The Halt in the Mud: French Strategic Planning from Waterloo to Sedan

By Gary P. Cox | Go to book overview

5
The French Reaction to the Founding of the German Federal Army

Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo delayed the organizational development of the German Confederation. With the Eagle safely caged, the pressures that had fostered compromise among the still sovereign governments almost immediately disappeared. 1 This greatly dissatisfied the Confederation's principal architect, Prince Clemens Wenzeslaus von Metternich-Winneburg- Ochsenhausen, foreign minister of Austria. As we have seen, the cornerstone of Metternich's German policy was the Bund, a central European defense community that could incorporate the old Rheinbund area into Germany proper, removing it from both traditional French designs and the increasing attentions of Russia. 2 Yet as the Austrian well knew, the delicate negotiations at the Congress of Vienna that had at last permitted him to establish the Confederation would remain little more than bombast until the German states could field a substantial military force. 3

A united federal defense establishment proved difficult to negotiate. In addition to the divergent interests of the smaller German states, Germany's two great military powers found themselves at odds over military structure. The roots of this dispute dated back to the end of the Napoleonic Wars, with Prussia's proposals for a Kreis system. Essentially each Kreis, or circle, would loosely group neighboring German states under the military command of a sovereign designated a Kreis chief. Various plans had organized Germany under five, sometimes seven, circles, with a council of Kreise chiefs serving as the executive for this new structure. 4

More than simple military organization was involved, of course. These plans effectively divided Germany into spheres of influence, with north Germany being inextricably locked into the Prussian sphere. Such proposals were opposed by Metternich, not only because they smacked of Prussian aggrandizement, but because he believed any plan that could be perceived as a threat to the sovereignty of the German princes would remain essentially unaccept-

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