First Schleswig War transport

Sep 2007
N. Va.
The Europeans became the first to use their railways in warfare when Prussian troops were transported by rail to Denmark’s Schleswig-Holstein provinces, during the First Schleswig War (1848-’50) between Prussia and Denmark, after Danish ships effectively blockaded north German coastal ports. Danish paddle steamers playing a decisive role, not just as warships, but also ferrying soldiers between different battle sites.

Does anyone have any other information on the railways used during this particular battle by the Prussians. I realize they used them to great effect for several later campaigns, but just trying to find more re: this one.
Jul 2007
Could it be that at that point in time, two of the major naval powers in the Baltic were Denmark and Sweden. And thus rather than risk a naval confrontation (and possible loss of forces), it was much easier to move massive amount of troops overland in a single move - whilst still retaining their "freshness" (ie: no long marches, etc).

Sorry, not a period in history I am at all familiar with.


Forum Staff
Jan 2007
Sorry, I don't have any information about that. I know that during that war, Prussian troops also were dispatched to Saxony, the Palatinate, Baden, and of course, to Berlin itself to quell insurrections. Major von Moltke was Adjutant-General of the Prussian Army during this period. I think this must have been when he refined his ideas about the use of railroads (and of course, the telegraph) to mobilize and deploy bodies of troops.

Dave, since you're a Marine, you might enjoy Old Gimlet Eye: The Adventures of Smedley D. Butler "as told to" Lowell Thomas. He tells of the time he was in Nicaragua and a young Lieutenant A.A. Vandegrift captured a train and brought it back to camp sitting on the cow-catcher.
Sep 2007
N. Va.
Thanks, guys. Re: Old Gimlet Eye, I like that book. He was a mavarick, a man ahead of his time, if you get my drift.
Jan 2008
Sorry for reviving this old thread.

At the outbreak of the war in 1848 only small parts of the Danish railroad network had been finnished. A line from Altona to Kiel (opened 1844) and one from Copenhagen to Roskilde (opened 1847). I don't know if the Schleswig-Holstein forces used the Altona-Kiel line, but at least some Danish troops traveled from Copenhagen to Roskilde by train.

I remember reading a memoir from one Danish soldier who writes that some of his fellow soldiers (most of them peassants) had never been on a train before, and feared the big metal beast.

In the Second Schleswig War (1864) the railroad network had been expanded, and was used to a great extent. As I'm not an expert on the subject I can't go into details but I know that the two former Danish officers Helge Kroon and Knud Rasmussen have written a chapter about the use of railroads in their book "Paradokset: 4. Division: Generalløjtnant Cai Ditlev Hegermann-Lindencrone i Nørrejylland under Den dansk-tyske krig 1864" (The Paradox: 4th Division: Lieutenant-General Cai Ditlev Hegermann-Lindencrone in Northen Jutland during the Danish-German war 1864)