The Campaign Medal for Denmark 1864

Since the London accords of 1852 the duchies of Schleswig, Holstein and Lauenburg were attached by personal union to Denmark. Following the new constitution of 1863 Denmark integrated these areas into the state which caused a protest from the Deutsche Bund. After a resolution of the German Bundestag the German states send "Execution" troops into the duchies which belonged to the German Federation (Holstein and Lauenburg) under the command of Generalleutnant Heinrich von Hake formed by a Saxon brigade under Generalmajor von Schimpff as the operational-force, a Hanoverian brigade under Generalleutnant Gebser as a supporting force and a Prussian and an Austrian brigade in reserve. The Austrians took part in this Bundesexekutionscorps by sending a brigade under the command of Generalmajor Leopold Graf Gondrecourt. But in addition to this, the two German major powers, Prussia and Austria, decided to declare war on Denmark and sent an army consisting of three corps under the command of the Prussian Feldmarschall Friedrich Graf Wrangel, whose Chief of the General staff was Generalleutnant Eduard Vogel von Falkenstein. The 1st corps was commanded by the Prussian Prince Friedrich Karl, the 2nd corps by Feldmarschall-Leutnant Ludwig Freiherr von Gablenz and the 3rd corps by Generalleutnant von der Mülbe. The 2nd (Austrian) corps was formed by the 6th army corps, enlarged by a cavalry brigade and 2 heavy batteries.  Additionally Graf Gondrecourt's brigade also joined the 2nd corps after leaving the surprised federal troops. On the 1st of February 1864 58,000 Prussian and 21.000 Austrian soldiers crossed the Eider and commenced operations against the Danish land forces. On the 2nd and 6th of February the Austrians were victorious at Vejle and Oeversee whilst the Prussians were successful at the Düppeler Schanzen near Sondersburg on the 18th of April 1864. On the 9th of May a naval squadron commanded by Contre-Admiral Wilhelm von Tegetthoff successfully engaged superior Danish forces near the island of Helgoland. The Danish forces retreated to Northern Jütland and the islands of Alsen and Fünen and an armistice for 6 weeks was agreed for a new peace treaty of London. After the failure of these negotiations the hostilities again resumed on the 25th of June 1864 and the Austrian forces reached the Northern part of Jütland and finally Cape Skagen. The Danish Captain Hammer, who had caused the most trouble for the Austro-Prussian naval forces was captured between the islands of Föhr and Sylt and a new armistice was implemented on the 20th of July 1864 which finally lead to the peace agreement of Vienna on the 30th of October 1864. Denmark was forced to hand over the contested duchies to Prussia and Austria. However disagreement over the administration of these duchies soon became one of the primary reasons, especially promoted by the Prussian prime minister Otto von Bismarck, for the coming conflict between the two German major powers in the war of 1866.

However prior to this a "united victory" was to be celebrated. Franz Joseph I, Kaiser of Austria, and Wilhelm I, King of Prussia, agreed to institute a commemorative medal for their successful army. The great number of captured guns, especially from the fortress of Frederica, made it possible to decide that the medals should be minted from the brass of the enemy's guns. Kaiser Franz Joseph signed the institution of the medal on the 10th of November 1864 and the regulations (Statuten) dated the 11th of November and both were published in the Armeeverordnungsblatt on the 20th of November 1864. The official name was: "Erinnerungs-Medaille an den Feldzug 1864 gegen Dänemark" (commemorative medal for the 1864 campaign against Denmark)

The round, 29mm in diameter, medal showed on the obverse the crowned initials of both rulers, the Austrian medal "FJ" on the viewers left while the German medals had the "W" on the left. On the reverse the inscription in four lines :"UNSERN TAPFEREN KRIEGERN 1864" (our heroic fighters 1864) was encircled by two laurel twigs which were bound on the bottom by a bow ribbon. Along the rim of the medal the words: "AUS EROBERTEM GESCHUETZ" (from captured guns) were embossed. The ribbon displayed the colors of both rulers - basic black with a white and a yellow stripe on the margins - while the Austrians used to wear this medal on a 40mm wide triangular ribbon with a yellow stripe on the viewers left while Germans used a smaller (normally 34mm but also 36mm or 38mm could be found) wide straight ribbon with the white strip to the left. For some later awards and also for replacement purposes some medals were produced in "common" light bronze without the inscription along the rim which were a little (about 3g) lighter and had a smaller loop to fix the ring for the ribbon on the top. (Of course contemporary veterans were not too concerned regarding these details concerning the ribbon and the replacement medals!)

Following the Prussian tradition a medal made of steel was also instituted for non combatants, this was not executed in Austria. The medals were given to the units which distributed them to the men, no official boxes were issued and there were also no official award documents. That a particular soldier had received this medal was only noted in his personal record and later written on his discharge papers. When the common war medal was instituted in 1873 those men who had won the Denmark medal had of course also automatically qualified for that war medal too.

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