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Glances at Prussian History

Dec 09, 2017 10:00 am
ProfessorWinston By ProfessorWinston
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The following was adapted from The Story of the Greatest Nations, Francis R. Nislutsch.

Prussia was the greatest of the Germanic nations and brokered the unification of all others through "blood and iron".

War, Tobacco, Liquor, and Bear Pranks

King Friedrich Wilhelm I (Soldier King) and his councillors met in a hall, seated round a common table, drinking beer like a party of artisans, and smoking huge pipes of tobacco. Their gathering was known throughout Europe as the “Tobacco Parliament." They enlivened their sessions by coarse pranks, such as making foreign ambassadors sick with their tobacco smoke, or intoxicated with their liquor. The King had a pair of tame bear cubs, and his favorite jest was to have one of these tossed suddenly on the back of an unsuspecting councillor.

A Gift from Old Fritz

One of the lads whose duty was to wait in his antechamber all night in case he needed them, fell asleep at his post. This was regarded as a terrible offense. Friedrich II (The Great), discovering the offender, came quietly behind him and found he had been writing a letter home, grumbling boy-fashion over his hard work, growling irreverently at the king, and adding that he meant soon to ask for a vacation to visit them all at home. Friedrich merely wrote an added line to the unfinished letter saying that the leave of absence had been granted by the King, who trusted that when the lad returned to duty he would have learned to perform it more resolutely and cheerfully.

Befreiungskriege, A Holy War

History has no other story that quite resembles that of the rising of the Prussians in 1813, the memorable year of their fight against Napoleon's France. The nation came forward as a single man. During the years of oppression secret societies had been formed, looking forward to this moment. Organizations of “turners” or gymnasts, gathering apparently for bodily exercise, now showed themselves as one vast military body led by their teacher, Jahn. Poets, especially the young and ardent Theodor Körner, recited intensely patriotic poems that stirred their hearers into frenzy. University professors entered the ranks as common soldiers side by side with their young students. Many women disguised themselves as men to be admitted into the regiments. Clergymen preached this as a holy war, and, as our picture shows, often blessed their hearers and then led the entire congregation, marching as a single man, to fight for Prussia.

Marschall Vorwärts ("Marshal Forward")

When the War of Liberation against Napoleon began in 1813, old veteran Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher was given high command. He was as deeply furious against the French as were all his followers. In every battle the Prussian soldiers charged forward, and fought until they beat down their foes or perished. The impoverished Germans had guns and powder so poor as to often be ineffective, so they used their muskets as clubs. They often fought with bayonets or with fists. Old Marshal Blücher became their favorite leader, because his one cry to them in battle was always “Forward! Forward!”. His Army of Silesia, composed partly of Prussians and partly of Russians, therefore nicknamed him Marshal Forward.

Prussia Supplants Austria for German Leadership

The growing power of the Hohenzollern rulers of Prussia made them become, more markedly with every generation, the rivals of the Hapsburgs for German leadership. The clash developed finally into a brief sharp war, often called the Seven Weeks War. In Prussia under King Wilhelm I, the remarkable statesman Otto von Bismarck and the equally remarkable general Helmuth von Moltke laid skillful plans by which they suddenly forced Austria into war and then as suddenly crushed her armies. The central battle of this rapidly moving war was fought at Königgrätz on Austrian territory. About a quarter of a million men fought on each side and the Austrians were so completely defeated that King Wilhelm and his generals rode onward and dictated their own terms of peace beneath the walls of Vienna. The main clause in the peace-treaty was the agreement that Austria was to withdraw wholly from German affairs, leaving Prussia as the chief state there and a virtual dictator to the others.

Professor Winston is a senior fellow at BOCU, an imaginary university that he invented when printing out his paper B.A. and Ph.D. degrees. His main focus is history, philosophy, economics, and trying to get the undergrad bitches to sleep with him or use his tail for sex acts.

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