Hungarian territory, resources, and heraldry, and it would cede the crownlands of Transylvania and the Serbian Voivodeship to the Hungarian State. The most contentious point of debate would regard the Kingdom of Croatia which vehemently resisted Hungarian overlordship. Ban Josip Jelačić of Croatia had seen to it that several Croatians be appointed to the Austrian peace delegation, both as a show of his growing influence in the fallen empire, and to reinforce his people's opposition to continued Hungarian rule. The Hungarians were opposed to giving up Croatia as the two kingdoms had been united in personal union for nearly 750 years, more importantly however, if Croatia remained with Austria then Hungary would be denied a port on the Adriatic Sea, greatly undercutting the Hungarian economy.

    However, as the Austrian loyalists still retained most of Croatia, it would have been an uphill battle for the Hungarians to regain Croatia. Ultimately, Hungary would be forced to renounce its claims to the Kingdom of Croatia, which was to be retained by the Austrian Empire, thus breaking the nearly 750-year old union between their two states. Finally, the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary would formally end all hostilities with one another, both states would return all captured prisoners without ransom, both states would remove their military personnel from the other’s lands, and both states would allow free and safe passage across their borders to any refugees, merchants, or immigrants wishing to cross the frontier. The terms to end the war between Austria and Hungary were relatively easy to determine, but the terms for the ensuing peace were not as the matter of Hungary’s government proved a heated point of contention between the Conference's participants.


    Representatives of the London Conference of 1850​

    For the past two years Lajos Kossuth had been the unchallenged master of Hungary, a king in all but name, now with the war against Austria at an end, this situation quickly became untenable as Kossuth's adversaries both in Hungary and abroad detested his continued rule over the country. His open support of the Italians had spurned his already tenuous relationship with Austria, and his open support for the Poles had burned any bridges he had with Prussia and Russia. Even his relationship with Britain and France had been strained owing to his appalling treatment of Hungary’s minorities under his regime. Moreover, his republican leanings strongly discredited him in the eyes of the conservatives and many moderates in Hungarian Society who supported the Hungarian monarchy, which was now vacant following the formal deposition of the Hapsburgs. The harshest criticism would come from his former colleague, now chief adversary, Count István Széchenyi who had surprisingly returned to the fore of Hungarian politics at this time, denouncing Kossuth as a tyrant and a dictator unfit to lead Hungary. While he was certainly ambitious and incredibly prideful, Lajos Kossuth was no fool.

    Instead, Lajos Kossuth would shock the world when he announced his support for a Hungarian monarchy, not with himself as King, but with Count Lajos Batthyány de Németújváras.[2] Count Lajos Batthyány was a Hungarian nobleman with great poise and stature both within the Hungarian nation and outside its borders. Known as a reformer and moderate liberal, Batthyány had made a reputation for himself in the Upper Chamber of the old Hungarian Diet and as a member of the new Provisional Government, championing progressive initiatives for Hungary. Batthyány's reputation as a reformer did not alienate his fellow magnates however as he managed to work closely with Count István Széchenyi in the Diet for many years.

    Perhaps his most importantly, Batthyány was a close ally and friend of Lajos Kossuth dating back to Kossuth's arrest by the Austrian authorities in 1837. Despite having little connection with one another, Count Batthyány put his reputation, his name, his fortune, and even his life on the line for Lajos Kossuth and publicity campaigned for his release on his behalf. Eventually, Batthyány and his allies would win Kossuth’s freedom several weeks later, cementing the friendship between the two men and tying the two men at the hip politically from thereafter. Batthyány would even support Kossuth's election to the Lower Chamber of the Diet in 1847 for the county of Pest and would work alongside each other in the Diet as Leaders of the Opposition for the Upper and Lower Chambers respectively.

    These public showings of solidarity were well remembered by the Governor-President of Hungary who endeavored to repay his longtime friend and ally for all the years of support and capable service to Hungary, while also throwing a relatively meager bone to those still opposed to him. Despite his close ties to Lajos Kossuth, the Hungarian Conservatives could find little fault with him, nor could the Moderates, or even Count Széchenyi. The British and French were not opposed to his nomination either, believing that he would be a moderating force on Lajos Kossuth and help stabilize the country. And so, on the 1st of September, Count Lajos Batthyány de Németújváras was named King of Hungary. The decisions reached in the London Conference of 1850 would be later ratified in the Treaty of Pozsony signed later that year in early November formally ending the War of Hungarian Independence.


    King Lajos III of Hungary

    The Treaty of Pozsony:

    Articles of the Treaty concerning the sovereignty of the Hungarian State-

    · The Kingdom of Hungary shall become a nation, independent of the Austrian Empire, paying no tribute or homage to the Austrian Emperor or the Austrian Government.
    · The Austrian Empire shall renounce all claims to the territory, resources, and heraldry of the Kingdom of Hungary, the Grand Principality of Transylvania, and the Voivodeship of Serbia.
    · The Kingdom of Hungary shall renounce its claims to the Kingdom of Croatia and Slavonia.

    Articles concerning the territory of the Hungarian State –
    · The Kingdom of Hungary shall encompass all the territory of the Crown of St. Stephen, from the banks of the Drave and Danube Rivers in the South and West to the Carpathian Mountains in the East and North. Its border with Austria shall be marked by the Alps
    · The Principalities of Transylvania and Banat shall be ceded by the Austrian Empire to the Kingdom of Hungary.
    · The Kingdom of Hungary shall renounce its claims to the Kingdom of Croatia in return for the payment of reparations to the tune of 100,000,000 Silver Thalers by the Austrian Empire.

    Articles concerning the Government of the Hungarian State –

    · The Government of the Hungarian State shall be a constitutional monarchy.
    · The plenipotentiaries of this conference assent to the ascension of Count Lajos Batthyány de Németújváras as King of Hungary.
    · The Conference accepts the government of Lajos Kossuth as the legitimate government of the Kingdom of Hungary.
    With the peace between Austria and Hungary formalized, the London Conference’s full attention shifted to concluding the war between Austria and the Italian Confederation. Despite presenting an outward image of unity and cohesion by the members of the Italian Confederation, the Italians themselves were somewhat divided over what they wished to achieve at the London Conference of 1850. Sardinia having contributed the most to the war effort, both in terms of manpower and financial backing, demanded the most concessions from Austria; specifically, they wanted Lombardy, Trentino, and Venetia from the Austrian Empire despite the Austrians still retaining large swaths of Trentino and Venetia. Tuscany and the Papal States desired complete independence from both Austria and Sardinia for both Lombardy and Venetia. The Two Sicilies in a surprising about face, wanted Austria to retain both Lombardy and Venetia in return for considerable autonomy and their admittance to the Italian Confederacy as full member states. Parma, Modena, and Lucca all had their own representatives in London calling for minor adjustments in their own borders; even little San Marino had an envoy in attendance, although he was purely an observer in the negotiations who refrained from voting on any of the measures presented at the Conference.

    The Austrian diplomatic position in comparison was far more united, as they were intent on preserving as much of the Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia as they possibly could for the Empire. Nevertheless, the chief Austrian representative at London, Prince Schwarzenberg recognized that some concessions to the Italians would be necessary to achieve peace. Lombardy was almost immediately written off as a lost cause by the Austrian delegation who effectively gave it up without a fight at the London Conference. Instead, the retention of Venetia received the majority of their time and energy as the region had still been highly contested at the time of the ceasefire.

    The Austrian diplomats would also direct most of their efforts towards winning foreign support from Britain, France, Prussia, and Russia. The Prussian and Russian delegates almost immediately sided with Austria and supported a return to the status quo ante bellum. Britain would take the opposite stance, having come to recognize the instability and apparent weakness of the Austrian Empire and threw much of its support behind the Italians. Thus, the deciding vote came down to the new French Government and its new Emperor Napoleon II. But to understand the French decision making, we must first understand the events that brought about Napoleon II's ascent to power in France.

    Napoleon II had come to power at a time of great hardship for the French nation. The French economy was in tatters after a horribly mismanaged and profitless war, famine continued to ruin harvest after harvest leaving the masses to starve, the people were in revolt against the corrupt and ineffective Second Republic, and the Army was on the verge of mutiny in late 1848 and early 1849. Into this picture arrived Napoleon Franz, the son of Napoleon Bonaparte, who marched into Paris riding high on public sentiment for his father and animosity towards the failed Republican regime of Louis-Eugene Cavaignac. His victory over the Prussians at Brussels and the conclusion of the dreadful Belgian War on honorable terms would also earn him praise in Parisian editorials. However, his reign was not unchallenged as Cavaignac and his followers, particularly those in the countryside continued to resist Napoleon II’s proclamations of a Second French Empire and would continue to profess the legitimacy of the Second French Republic. While their calls for the masses to rise up in support of the Republic ultimately fell on deaf ears the entire matter left Napoleon II's legitimacy in doubt.


    Emperor Napoleon II of France

    Napoleon Franz would not immediately proclaim himself Emperor by right of conquest or military coup, but rather through a democratic election. The matter was to be put to a vote, on the 22nd of June 1849, 34 years after the final abdication of his father. The campaign would be close with Napoleon Franz’ political opponents on both the right and the left opposing his ascension, but the man who would be Emperor would not be denied however, as he ran an impressive campaign, promoting himself as a champion of the French worker who promised to restore the wealth, prosperity, and greatness of France. His “victory” over the Dutch and the Prussians was also touted as a early success, which many hoped would be the first of many with Napoleon Franz on the throne. More than anything, he presented himself as a man of lordly caliber, capable of doing good and effecting lasting change in France. So it was that when the election arrived on the 22nd of June, Napoleon Franz won the referendum by a margin of 59% to 41%. Finally, after years in exile, Napoleon II had regained his father’s throne and he endeavored never to lose it again.

    His reign was not without its problems however as the revolutionary fervor which brought him to power threatened to destabilize all of Europe. Germany was in a state of flux, Poland lay in ruins, and Austria was at war with Hungary and Italy. The War in Italy was particularly vexing for Napoleon II as the French government and the French people favored the Italians over the Austrians, but his familial connections to the Austrian emperor stayed his hand from directly supporting the Italians with Military intervention. While his years in Vienna had not been his fondest, having been little more than a prisoner in a gilded cage where he was subjected daily to Metternich’s paranoia and contempt, the Hapsburgs were still his family and he did not wish to see his young cousins left destitute. Ultimately, through a considerable exhaustion of his own political capital, Napoleon II had managed to convince upon the French National Assembly to refrain from actively involving itself militarily in Italy and choose instead to lend its voice to the growing chorus of states calling for a peaceful conclusion to the war.

    Napoleon II would decide upon a compromise between the Italians and the Austrians based largely upon the situation on the ground; the lands of Lombardy up to the Adige River would be ceded to the Kingdom of Sardinia-Piedmont, but the lands and communes of Venetia and Trentino would be retained by Austria. However, the Austrian Government would permit Venetia a significant degree of autonomy and they would allow Venetia to join the Italian Confederation as a full member state. It was not a perfect solution, and one which certainly disappointed many ardent Italian nationalists and Austrian Imperialists, but it was acceptable to many moderates desperate for peace. To mollify the Italian liberals and nationalists, he would also propose a number of changes to the Central Italian Duchies which had witnessed great unrest prior to and during the initial Milanese revolt in March 1848.

    First and foremost, the Duchy of Parma had been left without a ruler for the past few months following the death of Duchess Maria-Louisa in the Summer of 1849; having lived long enough to see her son on the French throne once again. As such, the Duchy was to be returned to the House of Bourbon-Parma, leading Duke Charles Louis of Lucca to assume the Parmese throne as agreed upon in the Treaty of Fontainebleau. However, in return he was required to relinquish the Duchy of Lucca which was to be re-annexed by the Grand Duchy of Tuscany.[3] The House of Bourbon-Parma would also be required to give up the lands of Guastella which were to be given to the Duchy of Modena-Reggio, provided they permit their formally ousted Duke Francis V to return to his throne. In a surprising twist, Napoleon II and the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph would support the union of the duchies of Modena and Reggio and Parma through the betrothal of Princess Beatrice, the only daughter and heir of Duke Francis, and Prince Robert, the grandson and heir of Duke Charles Louis establishing a political and dynastic union between the two duchies upon their marriage and ascension to their respective thrones.

    Finally, the Conference of London would assent to the formation of the Italian Confederation, which was established as a political, economic, and military association between the constituent members. The Italian Confederation would be comprised of the Kingdom of Sardinia-Piedmont, the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, the United Duchies of Parma-Modena, the Papal States, the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, the Republic of San Marino, and the Kingdom of Venetia. The Italian Confederation would establish a National Diet and a Supreme Court in the city of Rome and the Pope would be nominated as the head of the Italian Confederation. Finally, the Italian Confederation would establish a defensive military alliance between all member states, a customs union between all member states, and free passage across borders for all residents of all member states. With these matters finally settled, the Italian Confederation and Austrian Empire would sign the Treaty of Rome two months later in late October finally ending the Italian War of Independence.

    The Treaty of Rome:

    Articles concerning changes in territory –

    · The Austrian Empire shall cede the land of Lombardy to the Kingdom of Sardinia-Piedmont, with the line of demarcation between the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Sardinia-Piedmont being the Adige River.
    · Additionally, the Austrian Empire, shall permit the lands of Venetia to join the Italian Confederation as a member state. However, Venetia shall remain a demesne of Franz Joseph and the House of Hapsburg.
    · With the death of Maria Louise, Duchess of Parma in 1849, the Duchy of Parma shall be endowed upon Duke Charles Louis of the House of Bourbon-Parma.
    · In return for their acquirement of Parma, Duke Charles Louis shall cede the duchy of Lucca to Grand Duke Leopold II and the Grand Duchy of Tuscany.
    · The Duchy of Modena and Reggio shall receive the Duchy of Guastella from the Duchy of Parma on the condition that they allow Duke Francis to regain the Modenese throne.
    · Finally, the daughter and heir of Duke Francis, Princess Beatrice shall be betrothed to the grandson and heir of Duke Charles Louis, Prince Robert, uniting the two duchies in personal union upon their ascension to their respective thrones.

    Articles concerning the formation of the Italian Confederation -

    · The Italian Confederation shall be recognized as a formal association between the states of the Italian Peninsula.
    · It shall be comprised of the following member states – Sardinia-Lombardy, Emilia, Venetia, Tuscany, the Papal States, San Marino, and the Two Sicilies.
    · The Pope shall be appointed as head of the Italian Confederation.
    · A National Diet and Supreme Court shall be established in the city of Rome.
    · Each member state of the Italian Confederation shall send representatives to Rome as members of the National Diet.
    · Each member state shall have full sovereignty over their own internal affairs and foreign policy.
    · The Confederation shall be a defensive military alliance and economic union between the states of the Italian Peninsula.
    The signing of the Treaty of Rome and the Treaty of Pozsony would not conclude the London Conference of 1850, however, as there was one last matter left to be discussed, the fate of Austria itself. Having lost Hungary, Transylvania, the Serbian Frontier, and Lombardy, the Austrian Empire was a shell of its former self. Nearly half of the old Empire had been stripped away from it and the half that remained had been devastated and in a state of disorder. In the east, Galicia was a wasteland, having been desolated by the Russians; most of its people had fled into the mountains where they continued to strike out at their oppressors from time to time. With the region still in a state of unrest and with Vienna unable to support any sizeable presence in the area at the time, the Conference asked Russia to keep the peace in the region in Vienna's stead until such a time that the Austrian Government could do so themselves. The neighboring Crownland of Bukovina was in a similar situation; although it had remained nominally loyal to the Imperial Government throughout the entire conflict with Hungary, it was now completely isolated from the rest of the Empire with Galicia still in a state of rebellion and Hungary independent. Here again, the Russians came to dominate the region, albeit in a more indirect manner as the region remained under Austrian control.

    In the West, Venetia had been bloodied after nearly two years of constant fighting on its lands and though the fighting there had finally ended, the people of Venetia were discontent with the resulting peace treaty which left them subject to Austria. Vienna had been left in ruins after the Viennese Uprising in March, while much of Austria proper had experienced varying degrees of violence as well. Finally, Croatia and Bohemia were on the verge of revolt themselves, forcing Vienna to reach an accord with them lest they lose the last remnants of their once great empire.

    The resulting compromise would see the Austrian Empire reforged into the Triune Kingdom of Austria, Bohemia, and Croatia (more commonly known as the Triple Monarchy). All three Kingdoms would be granted written constitutions, establishing voting rights, legislatures, and ministries for all three kingdoms. Each would have complete sovereignty over their own internal affairs, and they would be permitted to establish limited diplomatic relations with foreign powers. The three kingdoms would remain united under the Imperial Government however, which was given expansive regulatory and judiciary power over the three constituent kingdoms. A new Imperial Parliament was to be established with each Kingdom sending representatives to the chamber with the number being based on their respective populations. Additionally, the three kingdoms would be tied together militarily through alliance treaties and financially through an economic union. Finally, the Emperor, Franz Joseph would remain head of state for all three Kingdoms, and he would retain the sole authority to dismiss the parliaments of all three kingdoms and call elections for all three kingdoms.

    The fall of the old Austrian Empire and the Rise of the new Triple Monarchy would spell the final defeat for the order established across much of Europe in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars. The House of Bonaparte had retaken the French throne from the hated House of Orleans. The states of Germany had been united into a closer union, while Italy began moving towards unification as well with the creation of the Italian Confederation. Even Great Britain was wracked with angst and unrest, both at home and abroad, troubled with wars abroad and revolts at home. While its struggle would not see the sheer destructive calamity of the Polish Uprising, or the cataclysmic change of the Hungarian War of Independence, the unrest in Britain would be the among the worst in terms of his great length and instability.

    Next Time: My Life for Eire

    [1] In the OTL Vienna Uprising, the Viennese were reluctant to ask for assistance from the Hungarians.

    [2] Count Lajos Batthyány de Németújváras was arguably the third most prominent politician in Hungary behind Lajos Kossuth and Count István Széchenyi. While Batthyány was certainly more of a liberal than Szechenyi, he was also more moderate than Kossuth making him a convenient compromise between the two. He is also someone who would be able to gain the support of the necessary factions in Hungary needed to gain the throne as he was both a prominent nobleman and a supporter of the revolution.

    [3] This arrangement was established following the War of the Sixth Coalition in the Treaty of Fontainebleau, where the deposed Empress Marie Louise would be granted the Duchy of Parma, Piacenza, and Guastella to rule until her death, whereupon it would be returned to the House of Bourbon-Parma. Until that time, the Bourbon Dukes of Parma would be granted sovereignty over the lands of Lucca which were carved out of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany and upon their return to Parma, the Bourbons would return Lucca to Tuscany.
     
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    Part 72: My Life for Éire
  • Part 72: My Life for Éire




    The Plight of Ireland
    The British Empire was by far the Greatest Power of its day. Stretching from the cold Arctic expanses of Canada to the Falkland Islands of the South Atlantic Ocean, from the Cape of South Africa to India to a smattering of islands off the coast of China, it was truly a global spanning empire. The British Royal Navy remained the envy of the world with its vaunted wooden walls, its talented admirals, and its valiant sailors, while the British Army remained one of the finest and most disciplined fighting forces in the 19th Century with its adept soldiers, its impressive cadre of officers, and its state-of-the-art weaponry. The British financial market was the strongest and most prosperous in the world, with many British wares finding their way to every corner market across the world, generating great wealth for British merchants and businessmen. The British system of government was generally fair and responsive to the wants and needs of the people, and Britain's political leaders were usually capable and intelligent men who safeguarded British Hegemony with great gusto regardless of political party or ideological persuasion. And yet, in spite of this unquestioned prowess across the globe and internal stability, Britain was not without its fair share of problems from without and from within.

    On the island of Ireland, a terrible famine had been afflicting the land and people for some two and a half years by the start of 1848. Phytophthora infestans, more commonly known as the Potato Blight was a mold that poisoned potatoes making them completely inedible, both cooked or raw. Entire crops of potatoes were rendered worthless in an instant once they became infected with the disease leaving many to wallow in poverty and suffer in starvation. Ireland wasn’t the only land hit by the blight as nearby Scotland would also suffer from repeated crop failures over the course of the late 1840's as would France, Northern Germany, and much of Scandinavia. However, the Irish were hit the hardest as they were almost entirely dependent upon the potato for sustenance unlike the Scots, the French, or the other peoples of Europe.

    The development of this potato monoculture in Ireland was largely a result of the Irish people themselves who generally lived in poverty and relied upon cheap foodstuffs like potatoes to survive. This practice was promoted by British landlords in Ireland who effectively forced their tenants to work miniscule plots of land that were so small, that they were unable to turn a profit for the farmers working them. Thus, in order to survive, most peasant farmers were forced to cultivate potatoes to feed their families as potatoes could be grown quickly and cheaply by even the poorest of farmers. This situation was made worse by the enforcement of the Corn Laws throughout the British Isles which restricted the importation of foreign foodstuffs into Britain's ports in order to protect British farmers. While in theory this should have helped small farmers such as the Irish tenant farmers, it often made their situation worse as cheaper foreign foodstuffs were unable to be sold in Ireland, forcing them to rely on cheap native products like potatoes even more.

    The relatively short-lived Wellington Ministry of 1833 to 1834, would attempt to address this issue in 1833, when it attempted to repeal the Corn Laws entirely, but to no avail as a coalition of Protectionist Tories and Whigs aligned to stop the Iron Duke's endeavors. Ultimately, Wellington would succeed in passing a much reduced package which finally permitted the importation of foreign foodstuffs, but with a sliding scale custom's duty determined by the price of domestic corn. If the price of British corn was lower than or equal to 48 Shillings (2.4 Pounds) per quarter, the duty on imported foods and grain would be 30 Shillings (1.5 Pounds). However, if the price of British corn increased beyond 66 Shillings (3.3 Pounds) the duty would only be three pence.[1] While this was a significant victory for Wellington and the Anti-Corn Law League, the Corn Laws still remained in effect, albeit an incredibly weakened state. Sadly the weakening of the Corn Laws would have no real impact on the Irish economy for several years as tradition, combined with societal tensions between the British landlords and Irish tenant farmers prevented any meaningful change.

    Wellington would attempt to relieve this tension somewhat through the passage of the 1833 Roman Catholic Relief Act which overturned most of the harshest tenants of the Acts of Uniformity, the Test Acts, and the Penal Laws, endowing many tens of thousands of Catholics living in the British Empire with the right to vote and hold public office, including seats in Parliament, among other things. Despite strong opposition to this by many within the House of Lords and many in his own Tory Party, Wellington pushed ahead arguing that in the wake of the Parliament Reform Act of 1832, there was little justification for excluding the Catholics when the impoverished masses of Great Britain had been so recently enfranchised themselves. More importantly, in the wake of the failed Uprisings that had sprung up across Europe in 1830 and 1831, the British Government was reminded of latent nationalistic sentiments among certain segments of the Irish population who actively advocated for increased autonomy and, in some cases, complete independence.

    Compelled to combat this, the House of Commons would pass the measure by a sizeable margin, owing to the changing nature of the British people who no longer held the hysterical hatred of Catholics that their forefathers had. Nevertheless, the issue remained a controversial, if necessary one which would sadly weaken Wellington’s grip on power and result in a number of attacks from within and without Parliament. Sadly, Wellington’s victories would be short lived as his Government would soon lose a vote of no confidence in mid 1834 prompting his resignation and a snap General Election which would see the Whigs return to power for the first time in nearly 50 years under the venerable Earl Grey.




    A Political Cartoon Attacking Wellington for his Support of the Catholics

    The weakening of the Corn Laws and the implimentation of Catholic Emancipation would benefit the Irish to a significant degree, but the true source of tension in Ireland, desperately needed land reform, remained untouched and unquestioned in Parliament, resulting in continued animosity between both sides. Westminster considered Ireland a settled issue however, and refused to hear any complaints from Irish MPs during the Grey Ministry and subsequent Melbourne Ministry. This would change following the arrival of the Potato Blight in 1845 which quickly devastated the Emerald Isle, leaving hundreds of thousands starving and several thousand dead within a matter of weeks, exposing the inherent flaws of the present system.

    The Whig Government under Lord Melbourne would respond slowly and with little impetus as they did not fully understand the severity of the situation at the time. Aside from minor charitable donations from concerned philanthropists in Government, there was little done to help the Irish in the last few months of 1845 and the beginning of 1846. The situation in Ireland steadily worsened during the Winter as many thousands of impoverished and starving Irish men, women, and children soon fell victim to a wide selection of diseases ranging from dysentary and cholera to influenza and typhus which killed tens of thousands. The famine had become a full scale humanitarian crisis which depopulated major cities, decimated small villages and wiped out whole families.

    The Laissez Faire approach taken by the Melbourne Government to the ongoing famine in Ireland was not well received by the Irish who suffered immensely as a result, nor by many members of Parliament who saw this as an emerging issue of paramount concern. Melbourne's attempt to address the current humanitarian disaster in Ireland was waylaid by the collapse of the London Banking Bubble and subsequent Economic Recession of 1846 which ultimately proved fatal to his grip on power. When the 1846 Civil List was brought up for debate in the House of Commons it was voted down by an alarming margin of 223 to 278, a result which shocked and humiliated the British Prime Minister who promptly resigned from office, necessitating snap elections which would see the Tories return to power after more than a decade in the political wilderness.

    Since Wellington’s ouster in 1834, leadership of the party had fallen to Wellington’s protégé, Sir Robert Peel who had served as Home Secretary for both Lord Liverpool and Wellington, and coincidently as Chief Secretary of Ireland from 1812 to 1818 under Liverpool. Peel’s control of the party was a tenuous one at best, as his personal beliefs often clashed with many of his peers namely over matters of Free Trade and Laborer’s rights. By all counts, Peel was more liberal in his own political persuasions than conservative, a fact that would lead him into conflict with his own party on numerous occasions. Chief among them was the debate over the Corn Laws which pitted Peel and his Free Trade supporters, both Tory and Whig, against many Protectionist Tories. However, with the ongoing famine in Ireland claiming lives by the hour, the issue of protecting large landowner’s assets lost much of its credibility in the eyes of the House of Commons which quickly passed Peel’s repeal bill through by a vote of 341 to 158. The House of Lords would offer sterner resistance to Peel’s repeal efforts than the Commons, but under the combined pressure of the Queen and the Prime Minister, they too would pass the bill into law, finally repealing the Corn Laws in early October 1846.

    However, when combined with the ongoing economic recession in the mid to late 1840’s, the repeal of the Corn Laws left a noticeable hole in the British Government’s budget that needed to be filled somehow. To make up for the shortfall in revenue, Peel’s Ministry would reimplement Pitt the Younger’s old Napoleonic era Income Tax, along a progressive model. Like the Pitt the Younger’s Income tax, Peel’s income tax was intended to be a temporary measure to make up the disparity in Government spending until the economy recovered to its former level. The onset of the Irish Famine would necessitate more spending, however, not less, prompting the tax to effectively become a permanent fixture of the British Tax Code. This new influx of cash to the British Government would be a welcome boon for Pitt, albeit one that was begrudgingly accepted by Conservatives and the general public as necessary given the current crisis. To make use of this new money, Peel proposed using it for various infrastructure projects and development plans in addition to some much-needed humanitarian aid for the Irish who were still suffering from the effects of the Potato Famine.

    The repeal of the Corn Laws in addition to the arrival of Government and foreign humanitarian aid would help to curtail the effects of the famine somewhat, but by the start of 1847, the situation in Ireland was still quite desperate. By this time, over a hundred thousand Irish men, women, and children had died of hunger or illness (moreso disease than hunger). Law and order on the island was slowly collapsing as many Irishmen took to brigandry to feed themselves and their families, while various activists and agitants took advantage of the situation to promote their causes of an independent Ireland. Making matters worse, the British agents on the ground in Ireland were either unwilling or unable to provide meaningful assistance to the Irish people due to the inadequacies of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland Baron Heytesbury who continually disregarded the extremity of the famine. Seeking to correct this problem, Peel had Heytesbury reassigned and then turned to his old mentor Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington for help in redressing the administration of the Emerald Isle.


    Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (circa 1848)
    Despite his advanced age, the Iron Duke accepted this glum task on the condition that be granted full authority to deal with the situation in whatever manner as he saw fit. Trusting Wellington's insight of the Irish people, Peel and the Tory Government agreed and within a fortnight, Wellington departed to assume what was to be his last post. In a short manner of time, Wellington would successfully "convince" Irish landlords to not export their local produce in foreign markets and instead sell it on the local market at affordable rates.[2] Similarly, the Ports of Dublin, Belfast, Cork, Limerick, and Derry among several others were opened to foreign imports. Finally, absentee landlords were compelled to sell their lands at discounted prices to their tenants and he sponsored public work programs to provide employment for needy Irishmen.

    The effects of Wellington’s relief programs would take some time to take root, but by the Spring of 1848, promising signs of recovery had begun appearing across Ireland. Although the famine would continue to plague Ireland for another few months, by year's end most Irishmen could now provide for their families once more. In total, more than 370,000 Irish men, women, and children lost their lives between 1845 and 1849 as a result of starvation and disease. Additionally, over half a million Irish men, women, and children would emigrate abroad to England, Mainland Europe, or even the United States of America over the next few years in search of a better life for themselves and their families. All told, the Great Potato Famine of 1845 to 1848 would have lasting effects on Ireland and the United Kingdom for decades to come as entire communities had been wiped out, cities had been depopulated, and many families had been utterly devastated. The end of the Potato Famine in late-1848/early 1849 would not end the Irish Crisis, however.

    As is naturally the case after such great catastrophes, public attention quickly shifted from fighting the famine and mourning the dead to finding someone to blame for this terrible tragedy that befell so many people. Many Irishmen, chief among them the Irish nationalist group Young Ireland, would blame the intransigent bureaucracy in London with worsening the effects of the famine. They would argue that the slow and, in many cases, ineffective response to the Potato Blight by the British Government resulted in needless death and suffering on the part of the Irish people and would in turn claim that had Ireland been able to manage its own land, control its own ports, and pass its own laws the death toll would have been much lower.

    Peel’s government would in response declare that the Famine had been an unfortunate and unavoidable event that no one could have possibly foreseen. Moreover, the Peelite Ministry would suggest that his Government’s response to the famine had been handled admirably given the situation on the ground. Needless to say, the debate between the Irish Nationalists and British Government would continue to simmer for the next few months as neither side was willing to agree with the other. The Irish disidents wanted a more autonomous, if not entirely independent Republic of Ireland, while the British Government desired a return to the status quo ante bellum. The Irish Question would ultimately be shelved by the British Government as new developments in Europe and around the globe desperately required their utmost attention.


    Sir Robert Peel, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland

    The most immediate threat was the Qajari Empire of Persia, who in the Fall of 1847 invaded the neighboring Emirate of Afghanistan, capturing the fortress city of Herat in a manner of days, and defeating the Emirate’s rather feeble army in short order. Soon there after, much of the country fell before the ascendant Persian Army, whose years of drilling under French instruction had reforged them into a relatively potent fighting force more than capable of sweeping aside the ragtag bands of Pashtuns, Tajiks, and Aimaqi fighting against them. Although the Afghanis would continue to resist the Persian offensive throughout much of the Fall, by mid-November 1847 it was clear that the Qajari’s were on the verge of total victory in Afghanistan when the Afghani capital of Kabul finally capitulated to the Persians.

    In response to these developments, the British Government would order their representatives on the ground in Tehran, Colonel Francis Farrant and Colonel Sir Justin Sheil, to demand the complete evacuation of Persian forces from Afghanistan and the restoration of the Afghani Emir Dost Mohammed Khan who had been forced into exile following the fall of Kabul. If these demands was not met by the Persian Government by the first of February 1848, then a state of war would exist between them. Negotiations would not progress far beyond the opening stages as the Persian Shahanshah Mohammad Shah Qajari remained cloistered away in his personal chambers, seen only by his closest aids and ministers. The official reason given to the British for Mohammed Shah’s seclusion during the Winter months was illness, which while certainly true as evidence by his untimely death a few months later, it was not the sole reasoning for his sudden disappearance from court.

    The Persian King did not openly wish for war with Britain, but in his weakened state, Mohammed Shah fell under the increasing sway of his French advisors who continually goaded him to stand up to the British.[3] The leader of the French expedition, Colonel Henry Boissier would regale the King with tales of British cowardice and how they would retreat at the first sign of resistance. More than that, he promised Mohammed Shah continued shipments of weapons and supplies to Persia, further officers and advisors from France, and even direct military support by the French against Britain should Tehran go to war with them. While he had no means of actually achieving these promises, Boissier and his clique would succeed in convincing the Persian King that France would stand beside him if armed conflict emerged with Britain. The Persian Shahanshah took the bait, and summarily ordered the imprisonment of the British Chargés d'affaires under the pretense of sponsoring sedition against the Sun Throne and with that, the First Anglo-Persian War had officially begun.

    It would be several days before news of this development reached Bombay, but when Viscount Hardinge learned of this transgression, he immediately sent word to Admiral Samuel Inglefield, ordering him to dispatch elements of the East Indies and China Station fleet into the Persian Gulf, while the Bombay Army under Lieutenant General Willoughby Cotton would simultaneously march into Afghanistan and push the Persians out.[4] Admiral Inglefield would comply, dispatching Captain Augustus Kruper and a dozen ships to raid the Iranian coast while General Cotton and 14,000 men (3,000 British and 11,000 Indian soldiers) advanced through the Hindu Kush into Afghanistan. The British would initially make good progress on land, “liberating” the border towns of Khost and Jalalabad in late March, before advancing on Kabul in early April which similarly fell before them after a brief six-day siege.


    British Soldiers at the Siege of Kabul

    Here though their luck began to turn as a significant portion of the Persian garrison in the city managed to escape through the poor oversight and neglect of the British sentries. Nevertheless, the liberation of the Afghan Capital was considered a resounding victory for the British, which would only worsen their stigma for the Persian Army, an institution they believed to be decrepit and weak. After spending a week in Kabul resting and reorganizing, the British turned South towards the city of Kandahar where recent reports indicated other elements of the Persian Army had begun to muster to challenge them. However, this information would prove to be rather outdated by mid-April as the British would soon encounter the very same Persian army four days later near the village of Ghazni. While the battle of Ghazni was by no means a major engagement in the grand scheme of things, with few casualties on either side and little tactical or strategic gains, its impact on Persian morale was massive.

    For many though, the skirmish would do much to dispel the myth of British invincibility in the eyes of the average Iranian soldier who had until know only ever known defeat and disgrace when battling against Europeans in recent decades. Even though they had fought only a small fragment of the British expeditionary force at Ghazni and would eventually be forced out of the town just three days later when General Cotton led the main British column against them, this one battle would embolden them to greater acts of resistance in the weeks and months to come. This feeling would be further reinforced several days later when General Cotton and his army of Indian Sepoys and British soldiers was forced back from Kandahar with moderate losses. Captain Kruper and the British naval squadron sent into the Persian Gulf would also experience a surprising amount of frustration as well from the Persian Navy in a series of engagements throughout late February and March.

    Recognizing that they stood no chance against the indominable British Royal Navy on the open seas, the Persian fleet opted to stay within the Persian Gulf, choosing to concentrate all of their resources into the defense of the Strait of Hormuz. Captain Kruper and his squadron would attempt to break through this defense, but to his surprise he found the Persian fleet comprised of relatively modern warships of predominantly French making. Moreover, their naval officers and sailors, while still nowhere near as proficient as the British, they were deemed to be capable seamen and managed to hold their own against the Brits. Captain Kruper and his squadron would push forward against the Persian fleet on three separate occasions, once near Larak and at Bandar Abbas on two ocassions, all of which returned inconclusive results. These stalemates and minor victories on both land and sea by the Persians were considered great successes by Tehran and embarrassing setbacks for the British, yet these efforts by the Persians were all in vain.

    Although the Qajari Shah had gone to war with Britain on the promise of French financial and military support, and that support was not immediately forthcoming. The French advisors and officers in the Persian court were not at liberty to actively assist their clients in their fight against the British despite their promises to the contrary, nor could France send meaningful military and material aid to their “ally” given their own war in Belgium against the Netherlands and Prussia. Understandably, this lack of support from France would severely strain the relationship between the two countries, a relationship that was soon made even worse following the ouster of the July Monarchy in France and its replacement with the short lived and much reviled Second French Republic, which would manage to completely alienate the Persian Shahanshah during its brief and troubled existence. The Qajaris would receive some meager assistance from the nearby Sikh Empire of Lahore, but by 1848, it was a mere shadow of its former strength and would soon succumb to British advances itself later that same year.


    British Forces defeat the Sikhs at the Battle of Gujrat

    The Persian rank and file remained undaunted however, enabling them to pry a few more minor victories against the British on land, maintaining an impressive swath of occupied territory in Afghanistan. However, the war would not be decided on land, but at sea as the British Navy finally overwhelmed the beleaguered Persian Navy in early May and began raining fire upon the coastal cities of the Persian Gulf with near impunity. Iranian trade in the Gulf was almost immediately strangled to death as British ships blockaded their ports with ease and interdicted any Persian ship they could find. Soon after, British Royal Marines and sailors would make a landing near the city of Bandar Abbas and would successfully take the city after a fierce assault by the Marines. This was followed soon after by attacks on Bandar Bushehr, Bandar Shahpur, and Mohammerah, which all fell one after the other to the British over the course of the next month. With the coast now securely in British hands, the Iranian heartland came under imminent threat as well, with British and Indian raiders ravaging the Iranian countryside as far as Kerman and Shiraz in late August and September as the bulk of the Persian Army was hundreds of miles away in Afghanistan fighting General Cotton.

    With his economy collapsing, his country’s heartland coming under direct assault, and no French assistance forthcoming, Mohammad Shah Qajari was forced to concede that the war was lost and that he would be best served making peace with the British while he still had some gains in Afghanistan to use as leverage in the negotiations to come. However when negotiations began in late October, 1848, the Qajari Shahanshah would be quickly dismayed when he discovered that the British Parliament did not seek a merciful peace and instead wished to make an example out of Mohammed Shah and the Persian Empire. There would be no debate, nor any compromises, the British would make their demands and the Persians would accept them unconditionally. If they resisted or hesitated in any manner, then the British would renew their offensive towards Tehran, effectively ending Persian independence as well as the Qajari Dynasty. With no other choice, Mohammed Shah reluctantly submitted to the British demands on the 11th of November, 1848, formally ending the Anglo-Persian War less than a year after it began.

    Under the terms of the Treaty of Tehran, Mohammed Shah was forced to permanently expel his French advisors (a minor loss in his eyes as his relationship with France had soured significantly following the deposition of the July Monarchy and the rise of the Second Republic in France. Next, he was forced to abandon all his gains in Afghanistan despite continuing to hold much of the country which proved to be deeply unpopular with the Army who had fought valiantly and successfully, only to turn it over for nothing in return. Worse still, the remaining ships of the Persian navy were to be surrendered to the British in their entirety, with no compensation given. The Persian Government would release Colonel Farrant, Colonel Sheil, Frederick Currie, and all other British prisoners currently in their custody and the Persian Government would be forced to pay large indemnities to their former prisoners for their wrongful imprisonment. Finally, Mohammad Shah was forced to admit British Navy warships entry into the port cities of Mohammerah, Bandar Shahpur, Bandar Bushehr, Bandar Abbas, and Abadan indefinitely, while British merchant ships would receive favored nation status with the Persian Government and pay no duty fees at any Persian port. The terms were humiliating and would embitter the Persian people against the British for years to come and lead to renewed conflict in several years, but at present, peace was restored between them removing one issue for the British Government, but it was not the only issue plaguing the British Empire at this time.

    Far to the West in the Mediterranean Sea, the Greeks of the Ionian Islands clamored for Enosis (Union) with the Kingdom of Greece. The Eptanesians had grown tired of continued British rule over the Ionian Islands and desired greater political and administrative ties with Greece. Matters would gradually escalate on the islands as prominent Greek politicians were arrested, while many others were forced into exile by the British Government. Understandably, these heavy-handed responses to popular sentiment sparked various riots on the streets of the islands that would last for the next several months. Under normal circumstances the revolts on the Ionian Islands posed little threat to the British, but in 1848 British assets in the region were rather sparse owing to the vast array of crises at the time. As a result, the British were unable to effectively resolve the situation immediately, allowing it to fester for many months to come. Ultimately, the violence would be quelled through a combination of police suppression and several political concessions, including the promise to begin talks with the Kingdom of Greece over the fate of the Ionian Islands in the near future.

    Further to the West in Malta, a lack of investment by the British and the economic recessions of 1845 had left many of the Maltese people in a state of abject poverty. The situation was compounded further in 1846 when the British governor Sir Patrick Stuart outlawed public merriment on Sundays, including the famed Maltese Carnival after one British soldier was shot and killed for harassing a female reveler.[5] Unsurprisingly, anger towards British rule began to rise, enabling various actors to take advantage of this situation for their own nefarious schemes. Italian Nationalists from Sicily and Socialists from the University of Malta were the primary agitators of unrest in Valletta in early 1848 and would spark numerous protests and riots across the islands. These demonstrations would ultimately be put down rather quickly and violently, but several relatively minor concessions would be granted to the protestors in an attempt to regain the confidence of the people, namely the establishment of a local government with Maltese representatives and promises of greater financial investment in the islands by London.

    To the South in Africa, a new conflict had emerged in the Cape Colony between the British colonists there and the Xhosa Kingdom, requiring additional men and resources be sent there. In East Asia, relations with the Qing remained incredibly strained following the recent conflict with them and mounting unrest in the country threatened British interests in China. More worryingly, the United States of America had begun aggrandizing itself against its neighbor, the Republic of Mexico, claiming vast swaths of Mexican territory in the name of “Manifest Destiny” causing some concern in both London and Montréal. Elsewhere in Europe, the Austrian Empire was at war with the states of the Italian Peninsula and later with their own Hungarian subjects, while Germany was in a state of anarchy and unrest as conservatives were thrown out of power in favor of liberals and nationalists. Russia had been thrown out of Poland and the Poles had reached out to Britain for aid, which many British grandees publicly supported sparking a quite a row with the Russian Government. But of all the crises facing the British Empire in 1848, French dominance of the Low Countries proved the most threatening.


    Xhosa Warriors Prepare for Battle against the British

    Britain had been the leading power behind Belgium during its war for independence in 1830, but barely 18 years later, Britain had completely turned against the nascent Kingdom. Relations had generally been good, if a bit shaky between the two countries, but as the years progressed this relationship steadily deteriorated owing to financial and political conflicts between them. Competition over control of the lucrative linen industry along with other such trades would see the two kingdoms come to blows early on, as British merchants fought to bankrupt their Belgian rivals. They would be more successful than they envisioned as they had alarmingly pushed the young Belgian economy towards financial ruin leaving many tens of thousands impoverished, destitute, and homeless in Belgium prompting many to travel to Paris in search of employment in the French capital. Ever in need of more labor, the French gladly accepted these Belgian expats and moved to help their northern neighbor, sending advisors, dignitaries, and military officers to Belgium to sure up their economy as well as French influence in the country.

    Fears in London of France ensnaring little Belgium terrified many British merchants, admirals, and politicians who had fought numerous wars with France in the past to prevent such an event from taking place. It is possible that relations between the two countries could have been mended, but the actions of King Otto von Wittelsbach and the predominantly Walloon Belgian Government scuttled any hopes of that as he quickly tied himself politically to the French via his marriage to Princess Clementine of France in 1836. Moreover, his rather antagonistic stance towards Britain’s economic policy certainly didn’t help matters either as he constantly berated the British ambassadors to Belgium over this, prompting eight men to resign from the post between 1831 and 1847 in protest of his abuse. British fears were soon compounded in September 1847, when the hapless Belgian King Otto was deposed by the Belgian Parliament in a swift coup. Many in Britain initially viewed this development with great joy as Otto had not been a friend of Westminster and Buckingham. However, this joy soon turned to dread as the ouster of Otto paved the way for the Francophile Walloons to take complete control of the country at the expense of the more Anglophilic Flemings who suffered immensely under the new regime. Soon rumors of a French annexation of Belgium began to emerge in British circles, prompting Westminster to take a more aggressive stance against this.

    In response to this development, Britain would begin making amends with the Kingdom of the Netherlands, investing in their small country, providing them insight into Belgian defensive works, and covertly accepting their claims to the entirety of the Low Countries in the hopes of trading a Francophile Belgium for an Anglophile Netherlands. To that end they instigated unrest in Flanders, resulting in the Fleming revolt against the Walloons in late 1847, prompting the Netherlands to intervene on their behalf. This would in turn force France to war against the Netherlands in Belgium’s defense beginning what was later known as the Belgian War of 1848. This development placed Britain in a precarious situation, however, as Britain remained bound to the defense of Belgium by treaty and could not overtly act against it. To that end, Britain would officially join the war on the side of Belgium, but it did little to actively aid its nominal allies Belgium and France, choosing instead to work against them from the shadows.

    To Britain’s disappointment, the Netherlands proved insufficient to counter France alone, forcing Britain to then turn towards the neighboring Kingdom of Prussia for assistance against France. Prussia would need little encouragement as the Francophobic Kronprinz Wilhelm and the many jingoist officers of the Prussian Army were itching for a fight against France and would successfully incite Prussia to war. The entrance of the Prussians into the conflict would bring the war to a relative balance, yet even the combined might of Prussia and the Netherlands could not defeat the French, forcing Britain to play its final card. To neuter French supremacy in the Low Countries, London would release the son of the Corsican Devil himself, Napoleon Franz upon France. Promising him recognition and friendship in return for a limit to French ambitions, the British Government gave their blessing and their backing to Napoleon Franz’ return to France.


    Napoleon Franz meets with Members of Parliament

    Ultimately, the former Duke of Reichstadt would succeed, the War in Belgium would come to a swift end, and France would only gain the Walloon provinces in the South and East of Belgium, not the whole of the country as London had originally feared. With the end of the Belgian War of 1848 and the establishment of Napoleon Franz as Emperor of France, relations between Britain and France quickly rebounded. Thus by the Spring of 1849 it would have seemed that all was well with the British Empire, the Persians had been punished, France's continental ambitions had been mitigated, and the homeland was returning to peace, and yet the Irish Question remained.

    For many it would have appeared that the issue of Irish autonomy had been quietly forgotten in Westminster after the end of the Potato Famine, however it was not to be a gathering of Charterists in London in late April, 1849 would return the matter to the fore of the public consciousness once again. The Charterists had long been a thorn in the side of the British Government; demanding an end to corruption and increased representation for the common man. Although most Charterists were generally peaceful in nature, choosing to push their cause through constitutional means there were those who used more violent means of achieving their goals. Many organized protests and sparked riots when their demands were not heeded, many even called for the persecution and harassment of various Members of Parliament, with some MP’s actually coming under physical attack by the Charterist mobs.

    Therefore, the demonstrations on the 29th of April were to be handled with the utmost concern and security by the British Government who assembled a large number of policemen, constables, and soldiers to maintain the peace and control the mass of people. However, the disparity between the Government’s agents and the mob remained immense, forcing the Government to agree to a Charterist request to read their reforms aloud in the House of Commons. The day’s events would begin well as several Charterist leaders were escorted to Parliament where they delivered their list of demanded reforms to the Speaker of the House of Commons Charles Shaw-Lefevre, before being escorted back across the Thames to the main congregation area. Included in this delegation were several members of Young Ireland who called for increased autonomy for Ireland, the restoration of the Irish Parliament, and the improvement of tenant's rights.

    Nothing would ultimately come of the Charterist Demonstration on the 29th of April, 1849 as it peacefully disbanded the following day, but it would serve as a catalyst for future debate and future reform. Perhaps most significantly, it coincided with the death of the Duke of Wellington who had passed away after being incapacitated by a sudden stroke. Although he had resigned from his office of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in November 1848, little over a year and a half after he had assumed the post, the endeavor had left his weakened, both physically and mentally. The exhausted old Field Marshal would soldier on for another few months, but by the start of 1849 his health had begun to fail him. Sensing that his end was near, Wellington made an appeal to Parliament to seek a compromise with the Irish and preserve the Union of Great Britain and Ireland. Although he would not live to see it, his efforts would ultimately lead to the passage of the Irish Dominion Act of 1856, which delivered a modest degree of local autonomy upon Ireland and would help maintain the United Kingdom for years to come.

    Next Time: Family Matters

    Author's Note: After a long hiatus, I am please to announce that I am back to work on this timeline. Although I can't say for certain how frequent the updates for this timeline will be going forward, I will let you all know that I am committed to continuing this timeline until I finish it in one form or another.

    [1] The duty rates are all slightly lower in this 1833 Corn Laws Act than their OTL counterpart the 1828 Corn Laws Act. My reasoning for this as follows; 1. the Anti-Corn Laws League only gained in strength as time progressed throughout the 1830’s and 1840’s, the British Economy is generally better in this timeline, and support for Free Trade had increased steadily in the Tory Party during the 1820’s and 1830’s as well. That being said there is still significant support for the Corn Laws in both the Tory and Whig parties.

    [2] Astonishingly, Ireland was actually a net food exporter during the Great Potato Famine as many landlords in Ireland forced their tenants to sell their products to overseas markets while they themselves were forced to starve.

    [3] Just a brief reminder since it has been a while; the July Monarchy still held power in France at this time and were relatively hostile to Britain. While I doubt, they would go to war with one another directly (even with the worse relations between them ITTL), I don’t think they would be above sponsoring proxies (the Netherlands, Prussia, and Persia) to fight the other on their behalf.

    [4] The British East India Company was divided between three Presidencies which governed their respective parts of India. They were the Bombay Presidency, the Bengal Presidency, and the Madras Presidency. Each Presidency fielded their own armies, comprised primarily of native Indian soldiers or Sepoys, which were generally led by British officers and supported by British regiments. In this instance, they are sending a portion of the Bombay Presidency Army since it is the closest to Afghanistan and Persia.

    [5] This is actually from OTL. According to accounts of the event, a British Officer attempted to grope a Maltese woman during Carnivale. Her father was understandably quite irate at the presumptuous British soldier and challenged him to a duel which resulted in the death of the British officer and sure enough the Girl’s Father was arrested for murder by the British. The people of Malta believed the Father was completely justified in his actions and innocent of any wrongdoing, while the British authorities sought to prosecute him and ultimately execute him. Eventually, the case was tried in a Maltese court and the man was declared innocent unsurprisingly.
     
    Part 73: Family Matters
  • Part 73: Family Matters


    From Left to Right: Prince Constantine, Prince Alexander, and Princess Aikaterina of Greece

    The Liberal and Nationalist Revolutions of 1848 had plunged much of Europe into chaos and conflict. Some states were cast into prolonged periods of civil wars, others were roused into a patriotic fervor and fought for independence; some would see great states like the Austrian Empire destroyed and new nations like the Federal German Empire and Italian Confederation created. The powerful and prestigious house of Orleans had been deposed from the French throne, while the mighty house of Hapsburg had been greatly humbled by the loss of Hungary and Lombardy. The House of Hohenzollern was pitted into a terrible war against the French in the West and a bloody slog against the Poles in the East. Even the Gendarme of Europe, the great Russian Empire experienced its own share of trouble as the Poles of Congress Poland - along with a number of Lithuanians, Estonians, and Latvians scattered throughout the Baltic provinces of Russia - burst into armed rebellion costing Russia greatly in terms of lives lost and damages incurred.

    Other monarchs across Europe experienced their own bouts of trouble with Belgian King Otto of Bavaria losing his throne to a Liberal coup. In Bavaria, King Ludwig and his son, Maximillian would lose Pfalz to German Nationalists and suffer the desolation of Franconia as several months of devastating warfare devastated the once idealic countryside. The Badenese Grand Duke Leopold was deposed in early 1848 only to be reinstalled by years end, albeit with much less power and autonomy than before. Unrest in the Kingdoms of Hanover, Saxony, and Württemberg would force their kings to ratify liberal constitutions which limited their powers and saw their kingdoms admitted to the new German Empire. The Neapolitan House of Bourbon would lose much of Sicily to Italian nationalists and would only regain the island after months of determined campaigning. The Danubian Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia attempted to throw off the Ottoman and Russian yoke, only to be re-subjugated in a joint invasion by their overlords.

    Neither was Great Britain spared from the troubles afflicting the European continent as the British economy teetered on the edge of recession leaving thousands destitute and a terrible famine ravaged the people of the Emerald Isle, resulting in the deaths of many thousands and the flight of many thousands more. At home, the Charterists - long a thorn in Parliament’s side - reached the height of their popularity and power as they held numerous rallies and demonstrations demanding significant reforms to British society and politics. Other concerns emerging across the globe forced the British Empire to direct its resources elsewhere as Persia invaded Afghanistan, the Xhosa attacked British settlers in South Africa, the Eptanesians rebelled against British rule in the Ionian Islands, and the Maltese veered on the edge of revolt themselves. Yet while much of Europe burned with revolutionary fervor or suffered under economic depression or catastrophic famine, the small Mediterranean Kingdom of Greece enjoyed a period of relative peace and prosperity.

    Unlike many of its peers and contemporaries across the continent, the Kingdom of Greece had been shielded from much of the anguish and suffering, war and conflict afflicting Europe in 1848 and 1849. While it would certainly experience some angst and unrest, especially in the wake of the Eptanesians’ revolt against continued British rule and the subsequent heavy-handed response by the British authorities, Greece was generally quiet at this time. This peace can generally be attributed to the strong economy of Greece in the mid to late 1840’s as its nascent industry was finally beginning to emerge; Greek shipping effectively dominated commerce in the Eastern Mediterranean, and Greek agriculture was more bountiful than at any time in the past. Moreover, Greece was one of the most politically liberal states in Europe, with a representative legislature, universal suffrage provided to every male citizen of Greece regardless of wealth or social status, and a stern, but fair court system.

    In many ways this can be attributed to the people of Greece themselves as they painstakingly rebuilt their country after the destructive Greek War of Independence. Through their tireless efforts over the course of some twenty years, Greece emerged from the desolation of war stronger than before. This miraculous recovery in such a short period of time is testament to the great leadership of Ioannis Kapodistrias, Alexandros, Mavrokordatos, and Ioannis Kolettis among many others. Providing both inspiration and guidance in the development of their country from a provincial backwater of the Ottoman Empire to a modern country on par with the states of Western Europe, these men were instrumental in the rapid recovery of Greece following the revolution. Their ideas of a representative government, a civil society, and a diversified economy would shape the face of Greece for many generations to come. Perhaps of equal importance to men such as Kapodistrias, Kolettis, and Mavrokordatos was the role that King Leopold of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha had played in all of this.


    King Leopold in 1852

    Throughout all the many years of his reign, King Leopold’s vision of a revitalized Greece rising from the ashes remained a constant ambition that he worked tirelessly to achieve. Although this ambition was born out of a vain desire to improve his own prestige and power, Leopold's efforts were almost all beneficial to the people. To achieve his dream of a revived Greece, Leopold abandoned any personal misgivings and prejudices he may have had about the leading men of Greece when it came to the selection of his ministers and aides. Leopold was also particularly supportive of innovative and intellectual men with grandiose aspirations and great ideas. So long as they shared his vision and could perform their duties effectively, Leopold cared not whether they were men of low birth or social status when it came to appointment to high office.

    Regarding his politics, Leopold generally considered himself to be a conservative man who favored a strong and active monarchy, and yet he would often refrain from openly interfering in the affairs of the Greek Legislature, even when the discourse turned against him. Only when he felt that he or his family’s interests were directly at risk, would Leopold intervene and even then, it was only through influence and negotiation, never threats or coercion. Renowned as a talented orator, Leopold would naturally slide into the role of mediator and compromiser during his time in Greece. Frequently presiding over debates in the Vouli, Leopold would often invite opposing lawmakers to the Royal Palace to wine and dine with him and his family. There, he would discuss politics, philosophy, art, history until he won them over to his side willingly or beat them into submission with his dry diatribes and cyclical debates.

    Having survived 15 long years in the rigorous British court, Leopold was no stranger to political intrigues or political discourse. Through his many years in Britain, Leopold had learned to adapt, he knew when to make himself scare, when to defend himself and when to attack his adversaries. He was a naturally cautious man, but he was also incredibly cunning and shrewd, ruthless and ambitious, kind and compassionate. Though he was privately a rather dull and cold person; in public, Leopold presented himself as a proud, vainglorious monarch who retained all the dashing romanticism of his younger years despite approaching his 60th birthday. Most importantly, Leopold provided Greece with a connection to the leading powers of Europe through his familial connections as well as his personal friendships.

    Through his kinship to Queen Victoria of Great Britain and Ireland, Leopold provided the Greek Government with a particularly close connection to the United Kingdom during the formative years of the young Greek state. These Coburg bonds were later strengthened following the marriage of Victoria and her cousin Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in 1840, largely at the insistence and constant campaigning of their dear uncle. Thanks to these familial ties, Leopold would successfully help negotiate a mutually beneficial trade deal with Britain in 1841 and arrange a successful restructuring of Greece’s foreign debts along fairer terms. Relations between the two states would continue to improve until the late 1840’s when the unfortunate handling of the Eptanesians’ revolt temporarily soured Anglo-Greek relations. However, when talks of transferring the Ionian Islands to Greece began to emerge in the early 1850’s, the bond between Greece and Britain rapidly recovered and would reach new heights hitherto unseen.

    King Leopold also held a strong personal relationship with the Russian Empire as he had served in the Leib Guard of the Imperial Russian Army during the Napoleonic Wars commanding a brigade of Empress Marie Feodorovna’s cuirassiers with great valor at Lützen, Kulm, and Leipzig.[1] Through his sister Juliane, Leopold was also the former brother in law to Grand Duke Constantine and a familiar of Tsar Alexander and while his relationship with Tsar Nicholas was not as close as it was with either of Nicholas’ brothers, Leopold still proved more than capable of winning his trust and support and would develop a good rapport with the Russian Emperor.

    Most importantly, through his marriage to Princess Marie of Württemberg; the granddaughter of Tsar Paul and niece of Tsar Alexander and Tsar Nicholas, Leopold himself had a direct familial connection to the house of Romanov. Although his marriage with Queen Marie was not particularly affectionate, the two would still get along surprisingly well sharing what was described as a close friendship rather than a romantic love for one another. Still, Marie would faithfully fulfill her duties as Leopold’s wife and sire three children for him, Prince Constantine (Konstantínos) in 1834, Prince Alexander (Aléxandros) in 1836, and Princess Katherine (Aikateríni) in 1838, which would also help tie together the two Orthodox states.

    DH-Wilhelm_I_Familie.jpg

    Queen Marie of Greece (circa 1848)​

    The birth of Prince Constantine in 1834 would prove to be incredibly momentous for the Greek people as he provided a clear successor to Leopold, ensuring stability and continuity for another generation. More than that, his very name itself hearkened back to times of great pride and glory for the people of Greece who longed for a return of that past greatness. For King Leopold however, the birth of his first son was both a harmonious and agonizing event, for young Constantine, while initially born hearty and healthy, would soon fall terribly ill making his survival to adulthood anything but a certainty. Leopold would keep constant vigil over his newborn child over for several days, delegating all matters of state and all matters of his house to his adjutants and aides. Finally, after what seemed like months, the illness passed, and young Constantine would quickly recover much to the relief of King Leopold and Queen Marie. Sadly, this great demonstration of fatherly love would not last for long.

    As the years progressed and Constantine grew from infant to child and child to young adult, the relationship between father and son sadly deteriorated as Constantine became somewhat of a disappointment for his proud father. Whereas Leopold had once been considered the most handsome man in all of Europe in his youth, capable of winning any woman’s affection and any man’s attention with just his looks alone, Prince Constantine was far more average in appearance.[2] While he was by no means unattractive, his looks left much to be desired; his hazelnut eyes were dull and dark, his chestnut hair was wiry, his ears were slightly too small, and his face was slightly too long. His most prominent feature, however, was a rather large nose which protruded sharply from his face like a bird’s beak, spoiling what was an otherwise unremarkable face.

    Complimenting Constantine’s displeasing facial features were a set of gangly long legs and spindly arms which matched perfectly with his relatively weak chest, presenting an alarmingly frail physique for the Prince. Though he would surpass his illustrious father in height during his mid teens, this would only work against him in many ways as it made his gaunt appearance even worse. Many times, when father and son were together, Leopold’s broad shoulders and powerful build made Prince Constantine look downright meek and small in comparison despite being taller than Leopold. Completing his rough appearance were his uniforms and suits which were often creased and ill-fitting despite the best efforts of his many tailors to properly fit them to the Prince, making him appear more like a slovenly schoolboy than a Prince of Greece. Worse of all, however, young Constantine was a shy and socially awkward youth, which was terribly upsetting for the silver-tongued Leopold. While this alone would have been an issue for the incredibly vain and proud King Leopold, his eldest son had several other “deficiencies” which marred his record.


    Prince Constantine of Greece, circa 1852

    One particularly notorious blemish would make itself apparent while on a state visit to Britain for the christening of Queen Victoria’s first son, the heir apparent Prince Albert in the Fall of 1845. To celebrate the occasion, King Leopold, Prince Constantine and his brother Prince Alexander were invited to partake in the procession from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey along with various other crowned heads of state and dignitaries from across the globe. Unfortunately, in the chaos of the royal process, Prince Constantine lost control his little pony and soon found himself thrown from his saddle amid the commotion. Surprisingly, the boy would be unharmed apart from a few minor scrapes, but his father’s pride would be thoroughly bruised as the British press would relentlessly hound the Greek King with story after story of his son’s unfortunate tumble for several days thereafter until representatives of the British Crown stepped in to quiet the clamor. When they returned to Greece several weeks later, King Leopold immediately enlisted the aid of several military instructors to correct his son’s deficiencies in equestrianism. Prince Constantine would eventually improve his skills as a rider, but by then the damage had already been done as the emerging cracks between father and son only deepened further.

    Academically, Constantine was rather unremarkable student as well. Although he would never actually fail any of his studies and was a rather bright and intelligent young man in several instances, he generally showed little motivation or inspiration in his studies. Because of this, he had difficultly applying his inherent talents in the classroom, resulting in numerous poor marks and assessments by his instructors. Leopold’s solution to these growing inadequacies would be increased discipline and strictness towards his eldest son.[3] Constantine’s instructors were frequently cycled into and then out of the Royal Household in rapid succession when they failed to make a significant improvement in Constantine’s performance. Under pressure by the King to perform, Constantine’s teachers began working him harder and longer, often going without breaks and sometimes even without meals until his testing improved.

    When this inevitably failed to achieve the desired results, his mother, Queen Marie interjected herself into Constantine’s education and thereafter started bringing her son on her charitable ventures across Athens in an effort to help build the young boy’s confidence and poise. Where Leopold’s hard-handed dictates had failed, Marie’s softer approach would show some signs of success as Prince Constantine slowly, but surely began to improve both academically and socially. Still this modest improvement was not enough for King Leopold who continually demanded excellence from his son, and when Constantine inevitably failed to meet his often times impossible expectations, Leopold did not refrain from chastising him. Constantine almost certainly knew his father’s reasoning for this rigorous upbringing, but it would do little to engender any sense of love or loyalty for him as the boy desperately desired a loving father and a supportive friend rather than a cold king and a ruthless instructor. Ultimately, King Leopold would wash his hands of the situation entirely in the Summer of 1852 when he promptly shipped Prince Constantine off to the Hellenic Military Academy following his 18th birthday in the hopes that the military could do what he could not.

    Leopold’s relationship with his other son, Prince Alexander was similarly strained like that with Constantine, albeit to a slightly lesser degree as Alexander had several innate advantages over his elder brother. First and foremost, Prince Alexander was considerably more handsome than his elder brother Constantine; with fair blondish-brown hair, striking blue eyes, and many of the same dashing good looks that their father had once had in his own youth. His face was chiseled, with a strong jaw and good features; and in spite of his relative youth (16), he already possessed a relatively powerful, athletic physique. Like his father and brother, Prince Alexander would be remarkably tall for the times, but of the three he was undoubtedly the shortest.


    Prince Alexander (circa 1854)​

    Similarly, Prince Alexander was a talented, if somewhat aloof student who did rather well in most of his studies but would also struggle with some subjects more than others on occasion. More worryingly however, he showed little inclination towards politics or martial crafts and would generally drift towards the arts, history and philosophy. Leopold’s desires for capable heirs however, forced this curriculum upon young Alexander despite the boy’s personal tastes and desires. Like his brother Constantine, Prince Alexander was also a relatively quiet young man and generally shied away from speaking at public engagements when he could. Unlike Constantine, however, young Alexander would normally show more confidence than his older brother during his appearances in public and at court and usually made a better impression on most of Leopold’s retainers and advisors when he appeared before them.

    Despite Alexander’s advantages over Constantine, Leopold remained equally strict on both his sons. While he was far from cruel or vindictive towards them by the standards of the times, Leopold was rarely affectionate towards Constantine or Alexander either and was not afraid to discipline them for their mistakes. He always demanded excellence from his sons regardless of the circumstances, and when they failed to live up to his lofty expectations, he didn’t refrain from punishing them for their failures. Leopold’s meticulous and often rigorous training of his sons likely stemmed from a misguided desire on his part to secure for them a future in Greece. Having seen the great royal houses of Hapsburg, Orleans, and Wittelsbach overthrown by their people, Leopold endeavored to ensure that his sons were prepared to succeed him when that time inevitably arrived.

    Though he was by no means on his deathbed in the early 1850’s, Leopold was no longer the budding image of health and beauty he had once been in his youth. Nothing remained of his famous good looks and suave charms, instead all that remained was a cold old man who was parched rather than aged. His once handsome face was marred by wrinkles, his radiant brown hair had begun to grey and fall out in places, his skin was pale, and his weight had steadily increased over the years. In a vain attempt to combat this decline in his appearance, Leopold resorted to wearing rouge on his cheeks, wigs on his head, and girdles around his waist.[4] He had his eyebrows plucked and his face cleanly shaven despite the times dictating that men of stature grow long beards or mustaches.

    Accompanying this decline in his physical appearance was a decline in his health as he occasionally suffered from gout and arthritis and his once brilliant mind was prone to mistakes and missteps. It was clear that even the great King Leopold was a mortal man. Having seen the great houses of Hapsburg, Orleans, and Wittelsbach humbled by their peoples - a development that greatly concerned Leopold – the Greek King resolved to shield his house from that fate. For though the people of Greece were resoundingly in favor of maintaining him as King of Greece, Leopold remained cautious as was his nature. As such he became increasingly committed to securing his legacy by ensuring that his children received the best education and training that he could provide for them. Unfortunately, by doing so he also ensured that their childhoods would be relatively joyless and loveless, with Prince Constantine unfortunately suffering the worst of Leopold’s abuses as he was the eldest and the heir apparent. Prince Alexander was not spared from Leopold’s admonishments either and was often subject to Leopold’s strictness and discipline as well. Only the third of Leopold’s children, Princess Katherine would have what could be described as a normal, happy upbringing.

    Whereas Leopold was often cold and distant towards Constantine and Alexander, the relationship between father and daughter was paradoxically close and affectionate. Though the birth of a daughter had initially disappointed the Greek King as he had desired a third son, these feelings quickly faded though as young Katherine would quickly become Leopold’s favorite child and the subject of all his love and adoration. Leopold doted upon his daughter, gifting her anything her heart desired from clothing and jewelry to horses and paintings; no matter the price or the difficulty he acquired it if her heart so desired it.

    Despite this excess, Princess Katherine remained an incredibly humble and honest young woman. She was she was generous and kind to all people, regardless of their social status or economic standing and she was wise beyond her years, behaving more like a full-grown woman in her twenties or thirties rather than a girl in her teens. More than that, Katherine was a quick learner and talented student and was considered by many to be the most capable of King Leopold’s children, both in her own time and in modern accounts. But above all she was incredibly beautiful. Despite her young age, Princess Katherine already possessed many indicators of attractivity, her golden-brown hair shined radiantly in the brilliant Hellenic sun, her hazelnut doe eyes were dark little orbs that brilliantly sparkled like gems, and her fair skin gave off an alluring glow of purity and youth.


    Princess Katherine (circa 1854)​

    King Leopold plans for Princess Katherine’s own extensive education would be no less thorough than that of her brothers, but unlike Constantine or Alexander she would often excel where they had failed. Having learnt Greek and German as an infant, she was later taught English, French, and Russia which she could read, write, and speak in with great proficiency, in addition to several other languages that she was quite adept with. When Aikaterina was six, she began reading from the Septuagint and New Testament with an un-childlike grace and gravity that greatly impressed the Metropolitan of Athens Neophytos Metaxas despite his initial misgivings. At thirteen, her favorite authors were Plato, Plutarch, and Socrates. Princess Katherine would also maintain a lifelong correspondence with her cousin, Queen Victoria with whom she frequently confided in regarding all matters from dollhouses at the age of eight to romance when she was thirteen to policy and matters of state when she was sixteen.

    Despite this stiff upbringing, Princess Katherine had a great love for life and a vibrant love of people. She loved to dance and sing and socialize, and would often elope from the palace with several of her ladies in waiting to tour the city and meet with its inhabitants, to join in the festivities, and share in their sorrows. Her childhood was by no means perfect as her doting father proved to be overly protective of her and limited her ability to travel about the country freely, but she did fair much better than her brothers when it came to their priggish father. This difference in treatment and affection between the Coburg children almost certainly had an impact on young Constantine who was incredibly jealous of the affection his sister received from their father. Despite this jealousy, Constantine held no ill will for her and instead turned his animosity towards Leopold, only furthering the divide between them to the point that Leopold privately considered removing Constantine from the line of succession altogether.

    However, for all Leopold’s love for Princess Katherine and his bitter relationship with Prince Constantine, the matter of his succession was a settled matter. Under the Greek Constitution of 1831, the eldest surviving male heir of Leopold of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha would be recognized by the Greek Government as the Diadochos, the heir apparent to the Crown of Greece. Regardless of his opinions of Constantine, Leopold was required by law to name him as his heir. As such, Constantine’s "exile" from the Royal Palace would only be a temporary situation and would soon be called upon to return from the Academy to be formally invested as the Crown Prince of Greece.

    Next Time: Diadochos
    Author's Note: I recognize that its been over three months since the last update. It certainly wasn't my intention to be gone for this long, but unfortunately life had a way of delaying my attempts to return to this sooner. Now, however, I can definitively say that I am back and will be continuing this timeline until the very end, whenever that may be.

    [1] As an extended member of the Russian Imperial family through his sister Juliane’s marriage to Grand Duke Constantine, Leopold was awarded with the rank of Colonel in the Izmaylovsky Regiment when he was only 5 years old. He would later be promoted to Major General in 1802 and Lieutenant General in 1814. Despite being a member of the Imperial Russian Army since childhood, Leopold would only actually fight alongside the Russians following Napoleon’s failed invasion of Russia in 1812 during the War of the Sixth Coalition. Still, he proved to be a relatively talented cavalry commander and was recognized for his bravery and valor.

    [2] Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte would remark that young Leopold was the most handsome man to he had seen in the halls of Tuileries Palace. Leopold also allegedly, managed to seduce Napoleon’s stepdaughter Hortense de Beauharnais during his short stay in Paris in 1807, although there was little actual evidence to substantiate this rumor beyond gossip and hearsay at the time.

    [3] In OTL, Leopold’s solution to all his children’s deficiencies was increased discipline and strictness. Rather than providing the carrot, he often gave them the stick when they failed. I don’t see this changing ITTL even with the different circumstances and situation as Leopold simply lacked the empathy and compassion needed to be anything more than a disciplinarian at this point in his life.

    [4] Leopold would try desperately to preserve his health and beauty, inadvertently creating an unfortunate parody of his youth in the process. Even the most flattering paintings of King Leopold portray him as a rather unattractive old man by the 1850’s, while the less flattering pictures are quite sad to look at.
     
    Part 74: Diadochos
  • Part 74: Diadochos

    hellenicmilitaryacademy.jpg

    Cadets of the Hellenic Military Academy partaking in field exercises

    Founded on the 1st of August 1827 by then Governor of Greece Ioannis Kapodistrias, the Military College of the Hellenic Army was a formal military institution for the training and development of professional artillery officers for the Hellenic Army in the mold of the Royal Military College in the UK and the École Polytechnique in France. The Academy would originally be located within the former capital city of Nafplion but would later move to the tiny farming hamlet of Kypseli on the northern environs of Athens in 1831 where it was rechristened as the Hellenic Military Academy. The Academy itself was a rather modest school at first, initially comprised of just four old buildings and a modest parade ground/training field, which had once been a farmstead in its previous life.

    The Cadets of the Academy, christened Evelpids (the Hopefuls) by Governor Kapodistrias, were envisioned to be Greece’s hope for a better future and the builders of a better Greece.[1] Upon their graduation from the Evelpidon (a common euphemism for the Academy), these men would be commissioned as Anthypolochagoi (Lieutenants) in the Hellenic Army where they would serve primarily as artillery officers and engineers. However, once their military careers inevitably came to an end the Evelpids were expected to continue serving Greece in new roles as politicians, civil servants, scientists, doctors, teachers, and businessmen.

    Despite its noble ambitions as an all-encompassing military college and the best intentions of its staff, the Hellenic Military Academy would struggle to fulfill its mission largely due to significant shortfalls in funding during the first few years of its life. With the nation still engulfed in war during the late 1820’s and the Government laden with debt, there remained precious few resources that could be spared to the institute. Sadly, the end of the war didn’t help matters as the Academy (along with much of the Greek Military) would experience slight cuts to their funding during the 1830’s as the Greek Government attempted to resolve its debt crisis through desperate measures. Because of this, the Academy’s first graduating class in 1830 only numbered 7 students, while the following two graduating classes were even lower at 4 and 5 respectively.

    This would all change thanks to the First Greek Economic Boom of the late 1830’s which would see the Greek economy explode as a result of good investments on the part of the Greek government to rebuild the country following the War. AS a result, funding for the Academy would increase nearly fourfold between 1838 and 1843 enabling the school to renovate its dilapidated buildings and allocate funds for the construction and purchase of new ones. Additionally, new instructors were hired, and better equipment was acquired for the cadets, while the class sizes gradually increased from a small handful of 7 in 1830 to nearly 20 by 1844. While the influx of more coin was certainly appreciated and would aid the school immensely, the Hellenic Military Academy wouldn’t truly come into its own as a military institute and place of learning until the appointment of Colonel Spyros Milios as the Academy’s Commandant in 1838.

    During his tenure at this post, Colonel Spyrosmilios would refine the Academy’s cadet handbook and would scrupulously outline the regulations for all cadets and permanent part personnel at the Academy. Under the direction of Prime Minister Ioannis Kapodistrias, Colonel Spyrosmilios would also address several other aspects of the Military Academy’s organization, including the formal establishment of training at 4 years (up from 3), while admission to the academy was set at the minimum age of 16, later upped to 18 in 1847. Additionally, the Academy would wave all tuition costs for the Cadets in return for 10 years of continuous active duty military service upon their graduation from the Academy. Most importantly, Colonel Spyrosmilios would reorient the curriculum of the school towards the production of good, well rounded leaders, not just good officers.


    Colonel Spyros Milios, Commandant of the Hellenic Military Academy from 1838 to 1844

    As part of this shift in focus, training was split equally between military training in the field and scholastic pursuits in the classroom. Military training for the young cadets encompassed a variety of fields, ranging from general physical fitness to instilling go order and discipline. Drill was also given a high priority as the Evelpidon sought to instill discipline, precision, and a good attention for details in all its cadets. Field Exercises were the culmination of this training, with Cadets often being sent out into the Greek countryside to put what they had learned to the test. These exercises often ranged from land navigation to simple problem solving, and sword fights to shooting practice.

    Going hand in hand with military training was the school’s emphasis on engineering, with the cadets being taught the intricacies of both civil and combat engineering while at the Academy. Naturally, this incurred that the curriculum at the Academy would be tailored towards physics, mathematics, and the sciences, but the arts and humanities were also given prominent slots at the Academy, providing students with a broad, all-encompassing education. Although it could never be compared to the likes of Oxford or Cambridge or even the University of Athens and the Evangelical School of Smyrna, the Hellenic Military Academy would still provide a quality education for its students, making them masters of their respective fields upon their graduation.

    Because of this, the school attracted a relatively high number of applicants every year, yet due to the limited needs of the Hellenic Army during this time of peace, thousands of applicants usually had to compete for a small handful of slots numbering between 15 and 20 in any given year. Enrollment at the school was open to all male citizens of Greece of military age and they met all the necessary criteria for enrollment, which included among other things a superb scholastic record, excellent physical health, a strong moral character, and completion of the school’s rigorous entrance exam. Yet, scoring well on the entrance exams did not guarantee admittance to the Academy, with many such candidates being turned away despite boasting near perfect scores or pristine resumes.

    The Crown Prince of Greece’s admission to the Hellenic Military Academy in the Fall of 1852 flies in the face of this established criteria as his scholastic records were relatively average, his physical ability was severely lacking, and he hadn’t even taken the entrance exam prior to his admission to the Academy. Yet thanks to the influence of his father, King Leopold he was admitted even when he did not deserve it. In the Prince’s defense it wasn’t his decision to make as it had been pushed by his father, King Leopold in a last-ditch effort to make something respectable out of his laggard son.


    Prince Constantine in the Uniform of an “Evelpids” Cadet

    Although Prince Constantine would be initially distraught at his sudden “exile” from the Palace he had called home for the last 18 years; the time spent away from his overbearing father would be of great benefit to him. Within a week of his arrival at the Hellenic Military Academy, the Prince quickly found himself surrounded by many of the Academy’s cadets who flocked to ingratiate themselves with the Crown Prince. Many of these boys and young men were quite familiar to Constantine as they themselves were the sons of various politicians or military officers. Several had even grown up with the Prince at Court thanks to their father’s prominence in the government. Though he was a bashful young man, Constantine had no trouble establishing what can best be described as an informal court at Kypseli, complete with his own advisors and retainers who prove invaluable in easing the Prince’s transition to life at the Academy. Whether these men sought to capitalize on his status as heir to the Greek throne for their own personal gain or they genuinely wished to befriend the Prince, none can truly say though.

    Outside of the few followers he had gathered at the Academy, Prince Constantine also had the unconditional support of his mother Queen Marie, his brother Alexander, and his sister Katherine who regularly visited him, uplifting his dour spirits and raising his flagging morale. Queen Marie in particularly, would become a frequent figure at the Academy arriving every Sunday morning to attend church with Constantine. In the afternoons, she would stroll the school grounds and meet with Constantine’s companions, taking joy in their accomplishments, consoling them on their defeats and listening to their aspirations of greatness and glory with bated breath and earnest interest.

    In contrast, old King Leopold would make only the slightest of efforts to keep in contact with his eldest son, usually in the form of a short letter each month which normally contained some contrived words of wisdom or generic piece of advice for Constantine. This lack of communication between father and son suited the Prince well enough given the poor relationship that existed between them, but Constantine could not help but feel like he had been abandoned by his father in a way. Rather than take Constantine into his confidence or lend him the support and encouragement he desperately craved for; Leopold had instead pushed his son away, sending him to the Evelpidon where he was out of sight and out of mind. Despite this support from his peers and family (his father not included), Constantine would still face his fair share of hardships at the Academy, both academic and physical.

    In the classroom, Prince Constantine was a rather average student, often ranking in the middle of his class of 19. Though he was by no means unintelligent - he was in fact quite knowledgeable on several matters - the Prince often had trouble applying himself to topics that did not interest him. Of the curriculum taught at the Academy, history, economics, military strategy, and linguistics were generally considered to be his strongest fields, but he would struggle with mathematics, the sciences and the arts, the last of which in particular he deemed unworthy of his efforts due to its subjective and frivolous nature.[2] While he was a decent enough student in the classroom, Prince Constantine was a rather abysmal soldier on the training field.

    In terms of his shooting, marching, drill, military bearing, dress and appearance, Prince Constantine was almost certainly a failure, often scoring at or right above the bottom of his class. His aim with the antiquated Land Pattern Musket was notoriously bad, as he almost always missed his targets during practice by embarrassingly wide margins. When marching, Constantine was routinely out of step and his uniforms were frequently dirty, ill-fitted and fraying at the edges. His physical endurance and strength were also lacking as he often had to fall out of formation while marching due to poor stamina and he had trouble moving even the lightest of loads.

    Despite his mediocre physical abilities, Prince Constantine was not a terrible swordsman as his gangly long arms and legs gave him an innate advantage over his stockier sparring partners. Yet, when paired against a more skilled opponent it was clear that the Prince lacked any significant talent with the sword. Only Prince Constantine’s horsemanship could be considered commendable, as years of practice had helped Constantine improve considerably since the embarrassing fiasco in London seven years prior. Although he was by no means a master horseman, his tenacity over the years had paid dividends as he had become a respectable rider by the Fall of 1852. Sadly, this was not enough when contrasted against Constantine’s other, more numerous failings.

    Given his poor performance in his education and training, it is likely that Constantine would have been removed from the Academy’s roster were he any other cadet, sparing the school and the Prince further embarrassment. Instead, the Prince would be forced to continue through this crucible for day after day and week after week thanks to his father’s incessant desire to see him ascend beyond his current ability. As the weeks and months ground onward, Constantine eventually began to accept his new environment and make the best of it, but in late December 1852 this would all change as King Leopold would up-end Constantine’s life once again. On the 23rd of December 1852, the Prince received a letter from his father, that would change everything; a letter which announced that he was now formally betrothed to Grand Duchess Anna Mikhailovna of Russia.


    Grand Duchess Anna Mikhailovna of Russia

    Grand Duchess Anna Mikhailovna was the youngest daughter of Grand Duke Michael Pavlovich who was himself the younger brother of Russian Tsar Nicholas I, making her the niece of the Emperor. Anna Mikhailovna was an attractive young woman at the ripe age of 18 come the Fall of 1852 with a good figure and lively eyes. She was also incredibly graceful, well-mannered and quite an intelligent young woman. Anna was also something of a boisterous tomboy as her father lacking a son, had introduced her to the intricacies of the Russian Army; teaching her the finer points of cavalry and infantry warfare, what the differences were between various bugle calls and drumbeats, and what the various colours, symbols, and guidons used by the Russian Army represented. When former British Ambassador to Greece, Lord Lyons heard of the engagement, he famously quipped that the marriage between the prudish Constantine and the brash Anna would be akin to a marriage between a nun and a soldier.

    The revelation of his betrothal to Grand Duchess Anna Mikhailovna came as a great shock to Prince Constantine, as there had been little talk of his marriage to anyone when he was still living at the Palace. What had been discussed was generally vague and often regarded the strengthening Greece’s, or rather the House of Coburg’s connection with the House of Romanov, via a marriage to the Grand Duchess Alexandra Alexandrovna, eldest daughter of Tsarevich Alexander Nikolayevich. Yet given her young age of 11 in 1852, it was clear that Leopold had not been in any rush to arrange an engagement between Constantine and Alexandra at the time. By December, this had all apparently changed, as King Leopold was now in the process of finalizing the marriage contract between with Anna’s father Grand Duke Michael, while Grand Duchess Alexandra Alexandrovna was now an afterthought. For King Leopold to make such an important decision so suddenly was highly unlike his cautious father, incurring to Constantine that something had happened to necessitate such an act. The Prince would soon learn the reason behind his father’s quick about face.

    In late November, his father had been left him bedridden for several days by a terrible case of gallstones which prevented him from sleeping or eating. Over the span of a week, King Leopold’s health had rapidly collapsed as a result, leaving many to fear that the King was on his deathbed. Although he would eventually recover once the stone was found and destroyed by the Physician Ioannis Vouros, the entire ordeal had left him exhausted and terribly weak. Unable to perform his duties as King for several days, King Leopold became acutely aware of how precarious his succession truly was with only Constantine and Alexander to succeed him should he die. Having spent his entire life vying for a throne of his own, Leopold would not risk jeopardizing his family’s grip on Greece and moved to solidify the Coburg’s standing for generations to come. On the 1st of December, less than a week after his surgery, King Leopold would approach the Russian Ambassador to Greece, Gabriel Antonovich Katakazi to arrange a marriage contract between Crown Prince Constantine and Grand Duchess Anna Mikhailovna.[3]


    The “Illness” of King Leopold

    Over the course of the next few weeks, the finer details of the marriage contract would be hammered out by Greek and Russian diplomats. As part of the deal, there would be two identical marriage ceremonies with the first taking place in the Grand Church of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg on the 27th of April 1853, while the second ceremony would take place a month later on the 30th of May in the Church of Agia Eirini in Athens. In keeping with tradition, Tsar Nicholas would make Constantine an honorary Colonel of the Lieb Guard’s Izmaylovsky Regiment, just as Tsar Paul had done for Leopold so long ago in honor of his sister’s wedding to Grand Duke Constantine. Only, the matter of Anna’s dowry was left largely unresolved in the first round of negotiations, but a framework had been put in place for its resolution when next they met.

    Despite rushing into the arrangement, Leopold was quite pleased with himself as the marriage between Constantine and Grand Duchess Anna Mikhailovna would strengthen Greece’s ties with Russia and hopefully safeguard his legacy for another generation. Grand Duke Michael was similarly pleased with the outcome of negotiations as his youngest daughter would become a Queen in her own right one day and her children would inherit the Greek throne. Further her marriage to Constantine would help bring Greece back into Russia’s orbit. The only ones unhappy with the marriage ironically, were Constantine and Anna themselves. Upon learning of the betrothal, Constantine was absolutely irate that his father had made such a momentous decision about his life without so much as consulting him, let alone informing him before it was all but settled. Anna for her part was similarly appalled, appalled that she would be marrying the spindly and dreadfully dull Crown Prince of Greece. The thought of leaving her beloved Russia for distant, provincial Greec saddened the poor girl and wrung at her soul. Sadly for the betrothed, the matter was out of their control. Constantine was recalled from the Hellenic Military Academy in early March and set out for Russia soon after alongside his father and brother aboard the new screw frigate VP Spetsai.[4]

    The journey for the Greek ship to Russia would be rather quiet and uneventful, before making an unexpected layover in the British city of Portsmouth when members of the crew reported that a problem had developed with the ship’s engine. Despite the delay, the Spetsai would still make excellent time, having managed to travel at a constant 7 knot throughout the entire journey and arrived in St. Petersburg on the 22nd of April, slightly behind schedule, but not egregiously so. Departing their ship, King Leopold, Prince Constantine and Prince Alexander would then make their way to the Winter Palace where they paid their respects to Tsar Nicholas and Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna, thanking him for his hospitality and graciousness in hosting the wedding ceremony between Constantine and Anna. With the formalities out of the way, Leopold dismissed his sons to explore the city, while he, Tsar Nicholas and Grand Duke Michael talked business. After several hours of heated negotiation, Michael would agree to pay an impressive sum of £40,000 on the day of the wedding, while Nicholas would provide his niece with an annual allowance of £6,000. With these final matters resolved, the last few days before the wedding passed quickly until the day of the destiny arrived.

    The morning of the 27th would be relatively mild by Russian standards and apart from a smattering of clouds in the distance, the sky was clear. King Leopold, Crown Prince Constantine, his brother Prince Alexander, and a small number of Greek dignitaries made their way to the Grand Church of the Winter Palace, followed soon after by a horde of Russian nobles, magnates, priests and ministers who rushed to fill the chamber. Several foreign noblemen were also in attendance to pay their respects to the newly-weds and observe that day’s events. Among them were Sir George Hamilton Seymour representing Britain, Charles de Morny, Duc de Morny representing France, King Leopold’s longtime friend Archduke John of Austria, Prince Friedrich of Prussia, Prince Karl of Wurrtemberg, Prince Friedrich Wilhelm of Hesse, Duke Maximilian of Leuchtenberg, and Duke Peter of Oldenburg among many others. The last to arrive before the ceremony officially began was Tsar Nicholas, his wife Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna and his son Tsarevich Alexander. Once the guest of honor was seated, the choir began the first hymn and the wedding service began.

    The ceremony that followed was as spectacular as it was long, lasting well over three and a half hours from beginning to end thanks to cascade of speakers and songs. The ceremony was so long that Prince Alexander and his cousins Duke Ernest II, Prince Friedrich and Tsarevich Alexander frequently switched places as Constantine’s best man while Anna’s sisters Grand Duchess Elizabeth Mikhailovna and Grand Duchess Alexandra Mikhailovna did the same as Anna’s maid of honor. Anna for her part was garbed in a ravishing white lace dress with intricate silver embroidery, complete with an exquisite diadem of diamonds on loan from her aunt, Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna. Contrasting this marvelous image of opulence and beauty was the simple looking Prince Constantine who was adorned in the rather plain uniform of a Greek cavalry officer. To his credit, the spindly Greek Prince looked his best and performed admirably despite the prolonged nature of the whole event and his reluctance to actually take part in the wedding.


    The Marriage of Prince Constantine of Greece and Grand Duchess Anna Mikhailovna of Russia

    Thankfully for all present, the service would eventually draw to a close as the vows were exchanged between the new husband and wife, mercifully bringing the ceremony to an end. What followed would be a grand celebration in the Winter Palace that carried on well into the night as Tsar Nicholas attempted to over awe his Greek guests with a great show of extravagance. The new couple would then spend the next three days in Ropsha for their "honeymoon" before returning to St. Petersburg on the 1st of May. At noon, King Leopold, Prince Constantine, Prince Alexander, and the Greek dignitaries thanked Tsar Nicholas and bade their farewells to the Russian court before taking to their ship and departing for Greece. Similarly, Grand Duchess Anna Mikhailovna, her father Grand Duke Michael, and their own respective entourage followed suit, bidding Tsar Nicholas farewell before leaving in similar manner aboard the Russian frigate Diana.

    The return journey to Greece would not be entirely uneventful however, as the Russian frigate soon came under scrutiny by a squadron of the British Channel Fleet when it attempted to pass through the English Channel. Initially this sparked concern among the British sailors of an attack on British shores, but when they saw the Greek ensign above the Spetsai and King Leopold appeared on deck to greet the English sailors, the situation eased and the two ships were permitted to depart in peace. Two weeks later the Spetsai and Diana would arrive at the port of Piraeus, prompting jubilation from the crowds that had gathered at the docks, especially when young Anna appeared before them in a ravishing white and blue ensemble.

    From the docks at Piraeus, the royal party would then take the train to Athens where they would be met by representatives of the Greek Government and were then transported by carriage to the Royal Palace. The next week was filled with celebrations and merriment on the part of all except for the newly wedded couple as Constantine generally kept to himself, while Anna quickly developed a strong rapport with her new sister in law Katherine. When the 30th of May arrived, the second wedding ceremony would mirror the previous wedding almost exactly, with the only definable difference being a much shorter length at only two hours as opposed to the excruciating three and a half of the first. The guest list at the second wedding was similarly much reduced as many of the prolific Princes, Dukes, and Grand Dukes in attendance at St. Petersburg had chosen to skip the second ceremony in Athens. The notable exception to this was Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, husband of Queen Victoria of Great Britain who had not been at the wedding in St. Petersburg only to be present for the second wedding in Athens. Politics, and a personal aversion to all things Russian, had prevented Victoria or Albert from attending their cousin Constantine’s wedding in St. Petersburg, but this was not the case with Greece which was a friend and ally of Britain, allowing Victoria to dispatch Albert to their cousin’s wedding in her stead. When it came time for Constantine and Anna to say their vows, they did so with a solemn resolve all too common in arranged marriages.

    Still, when all was said and done, the two settled into their new roles as husband and bride rather easily. Prince Constantine would return to his military training sooner after the second wedding although he would return to the Palace periodically to perform his duties as a husband, while Anna joined Queen Marie and Princess Katherine in performing various charitable activities across Athens. After spending a month in Greece, Grand Duke Michael bid his beloved daughter farewell, before departing for home. Little more than a week later, Anna would announce that she was pregnant with Constantine’s child sending shockwaves of excitement and joy throughout the country. This era of good tidings would not last long however, as at the ripe old age of 83 Prime Minister Ioannis Kolettis died in office, setting off a political crisis the likes of which had yet to be seen in Greece.

    Next Time: Gilded Greece


    [1] Per OTL.

    [2] A trait that Prince Constantine’s OTL counterpart, Leopold II shared as well.

    [3] Gabriel Antonovich Katakazi was in fact a member of the Greek diaspora in service to the Russian crown. Born in Constantinople in 1794, Katakazi’s father, Anton Katakazi moved their family to the Russian Empire in 1807. During his time in Russia, Katakazi would serve as a deputy to then Russian Foreign Minister Ioannis Kapodistrias, he was also connected to the Ypsilanti family through the marriage of his older brother Constantine to Catherine Ypsilanti, sister of Alexander and Demetrios Ypsilantis. After the Greek War of Independence, Gabriel Antonovich Katakazi would be appointed Ambassador to Greece by Tsar Nicholas of Russia, a post he would hold from 1833 to 1843. However, he was adversarial towards King Otto and supported the establishment of a Greek Constitution, which went against the orders of St. Petersburg. For his efforts in aiding the September Revolution of 1843, he was removed from his post. As Greece was founded as a Constitutional Monarchy in 1831, this entire episode is averted and Katakazi is still the Russian Ambassador to Greece.

    [4] VP or ΒΠ stands for Vassilikón Ploíon, meaning Royal Ship or His Hellenic Majesty’s Ship.
     
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    Part 75: Gilded Greece
  • Part 75: Gilded Greece



    Hellas Ascendant
    The death of Greek Prime Minister Ioannis Kolettis in the Summer of 1853 presented somewhat of a new challenge for King Leopold and the Vouli. While Prime Ministers leaving office abruptly was not a new phenomenon for the Greek Government (as had been the case for more than a few of Kolettis’ predecessors), none had actually died in office prior to Kolettis. Naturally, King Leopold would eventually have to appoint someone to the Office of Prime Minister as was his duty and his right under the Greek Constitution of 1831, but unlike earlier vacancies in the Office of the Prime Minister, politics had changed. Complicating matters was the recent enactment of the Dedilomeni Principle by Kolettis in 1850 which significantly limited his options for Prime Minister from any Greek citizen of his choosing to a ranking member of the dominant political party in the Vouli.

    By the Summer of 1853, that leading party was the Ethnikó Kómma (the National Party), which was far and away the largest party in the Vouli at the time with 86 out of 137 seats after its’ rather successful showing in the 1850 Snap Elections. Compared to the likes of the Laïkó Kómma (the People’s Party) and the Fileléfthero Kómma (the Liberal Party) which only had 29 and 22 seats respectively, the National Party was a truly dominant political force in Greek politics. Mirroring this strength in the Vouli was the Nationals dominance over numerous city and municipal offices across the country, including the Mayorships of Greece’s four largest cities – Athens, Patras, Heraklion, and Chalcis, in addition to nearly 100 more. The city council for Lamia for instance was completely controlled by the Nationals, bar one member of the Liberal Party who had little say in any debate.

    Their support among the Greek people was also incredibly strong with nearly seven out of every ten voters in Greece having voted for the party in the 1850 Elections. The Nationals also dominated their rivals in terms of fund raising thanks to the financial backing of several prominent landowners, bankers and businessmen across Greece and Europe. Finally, they held a near monopoly on the Greek Press with eight out the top ten newspapers in Greece being operated by card carrying members of the National Party.

    Despite boasting an impressive grip on the Vouli, numerous municipalities across Greece, and significant public support; the Nationalists were not all powerful in Greek politics. While they received moderate support from parts of the Morea and several Aegean Islands, the National drew the lion’s share of their resources, leadership, and membership from Central Greece, providing a distinct Rumeliot veneer to the Party. Mirroring this development, they only held direct control over the 5 Nomoi of Rumelia (Attica-Boeotia, Euboea, Phocis-Phthiotis, Aetolia-Anarcania, and Arta) and the Nomos of Heraklion, providing them with a total of 6 out of 14 states in Greece. This number, while certainly respectable, was not a satisfying situation for the National Party which frequently ran into conflict with the regional Governors.[1]

    In the Greek Senate their standing was even worse as the Nationals only possessed a paltry 7 seats out of a total 30 seats. While the Senate had long been considered to be little more than a glorified gentleman’s club that would rubberstamp any legislation the Vouli passed under prior administrations; the Senate had recently stirred into life with its consistent opposition to Kolettis’ agenda. Many acts passed by the Vouli would find stiff resistance from Upper Chamber, which stymied Kolettis’ policies to the best of its admittedly meager abilities, delaying bills for several weeks, sometimes even months. Eventually, pressure would mount against the Senators to pass the bills into effect, but in the process, many were hollowed out or moderated extensively, greatly limiting their original effects.

    This attack on their authority was also mirrored by the battles being fought within the Ethnikó Kómma itself which had begun splintering following Kolettis demise. The National Party was a party founded principally on the pursuit of the Megali Idea, a Greek irredentist political concept calling for the liberation of any and all territory inhabited by Greek peoples (both past and present). The Megali Idea was the driving ethos of the National Party and Ioannis Kolettis had been its chief vicar as he painstakingly codified the great aspiration of philosophers and politicians into something definable and understandable for the everyman in Greek society. Naturally, the idea of restoring Greece to its former splendor was immensely popular across the country, resulting in its inherent popularity, especially in Rumelia whose communities had been ripped apart by the War and the 1830 Treaty of London. However, outside of this singular belief in the Megali Idea, the Nationals had very few things upon which they could all actually agree.

    Many differed over economic policy with some like the venerable representative from Mystras, Nikolaos Korfiotakis favoring a laissez faire stance towards the economy. Others like the Souliot war hero Kitsos Tzavelas preferred strong oversight and regulation of the Greek economy by the Government. They also differed over foreign policy, largely over which Power Greece should align itself with. Many supported stronger ties with Britain as they had been Greece’s closest friend politically, diplomatically and economically since Greece had gained its independence in 1830. Many others supported closer ties with Russia owing to the shared cultural, religious, and historical ties between them. Some, like Kolettis, had even supported strengthening relations with France although they were in the minority at this time and completely fell out of favor following Kolettis’ death. Even the Megali Idea had its share of controversy and division as many notable figures within the National Party differed over how to fulfill it with many seeking to achieve it exclusively through military means, while a few preferred a more diplomatic approach.

    Naturally, this disparity in opinion resulted in various sub-factions arising within the Party, each with their own leader eager to make their case for the mantle of party leadership. Among their number were several famed generals and admirals, politicians and lawyers, businessmen and entrepreneurs each deserving in their own right. Yet, in spite of their own prominence and impressive credentials, no singular figure possessed the same unanimous support among the party rank and file that Ioannis Kolettis had previously held.

    This situation was likely by design as Kolettis had feared any rival rising against him and carefully cut off any would-be challengers to his authority. Over the course of his four year-long Premiership, Kolettis had gradually ousted perceived threats to his power, he used his immense political support to censor his critics, and he steadily accumulated the Offices of Foreign Minister, Interior Minister, Minister of Justice, and Minister of the Army for himself. When combined with the National Party’s lack of Governors and Senators; the Party was effectively denuded of any real leadership outside Kolettis and a handful of his most loyal sycophants. While there were certainly a number of high-profile individuals within the Party, they had mostly been deprived of prominence in Kolettis’ government, in favor of men he could trust. One of these men had been the esteemed representative from Athens and former Minister of War, Yannis Makriyannis.


    Yannis Makriyannis in 1860

    General Makriyannis first emerged as a notable figure in Greek society during the liberation of Athens in 1821, where he acted with great valor and distinction, earning him the governorship of the city for the next four years. His term would be remembered fondly by the people of Athens who deemed Makriyannis to be a stern, but fair administrator who rooted out corruption and meted out justice to criminals and brigands. However, Makriyannis is most famous as a war hero thanks to his miraculous victory over Ibrahim Pasha at the Mills of Myloi, a victory which almost certainly saved the nascent Greek state from a certain death. Makriyannis would later follow up this great victory at Myloi with another at Gytheio just two years later where he would fight alongside the likes of Panos Kolokotronis, Konstantinos Mavromichalis, and Georgios Mavromichalis. Together they would decisively defeat Ibrahim Pasha and his Egyptians, compelling the Egyptians to end their involvement in the Greek War for Independence.

    Following the war, Makriyannis would leave the Hellenic Army to become a political activist, advocating extensively for greater representation for the people of Greece. In 1836, he would be elected to the city council of Athens, and then in 1837 he would be elected as the first representative for the city of Athens in the Greek Vouli. While Makriyannis initially maintained his independence from the political cliques that coalesced in the early years of Greek politics, he would eventually join with Ioannis Kolettis’ National Party following their formation in 1844 and would be appointed Minister of the Army in 1849 for his loyalty and dedication to the party. However, following a particularly heated public spat with Kolettis in early 1851 over constant meddling in his Ministries’ affairs, Makriyannis was removed from his post by a vindictive Kolettis and censored by the Vouli when he attempted to protest. When many of his supposed allies and supporters failed to aid him in his moment of plight, Makriyannis promptly resigned from office, choosing to retire from politics entirely rather than remain in a gilded cage.[2]

    Following Kolettis’ death in the Summer of 1853, several of Makriyannis’ former colleagues and supporters would attempt to rouse the old Strategos from his self-imposed retirement in an attempt to make him leader of the Party. Yet Makriyannis, having remembered their earlier betrayal during his time of need and having come to enjoy his peaceful retirement where he could write his memoirs in peace, bluntly refused all their calls to return to politics. Despite this, Makriyannis still remained a prominent powerbroker within the National Party capable of throwing his enormous political weight and influence behind another prospective candidate for the Premiership. The man Makriyannis would choose to support would be the former Navarchos and current Minister of the Navy, Constantine Kanaris.

    Constantine Kanaris had briefly served as Prime Minister of Greece in 1848 as the leading member of the newly formed Laïkó Kómma (the People’s Party); however, his short-lived Premiership would be troubled right from the start. Burdened with minority support in the Vouli, infighting among his allies, and a slew of political scandals in his cabinet, Kanaris would soon be forced to resign after little more than a month in power. Kanaris’ fortunes were little better after his term as Prime Minister ended, as he soon found himself steadily being pushed out of his own party by the ambitious Panos Kolokotronis. Eventually, the former Navarchos would find his way to the National Party in early 1850, joining ranks with Kolettis prior to the 1850 Snap Elections.

    While his transition to the Nationalist Party was initially met with distrust on the part of Kolettis and his allies, the Psarian would prove to be a devout nationalist and populist committed to the principles of the Megali Idea. Kanaris also remained an incredibly popular figure in Greece thanks to his herculean efforts during the Greek War of Independence. Best known for his stunning nighttime raid on Chios harbor in June of 1822, Kanaris and a handful of Greek fireship would successfully sink the Nasuh, flagship of Kara Ali, Kapudan Pasha of the Ottoman fleet in retaliation for the Chios Massacre two months prior. In a fitting piece of irony, Kanaris would also lead the Greek Naval elements during the liberation of Chios in 1827, defeating an Ottoman fleet nearly twice his own and ensuring Greek Naval dominance for the remainder of the Greek expedition. After the end of the war in 1830, Kanaris would be elevated to Chief of Staff of the Hellenic Navy in 1831 and then later Minister of the Navy under the Kapodistrian, Metaxan, and Kolettis Administrations.

    Along with the support of Yannis Makriyannis, Kanaris also had the stalwart support of King Leopold, who considered Kanaris to be a moderating influence within the Nationalist Party, capable of steering Greece through the troubled waters all around it. While he was certainly an ardent nationalist, Kanaris was also a pragmatist who recognized Greece’s perilous geopolitical position and would work to fulfill his party’s ideals along a safer route. More than that however, King Leopold considered Constantine Kanaris to be a friend and confidante, who had diligently served him during his first tumultuous years in Greece. Still, there were many within the Ethnikó Kómma who were opposed to electing Kanaris as their leader, largely owing to his previous failed tenure as Prime Minister and his recent conversion to their party. Yet when Makriyannis proclaimed his support for Kanaris in late June, King Leopold cast off any linger doubts he held and appointed Constantine Kanaris as Prime Minister of Greece for the second time.

    Prime Minister Constantine Kanaris

    The start of his second term as Prime Minister would prove much better than his first as Kanaris would quickly prove himself to be quite the adept administrator, capable of managing the Government bureaucracy and achieving definitive results. Seeking to shore up his support within the Party, Kanaris made the tactful decision to retain much of Kolettis’ remaining Cabinet in their current roles, while appointing prominent allies to fill the vacancies. Kanaris would also continue most of Kolettis’ policies, or at least those that were still in effect, which included among other things a focus on education reform and school building across the country. While the first few months of his second Premiership would be spent solidifying his grip on the Prime Ministry, Kanaris would also enact a few of his own initiatives.

    In September 1853, he formally established the Hellenic Fire Brigade across Greece following an accident at a Chalcis smelting facility set fire to several neighboring buildings and killing seven people and injuring several more. Kanaris would also update Greece’s extensive list of customs and duties for the first time in fifteen years, reflecting both changes in politics and the growing strength of the Greek economy. Finally, Kanaris would establish the Department of Public Works within the Interior Ministry, signaling to all the direction that his Administration would focus on.

    Kanaris also benefitted from the completion of several major land reclamation projects that had been started, or rather restarted under his predecessor Ioannis Kolettis. Many of the swamps and lagoons across the Nomos of Elis were being cleared, dried and developed with the notable exception of the Kotychi and Prokopos Lagoons among a few others. In addition, a small portion of the Missolonghi marsh was cleared as well to improve traffic across the lagoon, but by far the largest and most consequential of these land reclamation efforts was the draining of Lake Copais in Boeotia. Work at the site had originally started in 1843 during the administration of Prime Minister Andreas Metaxas, who had himself inherited the idea from his predecessor Ioannis Kapodistrias. However, following the Liberal takeover of the Government in 1845 and Alexandros Mavrokordatos’ assumption of power, work on the project immediately came to a halt as a result of ballooning expenses and an overall shift in focus by the new government.

    This changed yet again, when Kolettis and his Nationalists assumed power in 1849, they would breathe new life into the abandoned project as a series of new culverts were constructed from the Gulf of Euboea to Lake Copais. When work finally ended in early October 1853, the waters from Lake Copais were able to begin emptying into the sea. Although it would take several more months before the lake would completely drain, when it finished in mid-April the following year, it would provide an additional 200 square kilometers of rich, arable land ripe for development and cultivation by Greek farmers.


    Lake Copais, prior to its Draining

    With these early victories in hand Kanaris’ Government was encouraged to begin work on a series of more ambitious and costly projects largely aimed at improving the country’s (almost) non-existent infrastructure. Apart from a single 8-mile (13 kilometer) track of railroad running from the port of Piraeus to the city of Athens, a smattering of paved roads across the country and a large number of dirt roads and cattle paths, Greece possessed little in the way of an extensive, modern infrastructure system. This lack of infrastructure severely hampered rural farmers, herders, tailors, smiths and miners from transporting their wares from the Greek interior to the coast, while similarly frustrating fishermen, merchants and traders trying to move their products to markets further inland. Efforts over the years to develop land routes across the Greek mainland had met with limited success as Greece’s mountainous landscape and its proximity to the sea had made transportation by ship much easier (and much cheaper) than transportation by ox or mule.

    The completion of the Athens-Piraeus Railway in 1847 would begin to change this mindset, however, as tons upon tons of freight and material were now being hauled from the port of Piraeus to the Greek capital on a daily basis. What had previously taken several hours to complete at great expense was now being done in a matter of minutes and at a relatively cheap price. Although the initial cost to build the railroad had been quite expensive and cost prohibitive, its completion had provided a sizeable boon to the economy of Attica, a fact that was not lost on the magnates of Greece.

    The Athens-Piraeus Railway was so profitable in fact, that talks were underway in 1853 to extend it to the town of Kifissia 10 miles (16 kilometers) to the North of Athens. While it would more than double the line, it would help extend the reach of railroad into the central Attican plain and it would more closely connect the lavish resort town with capital.[3] The success of the Athens-Piraeus line would encourage other interested parties to begin exploring projects of their own with Attica being the primary locale for most of these projects. Sadly, many of these initiatives would die during the initial fundraising stages of development, while some like the Eleusis-Athens line would only come to fruition many years later when economics made such a project more cost efficient. One of the more ambitious efforts, however, would be the extensive Athens-Rafina railway.

    Taking inspiration from the Athens-Piraeus Railway, a group of bankers, businessmen, and landed magnates led by the former War hero turned business tycoon Odysseus Androutsos established the East Attica Railway Company (ESA) in early 1851. The ESA hoped to siphon off some of the impressive wealth that the current Athens-Piraeus Railroad Company (SAP) had been accumulating thus far, with a railway of their own running from the city of Athens to the port of Luarium. At 36 miles long (58 kilometers), it would be the longest railroad built in Greece by far, but the rapid growth of Athens over the past twenty-five years necessitated another outlet for Athenian products and another inlet for foreign wares. As Attica’s second largest port and a major connecting hub for several islands in the Cyclades and Central Aegean, a railroad to Laurium was an attractive prospect for investors in the region that made a great deal of sense. Laurium was also located near several silver, lead, and manganese mines which provided an enormous amount of wealth for the Greek state, providing a further incentive for the ESA.


    The Port of Laurium in Modern Times

    While the route would be more than four times the length of the Piraeus Line, it benefited from the technical know how and experience gained from the earlier SAP railway. The proposed route was also relatively simple; running from Plateía Kolokotróni (Kolokotronis Square) in central Athens across the Athens Plain, then skirt along the northern edge of Mount Hymettus before traveling southward across the Mesogeia plain, passing through the town of Keratea, and then on to the port of Laurium. Finally, the project had the complete support of Odysseus Androutsos who invested much of his considerable fortune into the project, giving him a majority stake in the company and its management.

    Although construction would run into several problems initially, work would continue swiftly until the Laurium Line was completed in mid-1855. Despite its quick construction time and its relatively decent traffic rates, the Athens-Laurium Line just couldn’t compete with the more profitable Athens-Piraeus line. Even still, the line remained relatively profitable for some time thanks to Laurium's mineral deposits, but in wake of Androutsos’ death in the Spring of 1858, the East Attica Railway Company would begin to collapse. Eventually, the company would be forced to declare bankruptcy following a series of marketing missteps and poor investments in newer, untested techniques. Ironically, it would be the rival SAP which would save the dying ESA in the form of a buyout and merger of the two companies, resulting in the formation of the Attica Railways company (AS) in early 1861.

    The next to organize their own railroad were a group of entrepreneurs, business owners, bankers, and plantation owners from all across the Nomos of Elis known as the Pyrgos Group (OP), who envisioned a line running from the city of Pyrgos to the port of Katakolo 8 miles to the east. The leaders of this group were the venerable merchant Dimitrios Avgerinos, his son Andreas Avgerinos, and the magnate Michail Sisinis who proposed a railway connecting the raisin rich region around Pyrgos with the port of Katakolo. This rail, when completed would enable local farmers to more easily transport their product in great supply to foreign markets where it was in high demand, which in turn would inject much needed wealth into Elis. Finally, if the railway proved as profitable as advertised, then the line would later be extended to the town of Mariada eleven miles to the northwest and Ancient Olympia twelve miles to the East.[4]



    The Train Station at Pyrgos

    The OP would start off well, raising slightly over a million Drachma by the end of 1851 through private donations, government loans, and public fundraising and would begin laying rail in the Summer of 1852. The project would soon run into trouble as prices continued to escalate while the work gradually slowed. Still, the rail line was gradually nearing completion, until the end of the year when Dimitrios Avgerinos suddenly passed away, disrupting the Company’s management. Work would temporarily come to a halt, roughly two miles from the port of Katakolo in late 1853. Prime Minister Kanaris, seeing a golden opportunity, promptly stepped in and provided government loans to assist the project’s completion. With the aid of the Kanaris administration, work on the Pyrgos-Katakolo Railway quickly restarted and finished by the end of March 1854.

    Other than railroads, the Kanaris Administration also engaged in a small number of road building efforts across Greece. A paved road running from the mining town of Dirfys on Euboea was constructed connecting it with the industrial port city of Chalcis to improve transport of Dirfys’ coal to the refineries of Chalcis. Another paved road was built between the emery quarries on Naxos with the port, while a third road was made to connect the port of Kalamata with the city of Megalopolis which was itself becoming a significant producer of lignite coal following its discovery in recent years. While all these developments on land were immensely beneficial to Greece, Kanaris was a sailor at heart and remained thoroughly committed to improving the standing of Greek shipping and maritime activities.

    During his term as Prime Minister, Kanaris would see the port of Piraeus expanded for the second time in the past two decades. Similarly, the neighboring port of Eleusis was thoroughly dredged and modernized to necessitate increased traffic through the region. Patras, Preveza, Heraklion, and Chios would also see expansions of their ports over the course of the 1850’s thanks in large part to Kanaris’ efforts. Kanaris would also actively campaign for the passage of the Harbors and Shipping Act, which would see various harbors and ports across Greece modernized to accommodate newer vessel like steamships.

    The ship building industries in Piraeus and Ermoupoli were also given extensive leeway regarding government oversight and regulations as well as numerous tax breaks and incentives, something which proved especially beneficial to the nascent steamship industry in Greece. Naturally, the shipping industry in Greece reacted well to these endeavors by Kanaris’ government by expanding by a considerable margin over the next few years, reaching their zenith in the late 1860’s. By 1856, the Hellenic Steamship Company, now owned by Ilias Kehayas, was among the largest and most profitable in Europe, surpassing even the British in large parts of the Mediterranean. While these initiatives were all beneficial to the Greek Economy and Kanaris’ legacy, they would all pale in comparison to Kanaris’ most ambitious and most enduring initiative, the Corinth Canal.

    Next Time: Moving Heaven and Earth

    [1] According to the Constitution of 1831, the Governors of the 14 Nomos are appointed by the King of Greece. They are generally responsible for carrying out the Government’s will in their respective provinces, but they do have some autonomy in that regard.
    [2] Under the impression that his primary political goals had been accomplished with the enactment of the 1843 Constitution, Yannis Makriyannis made the surprising decision to walk away from politics in OTL too, albeit he did so following a failed run for office in 1844. Even after his “retirement” Makriyannis remained politically active, and constantly opined on matters of state and foreign affairs.
    [3] The town of Kifissa was especially popular among the upper echelons of Greek society at that time for its serene landscape, beautiful gardens and mild climate as well as its general proximity to Athens.
    [4] OTL Amaliada.
     
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    Part 76: Moving Heaven and Earth
  • Part 76: Moving Heaven and Earth


    Greece’s Great Engineering Challenge; The Corinth Canal

    The dream of building a canal through the Isthmus of Corinth was nothing new to the Greeks having been tossed about since the earliest days of their civilization. Beginning in the late 7th Century BCE, the tyrant of Corinth Periander would initially propose digging a canal through the Isthmus as a ploy to cement Corinth’s grip on commerce throughout the region. But lacking the means to undertake such a colossal enterprise, Periander would instead order the construction of a primordial rail system of timber and stone, known as the Diolkos in its place.[1] This portage road enabled ships to travel across the isthmus at a rate faster than by sea, bringing great wealth and prestige to Corinth, over the next six hundred years. With the Diolkos a moderate success, Periander abandoned efforts to build a canal across the isthmus having accomplished what he had set out to achieve.

    Eventually though the Diolkos would be lost to the annals of history, leading to the reemergence of the Corinth Canal within the minds of many prominent figures across the ages. Among them were Demetrius Poliocretes, Julius Caesar, Caligula and Hadrian, yet they, like Periander before them would eventually abandon the idea out of financial concern and superstition or die before they could begin work on it. Surprisingly, it would be the Roman Emperor Nero who actually came the closest to building the canal, as he would personally break ground near Corinth in 67 AD. Work at the site would progress at a reasonably rate thanks to a glut of Jewish slave labor and Roman ingenuity until it came to an abrupt halt the following year when the Governor of Gallia Lugdunesis, Gaius Julius Vindex rebelled against Nero necessitating his return to Rome.[2] Although many expected work to eventually continue, Nero’s death later that year would spell the end for the project as no serious attempt would be made for another 1800 years. Only when the Kingdom of Greece gained its independence in 1830 from the Ottoman Empire would talk of the Corinth Canal come to the fore once again.

    Recognizing the enormous economic and strategic benefits a Corinth Canal could provide the new state of Greece, the Governor of Greece Ioannis Kapodistrias publicly advocated for the construction of a canal at Corinth. By cutting a sea channel through the isthmus of Corinth, the time needed for the average sailing ship to travel from Piraeus to Patras would be cut by more than half, dropping from 320 nautical miles (600 km) to less than 130 (240 km). Based on this, the Greek frigate VP Hellas (the fastest ship in the Hellenic Navy at the time with an average sailing speed of 14 knots) could make this voyage in a little under 10 hours by traveling through the Canal as opposed to over a day and a half traveling around the Peloponnese. For a state as reliant upon sea travel as Greece was, the benefits to communication and commerce that the Canal could provide for Greece would be enormous.

    More importantly, by building a channel through the Isthmus of Corinth, ships (both sail and steam) would no longer have to traverse the dreaded Kavomaleas and Kavomatapas along the Southern coast of the Peloponnese. Over the centuries, an untold number of men and vessels had been lost along these jagged shores, with their ships dashed upon the rocks by gale force winds and their crews drowned beneath the billowing waves that swirled off the coast. By bypassing the rugged southern shoreline of Matapan and Malea in favor of the Corinth Canal, shipping between the Aegean and Adriatic could theoretically continue year-round as vessels would no longer have to fear the tumultuous Winter storms which had sunk many a ship over the years. Instead they could travel through the relatively placid Saronic Gulf, through the Corinth Canal and into the similarly calm Gulf of Corinth.


    Kavomaleas

    As a result of this increased safety, many Greek economists predicted that annual traffic (both foreign and domestic) through a completed Corinth Canal would exceed 3 million tons per annum bringing a tremendous influx of cash to the region. Local communities along the Saronic Gulf and Gulf of Corinth would benefit immensely by the need to provide services and supplies to the numerous ships passing through the canal. This increase in traffic would also provide the Greek state with additional revenue in the form of custom dues and transit fees through the Canal, a prize that was greatly desired in the debt-ridden Greek state. The construction effort itself would also provide hundreds, if not thousands of jobs for the people of Argolis-Corinthia not just in the form of the laborers and engineers building the canal, but also in the form of cooks, innkeepers, entertainers, doctors, tailors, and blacksmiths who would support the building effort indirectly. The projected boon to the Greek economy both along the Gulf of Corinth and Saronic Gulf, and across Greece in general would be well worth the initial expenses with conservative estimates reaching into the tens of millions of Drachmas each year.

    Yet that expense was incredibly high, with the projected cost of the project running north of 40,000,000 French Francs. Despite considerable interest in the project and his powerful grip on Greek politics, Kapodistrias would prove unwilling and unable to commit Greece to such an undertaking at the time. Despite this disappointment, Kapodistrias’ efforts would help lay the groundwork for its future construction. During his tenure as Prime Minister of Greece, Kapodistrias would commission various geologists and surveyors to locate potential sites for the Canal. After several months of meticulous surveying and research, they would conclude that the Isthmus was narrowest between the small fishing hovel Isthmia and the coast to the Northeast of the city of Corinth.[3] Kapodistrias would also be successful in garnering considerable public interest in the Canal, particularly in the city of Corinth itself, ultimately leading to the formation of the Corinth Company in 1842 (a conglomeration of entrepreneurs, bankers, and industrials who supported the construction of a canal at Corinth among other projects).

    The Corinth Canal would also prove to be relatively popular amongst Kapodistrias’ political successors as well, with Andreas Metaxas beginning preliminary work at the site in 1843, when he had a team of engineers charted a route through the isthmus. The following year, Metaxas would send a new team of surveyors to examine the soil and rock composition along the chosen route indicating that construction on a Corinth Canal would begin in the near future. These hopes were dashed following the 1844 General Elections as the Fileléfthero Kómma (Liberal Party) under Alexandros Mavrokordatos came to power, resulting in a broad shift in priorities by the Greek Government away from the Canal.

    Nevertheless, Mavrokordatos would approve a handful of contracts submitted by the Corinth Company, enabling them to begin work on the project themselves. After Ioannis Kolettis and his Nationals came to power in 1849 the Greek Government changed course yet again and began allocating funds from the Government’s infrastructure budget towards the construction of the Corinth Canal. However, it would fall to Constantine Kanaris to get the Vouli’s final approval for the endeavor as Kolettis’ gaze eventually shifted to other matters. Fortunately for Kanaris’ the situation in 1854 was vastly different than the one Kapodistrias had dealt with in the 1830’s.

    Firstly, the Greek economy was leagues ahead of where it had been at the conclusion of the War for Independence. No longer was Greece a war-torn land, devastated by bloody battles, extensive pillaging, and needless massacres. Instead, it was a land of relative economic prosperity as years of continual growth and development had elevated Greece from an impoverished provincial backwater on the edge of Europe into a bustling hub of commerce and trade. Greece’s shipping industry was second to none in the Mediterranean, providing services to Britain, France, Spain, Russia, the Ottoman Empire, Egypt, the Italian States, Hungary, and the Triple Monarchy. Greece’s agricultural sector was also strong, having quickly surpassed its pre-war levels to heights unseen in recent Greek history. While it still ranked far below the agriculture powerhouses of Europe, the Greeks provided a generous supply of raisins, olive oil and mastic to European Markets, while still proving capable of feeding a million and a half people.

    Thanks to this economic resurgence, the Greek Government’s finances had dramatically improved since the 1830's. Through numerous revisions of their tax, tariff, and custom codes, the incoming revenue for the Government in 1854 would be the highest yet at over 51 million Drachma (roughly £1,820,000). This, combined with masterful diplomacy and stellar accounting enabled Greece to lower its tremendous debt over the years, bringing the sum down from a staggering 6 million Pounds Sterling in 1831 to a much more manageable sum of 2.4 million Pounds in 1850. While 40 million Francs would still be a tremendous financial burden for the state to carry on its own, Kanaris and his regime would manage to convince a number of moneylenders, bankers, and private investors from across Greece, Britain, and France to aid in the financing of the canal.

    In addition to Greece’s improved economic standing, the Corinth Canal had the benefit of foreign knowhow gained from the ongoing construction of the Suez Canal. Work on a canal near the port town of Suez, Egypt had begun back in mid-1851 when the Governor of Egypt, Ibrahim Pasha reached out to the French Diplomat Ferdinand Marie, Viscount de Lesseps regarding the construction of a canal across the isthmus of Suez.[4] Like the Corinth Canal, interest in a canal connecting the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea had increased dramatically in recent years as global commerce steadily increased. By cutting through the isthmus of Suez, ships would save countless weeks, possibly even months traveling between Europe and Asia benefiting trade immensely. While various figures throughout history had proposed such a canal, it would be Napoleon Bonaparte who showed the most interest in the project in recent times, tasking one of his Engineers, Jacques-Marie Le Pere with surveying the sight and discerning the feasibility of such a project. Le Pere would erroneously record that the sea levels of the Red Sea and Mediterranean Sea were different by more than 9 millimeters, leading Napoleon to abandon the idea altogether.


    An early sketch of what a completed Suez Canal would look like

    Le Pere’s report would remain largely unchallenged until 1839 when the French Ambassador to Egypt, the Viscount de Lesseps arranged for Louis Maurice Adolphe Linant de Bellefonds to test Le Pere’s report. Linant would eventually determine that there was no discernable difference in sea level between the two seas, thus ammending Le Pere’s earlier result and paving the way for a canal at Suez. This development would prompt immense interest in the Suez Canal, but the outbreak of War between Egypt and the Ottoman Empire in 1840, followed by the ensuing economic recession afflicting Europe which deterred largescale investment and then finally the death of Mohammed Ali in 1847 all resulted in delay after delay for the project. By 1850 the situation had improved as Ibrahim Pasha had succeeded his father, and the French economy had recovered immensely thanks to the incorporation of Wallonia and Napoleon II's much needed economic reforms.

    By the Summer of 1851, the gears were in motion for construction to finally begin on the Suez Canal. Linant would lead the day to day affairs while Lesseps and his compatriots in the Société d'études de l'Isthme de Suez focused on the logistics and funding for the project. The project also received its fair share of support from the Egyptian Government which supported the construction efforts extensively. Similarly, the French and British Governments provided some measure of political support as well.

    Work at Suez had been ongoing for over a year before Kanaris even assumed office, yet during that time numerous developments had taken place that were relevant to the ongoing debate in Greece over the Corinth Canal. The use of dredges by the French and Egyptians was particularly ingenious as a team of laborers would dig a small portion of the canal by shovel, before flooding it with water. After a reasonable amount of water had filled the cavity, a dredge and barge would be floated into the now flooded segment of the canal to widen and deepen the channel. This process greatly expedited progress on the canal, enabling the Suez Company to dig 28 miles of the canal in just 3 years. In comparison, the Corinth Canal at only 4 miles, was much shorter than the 90-mile Suez Canal, leading many to believe that a Corinth Canal would be much easier to build. However, the Suez Canal had the benefit of running through sand and clay rather than rock and gravel (much of which was at or above sea level), they also had further advantages that the Greeks did not have, namely an abundance of cheap labor in the form of Corvées.

    These men were little more than slaves, forced to work in appalling conditions for no pay under the brutal Egyptian Sun and subject to a myriad of diseases which plagued their camps. Although Linant and Lesseps were reluctant to admit it, several hundred of these laborers would die due to these circumstances between 1851 and 1854, but as result, the Suez Company had made impressive progress on the canal. However, for a liberal country such as Greece that believed so strongly in human decency and equality; such a system could not and would not be tolerated by the Greek people. Another problem encountered by the Suez Company was the rapidly increasing costs of the construction effort. Despite the benefit of free labor, the total cost of the canal was projected at 200 million gold Francs in 1851. However, costs would eventually rise upwards to 300 million in 1854 and continue to more than 400 million by 1858. Were such a development to occur for the Greeks, then the cost for the Corinth Canal would likely swell from 40 million Francs to 60 or even 80 million, a price that would likely bankrupt the Government.

    It was clear that getting the approval of the Vouli would be an uphill battle for Kanaris and proponents of the canal as Mavrokordatos and his Liberals stood in fierce opposition to the project. Although Mavrokordatos and the Liberals generally supported infrastructure, they remained committed to the belief that the Government should refrain from interfering in the matters of private interests, who they called upon to construct the canal. Several more fiscally cautious members of the Nationals were in agreement with Mavrokordatos as well. Ultimately, a measure authorizing the construction of the Corinth Canal would pass through the Vouli by a slim margin of 71 to 62 with 4 abstentions.

    According to the final bill, construction of the Corinth Canal would take place over a 6-year period beginning in the Summer of 1854. 8 million Drachma would be allocated to the project each year for a total of 48 million Drachma (roughly 44 million French Francs). The Canal would be 6 kilometers in length, 25 meters in width, and 30 meters in depth running from the village of Isthmia across the Isthmus of Corinth. Leading the operation would be the Macedonian architect Stamatios Kleanthis who was charged by the Interior Ministry with overseeing the entire construction effort.


    Stamatios Kleanthis; Lead Architect of the Corinth Canal

    Stamatios Kleanthis had been instrumental in the renovation and expansion of Athens following the War for Independence in 1830, personally designing several buildings across the city including Palace Square (later renamed to Kolokotronis Square in 1861), the British Embassy mansion, the Anglican Church of Athens, and the old University of Athens schoolhouse among many others. Following his extensive architectural work in Athens, Kleanthis would work in Piraeus and Eretria before moving to Paros where he opened a marble quarry on the island, exporting the precious stone to interested buyers across Europe. His marble was so sought after that it would win the coveted Golden Award at the 1852 London World’s Fair at the Crystal Palace.[5] It was this combined experience in architecture and mining that made Kleanthis an attractive candidate to lead the Corinth Canal project.

    While Kleanthis would be the overseer for the project, the actual construction of the Canal itself, would be accomplished by laborers under the employ of the Corinth Company and the Hellenic Army Engineers regiment and its commander, Colonel Vasileios Sapountzakis. Although primarily viewed as a unit of military engineers, the Engineers regiment was also proficient in a number of civil works projects; primarily building roads and bridges, wells and aqueducts. While digging a canal was certainly within their capabilities, it would be by far the most expansive project they had worked on thus far. Nevertheless, the Engineers had received their orders and would begin work on the 23rd of June near the town of Isthmia.


    The Hellenic Army Engineer Emblem

    When the day of the groundbreaking finally arrived, the Royal Family was in full attendance for the day’s events; King Leopold and his wife Queen Marie, Crown Prince Constantine accompanied by his wife Grand Duchess Anna Mikhailovna and their infant daughter Princess Maria, Prince Alexander and Princess Katherine. Owing to his advanced age and a number of physical ailments, King Leopold would not perform the ceremonial groundbreaking himself, instead he would delegate the task to his eldest son, Prince Constantine. The gangly Prince, grabbed the shovel and in an awkward thrust, pierced the soil which he unceremoniously tossed to the side. Kanaris would famously quip that Constantine was picking up right where Nero had left off.

    The first few weeks would go relatively smoothly with Sapountzakis and the Engineers making slow, but steady progress at Isthmia. Still, they had managed to make relatively good progress and had advanced some 100 meters in length, 20 meters in width, and 25 meters in depth by the end of July, impressive figures by all accounts. By Summer’s end, approximately half a mile had been fully dug near Isthmia, but problems would soon emerge that threatened to derail the entire project. Firstly, the cost of the construction effort was proving much greater than initially anticipated. Nearly the entire amount of Drachma set aside for 1854 had been used in the first three months, forcing an embarrassing stoppage of work at the site while the Government rushed to allocate more money for the project.

    More problematic than the increasing financial difficulties were the political developments beginning to take place throughout the region. To the North, the Ottoman Empire -at the encouragement of Great Britain - declared war on the Russian Empire sparking what would later be known as the Great Eurasian War. While mostly confined to the Crimean Peninsula, the Caucasus Mountains and the Middle East; this war between three of Greece’s largest trading partners heavily disrupted Greek commerce in the region. When combined with the ongoing raisin glut, the Greek economy subsequently began to suffer from its first major recession since the War for Independence, a fact which significantly weakened the Kanaris Government.

    With elections only a few short weeks away and the Corinth Canal proving to be a growing financial mess, the National Party naturally looked to other means of boosting their Government’s popularity across the country. To that end, they announced that Prime Minister Kanaris, Foreign Minister Konstantinos Kolokotronis (youngest brother of Panos and Ioannis Kolokotronis), and representatives of the British Governments had been secretly negotiating the transfer of the Ionian Islands to Greek administration. In what was to be a surprising blunder, Kanaris, believing that a deal with the British had been reached, let slip to his allies in the Vouli that the Ionian Islands would soon belong to Greece. Naturally, such joyous news spread like wildfire throughout the party rank and file, until it soon became public knowledge. When word of this revelation made its way to London, the British Government were understandably angered by this lack of confidentiality on Kanaris’ part. Combined with Greece’s rather overt support for the Russians in the war against the Ottomans, the British Government thought it best to halt negotiations over the islands and continue discussion on the matter another time. Unsurprisingly, the people of Greece were unhappy with this turn of events, and though most of their anger fell upon Perfidious Albion, Kanaris and the Nationals were not spared from ridicule either.

    While this was certainly a misstep for the Nationals, especially in the days leading up to the 1854 Elections, the worst was yet to come in early October as eleven of the Corinth Company's laborers were killed when a section of the newly constructed trench collapsed upon them. Despite the loss of life, work continued on unabated leading to mounting criticism of Kleanthis, Colonel Sapountzakis, and Kanaris for ignoring the treacherous working conditions at the site. When this accident was followed up with another three weeks later, Kanaris was forced to order and immediate halt to all construction efforts at the site while a government investigation took place to develop better safety measures at the site. This stoppage would be too little to late for members of the Greek public who began protesting near the canal, calling on Kanaris' resignation.


    Inside the Corinth Canal

    Kanaris in a show of humility and deference to the public outcry against him, offered his resignation to King Leopold, but the King genuinely believing in the old Navarchos, refused to accept it and stalwartly stood behind the Prime Minister. This show of support would save Kanaris, but it would not save the National Party which lost 31 seats in the ensuing elections, dropping from their previous high of 87 back in July, down to 56 by December. While the Nationals were still the predominant party in Greek Politics, the 1854 Elections had destroyed their majority in the Vouli. Unable to govern on his party’s support alone, Kanaris was forced to approach his rivals for a coalition government.

    Mavrokordatos would refuse him out of hand, denouncing the rather Anglophobic stance of the National Party had taken following the failure of the recent Ionian Island negotiations. Moreover, he blamed its ludicrous spending for the current economic recession Greece was presently suffering from. With Mavrokordatos and his Liberals out of the picture, Kanaris was forced to turn to his old ally Panos Kolokotronis for support.

    Kolokotronis’ Laïkó Kómma had the lowest membership of the three parties in the Greek Vouli, with only 21 members as of January 1855, but as it shared many core values with the National Party, it was a natural ally for Kanaris to align himself with. However, there existed a degree of bad blood between Kanaris and Kolokotronis in recent years, owing in part to the perceived abandonment of Kanaris by Kolokotronis in 1848. Despite this, political necessity dictated that Kanaris make amends with Kolokotronis and convince him to form a coalition government between the National and People’s Parties. After some deliberation, the old Strategos would agree to Kanaris’ request in return for prominent positions in the cabinet for himself and several of his closest supporters.

    Despite this stabilization of the Greek Government, work on the Corinth Canal had come to a definitive end for the time being, as public support for the project had collapsed and Greece’s energies were directed to the war taking place to the North and East. Yet in a surprising twist of fate, it would be this very conflict, this Great Eurasian War which would see the enosis of the Ionian Islands with Greece and the completion of the Corinth Canal finally become reality.

    Next Time: The Great Game
    [1] The exact origins of the Diolkos are unknown, but based on some circumstantial evidence, the construction of the portage road is generally placed in the late 7th/early 6th Centuries BCE during the reign of Periander.
    [2] While Nero wasn’t the first to consider building a canal outside Corinth, he was the only one prior to modern times to actually attempt construction of the canal. Other famous figures to contemplate building a canal across the isthmus include Demetrios Poliocretes, Julius Caesar, and Caligula among many others.
    [3] Roughly equivalent to the site of OTL Canal.
    [4] There are two major divergences here compared to OTL which allow for an earlier construction of the Suez Canal. First, with Ibrahim Pasha surviving longer, his nephew Abbas never becomes Wali of Egypt in this timeline preventing him from opposing the Suez Canal’s construction for several years. This also benefits the Egyptian economy, which is stronger as a result. Secondly, relations between Egypt and France are much stronger ITTL thanks to France’s pseudo intervention during the Second Egyptian Ottoman War in 1840. French relations are also strong with Britain thanks to Napoleon II having spent several years in Britain, thus avoiding their initial opposition as well. Napoleon II also has a personal stake in this as it would fulfill his late father’s ambition. France’s acquisition of Wallonia also helps quite a lot, although this is balanced out in the short term by the devastation of the Belgian War and the fallout from the Revolution in 1848.
    [5] Due to the added problems facing Britain ITTL, the Exhibition was delayed into 1852. Kleanthis’ participation in the Exhibition and the award for his marble is per OTL though.
     
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    Part 77: The Great Game
  • Part 77: The Great Game



    The Middle East caught between the Bear and the Lion

    Although it was the Ottoman Empire who officially ignited the Great Eurasian War with their declaration on the Russian Empire in May 1854; in truth it was their ally, Great Britain who had been the real instigator of the conflict. In the years that followed, British politicians would remark that their decision to fight the Russian Empire had been made to end their oppression of the Ottoman Empire and its subjects. However, in more recent years it has become increasingly clear that the British Government simply wished to strike a blow against the ascending Russian Empire whom they deemed a grave threat to their supremacy. The source of this animosity dates back several decades to the end of the Congress of Vienna as Tsarist Russia gradually supplanted France as the UK’s chief rival on the continent. For their part the Russians considered the British to be hypocrits who expanded wherever they wanted and plundered what it wished, but prevented any other powers from doing the same. As the years progressed, the rivalry between them would become more heated and intense as they struggled for dominance in Europe and Asia.

    Of all the fronts in the feud between Britain and Russia, the Ottoman Empire was perhaps the most important given its strategic position straddling the Bosporus and the Dardanelles. With its possession of these narrow channels, the Sublime Porte could control access to or from the Black Sea for foreign ships who were often subject to the whims of the Porte. No country was more effected by this than the Russians who often found themselves at odds with the Turks throughout much of their history. By controlling the Bosporus Straights and the Dardanelles, the Ottomans could effectively cut off Russian access to the sea for much of the year as Russia's only warm water ports were located along the Black Sea. If the Straits were closed to Russian ships, the Ottomans could effectively cripple their economy as well as their ability to project power beyond their borders. Naturally, such a situation was unacceptable to St. Petersburg who made the resolution of this “Straits Question” one of their chief foreign policy concerns throughout the 19th Century.

    For Great Britain, Russian dominance of the Turkish Straits would threaten their own interests in the Ottoman Empire and the Eastern Mediterranean, with whom they possessed a number of trade concessions and capitulations. Attempting to avert this takeover from happening, Westminster would overtly prop up the flagging Ottoman Empire as a bulwark against further Russian expansionism into the Balkans and Caucasia for much of the 1800’s. The British would be especially helpful to Constantinople during the First and Second Syrian Wars as they would successfully coerce Muhammed Ali of Egypt into making peace with the Sublime Porte through their generous use of gunboat diplomacy. They would also play a role, albeit a minor one in mediating the peace talks between Russia and Turkey during the Conference of Adrianople in 1829. Most prominently, however, they revealed an insidious plot by Tsar Nicholas and the Russian government to partition the Ottoman Empire between themselves and the British in the Spring of 1844.[1]

    The only exception to this policy of Turcophilia would be the Greek War of Independence as the British people pressured their government into aiding the Greeks in their struggle for freedom alongside the Russians and the French. It was no secret that the British had entered this coalition unwillingly, but with Russia eying an invasion of the Ottoman Empire and mounting atrocities in Greece taking place, intervention was deemed a necessary evil by Westminster. Still, Prime Minister George Canning supported a negotiated solution that would see the establishment of a Greek state under the continued sovereignty of the Turks, comparable to that of Wallachia and Moldavia. Yet fate had another outcome in mind as the allied fleet sent to restore peace to the Aegean would instead come to blows with the Ottoman navy at Çeşme, annihilating it utterly. Angered by this duplicity, Sultan Mahmud II would break off all negotiations with the British, French and Russians and summarily closed the straits to Russian ships, providing St. Petersburg with the justification it needed to declare war on the Turks without British opposition.

    Soon after, Russia would invade the Ottoman Empire sparking the Russo-Turkish War of 1828-1829 which would finally prompt the Porte to make peace with the Greeks. The Russians' intervention in favor of the Greeks was not a philanthropic act either as they sought to strike a mortal blow against the Turks, while also establishing the Greek state as their client in the Southern Balkans. They were aided in this effort by the election of the renowned statesman Ioannis Kapodistrias as Governor of Greece in 1826 who considered Russia to be Greece’s chief benefactor. Kapodistrias was famous for his extensive service as Russia’s Foreign Minister between 1813 and 1822 and had drafted most of the pretenses of defender of the Orthodox Christians which Russia now claimed for itself. With Kapodistrias in command of the Greek government, St. Petersburg believed that Greece would be a loyal ally of Russia, providing another front for the Turks to deal with in any future conflict with Russia.


    Ioannis Kapodistrias during his time as Russian Foreign Minister

    Only at this late hour, with Russian armies at the gates of Constantinople would the British Government finally come to accept the creation of an independent Greece as necessary, but it was clear that they had lost the initiative in the Balkans to Russia. Undeterred by this setback; Britain would shift tactics and began working to undermine the administration of Kapodistrias through the election of liberal, Western oriented politicians such as Alexandros Mavrokordatos and Spyridon Trikoupis to high office. Despite Kapodistrias’ earnest attempts to foster cordial relations with London, in their eyes he was nothing more than a Russian stooge who could not be trusted. Most importantly, the British Government would throw their weight behind the candidacy of Prince Leopold of Saxe Coburg and Gotha for the vacant Greek Throne during the 1830 Conference of London.

    Then British Prime Minister George Canning believed that Leopold would be bound to Britain thanks to his close familial relation to Princess Alexandrina Victoria (future Queen Victoria) as well as a perceived sense of indebtedness he would have to Westminster for supporting his bid for the Greek Crown. Leopold was also a political neophyte with little experience governing or ruling and he held few connections outside Britain, which made many in London rightfully believe that he would be reliant upon them for support. Because of these ties to the United Kingdom, they believed that Leopold would serve as a counterbalance to Kapodistrias and the “Russian Party” in Greek politics and guide the nascent country into Britain’s orbit. Ironically, the Russians had no issue with Leopold’s candidacy for the Greek Crown as he was the former brother in law to Grand Duke Constantine and he enjoyed a strong rapport with Tsar Nicholas.

    In the end, both Britain and Russia would find their efforts to subordinate Greece opposed by the very men they had considered their proxies. Leopold would prove to be surprisingly independent of London’s control, developing a strong rapport with Kapodistrias, and even tying himself to the House of Romanov through his marriage in 1832 to Princess Marie of Württemberg, a niece of Tsar Nicholas. The marriage of his eldest son, Prince Constantine to Grand Duchess Anna Mikhailovna (another niece of Tsar Nicholas) in 1853 would further strengthen these ties to St. Petersburg, increasing British concerns of growing Russian influence in Greece. Similarly, Ioannis Kapodistrias would chart a strikingly neutral course for Greece, making numerous diplomatic, economic and military arrangements with Britain and France over the course of his Premiership. He would also imitate British and French institutions when he reorganized the Greek Government in 1827 and he supported the establishment of a rather liberal Constitution in 1831. Finally, Kapodistrias made a point of refusing loans and payment for his past services from the Russian Government in order to mitigate concerns of his bias towards St. Petersburg.

    Russia’s attempts to expand its influence elsewhere in the Balkans were similarly disappointed. Having failed to convince its allies of the Ottoman Empire’s imminent demise and the need to partition it before its lands and peoples fell into anarchy, Russia was forced to moderate its demands in the 1829 Treaty of Adrianople to appease British and French worries. Territorially, Russia would only take the Danube Delta for itself, choosing to focus much of its energy and resources on “freeing” their Orthodox brethren from Turkish oppression. To a degree they succeeded as Serbia was established as an autonomous Principality, albeit one still under the suzerainty of the Porte while the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia were made joint condominiums of Russia and the Ottoman Empire, although in truth they were largely under the influence of Russia.

    In Transcaucasia, the Russian Empire would find more success, annexing the Ottoman Empire’s last remaining outposts North of the Caucasus Mountains (Anapa and Sujuk Kale). On the Southern side of the Mountains, the Russians would be also awarded sole suzerainty over the hitherto autonomous Georgian principalities of Kartli-Kakheti, Imereti, Mingrelia, and Guria who had previously played the Ottomans, the Persians, and the Russians off one another in order to retain their nominal independence. Their greatest gain, however, would be the annexation of Kars following the Russo-Turkish War of 1828-1829. Kars was a fortress city on the eastern edge of Anatolia which had long served as a vital bastion against the Porte’s enemies in the region. Now in Russian hands, Kars stood as a dagger pointed threateningly at the vulnerable frontier of Eastern Anatolia providing St. Petersburg with a certain degree of leverage over the Ottoman Empire who was now deprived of its greatest stronghold in the East.


    The Fortress City of Kars

    Although the Russians had enjoyed great success in the Caucasus and more moderate gains in the Balkans, their attempts to secure the Straits would fail completely. Following the Greek War of Independence, Ibrahim Pasha invaded Palestine, Lebanon, and Syria, conquering these lands in the name of his father Muhammad Ali, Khedive of Egypt. Emboldened by these successes, Ibrahim soon pushed into Anatolia, defeating an Ottoman army near Konya and threatening to march on Constantinople directly. Fearful of this, Sultan Mahmud II reached out to Britain, France, Austria and Prussia calling for aid against the Egyptians, but none answered him as they were all occupied with matters closer to home (the First Belgian Revolution and the Carbonari Revolt). Desperate to save his Empire from imminent collapse, Mahmud turned to his former adversary Russia for aid.

    Tsar Nicholas immediately jumped at the opportunity, ordering Count Nesselrode (Kapodistrias’ successor as Russian Foreign Minister) to accept the Sultan’s request in return for several "minor" concessions. Faced with no other options, Sultan Mahmud II reluctantly accepted the Tsar’s terms and signed the Treaty of Hunkiar Iskelesi in mid-1832. Under this agreement, Russian warships were permitted through the Straits in return for Russian military aid against the Egyptians and Russia's guarantees of the Porte's territorial integrity. While this seemed reasonable enough on the surface, hiding within the treaty was a secret article which would have compelled the Turks to close the Straits to any Power that Russia so chose, effectively making the Straits Russian by proxy. With a single stroke of the pen, St. Petersburg had achieved all its ambitions in the Ottoman Empire, gaining a foothold on the Mediterranean and securing the door to Russia's soft underbelly.

    Naturally, when Britain learned of this development (the details had been leaked to them by embittered Turkish diplomats in London), they began applying all the pressure they could muster upon Constantinople to make them retract their accord with St. Petersburg, promising support against Egypt if they did so. Ultimately, the Ottoman Government would be forced to comply when a squadron of the Royal Navy’s Mediterranean Fleet sailed into Beşik Bay and threatened to close the Hellespont.[2] Once an arrangement was made with the Porte, the British Government stayed true to its previous promises of aid against Egypt and sent their Levant Squadron to Alexandria and threatened Muhammad Ali Pasha with war if he did not make peace with the Porte, terms which he readily accepted.

    The same could not be said of the Porte’s Russian “ally” who had marched an army 40,000 strong into Anatolia several months before as agreed upon in the Treaty of Hunkiar Iskelesi, only for it to then encamp near the Straits, securing it against a potential Egyptian assault. With the war effectively over and under pressure by the British to act, the Ottoman Government formally annulled the Treaty of Hunkiar Iskelesi in early 1833, less than a year after it was signed and called on the Russians to leave. For St. Petersburg, such treachery was tantamount to an act of war, and readied itself to invade. But when its allies, Austria and Prussia threw their support behind the British and Ottomans, the Russian Empire was forced to grit its teeth and begrudgingly bare the insult. Having come so close, only to have their ambitions thwarted so suddenly was a bitter pill to swallow for St. Petersburg, but it would only get worse as in 1837 as the Ottomans signed an extensive trade deal with Great Britain.
    The Anglo-Ottoman Treaty removed all tariffs on British goods and abolished all trade monopolies in the Ottoman Empire, effectively turning the country into a Free Trade Zone. Without the protection of tariffs, the British quickly flooded the Empire with cheap British products. By 1850, the British had secured nearly a third of all trade in the Black Sea as Anatolia became one of Britain’s most lucrative export markets, behind only the Netherlands and Germany. For the Russians this was a disaster as British merchants now competed directly with Russian traders in Russia's Black Sea ports. What’s more, Russia’s monopoly on manufactured goods throughout Asia Minor was completely destroyed and in its place, the British firmly implanted themselves. The Greeks would also find significant success, cutting into Russia’s share of the Black Sea trade, channeling Russian cereals to demanding markets in the West. All of this greatly impoverished the Ukraine and reemphasized the importance of controlling the Straits in the eyes of St. Petersburg.

    British Ships at the Port of Odessa

    The other major front between Britain and Russia would be to the East in Central Asia. The region had long been a buffer between British India and Russian Siberia, but with the collapse of the Kazakh Khanate in the mid-18th Century, Central Asia gradually began to fall under the sway of St. Petersburg. The Khanate had long since fractured into three rival Hordes; the Great/Senior Horde, the Middle Horde, and the Lesser/Junior Horde all of which vied for supremacy over the others. Although they officially remained in confederation with one another against any outside threat, in truth, they would each call upon foreign parties to overcome their internal rivals in their fight for dominance. Russia would play a particularly prominent role in this feud with their first foray into Kazakh politics coming in 1731 when they backed the Junior Horde in their feud against the Middle and Senior Horde, effectively assuming the role of their protector and benefactor. The Middle Horde would submit in 1798 when it too came under attack by the Senior Horde. Finally, the Senior Horde would itself call upon Russia for protection when it was subject to a particularly brutal series of Uzbek raids in 1826.

    The final end for the Kazakh Khanate would come during the late 1830’s and early to mid-1840’s as Britain, then distracted with their ongoing war with the Emirate of Afghanistan and later the Sikh Empire, presented Russia with an opportunity to finally do away with their unruly Kazakh “subjects”. Despite a spirited resistance on the part of the Great Horde, the Kazakhs were gradually subsumed by the Russian juggernaut. Ultimately, in 1847, the last Khan of the Kazakhs would be captured by the Russians and carted off to St. Petersburg where he would live out his remaining days in a gilded cage, while his lands and people were formally annexed into the Russian Empire.

    The annexation of the Kazakh Khanate would be a particularly bitter development for the British Government who had recently begun fostering diplomatic and economic relations with the tribes of Central Asia in the hopes of establishing buffer states between British India and the Russian Empire. Thus, the conquest of the Kazakhs by the Russians represented the loss of a burgeoning trade partner by a much more antagonistic actor. More concerning, however, was the movement of the Russian border south of the Orenburg Line to the banks of the Syr Darya River, a distance of more than 1600 kilometers (or roughly 1,000 miles) in some parts.[3] This development would lead many prominent politicians in the British government to conclude that the conquest of the Kazakh Khanate was only the first step to a Russian invasion of India.

    Fearing such a possibility, several members of the British Government along with other prolific Russophobes in British society began voicing their support for direct military intervention in the Great Polish Uprising in the Summer of 1848. Failing this, they began channeling arms, munitions, medical supplies, and cash to the Polish rebels through private means, aiding their efforts in disrupting Russian control over the region for the better part of two years. Despite their best efforts and intentions, their actions would backfire as the rebellion soon spread to neighboring Prussia and Austria, two states who were on much better terms with London. Moreover, the material and financial support provided to the Poles - while certainly extensive - was not nearly enough to defeat the Russians. Without foreign intervention the valorous Poles were eventually ground into submission by the massive Imperial Russian Army.

    Britain’s Polish nightmare was not over, however, as the Russians soon crossed the border into Galicia-Lodomeria at the request of Vienna and subdued their own rebels as well. By 1851, the Great Polish Uprising had been quelled leaving hundreds of thousands of dead on both sides, hundreds of thousands more were displaced, and Russia emerged from the conflict stronger than before thanks to its occupation of Galicia-Lodomeria. Although the Austrian Government would continue to proclaim its sovereignty over Galicia-Lodomeria, the loss of the Kingdom of Hungary made such claims laughable at best and deluded at worst. In truth, the region had fallen under the sway of Russia and it was clear to all that they would not leave the province willingly. For the British, such an act was disastrous as it brought further credence to the belief that the Russian Empire was a rogue actor in global affairs whose expansion would only continue until checked by force of arms.


    Russia ransacking Poland
    These concerns were heightened the following year as a Russian Army invaded the Khivan Khanate in retaliation for an Uzbek raid into their territory. Although the damage inflict by the Russians was relatively minor, it reemphasized that Russia had no respect for the status quo and needed to be humbled before they grew to powerful. In the months following the Khivan invasion, the British extended their protection to Khiva and the other two states of Central Asia, the Emirate of Bukhara and the Kokand Khanate. In return for access to their markets, Britain agreed to supply them with arms and cash in preparation for what was believed to be an inevitable Russian invasion. Britain would also approach Russia’s neighbors discretely in the hopes of building a coalition of likeminded states against the burgeoning Russian threat. They would be sorely disappointed.

    While relations between Vienna and St. Petersburg were not as strong as they had once been (owing in large part to the continued Russian occupation of Galicia-Lodomeria), Austria was still Russia’s ally by treaty and remained grateful for their assistance in the 1848 Revolutions. Moreover, they were in too poor a shape to declare war on anyone let alone the mighty Russian Empire following the disastrous 1848 Revolutions. Similarly, Prussia was quite exhausted itself having dealt with its own Polish Revolt and a war against France in the Low Countries. Looking elsewhere, the Kingdom of Hungary and the Italian Confederation, while certainly supportive of Britain’s opposition to Russian expansionism, they were still recovering from their wars with Austria and thus were in no condition to aid the British in their coalition at present. The Federal German Empire while seemingly powerful, was also a fractious mess with little central authority and many competing interests. Denmark was preoccupied with Holstein and Schleswig, Spain and Portugal were considered too distant and too weak to be of any real benefit to Britain in a conflict against Russia, and the Kingdom of Sweden-Norway was unwilling to join any coalition against Russia without significant foreign support. The French response would prove to be the greatest disappointment for London.

    Although Emperor Napoleon II had taken power with British support in a relatively bloodless coup in 1849, he still found his rule challenged in many parts of the country, specifically in the South of France. An election in 1850, would see his ascension to the vacant French throne legitimized, but even still steadfast Republicans and Socialists continued to obstruct his efforts to govern for the next few years. Combined, with a fragile economy that had only just begun to recover after a prolonged recession, a terrible famine, and a brutal war with Prussia and the Netherlands; France was simply in no state right now to aid the British in a war against Russia. Moreover, France’s own interests of an autonomous Egypt and Levant ran counter to Britain’s goals of a strong and united Ottoman Empire. Napoleon II also had a personal qualm with fighting the Russians as Austria was still aligned with Russia, Napoleon II did not wish to strain relations with his mother's country by declaring war on its ally. Nevertheless, France recognized the threat posed by Russian expansionism and would tentatively support their British ally to the best of their ability, short of actually going to war with Russia.

    Unable to find any willing partners in Europe at the moment, Britain was forced to look to the Middle East for potential allies against Russia. Despite the bad blood between them, the British Government would attempt to court the Qajari Government into making common cause with them against Russia, promising them the return of their Caucasian provinces and the forgiveness of their debts. However, the Persian Government would almost immediately decline, citing the recent death of Mohammed Shah Qajar and rampant economic turmoil within the country. While these were certainly factors, it is far more likely that the overwhelming Anglophobia within the Qajari Military made any such accommodation with the United Kingdom unpopular at best or suicidal at worst. While they would be disappointed by the Persian response, the British would find a much more willing partner in the neighbor, the Ottoman Empire who were perturbed by growing Russian interference in their internal affairs.

    Under the terms of the 1774 Treaty of Kuchuk Kainarji, the Russian Empire was awarded the right to construct a church for its citizens within the city of Constantinople, which was placed under the protection of the Russian state. Overtime, however, the Russian Empire would expand their interpretation of this article to include all Churches of the Russo-Greek rite within the Ottoman Empire and by extension, all the followers of that rite in the Ottoman Empire. This understanding of the Treaty of Kuchuk-Kainarji would play a deciding role in pushing Russia to intervene in the Greek War of Independence, establishing a dangerous precedent for Russian interference in Ottoman affairs. More recently, this would be exemplified yet again in 1848 when the Danubian Principalities protested against continued Turkish suzerainty over their countries.


    The Signing of the Treaty of Kuchuk Kainarji

    Fearing another rebellion like that of the Greeks and the Serbians, the Sublime Porte immediately moved to quash the demonstrations before they became uncontrollable. Their response was swift and relatively bloodless, resulting in the imprisonment of several ring leaders and the occupation of several towns by Turkish soldiers. Russia would take notice of this, however, and immediately intervened stating its role as the joint suzerain of Wallachia and Moldavia and its status as the protector of the Orthodox community. A short stand off with the Ottoman Empire ensued, but with its benefactor Great Britain preoccupied with other matters in Belgium and Afghanistan, the Ottomans reluctantly submitted to Russian demands. The entire debacle had humiliated the Porte and sparked demands for revenge across the Ottoman Empire. Now with Britain ready and able to join them in their effort, they only needed a justification for their war and they would find it in the Treaty of Kuchuk Kainarji.

    While the Russians touted themselves as the protectors of the Christians within the Ottoman Empire, the reverse was also true as the Ottoman Sultan Abdulmejid as the leader of the Islamic world, was in essence the protector of the Muslim communities in the Russian Empire. It just so happened that these Muslim communities now found themselves under increasing persecution by the Tsarist Government to leave their lands or submit to Russianization. In Ciscaucasia, large populations of Muslim Circassians, Chechens, and Dagestanis were often subject to intense discrimination and oppression, almost to the point of genocide as they were often forced out of their villages by Russian soldiers and sent into the mountains and forests to live in squalor and destitution.

    As can be expected, many fought back against their Russian oppressors leading to a series of wars between the two that lasted for several decades. Despite their valor and a number of minor victories against the Russians, it was clear that they were fighting a losing battle and would need outside support if they were to survive. Attempts had been made in the past to call upon the Ottoman Empire for aid (in decades long since past they had been vassals of the Porte), but with Russia’s ascendancy and the loss of the Porte’s outposts north of the Caucasus Mountains, they had little means of directly supporting them in their fight. Now with promises of British military support, this problem was rectified, and the Porte could finally act upon these calls for aid.

    By 1854, the situation was becoming critical forcing the Ottoman Government to issue an ultimatum to the Russian Government demanding it cease its oppression of the Circassian, Chechnyan, and Dagestani peoples. As expected, Russia refused and the the Sublime Porte received its casus belli. When prompted by Britain, they began to mobilize their troops and on the 8th of May 1854, the Ottoman Empire declared war on the Russian Empire followed soon after by the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. One of the bloodiest conflicts in the 19th Century had just begun.

    Next Time: Battle in the Balkans, Clash in the Caucasus
    [1] This is in fact based off of an event in OTL, in which Tsar Nicholas personally traveled to London to meet with Queen Victoria and make a deal with the British Government to divide the Ottoman Empire between them. Naturally, this plan failed, and Nicholas left London empty handed and embittered.
    [2] Austria also sent ships, although it was primarily a British expedition to Alexandria.
    [3] The Orenburg Line was a series of fortified settlements and forts along the Ural and Irtysh Rivers. It is more or less the same as the modern border between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Kazakhstan.
     
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    Part 78: The Battle in the Balkans and the Clash in the Caucasus
  • Part 78: Battle in the Balkans, Clash in the Caucasus
    The Balkans:


    The Battle of Bucharest

    Coinciding with the Sublime Porte’s declaration of war on the 8th of May 1854; an Ottoman Army 68,000 strong surged across the width of the Danube with a devastating ferocity and tremendous speed. The commander of this army, Omar Pasha Latas had spent the past several months preparing for this confrontation with Tsarist Russia, lulling them into a false sense of security and endeavoring to catch them off guard with an extensive misinformation and misdirection campaign. He would succeed on all fronts as the undermanned and underprepared Russian garrisons at Calafat, Giurgiu, and Turnu Măgurele were caught completely unawares and surrendered within mere moments of the Turkish arrival.[1] The Russian redoubts at Călărași, Oltenița, and Turnu Severin would fare slightly better, resisting for several hours before they too succumbed to the Turkish onslaught. By morning of the 9th, nearly all of the Danube’s northern bank from the frontier with the Principality of Serbia to edge of the Black Sea was in Turkish hands with only the cities of Braila and Galati managing to resist this initial offensive by the Ottomans.

    After dealing with the paltry Russian resistance along the border, Omar Pasha quickly moved northward, reconverging much of his divided army on the outskirts of Bucharest four days later on the morning of 13th. Although the Russians had been caught off guard by the outbreak of war, the Russian commander Count Alexander von Lüders had moved quickly to counter the Turkish advance and mustered an ad hoc defense of the Wallachian capital. When the Ottomans arrived, they found Russian soldiers and Wallachian volunteers ready to meet them. Annoyed, but nevertheless undeterred, Omar Pasha pressed ahead with his attack, releasing his cavalry and light infantry to probe the Russian lines for any weaknesses. The Russians and their Wallachian allies would manage to repel them with ease.

    Minutes later, Omar Pasha would launch a second and much larger assault on the Russian formation, committing three of his four columns to the fight. Although they would hold strong against the Ottoman attack initially, in the midst of this second attack, the Wallachian commander Prince Alexander II Ghica was struck in the leg by a rogue musket ball, forcing him to retire from the battlefield for medical treatment. The sight of their leader being carried from the battlefield would greatly demoralize many of the Wallachian militiamen who had been coerced into joining the battle by the Russians and had little interest in fighting beyond defending their families and home. Without their leader there to hold them together, the Wallachian units quickly disintegrated, stretching the already thin Russian line to the breaking point.

    Recognizing this immediately, Omar Pasha promptly released his reserves who crashed through the Russian ranks, breaking them almost instantly. Although Count Lüders would attempt to restore order to his panicked troops, the Russians would be utterly routed and by midday the battle was effectively over. Some cursory fighting would continue over the next few hours as the Turkish cavalry continued to chase down the fleeing Russians for the remainder of the day, only stopping their pursuit with the coming of nightfall. With the Russians driven from Bucharest, the city offered token resistance before surrendering to the Omar Pasha the following morning.

    Although the Turks had carried the field that day, the outcome of the battle would ultimately be irrelevant as the battered Russian Army of Wallachia would soon receive reinforcements in the days ahead, boosting their ranks to well over 120,000 men in the country. The Tsar had also dispatched one of his best commanders, Count Ivan Paskevich to assume control of the Balkan theater of the war. Faced with this prospect, Omar Pasha opted to loot Bucharest of its military assets, tear down its fortifications, and withdraw to the south where he could bleed the Russians white behind the safety of the Danube river and its fortifications. Their attempt to drive the Russians from Wallachia had failed, but they had struck a great blow in the process by disrupting the Tsar’s Balkan Strategy.


    The Russians Flee from Bucharest
    In the years leading up to the outbreak of war, Tsar Nicholas had increasingly come under the influence of his chief military commanders Count Paskevich and Prince Menshikov who predicted that in the event of a war with the Turks, the Christians of the Turkish Empire would rise in a great revolt against them. This rebellion of the Bulgarians, Greeks, Romanians, and Serbians would provide cheap manpower and plentiful resources for the Russian cause; effectively fighting the war on behalf of the Russian Empire. Together with the support of their Russian brothers, the Christian peoples of the Balkans would finally overthrow the Turks and drive them from Europe. In the eyes of Tsar Nicholas and his sycophants, this war was to be the last in a series of noble crusades that would see the vile Turks destroyed and the holy city of Tsargrad reclaimed for Christendom.

    However, Omar Pasha’s blitz across the Danube had disturbed the Tsar’s stratagems as the Russians could not effectively support the Balkan Christians without control of the river. More than that, however, the Russians had overestimated the willingness of the Bulgarians, Serbs, and Greeks to fight and die on their behalf. Their recent setbacks along the Danube frontier and rather stinging defeat at Bucharest would convince many otherwise rowdy partisans, to instead hold their powder, at least momentarily. Many rebel rousers were simply unprepared to revolt in the summer of 1854 and would require several more months to organize their networks and ready armaments. More concerningly, however, was the presence of Britain in the war which presented a massive new problem for Russia to contend itself with as this formerly regional conflict now became a global war.

    Resources that would have normally been sent south against the Turks were now needed in the Baltic or Far East, defending the coast from British raids and naval bombardments. Despite their best efforts, control of the seas would almost certainly be ceded to the Anglo-Ottoman Navies, and preparations would be needed to ensure the survival of the Russian economy which would likely suffer under British blockade. Despite this, the revolt of several thousand Greeks and Bulgarians later that month would convince Tsar Nicholas to stay the course, albeit a slightly modified course.

    The Russian Emperor would still order that the Danube river crossings be retaken no matter the cost, but a significant priority was now placed on securing the crossings in the east first, namely Călărași, Oltenița, and Giurgiu. The reasoning was to secure an avenue into the Silistra Eyalet, from which the Russian army could then strike against the ports of Constanta, Varna, and Burgas. With the Balkan Black Sea coast under their control, Britain’s ability to attack Russia’s Pontic Coast would be severely hampered as they would have to base their ships out of the Straits or the less optimal ports of Anatolia.

    To that end, Count Paskevich would summarily divide his forces in two, with one army under General Peter Dannenberg being tasked with pushing the Ottoman army from southern Wallachia, while the other half under Count Lüders would assemble in southern Bessarabia with orders to push across the Danube Delta and secure the Black Sea coast. As Omar Pasha refused to give battle however, General Dannenberg was forced to engage in series of sieges as he reduced the Ottoman outposts one by one. By the end of June, General Dannenberg’s army had finally reached the fortress of Călărași and immediately ordered an assault on its walls, only for it to be beaten back with heavy casualties. Undaunted by this setback, Dannenberg settled in for a protracted siege of the city as his army began constructing siege works, embankments for their cannons, and a multitude of trenches. Dannenberg’s attempts to establish footholds on the southern bank of the Danube would all fail, however, enabling the Ottomans to continually rush men and supplies into the city enabling the Ottomans to resist indefinitely.

    PGBaF Calarasi.png

    A British Political Cartoon Satirizing the Siege of Călărași

    As this was taking place, Count Lüders’ Army began its push across the Danube Delta near Galati and Izmayli in the face of stiff Ottoman resistance. Fearing that a Russian crossing in the West would provoke a rebellion by the Serbs, Omar Pasha had delegated the defense of North Dobruja to his deputy Ahmed Pasha, while he guarded the Western crossings personally.[2] Ahmed Pasha was provided with a sizeable force, numbering roughly 41,000 men and he boasted a strong defensive position, but Count Lüders would not be denied. Using their advantage in numbers to its full advantage, the Russians staged a number of assaults over a several mile front, drawing Ottoman resources in every which direction. The main thrust would come on the 18th of June North of Tulcea as 20,000 grenadiers supported by gunboats and steamers pushed across the river despite the increasing losses. By sundown, Count Lüders had succeeded in securing a small foothold across the Danube, but only at a tremendous cost in blood.

    Lüders’ trials and tribulations had only just begun however, as Northern Dobruja was a marshy and inhospitable land, with little means of supporting an invading army. The wetlands of the Danube Delta were also a prime breeding ground for pestilence, which ripped through the Russian ranks as they trudged southward. Of the roughly 60,000 Russian soldiers who had crossed the Danube in June 1854, over 27,000 would be rendered invalid by illness over the next two months. Making matters worse, Ahmed Pasha made the Russians fight for every inch of ground they took. Over the coming weeks, Ahmed Pasha would continue to pester the Russians, who made slow progress marching south, only managing to advance 41 miles in 11 days.

    Once clear of the Danube Delta’s marshes and wetland’s, Count Lüders pace would improve slightly, but Ahmed Pasha would take this opportunity to counterattack the Russians with everything he had near the town of Năvodari. Despite mounting casualties, the Russians would fend off the Ottoman attack, but by the end of June, Lüders’ men were nearing their breaking point. On the 2nd of July, Count Lüders’ army finally reached the outskirts of Constanta, only to find it defended by Ahmed Pasha and his host who took up position behind the ancient fortifications of Trajan’s Wall.[3] Although old and terribly obsolete, the walls, vallums, and trenches still provided another obstacle for the exhausted Russian army to contend with as its strength had been sapped by disease and Turkish attacks. Despite this, honor and duty compelled Lüders to accept this challenge with gusto, and once in position he promptly ordered an assault on the medieval fortifications. The ensuing slog of a battle would see thousands killed for little gain on both sides.

    For all his bravado, Count Lüders was no fool and would order a tactical withdrawal out of range of the Turkish guns while his army recovered its strength. Over the next month, Lüders would spend his time securing his gains in North Dobruja, reestablishing his tenuous supply lines to Bessarabia, and receiving desperately needed reinforcements for the many sick and wounded within his ranks. Unfortunately, Russia’s inadequate logistics and appalling medical system would mean that many of these replacements would find themselves falling victim to the same ailments that had waylaid their compatriots. Nevertheless, with pressure mounting from St. Petersburg to continue his advance, Lüders’ army set forth once more in early August, this time marching West towards Silistra.


    The Defenses of Silistra in 1854
    In the words of Tsar Nicholas, the city of Silistra was “the door to the Balkans”; if it fell then the entirety of the Balkans would fall with it. Like Călărași, Silistra controlled passage from the Danubian Principalities into the Balkans. Given its importance, Silistra had been heavily fortified by the Turks in the years preceding the war. A series of modern star forts and medieval stone castles surrounded the city of Silistra in a semicircle several miles out from the citadel in the city’s center. Connecting these defenses were a series of earthworks and trenches and several fortified islands, all manned by nearly 20,000 men. The defenders were also led by the charismatic and capable commander Musa Pasha, providing the Porte with a commendable bastion against their Russian adversary. Finally, Ahmed Pasha’s army of 35,000 men lingered in the Rumelian countryside southeast of the city, providing another challenge for Lüders to contend with.

    As can be expected, Count Lüders’ initial efforts to attack Silistra were repelled as Ahmed Pasha quickly moved his forces in support of the city’s defenders, catching the Russian army in a vice. With the situation at Silistra quickly escalating, Count Paskevich would travel to the region and assume command in person. With his extensive experience fighting the Turks and an over two to one advantage in numbers (roughly 56,000 Ottoman soldiers against well over 120,000 Russian soldiers), Paskevich should have easily won the field at Silistra. However, the arrival of Omar Pasha on scene one week later would restore some balance to the battlefield. Having spent the better part of his military career in Ottoman Bulgaria, Omar Pasha possessed several strengths with which to counter the Russian armies on his doorstep. He knew the importance of Silistra better than anyone and had gradually strengthened its defenses over the past few years. He was determined not to surrender the city without a fight, and it would be a grand fight indeed.

    Paskevich’s situation was also not quite as strong as it initially appeared as the Danube river effectively split his force in two; one half on the left bank besieging Călărași, and the other on the right bank outside Silistra. For his armies to assist each other, they would have to travel several hours downstream to the nearest uncontested crossings, while the Ottomans could simply cross at Călărași and Silistra at will, bringing their comparatively smaller force to bare much faster than the Russians could. This gave Omar Pasha a significant advantage over his adversary as he could face either Russian army and destroy it in detail before the other could arrive and support it.

    Despite this handicap, the Russians would manage to resist Omar Pasha’s sorties, albeit barely and only at great cost. Matters were made worse by Paskevich’s growing timidity and caution, which resulted in numerous delays and overestimations of the Ottoman defenses. Nevertheless, Paskevich would order an assault on Călărași in early September, albeit only after the Tsar had personally wrote to him demanding he take the city. The subsequent attack would succeed, but only at the cost of nearly 5,000 men, more so, their situation would hardly improve with the fall of the city as word soon arrived that the British had begun landing at Varna a few days earlier.


    British Soldiers Encamped North of Varna

    Their arrival, however, would not be the great panacea that the Ottomans had hoped for, nor the great threat that the Russians had feared it to be. While the Royal Navy remained the pride of the British Military and the most potent naval force in the world, the British Army had been allowed to diminish over the past four decades as a series of budget cuts had reduced its ranks from nearly 250,000 men in 1814 to barely half that in 1850 - two thirds of which were in the colonies. The occupation of Galicia-Lodomeria and subjugation of Khiva would reverse this somewhat, but the British Army was still quite lacking by 1854. The quality of the Army was also in doubt as it had not participated in a major conflict in nearly forty years and its doctrine and tactics were decidedly Napoleonic in nature. Its officers were largely untested aristocrats who had purchased their commissions, and were more concerned with socializing and advancement than esprit de corps and military acumen.

    Only their armaments could be considered high quality as they had recently begun equipping their soldiers with the Pattern 1852 Enfield Rifle which was vastly superior to the Model 1845 Rifle-Musket used by their Russian counterparts. Capable of striking a target from 1200 paces with surprising accuracy, the Enfield would be a true force multiplier for the British in the war ahead. The British Expeditionary Army was also equipped with a number of 18 pounder siege guns which while incredibly unwieldy and cumbersome, were truly brutal instruments of war capable of wiping out entire columns of men with a single shot.

    The British troopers themselves were also incredibly brave and would fight valiantly in the years and months ahead of them despite their mediocre leadership and the terrible conditions they would be subject to. By all accounts, the British Army was the equal of the Russian Army at in terms of quality, yet in terms of quantity it was extremely lacking as they could only muster 18,000 soldiers (the 1st Infantry Division and the Royal Regiment of Horse Guards) for the expeditionary force to the Balkans in 1854.[4] In comparison, the Russians would field over ten times that number in the Balkans alone, while the Ottoman would dispatch over 156,000 soldiers to the region by the end of the year. Still, the arrival of these British soldiers complicated the situation for the Russians.

    When combined with the Ottoman soldiers at Silistra, the Anglo-Ottoman forces effectively matched the Russians numerically, nullifying Paskevich’s greatest asset. Moreover, they were well positioned to cut off Count Lüders’s Army from its lines of supply and lines of communication, these concerns were later verified when the British departed Varna, marching northward towards the Danube. Were it not for the overly cautious nature of their commander Lord Raglan, the British would have likely caught Lüders Army in a bind between himself and Omar Pasha’s armies at Silistra, where they could smash it to pieces against the Danube as Paskevich and Dannenberg looked on haplessly. Instead, he would lose this opportunity allowing as Paskevich would soon after order Lüders to withdraw to Cernavodă. Dannenberg’s Army on the Northern bank of the Danube would continue to bombard the city of Silistra from the other side of the river and from the islands which had come under their control (thus maintaining the pretext that the city was under siege), but the retreat of Lüders Army would effectively end the Siege of Silistra in early October 1854.

    The Ottoman offensive in May had completely derailed the Russian strategy and when combined with the constant meddling of Tsar Nicholas and the incompetence of several commanders, the Russians had failed to make significant advances in the Balkans before the British could arrive. The Russians would maintain their hold on Dobruja, but the frontier between the Russians and the Anglo-Ottoman Forces was largely placed along the Danube River. Over the next few weeks, both sides would continue to fire at one another from across the river, but given the width of the Danube, few were wounded and even fewer were killed. Eventually the fighting on the Balkan front gradually came to a halt as Winter was fast approaching and neither side had the means or the will to overcome the other at present. Come Spring, however, the war in the Balkans would begin anew and the siege of Silistra would recommence in earnest.

    The Black Sea:

    The Black Sea

    Of the three main theaters of war in 1854, the Black Sea was perhaps the most decisively in favor of the Anglo-Ottoman alliance. Two days before to the declaration of war, the Kapudan Pasha of the Ottoman Empire Admiral Damat Mehmed Ali Pasha led a small flotilla into the Black Sea under the cover of darkness. Although it paled in comparison to its former might, the Ottoman Navy still numbered a very respectable 71 ships and 16,000 sailors in total by the Spring of 1854. They had also begun receiving British material and technical aid recently in the form of Captain Adolphus Slade, a British naval advisor sent to assist the Ottoman Navy’s modernization in the years preceding the war. Still, the Ottoman Fleet was riddled with inadequacies ranging from largely untrained crews to a plethora of dilapidated ships suffering from poor upkeep. In a head to head fight against the Russian Black Seas Fleet, they would be a rather weak adversary.

    Damat Pasha had a few aces up his sleeve, however, as the fleet he brought with him into the Black Sea represented the most impressive vessels in the Ottoman Navy; seven ships of the line (1 first rater, 1 second rater, 2 third raters, and 3 fourth raters), six sailing frigates, three steam powered ships of the line, seven screw frigates, and seven smaller steamers. Damat’s ships were also manned by a number of British sailors and officers from the Slade Naval Mission - including Captain Slade himself, greatly boosting the fleet’s fighting prowess. Most importantly, the Porte had received reports from Malta that the British Mediterranean Fleet was presently being mobilized for war, while the British Levant Squadron was already in route and would reach the Black Sea within the week. Emboldened by this development, Damat Pasha now sought to draw the Russians out to sea and force them into an unfavorable battle just in time for the British Levant Squadron’s arrival. To that end, he would strike against the heart of the Russia’s naval power in the Black Sea.

    Five days later, before dawn on the 11th of May, Damat Pasha’s fleet arrived outside the port city of Sevastopol, where they found the Russians completely unprepared for battle. Like their counterparts in the Balkans, the Russian commander Admiral Vladimir Kornilov had not expected an attack by the Turks so soon, especially without British support, and had thus dispersed his fleet. His deputy Vice Admiral Pavel Nakhimov had taken his squadron to patrol the Anatolian coast, while Vice Admiral Fyodor Novosiliski had taken a squadron of steamers and gunboats to support operations on the Danube River, and another eleven ships under Rear Admiral Vladimir Ivanovich Istomin were in the Sea of Azov. Another 7 ships were at Odessa, 5 more were at Yevpatoria, 3 were at Kerch, and 3 were at Feodosia. The remaining 42 ships of the Russian Black Sea Fleet were hauled up within Sevastopol’s harbor or anchored just off the coast.[5]

    By themselves, the ships at Sevastopol would have been more than enough to handle the 31 Ottoman warships sailing towards them, but unfortunately for the Russians, many of their sailors and officers - Kornilov included - were ashore at the time of the Ottoman attack leaving several ships at, or below half-staff. Having been lulled into a false sense of security, the sudden arrival of the Ottomans before dawn suddenly threw the entire city into a panic as shells soon rained down upon the port city. Stirred from their restful sleep, many panicked sailors and civilians would be slow to react to the ongoing bombardment. Although the attack itself would be rather brief, lasting a little over an hour, the casualties from the bombardment would be quite high with 236 civilians and 587 sailors and soldiers being killed and another 1429 sailors, soldiers and civilians being wounded.

    While the loss in lives was unfortunate, the real damage would be to the ships as four ships (a brig, a sloop, and two gunboats) had been sunk in the attack and another eighteen warships would suffer extensive damage. Seven ships (a second rater, three frigates, a steamer, and a sloop) had taken hits below the waterline and were now taking on water, while another frigate and brig had taken cannonballs to their rudders, rendering them inoperable. Two ships of the line (a third rater and a fifth rater), one sloop, and two frigates had suffered extensive damage to their masts and rigging. Three ships (a frigate, a sloop, and a gunboat) were on fire and would require extensive repairs. Most of the other Russian ships had also taken some amount of damage in the attack but overall, their damage was largely deemed to be superficial. Finally, two ships had lost their captains; one had been killed attempting to return to his ship when a freak ricochet struck him and his first mate as they were climbing the gangplank to their ship, while the other had been maimed when a mast splintered into his face, blinding him. A further two would be severely injured with one losing an arm, and the other losing a leg.


    Battle of Sevastopol (1854)

    For such a brief battle, the damage inflicted by the Ottoman attack was truly staggering given the relatively small size of the Ottoman fleet, yet the reasoning for this is rather simple. The Ottoman Navy had combined two new innovations in naval warfare: percussive shells and Paixhans Guns. Similar to explosive shells, percussive shells detonate on impact, enabling them to rip through wooden ships with relative ease or setting them ablaze. Their raw destructive power was magnified when combined with the Paixhans Guns, developed by French engineer Henri-Joseph Paixhans, which shot their ordinance along a flatter trajectory thereby increasing their accuracy and destructiveness tremendously.[6] Although both percussive shells and Paixhans guns had been used before in the Schleswig War and Second Belgian War of Independence against coastal forts and stationary targets; the Battle of Sevastopol would be the first instance of Paixhans Guns and Percussive Shells being used against another fleet.

    The other main cause for this disaster was the general unpreparedness of the Russian Black Seas Fleet which had become overly confident with its superiority over the Turkish fleet and that such an attack was simply impossible from such an inferior foe. By all accounts, this reasoning was sound, but by believing this, many officers such as Kornilov and his deputies had lowered their guard against a direct attack on Sevastopol. As such, much of the blame for this disaster can be placed squarely at the feet of Kornilov and his subordinates for failing to properly prepare for such an event. Nevertheless, Kornilov quickly responded and ordered his remaining seaworthy ships to pursue the fleeing Turkish ships.

    The ensuing battle - if one could even call it that - was more akin to a prolonged chase as the Russian and Ottoman vessels traded shots with one another for several hours before darkness fell across the sea. With visibility deteriorating and several of his ships suffering to keep up, Kornilov reluctantly abandoned his pursuit. Following this setback, Kornilov sent word to Nakhimov, ordering him to retaliate with great ferocity. In the ensuing days, Nakhimov’s fleet, numbering 6 ships of the line, 4 frigates, 4 steamers, and three corvettes would strike the Anatolian coast from Batumi to Sinop, destroying any Turkish vessel they came across be it warship, trade ship, or fishing ship. His attack would come to an end soon after however, as word reached him that several ships of the British Royal Navy had arrived at the Golden Horn.

    Faced with this prospect of a combined Anglo-Ottoman Armada, Nakhimov quickly withdrew to Sevastopol where he would rejoin Admiral Kornilov. Kornilov, still wishing to redeem himself for his humiliation several days earlier, combined his fleet with Nakhimov’s and moved southwest towards the Straights. In a daring act of bravado and desperation, the Russian Navy approached the Eastern shore Thrace, as if to coerce the British and Turks to attack them. To their initial delight their ploy worked, but unfortunately the result would not be to their liking as the British Levant Squadron and Ottoman Navy proved more than enough for the battered Russian Black Sea Fleet. The battle that followed was rather one sided, the Russians losing nine ships - six sunk (two of which were scuttled by their own crews) and another three captured. The British and Ottomans only lost one ship to Russian guns and another to the negligence of its captain who ran his ship into an unmarked shoal, ripping open its haul.

    Utterly defeated, the remnants of the Russian Black Seas fleet limped back to Sevastopol, with some breaking off for the Danube Delta, Odessa, and the Sea of Azov. Thereafter, the Black Sea would become a British and Ottoman lake as they possessed almost total control of the sea. While the Russians would make a few sorties from their ports, by in large, they would remain holed up within them for the remainder of the war, becoming little more than mobile gun batteries. Now with free reign over the Black Sea, the British and Ottomans began transporting men and arms across the region with impunity. British Marines and sailors would also take a prominent role in raiding the Russian Pontic coast from Odessa to Poti, disrupting Russian lines of communication and supply to their forces on the Danube and in the Caucasus. More importantly, they would transit arms and munitions to the Circassian Confederation and Caucasian Imamate who had both risen in rebellion against the Russian Government.

    Transcaucasia:


    Skirmish between Russian Cavalry and Chechen Raiders

    While the Ottoman offensive in the Balkans had always been intended to be a limited affair, aimed purely at driving the Russians from Wallachia and then establishing a defensive line between the Carpathian Mountains and the Black Sea; the Ottoman’s would divert most of their resources towards the Caucasus front. The reasons for this were twofold: firstly, the rationale for the war was the defense of the Caucasian Muslims, particularly the Caucasian Imamate and the Circassian Confederation, both of which were engaged in a multi-generational guerrilla war with the Russians and in desperate need of support. An invasion of Russian Transcaucasia would be necessary to support this pretext. Secondly, the religious and cultural makeup of the region was far more favorable to the Ottomans than in the Balkans with Muslim peoples making up nearly half of the region’s population. As such, the Turks could count on a degree of local support in the Caucasus Mountains, aiding their efforts immensely.

    To their great relief, they would also find that the Russian forces in the region had been reduced dramatically in the months leading up to the war, thanks in large part ironically to their own success. In 1844, the Russian commander in Ciscaucasia, Prince Mikhail Semenovich Vorontsov had taken the fight directly to the Chechen and Circassian people for the insubordination of their countrymen. He burnt their villages, destroyed their crops, cut down their forests and constructed fortified roads into their hills and mountains. Demoralized and starving, many surrendered to the Russians in the hope of trading their freedom for food and peace. By late 1853, the Tsarist government felt confident enough to begin drawing troops away from the region and redirect them to other fronts such as Poland and Central Asia.

    The Ottoman ultimatum in the Spring of 1854 would later lead the Tsar to rescind those orders, but by that point in time many units had already left the Caucasus and would take months to return to the region. The situation was worst in Southern Caucasia where only 30,000 Russians, Georgians, and Armenians were arrayed against over 100,000 Turkish, Kurdish, and Arab soldiers assembling across the border.[7] Efforts were being made to rectify this, as several militias of Georgians and Armenians were raised, yet their efforts would be in vain. When the Ottoman invasion finally came in early May, many regiments were out of position and still in route to the region, providing the Turks and their allies with a golden opportunity to strike deep into Russian Caucasia before the Russians could assemble a force to stop them.

    On the 10th of May, four Ottoman field armies marched across the border into Russian Caucasia. One army 40,000 strong under Abdi Pasha was tasked with retaking the fortress city of Kars. A second army with roughly 36,000 soldiers, under the command of Mehmed Pasha was ordered towards Abkhazia with a secondary goal of breaking through to the embattled Circassian Confederation. A third army comprised of 30,000 men under Ali Pasha was sent towards Akhaltsike with a goal of seizing Eastern Georgia. Finally, a fourth force with 24,000 soldiers under Selim Pasha would march on Yerevan and occupy southern Armenia. Overall, 130,000 Ottoman soldiers were committed to the Caucasus front in May 1854, a truly staggering sum for such an inhospitable region.

    Of the four Ottoman Commanders, Mehmed Pasha would see the most success as his army quickly seized the border fort of St. Nicholas before stealing a march on Fort Kale and Poti which both fell before the end of May. Abdi Pasha’s army would quickly surround Kars and place the city under siege, but his initial attempt to storm the city would fail horrendously, costing him nearly a tenth of his army. The army under Ali Pasha would advance into Northern Armenia and face off against a Georgian-Russian force commanded by Prince Grigol Orbeliani. The Southern Army under Selim Pasha would be tasked primarily with raiding southern Armenia, drawing Russian forces away from the North, which they would succeed in doing to moderate effect.

    The bad news would continue to pour in for the Tsarist Government, as Imam Shamil and the Caucasian Imamate had been informed of the Ottoman invasion and rose in revolt against the Russians to support it. Within the span of a few days, nearly 40,000 Avars, Azeris, Chechens, Dargins, Kumyks, Laks, Lezgins, Tabasarans, and Tatars took up arms against their Russian oppressors, throwing Eastern Caucasia into chaos. They were followed a few weeks later by 50,000 Adyghe warriors in Circassia who quickly seized control over much of Kuban from the overwhelmed Russian garrisons.
    The worst was still to come for the Russians as 10,000 Chechens and Avarians seized the Georgian Military Road in late June, effectively cutting off the Russian armies in Georgia and Armenia from reinforcements. The only saving grace for the Russians in the first few weeks of the War in Caucasia was Prince David Dadiani of Mingrelia who ably defended his Principality against Ottoman incursions from the South, West, and North. Despite being outnumbered, roughly 5 to 1, Dadiani would successfully defeat Mehmed Pasha’s Army near Marani, halting its advance and forcing it back across the Cholok River. This was followed up a week later with another victory over Ali Pasha’s army when it attempted to push north into Georgia. These defeats were only minor setbacks for the Ottomans, however, as the Russians were being steadily pushed back on almost every other front in Caucasia.


    Imam Shamil of the Caucasian Imamate (Left) and Prince David Dadiani of Mingrelia (Right)

    The lack of support for the soldiers in Georgia and Armenia by the Russian Government was largely a result of the Caucasian Imamate’s control of the Georgian Military Road, which when combined with Anglo-Ottoman control of the Black Sea and Circassian raids along the Pontic coast and Caucasian Line, made it nigh impossible to reinforce their forces in the Southern Caucasus. Adding to Russia’s troubles was the incapacitation of the Governor of Transcaucasia, Prince Mikhail Vorontsov who at the age of 72 was suffering from various ailments associated with his advanced age. No longer the stern and disciplined leader of ten years prior, Vorontsov was an elderly man on his deathbed, depriving the Russians in Caucasia of a strong leader when they needed one most.

    As a result of this, the Caucasian rebels would frequently raid Russian supply lines and lines of communication with near impunity before slipping away into the safety of the mountains and forests. They would seize control of the roads and towns in the region forcing the increasingly frail Prince Vorontsov onto the defensive for the first time in 10 years. The prospect of independence for the Caucasian Muslims was no greater than it had ever been in the Summer of 1854. Sadly, for Imam Shamil and the Imamate, the old and infirm Vorontsov would resolve this issue by dying in late July and would be replaced by the younger and much more aggressive General Nikolai Nikolayevich Muravyov as Governor of Caucasia.

    General Muravyov would quickly prove to be a far more aggressive, if a more uncouth commander than his predecessor. Within days of his arrival in theater, Muravyov would quickly restore discipline to the panicked Russian soldiers, before enacting a brutal campaign of annihilation against the Imamate and its supporters, razing villages to the ground, massacring civilians, and scorching the earth from the Caspian Sea to the Black Sea and the Kuban and Terek rivers to the peaks of the Caucasus Mountains. Worse still, Russia’s mobilization was ramping up by the end of Summer 1854, providing Muravyov with tens of thousands of fresh reinforcements. Despite staunch resistance by Imam Shamil and his vast tribal coalition, his warriors would be slowly driven out of their hills and forests by the advancing Russians. By the end of September, Muravyov’s men had succeeded in securing the Georgian Military Road, thereby reopening the route to the Southern Caucasus.


    Russian Soldiers Storm a Dagestani Village

    By this time, however, the situation in the Southern Caucasus was nearing its breaking point for the Russian, Georgian, and Armenian soldiers there. In Southern Georgia, Prince Grigol Orbeliani and an army of Georgian and Armenian militiamen was decisively defeated at Akhaltsike by Ali Pasha who subsequently besieged the city and plundered the countryside. To the North on the coast of the Black Sea, the Ottoman Army of Mehmed Pasha had successfully outmaneuvered Prince Dadiani and crossed the Cholok river for a second time, forcing the Georgian Prince into an unfavorable pitched battle, where his greater numbered and firepower quickly overwhelmed the ragtag Georgians and Russians. Along the coast, the British and Ottoman Navies raided Russian outposts with near impunity; most notably, British Marines had landed at Cape Adler and successfully seized control of Fort Navaginsky in a bid to open supply lines with the Circassians -a similar landing near Sukhumi would fail, however. Worst of all, reports arrived in early-October from the front that Kars was on the verge of capitulation which would enable another Ottoman Army to plunge into Russian Caucasia.

    Although the siege of Kars had been ongoing for nearly five months by the beginning of October, the Ottomans had been unable to make much progress against the fortress’ defenders. The Russian commander of the city and Governor of Russian Armenia, Prince Vasily Osipovich Bebutov had led his men in a spirited defense of the city, but with no communication from his superiors, nor any hope of immediate reinforcement, his soldiers’ morale naturally began to suffer. Food was also becoming an issue for the Russian and Armenian defenders; although they had made some preparations for a protracted siege, after nearly five months even their supplies were starting to run low. Surprisingly, their munitions stockpiles were still quite plentiful in early October, but with frequent assaults by the Ottomans, these would not last forever.

    The situation was not good in the Ottoman camp either, as disease and exposure to the harsh environment had sapped the strength of the Ottoman army over the past five months and would likely continue to suffer as Fall turned to Winter. By the start of October, nearly 1 in 3 Ottoman soldiers had fallen ill, of which 3 out of 4 had died. Supplies within the Ottoman camp, while not as bad as the city’s, were still quite poor. Making matters worse, the Kars garrison, in conjunction with several partisans in the nearby hills, made frequent attacks on the Ottoman lines, spiking a handful of cannons in one attack and detonating a powder depot during another. Moreover, the Ottoman commander, Abdi Pasha was privy to the events in the North, namely Muravyov’s campaign in Ciscaucasia and recognized that he would arrive in the Southern Caucasus soon.

    By the start of Fall, General Muravyov’s forces in Caucasia had swelled to over 160,000 soldiers plus an unknown number of irregulars in theater, of this roughly 45,000 were in the Southern Caucuses facing off against four Ottoman Armies nearly 3 times their size. The remaining 115,000 in the Northern Caucasus were then split into two forces, with two divisions under General Alexander Ivanovich Baryatinsky being tasked with subduing the Caucasian and Circassian rebels. The remaining three divisions under Muravyov would proceed into the Southern Caucasus to drive out the invading Ottoman armies and relieve the beleaguered Russian forces there.

    Crossing the mountains on the 10th of October, Muravyov quickly embarked on a masterful campaign as the northernmost Ottoman Army under Mehmed Pasha would be driven back across the Cholok River for a second time in mid-October, and then forced to hole up in Fort Nicholas. Rather than besiege him, General Muravyov would leave a small screening force of Cossacks and militiamen to obstruct their movements, while the main Army continued its advance Southward. Muravyov’s force would then engage the Army of Ali Pasha, which was presently besieging Akhaltsike, but when faced with a larger Russian Army, Ali Pasha wisely elected to abandon the siege and withdraw westward. It soon became clear to Abdi Pasha that Muravyov was advancing on Kars with great speed.

    For Abdi Pasha, the situation was quickly becoming incredibly perilous. To be caught between the fortress of Kars and a massive Russian Army would mean the destruction of his own force, but to retreat from Kars after over five months of fighting would destroy his army’s morale. Faced with no other option, Abdi Pasha would elect to risk everything on one last assault of the city. If his men could take the city before Muravyov’s Army could arrive, he could potentially reverse the situation on the Russians, who would then be caught between an Ottoman controlled Kars and the two Turkish Armies (the Armies of Mehmed Pasha and Ali Pasha) to the North. Racing against time, Abdi Pasha and his subordinates quickly prepared for their last assault, tentatively planned for the 1st of November.

    The day before the planned attack, however, reports from Abdi Pasha’s scouts revealed that Muravyov vanguard was within several hours of the city, while the main column was only a few hours behind it. Abdi Pasha had missed his opportunity, and reluctantly ordered a withdraw from Kars to the Southwest, in the hopes he could meet with Selim Pasha’s army and try again the following Spring. In the span of one-month, General Muravyov had managed to make three Ottoman Armies retreat from Russian territory after having only fought one minor battle. Nevertheless, through his aggressive nature and incredibly fast maneuvering, Muravyov had restored the Russian Empire’s standing in the Caucasus. Under normal circumstances, this great victory combined with the looming arrival of Winter would have brought an end to the fighting in 1854, yet the wrathful Muravyov was not ready to stop.


    The Relief of Kars

    Having come to consider the Ottomans cowardly and overly cautious after his lighting campaign through the Caucasus Mountains, Muravyov had been greatly emboldened and sought to push even further. He found an eager supporter in Tsar Nicholas who promptly ordered Muravyov to advance into Turkish Anatolia and seize Turkish assets in the region. After giving his exhausted army ample time to recover, General Muravyov quickly set off as snow slowly began to fall over Eastern Anatolia. With Winter fast approaching, the conditions of the Russian march westward were quickly deteriorating. By mid-November, the roads had become atrocious quagmires of snow and mud. Temperatures quickly plunged below freezing causing many hundreds to fall victim to the cold and increasingly hostile environment. Nevertheless, Muravyov pressed onwards and his soldiers, having come to respect their boorish disciplinarian of a commander, followed him.

    On the 28th of November, Muravyov had caught Abdi Pasha’s army several miles east of Erzurum preparing its winter quarters. Alarmed by the sudden arrival of a Russian army on their doorstep in the early days of Winter, Abdi Pasha hastily readied his force for battle. Although they had been caught off guard and were outnumbered roughly two to one, the Ottomans were relatively well fed and rested, while the Russians were exhausted and freezing after three weeks of hard marching in the snowy hills and valleys of Eastern Anatolia. The battle that followed was evenly matched, with the Ottomans using the terrain to their advantage against the attacking Russians. The first Russian attack would fail, as would the second and the third, but the fourth showed some promise. With the battle hanging by a thread, Muravyov pressed them on for one more attack, promising his men hot meals, warm beds, and a long rest if they succeed there that day. Buoyed by this, his boys pushed on with an incredible might spurred on by a delirious desperation that would ultimately break the Ottoman thin lines. The day was Muravyov’s, but with the weather rapidly deteriorating Abdi Pasha’s army would escape relatively intact and quickly drew itself behind the defenses of Erzurum.

    Although Muravyov would attempt to chase after them to Erzurum, the worsening weather combined with his thoroughly gutted army, ultimately forced him to finally relent. On the 1st of December, his army withdrew to the town of Horasan where he set up his winter quarters. With the first year of fighting at an end, the front in the Caucasus Mountains had largely reverted to the prewar border except for a small Russian salient into Eastern Anatolia and a handle of Anglo-Ottoman enclaves along the Black Sea coast. Overall, the Ottoman offensives into Wallachia and Georgia had failed, but the Russian counterattacks had similarly run out of steam in Eastern Anatolia and Bulgaria. Although some cursory skirmishing would continue over the month of December, the end of 1854 would see little fighting on both sides – most of which was carried out by irregulars and partisans. Nevertheless, the events of 1854 be quite pivotal for the war ahead, with its events encouraging many outside actors to consider involving themselves in the conflict.

    Two states in the Balkans would play a particularly prominent role in the development of the war ahead. Owing to the fighting in neighboring Bulgaria, various Serbian nationalists and partisans would demonstrate against the continued presence of the Ottoman garrisons in their country, demanding their independence and an end to foreign oppression. Although Serbian Government would refrain from taking any hostile acts against the Turks at this time, the Ottoman Government was forced to keep thousands of desperately needed soldiers in the Principality as a safeguard against a potential Serbian revolt. To the South in the Kingdom of Greece, the situation was more serious as reservists were called to active duty, the Ethnofylaki (the Greek National Guard) was mobilized, and the Hellenic Army and Navy were placed on a wartime footing. Hellas was on the verge of war.

    Next Time: The Price for Peace
    [1] Many of the fortifications along the Danube had been dismantled or destroyed during/after the Russo-Turkish War of 1828-1829 and were deliberately not rebuilt in the decades that followed.

    [2] In OTL, Russia intentionally diminished support for a Serbian uprising to not offend Austria, who was still their ally at that time. The Ottomans knew this and were able to move men from the region when necessary. As Banat is controlled by the Kingdom of Hungary ITTL, Russia has no qualms about supporting Serbian partisans, forcing the Ottomans to retain their forces in the region.

    [3] Although they are called Trajan’s Wall, there is actually little evidence that supports this. In fact, most historians today believe that the walls were erected during the time of the Byzantine and Bulgarian Empires. Nevertheless, the name has stuck around.

    [4] This may seem unfair, but in all honesty, the British Army in the mid-19th Century was quite poor and the OTL Crimean War would be a massive wakeup call for Whitehall.
    [5] While this may seem absurd, the Russian Black Seas Fleet was indeed quite large, roughly 79 ships in 1854 in OTL. Given the importance of the Black Sea to Russia it is no surprise that they would invest most of their naval resources into dominating it.

    [6] The Russians for their part would also utilize Percussive shells throughout the war, with many landward batteries being equipped with them.

    [7] The situation for the Russians in the Caucasus was quite similar in OTL which is quite surprising since the Russians were the aggressor in the OTL Crimean War. This is worsened somewhat ITTL, because Russia was not expecting a conflict with the Ottomans at this time.
     
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    Part 79: The Price for Peace
  • Part 79: The Price for Peace


    Eptanisa joins Hellas

    The start of the Great Eurasian War was met with great concern, but also great optimism by many within the Kingdom of Greece who saw this conflict as their best opportunity to liberate their kinsmen still under the Turkish yoke. This opinion was also shared by many members of the Greek Government, specifically those of the ruling Nationalist Party who openly called for war with the Ottoman Empire to liberate their countrymen and reclaim traditionally Greek lands from foreign oppression. Many Greeks also considered it their duty to aid the Russians in their battle against the Turks, as Russia was their longtime friend and ally, while the Ottomans were their mortal enemy and longtime oppressor. Russia’s rather poor performance in the opening weeks of the war would quiet these calls for war within Athens however, as many were unwilling to commit themselves to what appeared like a losing effort.

    Moreover, war with the Ottomans would have more dire consequences for Greece this time than a simple fight against the Turks, as Great Britain was formally allied with the Sublime Porte in its current struggle against Russia. Britain had also been a stalwart friend and ally of Greece since 1827 and had become the country’s biggest trade partner, consuming nearly half of all Greek exports in 1853. More than that though, Britain was the closest to Greece politically, as the Greek Constitution was heavily influenced by British liberalism, constitutional monarchism, and the rule of law.

    Many prominent Britons, such as Lord George Byron, Lord Thomas Gordon, Lord Thomas Cochrane, and Lord Frank Abney Hastings had traveled to Greece during the Revolution to aid them in their struggle for independence, while others provided significant material and financial support from afar. Finally, Britain, along with France and Russia, had intervened on behalf of the Greeks during the War of Independence, helping them win their independence in 1830. Beyond these feelings of fraternity and gratitude however, there was the existential threat that a hostile Britain would pose to Greece.

    In terms of sheer numbers, the British Royal Navy vastly outmatched the Hellenic Royal Navy, outnumbering it and outgunning it in every regard, a fact which utterly terrified lawmakers in Athens. In the event of war between them, control of the sea would be lost to Britain almost immediately which for a country such as Greece, would be a death sentence. With control of the seas lost, the mainland would be at risk and Athens would be within striking distance of an Anglo-Ottoman assault.[1] The Greek capital would almost certainly be occupied, their ports would be blockaded, their economy would be ruined, and their people would be oppressed. Nevertheless, a person in the throes of passion is rarely rationale, and with the Russians making gains in late Summer - both in the Balkans and Caucasus, the Greeks began increasing their calls for war.

    Tensions would be heightened in June, when nearly 40,000 Greeks rose in armed revolt across the Balkans demanding their independence from the Ottoman Empire and Enosis (Union) with the Kingdom of Greece. Distracted by the fighting along the Danube and in Eastern Anatolia, the Sublime Porte had few soldiers in place to police these lands, enabling the rebels to make rapid gains in the first few days. By the end of June, nearly all of Thessaly south of Larissa had been secured by the Greek revolutionaries, while large parts of Epirus from Paramythia and Tzoumerka to Himara and Argyrokastro had been taken by the rebels, including the provincial capital of Ioannina. The Greeks had less success in Macedonia and Thrace, only securing a few remote municipalities and communes such as Kastoria, Kozani, Xanthi, and Maroneia.

    Faced with this great success, even the so-called moderates within the Vouli began calling for armed intervention in the Ottoman Empire to aid their kinsmen. The matter was not helped by the Ottoman government who promptly dispatched whatever men and soldiers they could spare to contain the revolt, resulting in the brutal suppression of several Greek communities in Macedonia and Thrace. By July 1854, Prime Minister Constantine Kanaris was forced to act, officially mobilizing the Hellenic Military for war.


    Greek Prime Minister Constantine Kanaris circa 1860

    The mobilization of the Greek Military would not go unnoticed, however, as the British Government quickly learned of this development through their agents in Greece While the Greeks would pose little threat to the combined might of the British and Ottoman militaries, they would still be an unnecessary nuisance for them to deal with, especially with the war against Russia going worse than expected. On paper, the Hellenic Navy was rather small at only 47, mostly outdated ships, however, it featured a growing core of modern steam powered warships including a pair of brand-new Screw Frigates (the Hydra and the Spetsai), and four new screw corvettes (VP Miaoulis, VP Kanaris, VP Tombazis, and VP Ástinx (Hastings)).[2]

    The Hellenic Navy could also be bolstered by hundreds of civilian vessels, ranging from small feluccas and xebecs armed only with muskets and swivel guns to larger brigs and sloops equipped with more powerful carronades and 24 pounders. However, the real potency of the Greek Navy lay in its sailors and officers who were second only to the British in terms of skill and ability. Based on this, the Hellenic Navy and its auxiliaries would likely be great irritants to the Anglo-Ottoman Alliance, striking at their long and rather vulnerable supply lines throughout the Aegean from their numerous ports and coves with relative impunity.

    The Hellenic Army was no slouch either. While it boasted a rather small standing army at only 18,000 men in peacetime - comparable to the initial British Expeditionary Army in 1854, it could quickly rise to 44,000 soldiers once its reservists were called to active service. An additional 34,000 men of the Ethnofylaki (the Hellenic National Guard) could be called up in a moment’s notice as well, boosting the total number of trained men to nearly 80,000. While they had not fought in a major conflict since 1830, many had seen action along the border hunting brigands and criminals. Further, advancement in the Hellenic Military was based primarily upon a man’s merit and achievements, meaning that the leaders of the Greek military were often quite capable, compared to their aristocratic counterparts in the British military who were appointed based on their connections and wealth.

    Finally, the Greek people had a martial nature to them that had been exhibited with great effect during the Greek War of Independence nearly 30 years prior. Small bands of klephts and armatolis armed only with clubs, matchlock muskets, swords, and spears had successfully overcome much larger and much more modern armies of the Ottomans and Egyptians thanks to the ingenuity of their leaders and intricate knowledge of the local terrain. They were a hardy people willing to fight and die for their homeland, their kin, their honor, and their futures.

    While the British and Ottomans could certainly defeat the Greeks in a pitched battle, the prospect of a prolonged occupation was clearly an unattractive prospect for London who envisioned a long and bitter guerilla war. There were also the political ramifications a war with Greece would entail for Britain as if they came to blows then and there, Westminster risked pushing Greece into the waiting arms of the Russian Empire forevermore, something that London was ill inclined to do. And yet, with the Greek people clamoring for war and the Ottoman Government showing little signs of facilitating the Greek partisan’s demands for independence, it would have appeared to all that war was an inevitability.


    Volunteers from the Kingdom of Greece traveling to Thessaly

    Despite his best efforts to maintain the peace, King Leopold found himself increasingly isolated within the hawkish Greek Government. To refuse the Greek rebels aid in their struggle for liberty and independence would almost certainly destroy his legitimacy and support within Greece, but to aid them would mean going to war with his beloved niece Victoria’s homeland. To Leopold, Victoria was as near to him as his own beloved daughter Katherine, but more than that, she represented everything that he had once sought after in his youth. So, it came as no surprise that it was to Victoria that Leopold chose to confide in during the Summer months of 1854, calling upon her for help in averting this current crisis that was emerging between their two countries.

    Queen Victoria was quite sympathetic with her dear Uncle’s plight and she wished to avoid strife between their two countries, but she staunchly supported the war against Russia, having come to see Tsar Nicholas as an ambitious tyrant that would only be stopped by force. More so, she could not show favoritism to any such figure, even her uncle, especially when Leopold had gone to great lengths to ingratiate himself to the Russian Emperor as doing so would call into question whether her loyalties lay with her family or her country. Yet while she herself could offer no solution to this present crisis she would reach out to someone who could. In late August 1854, on the precipice of war, the venerable statesman Lord Stratford Canning, 1st Baron Stratford de Redcliffe entered the debate.

    Lord Canning was a longtime supporter of the Greek people, having been one of the primary proponents of British intervention in the Greek War for Independence, and was among the most knowledgeable British statesmen on Greece. Owing to his role as British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Canning found himself in an increasingly prominent position within British politics once more, a position he had not been in since the days of his cousin George’s Premiership 25 years prior.

    Taking it upon himself to pursue the British Empire’s interests in the Ottoman Empire, interests which now included maintaining the peace with Greece; Lord Canning would write to King Leopold and the Greek Government offering a deal. In return for the continued neutrality of the Kingdom of Greece in this present conflict between the Ottoman Empire, Great Britain and the Russian Empire; the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland would formally cede the Ionian Islands to Greece.

    Located off the Western coast of mainland Greece, the Ionian Islands were a set of Greek islands stretching from the Southern cape of the Peloponnese to the coast of Epirus. Officially, the islands were an independent state, the United States of the Ionian Islands, but in truth they were another possession of the British Empire. Britain had acquired the islands from France during the Napoleonic Wars, using them as a naval base in the Eastern Mediterranean for many years. However, their value to London had diminished over the years, owing to the increased importance of Malta and burgeoning relations with Greece and the Ottoman Empire. Moreover, interest in the islands had been building in the neighboring Kingdom of Greece, which had been clamoring for the union of the Islands with Greece ever since they gained their independence in 1830.


    Flag of the United States of the Ionian Islands
    Many Greeks felt that Leopold, being a close friend of the British people, and the uncle of Britain’s future Queen, could beseech his beloved niece and her government to cede the islands to his new Kingdom as a show friendship and good faith between the two states. The Canningite Government for their part showed a great willingness to discuss the idea at the London Conference of 1830, with a tentative conference scheduled for early 1831. However, the revolutions in France, Italy and Belgium later that year would force Britain to delay these talks indefinitely until late 1832 following King Leopold’s marriage to Princess Marie of Württemberg. The Conference in the Fall of 1832 would begin well with diplomats discussing the possibility of ceding the islands to Greece in return for basing rights and other privileges for the British.

    By this time however, George Canning lay on his deathbed and was forced to withdraw from government for the last time leaving the matter to his successor, the incredibly recalcitrant Duke of Wellington. Upon taking power, Wellington immediately nixed the discussion of trading the islands in the bud, effectively killing whatever momentum that had seemingly been building before Canning’s death. Wellington’s stance was continued by his successor the venerable Earl Grey, who had other, more important matters to attend to in the Americas and Asia. Even the succession of Leopold’s niece, Queen Victoria to the British throne in 1837 did little to move the matter in Greece’s favor as the islands remained stubbornly separate from the Greek state.

    The Ionian Islands would only come to the fore of Anglo-Greek relations once more, following the Ionian revolt of 1848 and 1849 as the Eptanesians, inspired by the nationalistic zeal and revolutionary fervor of the Germans and Italians, began to advocate for greater ties to Greece. The ensuing British response resulted in numerous deaths, maimings, jailings, and exiles causing untold outrage throughout the Kingdom of Greece who felt betrayed by the British. While the unrest would eventually settle down, the tension between the two states did not. More than anything though, the Eptanesian Uprisings would succeed in bringing the issue to the fore once more.

    Whether he was acting on his own volition, or acting under orders from London, none but Canning can truly say, but for an Ambassador of the British Empire to broach this topic to the Greek Government at this late hour was a totally unexpected, but not unwelcome development for both sides. It cannot be denied that the value of the islands had slowly diminished in London’s eyes, especially after the unrest of 1848 and 1849, but they could still provide some benefit in the present conflict. However, Canning almost certainly knew the value that the Greek Government placed on the Ionian Islands and sought to leverage this for as much as he could. Nevertheless, King Leopold and the “Peace Party” within the Greek Government immediately jumped at this opportunity and called for a halt to the Hellenic Military’s mobilization.


    Lord Stratford Canning, 1st Viscount Stratford de Redcliffe circa 1860

    The Vouli was at an impasse, however, as many were moved by Canning’s offer, yet many were not. Wishing to determine the British Government’s true stance on this arrangement, Prime Minister Kanaris dispatched his Deputy Prime Minister, Panos Kolokotronis to London to meet with Parliament and hear what they had to say on this matter. Arriving in London three weeks later, on the 1st of October, Kolokotronis together with the Greek Ambassador to Britain, Ioannes Adamos would meet with Parliament to discuss a potential work around to avoid war. To their delight, they would find that British Prime Minister Lord Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston and his Cabinet were quite receptive to a deal, likely owing to the recent reversals in the Balkans and Caucasia.

    After some deliberation, Lord Palmerston and British Foreign Minister, Lord Clarendon called upon Kolokotronis and Adamos to propose their terms for a potential deal. If the Kingdom of Greece were to demobilize her forces and refrain from taking any hostile military action against the Ottoman Empire in this present conflict, then the British Empire would assent to the union of the Ionian Islands with the Kingdom of Greece and persuade the Sublime Porte to offer amnesty to the Greeks currently in revolt within their territories.

    While the offer of the Ionian Islands was certainly nice, Kolokotronis and Adamos believed that the deal was still quite lacking, especially in the wake of Russian advances in the Caucasus. Moreover, the news from the Southern Balkans was also quite promising as Greek partisans were still in control of most of Thessaly, large parts of Epirus, and a few isolated communities in Macedonia.[3] Several Greek freedom fighters had recently risen in revolt as well on the islands of Cyprus, Lesbos, Lemnos, and the Dodecanese Islands although the Ottoman authorities still controlled these islands officially.

    These developments would coincide with the burning of the Port of Varna in late October by Bulgarian and Greek arsonists within the city who supported the Russian Army. Although the British and Ottomans would react quickly with water pumps, nearly half the city was in ruins and the harbor was almost completely destroyed, forcing supplies and soldiers to offload at the port of Burgas roughly 70 miles to the South. Combined with a burgeoning Cholera pandemic within the Anglo-Ottoman camp at Silistra, the situation was looking rather bleak for the British Government in late 1854. As such, it was necessary for the British to make further concessions to the Greeks to sweeten the deal. After some debate, the British agreed to support moderate revisions to the border between the Kingdom of Greece and the Ottoman Empire in Rumelia in addition to their previous concessions and a renegotiation of Greece’s debts. In return, Britain now asked for naval basing rights and logistical support for British forces in the region, both of which it promised to pay for with Gold Sterling.


    The Varna Fire, 1854

    Adamos and Kolokotronis would find these terms more to their liking and raced back to Athens to present the deal before the Vouli, but to their surprise the treaty would have mixed opinions in the Legislature. All in attendance desired the Enosis of the Eptanesians with Greece, but the nebulous nature of the latter concession cast doubt over the deal. Moreover, several Representatives felt uneasy about aiding the British in their fight against the Russians, while many thought that Greece could gain more by joining Russia rather than accept Britain’s “scraps”. Some even considered leveraging Greece’s support for the Russians as a means to pry further concessions from the British, however, this was made moot after Russia’s rather limited proposals to Greece became apparent. After a week of heated debate and deliberation, Kanaris opted to put the resolution to a vote in the Vouli on the 26th of November.

    As Representatives casts their votes one by one, the mood in the Vouli was decidedly dark as neither those who favored the deal, nor those in favor of war felt confident in their chances of success. On and on the procession of legislators went, like a black parade of mourners gathered for a funeral, until finally the last vote was cast. With great tribulation, Prime Minister Kanaris climbed the dais to reveal the final tally of the vote. When the counting was finished, the total was 69 voting in favor of the deal with the British, 66 voting in opposition and 2 abstaining. The deal with Britain had passed and peace had carried the day in Greece by a razors margin. With that, the Greek Government and the British Government formally began negotiations over the transfer of the Ionian Islands to Greece.

    Over the ensuing weeks, talks between Britain’s Lord Clarendon and Greece’s Panos Kolokotronis would flesh out the finer details of the agreement between their two countries. The Ionian Islands would be handed over to the Kingdom of Greece in one month’s time upon the official signing of the treaty on the 11th of February 1855. All fortifications and military installations across the islands would be preserved, but all munitions and weaponry would be returned to the British Empire. Britain would be granted unrestricted naval basing rights within the port of Corfu for 10 years, while the ports of Preveza, Patras, Piraeus, Heraklion, Chios, and Chania would provide access to British Warships for the duration of the present war with Russia.

    The Kingdom of Greece would also be provided with favorable contracts to supply and service any British ship within Greek waters for the remainder of the conflict against Russia. To mollify particularly vocal Russophiles and Turkophobes within Greece, this would be limited purely to foodstuffs, medical services and supplies, and the repair of British ships, not the provision of military munitions or weapons. Furthermore, following the loss of the HMS Rodney and HMS Furious off the Laconian coast in December of 1854, the British Government would agree to provide technical support for the presently stalled construction of the Corinth Canal. The Greek and British diplomats would also meet to redress the Greek debt held by the British Government. Finally, VP Psara (currently operating under the name HMS Mersey) would be sent to Greece within three months-time of the treaty’s official signing. While these developments were certainly not the preferred outcome for the Greeks, they were not the worst results either as the British were at least willing to pay for the services rendered to them by the Greeks.

    The Clarendon-Kolokotronis Treaty – as it would later become known as - would begin the transition process for the Ionian Islands from British control to Greek. Over the course of the following weeks, British agents, politicians, and soldiers slowly departed from the islands after nearly fifty years in power. Finally, the United States of the Ionian Islands was officially dissolved on the 11th of March 1855 when its last Governor, Lord Barnhill formally departed Corfu for Malta. The union of the Ionian Islands with Greece was met with great ecstasy across Greece, as it represented the first real expansion of their state since the War of Independence. To some, however, the deal was not enough.

    Many ardent nationalists and patriots felt spurned by the cheapness at which their government had been bought and denounced their government as weak and cowardly. Several hundred soldiers and sailors in the Hellenic Military would go even further, renouncing their commissions and oaths to the Greek State and departed to join Russia in her fight against the vile Ottomans. These men, known as the Hellenic Brigade, would fight alongside their Russian allies for the remainder of the Great Eurasian War, serving with great valor in the battles ahead. The agreement would also do little to calm the various Greek and Slavic rebels who continued to rise in revolt against their Ottoman overlords.


    Greek Volunteers arriving in Russia

    Helping sooth the anger of betrayal that many felt in Greece was the massive influx of British coin into Greek purses as part of the treaty. Irritatingly, the British would find the Greek ports lacking for the purposes of Warships. Thus, to meet their needs in the region, the British would be forced to invest heavily into the development of these ports, modernizing and expanding them greatly. Piraeus in particular would receive special attention, as the British sponsored the construction of a new careening dock and dry dock at the port. Perhaps the most important project that would see work was the Corinth Canal. Work had stalled on the project since a series of rock slides in 1854 killed several workers, prompting public outrage and political repercussions that ultimately stalled the project indefinitely. Now with British oversight and technical assistance, the Greek Government restarted work at the site in late 1855.

    The matter of the border revisions with the Ottoman Empire were more contentious, however, as Britain supported relatively minor revisions to the Greek border in Central Greece, while the Greek Government demanded all of Thessaly, Epirus, Macedonia, the Aegean Islands, and Cyprus. This was more than the British, let alone the Ottomans (who were not included in these preliminary talks) were willing to give. When they learned of these negotiations, the Sublime Porte immediately rejected any talks of conceding territory to the duplicitous Greeks who cravenly supported seditionists within the Empire, while simultaneously promising cooperation and good will. Yet with Russian Armies on the Southern bank of the Danube and in Eastern Anatolia, much of Southern Rumelia in open revolt, and London pressuring them to make a deal; the Porte had little choice in the matter if they wanted to keep Greece out of the war.

    Lessening the blow was the fact that much of the territory in question, namely Epirus and Thessaly, were of limited value to the Ottoman Empire and were at present, largely outside of Kostantîniyye’s control. The Southern Aegean Islands, namely the Dodecanese Islands were of limited value to the Porte as well, given Greece’s control of Samos, Chios and Crete. However, the Porte vehemently opposed surrendering any part of Macedonia to the Greeks, which was of great value to the Empire and they also opposed surrendering the Northern Aegean Islands to the Greeks given their close proximity to the Straits. Moreover, the Albanians of Northern Epirus were strongly opposed to a Greek annexation of their lands and petitioned the Sultan to not concede their country to the Hellenes.

    As debates between the Greeks, British, and Ottomans were taking place, an Ottoman Army under Veli Pasha advanced into Macedonia where it quickly subdued most of the rebel strongholds in the region. Although the Greeks would be enraged when they learned of the Ottoman suppression of their countrymen, Sultan Abdulmejid’s promise to offer amnesty to the remaining Greek rebels would quell this anger somewhat. After further negotiations with the British and Greeks; the Ottoman Government finally responded with a deal of its own. In return for continued Greek neutrality, the Sublime Porte of the Ottoman Empire would transfer control of the Dodecanese Islands to Greece in three months-time.

    Additionally, should Greece remain neutral for the remainder of the current conflict against the Russian Empire and provide services to the British as laid out in the Clarendon-Kolokotronis Treaty, then the Ottoman Empire would also cede the lands of Thessaly (South of the Olympus Range) and Epirus (South and West of the Aoos River below Tepelenë ) to the Kingdom of Greece upon the conclusion of the present war. In addition to this was a clause requiring the Kingdom of Greece to renounce any further territorial claims on the Ottoman Empire and to refrain from offering any further support to brigands and seditionists within the Empire. While disappointing to some who had envisioned Greece gaining parts of Macedonia, Cyprus, and the Northern Aegean Islands; the acquisition of Thessaly, Epirus and the Dodecanese Islands was still a great boon for the Kingdom of Greece at this time, and far better than initially expected. With few dissenting, Greece would accept the terms of the Treaty of Constantinople on the 8th of May 1855.

    The annexation of the Dodecanese Islands three months later in August 1855 would help ease concerns in Greece as would the Ottoman Sultan’s promise of amnesty (provided they laid down their arms before the end of the year), but overall, the mood was quite mixed in Greece as a result of the Clarendon-Kolokotronis Treaty and the ensuing 1855 Treaty of Constantinople. Only upon the final annexation of Epirus and Thessaly in 1858 would the people of Greece truly come to appreciate their government’s decision. Nevertheless, the Kingdom of Greece would continue to abide by its agreement with Great Britain and the Ottoman Empire, providing a degree of comfort in London and Kostantîniyye for the duration of the war. And yet, as one threat to the Anglo-Ottoman Alliance was pacified, another threat soon emerged as on the 10th of November 1855, the Qajari Empire declared war on Afghanistan and Great Britain.

    1858 Greece Timeline Map .png

    The Kingdom of Greece in 1858

    Next Time: Swirling Sands
    [1] Control of the sea is an incredibly important matter for Athens, as no community in Greece is further than 75 miles from the sea. Greece also possesses one of the longest coastlines in Europe despite its rather small size thanks in large part to the many islands and inlets under its control.

    [2] A third Screw-Frigate, the Psara was ordered along with these two, but it was withheld by the British as the war with Russia broke out prior to its completion.

    [3] This success was thanks in large part to the support of several rogue Hellenic Army officers and soldiers who had covertly crossed the border to support their countrymen in the preceding weeks and months.
     
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    Part 80: Swirling Sands
  • Part 80: Swirling Sands


    British Cavalry Charge a Qajari Infantry Regiment
    The peace between Great Britain and the Qajari Empire would be incredibly fragile after the volatile First Anglo-Persian War came to an end in mid-1848. The resulting peace treaty had seen Persia’s gains in Afghanistan returned, their grand army was reduced to a pittance, their navy surrendered to the British (or scuttled in defiance), and their Shah was forced to kowtow to London’s diktats. It was an utter humiliation that was not soon forgotten by the Qajari Empire, yet with British influence dominant in Tehran there was little they could do to oppose them. Naturally, resentment and animosity ran high in Tehran as the Qajari Military felt betrayed by their Government which had cravenly submitted to British demands despite their great successes on the battlefield. Many even blamed Muhammed Shah Qajar for the Empire’s surrender to Britain, while others blamed their perfidious ally France who had promised aid to Tehran in the war, only to abandon them in their moment of need.

    The death of the old Shah in the Spring of 1849 would restore some semblance of balance to the Qajari Empire, as his son, the young Naser al-Din Shah Qajar quickly fell under the sway of his dynamic adviser Amir Kabir. Mirza Taghi Khan Farahani, better known by his title Amir Kabir (amir-e kabir) had been a member of the Qajari government for several decades by 1849, filling such roles as Military Registrar, Quartermaster, Diplomat, Chief Tutor of the Crown Prince, and Chief Minister of the Qajari Empire among others. Having spent several years in the service of the young Naser Shah, Amir Kabir enjoyed a close relationship with his sovereign and enjoyed the full confidence of his ruler. More than that, Amir Kabir was a consistent voice for modernization within the Qajari Government as well as a vocal advocate for the independence of the Qajari Empire from foreign influences, both of which were incredibly popular following the disasterous war with Britain.

    Under the premise that corruption and malpractice had enabled the British to force degrading terms upon them, Amir Kabir embarked on an extensive campaign to root out bad actors and corrupt figures within the Qajari administration.[1] Proving this very point, several of Naser Shah’s relatives provoked an armed revolt by their supporters in early Summer 1852 when their estates came under investigation of the Prime Minister and his agents for tax evasion and duplicitous arrangements with foreign powers. With the backing of their retainers and a few of the tribes of Iran, the Rebels made moderate gains within the first few days of their revolt, gaining control over large swathes of Azerbaijan and Khorasan.

    There successes would end there, however, as the Rebels failed to achieve significant support among the Qajari Army, the urban populace, or from the Clergy who generally supported the Shah, who in turn supported Amir Kabir. Within a matter of days, the rebel cause collapsed and they began losing ground to the Shah's loyalists and by the end of the Summer, they were defeated leading to the imprisonment or exile of numerous siblings, cousins, aunts, and uncles of the Shah, along with the suspension of their pensions, and the seizure of their estates. Similarly, many of the tribes that had supported the rebels were finally subjugated to the will of the central government, their autonomy was significantly reduced, their armaments were seized, and their right to raise armies were formally abolished.

    With his domestic adversaries largely defeated, Amir Kabir began an extensive modernization effort of the state bureaucracy and administration. The tax system was expanded and streamlined through the elimination of loopholes, new taxes were implemented, while old and ineffective taxes were abolished. The Persian postal service was established during this time, enhancing communication across the country. Numerous schools were established, and some industrialization was induced with the construction of several textile factories, plantations, and mines. More contentious, however were his policies towards the clergy, who saw their powers to intervene in secular matters gradually mitigated, but with the support of the Shah and the moderation of his policies, resistance was quelled.


    Amir Kabir, Prime Minister of the Qajari Empire


    When the war between Russia, the Ottoman Empire and Great Britain began in 1854, Amir Kabir used this opportunity to begin eroding Britain’s influence over the Empire. Anglophile ministers were removed from their posts and were replaced by Amir Kabir’s supporters. Tariffs were gradually reapplied to British goods and the Qajari government regained full control over the ports of Mohammerah, Bandar Shahpur, Bandar Bushehr, Bandar Abbas, and Abadan. The Qajari Military was also rebuilt rather quickly with the Army rapidly expanding to 24,000 soldiers by the start of 1855 (increasing to nearly 40,000 by the end of the year), while the navy had risen to 19 warships (most of which were small sailing ships or gunboats, although they did have two new screw-frigates and a single screw sloop).

    Despite these provocations towards Great Britain, many within Tehran were still reluctant to openly declare war on them, remembering their recent defeat. Nor did they wish to aid Russia by attacking their adversary, as the Russians were still hated in large parts of the Qajari Empire for their previous hostilities and humiliations. Amir Kabir was also opposed to war with Britain for this very reason as fighting Britain would inevitably mean the ascendance of Russia. Yet circumstances beyond their control would soon force them to act as at this point that the Russian offensives of Spring 1855 began.

    Seeking to break the stalemate of the previous year, the Russians pushed long and hard against the Ottoman Empire, plunging deep into Eastern Anatolia and bombarding their defenses all along the Danube. To combat these assaults, Britain would be forced to dispatch the 2nd and 3rd Infantry Divisions, and the 1st Cavalry Division to the Balkans joining the 1st Infantry Division and the Royal Regiment of Horse Guards, bringing British troop numbers to over 68,000 men in the Balkans. A further 8,000 soldiers and marines were dispatched to harass Russian ports and forts along the Black Sea coast, while another 4,000 were tasked with seizing the islands of the Baltic Sea.

    This commitment of nearly 80,000 soldiers to the war with Russia represented roughly half of Britain’s Army in 1855, which along with the massive naval commitment in the Baltic and Black Seas (amounting to nearly 150 ships), left the British with very few reserves to retaliate against Persia with. Were they to go to war now, the British would likely be limited to those forces currently in India, which was still a very considerable force of 50,000 British soldiers and another 300,000 Indian Sepoys in 1855. Nevertheless, this was perhaps the best opportunity they would ever have to get revenge for their previous humiliation and to reclaim their place in the sun by reconquering Afghanistan.

    Perhaps most pivotal in pushing Persia to war with Britain, however, was Naser al-Din Shah Qajar himself as he would experience a very sudden falling out with his Prime Minister Amir Kabir. Amir Kabir’s rise to power had been facilitated by the Shah’s youth and relative inexperience in 1851, with Amir Kabir serving as the tutor and protector of the young Naser Shah. But as the years progressed, the young king was now a grown man who had begun to chafe under the stifling control of his Prime Minister, who limited his authority and reduced his influence in favor of his own. More than that though, court intrigue and political machinations would see Amir Kabir's few remaining adversaries side with the Shah, driving a wedge between the two men. Now seeking to break out from underneath his overbearing teacher and reclaim his place in the Qajari Government, Naser al-Din Shah Qajar began beating the drums of war.

    Taking notice of this growing rift between the Shah and his Chief Minister, the Russian ambassador to Tehran Prince Dmitry Ivanovich Dolgorukov quickly intervened in this internal affair and presented the Shah with a deal. With the full backing of St. Petersburg, Dolgorukov offered the full military, economic, and diplomatic support of his country to the Qajari Empire in its easterly ambitions in the hopes such a thrust against Afghanistan would eventually reach, or at least threaten British India. Even if Britain were not to respond to Persia's invasion of Afghanistan, which was incredibly unlikely, the very presence of Persian troops on the border of India would terrify Westminster and limit their capabilities elsewhere. Even so, many remained hesitant to antagonize Britain, and few if any wanted to admit Russian soldiers into their country.


    Prince Dmitry Ivanovich Dolgorukov, Russian Ambassador to the Qajari Empire

    Amir Kabir boisterously opposed such a proposition as it would make the Qajari Empire little more than a proxy of the Russians. But seeking to undermine his Prime Minister and assert himself once and for all, Naser Shah announced his approval of the Russian terms and his desire for war with Britain, effectively presenting Amir Kabir with a fait accompli. After further negotiation, it was decided that the Qajari Empire would make common cause with Russia in its fight against Great Britain, striking against Afghanistan and British India. Russia would be relegated primarily to a supporting role, providing men and material if necessary, to defend the territorial integrity of the Qajari Empire against British incursions. However, despite Russian efforts to the contrary, there would be no clause pertaining to a Qajari declaration of war against the Ottoman Empire, nor would Russian troops be permitted to fight the Ottomans from Persian territory, a likely concession to Amir Kabir and the Russophobes in Tehran who still wielded considerable influence.

    With this alliance formalized, the Persian Government officially declared war on the Emirate of Afghanistan on the 10th of November, followed two days later by a declaration of war on the British Empire. Although the Afghans had made some preparations to oppose the Persians over the past 7 years, they would not be enough as Herat would fall within a month, followed quickly thereafter by Kabul before the end of the year. With the loss of both Herat and Kabul in such a short span of time, Afghan resistance effectively collapsed. Only a few small mountain holdouts in the Hindu Kush would remain in opposition to the Persians after the new year, but they too would fall one by one in the coming months. The British response to these developments would be surprisingly slow, however, as their primary focus would be directed towards Russia at this time.

    In the eyes of many Members of Parliament, the Persians were certainly a threat, but not one that couldn’t be handled by the resources already in place especially following the passage of the General Services Act in 1855 which readied the Indian Sepoys for war. Based on this, many expected the Second Anglo-Persian War to go the same as the first; as the Army of the Presidency of Bombay was quickly mobilized for a campaign aimed at driving the Persians from Afghanistan yet again, while the East Indies and China Station Squadron would move to blockade and bombard the Persian Gulf ports. With its ports closed and its ambitions in Afghanistan crushed, the war against Persia would be over quickly, enabling London to turn its full attention to the war with Russia once more, or so they hoped. While this strategy could have worked under normal circumstances, growing unrest in India would greatly disrupt these plans, causing the Britain no shortage of frustration and pain, while providing the Persians time to tighten their grip on their ill gotten gains.


    Sepoys and Civilians Rally for War with Britain

    The events known as the Great Bengali Revolt or the Indian Rebellion of 1856 as it is more commonly known, have their roots in the growing problems with the British East India Company’s governorship of India, ranging from religion issues and politics to economics and inheritance. Newer generations who had not experienced the hardships of their predecessors, forsook their elder’s caution and slowly began challenging several aspects of Indian culture (particularly the Caste system) to better suit British norms. Under these new men, the Indian Subcontinent would see a rising number of missionaries arriving in India to begin proselytizing the local inhabitants. Such acts were contrary to earlier promises by officials of the Company who had pledged not to allow such practices to transpire, and yet transpire they now did. In many instances, these missionaries would receive the support of Company men in spreading the Christian faith among the Indian people.

    While they may have had good intentions, their efforts would only succeed in upsetting the more conservative elements of Indian society who felt insulted by the broken promises of the British. While this was certainly a concern among many, a more recent development would be far more controversial. In 1855, numerous Sepoys would receive new Pattern 1852 Enfield Rifle-Muskets, replacing their older Brown Bess Muskets that many of the soldiers and Sepoys had still been using. While something like this shouldn't have been an issue under normal circumstances, rumors quickly emerged that the paper cartridges used to carry the rounds and powder were made with grease derived from pig fat and/or cows tallows, a facet that would be highly offensive to both Muslims and Hindus if true.[2]

    What would have been a simple misunderstanding between the British and Indians, one that could have been easily resolved with a clarification or the use of a different cartridge was made worse by the growing estrangement between British officers and their Indian troops. Many Englishmen in India were the sons of aristocrats or wealthy businessmen who thought quite highly of themselves, and quite lowly of the Indian people. As such many Sepoys were treated as inferior to the British, who were often relegated to back breaking manual labor and requiring strict discipline to keep in line. As such many were unable, or rather unwilling to acknowledge the stigma that accepting the greased cartridges would cast upon them according to the tenants of their faith; leading many British officers to simply force the new weapon on their Indian soldiers.



    The Pattern 1852 Enfield Rifle-Musket (top) and Cartridges (bottom)
    Worsening relations even further was the great economic disparity between the British and Indians as most Sepoys went months without pay or received no pay at all forcing many to live in abject poverty, while their British counterparts lived in relative luxury and comfort. The end of the Sikh Wars and the Second Anglo-Burmese War would worsen this disparity as many Sepoys lost their lucrative wartime bonuses. While the new conflict with Persia would see the return of these bonuses, the Company was slow in doling it out and far more stringent in its criteria, only providing it to the Sepoys of the Bombay Presidency and select units of the Bengal Presidency near the border. Moreover, the bonuses themselves were greatly reduced, often amounting to little more than a few extra shillings each year.

    Indian Sepoys also had few opportunities for advancement in the military or bureaucracy under the British East India Company, with most high positions and ranks being provided to British officers alone. Those that did advance through the ranks were few and far between and often treated poorly. Perhaps the worst offense was the Doctrine of Lapse, which enabled the British East India Company to assume control over property if an owner died without an heir.

    While the Doctrine of Lapse was by no means a new phenomenon, it had been used sparingly in the past and had gradually expanded to even exclude adopted heirs from receiving their parent’s wealth and property. The Sepoys were not immune to the Doctrine either as many would find themselves being disinherited by the very Company they worked for. The Sepoys of the Bengal Presidency would be especially aggrieved by the Doctrine as many were from the land holding middle class of Indian society, putting many at risk of losing their castes should their inheritances be confiscated or their pensions ceased.

    Moreover, the extent of the Doctrine had been expanded from monetary assets and humble farmsteads to entire countries as was such the case with the Princely states of Sambalpur (1849) and Nagpur (1854) among several others. Many Rajas, Nawabs, and Zamindars would lose their ancestral homes because of this practice, which was often times used in a corrupt and arbitrary manner by the Company to seize valuable lands for itself. Those that attempted to appeal the confiscation of their property, by negotiating with Parliament often met with harsh rebukes or disdain, furthering resentment across the Subcontinent.

    The final straw would be the enactment of the General Service Act in the Summer of 1855, which made it so Indian Sepoys could be sent overseas to fight Britain's wars. While this was supposed to be limited purely to new recruits, many Sepoys feared that they would be grandfathered into serving overseas, away from their homes and their families. The war with Persia only heightened these emotions as many Sepoys from Bombay and Bengal were sent to fight on the front with the Qajari Empire. By the Fall of 1855, tensions in India were at such a height that armed revolt was simply a matter of time.

    The spark itself would come on the 5th of February 1856 when the 67th Bengal Native Infantry Regiment was suddenly directed to assemble outside their barracks for roll call. Rumors quickly began to swirl that they would be sent to the Balkans to fight in the war against Russia, while in actuality they were likely going to be sent against the Persians who had begun launching raids into Punjab and Sindh.[3] Believing the rumors and not wanting to leave for a war they had little interest in, roughly 200 men of the regiment refused to join their comrades outside their barracks. Even when the British attempted to inform them that they had been misled by false rumors, the Sepoys still refused to leave the barracks, prompting their officers to resort to disciplinary measures.

    The dissenting Sepoys were promptly arrested, imprisoned, and court martialed before being stripped of their uniforms and put in irons in a humiliating display.[4] Angered by the degrading spectacle, several rowdy troops stormed the stage attempting to free their comrades, only to be met with the butt of rifles and the crack of whips. Matters soon escalated as a few more Sepoys grabbed their guns and opened fire on their British counterparts, prompting the British to respond in kind with devastating effect compelling those Sepoys who had not fired upon the British to now do so. Soon, Agra became laden with blood and bodies as the battle between British soldiers and Indian sepoys raged through its streets. Over time, however, the superior numbers of the Mutineers wore down the British who were gradually slain where they stood, one by one until only a handful were left.


    The Agra Mutiny
    In the commotion, several British soldiers and loyal Sepoys had managed to escape to Agra’s fortress and barricaded themselves inside it while they sent riders to Delhi to inform them of the mutiny and request reinforcements. While several men would be captured and killed by the mutineers, a few would in fact reach Delhi, however they would arrive too late to save their compatriots at Agra who were massacred to a man when the Rebels attacked the fort the following day. Whether it had been their intent or not, the actions of the Sepoys of Agra had ignited a powder keg as a series of revolts and mutinies began taking place all across Northern and Central India; the Great Bengalese Revolt had begun.

    In the span of a few days almost all the Army of the Presidency of Bengal was in revolt, which was a truly disastrous development for the British as it was the largest army in all of India, numbering over 130,000 fighters. The mutineers would find less support among the Sepoys of the Bombay and Madras Presidencies with the Army of the Madras Presidency siding almost entirely with the British. The Army of the Bombay Presidency, however, would see several of its regiments go over to the mutineers, but overall, they too would side overwhelmingly with the British, likely owing to mounting involvement in the ongoing war with Persia.

    The Bengali Mutineers would be joined soon after by a number of opportunistic Rajas, Nawabs, and Zamindars including the rulers of Ballabhgarh, Banda, and Rewari among several others as they had grown tired of British suzerainty and now sought to drive them out of India. Joining their forces with the mutineers, the rebels’ ranks swelled to nearly half a million men at their peak in mid-1856. Most of the Princely States of India would stay neutral or side with British during the revolt, but overall it was an incredibly dire situation for London in 1856 who could only count on half that number to oppose the Rebels.

    Next Time: A Global War
    [1] Owing to the more tumultuous nature of the Qajari Empire ITTL, Amir Kabir finds more support for his endeavors than in OTL.

    [2] The user had to bite the cartridge with their teeth to open it.

    [3] Owing to its enhanced role in TTL’s Crimean War parallel, Britain is forced to transfer Sepoys from India to fight in the Crimea. As a result, this adds quite a bit of fuel to the already considerable fire brewing in British India.

    [4] Based on the events of the OTL Meerut Mutiny, which was prompted by similar incident involving a Parade with the Enfield Rifle.
     
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