The Great Silent One - Moltke the Austrian TL

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by Ultima Ratio, Apr 3, 2018.

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  1. Threadmarks: Prelude

    Ultima Ratio The Last Baron

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    Hi everyone. After having some interesting conversation in a WI thread about an Austrian Moltke, I decided to formalize the ideas into a timeline. Given my lack of time to write, this will not be extremely detailed, but I hope you enjoy nonetheless. Feedback and criticism of course welcome. Many thanks to @Ludwig von Stieglitz and @Derek Pullem for their ideas. I will try to update at least twice a week and plan for the TL to go on until the end of the 20th century (if there is interest, of course).

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    Prelude:

    1805
    : Friedrich Philipp Victor von Moltke moves with his family to Graz in the Austrian Empire. The family is left impoverished after the French occupation of the city in 1809. [PoD]
    1812: A young Helmuth von Moltke goes to cadet school in Vienna.
    1818: Moltke becomes a lieutenant in an infantry regiment.
    1822: Moltke enters the Theresianum, which he finishes in 1826
    1827: After leading a cadet school for one year, he is employed on the military survey in Northern Italy.
    1832: Moltke is seconded for service on the general staff at Vienna, to which he was transferred in 1833 on promotion to first lieutenant.
    1838: He is sent as an advisor to the Ottoman empire, taking part in the war against Muhammad Ali. He goes on to publish numerous works that are well received in Vienna.
    1848: He becomes Chief of the Staff of d'Aspres II Corps, while rebellion breaks out in Hungary. The units stationed in Northern Italy go on to defeat the Piedmontese army at Custoza and Novara, and restoring order in Lombardy-Venetia.
    1857: Moltke becomes chief of the General Staff of the Austrian Empire and proposes reforms on the army structure an general modernization, including the adoption of new breech loading Lorenz Rifles.

    1859: Trouble again brews in Northern Italy.
     
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  3. Threadmarks: Chapter I - The Italian Question

    Ultima Ratio The Last Baron

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    Chapter I - The Italian Question
    (1859)


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    The Battle of Palestro
    Growing Italian nationalism could not be smothered at Custoza and Novara, and Sardinia-Piedmont was still eager to take the leading role in Italy. The war in 1848-1849 (later known as the First Austro-Piedmontese War) however proved to the government in Turin that it could not be achieved without support of another great power. Thus, Sardinia-Piedmont has been positioning themselves towards France for years, to the point of even taking part in the Crimean War against Russia. Napoleon III, ever the adventurer would agree to support Sardinian ambitions against Austria, in exchange for Savoie and Nice. Feeling confident, Sardinian troops start extensive maneuvers on the Lombardian border, with the aim of provoking Austria.

    Moltke, who was has been meticulously preparing for a new confrontation in Italy advises the emperor to take the initiative as he deems the current military situation favorable to Austria. Sardinia-Piedmont's orientation towards France has not gone unnoticed, but Moltke argues that the numbers are still on their side, along with general preparedness of the armed forces. Austria thus declares war on Sardinia-Piedmont, only to be shortly declared war on by France. The Second Austro-Piedmontese War begins.

    Moltke quickly takes the intitiative and advances with a speed that surprises both French and Sardinian generals. Austrian forces mobilize quicker and move to maneuver with such speed that catches the allied forces off guard. Imperial troops score their first victory against the French in a skirmish at Montebello on the 20th of May, staying quick on their heels and advancing north before they could regroup. The allied armies eventually offer battle near the town of Palestro, where the Imperial forces lead by Moltke manage to divide them and defeat them in detail. The Sardianian force practically ceases to exist, while the French lose over half their force as either killed or wounded and are struggling to retreat to the West. "Marengo Avenged!" - as Viennese newspapers would read shortly after the battle.

    The victory not only meant a regaining of Austrian prestige that was tarnished in 1848-49, but brought political changes in the German Confederation, where the Austrian victory over France gave them more leverage as the leading German state. Something that would raise some heads in Berlin.

    Indeed the Confederation would play a major role in Napoleon's decision to continue the war. Fearing involvement from German states, and cautious of having to face them alone, especially after the loss of men and materiel in Italy, he asks for peace. But not before what would be called "il Tradimento" in Trento even a hundred years later as French troops occupy Nice and Savoie as the retreat from Italy.

    The following Peace of Milan, engineered by Johann Bernhard Graf von Rechberg und Rothenlöwen, leaves Lombardy in Austrian hands and allows for the French occupation of Nice and Savoie, which the Piedmontese are powerless to stop. The peace leave Sardinia-Piedmont as a minor state, while France is left with some of their prestige intact as Napoleon manages to gain what he set out for. Moltke however warns that the Italian question will have to be addressed in the future, or there will surely be another conflict in the region.

    The more permanent Italian solution will however only be worked out 8 years later by the so-called Triumvirate of Vienna - Moltke, Count Belcredi and Ferdinand von Beust - in the Conference of Bern.



    Next stop: Schleswig and beyond.
     
  4. Ludwig von Stieglitz Banned

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    Keep it up
     
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  5. Threadmarks: Chapter II - The Second Schleswig War

    Ultima Ratio The Last Baron

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    Chapter II - The Second Schleswig War
    (1864)

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    The Battle of Dybbøl

    Ever since the Schleswig War in 1848, there has been a fragile status quo between Denmark and the German Confederation over the territory of Schleswig, which has been governed separately from the rest of Denmark. This situation changed when the king of Denmark, Christian IX signed the so-called November Constitution in 1863, in an attempt to create a joint parliament. This was percieved in Germany as an attempt of annexation of Schleswig-Holstein, and was also a clear violation of the London Protocol.

    Otto von Bismarck, foreign minister of Prussia attempted to gain the initiative by taking the leading role in the Confederation by being on the forefront of defending the German people in Schleswig-Holstein. Thus, Prussia supported Duke Frederick VIII to occupy Holstein with Hessian troops in the name of the Confederation, while Austria was still warming up to the idea of a conflict. Bismarck proved to be a shrewd diplomat and there was now a fear in Vienna of losing control of the situation. As Hessian troops entered Holstein in December 1863, king Christian IX would merge Schleswig to the kingdom of Denmark. The pieces were now in motion, and Austria was still seemingly undecided on the matter.

    Count Beust, on behalf of Saxony along with Archduke Rainer Ferdinand and Johann Bernhard Graf von Rechberg und Rothenlöwen would convince the Kaiser that Austria, as a signatory of the London Protocol will have to act, lest they lose initiative to Prussia within the Confederation. On December 28 a motion was introduced in the federal assembly by Austria and Prussia, calling on the Confederation to occupy Schleswig to ensure that Christian IX abides by the Protocol. As this toned-down proposal implied Christian IX's rights to be respected, it was declined, thus Austria and Prussia would act as independent powers. An agreement was signed between the two powers, that instead of forcing Denmark to abide the Protocol, Austria and Prussia would jointly decide the fate of the Duchy. This was playing into Bismarck's hands, and Austria was now outmaneuvered politically. In the meantime, Austrian and Prussian forces moved into Schleswig, the former being under the command of Moltke.

    Bismarck now issued an ultimatum to Denmark to abolish the November Constitution within 48 hours, which was rejected by Christian IX. War was now inevitable, as a new agreement on March 11 declared the 1852 settlement void. Alarmed by the prospect of losing their influence in the Confederation and Prussian expansion into Schleswig-Holstein, Austria was now ready to use force. England called for a wider European conference in London, but would not come to pass, as the Austrians under Moltke would push the Danish army to the Danevirke after defeating them at the Battle of Kongshøj. The Danes attempted to use the cover of night and the severe weather conditions to retreat to the fortress of Dybbøl, only to be pursued and outmaneuvered by Moltke before they could reach the fortress and take up defensive positions.

    Much like the French at Palestro, the better lead Austrians would go on to defeat the already shaky Danish force and occupy the fortress, while Prussian forces advanced on Fredericia and took the fortress. The defeat outside Dybbøl would mean the collapse of the Danish Army, which was now retreating to the islands, supported by (mostly token) Swedish-Norwegian troops sent by Charles XV, as Jutland was occupied by the German forces. Denmark would go on to capitulate on the 18th of April.

    In the Treaty of Vienna, on the 25 of June, Denmark ceded Schleswig, Holstein and Lauenburg, along with other minor enclaves to the joint administration of Austria and Prussia. The war has proven the effectiveness of Moltke's reforms in maneuvers, mobilization and tactics along with the Austrian Lorenz needleguns. The war would also lead to the formation of the Vienna Triumvirate of Moltke, Count Belcredi and Ferdinand von Beust: the political alliance of three most powerful individuals in the Imperial court, who would have major parts to play in the coming events that would change the face of Europe.

    Note: the main difference here, besides the obviously better Austrian performance is the more decisive Austrian foreign policy against Denmark, mostly being pushed by Beust, which means there is no London Conference as in OTL. Other great powers, notably Russia and Britain aren't very happy with the German intervention(this will be addressed in the next update), so there is no silent consent of the Great Powers for the war, leading Sweden being more confident to send help. The war also obviously ends quicker as the Danes never properly retreat to Dybbol, which they mostly managed OTL due to Moltke being in Berlin. ITTL he is there from the start and stops it in its tracks, instead forcing a pitched battle.
     
  6. Threadmarks: Chapter III - The Beust-Gorchakov Pact

    Ultima Ratio The Last Baron

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    Chapter III - The Beust-Gorchakov Pact
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    Friedrich Ferdinand von Beust and Alexander Mikhailovic Gorchakov


    After the conclusion of the Second Schleswig War, an uneasy feeling reigned over Germany and Europe in general. The Triumvirate has gained considerable influence in Vienna, where Austrian policies pursued for the last decades were now in question. It was clear from Bismarck's actions that Prussia did not believe in the future of the Confederation, and evidence pointed towards them aiming to create a federation of their own, gaining the leading role in Northern Germany and leaving Austria, the rightful leader of the German Nation, on the sidelines. It was becoming clear that the Greater German Solution, envisioned by Austria is not viable - at least not in the form envisioned, with a loose confederation of German states and Austrian non-German territories still part of it. Hungary has been a particularly problematic case, ever since the revolution in 1848, they have been governed directly from Vienna, with Franz Josef not being crowned as King of Hungary. The situation was unacceptable to the Hungarians who have, with the leadership of the statesman Ferenc Deák began a passive resistance towards Imperial rule. On top of that, Galicia was barely governed, being mainly a distant place where any Austrian official considered a commission to be an exile. While Veneto was mostly pacified, Lombardy remained a powder keg of revolutionary activity waiting for a fuse to be lit.

    On top of that, the intervention in Schleswig upset the other European Great Powers, as it happened without a consulting them in the proposed London convention. Luckily for Austria, Britain generally considered it a legal action, as it was based on the London Protocol of 1852. France was rather silent as well. Although defeated in a war just five years before the Schleswig crisis, the favorable peace treaty and the Habsburg support for their ongoing Mexican adventure meant that relations were at least cordial. Napoleon III was also somewhat between a rock and a hard place, as him pursuing his ambitions in Mexico alienated Britain. In such a situation, no confrontation with the wider German Confederation could be imagined. Russia, however, was a different case. Austria has enjoyed very good relations with the Czar, staying neutral in the Crimean War and in turn receiving help to defeat the Hungarian revolution in 1849.

    It was clear that in order to pursue a more determined policy in Germany, Austria has to come to an agreement with the Czar, as he was the only one in Europe currently who could act as a stopgap to any Austrian ambitions. Luckily, Prussia could offer little to the Czar, while Austria could give them much. Once it became evident that Austria has to tighten the Confederation in order for it not to fall apart (or even worse: to Prussian hands), they had to placate the Russians. The Triumvirate would be hard at work, just as the ink has dried on the peace with Denmark. Moltke would be updating Austrian was plans with Prussia, something he was sure to be inevitable. Count Belcredi started to formalize numerous proposals for a Hungarian solution, while von Beust met with Alexander Gorchakov, the Russian foreign minister in the city of Krakow in secret.

    In what would later be known as the Beust-Gorchakov Pact, Austria would promise Galicia to the Russian Empire, along with support for any future ambitions in the Balkans and against the Ottoman Empire, in exchange for neutrality in a conflict with Prussia and nonintervention in German affairs. Austria was ready for war politically, and it would now be upon Moltke to be ready militarily as well.
     
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  7. Ludwig von Stieglitz Banned

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    and Prussian polish territories in case of a war between Austria and Russia, if russia joins them
     
  8. blackswordzero Donor

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    I am curious if Napoleon III will try to buy the Luxembourg?
     
  9. Ultima Ratio The Last Baron

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    Not sure if Austria wants to alienate the Prussians more than necessary. A blank check in the Balkans is already a pretty huge deal for Russia.
     
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  10. Ludwig von Stieglitz Banned

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    I think Gorchakov is in the first and von Beust is in the second picture
     
  11. Ultima Ratio The Last Baron

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    Nope, Gorchakov is in the second picture (the painting). You can even see him wearing a pin with the picture of the Czar :)
     
  12. J VonAxel Really not a nazi

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    I would second that, no way would Austria give away Land that cheaply. Also while the land is currently underdeveloped it is a buffer zone for Hungary. And please note that at this time Krakow is part of the Confederation, thus not for sale.

    Unlike say Posen which has been withdrawn from the Confederation in 1851. But as always you want the clay you got to put skin in the game. However while a deal for an alliance might be possible, it is very inadvisable as the German minors would not look kindly upon outside interference.

    The more achievable and realistic deal would be that Russia moves the eastern Balkans into its sphere, with only a minor economic caveat regarding the use of the Donau. In exchange they stay out of the Brothers war. Pointing the Russians towards the Ottomans generally worked to keep them distracted from affairs to the west.

    And a small request please add the date or at least the current year at the top of your chapters, makes it easier to put it in historical perspective.
     
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  13. Ultima Ratio The Last Baron

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    True, they wouldn't give it up so easily, but the upcoming updates will hopefully make it more plausible. Krakow is not part of the deal, actually.
     
  14. Ludwig von Stieglitz Banned

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    Ah...I did not know he had the order of the golden fleece :)
     
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  15. Ultima Ratio The Last Baron

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    Update should be out later today or tomorrow at the latest.
     
  16. FillyofDelphi Well-Known Member

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    Indeed. Vienna needs to remember that their interests in eastern/Central Europe and the Balkans are in direct conflict with Russia's in the medium to long term... do they really think strengthening the Czars and leaving them with no other targets/potential threats by throwing the Turks under the bus (Which also goes against Napoleon III and Britain's interests, creating further diplomatic isolation) is the best idea?
     
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  17. Ultima Ratio The Last Baron

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    Vienna is at a crossroads, really. It's either Eastern Europe and the Balkans or Germany and Italy. And at this point, the Czar has proven to be a good investment as an ally.
     
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  18. Ludwig von Stieglitz Banned

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    Exactly...by this time Austria has no longer the resources to pursue a four front German-italian-balkan-polish strategy...otl they did not realize it, and/or chose wrong priorities
     
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  19. Threadmarks: Chapter IV – Bruderkrieg

    Ultima Ratio The Last Baron

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    Chapter IV – Bruderkrieg
    (1866)

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    The Battle of Grünberg

    With ever-increasing tension between Prussia and Austria over the administration of Schleswig-Holstein, the Triumvirate has been busy preparing for a possible confrontation in Germany. Moltke in particular has been meticulously preparing for the war, pushing the Triumvirate and the Emperor towards confrontation, as his reforms have been implemented successfully and the mobilization timetables, the general staff, the new conscription laws and the extended railway lines in Bohemia now had Austria at the peak of its ability. He warned however that with Prussia’s faster development due to the Zollverein, they might gain the upper hand, should the war not be fought soon.


    Diplomatically, the Beust-Gorchakov Pact secured the flank the Empire, as the Czar was now satisfied after the lull in relations after the Crimean War. As for Italy, the conscription laws allowed enough troops to be fielded to suppress any rebellion or keep France at bay in the unlikely event of them intervening.


    For Prussia, the situation was also tense. Bismarck has tested Austria in the Schleswig-question, but their heavy-handed reaction was mostly unexpected. Now, the whole Confederation was gravitating towards Vienna, and something had to be done to stop it. It was notably Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm, who opposed the idea of war with Austria, saying that the issue of Germany should not be decided by fratricide. While he would later accept the leadership of the Prussian army, his opinion on the war would make him very popular postwar. The Prussian army itself was a well-equipped and capable force, but the Chief of General Staff von Blumenthal, while a capable general, believed more in the unshakable discipline of the Prussian soldier than meticulous planning and logistics.


    Agreeing that the issue of Schleswig-Holstein had to be decided, Vienna brought the issue before the German Diet. Bismarck, fearing that the Vienna-oriented Confederation might turn against him, turned the offer down. Instead, Prussia occupied Holstein, declaring the Confederation to end, although de facto that only meant their withdrawal from it. Austria immediately mobilized, and the Brothers’ War started.


    The campaign that followed is considered Moltke’s magnum opus and a masterclass in organization, planning and execution. Imperial forces quickly moved, utilizing railways and invaded Silesia, catching the Prussians off-guard, who were slowly moving up to strike against Saxony and Bohemia. They instead found themselves to be reacting to Moltke’s swift advance which the Blumenthal scrambled to stop. Determining that the Austrians must be stopped before reaching the Oder and threatening Berlin, the Prussians quickly maneuvered to counter the Imperial army, which was advancing with machine-like precision, sweeping aside any opposition in Silesia. The Prussians, under the command of the Crown Prince, moved from Krossen towards the town of Grünberg, where the deciding battle of the war would be fought and Prussia’s imperial ambitions crushed. Weary from the forced march and generally disoriented, the Prussians fought gallantly, but were ultimately outmanoeuvred and eventually completely enveloped by the Austrians, to be defeated in detail. Grünberg would be the single greatest defeat in Prussian history, as the Crown Prince himself is captured, not willing to flee when he realized the severity of the situation and how his lines were completely unravelling. The Austrian army crossed the Oder on July 10th and was now marching on Berlin, while Blumenthal and the rest of the Prussian army was preparing a defense at Frankfurt-an-der-Oder. It would come to nought however, as the Prussians are again defeated, losing the town, and retreating to Berlin with what little forces they still had.


    Panic quickly ensued across the Prussian allies, as the Austrian Hussars started tearing the railway tracks outside Berlin. The North German cities started to sue for peace as masses gathered in the cities of the Rhineland, demanding an end to the conflict and readmission to the Confederation. The industrialists in Rhineland were particularly interested, as the loss of the Zollverein would have meant a terrible loss of profits. The Prussian administration fell as soldiers refused to fire into the crowds in Koblenz, and the new provisional administration declared secession from Berlin. Berlin itself would fall on the 22nd of July, after short fighting. The city is spared most of the damage, as Ludwig von Benedek refused to bombard the city.


    Bismarck’s gamble was over.
     
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2018
  20. Threadmarks: Chapter V - Garibaldi's Swansong

    Ultima Ratio The Last Baron

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    Chapter V - Garibaldi's Swansong

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    The injured Garibaldi being carried after the battle at Salerno

    As Germany erupted into war, so did Italy. The fires of revolution were never quite quenched on the peninsula, and the leader of the infamous Redshirts, Giuseppe Garibaldi was still at large. As the heavy boots of the Imperial army crossed into Silesia, the Appenines were lit up by the fires of revolution. The Redshirts stormed Naples and ousted king Francis, declaring him dethroned, while barricades were erected in Venice, Milan, Trento and even Rome. Garibaldi however underestimated the support for unification in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, as instead of quickly taking over the country, the revolutionaries were bogged down fighting the royalists and Neapolitan nationalists. The cities in the North fared little better, as the Austrian armies were well prepared for such an eventuality. With a surprisingly low number of Venetians deserting, the revolutionaries were defeated at Custoza, and the Imperials quickly marched on Milan, restoring order.

    Reeling from the defeats by the Austrians, the revolutionaries were caught by surprise when French forces invaded and occupied Piedmont. Most resistance in the North melted away and the two imperial armies began their long march to the south, France occupying Rome by early August and the Austrians under Archduke Albrecht reaching Naples by September. This would be the first, but not the last joint operation of the two ancient enemies. The remainder of the revolutionaries surrendered at Potenza, which Garibaldi would not live to see, having succumbed to injuries he incurred earlier near Salerno.

    The dream of a united Italy was over, but much work was ahead of the two Emperors.
     
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