Brunswick, Germany

The Black Duke and His Black Band of Vengeance

Friedrich Wilhelm assumed the title of Duke after his father, Duke Wilhelm Ferdinand, died. The French had killed his father and stolen his lands. He was consumed with hatred and spent the rest of his lifetime in the pursuit of Napoleon’s downfall.

In his pursuit of vengeance the Duke aligned himself with Austria and in February 1809 concluded a pact in which he would raise infantry and cavalry units of 1,000 men each.  He was given uniforms, weapons, ammunition for firearms and cannon, and other material necessary to outfit his 2,000 men.  His uniforms were all black and the insignia for his troops badge was a skull and cross-bones in recognition of his thirst for vengeance.  Thus was born the “Black Band of Vengeance” after which he was called the Black Duke.  It formed up in April 1, 1809 at Nachod.

The soldiers fought bravely for their Duke against Napoleon’s armies for many years. They even traveled to England, among other places, to join forces to resist the French. On June 16, 1815 the Duke was shot and killed. His death was a great blow to those men who survived him.

The remaining men returned home to French-plundered lands and little support. Within ten years there remained only one regiment each of infantry and Hussars and one battery of artillery.

In 1825 Duke Karl II reorganized them again garrisoning them in Braunschweig. A truly war ready force was not established again until 1830.

(More information may be found in, “A History of Brunswick:  Life in a German Duchy from Roman Times through 1900,” by Dan C. Heinemeier. bookstore)

This soldier in the Duke’s “Black Band of Vengeance” pictured below is an ancestor of mine from Braunschweig.  I am sorry to say I don’t know who he was.  A close look at the front of his hat reveals the skull and cross bones of the Duke’s army.

Click on the picture to enlarge it

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Life in Germany From 1860 through 1874


Otto von Bismark was the Prussian Ambassador to St. Petersburg.  He believed that the only way Prussia would eventually regain their military lead was by defeating Austria in a war.  There were many in parliament and elsewhere who disagreed.

Liberal politicians believed that Prussia and Austria could share power in a German confederation.  Militants believed that only a Prussian-dominated union of German states north of the Main River would do.

By 1862 Bismark had become Prussian Prime Minister.  Bismark set to work to agitate the Austrians.  He continued to exclude Austria from the Zollverein, then exacerbated the condition by establishing a trading agreement with France.  He then sided with Czar Alexander against a Polish Nationalist uprising, knowing that his action would reduce the possibility of Russian support for Austria.

In 1863 Austria tried once more to assert its power over Prussia.  Emperor Francis Joseph announced a meeting of al the German princes to revise the Constitution of the German Confederation and sent the king of Saxony to present a personal invitation to William of Prussia.  Bismark believed that this meeting was a ploy to assimilate Prussia and its army into an Austrian-dominated Germany.  He convinced William not to go.

An unexpected alliance between Austria and Prussia took place in 1863.  King Christian IX of Denmark declared that the duchy of Schleswig was a part of the Danish state.  The population was predominantly German.  Bismark, ever watchful, used this alliance to his advantage.

Prussia and Austria worked together and crushed the Danes and the Treaty of Vienna, ratified in October 1864, gave Prussia and Austria joint dominion over Schleswig and Holstein.

During the next two years Bismark sought to isolate Austria by making agreements with France and Italy.  France gave a vague assurance of neutrality and Italy promised to attack Austria if Prussia did so within three months.  Austria was provoked to such a degree that it took its case to the German council in Frankfurt and urged the federation to mobilize against Prussia.

The battle between Austria and Prussia was as decisive as it was short.   By the end of June, Prussia had crushed all resistance in Hanover, Hesse, and Saxony.  By the time the Prussian army converged upon the village of Sadova, fifty miles across the Austrian border, it was the Hapsburg army alone that it faced.

On July 3, 1866, nearly half a million men met in battle in the rain-sodden woods and fields around Sadova to decide the future of their two nations.  Bismark, now a Major General, and King William watched the fighting together on horseback for thirteen hours.

The Austrians lost 10,000 men in twenty minutes during one final assault.  The Prussian soldiers had much better weapons, breech-loading rifles, and could out fire at a rate of five to one.

Bismark was distressed at the carnage and later commented, “If foreign ministers had always followed their sovereigns to the front, history would have fewer wars to tell of.”  However, his glee at winning could not be hidden when later, while pounding a table, said, “I have beaten them all!  All!” 

The air over Prussia was euphoric.  Only a few dared to question the wisdom of Bismark’s war against Austria.  Prussia was again a major power.  The old German Confederation was ended.  Austria established a dual monarchy with Hungary, and by the Treaty of Prague, agreed to recognize “a new form of Germany without participation of the Austrian empire.”

Literature and Theatre

1860 – “Problematische Naturen,” novel by Friedrich Spielhagen
1862 – “Die Nibelungen” dramatic trilogy by Friedrich Hebbel
1862 – Gerhart Hauptmann, German dramatist born (d. 1946)
1863 – Jakob Grimm, German writer and philologist died (b. 1785)
1863 – Richard Dehmel, German poet born (d. 1920)
1864 – Deutsche Shakespeare-Gesellschaft founded at Weimar
1864 – “Der Hungerpastor,” German novel by Wilhelm Raabe
1864 – Frank Wedekind, German dramatist born (d. 1918)
1867 – Ludwig Thoma, German author born (d. 1921)
1868 – Stefan George, German poet born (d. 1933)
1871 – Willibald Alexis, German novelist died (b. 1798)
1871 – Heinrich Mann, German novelist born (d. 1950)
1871 – Christian Morgenstern, German poet born (d. 1914)
1873 – Paul Heyse:  “Kinder der Welt”
1973 – Max Reinhardt, German theatrical producer born (d. 1943)
1874 – Leopold von Sacher-Masoch (1835-1895):  “die Messelinen Wiens,” “masochist” novel


1860 – Gustav Mahler, German composer born (d. 1911)
1861 – Heinrich Marschner, German Opera composer died (b. 1795)
1862 – Berlioz:  “Beatrice et Benedict,” opera, Baden-Baden
1864 – Giacomo Meyerbeer, German composer died (b. 1791)
1864 – Richard Strauss, German composer born (d. 1949)
1865 – Wagner: “Tristan und Isolde,” Munich
1867 – Johann Strauss II:  The “Blue Danube,” waltz
1868 – Brahms:  “Ein deutsches Requiem,” Op 45
1868 – Max von Schillings, German composer and conductor born (d. 1933)
1868 – Wagner:  “Die Meistersinger von Nurnbert,” Munich
1869 – Karl Lowe, German composer died (b. 1796)
1869 – Hans Pfitzner, German musician and director born (d. 1949)
1869 – Siegfried Wagner, German composer born (d. 1930)
1869 – R. Wagner:  “Rheingold,” opera, Munich
1870 – Wagner marries Cosima von Bulow, daughter of Franz Liszt
1870 – Wagner:  “Die Walkure,” Munich
1873 – Max Reger, German composer born (d. 1916)
1874 – Brahms:  “Hungarian Dances”
1874 – Peter Cornelius, German composer died (b. 1924)
1874 – Hermann Gotz:  “Der Widerspenstigen Zahmung,” opera, Mannheim
1874 – Arnold Shonbert, German composer born (d. 1951)

Everyday Life

1860 – During the last decase 424,000 people emigrated to U.S.
1860 – Food and Drugs Act enacted
1860 – John C. Heenan (American) and Tom Sayers (British) fight a championship bout; fight ended by crowd breaking into the ring
1860 – British Open Golf Championship started; first champion, W. Park
1861 – Daily weather forecasts begin
1861 – First horse-drawn trams appear in London
1861 – Queen Victoria creates the Order of the Star in India
1861 – Population is 23 million
1862 – English cricket team tours Australia for first time
1862 – International Exhibition in London
1863 – Football Association founded, London
1863 – Beginning of construction of London Underground railroad
1863 – Edward, Prince of Wales, marries Princess Alexandria of Denmark
1863 – Henry Royce, automotive engineer and industrialist, born (d. 1933)
1864 – Octavia Hill begins London tenement-dwelling reforms
1865 – Nottingham pawnbroker William Booth (1829-1912) moves to London to organize the Christian Revival Association, renamed (1878) The Salvation Army
1865 – Debut of W.G. Grace as cricketer in Gentlemen vs. Players
1865 – London Metropolitan Fire Service established
1865 – John Macgregor, barrister, pioneers canoeing as a sport
1865 – The Queensberry Rules governing boxing are first outlined
1866 – Dr. T.J. Barnardo (1845-1905) opens his first home for destitute children at Stepney, London
1866 – “Black Friday” on London Stock Exchange
1866 – Tom Morris of St. Andrews (1850-1875) wins his first professional golf championship
1867 – “The Queensberry Rules,” by John Graham Chambers of the London Amateur Athletic Club
1868 – The game of badminton devised at the Duke of Beaufort’s residence, Badminton Hall, Gloucestershire
1868 – J.L. Garvin, journalist, born (d. 1947)
1868 – Harold Harmsworth, Lord Rothermere, newspaper proprietor, born (d. 1940)
1868 – First regular Trades Union Congress held at Manchester, England
1868 – Whitaker’s Almanack appears
1869 – British debtor’s prisons are abolished
1869 – Girton College, Cambridge, founded
1870 – W.G. Grace and his brothers ound the Gloucester Cricket Club
1871 – Bank Holidays introduced in England and Wales
1871 – Stanley meets Livingstone at Ujiji
1871 – Population 26 million
1871 – S.S. “Oceanic,” White Star Line, launched; first of the large modern luxury liners
1872 – First international soccer game, England versus Scotland
1872 – C.P. Scott becomes editor of the “Manchester Guardian” (-1929)
1873 – Initiation of modern cricket county championship
1873 – Building of Severn Tunnel begins (-1886)
1873 – Major W.C. Wingfield introduces the modern game of lawn tennis at a garden party, under the name Sphairistike
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