Denmark 1815-1864 Austria 1849-1866 Germany's
Unification 1871

The German-Danish War of 1864

also referred to as the Schleswig-Holstein War, the Second Schleswig War and the War of 1864

A.) The Diplomatic Situation Preceding the War

In 1863 the Danish parliament passed the NOVEMBER CONSTITUTION which, in violation of the LONDON PROTOCOL of 1851, foresaw the integration of the Duchy of Schleswig in a unified Danish state (HELSTAT), a move vehemently opposed by the majority of the population of the southern and central regions of the Duchy which felt and spoke German. A revolt erupted immediately; the German Federation, on December 7th, declared the Danish constitution in violation of the London Protocol. The Danish government ordered its troops to evacuate Holstein (Dec. 12th 1863); Saxon and Hannoverian troops entered, and PRINCE FREDERICK OF AUGUSTENBURG claimed the title of Duke of (Schleswig-) Holstein. Prussia and Austria, under reference to the London protocol, refused to recognize his succession, while the German Federation did; from now on Prussia and Austria operated without the approval of the German Federation.
Britain and Sweden, signatories of the London protocol, remained neutral, as the protocol had been violated by Denmark. A number of Scandinavian volunteers fought on the Danish side.

B.) The Military Cource of Events

The Danes planned to defend the ancient DANEWERK (Danevirke in Danish, an earthen wall crossing the peninsula north of the Eider River. That plan soon was given up as there were no barracks and the line was in no condition to be held. The Danish army, 40,000 men, withdrew toward Flensburg. The Danish army was no match for the combined Prusso-Austrian forces. In the BATTLE OF HELGOLAND (May 9th) the Danish Navy scored a victory over the Austrian Navy, although no ships were sunk. Meanwhile, , the Danish land forces were defeated by the Prussian forces near DYBBØL (April 18th; in German : Düppel); all of Jutland was occupied by Prussian and Austrian troops. At Dybboel the Prussians suffered 1201 dead and wounded, the Danes 1669. On April 29th, the Danish fortress FREDERICIA surrendered.
Truce negotiations held in London since April 25th collapsed on June 20th. The Germans occupied the Jutland peninsula (kune/July) and the island of Als (June) (in German : Alsen). At Als the Danish losses numbered 3,148, the Prussian ones 372). On October 30th truce was finally signed; on November 16th, the allied Austrian and Prussian troops evacuated Jutland.
During the war, the Danish Army (40,000 men) had faced 28,500 Austrians and 43,500 Prussians (on both sides the Navy not included). In total, the Danes lost 14,460 men, of them 3,151 dead, the Prussians lost 3,536 men, of them 1,048 dead, the Austrian lost 1,164 men.

C.) Diplomatic Solution and Legacy

A Peace Treaty was signed on October 30th in Vienna. Denmark had to cede the duchies of Holstein and Lauenburg (located within the German Federation, population German) and most of the Duchy of Schleswig (in Danish Slesvig), except a few stretches in the extreme north. While the majority of the Schleswigers felt and spoke German, there were both a significant Danish minority, especially in the northern parts of the Duchy, and a Frisian minority, leaning toward the Danes. Schleswig was burdened with the costs of the war and with 20 million Dalers of the Danish national debt.

During the FRANCO-GERMAN WAR of 1870-1871 popular opinion in Denmark demands the country to enter the war on the French side, a demand which causes the Prussian-held fortress Sønderborg to be declared under the state of siege.
According to the peace treaty, Schleswig and Lauenburg were to be administrated by Prussia, Holstein by Austria, the port of Kiel to be used by Prussian troops. The political future of Schleswig-Holstein was undecided; Prussia rejected a proposed independent Schleswig-Holstein state within the German Federation, a solution proposed by Austria. Prussia could see the emergence of an independent Schleswig-Holstein only as another obstacle on the road to German unification. The dispute over Schleswig-Holstein, in 1866, would give cause for the Prusso-Austrian War.
According to the peace treaty, a PLEBISCITE was to be held in the future, allowing the population to decide if they opted for Germany (i.e. the German Federation in 1866, which was succeeded by the German Empire in 1871) or to Denmark. The Germans never honoured this stipulation of the treaty; a plebiscite was finally held after Germany's defeat in World War I, a plebiscite in which Northern Schleswig voted for Denmark (1920).

The Schleswig Issue, in : History of Denmark, from Dan. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Der Deutsch-Dänische Krieg von 1864, Reichseinigungskriege, in German, click : Der Deutsch-Dänische Krieg 1864; there are three files : Anlass (cause), Verlauf (course of events), Ergebnis (Result)
The German-Danish War of 1864, from ICRC
Denmark : the German-Danish War of 1864, from DHM
Krigen i 1864 - War of 1864, from Dansk Militaer Historie, bilingual, most of the text translated into English
Lidt om 1864, by Bjørn Oestergård, detailed, well-structured, illustrated account in Danish
German-Danish War 1864, from aeiou
Admiral Wilhelm von Tegetthoff, from aeiou
Armed Conflict Events Data : Second Schleswig War, from, sloppy in data and formulation ("German" losses 1000 men ..)
Charles A. Venturi, History of Europe 1856-1865, chronological list of events in intenational affairs, detailed, from Societe d'Europe, scroll down for Denmark, Austria, Prussia
Svenskar i det dansk-tyska kriget 1864 (Swedes in the German War of 1864), from Svenska Krig
Schleswig-Holstein, Geschichte von (History of Schleswig-Holstein); excerpt German-Danish Wars, P.1, P.2, P.3, P.4, P.5, from Meyers Konversationslexikon, 1888-1890 edition, in German
Bibliography of mostly Danish language books on the War of 1864, on Danish military history, from Historiecentrens Butik
DOCUMENTS Battle of Dybbøl, painting by Wilhelm Rosenstrand, from DHM
Portrait of Christen Frederiksen, Danish soldier of 1864, from Dansk Militær Historie
The frigate Jylland today, images of the last ship surviving the Battle of Helgoland in 1864, from Dansk Militaer Historie
Documents and Medals, from Dansk Militaer Historie, several documents etc. on the War of 1864
The Danish Army, February 1st 1864, from Dansk Militær Historie
The Bombardment of Sønderborg 1864, from a contemporary publication, posted by Nationalism Project at Univ. Stockholm, in Swedish
Retreat at Dybbøl, 1864, from Nationalism Project at Univ. Stockholm, in Swedish
Battle of Dybbøl, 1864, from Nationalism Project at Univ. Stockholm, in Swedish
A few dats in Schleswig, 1864, from Nationalism Project at Univ. Stockholm, in Swedish
From the Danish Army Camp : Madame Esselbach, 1864, from Nationalism Project at Univ. Stockholm, in Swedish
From the Army Camp : In Schleswig, 1864, from Nationalism Project at Univ. Stockholm, in Swedish
II Guerra de Schleswig 1864, from Uniformes Militares del Mundo, 1740-1914, in Spanish
Valdemar Rørdam: Tale pa Dybbøldagen. Om 1864 og fortsat kamp (1914) (Story of the Day of Dybbøl. About 1864 and continued struggle), from Nomos, in Danish
Nomos 1864-1919, has numerous Danish language narrative historical accounts of Danish history, of the war of 1864, listed by date
Numerous Danish-language Sources on the German-Danish War 1764, from Skræp
Henrik Ibsen: Svar på Sverige-Norges brudte løfte om hjælp til Danmark i den kommende krig (1863) (Answer on the Swedish-Norwegian broken Promise to aid Denmark in the coming war), from Skræp, in Danish

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2001, last revised on November 19th 2004

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