by Fred Ray on July 4, 2008 · 0 comments

Although we Americans think of our Civil War as the defining war of the 19th Century, the Europeans were quite active in killing each other as well. I came across these casualty figures in an old book and thought I’d post them for comparison. The first conflict referred to is the German-Danish War; the second the Austro-Prussian War; and the third the Franco-Prussian War. The “mitrailleuse” referred to at the bottom is a sort of French machine gun used in that war. In all except the Franco-Prussian War you see that the vast majority of casualties were caused by musketry, just as they were in the Civil War. What’s different in that conflict is the percentage of French casualties (25%) caused by the highly efficient Krupp artillery.

The Franco-Prussian War ended Napoleon III’s career and empire. He and his entire army were defeated and captured at the Battle of Sedan, and the Second Empire fell shortly thereafter, putting him in the unemployment line. I mention this because he is seen now as an almost comic figure in European history, but prior to the US Civil War, and especially after his victories in Italy, he was seen as a sort of military oracle whose every pronouncement was considered the last word on the subject. As far as hardware goes, he is credited with spurring the development of a 12-pounder gun-howitzer that bore his name as well as the long range rifle. After his defeat the European military center of gravity shifted to Prussia. Unlike the extended and indecisive fighting so characteristic of the American Civil War, Prussia scored knockout victories in each of these wars in a matter of months after one or two decisive battles.


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