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Prince Kraft zu Hohenlohe-Ingelfingen: Observations on the State of the Austrian Army (1854)

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Unfortunately, I never got to know the famous Schönhals. He had fallen into disfavor and secluded himself in Gratz, where he died shortly afterward.

All that remained for me was the famous lion, Lieutenant Field Marshall Baron Reischach, who is supposed to have performed so many miracles in the war. When I saw him later and found nothing more than an alcoholic who drank pure cognac from cups filled to the brim and even called for me to join him in getting drunk as I listened to the stories about everything he had done, then even this illusion faded away. At least he was brave; even his enemies conceded this.

I also had a different picture of the Austrian army in its entirety before I saw it with my own eyes. In 1848 and 1849 Austria waged many wars, and it emerged from them victorious, even if with the assistance of Russia. The history that was written about these wars offered only the views of the victor, and the Austrian general staff understood how to portray every battle as a great victory. The Austrian army had the glimmer of the foremost in the world. But it had to be recast in 1849. Entire regiments, especially the Hungarian ones, had disappeared, and this led to lots of promotions. Along with the army's reputation, this drew in many foreigners, who were also readily accepted, for lots of officers were needed. Now, it is not always the best elements who seek military service abroad. With the exception of a few dreamers, these foreigners were often quite dubious characters. Anybody in Germany who was compromised by debts or other pranks was accepted into the Austrian army. I also found a lot of Englishmen there. So it came to pass that many regiment members in their officer corps had not the slightest trace of pure, unvarnished Austrian character, but were instead more cosmopolitan, adventurous. There was a corresponding tone within the officer corps, camaraderie was restricted to everybody calling everyone else "Du,"* but otherwise there was no cohesion, there was no common table, and after service everyone went his own way.

[ . . . ]

I found the infantry to be at a very low level of training. Even during maneuvers, it never got beyond poorly executed school exercises. There was no utilization of the terrain. No value was placed on the conduct of the marksmen. Things were way behind when it came to weapons. A rifled weapon introduced for the entire infantry was still being tried out in the arsenal (Lorenz system).



* The familiar form of "you," which is reserved, among equals, for close relatives, intimate friends or comrades – trans.

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