The Dannevirke Stronghold

All the positions at Dannevirke

This fortification had for centuries been the protection of Denmark to the south. The position was most recently expanded in 1862, where in the middle of the 7 km rampage and in front of it,  27 redoubts with a total of 181 guns were constructed.

Tge Stronghold It consisted of several different sections of ramparts. The main rampart and Kovirke with a thirs rampart connecting them. . By a number of ramparts and redoubts in front of the Dannevirke ramart, there was neccesary debth in the defence was provided.
The largest constructions in front af Dannevirke were the Bustrup frontconstructions  and the Dannevirke frontconstructions.

During the same period, the engineer troops erected the redoubts  at Dybbøl and renovated the frotress around Fredericia.

The position leaned on by some marsh areas on the right wing to the west. In addition, dams were built in the valleys at at the two narrow water Trenen and Rejde Å, so that the valley could be completely flooded. The left wing of the position facing east, was flanked by the fjord Slien.

The Dannevirke barracks

The barracks was not finished

Dannevirke was probably equipped with artillery and ramparts and positionsa , but for the soldiers it was unsustainable. There were not enough barracks for everyone, in fact there was only barracks for every 17 men. The other barracks  were either only half-listed, while others still were in large stacks behind the stronghold.

There was an almost mythical exaggerated confidence in the Danish military capability and Dannevirke among both the population and the politicians,
There was a substantial overestimation of both the Dannevirke stronghold and the actual ability of the army.
One of the strongholds strengths was also that weakness. The wetlands and water that closed both the right and the left flank, were a formidable obstacles as long as the water flowed.
But in the extreme cold winter of 1864, the flooded areas on the flanks of Dannevirke position froze over, allowing an enemy to cross them at bypass the stronghold. 
This situation had been foreseen to a certain limit, ad some ramparts and small redoubts had been builded,   however, these were not sufficient.

The German Confederate Army expected to face a Danish army of 43,000 men and possibly 25,000 Swedish volunteers.
The Federal Army consisted of 6,000 Saxons, 6,000 Hanoverians, 35,000 Prussians and 35,000 Austrians.

The planned attack at the Dannevirke

The 57,000 Austrian and Prussian troops crossed the River Ejder on February 1st.  1864, after which the first outpost fighting occurred, including the fighting at Eckernförde.
It soon became clear, that the situation was unsustainable for the Danish Army. They had 4 wounded, 7 prisoners and 3 missing after this first small battles. clash.
The attacking Austrians and Prussians suffered no loss.
Then followed the fighting at Mysunde on February 2nd and Selk on February 3rd.

Initially, the Danes rejected the Prussian attack on Mysunde, with fairly large losses for both parties. The Austrians also took Kongshøj at Selk, causing major losses on both sides.
Despite the relatively successful start to the campaign, the losses led to thoughtfulness at the German headquarters.

In a war council between Field Marshal Wrangel and his corps commanders immediately after the first battles, the following days of war were discussed.

It had been the plan to launch a frontal attack on Dannevirke the day after the Kongshöj had been occupied, but now it was doubted if a sufficient artillery attack would be ready the following day.
Instead, it is left to Prince Friedrich Carl’s 1st Prussian Corps to re-examine the possibilities of a amphibius operation at Slien so that a frontal attack against Dannevirke could be combined with a flank attack.

Dannevirke redoubt XII

The Danes needed almost 20,000 men to just to be able to man the Dannevirke stronghold effectively.
As the fjord Slien and the flooded marshlands to the west froze in this extremely cold winter with down to 20 minus degrees celsius, the enemy would be able to go behind the post and attack the Danish army in the back.
It was attempted to keep the wetlands open by “icing”, i.e. to chop and cut the ice. Furthermore, a steamer was hired to sail back and forth on the Slien and keep an ice-free channel. The Navy did not think it could solve this task.
As the cold became more severe, it became impossible to keep the wetlands ice-free, which General de Meza realized.
In the evening On February 4th, a 5-hour general staff meeting was held. All the senior officers except one (Lüttichau from the artillery) signed the decision to leave Dannevirke immediately the next evening and night.
This was in direct conflict with the orders from Copenhagen and the Minister of War was not informed before the order was executed.

The retreat from the Dannevirke

On the morning of February 5th, the order came to evacuate escape Dannevirke and the night between February 5 and 6, the Danes retreated in a successful, yet uncoordinated retreat.
On foot, through a severe blizzard and on frosty roads, they succeeded in moving towards the fortified position at Dybbøl as well as the fortress Fredericia without the enemy noticing the escape.
The army left virtually all the cannons in the stronghold. 

The artillery command had otherwise ordered, to the extent that it could be done unnoticed, to load the artillery on railroad cars towards Flensburg.  Already on the morning of February 4th, there were 7 locomotives and 84 wagons ready behind Dannevirke for the retreat, but due to misunderstanding they were already departing at 8 pm and drove empty to Flensburg.
If the railroad had been used, perhaps all the 24 pounds and most of the 6 pounds guns would have been saved.

The retreat flushed the German plans to annihilate the Danish army by surrounding it with a flank attack over the fjord Slien, a movement that the Prussians were just carrying out on the night the Danish Army  escaped.
This was a great regret to both Emperor Wilhelm, Bismarck and the Prussian army command, who had anticipated the outcome of a decisive battle around Dannevirke.

General de Meza

In the Danish public, Dannevirke had been regarded as an almost impenetrable fortress, and the escape hit the population as a shock and was seen by many as a betrayal by General de Mezas, prime minister Monrad and the King.
There were a lot of riots in Copenhagen, and Monrad sacrificed general de Meza as a scapegoat. 
General de Meza threatened to publish all his correspondence with prime minister Monrad. This, however, never happened and General de Meza was forced to resign.

Posterity has completely acquitted de Meza. It was the only sensible act he could take the circumstances taken i consideration.
De Meza never recovered from his dismissal and he died, bitterly, ill and degraded, the year after.
War Minister Lundbye’s telegram to de Meza as the escape is  known.

The Telegram to general de Meza

Received the night between 5th and 6th February in Flensburg.
Telegram No. 337
February 5, 1864 afternoon
Lieutenant General de Meza, Flensburg.
I do not acknowledge that the commander-in-chief of the army has stayed
the instruction proper and thus reserve me examination in that regard.
It is still my opinion that Dannevirke should have been defended.

                                                                                                            C.C. Lundbye (war minister)