The Prussian Army from Reform to War

TitleThe Prussian Army from Reform to War
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication1997
AuthorsMesserschmidt, Manfred
EditorFörster, Stig, and Jorg Nagler
Book TitleOn the Road to Total War: The American Civil War and the German Wars of Unification, 1861–1871
PublisherCambridge University Press

Bismarck's wars with Austria and the greater part of the German Confederation (1866) and with France (1870-71) led to German unification. The army that had decided the outcome of these wars was the army of the so-called Roon Reform, carried out between 1859 and 1863. It is no exaggeration to argue that the army reform was pushed through by Wilhelm, prince regent since 1858 and king since 1861, Albrecht von Roon as minister of war, and Bismarck, using procedures that dragged the country into its greatest political and constitutional crisis since the revolutionary era (1848-50). After the wars, there was a widespread belief in Germany that during the constitutional conflict, the army, by being steadfast and farsighted, had laid the foundation of the Empire, thus fulfilling the dream of the German people. Today, we have many reasons to doubt the existence of such a red line in Prussia's policy and German history. There is, of course, a connection between army reform and German unification, because there is an obvious nexus between reform and military successes.

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