Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Austrian Style of the Confederacy

During the American Civil War neither side was without some monarchial connections. Men of royal rank actually fought on both sides, which is not all that surprising given what a titanic struggle it was. Given that the conflict marked the bloodiest war ever fought in the western hemisphere, it is only natural that others would be drawn in by it. Of course, the war did not directly concern the subject of monarchy at all as it was a war between two factions of republicans. Indirectly (as we have covered here over the years) it had a great impact on a number of monarchies in the world, particularly in effort to revive monarchism in the Americas by the Spanish in the Caribbean and the French in Mexico (and perhaps beyond). Both sides, however, had republicanism imprinted on them from birth and both used republican terms to insult their enemies. The Confederates, in the south, for example, were fond of referring to U.S. President Abraham Lincoln as “His Majesty, Abraham I” while the adherents to the Union in the north often branded the southern rebels with the title of “Tories”, originally the term for those loyal to the King in the American War for Independence and which had come to be applied to anyone viewed as a traitor to the American cause and ideals, particularly, in this war, with the notion that “all men are created equal”.

The deification of Lincoln
North and south may have had similar political prejudices concerning monarchy but no one could say they both exhibited a similar level of antagonism toward the institution. The southern Confederacy, then as now, could easily be viewed as the more royal-friendly of the two governments. It was the more tradition-minded, aristocratic, “Old World” part of America but this view was also due to a great deal of political expediency rather than genuine sincerity. The Confederacy was clearly outmatched in the struggle and, as such, it was in the interests of the south to persuade other powers to intervene and most of the foreign powers in the world in 1861 were monarchies. As such, a stridently republican attitude would not have served the south well. The north, on the other hand, was in a dominant position from the outset and, needing no direct foreign assistance, simply wanted foreign powers to stay out of the conflict and, indeed, threatened war against any who would even talk of making peace between the north and south. As such, anti-monarchy sentiment was quite common in the north though the great powers of the world tended to fall more on one side than the other depending on their own politics. This never extended to outright support but one could see prospective alliances waiting to happen. It was clearly in the best interests of the French Empire for the Confederates to win and Britain, while less sure, tended at the higher levels of society to favor a divided America as well. With Britain and France showing more sympathy for the Confederates, this left the Russian Empire showing more sympathy for the United States as a counterweight.

The United States also had a more republican fervor to it, not because of the American people, but because of Europeans. After the Revolutions of 1848 many European republicans had fled to American shores and most foreign immigrants flocked to the big cities of the north such as Boston or New York City. There were many German, Irish, Polish and Sicilian immigrants to the north who were far more zealous republicans than any native-born Americans for whom kingly rule was a distant memory and who, even earlier than the war, had even developed a bit of nostalgia for the old days of colonialism under King George. However, there was one particular immigrant to the American south whose influence gave the Confederacy a very monarchist appearance, even if not everyone in Dixie’s Land realized it. When the southern states seceded and southern boys marched off to war, they bore more than a passing resemblance to the armies of the Hapsburg Empire of Austria-Hungary.

Nicola Marschall
Nicola Marschall was a Prussian-born immigrant to the American south from a family, appropriately enough, of tobacco merchants. He arrived via New Orleans in 1849 and soon moved to Alabama. He did return to Germany for a time but came back and seems to have regarded Marion, Alabama as his home. By profession he was an artist and taught art in the south for a time. In those days, private schools that served the children of high-born southerners offered gainful employment to a number of Europeans as wealthy planter families wanted their offspring to be as “cultured” as the aristocrats of Europe. Every such southern child was expected to be well educated in art and music as well as being well-read in the classics. This reached such an extent that, though few remember it today, before the war it was very unusual to find a member of a wealthy planter family in the south who could not speak French. As an artist, Marschall painted landscapes and portraits and during his career had several notable people pose for him such as Otto von Bismarck, President Lincoln and Confederate President Jefferson Davis. However, his contribution to the monarchial appearance of the Confederacy did not come from his paintings. That started when a friend persuaded him to submit an entry for a possible design for a national flag for the new Confederate States of America.

Austrian & Confederate flags
A congressional committee had been set up to review designs for a proper flag for the Confederacy and they ultimately chose the design submitted by Nicola Marschall. It became known as the “Stars & Bars” because of its similarity to the United States flag or “Stars & Stripes”. However, if one had looked beyond American shores they would have been able to see clearly what the real influence was behind the first national flag of the Confederacy. With a field of three broad “bars” of red-white-red with a dark blue canton containing a circle of seven stars (for the seven original Confederate states) it was almost an exact duplicate of the unofficial national flag of Imperial Austria which Marschall would, of course, have been very familiar with. There was clearly an effort being made to keep it in line with the “style” of the American flag but it was obviously mostly influenced by the Austrian flag, adjusted by simply replacing the crowned arms with a more American circle of stars. The flag was formally adopted as the national flag of the Confederacy on March 4, 1861 and first came to world attention when it was raised over Fort Sumter, South Carolina after the first battle of the war.

However, the similarities between the Confederacy and Imperial Austria went beyond simply the flag that was flown above them. Another congressional committee was called upon to design a proper uniform for the Confederate army and, once again, via a friend of a friend, Marschall ended up being the one whose design was adopted. Thanks to the Prussian artist, the Confederates would march to war looking a great deal like soldiers of the Hapsburg Emperor. This time, the inspiration dates back to 1857 when Marschall, while in Verona, Italy (at that time under Austrian rule) had seen some Austrian sharpshooters and was quite taken with their stylish uniforms of grey tunics with green facings and stars on the collar to differentiate rank among the officers. The uniform Marschall designed for the Confederate army was very similar to this, although, ultimately, very few would end up following the official regulations exactly.

Uniforms of CSA artillery officers
The uniform of a grey tunic (in practice almost invariably replaced by a frock coat or jacket), blue trousers and a French-style kepi (cap) in branch-of-service color was very similar to that worn by the Austrians. For officers, rank was denoted by bars on the collar for company officers and stars for field and general officers as well as by the braid on the sleeves forming a design known as an “Austrian knot”. It was a very smart uniform though it was rarely seen as it was intended due to a shortage of materials, an aversion to uniformity and matters of practical necessity. The tunic, for example, proved very unpopular and few persisted in wearing it with most soldiers wearing a short jacket and most officers a frock coat. The kepi was also rather unpopular and for most southern troops was replaced with a broad-brimmed “slouch” hat. Colorful facings, trim and braid also tended to disappear as the war dragged on and more plain uniforms were adopted because of cost, shortage of materials and to avoid standing out as a target. Still, some, like Lt. Colonel Archer Anderson (a staff officer for several prominent Confederate generals) and Lt. General James Longstreet were among the few who persisted in wearing the Austrian-style tunics when other officers would not.

So it was that, aside from individual units on both sides that adopted the style of troops fighting for monarchs, from French Zouaves and chasseurs to Scottish highlanders, Hungarian hussars and Italian Bersaglieri, it was the Confederate armies that marched to war wearing uniforms and flying a flag that were both inspired by those of the Austrian Empire. What Emperor Francis Joseph might have thought of such a thing, we can only imagine.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

General Julius Jacob von Haynau

The story of General Julius Jacob von Haynau is somewhat illustrative of the problems which caused a steady decline in the fortunes of the Austrian Empire. A very controversial figure in his own time, loved by some, hated by others, his case is also indicative of the monarchist position in Europe today. During the Revolutions of 1848 he played an instrumental role in the preservation of the Hapsburg monarchy when the Austrian Empire teetered on the brink of destruction. Some regarded him distastefully as an unpleasant but necessary tool in the Austrian arsenal while others in Austria openly hailed him as a war hero and a savior of the monarchy, his troops dubbing him “the Hapsburg Tiger”. On the other hand, to others, particularly the Italians and Hungarians, he was known as the instrument of ruthless oppression and given more than one very unflattering nicknames by those he opposed. Yet, today, while Austria has forgotten him, there are those in Hungary who have not and so it is the critical view of the man that has lingered. Such criticism is, it must be said, not unfounded. He was a ruthless individual whose actions demonstrate why the Hapsburg monarchy was so hated by certain subject peoples. Yet, those ruthless actions were undertaken against internal enemies, people who von Haynau viewed as traitors pure and simple and thus not to be spared or pitied.

Strictly speaking, Julius Jacob von Haynau was a Hessian rather than an Austrian. He was born on October 14, 1786 in Hessen-Kassel, birthplace of Grimm’s Fairy Tales and source of some of the most prized German mercenary soldiers. Like many professional soldiers of history, von Haynau was of lofty though illegitimate birth being the natural son of the Hessian Prince-Elector Wilhelm I by Rosa Dorothea Ritter. It was the child’s paternal grandfather, Friedrich II, who supplied the famous Hessian troops to Britain’s King George III to fight in America. Wilhelm I recognized his son and made provision for his care and education. Like his grandfather (who had served with Frederick the Great), little Julius planned on a career in the army and because of his father was assured a place in the military as an officer-cadet. So, at the age of 15 von Haynau joined the Austrian Imperial Army in 1801. He proved a quick study and a capable soldier. With the outbreak of the Napoleonic Wars it was a particularly dangerous but essential profession. Still, he found time, on October 11, 1808 to start a family of his own, marrying Therese von Weber, appropriately the daughter of a high-ranking officer. The couple had a very successful marriage of over forty years before Therese died in 1850.

In 1809, only a year after his wedding, Haynau fought at the Battle of Wagram, where he was wounded in a crushing Austrian defeat at the hands of Napoleon. His father-in-law died the same year at the Battle of Aspern-Essling. It was a difficult period for Austria but von Haynau gained valuable experience in the art of war and continued to distinguish himself in numerous battles. His military star continued to rise as the Napoleonic Wars threw into sharp contrast where the talent and the incompetence was in the Austrian army. Even as a young officer von Haynau was known for being rather volatile and ill-tempered but very effective against the enemy. When he had an army of Frenchmen in front of him, his personality was a strength, his fury an asset but when battles were not raging he tended to clash with his superiors. Nonetheless, his violent tendencies on and off the battlefield were not an impediment to his career and he earned numerous promotions, rising to the rank of field marshal lieutenant during extensive and meritorious service from 1815 to 1847. He reached the pinnacle of his career with a reputation for fiery aggression and also with a deep-seated hatred of rebels, republicans and revolutionaries, no doubt due to experiences in the wars with France.

The Austrian Emperor had no more ardent servant and no more merciless guard dog that von Haynau. When revolutions began to break out and spread all across Europe in 1848, both his military talent and loyal ferocity became urgent necessities as the venerable Hapsburg monarchy stood in very real danger of total collapse. One of the first areas where rebellion broke out was in northern Italy, that region conquered by France but placed under Austrian rule after the Napoleonic Wars. Haynau arrived on the scene and set to work methodically suppressing the revolutionary outbreak. Austrian troops had withdrawn to their fortress and shelled the town, causing considerable damage and then went on a rampage when the rebels surrendered. Haynau was unbothered by such actions. His was no ‘soft hand’ and brutal floggings were quite common in the period of Austrian rule but the most notorious actions he took, it should be remembered, were in reprisal to an atrocity by the rebels who massacred a group of wounded Austrian soldiers at a hospital in Brescia. Understandably outraged by such an infamy, von Haynau ordered immediate retribution, his Austrian execution squads working over time. This was, obviously, not cruelty simply for the sake of cruelty but was a natural reaction to a ghastly crime, something which is not always remembered. However, the violent temper of von Haynau meant that, while most of those who were executed were justly guilty, there were many innocent Italians who died as well.

Because so many were killed, and not just the guilty, von Haynau became a hated figure known to the Italians as “the Hyena of Brescia”. This was the image that became best known, while the atrocity of the rebels was often conveniently omitted of course. Still, it must be said that von Haynau was not terribly bothered by such name-calling and believed that such ruthlessness would instill fear and obedience. As such, being called horrific names was simply proof, to his mind, that he was succeeding in eliminating the enemies of his emperor. And there were certainly plenty of enemies to choose from, even as 1848 turned to 1849. One of the most serious rebellions to shake the Austrian Empire was in the Kingdom of Hungary and with so much trouble to quell in so many areas, defeating the Hungarian rebels was proving to be despairingly difficult. General von Haynau was recalled to Vienna from Italy and given orders to go to Hungary and put down the revolutionary forces there. So perilous was the situation that Emperor Francis Joseph had accepted the offer of assistance from Tsar Nicholas I of Russia who sent his reliable army in to aid in crushing the Hungarians.

This gave von Haynau an added incentive. Not only was there his usual zeal to strike down harshly all those who opposed the Hapsburg monarchy, he also had to make sure that the laurels of victory were not taken by the Russians so that the local would remember who it was who had brought them to heel. Haynau was convinced that the Russian army was not needed anyway and that, with his own troops who were veterans of suppressing revolt in Italy, the Hungarians could be easily dealt with by Austria alone. 1848 had been sufficiently disastrous that not everyone agreed and the helping hand of the “Iron Tsar” was not going to be refused. So, General von Haynau charged into Hungary with more zeal to succeed than ever before and, as usual, he was brilliantly effective at defeating the rebels and ruthlessly harsh in punishing their supporters. As in Italy, any Hungarian man or woman who was believed to have sympathized with the rebels were publicly flogged and all active participants were of course killed. The most famous (or infamous for most of Hungary) of these mass executions was the hanging of thirteen rebel Hungarian generals at Arad on October 6, 1849. For his success in suppressing rebellion, von Haynau was honored in Vienna and for leading them to victory his soldiers adored him. However, in Hungary he gained another nickname, “the Hangman of Arad”.

General von Haynau was appointed to a garrison command in Hungary when the trouble was over but, again, his temperament was not made for peacetime and he soon resigned after feuding with the local civilian officials. General von Haynau retired from the army and traveled around Europe, though his unsavory reputation reached across the continent and even to America. While visiting London he was assaulted by two laborers and more than once had to endure ugly scenes on his travels. He died on March 14, 1853 and was buried with all due honors for a man who had been a loyal soldier and defender of his Emperor and the Hapsburg monarchy. To much of the rest of the world, he was remembered as an almost storybook villain, his name being resurrected during the First World War even in Britain to stoke hatred of the Austrian enemy who most Brits were not sure why they were even fighting.

Was he harsh? Certainly, but his cruelty was cruelty with a purpose rather than simply being for its own sake and he was also a very effective soldier, a man who faced death and not just dealt it out. Today, when he is remembered at all, it is usually as simply an executioner or someone who had women beaten in public. This must be accepted as part of the reason why some were never going to be reconciled to Hapsburg rule, that is a price that comes with such measures. Yet, it should also not be forgotten that this was a man who had first faced death, seen battle and been wounded fighting in a gruesome world war spawned by a revolution and for him there were only two sides; the loyal and the disloyal. Today most tend to take for granted that anything and everything subversive must be tolerated but, in those days, treason was not taken so lightly and for very good reason. It is a judgment call as to whether the harsh methods of Haynau had an ultimately positive or negative effect but what is not disputable is that he was an excellent soldier, a loyal subject and an uncompromising defender of the Hapsburg monarchy.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Generaloberst Viktor Graf Dankl von Krasnik

The man who would become one of the most prominent generals in the last war and last years of life of the Dual-Empire of Austria-Hungary was born Viktor Dankl in Udine, Italy on September 18, 1854. Udine, near Venice, was at that time still being held by the Austrian Empire, as it had been ever since the Hapsburgs made a deal with the revolutionary First French Republic to divide what had been the Republic of Venice between them (after a successful campaign by an up and coming young general named Bonaparte). His father was from Venice and a captain in the Austrian Imperial Army so there was little doubt that young Viktor would one day carry on the tradition of military service to the Emperor of Austria. He attended German-language schools in Gorizia and Trieste as a boy before going off to a cadet school in Lower Austria. By that time, Prussia had surpassed Austria as leader of the German-speaking countries and the new Kingdom of Italy had regained Venice. Never before, it must have seemed, were talented military officers more needed. Young Viktor Dankl graduated and went on to study at the prestigious Theresian Military Academy (where Austrian officers are still trained today). After finishing he was posted to a dragoon regiment with the rank of sub-lieutenant.

After going back for further education in Vienna, Dankl joined the General Staff and by 1899 was head of the central office, having shown a notable dedication to duty and grasp of administrative affairs. He earned the respect of his superiors and in 1903 was given a field command, the 66th Infantry Brigade at Trieste (in what is now Italy, not far from where Dankl grew up) with a promotion to major general. After another brigade command in Trieste, Dankl was promoted to lieutenant field marshal and given command of a division in Croatia until in 1912 when he was transferred to a corps command with the rank of General of Cavalry. He had proven himself to be a dutiful officer, had performed well in command of combat units and in administrative posts but, of course, these had all been peacetime assignments. He lacked actual combat experience and would have to wait to show if his education and mastery of theory would be matched by accomplishments in battle. That opportunity was to come soon enough with the outbreak of the First World War in August of 1914. Dankl was as anxious of any of his fellow officers to see the long-standing tensions with Serbia settled and certainly there was no more loyal or ardent defender of Austria-Hungary and the Hapsburg monarchy than Dankl.

The studious, bespectacled general was given command of the Imperial & Royal First Army, made up largely of Slovak and Polish troops; a prestigious assignment. He would be on the flank of a massive offensive planned by the then-renowned strategist and chief of staff Graf Conrad von Hotzendorf to punch through the Russian frontier and cut off the so-called Polish salient. It was an ambitious plan but if successful it would have been a stunning blow to the Russians and the end of the Russian presence in Poland. At first, everything went as planned. Dankl and his troops pushed forward to the Galician frontier and met the Russians at the town of Krasnik (in what is now Poland but which was then Austria-Hungary). The Russians fought fiercely but the Austro-Hungarian troops were relentless and after three days of hard fighting the Russians retreated. Dankl had just won the first major victory for Austria-Hungary in the war and he was almost immediately catapulted to the status of a celebrity and war hero across the empire. With other victories by forces farther down the line, the Imperial & Royal Armies advanced as planned and Dankl was in the lead, pursuing the retreating Russians.

However, while things were going well enough on his own front, other sectors were less fortunate and soon Dankl had to stop and even fall back for fear of opening a gap in the Austrian lines. The Russians also rallied their forces and began to launch hard-hitting counter-attacks which took a heavy toll on the armies of Austria-Hungary. Ultimately, the offensive into Poland was stopped with very heavy losses and bitter fighting in Galicia would go on for some time to come. In the autumn, Austria-Hungary launched another offensive in cooperation with the Germans but the Russians soon took back the ground they gained at the start and a stalemate, which was all too familiar in First World War, ensued. Attacks were followed by counter-attacks, taking and re-taking the same ground with few lasting changes. The focus of the fighting shifted to the Carpathians and Dankl and his First Army were left with little to do for the rest of the year.

The next major action came in the spring of 1915 with the launching of the Gorlice-Tarnow offensive, again in cooperation with the Germans. Hotzendorf came up with the plan which was initially rejected by the German chief of staff, Erich von Falkenhayn but later Germany agreed to go along with it with the German General August von Mackensen in overall command. It proved to be a major success with the Russians suffering much higher losses and only ending due to a combination of bad weather and logistical strain. Dankl, once again, led his First Army forward with much success but this initial success was later halted by stiff Russian resistance in his sector of the front and Dankl was sidelined for the rest of the offensive. It was more frustration for Dankl who had been so celebrated for his victory at Krasnik and from whom everyone always expected better. Because Krasnik had been the first great victory of the war, Dankl had been celebrated to an extent that many were expecting this from him that were almost impossible. He was a competent commander but, of course, could not work miracles. In any event, after the Gorlice-Tarnow offensive he was transferred away from the Galician front and assigned to defend the Tyrol.

In 1915 the Kingdom of Italy had entered the war and the Tyrol was a huge salient, plunging into Italian territory. As Austria-Hungary was fighting on so many other fronts, the Italians also had a significant numerical advantage over the Austrians. However, the Austrians did have a great advantage in the terrain. The high mountains served as natural fortifications superior to any that could be built by the hand of man. Dankl showed his talent in a string of battles as his outnumbered and poorly supplied but well placed forces repelled fierce and repeated attacks by the Italians. They had the advantage of the high ground but little else and yet Dankl was able to successfully defend his position until further reinforcements could arrive to strengthen the Austro-Hungarian lines. For most of the year his forces were on the defensive, making counter-attacks when possible but, for the most part, fending off Italian attacks and making them pay heavily for every foot of ground gained. In 1916, however, Austria-Hungary was finally prepared to go on the offensive. Dankl himself had also been given a new command, the 11th Army and a promotion to Colonel General.

Hotzendorf planned an offensive in Trentino on the Asiago plateau. The goal was to punch through to the Po River plain and cut off three Italian armies in the process, crippling their war effort. This time the Italians would be outnumbered, almost 3-to-1 in manpower and much more outmatched in artillery. German support was requested but refused, still, it seemed Austria-Hungary had sufficient forces for the attack to be a success. Dankl and his army were assigned the crucial responsibility of making the initial breakthrough after which more troops could be poured in to exploit the breach and split the Italian armies. On May 15 the offensive commenced and despite stiff resistance, Dankl and his troops succeeded in breaking through the Italian center. Once again, everything seemed to go as planned, but once again problems soon arose. The artillery could not be moved forward fast enough to support the continued attack and so the Austrian forces had to halt. By the time the guns were brought up the opportunity had passed. The Italians had reformed and strengthened their lines plus a new Russian offensive was wreaking havoc on the Eastern Front and forced the transfer of Austro-Hungarian units to head off a potential disaster there.

Many of the gains Austria-Hungary had made had to be abandoned as the troops were pulled back to more defensible positions. It was a crushing blow for Dankl and he was, perhaps unfairly, singled out for blame as to the failure of the offensive. Most of this was due to the fact that Archduke Eugen of Austria, the army group commander in the area, had ordered him to press on regardless of the lack of artillery support. Conrad von Hotzendorf took the side of the Archduke that the risk of heavy losses was acceptable if it could have meant a decisive victory over Italy. They may have been correct but rushing forward was not in the nature of an officer like Dankl. He was meticulous and methodical, perhaps a result of his experience as a staff officer and given his witnessing first hand of the horrendous losses Austria-Hungary had suffered at the beginning of the war on the Eastern Front, he may have been more careful of the lives of his men than others. Of course, sometimes a general must accept such losses to achieve victory but it is easy to sympathize with Dankl given that Austria-Hungary had already suffered losses that could not be made good and, fairly early on, was forced to work in conjunction with Germany for almost any major offensive operations for this very reason.

In any event, the unpleasant episode of the Asiago offensive, combined with poor health, prompted Dankl to hand in his resignation. He was relieved of his command and after undergoing medical treatment was posted to the Imperial Guard, eventually becoming the commander until being replaced by his former superior Hotzendorf. He remained with the Life Guard until the end of the war and the collapse of Austria-Hungary when he retired to Innsbruck. In the last years of the war his service was, thankfully, rewarded with his elevation to the aristocracy, first as Baron von Dankl and then as Count Dankl of Krasnik in recognition of his most famous victory. He was also awarded the Maria Theresia Order and, long after the war in 1925, became its chancellor. Other honors he received included the Order of Leopold, Marianer Cross of the Teutonic Order and the Prussian Iron Cross from Germany. After the war, Dankl showed what a man of great character he was.

Never losing his care and concern for the average fighting men he led into battle, Dankl worked for a number of causes to benefit veterans and took great pleasure in being given the task of decorating them for actions during the war. He defended them whenever they were criticized and rather than devote himself to justifying his own actions or trying to explain away mistakes on his part, he defended his soldiers, the army as a whole and the honor of Austria-Hungary. Despite the political changes, he remained steadfast in his loyalty to the monarchy, refused to cooperate in any way with the rising Nazi Party or the communists and never ceased to advocate for the restoration of the House of Hapsburg. He detested anti-Semitism and opposed the union with Germany, instead urging as he always did for a return to monarchy. Sadly, many came to view him as being a sort of quirky old man, out of step with the times but they were times one should have been out of step with and it is to his credit that Dankl never forgot his loyalty to his Emperor and his country. He died on January 8, 1941 (3 days after his beloved wife) at the age of 86. As he was well known for his opposition to the Nazi Party, he was denied military honors at his funeral. It is doubtful he would have wanted them from such a regime anyway.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Hapsburg Submarines

 There is no doubt that the preeminent submarine power in World War I was Germany which built up the largest submarine fleet and which sank the most ships. In fact, the most successful submarine commander of all time was a German sailor of World War I rather than World War II as most would probably assume. In contrast, the K.u.K. Kriegsmarine of Austria-Hungary operated a much more modest and less advanced submarine fleet in the close waters of the Adriatic and Mediterranean Seas. However, while it was smaller, the submarine fleet of Austria-Hungary was still formidable for its size. In fact, the u-boats operated by Austria-Hungary actually had a higher ratio of hits per torpedoes fired than did their German counterparts.
U-3, sunk in 1915 before scoring any successes

U-4, sank 12 Allied ships and survived the war

U-5, sank 4 Allied ships, sunk in 1917 but was
resurrected and survived the war

U-6, sank a French destroyer in 1916, later sunk

U-12, entering Pola harbor, she sank one ship,
damaged another and captured six

Captain Georg Ritter von Trapp, top sub ace of 
Austria-Hungary in U-5

Officers and crew of U-6


Officers of U-12

U-12 at Pola

Friday, July 25, 2014

MM Mini View: The Hapsburg Emperors, Part III

Concluded from Part II

Emperor Francis I: The reign of Francis I was one in which he would be overshadowed by his wife and by a Bavarian rival for the imperial throne. When Charles VI died his daughter Maria Theresa succeeded him in his hereditary positions (Archduchess of Austria, Queen of Hungary etc) but it was uncertain what would be the place of her husband, Francis Stephen of Lorraine. He had practically been raised to be the husband of Maria Theresa (his brother was the original choice but died) and he did his part to gain friends and fortune for the Hapsburgs, gaining the favor of British elites by joining the Freemasons and challenging France over the Polish succession by which he traded Lorraine for Tuscany in Italy. When his father-in-law died, the Bavarian Charles VII was elected Emperor but quickly lost most of his territory to Austrian troops as Marie Theresa was more than prepared to fight for her land and titles (or those she wanted for her husband). Bavaria might have remained an Austrian possession were it not for the intervention of King Frederick the Great of Prussia. Maria Theresa managed to have Francis I elected emperor in 1745 and he was co-regent of her hereditary dominions but it was really Maria Theresa who ruled, which was well enough because she was pretty darn good at it, being a principled, decisive, religious and all around great ruler. Emperor Francis mostly “ruled” from behind a desk doing paperwork and though he was not a faithful husband he still did his part to secure the Hapsburg-Lorraine succession by fathering sixteen children with Maria Theresa, among them two future emperors and an ill-fated future Queen of France. He died in 1765, some time before his wife.

Emperor Joseph II: Known as the “People’s Emperor”, Joseph II will always be remembered as one of the “Enlightened Despots”. His personality changed after the death of his beloved first wife, making him more cold and aloof. He tried to apply reason to government which earned him friends and enemies alike. At home and abroad his desire was to make Austria a great power, centralize government and unify his diverse domains. His public popularity came for his emancipation of the serfs, granting of religious freedom (up to a point) and providing social welfare for the poor. Yet, he was also a very authoritarian man and a very absolutist monarch who would tolerate no opposition. His efforts to place the Catholic Church under state control earned him many lasting enemies among the clerical faction and Church histories to this day often speak more harshly of Joseph II than predecessors who actually made war on the Pope or never practiced their religion at all. To unify his people he tried to make German the official language of all Hapsburg lands, which did not go over well, and he tried to make the House of Hapsburg supreme in Germany, going to war with Frederick the Great of Prussia in the process. He also fought less consequential wars against the Turks and Hungarian rebels, which were practically family traditions. He planned a rescue operation to save his sister, Queen Marie Antoinette from the French Revolution but his offer was refused by the brave royal couple who were reluctant to leave (at least at that stage). A patron of the arts, particularly music, Joseph II was called the “Musical King” and is most remembered now for his commissioning of work from Mozart. He died in 1790 adored by the lowest but hated by many for his interference in religion and Germanization policy. Still, he set the example which almost all subsequent Hapsburg Emperors tried to emulate.

Emperor Leopold II: Succeeding his elder brother, Leopold II had to put down rebellions from Belgium to Hungary because of the unpopular policies of his brother and he repealed the most provocative of these but maintained the majority of them. He too was a proponent of “enlightened” absolute monarchy and had originally been trained for the priesthood. He ruled as Grand Duke of Tuscany where his aloof nature made him less than popular, despite abolishing the death penalty and instituting public health programs. As Emperor, he was cold and calculating, refusing aid to French royalists and preferring to try to eliminate Prussia as a rival in Germany than punishing republican France. He also refused to allow any Papal Bulls read in his territory without first approving of the document. Still, the treatment of his sister and brother-in-law stirred his fury as an absolute monarch and he agreed to make common cause with the other Crowned Heads of Europe to stop the spread of republicanism. He died before any concerted action could be taken in 1792 at the age of only 44. Whereas his brother Joe had been much more single-minded and uncompromising, Kaiser Leo II was always prepared to keep flexible and to always consider the “politics” of any given situation. Unlike his brother, he certainly did his part to secure the succession, having sixteen children just like his own parents did. Overall, Emperor Leopold II might not have been the sort of monarch to be widely admired but he was probably the right man for the job at that time.

Emperor Francis II/I: The last Holy Roman (German) Emperor and the first Emperor of Austria, Francis succeeded his father after being raised in extremely strict fashion by his uncle Emperor Joseph II whom he nonetheless idolized. Emperor Francis can be a hard man to understand. He seemed not to really care that his aunt was guillotined by revolutionaries and yet the honor of his house was of paramount importance to him. His empire was well known for its vast network of spies and powerful secret police, yet he was an approachable monarch who always made time for any of his subjects who wished to speak with him. Most of his reign was dominated by the war with Napoleonic France and he was Napoleon’s most intractable enemy on the continent. When Napoleon became so successful that he determined to make himself emperor, Francis II feared that he might be able to so dominate Germany as to win election so he dissolved the Holy Roman Empire and thenceforth ruled as Emperor Francis I of Austria. It was a bitter blow to have to cede territory to France and worse still to give his own daughter to Napoleon in marriage. However, he saw the Austrian Empire through the crisis and by his own very conservative nature, helped ensure that the peace was practical and based on a respect for traditional authority. In the end, his prestige also allowed the Austrian Emperors to become the hereditary presidents of the German Confederation. He was a good, solid emperor and though sometimes accused of being paranoid and tyrannical, the fact is that he had reason to be and the steps he took prevented Austria from falling apart due to radical nationalism. He died in 1835.

Emperor Ferdinand I: Although often dismissed, I have a bit of a soft spot for Kaiser Ferdinand, sometimes known as “Ferdinand the Good”. True, he was handicapped in a number of ways and suffered from very severe epilepsy, however, he was not as totally incompetent as some seem to think. He could speak several different languages, could write very well and was a considerate and very religious man. Married to the Italian Princess Maria Anna of Savoy, she was a devoted wife who took good care of her husband, really being more of a nurse than a traditional wife but he loved and appreciated her for her attentiveness in what was really a sacrifice for her. If all had remained calm and tranquil, it might have been possible for Ferdinand I to remain on the throne with considerable help but that all changed with the outbreak of the Revolutions of 1848. He realized that he was not up to the task and the best thing to do would be to abdicate in favor of someone young and fit who could handle the situation. So he did, handing power over to his nephew after which he retired to Prague and lived quietly the rest of his life. While there, he also proved to be a help to the local economy and actually proved to be quite an astute businessman, amassing a fortune that supported the family for the rest of the Hapsburg reign. He died in 1875.

Emperor Francis Joseph I: One of the longest ruling monarchs in modern European history, the events of the reign of Francis Joseph would be too numerous to mention. He started out by suppressing revolutionaries and remained ever vigilant to threat of rebellion thereafter. Despite rising ethnic unrest, Francis Joseph made the Austrian Empire a workable power with growing industry and a scientific and artistic community that was second to none. However, in 1859 he acted rashly in allowing himself to be provoked into war with France and Sardinia in northern Italy, losing Lombardy in the process and a short time later went to war with Denmark alongside the other German states. The aftermath of this led to a short, disastrous war with Prussia which saw Austria removed from German affairs in 1864. Any attempt at a revival was dashed by the continuing danger of rebellion in Hungary which Emperor Francis Joseph tried to put to rest by (rather reluctantly) agreeing to the Compromise of 1867 which saw the Austrian Empire become the “Dual-Monarchy” of Austria-Hungary with each having separate and co-equal governments. In 1882 he signed on to the Triple Alliance, a monarchist defense pact, with the German Empire and the Kingdom of Italy. In 1908 Austria-Hungary annexed Bosnia which angered Serbia and Russia (as well as Italy since they did not receive the territorial compensations they had been promised) and pan-Slavism, led by Serbia and backed up by Russia would become the dominant concern of the latter years of Francis Joseph’s reign. He was always a dutiful monarch and he learned from experience. He also became more sincerely religious as he aged, possibly because of the many tragedies he faced in his private life, though he was still not above using the imperial veto to influence papal elections. Holding on to what he had been given became his primary concern and the strength and preservation of the monarchy was never far from his thoughts. When World War I came, he probably viewed some sort of showdown with Serbia as inevitable but he was still reluctant and had to be lied to before actually giving the order to go to war. Too old, by that time, to play much of a part, he died in 1916.

Emperor Charles I: Known as the “Peace Emperor”, it is rather illustrative of his life that this nickname was due to intentions rather than actual achievements. He was thrust into the position of heir to the throne when Archduke Francis Ferdinand was shot in 1914 but already displayed admirable qualities that would have served him well as monarch. He was an accomplished soldier, known for his concern for the welfare of his troops, his devotion to his wife and family and his deep faith. When the Pope called for a peace without victors, only Charles and the King of the Belgians took it seriously and made the attempt. Unfortunately, it was a rather na├»ve and futile gesture that almost brought about the early destruction of Austria-Hungary. His intentions were noble and his virtue was far above his contemporaries but it was simply beyond the realm of possibility that the Allies would have agreed to such a proposal at that stage and even more ludicrous to think they would have kept his secret when making the attempt public proved so helpful to the Allied cause. The Germans were furious at such a betrayal and made plans to invade and occupy Austria-Hungary at a moment’s notice (it would not have been dissimilar to what happened to Italy in 1943). From that point, Austria-Hungary was more like Germany’s prisoner than Germany’s ally and Emperor Charles had little choice but to see things through to the end. He dismissed the old army leadership and took command himself while also proposing new domestic plans in an effort to regain the loyalty of the various ethnic minorities. However, it was to no avail and the Allies had already agreed to the post-war dismemberment of Austria-Hungary in any event. After a final, crushing blow in 1918 the empire simply collapsed in on itself and Emperor Charles was forced to relinquish power and go into exile. However, he did not abdicate as he viewed the monarchy as a sacred trust that he could not abandon. In 1921 he tried twice to regain his throne as King of Hungary but was blocked by the ruling regent. He died in Portugal a year later at the age of only 34. In 2004 Charles, the last Hapsburg Emperor, was formally beatified by Pope John Paul II. He was a saintly man and, like a number of “last” monarchs, too good for his own good in a number of ways.