Broaching of the Dannevirke Stronghold. There was
among the Danish public a strong nationalism that spurred the
political system to demand a "Denmark to
Eider" demand. This meant, that the Danish
boarder should be drawn along the river Eider, and thereby south of the
Schleswig. In that way the duchy skould belong to Danish crown. Also there
was a hope for a Scandinavian political and
In 1863 the Danish government chose an irreversible course towards "Denmark to
the Eider" It presented a proposal for a common constitution for
both Denmark and the
Duchy of Schleswig, which was adopted by
This would actually be a Denmark to the Eider.
The Danish policy was dominated by wishful thinking.
It was considered Denmark would get military assistance from
Sweden, if it
come to a war with the German states.
At the same time the Danish Duchy Holstein, neighbour of Schleswig, had a strong belief that if such a situation
would get military support from the German Confederation.
The German states were not yet a united country
therefore refused any compromise on a common constitution, which did not
make each of the 3 Danish duchies of
Schleswig, Holstein and
the small Lauenburg full equality with the Danish kingdom, when it came
to the ability of making
At the same time Denmark's former allied Russia was weakened after the
Crimean War 1854-56, and Prussia were now
unequivocally the strongest power on the continent,
political ably led by Chancellor Bismarck.
He aimed at a military confron-
Denmark to withdraw from international agreements that limited the
Prussian military and political maneuvers. The Danish army began mobilizing in the fall of 1863 and the 72-year-old
General Christian de Meza was put in charge of the Army as
Denmark was badly prepared for war.
The army was being reorganized and had poorly trained sergeants and
too few officers.
Also there were also problems with the transport - and supply units,
position at the Dannevirke had
been improved, while the positions of Dybboel
and Fredericia was far from being upgraded and
ready for war. Simultaneously, there was an exaggerated faith in the Danish military
capability both in the public and among the politicians and even
the military commander, General de Meza.
The stronghold at Dannevirke was seen as a safe guard
Germans, but it was 85 kilometers long and 40,000 Danish
soldiers were too few to effectively defend a position of this
Furthermore froze the flooded areas on the flanks of the
position in the extreme winter
this year, and therefore the Prussian troops
were able to surround the position over the ice.
The German Army expected to face a Danish army of 43,000 men and
possibly 25,000 Swedish volunteers.
The Federal army consisted of 6000 from Saxony, 6000 from Hannover,
35.000 Prussians and 35.000 Austrians.
General Christian de Meza
Austrian and Prussian troops crossed the river Eider
with 57,000 men
February 1th 1864. On February 2th and 3th the
first German attacks
on the Dannevirke outposts were launched, but were repulsed. However, it was clear that the situation
was untenable for the Danish army.
The Danish army had 4 injured, 7 captured and 3 missing after this
The attacking Austrians and Prussians
suffered no losses.
vacation of the Dannevirke stronghold
The Danish outposts withdrew to
the Dannevirke position. General de Meza realized that the stronghold, which for 8
centuries had been the Danish
protection towards the south, could not be defended under the present
Danish army was short of 20.000 soldiers to man the position effectively, and
because the fjord Slien
and the flooded
marsh meadows to the west froze, the enemy could move around
the Danish positions, surround them and attack the
defenders from the back.
stronghold Dannevirke The planned surrounding
February 5th the order to vacate Dannevirke was issued, and during the night between
started a successful and
coordinated retreat. They retreated through a fierce snowstorm and along frost hard roads back to
fortified positions by
Dybboel near Soenderborg and to the fortress Fredericia without the enemy noticed that
Dannevirke was vacated. The secret retreat thwarted the German plans to destroy the Danish army by encircling it
with a flank attack over the fjord
Slien, a maneuver the Prussians were just about to perform that night,
the Danes cleared the post. This was much to the dismay of both Kaiser Wilhelm, Bismarck and the Prussian
army leadership, which had predicted the
a decisive battle around Dannevirke.
The retreat from the Dannevirke
The Danish public had,
in a very romantic way, seen Dannevirke as an almost impregnable fortress,
and the evacuation
hit the population as a shock. Both the public, and press were perceived as a betrayal of
General de Meza, leader of the
government Monrad and the King. Riots
took place in Copenhagen, and Monrad sacrificed the general
as a scapegoat. General de Meza was forced to resign.
Posterity has completely absolved the Meza. It was the only sensible action he could undertake from the present
The Meza never recovered over the resignation he had received and he
died, sick and broken, a few years later.