Mr. Judd to Mr. Seward.
Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your confidential circular, dated January 13, 1864.
Since my last despatch the progress of affairs in Schleswig has been rapid and significant. The allied army crossed the boundary on the 1st instant, the Prussians having the right and the Austrians the left of the advance. The Danes retired, skirmishing, before this advance to their fortifications called the “Dannewerke.” An attack upon a portion of the fortifications at Missunde, by the Prussians, was repulsed. The Austrian advance was met with stubborn but unsuccessful resistance until it had reached that portion of the “Dannewerke” which covered the city of Schleswig, the capital of the duchy. Preparations for crossing the Schlei, at a considerable distance from the point first attacked by the Prussians, and thus turning the left of the Danish army and interposing thereby a part of the Prussian corps between that army and its base of supplies, line of retreat, and connexion with Denmark, caused the abandonment of these fortifications and a retreat to Fleusburg. The Danes had not troops enough to defend them, as well as the line of the Schlei, against the immense force of Prussians and Austrians. Several engagements occurred during this retreat between the Austrian advance guard and the Danish rear guard. From Fleusburg the Danish army retired to the fortifications on the island of Alsen, still within the limits of Schleswig, while a portion of the troops went forward to strengthen the garrison of the fortress at Fredericia. The Danes fought bravely, and nothing but the overwhelming force of the Prussians and Austrians caused the retreat. The course of the war thus far has been a repetition of that of 1848. The attack, the line of retreat, and, in some instances, the battle-fields, are almost identical, and the two armies are now resting, the campaign apparently ended for the present.
The political complications growing out of the action of Prussia and Austria bid fair to become very serious in Germany. The German element in the duchy has proclaimed the Prince of Augustenburg, at Schleswig, the capital, and other places, as the legal ruler. That has been met by a proclamation by the commander-in-chief of the allied forces, Field Marshal Wrangel, prohibiting any further demonstrations, the appointment of civil commissioners, and the organization of a civil administration for the duchy, retaining most of the present Danish officials in power.
The intimations, official and otherwise, put forth by Prussia and Austria, look to the re-establishment of the authority of Denmark over the duchies after a redress of the grievances of the German population thereof. So thoroughly is that belief fixed in the German public mind that the excitement caused by the hope of a German rule in the duchies, and which in the beginning was so universal, has cooled down, or rather taken the direction of hatred towards Prussia and Austria.
Bavaria has called a congress of ministers from the minor German states to consult as to the best means of resisting the claims and pretensions of Austria and Prussia to act in German affairs in character as European powers, and without the consent and against the wishes of the Diet. The present feeble union of Germany is seriously threatened by these complications, and if the allied powers carry out the intentions imputed to them of excluding from Holstein the army of execution, sent there under federal resolve, and the rival administration authorized by the Diet, there will be an end of the existence of the Bund, and it is difficult to see how a collision among the German powers could then be avoided. The evident design of Prussia and Austria is so to conduct the Schleswig [Page 203] affair as to make its final settlement a European question, and by that means to divide with others the odium which would arise again in Germany against the authors of a second surrender of a German land to the rule of a foreign nationality.
The explanation of the policy of the Prussian minister for foreign affairs, Von Bismarck Schoenhausen, as he is in reality the chief and leading spirit in the entire movement, is found in the general discontent of Prussia at the destruction of its constitutional rights, the wide-spread liberalism and tendencies to unity throughout all the states of Germany—all of which found a common rallying point or centre for political influence and action in the sympathy for the German people in the duchies—and in the attempt to establish another constitutional state, the location of which would weaken the dynastic policy now in vogue in Prussia; the army mobilized so as to be ready for contingencies, the influence of the smaller states weakened, and the authority of the Diet substantially overthrown. It was believed that the constitutionalism, or democracy, as they call it, would be overawed, and “divine right” again constitute the assumed basis of government.
England will not fight. France sits quiet, seeing its “congress-of-nations” policy forced upon Europe in spite of England’s refusal.
I am, sir, your obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.