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The War of 1866 and the Undoing of Vienna

Ludwig Knaus [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

On 3 July 1866, the Austrian and Prussian armies engaged each other near Königgrätz and Sadowa in Bohemia. Although the commanders of both forces had not planned for such a clash that day, what followed was one of the greater pitched battles of the mid-19th century.  At the end of the day, the Austrian army had to withdraw, leaving 40,000 casualties. The battle as good as ended the war, which had begun only a few weeks before. The Austrian Empire was militarily speaking a spent force and could not hope to continue the war and survive. Its German allies had collapsed or were on the verge of doing so, its treasury was empty, and political unrest among the many nations which made up the Habsburg Empire spelled doom if the war against Prussia and Italy went on. Less than three weeks later, the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph (r. 1848–1916) sued for peace. On 26 July, the two powers signed a preliminary peace at Nikolsburg, followed by the Peace of Prague on 23 August.

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Image credit: Otto von Bismarck and his Prussian officers touring a village after the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, by Ludwig Knaus [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons    

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