Book Review: The Contribution of the Royal Bavarian Army to the War of 1866

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by the Bavarian General Staff

Solihull, Eng.: Helion & Co. / Philadelphia: Casemate, 2011. 158. Maps, appends., biblio. $49.95 paper. ISBN: 1906033668

The Experiences of a Small Army in a Big War

The smashing victory of the Prussians over the Austrians at Königgrätz so dominates accounts of the Seven Weeks’ War that the operations of the smaller allies of both powers were almost totally ignored at the time and since.  This work, prepared in 1868, is more or less the official history of the Bavarian Army during the war. 

The book opens with a short introduction which provides background on Bavaria’s military situation.  We then get four chapters that cover the mobilization, organization, and initial movements of the Bavarian Army as the war began in June of 1866.  The next six chapters cover the army’s movements and operations over six weeks from about mid-June through the end of July, during which Bavarian troops were involved in about a dozen or so clashes with Prussian or allied forces.  Of course none of the actions in which the Bavarians took part could be considered major battles, but the troops performed well.  As it was, the war ended before the Bavarians became seriously engaged.  Although Königgrätz  was the decisive action of the war, had its outcome been different, the role of the Bavarians in subsequent actions might have been more important.  Nevertheless, the book gives us some idea of how a relatively small mid-nineteenth century country could field an effective small army (four infantry divisions, a separate brigade of infantry, and a cavalry division) that could perform well.  It also gives us a little insight into the unique military institutions of the German Confederation, as the Bavarian Army constituted the VIII Federal Corps. 

This is a useful read for anyone interested in the wars of German unification or nineteenth century military institutions and campaigns.

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Reviewer: A.A. Nofi, Review Editor   


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