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AUSTRIAN

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V02, Page 617 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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AUSTRIAN ARMY 78. The Landsknecht infantry constituted the mainstay of the imperial armies in the 16th century. Maximilian I. and Charles V. are recorded to have marched and carried the " long pike " in their ranks. Maximilian also formed a corps of Kyrisser, who were the origin of the modern cuirassiers. It was not, however, until much later that the Austrian army came into existence as a permanent force. Rudolph II. formed a small standing force about 1600, but relied upon the " enlistment " system, like other sovereigns of the time, for the bulk of his armies. The Thirty Years' War produced the permanence of service which led in all the states of Europe to the rise of standing armies. In the Empire it was Wallenstein who first raised a distinctly imperial army of soldiers owing no duty but to the sovereign; and it was the suspicion that he intended to use this army, which was raised largely at his own expense, to further his own ends, that led to his assassination. From that time the regiments belonged no longer to their colonels, but to the emperor; and the oldest regiments in the present Austrian army date from the Thirty Years' War, at the close of which Austria had 19 infantry, 6 cuirassier and 1 dragoon regiments. The almost continuous wars of Austria against France and the Turks (from 1495 to 1593 Austrian troops took part in 7000 actions of all sorts) led to a continuous increase in her establishments. The wars of the time of Montecucculi and of Eugene were followed by that of the Polish Succession, the two Turkish wars, and the three great struggles against Frederick the Great. Thus in 1763 the army had been almost continuously on active service for more than too years, in the course of which its organization had been modified in accordance with the lessons of each war. This, in conjunction with the fact that Austria took part in other Turkish campaigns subsequently, rendered this army the most formidable opponent of the forces of the French Revolution (1792). But the superior leading. organization and numbers of the emperor's forces were totally inadequate to the magnitude of the task of suppressing the Revolutionary forces, and though such victories as Neerwinden were sufficient proof of the efficiency and valour of the Austrians, they made no headway. In later campaigns, in which the enemy had acquired war experience, and the best of their officers had come to the front, the tide turned against the Imperialists even on the field of battle. The archduke Charles's victories of 1796 were more than counterbalanced by Bonaparte's Italian campaign, and the temporary success of 1i99 ended at Marengo and Hohenlinden. 79. The Austrians, during the short peace which preceded the war of 1805, suffered, in consequence of all this, from a feeling of distrust, not merely in their leaders, but also in the whole system upon which the army was raised, organized and trained. This was substantially the same as that of the Seven Years' War time. Enlistment being voluntary and for long service, the numbers necessary to cope with the output of the French conscription could not be raised, and the inner history of the Austrian headquarters in the Ulm campaign shows that the dissensions and mutual distrust of the general officers had gone far towards the disintegration of an army which at that time had the most esprit de corps and the highest military qualities of any army in Europe. But the disasters of 1805 swept away good and bad alike in the abolition of the old system. Already the archduke Charles had designed a " nation in arms " after the French model, and on this basis the reconstructionwas begun. The conscription was put in force and the necessary numbers thus obtained; the administration was at the same time reformed and the organization and supply services brought into line with modern requirements. The war of 1809 surprised Austria in the midst of her reorganization, yet the new army fought with the greatest spirit. The invasion of Bavaria was by no means so leisurely as it had been in 1805, and the archduke Charles obtained one signal victory over Napoleon in person. Aspern and Wagram were most desperately contested, and though the archduke ceased to take part in the administration after 1809 the work went on steadily until, in 1813, the Austrian armies worthily represented the combination of discipline with the " nation in arms " principle. Their intervention in the War of Liberation was decisive, and Austria, in spite of her territorial losses of the past years, put into the field well-drilled armies far exceeding in numbers those which had appeared in the wars of the Revolution. After the fall of Napoleon, Austria's hold on Italy necessitated the maintenance of a large army of occupation. This army, and in particular its cavalry, was admittedly the best in Europe, and, having to be ready to march at a few days' notice, it was saved from the deadening influence of undisturbed peace which affected every other service in Europe from 1815 to 1850. 80. The Austrian system has conserved much of the peculiar tone of the army of 1848, of which English readers may obtain a good idea from George Meredith's Vittoria. It was, however, a natural result of this that the army lost to some considerable extent the spirit of the " nation in arms " of 1809 and 1813. It was employed in dynastic wars, and the conscription was of course modified by substitution; thus, when the war of 1859 resulted unfavourably to the Austrians, the army began to lose confidence, precisely as had been the case in 1805. Once more, in 1866, an army animated by the purely professional spirit, which was itself weakened by distrust, met a " nation in arms," and in this case a nation well trained in peace and armed with a breechloader. Bad staff work, and tactics which can only be described as those of pique, precipitated the disaster, and in seven weeks the victorious Prussians were almost at the gates of Vienna. The result of the war, and of the constitutional changes about this time, was the re-adoption of the principles of 1806-1813, the abolition of conscription and long service in favour of universal service for a short term, and a thorough reform in the methods of command and staff work. It has been said of the Prussian army that " discipline is—the officers." This is more true of the " K.K." army' than of any other in Europe; the great bond of union between the heterogeneous levies of recruits of many races is the spirit of the corps of officers, which retains the personal and professional characteristics of the old army of Italy.
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