Helmuth von Moltke the Elder
Overview
 
Helmuth Karl Bernhard Graf von Moltke (26 October 1800, Parchim
Parchim
Parchim is a town in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany. It is the capital of the Ludwigslust-Parchim district. It was the birthplace of Moltke, to whom a monument was erected in 1876. Founded about 1210, one branch of the family of the duke of Mecklenburg residence in Parchim during part of the 14th...

, Mecklenburg-Schwerin
Mecklenburg-Schwerin
Mecklenburg-Schwerin was a duchy in northern Germany created in 1348, when Albert II of Mecklenburg and his younger brother John were raised to Dukes of Mecklenburg by King Charles IV...

 – 24 April 1891) was a German Field Marshal
Generalfeldmarschall
Field Marshal or Generalfeldmarschall in German, was a rank in the armies of several German states and the Holy Roman Empire; in the Austrian Empire, the rank Feldmarschall was used...

. The chief of staff of the Prussian Army
Prussian Army
The Royal Prussian Army was the army of the Kingdom of Prussia. It was vital to the development of Brandenburg-Prussia as a European power.The Prussian Army had its roots in the meager mercenary forces of Brandenburg during the Thirty Years' War...

 for thirty years, he is regarded as one of the great strategists of the latter 19th century, and the creator of a new, more modern method of directing armies in the field. He is often referred to as Moltke the Elder to distinguish him from his nephew Helmuth Johann Ludwig von Moltke
Helmuth von Moltke the Younger
Helmuth Johann Ludwig von Moltke , also known as Moltke the Younger, was a nephew of Field Marshal Count Moltke and served as the Chief of the German General Staff from 1906 to 1914. The two are often differentiated as Moltke the Elder and Moltke the Younger...

, who commanded the German Army
German Army (German Empire)
The German Army was the name given the combined land forces of the German Empire, also known as the National Army , Imperial Army or Imperial German Army. The term "Deutsches Heer" is also used for the modern German Army, the land component of the German Bundeswehr...

 at the outbreak of World War I.
Moltke was born in Parchim
Parchim
Parchim is a town in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany. It is the capital of the Ludwigslust-Parchim district. It was the birthplace of Moltke, to whom a monument was erected in 1876. Founded about 1210, one branch of the family of the duke of Mecklenburg residence in Parchim during part of the 14th...

, Mecklenburg-Schwerin
Mecklenburg-Schwerin
Mecklenburg-Schwerin was a duchy in northern Germany created in 1348, when Albert II of Mecklenburg and his younger brother John were raised to Dukes of Mecklenburg by King Charles IV...

, son of the Danish Generalleutnant Friedrich Philipp Victor von Moltke (1768–1845).
Quotations

First weigh the considerations, then take the risks.

As quoted in Prussia : The Perversion of an Idea (1994) by Giles MacDonogh, p. 166

Encyclopedia
Helmuth Karl Bernhard Graf von Moltke (26 October 1800, Parchim
Parchim
Parchim is a town in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany. It is the capital of the Ludwigslust-Parchim district. It was the birthplace of Moltke, to whom a monument was erected in 1876. Founded about 1210, one branch of the family of the duke of Mecklenburg residence in Parchim during part of the 14th...

, Mecklenburg-Schwerin
Mecklenburg-Schwerin
Mecklenburg-Schwerin was a duchy in northern Germany created in 1348, when Albert II of Mecklenburg and his younger brother John were raised to Dukes of Mecklenburg by King Charles IV...

 – 24 April 1891) was a German Field Marshal
Generalfeldmarschall
Field Marshal or Generalfeldmarschall in German, was a rank in the armies of several German states and the Holy Roman Empire; in the Austrian Empire, the rank Feldmarschall was used...

. The chief of staff of the Prussian Army
Prussian Army
The Royal Prussian Army was the army of the Kingdom of Prussia. It was vital to the development of Brandenburg-Prussia as a European power.The Prussian Army had its roots in the meager mercenary forces of Brandenburg during the Thirty Years' War...

 for thirty years, he is regarded as one of the great strategists of the latter 19th century, and the creator of a new, more modern method of directing armies in the field. He is often referred to as Moltke the Elder to distinguish him from his nephew Helmuth Johann Ludwig von Moltke
Helmuth von Moltke the Younger
Helmuth Johann Ludwig von Moltke , also known as Moltke the Younger, was a nephew of Field Marshal Count Moltke and served as the Chief of the German General Staff from 1906 to 1914. The two are often differentiated as Moltke the Elder and Moltke the Younger...

, who commanded the German Army
German Army (German Empire)
The German Army was the name given the combined land forces of the German Empire, also known as the National Army , Imperial Army or Imperial German Army. The term "Deutsches Heer" is also used for the modern German Army, the land component of the German Bundeswehr...

 at the outbreak of World War I.

Early life

Moltke was born in Parchim
Parchim
Parchim is a town in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany. It is the capital of the Ludwigslust-Parchim district. It was the birthplace of Moltke, to whom a monument was erected in 1876. Founded about 1210, one branch of the family of the duke of Mecklenburg residence in Parchim during part of the 14th...

, Mecklenburg-Schwerin
Mecklenburg-Schwerin
Mecklenburg-Schwerin was a duchy in northern Germany created in 1348, when Albert II of Mecklenburg and his younger brother John were raised to Dukes of Mecklenburg by King Charles IV...

, son of the Danish Generalleutnant Friedrich Philipp Victor von Moltke (1768–1845). In 1805, his father settled in Holstein, but about the same time was left impoverished when the French
First French Empire
The First French Empire , also known as the Greater French Empire or Napoleonic Empire, was the empire of Napoleon I of France...

 burned his country house and plundered his town house in Lübeck
Lübeck
The Hanseatic City of Lübeck is the second-largest city in Schleswig-Holstein, in northern Germany, and one of the major ports of Germany. It was for several centuries the "capital" of the Hanseatic League and, because of its Brick Gothic architectural heritage, is listed by UNESCO as a World...

, where his wife and children were during the Fourth Coalition. Young Moltke therefore grew up under difficult circumstances. At nine he was sent as a boarder to Hohenfelde in Holstein, and at age eleven went to the cadet school at Copenhagen
Copenhagen
Copenhagen is the capital and largest city of Denmark, with an urban population of 1,199,224 and a metropolitan population of 1,930,260 . With the completion of the transnational Øresund Bridge in 2000, Copenhagen has become the centre of the increasingly integrating Øresund Region...

, being destined for the Danish army and court. In 1818 he became a page to the king of Denmark and second lieutenant in a Danish infantry regiment.

At twenty-one Moltke resolved to enter the Prussian service, in spite of the loss of seniority. In 1822 he became second lieutenant in the 8th Infantry Regiment stationed at Frankfurt (Oder). At twenty-three, he was allowed to enter the general war school (later called the Prussian Military Academy), where he studied the full three years and passed in 1826.

As a young officer

For a year Moltke had charge of a cadet school at Frankfurt an der Oder
Frankfurt (Oder)
Frankfurt is a town in Brandenburg, Germany, located on the Oder River, on the German-Polish border directly opposite the town of Słubice which was a part of Frankfurt until 1945. At the end of the 1980s it reached a population peak with more than 87,000 inhabitants...

, then he was for three years employed on the military survey in Silesia
Province of Silesia
The Province of Silesia was a province of the Kingdom of Prussia from 1815 to 1919.-Geography:The territory comprised the bulk of the former Bohemian crown land of Silesia and the County of Kladsko, which King Frederick the Great had conquered from the Austrian Habsburg Monarchy in the 18th...

 and Posen. In 1832 he was seconded for service on the general staff at Berlin, to which he was transferred in 1833 on promotion to first lieutenant. He was at this time regarded as a brilliant officer by his superiors, and among them by Prince William
William I, German Emperor
William I, also known as Wilhelm I , of the House of Hohenzollern was the King of Prussia and the first German Emperor .Under the leadership of William and his Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, Prussia achieved the unification of Germany and the...

, then a lieutenant-general.

Max Boot
Max Boot
Max Boot is an American author, consultant, editorialist, lecturer, and military historian. He has been a prominent advocate for American power. He once described his ideas as "American might to promote American ideals." He self-identifies as a conservative, once joking that "I grew up in the...

 says of Moltke in his War Made New:

Moltke loved music, poetry, art, archaeology, and theater. He knew seven languages (German, Danish, English, French, Italian, Spanish, and Turkish). He was a prolific artist who filled sketchbooks with landscapes and portraits, as well as a popular author...his account of travels in Turkey, released after his return to Berlin in 1840 and illustrated with his own drawings, turned him into a literary celebrity, a role that he embraced by donning a Turkish and giving public lectures...For all his catholicity of interests, Moltke was no closet liberal. He was a nationalist to the core who was appalled by the liberal revolutions that swept Europe on 1848. He placed his faith in the king and the forces of the old regime.


Moltke was well received at court and in the best society of Berlin. His tastes inclined him to literature, to historical study and to travel. In 1827 he had published a short romance, The Two Friends. In 1831 he wrote an essay entitled Holland and Belgium in their Mutual Relations, from their Separation under Philip II to their Reunion under William I. A year later he wrote An Account of the Internal Circumstances and Social Conditions of Poland, a study based both on reading and on personal observation of Polish life and character.
In his 'Poland. A historical sketch' (1885), von Moltke stated that Poland prior to her partitions was "the most civilized country in Europe".
In 1832 he contracted to translate Gibbon's The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is a non-fiction history book written by English historian Edward Gibbon and published in six volumes. Volume I was published in 1776, and went through six printings. Volumes II and III were published in 1781; volumes IV, V, VI in 1788–89...

 into German, for which he was to receive 75 marks, his object being to earn the money to buy a horse. In eighteen months he had finished nine volumes out of twelve, but the publisher failed to produce the book and Moltke never received more than 25 marks.

Service with the Ottoman Empire

In 1835 on his promotion as captain, Moltke obtained six months leave to travel in south-Eastern Europe. After a short stay in Istanbul
Istanbul
Istanbul , historically known as Byzantium and Constantinople , is the largest city of Turkey. Istanbul metropolitan province had 13.26 million people living in it as of December, 2010, which is 18% of Turkey's population and the 3rd largest metropolitan area in Europe after London and...

 he was requested by the Sultan Mahmud II
Mahmud II
Mahmud II was the 30th Sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1808 until his death in 1839. He was born in the Topkapi Palace, Istanbul, the son of Sultan Abdulhamid I...

 to help modernize the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 army, and being duly authorized from Berlin he accepted the offer. He remained two years at Istanbul, learned Turkish
Turkish language
Turkish is a language spoken as a native language by over 83 million people worldwide, making it the most commonly spoken of the Turkic languages. Its speakers are located predominantly in Turkey and Northern Cyprus with smaller groups in Iraq, Greece, Bulgaria, the Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo,...

 and surveyed the city of Constantinople, the Bosporus
Bosporus
The Bosphorus or Bosporus , also known as the Istanbul Strait , is a strait that forms part of the boundary between Europe and Asia. It is one of the Turkish Straits, along with the Dardanelles...

 and the Dardanelles
Dardanelles
The Dardanelles , formerly known as the Hellespont, is a narrow strait in northwestern Turkey connecting the Aegean Sea to the Sea of Marmara. It is one of the Turkish Straits, along with its counterpart the Bosphorus. It is located at approximately...

. He travelled through Wallachia
Wallachia
Wallachia or Walachia is a historical and geographical region of Romania. It is situated north of the Danube and south of the Southern Carpathians...

, Bulgaria
Bulgaria
Bulgaria , officially the Republic of Bulgaria , is a parliamentary democracy within a unitary constitutional republic in Southeast Europe. The country borders Romania to the north, Serbia and Macedonia to the west, Greece and Turkey to the south, as well as the Black Sea to the east...

 and Rumelia
Rumelia
Rumelia was an historical region comprising the territories of the Ottoman Empire in Europe...

, and made many other journeys on both sides of the Strait.

In 1838 Moltke was sent as adviser to the Ottoman general commanding the troops in Anatolia
Anatolia
Anatolia is a geographic and historical term denoting the westernmost protrusion of Asia, comprising the majority of the Republic of Turkey...

, who was to carry on a campaign against Muhammad Ali of Egypt
Muhammad Ali of Egypt
Muhammad Ali Pasha al-Mas'ud ibn Agha was a commander in the Ottoman army, who became Wāli, and self-declared Khedive of Egypt and Sudan...

 (for details see Ali's rebellion.) During the summer Moltke made extensive reconnaissances and surveys, riding several thousand miles in the course of his journey. He navigated the rapids of the Euphrates
Euphrates
The Euphrates is the longest and one of the most historically important rivers of Western Asia. Together with the Tigris, it is one of the two defining rivers of Mesopotamia...

 and visited and mapped many parts of the Ottoman Empire. In 1839 the army moved south to fight the Egyptians, but upon the approach of the enemy the general refused to listen to Moltke's advice. Moltke resigned his post of staff officer and took charge of the artillery. In the Battle of Nezib
Battle of Nezib
The Battle of Nezib was fought on June 24, 1839 between Egypt and the Ottoman Empire. The Egyptians were led by Ibrahim Pasha, while the Ottomans were led by Hafiz Osman Pasha, with Moltke in command of the Ottoman artillery. The Ottoman were positioned at Mezar, southwest of Nezib, with the...

 (modern-day Nisibis
Nisibis
Nusaybin Nisêbîn) is a city in Mardin Province, Turkey, populated mainly by Kurds. Earlier Arameans, Arabs, and Armenians lived in the city. The population of the city is 83,832 as of 2009.-Ancient Period:...

) on 24 June 1839, the Ottoman army was beaten (Muhammad Ali was defeated only once or twice in his lifetime). With great difficulty Von Moltke made his way back to the Black Sea, and thence to Istanbul. His patron, Sultan Mahmud II, was dead, so he returned to Berlin where he arrived, broken in health, in December 1839.

Once home Moltke published some of the letters he had written as Letters on Conditions and Events in Turkey in the Years 1835 to 1839. This book was well received at the time. Early the next year he married a young English woman, Maria Bertha Helena Burt, the daughter of John Heyliger Burt esq of the West Indies, who married his sister. It was a happy union, though there were no children.

In 1840 Moltke had been appointed to the staff of the 4th army corps, stationed at Berlin and he published his maps of Istanbul, and, jointly with other German travellers, a new map of Asia Minor and a memoir on the geography of that country. He became fascinated by railroads and he was one of the first directors of the Hamburg-Berlin railway. In 1843 published an article What Considerations should determine the Choice of the Course of Railways?.

In 1845 Moltke published The Russo-Turkish Campaign in Europe, 1828-1829; this book was also well received in military circles. Also in that year he served in Rome as personal adjutant to Prince Henry of Prussia, which allowed him to create another map of the Eternal city (published in 1852). In 1848, after a brief return to the great general staff at Berlin, he became chief of the staff of the 4th army corps, of which the headquarters were then at Magdeburg
Magdeburg
Magdeburg , is the largest city and the capital city of the Bundesland of Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. Magdeburg is situated on the Elbe River and was one of the most important medieval cities of Europe....

, where he remained seven years, during which he rose to lieutenant colonel and colonel.

In 1855 Moltke served as personal aide to Prince Frederick (later Emperor Frederick III
Frederick III, German Emperor
Frederick III was German Emperor and King of Prussia for 99 days in 1888, the Year of the Three Emperors. Friedrich Wilhelm Nikolaus Karl known informally as Fritz, was the only son of Emperor William I and was raised in his family's tradition of military service...

). He accompanied the prince to England (for his marriage), as well as to Paris and to Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg is a city and a federal subject of Russia located on the Neva River at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea...

 for the coronation of Alexander II of Russia
Alexander II of Russia
Alexander II , also known as Alexander the Liberator was the Emperor of the Russian Empire from 3 March 1855 until his assassination in 1881...

.

Chief of the German General Staff

In 1857 Moltke was given the position Chief of the Prussian General Staff
German General Staff
The German General Staff was an institution whose rise and development gave the German armed forces a decided advantage over its adversaries. The Staff amounted to its best "weapon" for nearly a century and a half....

, a position he held for the next 30 years. As soon as he gained the position he went to work making changes to the strategic and tactical methods of the Prussian army; changes in armament and in means of communication; changes in the training of staff officers; and changes to the method for the mobilization of the army. He also instituted a formal study of European politics in connection with the plans for campaigns which might become necessary. In short, he rapidly put into place the features of a modern General Staff.

In 1859 the Austro-Sardinian War in Italy caused the mobilization of the Prussian army, though it did not fight. After the mobilization, the army was reorganized and its strength was nearly doubled. The reorganization was the work not of Moltke but of the Prince Regent, William
William I, German Emperor
William I, also known as Wilhelm I , of the House of Hohenzollern was the King of Prussia and the first German Emperor .Under the leadership of William and his Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, Prussia achieved the unification of Germany and the...

, and the Minister of War, Albrecht von Roon
Albrecht Graf von Roon
Albrecht Theodor Emil Graf von Roon was a Prussian soldier and statesman. As Minister of War 1859–1873 Roon, along with Otto von Bismarck and Helmuth von Moltke, was a dominating figure in Prussia's government during the key decade of the 1860s, when a series of successful wars against Denmark,...

. Moltke watched the Italian campaign closely and wrote a history of it (published in 1862). This history was attributed on the title-page to the historical division of the Prussian staff (yet another first in military affairs).

In December 1862 Moltke was asked for an opinion upon the military aspect of the quarrel with Denmark. He thought the difficulty would be to bring the war to an end, as the Danish army would if possible retire to the islands, where, as the Danes had the command of the sea, it could not be attacked. He sketched a plan for turning the flank of the Danish army before the attack upon its position in front of Schleswig
Schleswig
Schleswig or South Jutland is a region covering the area about 60 km north and 70 km south of the border between Germany and Denmark; the territory has been divided between the two countries since 1920, with Northern Schleswig in Denmark and Southern Schleswig in Germany...

. He suggested that by this means its retreat might be cut off.

War with Denmark

When the Second Schleswig War began in February 1864, Moltke was not sent with the Prussian forces, but kept at Berlin. His war plan was mismanaged and the Danish army escaped to the fortresses of Dybbøl
Dybbøl
Dybbøl is a small town, with a population of 2,457 in the southeastern corner of South Jutland, Denmark. It is located around west of Sønderborg....

 and Fredericia
Fredericia
Fredericia is a town located in Fredericia municipality in the eastern part of the Jutland peninsula in Denmark, in a sub-region known locally as Trekanten, or The Triangle...

, each of which commanded a retreat across a strait to an island. Dybbøl and Fredericia were besieged, Dybbøl taken by storm
Battle of Dybbøl
The Battle of Dybbøl was the key battle of the Second War of Schleswig and occurred on the morning of 18 April 1864 following a siege lasting from 7 April. Denmark suffered a severe defeat against the German Confederation which decided the war...

, and Fredericia abandoned by the Danes without assault - but the war showed no signs of ending. The Danish army was safe on the islands of Als and Funen
Funen
Funen , with a size of 2,984 km² , is the third-largest island of Denmark following Zealand and Vendsyssel-Thy, and the 163rd largest island of the world. Funen is located in the central part of the country and has a population of 454,358 inhabitants . The main city is Odense, connected to the...

.

On April 30, 1864, Moltke was sent to be chief of the staff for the allied (German) forces. After a two month armistice, the German army attacked the Danes in the island of Als (June 29). The Danes evacuated Als and shortly thereafter agreed to the German peace terms. Moltke's appearance on the scene had transformed the war, and his influence with the king had acquired a firm basis. Accordingly, when in 1866 the quarrel with Austria came to a head, Moltke's plans were adopted and executed.

Moltke's Theory of War

A disciple of Carl von Clausewitz
Carl von Clausewitz
Carl Philipp Gottfried von Clausewitz was a Prussian soldier and German military theorist who stressed the moral and political aspects of war...

, whose theory of war was more an effort to grasp its essential nature, rather than of Jomini
Antoine-Henri Jomini
Antoine-Henri, baron Jomini was a general in the French and later in the Russian service, and one of the most celebrated writers on the Napoleonic art of war...

, who expounded a system of rules, Moltke regarded strategy as a practical art of adapting means to ends, and had developed the methods of Napoleon in accordance with altered conditions of his age. He had been the first to realize the great defensive power of modern firearms, and had inferred from it that an enveloping attack had become more formidable than the attempt to pierce an enemy's front.

Moltke had pondered the tactics of Napoleon at the Battle of Bautzen
Battle of Bautzen
In the Battle of Bautzen a combined Russian/Prussian army was pushed back by Napoleon, but escaped destruction, some sources claim, because Michel Ney failed to block their retreat...

, when the emperor brought up Ney
Michel Ney
Michel Ney , 1st Duc d'Elchingen, 1st Prince de la Moskowa was a French soldier and military commander during the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars. He was one of the original 18 Marshals of France created by Napoleon I...

's corps, coming from a distance, against the flank of the allies, rather than to unite it with his own force before the battle; he had also drawn a moral from the combined action of the allies at the Battle of Waterloo
Battle of Waterloo
The Battle of Waterloo was fought on Sunday 18 June 1815 near Waterloo in present-day Belgium, then part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands...

.

At the same time Moltke had worked out the conditions of the march and supply of an army. Only one army corps could be moved along one road in the same day; to put two or three corps on the same road meant that the rear corps could not be made use of in a battle at the front. Several corps stationed close together in a small area could not be fed for more than a day or two. Accordingly he inferred that the essence of strategy lay in arrangements for the separation of the corps for marching and their concentration in time for battle. In order to make a large army manageable, it must be broken up into separate armies or groups of corps, each group under a commander authorized to regulate its movements and action subject to the instructions of the commander-in-chief as regards the direction and purpose of its operations.

Moltke's main thesis was that military strategy
Strategy
Strategy, a word of military origin, refers to a plan of action designed to achieve a particular goal. In military usage strategy is distinct from tactics, which are concerned with the conduct of an engagement, while strategy is concerned with how different engagements are linked...

 had to be understood as a system of options since only the beginning of a military operation was plannable. As a result, he considered the main task of military leaders to consist in the extensive preparation of all possible outcomes. His thesis can be summed up by two statements, one famous and one less so, translated into English as "No plan of operations extends with certainty beyond the first encounter with the enemy's main strength" (or "no plan survives contact with the enemy"). and "Strategy is a system of expedients."

However, as can be seen from the descriptions of his planning for the war with Austria and the war with France, his planning for war was very detailed and took into account thousands of variables. It is a mistake to think that Moltke thought war plans were of no use (which a simple reading of "No battle plan survives contact with the enemy" may indicate).

Moltke originated the use of the colors blue for friendly forces and red for hostile forces in strategy or wargaming
Wargaming
A wargame is a strategy game that deals with military operations of various types, real or fictional. Wargaming is the hobby dedicated to the play of such games, which can also be called conflict simulations, or consims for short. When used professionally to study warfare, it is generally known as...

. Hence the term blue on blue
Blue On Blue
Blue on Blue is Leigh Nash's debut solo album. Nash began working on the album a year after Sixpence None the Richer disbanded. Produced by Pierre Marchand who is famous for his collaborations with Sarah McLachlan, the album consists of pop songs....

 fire in friendly fire situations.

Austro-Prussian War

Moltke planned and led the successful military operations during the Austro-Prussian War
Austro-Prussian War
The Austro-Prussian War was a war fought in 1866 between the German Confederation under the leadership of the Austrian Empire and its German allies on one side and the Kingdom of Prussia with its German allies and Italy on the...

 of 1866.

In the strategy for the war the main points are as follows. First Moltke demonstrated a concentration of effort. There were two enemy groups opposing the Prussians, the Austro-Saxon armies, 270,000; and their allied North and South German armies, some 120,000 strong. The Prussian forces were smaller by some 60,000, but Moltke was determined to be superior at the decisive point. The army placed against Austria was 278,000 men, leaving just 48,000 men remaining to defend against Austria's German allies. Those 48,000 under Falckenstein
Eduard Vogel von Falckenstein
Eduard Ernst Friedrich Hannibal Vogel von Falkenstein was a Prussian General der Infanterie.-Biography:...

 managed to capture the Hanoverian
Kingdom of Hanover
The Kingdom of Hanover was established in October 1814 by the Congress of Vienna, with the restoration of George III to his Hanoverian territories after the Napoleonic era. It succeeded the former Electorate of Brunswick-Lüneburg , and joined with 38 other sovereign states in the German...

 army in less than two weeks, and then to attack and drive away the South German forces.

In dealing with Austrian and Saxon army, the difficulty was to have the Prussian army ready first. This was not easy as the king would not mobilize until after the Austrians. Moltke's railway knowledge helped him to save time. Five lines of railway led from the various Prussian provinces to a series of points on the southern frontier. By employing all these railways at once, Moltke had all his army corps moved simultaneously from their peace quarters to the frontier.

After marching into Saxony, the Saxon army retreated into Bohemia
Bohemia
Bohemia is a historical region in central Europe, occupying the western two-thirds of the traditional Czech Lands. It is located in the contemporary Czech Republic with its capital in Prague...

. Moltke had two Prussian armies about 100 miles apart. The problem was how to bring them together so as to catch the Austrian army between them like the French at Waterloo between Wellington
Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington
Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, KG, GCB, GCH, PC, FRS , was an Irish-born British soldier and statesman, and one of the leading military and political figures of the 19th century...

 and Blücher
Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher
Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher, Fürst von Wahlstatt , Graf , later elevated to Fürst von Wahlstatt, was a Prussian Generalfeldmarschall who led his army against Napoleon I at the Battle of the Nations at Leipzig in 1813 and at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 with the Duke of Wellington.He is...

. He determined to bring his own two armies together by directing each of them to advance towards Gitschin
Jicín
Jičín is a town in the Hradec Králové Region of the Czech Republic. It lies approximately 85 km northeast of Prague in the scenic region of the Bohemian Paradise under the Prachov Rocks ....

. He foresaw that the march of the crown prince would probably bring him into collision with a portion of the Austrian army; but the Crown prince had 100,000 men, and it was not likely that the Austrians could have a stronger force.

The Austrians under Ludwig von Benedek marched faster than Moltke expected, and might have opposed the crown prince with four or five corps; but Benedek's attention was centred on Prince Frederick
Frederick III, German Emperor
Frederick III was German Emperor and King of Prussia for 99 days in 1888, the Year of the Three Emperors. Friedrich Wilhelm Nikolaus Karl known informally as Fritz, was the only son of Emperor William I and was raised in his family's tradition of military service...

, and his four corps, not under a common command, were beaten in detail. On July 1, Benedek collected his shaken forces in a defensive position in front of Königgrätz
Battle of Königgrätz
The Battle of Königgrätz , also known as the Battle of Sadowa, Sadová, or Hradec Králové, was the decisive battle of the Austro-Prussian War, in which the Kingdom of Prussia defeated the Austrian Empire...

. Moltke's two armies were now within a march of one another and of the enemy. On July 3 they were brought into action, the first against the Austrian front and the second against the Austrian right flank. The Austrian army was completely defeated and the campaign and war were won.

Moltke was not quite satisfied with the Battle of Königgrätz
Battle of Königgrätz
The Battle of Königgrätz , also known as the Battle of Sadowa, Sadová, or Hradec Králové, was the decisive battle of the Austro-Prussian War, in which the Kingdom of Prussia defeated the Austrian Empire...

. He tried to have the Prussian Army of the Elbe army brought up above Königgrätz so as to prevent the Austrian retreat, but its general failed to get there in time. He also tried to prevent the Prussian First Army from pushing its attack too hard, hoping in that way to keep the Austrians in their position until their retreat should be cut off by the crown prince's army, but this also did not happen.

During the negotiations, Otto von Bismarck
Otto von Bismarck
Otto Eduard Leopold, Prince of Bismarck, Duke of Lauenburg , simply known as Otto von Bismarck, was a Prussian-German statesman whose actions unified Germany, made it a major player in world affairs, and created a balance of power that kept Europe at peace after 1871.As Minister President of...

 opposed the king's wish to annex the Kingdom of Saxony
Kingdom of Saxony
The Kingdom of Saxony , lasting between 1806 and 1918, was an independent member of a number of historical confederacies in Napoleonic through post-Napoleonic Germany. From 1871 it was part of the German Empire. It became a Free state in the era of Weimar Republic in 1918 after the end of World War...

 and other territory beyond what was actually taken; he feared the active intervention of France. Moltke, however, was confident of beating both French and Austrians if the French should intervene, and he submitted to Bismarck his plans in case of need for war against both France and Austria.

After the peace, the Prussian government voted Moltke the sum of 30,000 marks, with which he bought the estate of Kreisau, near Schweidnitz (Świdnica)
Swidnica
Świdnica is a city in south-western Poland in the region of Silesia. It has a population of 60,317 according to 2006 figures. It lies in Lower Silesian Voivodeship, being the seventh largest town in that voivodeship. From 1975–98 it was in the former Wałbrzych Voivodeship...

 in Silesia
Province of Silesia
The Province of Silesia was a province of the Kingdom of Prussia from 1815 to 1919.-Geography:The territory comprised the bulk of the former Bohemian crown land of Silesia and the County of Kladsko, which King Frederick the Great had conquered from the Austrian Habsburg Monarchy in the 18th...

.

In 1867 The Campaign of 1866 in Germany was published. This history was produced under Moltke's personal supervision, it was regarded as quite accurate at the time. On December 24, 1868, Moltke's wife died at Berlin. Her remains were buried in a small chapel erected by Moltke as a mausoleum in the park at Kreisau.

Franco-Prussian War

Moltke again planned and led the Prussian armies in the Franco-Prussian War
Franco-Prussian War
The Franco-Prussian War or Franco-German War, often referred to in France as the 1870 War was a conflict between the Second French Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia. Prussia was aided by the North German Confederation, of which it was a member, and the South German states of Baden, Württemberg and...

 (1870–71), which paved the way for the creation of the Prussian-led German Empire
German Empire
The German Empire refers to Germany during the "Second Reich" period from the unification of Germany and proclamation of Wilhelm I as German Emperor on 18 January 1871, to 1918, when it became a federal republic after defeat in World War I and the abdication of the Emperor, Wilhelm II.The German...

 in 1871. The aspects of such a war had occupied Moltke's attention almost continuously since 1857; documents published after his death show the many times he considered such a war and the best arrangement of the Prussian or German forces for such a campaign. The arrangements for the transport of the army by railway were revised annually in order to suit the changes in his plans brought about by political conditions and by the growth of the army, as well as by the improvement of the Prussian system of railways.

The successes of 1866 had strengthened Moltke's position, so that when on July 5, 1870, the order for the mobilization of the Prussian and South German forces was issued, his plans were adopted without dispute. Five days later he was appointed Chief of the general staff of the army for the duration of the war. This gave Moltke the right to issue orders which were equivalent to royal commands.

Moltke's plan was to assemble the whole army south of Mainz
Mainz
Mainz under the Holy Roman Empire, and previously was a Roman fort city which commanded the west bank of the Rhine and formed part of the northernmost frontier of the Roman Empire...

, this being one district in which a single army could secure the defence of the whole frontier. If the French disregarded the neutrality of Belgium and Luxembourg
Luxembourg
Luxembourg , officially the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg , is a landlocked country in western Europe, bordered by Belgium, France, and Germany. It has two principal regions: the Oesling in the North as part of the Ardennes massif, and the Gutland in the south...

, and advanced towards Cologne
Cologne
Cologne is Germany's fourth-largest city , and is the largest city both in the Germany Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia and within the Rhine-Ruhr Metropolitan Area, one of the major European metropolitan areas with more than ten million inhabitants.Cologne is located on both sides of the...

 (or any other point on the Lower Rhine
Lower Rhine
The Lower Rhine flows from Bonn, Germany, to the North Sea at Hoek van Holland, Netherlands.Almost immediately after entering the Netherlands, the Rhine splits into many branches. The main branch is called the Waal which flows from Nijmegen to meet the river Meuse; after which it is called Merwede...

), the German army would be able to strike at their flank. At the same time the Rhine itself, with the fortresses of Koblenz
Koblenz
Koblenz is a German city situated on both banks of the Rhine at its confluence with the Moselle, where the Deutsches Eck and its monument are situated.As Koblenz was one of the military posts established by Drusus about 8 BC, the...

, Cologne and Wesel
Wesel
Wesel is a city in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. It is the capital of the Wesel district.-Division of the town:Suburbs of Wesel include Lackhausen, Obrighoven, Ginderich, Feldmark,Fusternberg, Büderich, Flüren and Blumenkamp.-History:...

, would be a serious obstacle in their path. If the French should attempt to invade south Germany, an advance by the Germans up the Rhine river would threaten their communications. Moltke expected that the French would be compelled by the direction of their railways to collect the greater part of their army near Metz
Metz
Metz is a city in the northeast of France located at the confluence of the Moselle and the Seille rivers.Metz is the capital of the Lorraine region and prefecture of the Moselle department. Located near the tripoint along the junction of France, Germany, and Luxembourg, Metz forms a central place...

, and a smaller portion near Strasbourg
Strasbourg
Strasbourg is the capital and principal city of the Alsace region in eastern France and is the official seat of the European Parliament. Located close to the border with Germany, it is the capital of the Bas-Rhin département. The city and the region of Alsace are historically German-speaking,...

.

The German forces were grouped into three armies: the first under Steinmetz, on the Moselle
Moselle
Moselle is a department in the east of France named after the river Moselle.- History :Moselle is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on March 4, 1790...

 below Trier
Trier
Trier, historically called in English Treves is a city in Germany on the banks of the Moselle. It is the oldest city in Germany, founded in or before 16 BC....

; the second of 130,000 men, under Prince Frederick Charles
Prince Frederick Charles of Prussia
Prince Friedrich Carl Nicolaus of Prussia was the son of Prince Charles of Prussia and his wife Princess Marie of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach . Prince Frederick Charles was a grandson of King Frederick William III of Prussia and a nephew of Frederick William IV and William I...

, around Homburg
Homburg, Saarland
Homburg is a town in Saarland, Germany, the administrative seat of the Saarpfalz district. With a population of c. 44,000 inhabitants, is the third city in its federal state. The medical department of the University of Saarland is situated here. The city is also home to the Karlsberg beer brewery...

 (with a reserve of 60,000 men behind them); the third under the Crown Prince Frederick
Frederick III, German Emperor
Frederick III was German Emperor and King of Prussia for 99 days in 1888, the Year of the Three Emperors. Friedrich Wilhelm Nikolaus Karl known informally as Fritz, was the only son of Emperor William I and was raised in his family's tradition of military service...

 of 130,000 men, at Landau
Landau
Landau or Landau in der Pfalz is an autonomous city surrounded by the Südliche Weinstraße district of southern Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. It is a university town , a long-standing cultural centre, and a market and shopping town, surrounded by vineyards and wine-growing villages of the...

. Three army corps were held back in north-Eastern Germany, in case Austria-Hungary
Austria-Hungary
Austria-Hungary , more formally known as the Kingdoms and Lands Represented in the Imperial Council and the Lands of the Holy Hungarian Crown of Saint Stephen, was a constitutional monarchic union between the crowns of the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary in...

 should make common cause with France.

Moltke's plan was that the three armies, while advancing, should make a right wheel, so that the first army on the right would reach the bank of the Moselle opposite Metz, while the second and third armies should push forward, the third army to defeat the French force near Strasbourg, and the second to strike the Moselle near Pont-à-Mousson
Pont-à-Mousson
Pont-à-Mousson is a commune in the Meurthe-et-Moselle department in north-eastern France.Population : 14,592 . It is an industrial town , situated on the Moselle River...

. If the French army should be found in front of the second army, it would be attacked in front by the second army and in flank by the first or the third (or both). If it should be found on or north of the line from Saarburg
Saarburg
Saarburg is a city of the Trier-Saarburg district in the Rhineland-Palatinate state of Germany, on the banks of the Saar River in the hilly country a few kilometers upstream from the Saar's junction with the Moselle....

 to Lunéville
Lunéville
Lunéville is a commune in the Meurthe-et-Moselle department in France.It is a sub-prefecture of the department and lies on the Meurthe River.-History:...

, it could still be attacked from two sides by the second and third armies in co-operation. The intention of the great right wheel was to attack the principal French army in such a direction as to drive it north and cut its communications with Paris. The fortress of Metz was to be only monitored, and the main German forces, after defeating the chief French army, would then to march against Paris.

This plan was carried out in its broad outlines. The Battle of Worth was brought on prematurely, and therefore led, not to the capture of MacMahon
Patrice MacMahon, duc de Magenta
Marie Edme Patrice Maurice de Mac-Mahon, 1st Duke of Magenta was a French general and politician with the distinction Marshal of France. He served as Chief of State of France from 1873 to 1875 and as the first president of the Third Republic, from 1875 to 1879.-Early life:Born in Sully , in the...

's army, which was intended, but only to its defeat and hasty retreat as far as Châlons. The Battle of Spicheren
Battle of Spicheren
The Battle of Spicheren, also known as the Battle of Forbach, was a battle during the Franco-Prussian War. The German victory compelled the French to withdraw to the defenses of Metz.- History :...

 was not intended by Moltke, who wished to keep Bazaine
François Achille Bazaine
François Achille Bazaine was a French General and from 1864, a Marshal of France, who surrendered the last organized French army to the Prussians during the Franco-Prussian war. He was the first Marshal who had started as a legionnaire and like the great Marshals of the First Empire, he had risen...

's army on the Saar until he could attack it with the second army in front and the first army on its left flank. But these unexpected victories did not disconcert Moltke, who carried out his intended advance to Pont-Mousson, crossed the Moselle with the first and second armies, then faced north and wheeled round, so that the effect of the battle of Gravelotte was to drive Bazaine into the fortress of Metz and cut him off from Paris.

Nothing shows Moltke's insight and strength of purpose in a clearer light than his determination to attack on the 18th of August, at the Battle of Gravelotte
Battle of Gravelotte
The Battle of Gravelotte was a battle of the Franco-Prussian War named after Gravelotte, a village in Lorraine between Metz and the former French–German frontier.-Terrain and armies:...

, when other strategists would have thought that, the strategic victory having been gained, a tactical victory was unnecessary. He has been blamed for the last attack of Gravelotte, in which there was a fruitless heavy loss; but it is now known that this attack was ordered by the king, and Moltke blamed himself for not having used his influence to prevent it.

During the night following the battle Moltke left one army to invest Bazaine
François Achille Bazaine
François Achille Bazaine was a French General and from 1864, a Marshal of France, who surrendered the last organized French army to the Prussians during the Franco-Prussian war. He was the first Marshal who had started as a legionnaire and like the great Marshals of the First Empire, he had risen...

 at Metz, and set out with the two others to march towards Paris, the more southerly one leading, so that when MacMahon's army should be found the main blow might be delivered from the south and MacMahon driven to the north. On August 25 it was found that MacMahon was moving north-east for the relief of Bazaine. The moment Moltke was satisfied of the accuracy of his information, he ordered the German columns to turn their faces north instead of west. MacMahon's right wing was attacked at Beaumont
Beaumont, Meurthe-et-Moselle
Beaumont is a commune in the Meurthe-et-Moselle department in north-eastern France.- See also :* Communes of the Meurthe-et-Moselle department*Parc naturel régional de Lorraine...

  while attempting to cross the Meuse
Meuse River
The Maas or Meuse is a major European river, rising in France and flowing through Belgium and the Netherlands before draining into the North Sea...

, his advance necessarily abandoned, and his army with difficulty collected at Sedan.

At the Battle of Sedan
Battle of Sedan
The Battle of Sedan was fought during the Franco-Prussian War on 1 September 1870. It resulted in the capture of Emperor Napoleon III and large numbers of his troops and for all intents and purposes decided the war in favour of Prussia and its allies, though fighting continued under a new French...

, the two German armies surrounded the French army, which on September 1 was attacked and compelled to surrender. Moltke then resumed the advance on Paris, which was also surrounded.

From this time Moltke's strategy is remarkable for its judicious economy of force, for he was wise enough never to attempt more than was practicable with the means at his disposal. The surrender of Metz and of Paris was just a question of time, and the problem was, while maintaining the sieges, to be able to ward off the attacks of the new French armies levied for the purpose of raising the Siege of Paris
Siege of Paris
The Siege of Paris, lasting from September 19, 1870 – January 28, 1871, and the consequent capture of the city by Prussian forces led to French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War and the establishment of the German Empire as well as the Paris Commune....

. The Siege of Metz
Siege of Metz
The Siege of Metz lasting from 19 August – 27 October 1870 was fought during the Franco-Prussian War and ended in a decisive Prussian victory.-History:...

 ended with its surrender on October 27.

On January 28, 1871, an armistice was concluded at Paris by which the garrison became virtually prisoners and the war was ended.

Final years

In October 1870, Moltke was made a Graf
Graf
Graf is a historical German noble title equal in rank to a count or a British earl...

 (Count) as a reward for his services. In June 1871, he was further rewarded by a promotion to the rank of field marshal
Field Marshal
Field Marshal is a military rank. Traditionally, it is the highest military rank in an army.-Etymology:The origin of the rank of field marshal dates to the early Middle Ages, originally meaning the keeper of the king's horses , from the time of the early Frankish kings.-Usage and hierarchical...

 and a large monetary grant. He served in the Diet
Diet (assembly)
In politics, a diet is a formal deliberative assembly. The term is mainly used historically for the Imperial Diet, the general assembly of the Imperial Estates of the Holy Roman Empire, and for the legislative bodies of certain countries.-Etymology:...

 of the North German Confederation
North German Confederation
The North German Confederation 1866–71, was a federation of 22 independent states of northern Germany. It was formed by a constitution accepted by the member states in 1867 and controlled military and foreign policy. It included the new Reichstag, a parliament elected by universal manhood...

 from 1867–71, and from 1871-91 he was a member of the Reichstag
Reichstag (German Empire)
The Reichstag was the parliament of the North German Confederation , and of the German Reich ....

, the German parliament
Parliament
A parliament is a legislature, especially in those countries whose system of government is based on the Westminster system modeled after that of the United Kingdom. The name is derived from the French , the action of parler : a parlement is a discussion. The term came to mean a meeting at which...

 of the time. For the "Verdienste um das zur Einheit wiedergeborene Deutsche Vaterland" (merit of the unification of the reborn German fatherland), he was named an honorary citizen of Hamburg.

After the Franco-Prussian War, Moltke superintended the preparation of its history, which was published between 1874 and 1881 by the great general staff.

In 1888 Moltke retired as Chief of the General Staff and was succeeded by Graf von Waldersee
Alfred Graf von Waldersee
Alfred Ludwig Heinrich Karl Graf von Waldersee was a German Generalfeldmarschall who served as Chief of the Imperial German General Staff from 1888 to 1891 and as Allied Supreme Commander in China in 1900-1901.-Family:Alfred von Waldersee was the fifth of six children of the Prussian cavalry...

. His nephew, Helmuth Johann Ludwig von Moltke, was Chief from 1906-14.

Moltke officially retired from active service on August 9, 1888 and died in Berlin on April 24, 1891.

Further reading

  • Letters of Field-Marshal Count Helmuth von Moltke to his mother and his brothers: Translated by Clara Bell and Henry W. Fischer (1891)
  • Letters of Field-Marshal Count Helmuth von Moltke to his mother and his brothers (1892)
  • Essays, speeches, and memoirs of Field Marshal Count Helmuth von Moltke (1893)
  • Bucholz, Arden. Moltke and the German Wars, 1864-1871, Palgrave Macmillan, 2001. ISBN 0-333-68757-4
  • Friedrich, Otto. Blood and Iron: From Bismarck to Hitler the Von Moltke Family's Impact on German History, 1st ed. New York: HarperCollins, 1995. ISBN 0-06-092767-4
  • Macksey, Kenneth. From Triumph to Disaster: The Fatal Flaws of German Generalship from Moltke to Guderian. Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania: Stackpole Books, 1996. ISBN 1853672440
  • Wilkinson, Spenser (ed.). Moltke's Military Correspondence, 1870-71, Ashgate Publishing, 1991. ISBN 0-7512-0040-9
  • Martin van Creveld
    Martin van Creveld
    Martin Levi van Creveld is an Israeli military historian and theorist.Van Creveld was born in the Netherlands in the city of Rotterdam, and has lived in Israel since shortly after his birth. He holds degrees from the London School of Economics and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he has...

    . The Art of War: War and Military Thought, Cassell&Co, London, 2000. ISBN 0-304-35264-0 (p. 109)
  • Martin van Creveld
    Martin van Creveld
    Martin Levi van Creveld is an Israeli military historian and theorist.Van Creveld was born in the Netherlands in the city of Rotterdam, and has lived in Israel since shortly after his birth. He holds degrees from the London School of Economics and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he has...

    . Supplying War: Logistics from Wallenstein to Patton, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1977. ISBN 0-521-29793-1
  • Rothenburg, Gunther E. "Moltke, Schlieffen and the Doctrine of Strategic Envelopment," in Peter Paret, ed., Makers of Modern Strategy from Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age. Princeton University Press, 1986.
  • Holborn, Hajo. "The Prusso-German School: M6/23/2004oltke and the Rise of the General Staff," in Peter Paret, ed., Makers of Modern Strategy from Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age. Princeton University Press, 1986.
  • Delbrück, Hans. "Moltke," in Delbrück's Modern Military History. University of Nebraska Press, 1997.
  • Bucholz, Arden. Moltke and the German Wars, 1864-1871. St. Martin's Press, 2000.
  • Bucholz, Arden. Moltke, Schlieffen and Prussian War Planning. Berg Publishers, 1991.
  • Hughes, Daniel. Moltke on the Art of War. Novato, California: Presidio, 1993.
  • Kessel, Eberhard. Moltke. Stuttgart: K.F. Koehler, 1957.
  • Kessel, Eberhard. Moltkes erster Feldzug. Berlin: E.S. Mittler, 1939.
  • Kessel, Eberhard. Helmuth von Moltke Briefe. 2d. ed. Deutsche Verlags Anstalt, 1960.
  • Kessel, Eberhard. Moltke Gespraeche. Hanseatic Verlasanstalt, 1940.
  • Dressler, Friedrich. Moltke in His Home. John Murray, 1907.
  • Craig, Gordon. The Battle of Koeniggraetz. Lippincott, 1964.
  • Howard, Michael. The Franco-Prussan War. Collier Books, 1969.
  • Wawro, Geoffrey. The Austro-Prussian War. Cambridge University Press, 1996.
  • Peschke, Rudolf. Moltkes Stellung zur Politik bis zum Jahr 1857. Max Schmeresow, 1912.
  • Foerster, Rolland G. Generalfeldmarschall von Moltke: Bedeutuing und Wirkung. R. Oldenbourg, 1991.
  • Grosser Generalstab, ed. Moltkes Gesammelte Schriften und Denkwürdigkeiten. 8 vols. E.S. Mittler, 1892.
  • Grosser Generalstab, ed. Moltkes Militaerische Werke. 13 vols. E.S. Mittler, 1892-1912.
  • Herre, Franz. Moltke: Der Mann und sein Jahrhundert. 2d ed. Deutsche Verlags Anstalt, 1984.
  • Horst, Max. Moltke, Leben und Werk in Selbstzeugnissen. Leipzig: Dieterich'schen Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1930.
  • Jaehns, Max. Feldmarschall Moltke. 2 vols. Ernst Hoffmann, 1900.
  • Coumbe, Arthur T. "Operational Control in the Franco-Prussian War," Parameters, Vol. 21, No. 2 (Summer 1991), pp. 295–307.

External links

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