A heartbeat away from greatness: a timeline of missed opportunities

Unlike my other timelines (I'm going to finish them, really!) I'm not going to give away the outcome or the idea behind this one up front. The premise however is that the critical period of 1859-1878 period witnessed Four Major European wars (Austro-French war, Danish-German war, Austro-Prussian war, Franco-German war, Russo-Turkish war). Each of them was localized, yet had the potential to expand into a general European war. The sum of those conflicts restructured the multipower balance of Power achieved at Vienna without overturning it completely. Each represents a missed opportunity for some of the continental powers. And unlike later and earlier conflicts in Europe the diplomatic decisions and alliances seem to be dominated by personalities rather than large-scale national currents.

That said, I'm going to hypothesize the long-term effects of a single small change to one of those personalities on both the new balance of power and the direction of Russian reforms.

The personalities:


Fredrick William IV

William I


Otto Von Bismarck


Tsar Alexander II

Prince Gorchakov

Dmitry Milutin


Napoleon III



August 1857- Fredrick William IV, King of Prussia by the grace of god, paused in midstep. He felt a slight heaviness in his chest and stopped, taking a series of deep breaths until the dizziness stopped. He resolved to consult with his physician in the evening. Prussia could ill afford to lose his critical leadership at a time when the specter of revolution still threatened.

And… this is the POD. OTL Fredrick was incapacitated by a heart attack, de-facto rule of Prussia devolved to his brother a year later and he soon (November 1858) appointed a new cabinet which was less commited to suppressing German nationalism and more committed to riding it. German nationalism is of course ineveitable. A Prussian government attempting to harness it is also ineveitable. But it is not undelayable. TTL Fredrick hangs on to health for another year, maintaining a policy of leaning on his Russian alliance to suppress internal nationalist dissent. Alexander III and his ministers in turn feel more secure on their western borders.
Vive la petite difference

St Petersburg, French Itallian border July 21, 1858

Cavour and Napoleon the III were finalizing negotiations, Napoleon energetically gesticulating at the map. "It is absolutely critical", stressed Napoleon, "That your troops not cross the border into Lombardy before The Austrians invade Piedmont". "Furthermore, you must fall back as far as possible, while maintaining the morale of the troops, before the Austrians. The further they advance the farther they will be from their supply lines and the less my own troops will have to march when they cross the Alps".

Cavour nodded soberly. "We risk much to liberate the Patria. Should the Austrians concentrate all their forces against us we shall be hard pressed to hold them before your own armies arrive to aid us (1)".

Napoleon grinned. "As to that, I think I can say with some confidence that the Austrians will be unable to concentrate all of their forces against either you or us. Italy will be free- from the Alps to the Adriatic (2)!". Cavour's lip slightly twitched. "From the Alps", indeed- but not beyond them. The price for France's aid in adding Lombardy and Venetia to Piedmont were the small provinces of Savoy and Nice. To a pragmatic politician like him that was a small price to pay for the large and rich lands of Lombardia and Venetia but there would be hell to pay from firebrands like Garibaldi. Cavour consoled himself with the thought that war was a risky business and revolutionary war even more so. Perhaps fate would be kind enough to grant Gribaldi the glorious death he dreamed of (3).

Cavour tore himself from that not unpleasant possibility and back to the present. "Unable to concentrate their forces? Do you mean that…"

Napoleon nodded happily. His brilliant plan was, after all, coming together. "The Russians have indicated their acceptance with my…I mean our proposals (4)"

1- This is OTL. The franco-Piedmont plans hinged upon Piedmont baiting Austira into declaring war and invading by sending Gribaldi to raise hell in Lombardia. This was done not for the sake of military advantage but so Napoleon would have a diplomatic excuse to intervene. In many ways Napoleon III is the mirror image of Bismark. Machievalian plots, reliance on public opinion and grand schemes. The difference is that Napoleon actually believes that Public opinion matters as an end in and of itself rather than as a means to an end. He also believes in honor, national self determination, the sancity of international treaties and quite possibly santa claus. Which is one reason why OTL his schemes repeatedly flopped.
2- Napoleon is fixated with restoring France's "Natural" fronties on the Rhine and the Alps. And is willing to aid German and Itallian national unification in order to gain those rather trivial border territories. Never mind that from a point of view of sheer national interest having a border on the Alps with a unified Italy which is your colonial rival (AND lusting after the territories you took) and a border on the Rhine with a unified Germany (ALSO lusting after any territory you may have gained) seems like a very bad trade in comparision with the current situation.
3- Which means I'll roll a die. A "6" means death or crippeling wound (coin toss) to Garibaldi.
4- OTL the Russians were concerned with upheavals in the Prussian court. They were'nt willing to commit to war. TTL, Alexander II thinks he can rely on Fredrik-WIlliam IV's "friendship" and sees a chance for, in no particular order:
a. revenge on Austria whose betrayal "lost" Russia the Crimean war
b. showing the people that his reforms are made as an act of strength rather than weakness
c. Strenghening his position in court Vs the Reactionaries.
d. Breaking up the Anglo-French alliance.
e. Reversing Russia's losses and limitations in the Crimean war (North Bank of Danube and naval limitations in black sea).
f. Gaining some strategic territory (Galicia. Poland is much easier to defend from the Carpathians. Especially if you have an independent Hungary on the other side rather than imperial Austria linked to the whole bloody German confederation).
g. Rallying the Poles to the side of the Regime by a dramatic action.
h. And… removing the #1 obstacle from the Russian path to Constantinopole.

All these considerations will be discussed at length in the next post.
The Den of the Bear

St Petersburg, Russia Febuary 1859

A man stands, deep in thought, hands behind back, facing the snowstorm engulfing the city. The future of that city, and the entire nation, was as obscure as the view from his window. Russia, semi-Asiatic, rural, separated by religion and culture from the rest of Europe, had been spared the wave of revolution that swept the continent in 1848. Nicholas I had thought Russia was Immune. His father thought that Russia, with the largest army in Europe, and endless territory, was invincible.

Nichiolas I was dead, his heart broken by betrayal and defeat. His mighty empire was defeated, on it's own soil, by soldiers who had to be landed and supplied by sea from over a thousand miles away. The Holy alliance, guaranteeing Russia's Hegemony on the continent, was shattered, with those whom Russia had saved a decade earlier from revolution and destruction had turned against her in her hour of need (1).

Reports of Unrest from the Countryside were up. The Russian army was demoralized and STILL held up in fighting against the Circassians, though Shamil had sworn fealty to the Tsar (2), freeing up troops to finish off the Circassians (3). The nobility opposed him at every turn in making the necessary reforms. The Poles were sniffing for any sign of weakness looking for a chance to rebel and restore their independence. The Finances of the empire had largely recovered but the reforms necessary for the army, for building new railways, and above all to compensate the nobles for emancipating the serfs would demand staggering taxes- which might themselves lead to rebellion.

He was perched on the edge of a blade. Move too quickly and the nobles would rebel and replace him as tsar. Move too slowly and the serfs would rebel and plunge the country into chaos- if the other nations of Europe did not smell Russia's weakness and fall upon the Rodina like wolves. Which was certain to happen eventually if Russia failed to reform and modernize.

This was no time for foreign adventures. Especially since another failure WOULD lead to his replacement. But success… revenge upon the hated Austrians. Lower costs in the long run with the need to maintain a force in readiness against Austria gone. A near unification of Poland under his rule and with it a chance to turn a new leaf with the most troublesome of his subjects. Political capital that would enable him to push his reforms through. Financial capital from France to help pay for the reforms.

The Man turns. Before him are two grim faced advisers. One is a man of war who has spent the past two years analyzing, at painful detail, every failure of the Crimean war. The other is a man who has attempted, repeatedly, to prevent the last war from occuring. "Well?" asks Alexander III, Tsar of all Russians.

Gorchakov speaks first. " The details are finalized. And I dickered like a Zhid to get every last Franc you demanded". "How long do I have?" asked Dmitry. "June. Is the time sufficient?". "Barely. If I can draw on the necessary supplies. If We starve the Circassian front of supplies".

Alexander sighed. "We have been fighting the mountaineers for fifty years. It is over. We have won. They know they have lost, And I'm not going to spend the lives of our soldiers and the coins of our coffers just so we can depopulate their valleys and resettle Cossacks and Muzhniks in them who will take years to raise as many crops and pay as many taxes as they will if they accept our rule." (4)

Dmitry begins to protest (5) but drew himself to attention and nodded briskly. "If offered your terms then most of them will submit… until they revolt again". "If I can draw on the freed up forces and supplies then I will have 250,000 troops ready for action in Poland by June". (6)

Gorchakov spoke again- "Your highness- is the risk worth it? If we fail…"

Alexander Nods. He would not be the first Tsar to be replaced in a coup. But still…

"Such an opportunity is unlikely to reoccur in my reign. And my reign is unlikely to be very effective unless I can give the people a victory. A victory against a great power. Not against savages. Sign the treaty".

(1) This interpretation of the Austrian role in the Crimean war is Bollocks of course. Russia intervened in Hungary too late to make a difference and their occupation of the Danubian principalities had threated Austrian interests with no compensation offered. Austrian occupation of the Principalities probably saved Russia from a far worse defeat and their threat to enter the war actually was in Russia's best interest since it gave them a way out. Another year of Warfare and Russia would have been hurt far worse, possibly loosing the Caucaus.
(2) OTL Imam Shamil would surrender three months later. TTL the less turbulent situation in Prussia means Russia has more resources to spare in putting an end to the Caucasian war and is also more willing to offer better terms to a more desperate Shamil in order to free forces for the Galician campaign. Shamil basically agrees to rule a stripped down Chechnya Guberniya in the Tsar's name as civil administrator and to provide troops who will fight under their own banners and customs. He also agrees to give up a large chunk of Northern Daghestan and Chechneya (Avaristan and other tribes who fought for the Russians, All land north of Tarek river), leave the military highways in his domain under exclusive Russian administration, etc, etc, etc. It leaves him very little. But by this point OTL he was willing to surrender to keep his life and that of his family. This is a better deal and he remains titular ruler.
(3) The Caucasian war lasted for nearly 50 years and soaked up nearly a third of Russia's annual military budget. You might have thought Nicholas I would try to end this war before engaging in the crimean war, right? Wrong.
(4) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circassian_ethnic_cleansing It's a bit more complicated than that. By this point the Russians have been fighting the Circassians for so long and has spent so much doing so and have had so many truces blow up that ending the problem once and for all through ethnic cleansing seems to make sense on the long run. What tilts Alexander away from this is the need to free up troops for the West (his father did the same during the Crimean war). On the short-medium run leaving the 1,000,000 circasians who were killed or driven off in place means less military expenditures for Russia between 1859-1864, a slightly better reputation in the west, higher tax revenues, a redirection of immigration from the south to the East, a lower Muslim population base in the Ottoman empire and especially in the Balkans and Armenia (Also probably a later but more successful rebellion against Ottoman rule- the Circassian refugees were a large part of the cause for the rebellion but also a major force in putting it down). Long-term? It means a headache. The Circassians are NOT going to convert and subjecting them to direct rule is going to be difficult. On the other hand Daghestan DID remain fairly quiet between 1859-1917 in spite of not being ethnically cleansed like the circassians. On the third hand Circassia has better communications with the Ottoman empire. And in 1877 the Abkhaz revolted and were ethnically cleansed relatively easily (railroads. Wonderful social engineering tools). The bottom line is that I think that Russia benefits by an earlier peace treaty. By the time a new generation of Circassians/Chchens is ready to rise up again Russia has railroads going to the Caucaus and the Kuban is much more densely settled. Ethnic cleansing, if it occurs is into Siberia, central Russia and Kazahkstan, not Anatolia and the Balkans. And maybe a show of mercy at this point means long(er) term peace.
(5) OTL Milyutin pioneered ethnic cleansing as the end goal of the Circassian war. Hey, he's a military reformer, not a humanitarian. And the war had been going on for a LONG time.
(6) OTL the Russians concentrated 150,000 troops on the Galician border in return for various minor (and mostly unfulfilled) French concessions. TTL French financing and an early end to the Caucasian war means they have more to spare
#4: the hunters of the Alps

March, 1859, Alp border between Piedmont and Austrian Lombardia

Garibaldi and the young Lombard before him exchanged a series of swift gestures before Garibaldi turned to his offices. Little needed to be said. The attack on the Austrian border post had been meticulously planned for over a week and the scout only served to confirm the troop disposition and lack of nearby patrols. Garibaldi grinned. The Austrians did not have enough available troops to maintain continuous control over all, or even most, transportation arteries (1). Instead, they had come to rely on a series of fortified strongpoints to beat off attacks by the "Brigands" and "local patriots" for which Piedmont had renounced all responsibility.

They thought those would suffice to block the border and prevent large amounts of supplies from reaching the rebels.

Lightly, Garibaldi's hand stroked the barrel of the piece of the light mountain artillery smuggled across the border on muleback and recently reassembled. The Austrians were about to learn that strong points could be traps.

(1) OTL the Austrians had come to the conclusion that Russia was not going to intervene in the conflict and flooded Lombardia with enough troops to "Surge" the insurgency out almost completely. Piedmont had to mobilize in order to provoke the war. TTL The Austrians are not 100% sure about Russian intentions and are alarmed at the end to the Caucasian war and the shift of Russian troops Westward. As a result the Italian insurgents cause more of a ruckus.
#5 Habsburg Headaches

April 1858, Vienna: Francis Josef was not a happy man. He had come to power, such as it was, as a callow youth of 16 and had inherited an empire in chaos. Hungarians and Italians revolting against imperial rule, Poles and Croats seeking to use imperial rule to advance their own nationalist agenda, Czechs pressing for "federal autonomy" which was anathema to both Magyar and German and his own Germans eager to leave the empire and to join a Gross deautchland in which he would only be one prince among many.

A beyond his borders lay an irrendintist Piedmont, a Prussia which wished to upseat him from his position of predominance in German affairs, a glory seeking Bonapharte and a vengeful Tsar. No, Francis Josef was not a happy man. But he was a dutiful Kaiser. The empire had to be maintained, WAS maintained by using one nationality against the other. In the center of the Croat-Hungarian, Pole-Ruthenian, Czech-German friction lay Vienna. And so long as he could threaten to throw his support for or against one nation then he maintained control of the center. Italy though… Italy was another matter. There was no nation, within, or without the empire whom he could use to either cow the Lombard rebels or present himself as a lesser evil. Only the main force of the imperial army could be used to cow them. MUST be used to cow them unless he wished the Magyars to end their passive resistance and resume active rebellion.

The last attack had gone too far. And entire border post wiped out within eyesight of their Piedmontese counterparts. Artillery (artillery!) which had to have been supplied by Piedmont, regardless of their protestations of innocence. No, this had to be brought to a swift conclusion. He swiftly dictated orders to his secretary. One for mobilization, the other for an ultimatum. (1)

(1) OTL the Austrians contained the piedmontese inspired rebellion without resorting to full-scale mobilization. Piedmontese mobilization was the only provocation which could induce the Austrians to mobilize. TTL Austria is in direr straits and mobilizes earlier.
#6: Richmond university press 1934
The Italian problem and the shifting balance of power by A.J.P taylor: The second Napoleonic wars

In retrospect it appears obvious that the clashes on the Lombardian plain could not but radically overturn the balance of power painstakingly achieved at the close of the Napoleonic wars. That Balance of power, achieved in the capital of the now beleaguered Austrian empire was designed essentially to confine France by a threefold device. The first granted Prussia the unwelcome gift of the Rhinelands, and thus obligating them to commit their considerable army to the defence of all of "Germany".

The second enlarged the Kingdom of Sardinia-Piedmont while placing at It's back a series of Habsburg ruled Satellites to ensure that any French advance into either Italy of Germany would be met by an immediate response by either Austria or Prussia or both.

The third created the German confederation as a large bloc in the middle of Europe which, while utterly useless for offensive purposes, was obligated, at least in theory, to unite in defensive war on one of its members. Thus, either an eastern aggression by France or a western aggression by Russia would solidify a coalition against the aggressor, whereas any attempt by Austria would overburden a state attempting to maintain supremacy in both the Italian and German system. For it must be understood that while the treaty arrangements made Austria the shadowy Suzerain of both Germany and Italy, as well of it's extensive Danubian possessions it was prevented, by that same treaty from drawing strength from it's dependencies. Rather, they were as millstones about her neck.

The premises behind these arrangements were rocked by the revolutions of 1848 and by the Crimean war. The first drew Prussia into conflict with an internally weakening Austria as the former became the nucleus for nationalist hopes of a united Germany. The second so shamed Russia, the primary architect of the Vienna accords that its leaders were prepared to entertain the possibility of alliance with the nephew of the antichrist Napoleon III.

It is not the function of this author to describe the military clashes of this conflict. Suffice it to say that the Austrian strategy, once it became clear that Russia would join in the conflict, was to largely abandon Galicia to the Advancing Russians and hold the defensive on the Carpathians(1). The Majority of the Austrian forces were concentrated against France in an attempt, at the first appeal, to capture the Alpine passes before France could reinforce Piedmont. Should that fail they aimed to reach decision with France that would enable it to return to the Statues Quo Ante in the West before they turned on Russia. At the last, Austria aimed at stalemate at both fronts until Prussia, The German confederation, and hopefully Britain could be drawn in at their side. These plans however floundered on the twin rocks of the disparity of forces between the Franco-Russian alliance and the Austrian empire and the internal conflict which soon gripped Hungary.

The question then remains- what led the neutral powers in this conflict, Prussia (and through it the German confederation) and Great Britain to initially acquiescence in the face of the Franco-Russian pact?

Great Britain's procrastinations can be partly explained by its peculiar institutions of representative democracy and a free press. Those peculiar institutions meant that responsible heads could not act without a near consensus of public opinion- and the liberal strands of that opinion were that Austria was the aggressor, that Italian unification and independence were a glorious goal, that Hungarian independence was not to be sneezed at, and that Polish near unification and autonomy under the "Liberal Tsar" was not to be sneezed at. More to the point a clash on the plains of Northern Italy and southern Poland did not directly affect British interests. The Balance of power and the upholding of the Vienna arrangement DID affect British Interests- but the rapidity of the war was such that it took some time for statesmen in both Britain in Berlin to realize the full gravity of the Austrian situation. By the time that it became clear that France was not merely aiming at restoring the statues quo on the Piedmont Lombardian border, an aim all powers viewed as legitimate, and that Russia was not merely making a vengeful opportunistic attack, the costs of intervention had risen whereas their likelihood of success had decreased.

It was especially inopportune that exactly as the premeditated nature of the Franco-Russian alliance aims were becoming clear that the decision making capability of the critical linchpin of any conceivable continental counter alliance became effectively paralyzed….

(1) OTL contingency plans of the Austrians- and what they SHOULD have done in WWI
Last edited:
#7: Le Gloire!

Solefino(1), Lombardy June 1859:
Louis-Napoléon felt… he did not in truth know what he felt. It was a mixture of ecstasy and bone numbing terror. He had commanded troops before but never in battle, never such huge masses of men. Yet now he, like his glorious uncle, was leading 150,00 men directly in the field against his counterpart emperor Franz Josef. Nor was he alone. The left wing of his host, confronting the was commanded by King Victor Emanuel of Piedmont While his right wing (at his own hand!) King Leopold of the new central Italian kingdom (2) commanded, albeit with the support and "advice" of General Niel and nearly half of of the 4th French corps (3) . Even Leipzig lacked this concentration of crowned heads taking the field! (4) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Solferino. http://www.battlefieldanomalies.com/solferino/12_solferino_today.html. They outnumbered the Austrians by nearly three to two (5). He could smell glory in the air. He could taste it. He could feel it coming together. All his plans, all his dreams of equaling, even exceeding his uncle (6). So far the piedmontese had failed to effect a breakthrough at San Martino, while the Tuscan forces were maintaining the defensive east of Medole with Niel's support. Everywhere the Austrian forces were fully engaged, while he retained a large reserve, centered around the Imperial guard, prepared to exploit any opportunity. That opportunity had now arrived.

On the other side of the battlefield the belaguered Franz Josef received the dire news. The French had broken through at Cavriana (7). His generals stood mute at his side (8). Biting the insides of his cheeks hard enough to draw blood the Austrian emperor tersely ordered a fighting withdrawal to the Northeast and the fortification of Peschiera.

They're withdrawing! Exclaimed Louis Napoleon before gaining control of himself. His brain worked feverishly. He had just gained the field and a minor tactical victory. The Austrian's next step was obvious. Their army was defeated but not, yet, broken. They would withdraw to the forts of the Quadrilateral and wait for diplomatic intervention by Prussia and Britain to ameliorate their defeat. Cracking the shell of those forts would be the work of several months of siege. Pursuit across the hilly terrain would be unlikely to break the Austrian army and would severely tax his own men. He could allow the enemy to withdraw and then move to confine the bulk of the Austrian army in those forts, and the Russians to paralyze most of the remainder on the Carpathian front, thereby enabling Garibaldi and Kossuth to wreck havoc in Venetia and Hungary (9).

Unless…. "Send my regards to Victor Emanuel and general d'Hilliers. they are to maintain contact with the Austrian Ist army, and pursue, but not vigorously using skirmisher screens and cavalry only. The main forces are to entrench on the San Martino-Pozzolenga riverline." His Aide stiffened. Napoleon's initial order could have but one possible meaning- but the risk! "Marshal Regnaud is to halt pursuit, save for a skirmisher screen and to leave the defense of the Pozzolenga-Cavriana line to the 3rd Corps and lead the imperial guard, 2nd corps, and the detached elements of the 4th corps in an envelopment on the Austrian 2nd army elements at Medole. Aim at Faresto and block them from reaching Volta. 3rd corps is to be prepared to detach the first and second division in support of Regnaud should Austrian 1st army maintain the retreat. General Ney is to maintain his position and be prepared to advance in support of Regnaud as the Austrian 2nd army falls back. He is to reassume command of 4th Corps detached divisions as they link up". Napoleon paused before issuing his final order. "The rear elements at Castell Gofreddo and any Tuscan reinforcements en-route are to force march in the direction of Ceresara and Goito, aiming at a wide enveloping movement.".

Battles of the second Napolonic wars, Encyclopeida Brittanica
Battle of Cerliagi: While this "battle" would be triumphed in the French press of "a display of the imperial genius which descended from the first Bonapharte to his successor" the planned pursuit and envelopment of the I, V, and VII corps of the Austrian Second army was in fact a demonstration of the chaos of warfare. The first French attempt at envelopment failed as Regnaud was unable to effect a sufficiently rapid pivot of the northern wing of this effort. He did however, succeed in deflecting the angle of General Clam-Gallas http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eduard_Clam-Gallas withdrawal and maintaining constant pressure on his flanks as he withdrew towards Goito and the bridge over the Minea river. Napoleon's order to maintain pursuit even as the developing storm broke out around 16:00 and to continue after nightfall was, by the standards of those age, amateurish as the professional view was that it was impossible to maintain unit cohesion under such conditions.

This view was proved correct as gaps appeared in the French line as advance and as the bewildered "Right wing", composed of third rate French rear guard and Fatigued Tuscan reinforcements separated into battalion sized clumps who randomly engaged both French and Austrian forces as the "front" moved southeastwards.

However, if the French-Tuscan forces suffered from lack of organization as they advanced, the retreating Austrian forces, locally outnumbered 2:1 and demoralized in defeat, broke up completely. The Hungarian origin of the soldiers of the 2nd army may have contributed to the total breakdown as the common soldiers were both less enthusiastic about fighting for the Austrian empire and less able to communicate with their German, Czech and Croat officers under the high stress conditions of the nighttime battlefield.

Louis Napoleon's second (or third…) plan after the initial attempts at envelopement floundered seems to have been to maintain contact with the Austrians until they reached the river Mineia and there use artillery to break them up as their retreat bottlenecked against the bridges. In the event this proved unnecessary. The series of night-time engagements (in which the Bayonet played a much larger role than the rifle) which were grandiosely labeled the "battle" of Cerliagi ended at dawn with both the French southern wing and the Austrian armies demolished as fighting forces. The French however were able to largely reorganize during the following day. The Austrian corps simply melted away, never to reform.

The bridge at Goito was captured by a bewildered and late arriving Tuscan battalion around dawnbreak (which had apparently arrived at it's intended destination purely by mistake). They proceeded to gather more than 10,000 ragged prisoners over the following day.

The number of those killed and wounded on each side is estimated to have been roughly equal with 6,000 French fatal casualties, more than twice the fatal casualties in the earlier battle of Soleferino, being counted. However, while the French wounded were eventually treated, however inadequately, Austrian wounded either died untended or were murdered by Lombard peasants and Tuscan regulars. No effort was made to aid them as the French Medical Thus, of the 45,000 Austrians engaged in the battle some 15,000 are estimated to have died, and 15,000 taken prisoner. A small force of some 800 men under General Clam-Gallas escaped across the river and rejoind Franz Joseph in the north. The remainder however simply melted away into the countryside. While the French were rather closed lip about it it appears that as many as 5,000 Tuscan and 3,000 French troops used the opportunity to go AWOL as well, though many returned over the following week as a "no questions asked" policy was instituted.

Together with the 1600 fatalities and 10,000 other casulties of the first battle of Solefino and the 6,000 casulties inflicted by Franz Josef's desperate attempt to counterattack in the second Battle of Solefino once he realized what was occurring to the south France had lost nearly a third of it's force in this engagement, a staggering loss for a "victorious" army. Reports of these casualties may have contributed to Louis Napoleon's post battle breakdown and decision to return to Paris, leaving the continued prosecution of the war to Marshal Regnaud.

Therefore, In the purely military sense, in spite of the disproportionate casualties inflicted on the Austrians this battle cannot be viewed as an unqualified French success as they required over a week to recover before they could resume advance. However, it was portrayed as a decisive victory in the French and Italian press, leading both the Pope and the Kingdom of Naples to declare war on Austria and ameliorating much of Napoleon's domestic difficulties. More significant was the domestic effect in Austria as word of the "massacre" of the Largely Hungarian 2nd Army, "abandoned" by their emperor spread to Budapest, concurrently with the capture of several Dalmatian Islands by the French navy and the landing of Kossuth's Hungarian legion on the Dalmatian mainland…

(1) It's the last good defensive position before the quadrilateral forts http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/485931/Quadrilateral. I'm not going to be heavy on parrarelism but the Austrians have to make a stand somewhere and this place is as good as any.
(2) OTL Grand Duke Leopald II of Tuscany waffeled between supporting the Habsburgs and throwing in with the nationalists. As a result he's thrown out and Piedmont ends up annexing the duchy. TTL the declaration of war by Russia shows which way the wind is blowing and he jumps on the bandwagon (as he initially did in 1848) of an anti-Austrian war… by attacking Padema and Morena before joining the main army. His troops aren't as well trained or armed as the other combatants but they're good for line of communication work and holding positions. The battle is close enough that an extra 12,000 second rate men can make a difference.
(3) Yeah, it's weird. Not sure why it happened this way OTL- god knows Napoleon and Franz Jozef had political shop to mind in their capitals and none of them were incredible Military commanders either.
(4) OTL General Niel held off three Austrian Corps with a single French Corps. TTL his forces are supplemented by the lately arriving Tuscans allowing him to detach two of his divisions to support the French center.
(5) OTL it was 138,000 Franco-Sardinian troops Vs 129,000 Austrians. TTL, The need to ward off the Russians on the Carpathians and greater Hungarian unrest means that Franz Jozef didn't have as many troops to start with and he's been getting fewer replacements. So he only has 112,000 troops to oppose Napoleon and they're in worse shape. And Napoleon has an extra 12,000 Tuscan troops. As well as promises as additional reinforcements from Tuscany. That's one reason why Franz Jozef is trying to make a set piece battle NOW, before he's ridiculously outnumbered and before the pope jumps on the bandwagon and declares war as well- which will relieve Napoleon III of a domestic headache.
(6) Napoleon III OTL is a bit of a sad story. He kept on trying to launch one fanciul scheme after another but France under his rule lacked the advantages Napoleon I had (massive demographic advantage over it's adversaries and a technological/organizational/ideological edge over the continental adversaries) to pull it off. TTL he gets the lucky break his diplomatic talents were never able to create OTL.
(7) OTL. TTL it happens around 13:30, an hour earlier than OTL, BEFORE the storm breaks out to cover the Austrian retreat.
(8) As in OTL Franz Jozef has sacked his (Hungarian) Marshal http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferencz_Gyulai. His ethnicity, and the Hungarian composition of hapless Left wing of the Austrian army will lead to the "stap in the back" narrative of the Austrian empire. In any event the Generals are not going to take responsibility for further botching up the battle.
(9) Which is what he did OTL. Except the Austrian position was not as bad with neither an active rebellion in Hungary or a Russian army in Galicia to contend with. Napoleon, on the other hand, had to contend with Papal condemnation of the war (which affected the French domestic situation) as well as the imminent threat of Prussian mobilization. So he waffeled.
#8: Beat no more

July 1859:
Fredrick William, King of Prussia by grace of god, is tired. He needs to make a decision and that is something he extremely dislikes doing. The Austrian situation is appalling. Some of his ministers, as well as the British ambassador, are calling on him to announce mobilization and press the French and the Russians to withdraw. But what if they refuse? Austria is nearly neutralized and the minor German states are offering little help. Can he win a two front war with no continental allies, even with British support? Can he fight that kind of war without inviting revolution?

Others of his ministers are calling on him to temporize and to mediate an agreement which maintains a weakened Austria dependent on Prussia. Some are calling on him to use the Congress at Frankfurst to shame the Secondary German states into placing their armies under his command. But that is a dangerous, even revolutionary precedent! Others wish him to use the opportunity to reorganize Germany around Prussia while excluding Austria- some even suggest joining the war against Austria! And all of them, all them, are vying for control of Prussia. He can see now that they see him as nothing more than a figurehead to be used in their games, in their schemes and mad dreams of power.

Well, Fredrick William is no man's pawn. He will tell them, he will tell them all! He rises, before his state council and his insufferable brother and wonders why they are all gazing at him with horrified or stunned expressions. Then he collapses on the conference table and speaks no more.
Need feedback!

OK, I realize I've been sending "great walls of Text" but I need some quality control. This is a POD I never saw discussed before and I want to keep this story as "hard" as I can.

So to recap: POD Fredrick William's does NOT have a heart attack in 1857> Alexander II feels sufficiently secure to join the Napoleon in war against Austria.> Tuscany jumps on the bandwagon after Austria is poushed out of Piedmont and Russia occupies Galicia, Bukovina and Ruthenia and begins probing into Moravia and upper Hungary > TTL battle of Solefino is a decisive, if bloody Franco-Italian victory> Increased Hungarian unrest+ landing of Kossuth in Dalmatia+ Papal and Kingdom of Naples declaration of war against Austria+ later and more serious heart attack for Fredrick Williams throwing the Prussian government into a Tizzy.

So how plausible are each of these developments and what's next? I want to make this a hard, rather than a soft timeline.

a. Is William going to gain control of Prussia immediately if Fredrick WIlliams is paralyzed as OTL rather than dead (coin toss) or is a council of ministers going to retain rule for a year or so? Either way is Prussia going to act as OTL only with a slight delay or will it do something off tangent?
b. What's Britain going to do? How much is it bound by public opinion and what IS the public opinion of the Liberal going to be at this war?
c. How capable is the Russian army of progressing beyond Galicia in the face of even moderate Austrian opposition?
d. Is Maximillian likely to be more politically active in Austria with his brother screwing the pooch so completely in Italy? Does he view himself or is he viewed as an alternative ruler?
e. What the state of unrest in Hungary and the various other provinces of AUstria, especially Bohemia-Moravia?
f. Does Kossuth stand a snowball's chance in hell of making it to Hungary proper through the Croatian gauntlet?
g. Given the defeat he just inflicted, can Napoleon the III force a surrender on Franz Jozef within two months if he's holed up with the remenants of his army in the quadrilateral forts with no hope of significant reinforcements (Austrian Sedan)?
i. How likely is Franz Jozef to fold, given his condition and history? How likely is Napoleon to fold without achieving all of his war aims (Italian independence, Hungarian independence, "Unification" of Poland under Russia)?

Finally, how can I get more people to reply to this timeline? different title? different style? Or is the period just not attractive?
Regarding Maximilian, he was both a liberal and did not have imperial ambitions. He was chosen as Emperor of Mexico because he was the only guy to do it, and he accepted because he didn't want some crazy reactionary ruining the country.

Franz Josef would definitely not surrender until he was sure Prussia won't help him out. The French and Russian demands would cripple Austria, and losing the war would guarantee a Hungarian revolt, perhaps even revolution. He would probably hide behind defensive lines and try to bleed out French popular support to drop them out of the war, then turn to face the Russians.


f. Does Kossuth stand a snowball's chance in hell of making it to Hungary proper through the Croatian gauntlet?

Simply- no. I don't know how much soldiers he has in Hungarian Legion, and Croats are pretty much unsatisfied with Habsburgs at the moment, but Croats do know who is Kossuth and what his plans for Croatia are, so you can expect that they will support Habsburgs again...
Last edited:
Maximillian and Franz-Jozef

Regarding Maximilian, he was both a liberal and did not have imperial ambitions. He was chosen as Emperor of Mexico because he was the only guy to do it, and he accepted because he didn't want some crazy reactionary ruining the country.

Franz Josef would definitely not surrender until he was sure Prussia won't help him out. The French and Russian demands would cripple Austria, and losing the war would guarantee a Hungarian revolt, perhaps even revolution. He would probably hide behind defensive lines and try to bleed out French popular support to drop them out of the war, then turn to face the Russians.

Regarding Franz Jozef I'm inclined to say you're right. After all, he can't lose much more by hanging on than the Franco-Russian alliance is demanding.

On the other hand....

a. If he hangs on past the point where he has any military negotiating capability Prussia (and Bavaria. and Possibly Saxony) may change their aims from preserving Austria to getting a slice of Austria in the settlement (Prussia would certainly like what's left of Austrian Silesia, Bavaria wouldn't mind a piece of Salzburg and Tyrol, Saxony may dream of putting Bohemia under it's rule).
b. Right now nobody is talking about the southern Tyrol, let alone Trieste and Dalmatia. But if Piedmont forces simply bypass the Quadrilateral forts and overrun Venetia they may start demanding all of "Italia Irrendetia" (with compensation for Napoleon III in Sardinia?).
c. Separate from Austria's territorial extent is the position of Franz Josef as president of the German confederation. Theoretically, he might hang on to the post even if Austria is reduced to the "German" (Including Bohemia, Moravia and not-yet Slovenia) core. But if his bacon is saved by Prussia or if Prussia decides that the price of it's neutrality is Franco-Russian support in becoming the president of the German confederation (possibly excluding Austria altogether) then what? Could the Franco-Russian alliance get him to spit out the Polish-Hungarian-Itallian teritories in return for guarantees for their support in Germany (which is, of course, in their best interest)?.
d. "Hungary" is a flexible term. And Napoleon II never exactly defined it. Might there be a settlement where F.J hangs on to Croatia, Slovakia, the Banat and even Transylvania (here local support for Habsburg rule against Hungarian national aspirations is strong(er)) but grants independence to Hungary?
e. Could a compromise where Hungary is separated from Austria but remains under a Hapsburg monarch (again, Maximillian is the obvious choice) be proposed or accepted?
f. What about a shattered Hungary where the dethroned dukes of parma and Modena (and possibly Tuscany if things go as OTL) each recieve a subdivision of "Hungary" (Inner Hungary+slovakia for Tuscany, the Banat to Parma, Transylvania to Modena). They would be formally independent but in practice still dependent on F.J.

Anyway, while Lombardia-Venetia+ Galicia are not something the Franco-Russians will give up at this point their might be flexibility in negotiations regarding the statues of Hungary and the Austrian position in Germany.

What does "Prussia" want, though? well part of the problem is that different factions in Prussia want different things and I'm not sure who will end up on top (Bismark BTW is currently cooling his heals as ambassador St.Petersburg and has very little influence at court. He may try to use this crisis to change that and thereby have a common interest with Alexander II).

Here's what all the factions want:
a. They DON'T want an autonomous or independent Poland on their borders. Too much invested in their own Polish provinces. That means that the arguments against mobilization and intervention (Russia AND France together? two front war? bad Idea) are actually counterbalance by The unnion of the Russian and Austrian

Some factions may be willing to trade Posen (but not West prussia or Upper Silesia) for a free hand at Saxony and/or Bohemia though... interesting option.

Others would want Prussia to get the pre-Austerlitz Poland division borders back (That is with a Prussian-Russian border on the Vistula) in return for compensation to Russia elsewhere (Romania?). this however would not sit well with Napoleon III.

b. They all want the Franco-Russian alliance to break up and for things to go back the way they were before the war.

Some factions may want Prussia to join such an alliance- but they would expect their own "zone of influence" in central Europe.

c. Some factions will want to use the Austrian crisis as a way to gain control over all of Germany. The shape of that control (Presidency of the confederation? new Erfurt union? direct annexation of saxony and choice North German states?) depends on the faction. The more conservative factions mostly want to preserve Prussia from the "corrupting" influences of the more liberal states and will only support unification as a means of slaking the demands of the nationalist mob and/or to increase Prussian prestige.

d. Other factions will still want to preserve Austria as a strong ally against France and/or Russia.

So who comes out on top? I'm ruling that at a minimum no one comes out on top for a month. During that time Prussian factions are working at cross purposes and the Prussian army is not mobilized. After that- well, what do you think?

As for Maximillian- I don't see him seizing power on his own initiative. But F.J could lose power if he is:
a. killed or incapacitated in battle.
b. captured.
c. surrenders.
d. Isolated by a effective French Seige of Peschiera which cuts out communication with the outside world.
e. Is viewed as such a failure by Vienna politicians/army commanders that they throw a coup in order to "save the empire".
f. Hangs on to the point where republican revolt breaks out in Vienna.

under those circumstances what would Maximilian do? Would he go along with a coup? How much power would he actually have if he arrived in power by each of those paths? What would his priorities be if he gained power?

My take is that he would be primarily interested, not in preserving Austrian rule over the entire empire, but making sure that whatever piece he could keep would be well ruled.
Simply- no. I don't know how much soldiers he has in Hungarian Legion, and Croats are pretty much unsatisfied with Habsburgs at the moment, but Croats do know who is Kossuth and what his plans for Croatia are, so you can expect that they will support Habsburgs again...

My inclination as well. Could he try to get trough Ottoman territory and the (still Ottoman occupied) principality of servia to the banat? But the Serbs are not much more friendly to Magyar aspirations than the Croats... And the Ottomans are unlikely to help anyone who's allied with the Russians.

I guess he'll either
a. Die Heroically at the hands of Croat Millita and become a martyr
b. Hole up at some coastal town under French naval guns.
c. Have his "legion" help the French navy capture more Dalmatian islands.
d. completely change his orientation and try to enter Hungary on the back of Russian Bayonets. This is probably too much of a volte-face even for the politics of those days though. And I'm not sure it's logisticaly feasible given where most Hungarian exiles are.

Possibly he'll be part of the post war settlement. his antics will no doubt stir up public opinion in Budapest.
Last edited:

On the negative side I don't know enough about the details of the period to give any realistic view on what will happen. As you say its a hell of a mess and not just for Austria and the Prussian government.

On the brighter side its a fascinating idea and I'm subscribing and looking forward to seeing how things develop. Think you have hints, including what you said in the opening post, that this will develop into a general war, either now or shortly, possibly because of the level of disorder developing.

One query in that you have:

#6: Richmond university press 1922
The struggle for supremacy in Europe by A.J.P taylor: The second Napoleonic wars

If that's the OTL historical AJP Taylor then that date is wrong?

Anyway looking forward to seeing what happens.

total war?


On the negative side I don't know enough about the details of the period to give any realistic view on what will happen. As you say its a hell of a mess and not just for Austria and the Prussian government.

On the brighter side its a fascinating idea and I'm subscribing and looking forward to seeing how things develop. Think you have hints, including what you said in the opening post, that this will develop into a general war, either now or shortly, possibly because of the level of disorder developing.

One query in that you have:

If that's the OTL historical AJP Taylor then that date is wrong?

Anyway looking forward to seeing what happens.


OTL AJP Taylor published some of his early works in the 20s. it's only his that his massive, "struggle for mastery in Europe" is his signature work and was published in it's final form in 1954. Reason I put his publication in 1922 (TTL it's his first published work) is that I don't have even of vague idea about continuing the timeline past the 1920s.

BTW, I am not a fan of butterflys. Unless a region is strongly affected by changes I'm going to assume the same historical niches are filled by very similiar personalities if they are born before or a reasonable time after POD (5 years for Central Europe, 10 years for European Russia/France, 15 for Britain/SPain/Iberia/Ottoman empire, 20 for Americas and 30 for Asia). If the historical niches change due to political changes then the historical personalities will tend to gravitate to the new niches based on personality and some coin tosses.

As to the General war right away... Well, that IS the question. It's safe to say no Power WANTS a general war right now except possibly Austria. Napoleon III Is horrified by the Carnage of TTL Soliferno and just want to bask in the glory of a victory. Alexander II wants to cash in his victory in internal reforms and setteling the matter of Poland. Prussia is politicaly confused and does not want a two front war. And Britain would prefer to avoid any conflict if it can.

But can they? Austria collapsing is a major shakeup of the European Balance of power. And Franco-Russian Axis is even worse. Prussia may decide it has no choice but mobilize and pressure a Franco-RUssian withdrawal (possibly accompanied by a British blockade of France?). And once it starts mobilizing the temptation of both Russia and France will be to strike BEFORE mobilization is complete- or else to hasten operations against Austria so as to ensure it's total collapse before a showdown occurs.

A few things to bear in mind in case of a general war:
Russia: It's army really is a backward mess. The reforms carried out after the Crimean war have not yet had time to affect a change. It's able to do well in Galicia against the Austrians mostly because Austria doesn't try to fight and because of their massive numerical superiority at this time. Russia in 1859 has NO significant railway besides the Moscow-St petersburg line. The Sefs are not yet freed and are a powder keg waiting to go off. So are the Poles. If Russia has a few years of peace after a quick victorious war it will be MUCH strengthened.

Prussia: That said, Prussia is not the power house it will become in 10 years. No annexation of Hanover, Hesse-Kessel, Northern Saxony, Holshtein. An effective general staff system, the needle rifles, the dense rail network, etc, are all in the future. It's population is only 18 million (compared to 36 million French and 70 million Russians). It takes them two months to mobilize (same as French) rather than three weeks as in 1870 OTL.

Minor German states: If they join the war then on paper they all together equal the Prussian army strengh (in practice they are less effective and less modernized) But unless invaded they will probably maintain a de-facto armed neutrality. Their rulers are not going to engage in an offensive war to save Austria or prussia. What the rulers want and what the people demand however is different. If Prussia acts in accordance with percieved "German national interests" then rulers who do not support her risk losing their thrones.

France: France in 1859 is the real Gorilla in Europe. It has the largest economic and industrial base to wage war on the continent AND the largest effective army. It also have a lower level of revolutionary agitation to be concerned about. It is likely to win a long war if fightin Prussia ALONE at this point (in fact it's not even a contest). But if the British blockade it's coast? Or the Minor German states join in?

Austria: By the time Prussia mobilizes Austria can probably be reduced to the level where It can be held in check by Italians and Hungarians alone for at least six months. If they are left unsupported by France and Russia then they will be crushed and Austria may become a factor again. But by then the Prussian war will probably decided one way or the other

Poland: If Prussia is at war with Russia probably the first thing ALexander II does is proclaim "independence" for Poland (within the Russian empire). This will cause Prussia serious disruptions in their previously Polish provinces- but might backfire on Russia.

Britain: Blockades France and Russia. Subsidises Prussia. Makes a long, defensive war a practical possibility for Prussia as the longer the ar goes on the weaker the Franco-Russian alliance gets.

U.S: If war with Britain breaks out a U.S president might, just might, use his last days in office to try to unite the nation by waging war against the ancient enemy in Canada.

Army disposition: If Prussian mobilization is delayed to a month after Solefino then they are starting with a real handicap. It's true that France has 150,000 troops (effectively a third of their mobile strike force) bogged down in Italy, but Russian troops are concentrated in Galicia and can easily strike on SIlesia Vs massively outnumbered Prussian troops. By the time Prussia completes it's mobilization France can have it's troops back at the Rhine Frontier, and Russian forces will have advanced deep into Silesisa and Poznan. Austria by then will likely be neutralized if not fully defeated.

Later war: A later war is pretty much ineveitable if a Franco-Russian alliance emerges from the Austrian war in anything resembling good relations. The most likely scenario is for Prussia to back down from immediate confortation in return to a vague recognition of dominance in germany and scraps from Austria (Austrian SIlesia).

Possible flashpoints are:
a. If Austria is NOT excluded from Germany and retains de-jure presidency of the German confederation then Prussia will contest that. this is the best case scenario for the Franco-Russian alliance as it means they have substantial allies within the Germanies. Prussia will seek to prempt that (if they have a competent governement) by demanding Austrian exclusion for the confederation in return for neutrality.
b. If Austria is excluded then Prussia will attempt to reform the confederation into a tighter federal system with more power to the Federal ruler (Kaiser WIlliam). This will be supported by the population but opposed by some of the rulers. It will also be supported by Britain
c. Napoleon may be emboldened by his Italian war and seek earlier rectification of the Rhine frontier (Purchase of Luxemburg, exchange of Bavarian Palatinate for Austrian Salzburg and Tyrol, or outright war for the Prussian rhinelands). Russia will demand a free hand in Romania and possibly a Romanov candidate for the Hungarian throne in return. Prussia and German public opinion will demand and get war. Britain will probably support them.
d. Napoleon may still go after his harebrained schemes in Mexico. If he does Britain and Prussia may use the window of opportunity to either strike first or solidify Prussian rule in Germany.
e. Alexander II reforms may still lead to Polish revolt. If it does Prussia seizes the chance to give Russia a bloody nose and/or consolidate Germany.
f. The last flashpoint which is pretty much unavoidable is the Holshtein Schelvzig conflict. If Prussia avoided every chance to war up until now this is the straw that breaks the camel's back. Nationalist opinion is simply too incensed to pass this up. And Russia/France see their chance to have one ally (denmark) and a neutralized potential enemy (Britian). So one way or another this is the point Prussia faces a three front war with no British help. On this issue however, it might have the backing of the German confederation (Austria included if they are still in).
g. Finally, OTL 1862 witnessed a crisis in Seriva and 1865 witnessed a domestic crisis in Romania. If Russia made some kind of "balkans for Rhineland" deal with France it may embark on a repeat of the Crimean war- but with no active Austria, and a friendly France balancing a less friendly prussia.

A related topic is how increased tensions in Europe impact on the American and Mexican civil wars. Will Western Europe work together to demand Mexico pay it's debts as OTL? Or is it more likely some (Britain, Prussia) will accept OTL U.S offers to buy the debts off and/or that France will avoid giving bad loans in the first place? Will Napoleon III put his Mexican plan to action in some Variant form without the initial collaboration of Britain?(Maximillian is almost certainly not a candiadate ITTL. an Itrubide scion? A Spanish bourbon claimant? The deposed rulers of Italy?)? If Mexico avoids French intervention and the foreign debt crisis might Juarez try to unite the fractured nation by invading California during the American civil war? If France avoids losing credibility by invading Mexico AND defuses tensions in Europe Vs Britain might it try to get out of the doghouse with Britain by offering greater support during the Trent affair ( Sending troops to Canada for example. or getting Russia to join in offers of mediation)? Could this be enough to push Britain into intervention against the union with French (and possibly Russian and Mexican) support? and could this be the trigger for a Prusian move to consolidate Germany? Or does increased European tension mean everyone is even more likely to stay out of the New world during the critical period?

I haven't made up my mind. It partly depends on how the war of Austrian dissolution ends. But if anyone has some convincing arguments lay them out. Like I said I want to make this a hard rather than soft timeline so I'll go with the most Plausible, rather than "rule of cool" arguments. When in doubt I'll flip a coin.
#9: The martyrdom of Ferenc Deak

Budapest, Kingdom of Hungary, Austrian empire July 1st
Tisza's escort into the manor of Ferenc Deak is impeccably correct. Such, after all, is the nature of the Man. Old-style Nobility form which would find no fault even from the most stiff collared reactionairies covering an inner core of reformist, even radical, convictions.

The men chat for over half an hour on horses, crops, women and the latest Viennese composition before touching at the matter at hand. "Some of those in my party (1), believe that the debacle of Cerliagi is what we have been waiting for. The Habsburgs are weak, they say, and many of their collaborators had sons abandoned in the field (2). If we move from Passive to active resistance and declare for Kossuth (3) the Habsburgs will be able to do little to stop us. We could win back what we lost a decade ago! "

Deak sips at his Brandy "A decade ago we controlled the local government, and had formed a national guard before we confronted the Habsburgs. And we lost. A decade ago we were fighting for independence- this time we would be tools of France… and Russia. Wouldn't we simply pay heavily in blood and treasure to change one overlord for another?"

Tisza paces about the room "What do you suggest then? That we allow the Habsburgs to continue turning us into obedient little Germans (4)? Make no mistake. Even if you convince me to take no active action I would simply be replaced by one of Kossuth's loyalists (5). And however bad a revolution will be we MUST be unified against the Habsburgs- otherwise they will use us against each other"

"Exactly". Deak smiled "Which is why our first action must be one that has the support of every section of Hungarian society- including the Habsburg collaborators and the minorities"

"What are you suggesting?"

"Declaring, without consulting with the Habsburg authorities, a national day of mourning across Hungary, ALL of hungary (6). All churches, Catholic, Protestant, even Orthodox (7) will devote their Sermons and prayers to our lost children. I will speak to my Jewish and German acquaintances and attempt to get them involved as well. It will make it harder for Albrecht (8) to oppose us… and backfire on him if he does"

"So we mourn. What of it?"

"First, we grieve. We prepare the people for the need for action. Then… then we petition the emperor. Peacefully. In every town and village the people will gather and present a petition. We will use the churches to organize this"

"Petition? Petition for what exactly? And why will the Emperor listen?"

"Petition for an Hungarian national guard, to be composed entirely of Hungarian troops (9) and officers (10). To be used solely within Hungary's borders (11) to defend against the invading Russians and French. Accompanied by a call for all able bodied Magyar men to volunteer to join these formations"

"You would urge our men to fight for the Habsburgs? (12)"

" I would urge them to join an Hungarian army, composed of Patriotic Hungarian men, prepared to defend their homeland against the invader… any invader. We do not know how this war will end. But I think it certain that if the Habsburgs are defeated we will need an army in place to bargain with the Russians from a position of strength. If they are not then I think it clear that Hungary will be a much larger portion of their Shrunken domains… and our army will ensure Hungary a place of honor in the Habsburg empire (13)."

"I understand… and I will speak to the radicals. I think that you may be certain that men of proper dedication and background will be the first to volunteer. But… what is Alberecht refuses to condone this initiative? Surely he will see what we are aiming at?"

"If he is wise enough to see that clearly then he will also see that Magyar men will begin to form National guard units "against the Russians" whether or not he officially condones the move. And if he somehow fails to appreciate this truth then I will be sure to inform him".

Budapest, Hungarian republic (declared)/Austrian empire (recognized) August 14th 1859

Budapest is burning.

Budapest is burning and the man ultimately responsible for the inferno consuming the impossible city he has grown to both love and despise over the past decade is staring into the flames. Columns of German and Jewish refugees guarded by Slovak and Croat soldiers stream past him. Some beg him for protection. Others gaze at him with hatred. But no hatred can equal to self-revulsion within his own soul.

The genesis of the fires was unintentional. They started when the riots provided cover for looters, vandals and arsonists and spread when the forces of order had no resources left to combat the flames. But then the rioters turned rebels tried to channel the flame in order to cut off sections of the city to the imperial forces and to target sections, particularly the German and Jewish sections, loyal to the regime.

He could have defeated the insurgents, even with the few forces he had available. But then word arrived of the Battle of Mohac and Alberecht Von Habsburg realized his position was untenable. He would make his stand in Bratislava. And he would leave no nest of rebels, no depot of supplies, no transportation nexus for the Russians to use. He would leave behind nothing but a burnt out husk.

How could affairs have gone wrong so quickly?

(1) Tisza is the most moderate (that is not openly Anti-Habsburg) representative of the Liberal party which seized power under Kossuth in 1848. He is viewed as "acceptable" by Habsburg rule. Obviously, he has contacts with die hard elements of Magyar nationalism.
(2) The version of the battle making the rounds in Budapest has the brave Magyar soldiers and officers of the 2nd army (actually, more than half of the officers were Czech, Croat German. Policy- and one of the reasons for the disaster) were wasted in suicidal frontal assault in Solefino after F.J persecuted his able Magyar general and took personal command (OTL the Magyar commander was an utter twit even if he was a professional. It's not clear that sacking him affected the outcome at Solefino- except insomuch as he may have preffered to hole up in the quadrilateral and avoid any combat until the Prussians come to the rescue- something F.J found intolerable) . And then, disregarding their sacrifice F.J cold-heartedly abandoned his men to the ravages of his Habsburg Kinsmen (the Tuscans. Who played and definitively minor role in the battle).
(3) The French are taking Dalmatia island by Island using their Marines and the Hungarian Legion and Kossuth is milking every inch of Propaganda from it he can. It's also creating huge logistical difficulties for Vienna since the French navy is blockading the Adriatic, limiting troop movements to Venetia from Croatia, pinning down forces in Croatia to prevenet a French-Hungarian landing, and forcing them not to deploy Hungarian troops to Croatia for fear they will defect to Kossuth (who has also recruited heavily from amongst the POWs taken at Solefino).
(4) The Habsburg policy is to make German the administrative language of the administration and schools, place administration in the hands of ethnic Germans, Jews (!) and cooperative minorities and to encourage German immigration from Bavaria and Saxony into the fertile anrpopulated Hungarian plain. These efforts are not realy all that successful in changing the demographic trends in Hungary but they are causing much resentment.
(5) This is the dynamic in many revolutions and national movements. Extremist leaders don't have to seize power in order to affect policy- they just need to force moderates to compete with them.
(6) Which to Deak, and even the most moderate and pro-Habsburg Magyar means Transylvania and the Banat as well as Hungary proper- and also Croatia (and Slovakia of course. Except the Slovaks are nearly invisible politically even to the Habsburgs)
(7) One of the nice things about Hungarian nationalism is that they really are religiously tolerant- so long as Orthodox churches aren't used to promote Romanian nationalism that is.
(8) That's Alberecht Von Habsburg. The pro-Germanisation governor of Hungary.
(9) By which Deak means also non-Magyar minorities
(10) By which he does NOT mean (many) non Magyar minorities. Magyar nationalism is a wonderful example of double standards of "justice".
(11) Yup, including Croatia and Transylvania.
(12) No, obviously Tisza isn't that dense. He understands what this is about. But people who aren't familiar with 19th centuary nationalist politics might not- this is for YOUR benefit gentle reader
(13) OTL Ferenc Deak was one of the architects of the Austro-Hingarian compromise of 1867. That's what he's aiming at. But the Habsburgs aren't there yet…

Oops:eek:- Somehow I thought AJP Taylor started publishing a decade earlier. So I've edited the 1922 edition of "The second Napoleonic wars" to 1934 (which is when he published his frist work OTL- focusing on Italy in European diplomacy)