Evacuation of Danevirke

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The famous painting Tilbagetoget fra Dannevirke 1864 by Niels Simonsen, showing the Danish withdrawal from the Dannevirke fortifications.

During the Second War of Schleswig, the fortifications of Danevirke were evacuated by the Danish army in 1864. This marked the last military use of the ancient defence structure of Danevirke, which has remained in German possession ever since.


Due to emotive nationalist symbolism, public opinion in Denmark had expected the coming battle to take place at the Danevirke. The fortifications were already under attack, but no battle took place there, except some early skirmishing in close proximity just south of it, as the Danish Commander in Chief, General de Meza, withdrew his forces to the trenches at Dybbøl. General De Meza feared being outflanked, as the Schlei and the wetlands between the Danevirke and Husum had frozen solid in a hard winter, and because the territory immediately in front of the Danevirke had already fallen into German hands.


This retreat came as a surprise to the Austro-Prussian army, and almost all of the Danish army succeeded in completing the evacuation. It resulted, however, in the abandonment of important pieces of heavy artillery, and it remains a matter of historical debate why the railway to Flensburg was never properly used for the evacuation.


News of the retreat came as a great shock to Danish public opinion which had considered the Danevirke to be impregnable, and General de Meza was promptly relieved of his command.


  • Lotte Flugt Kold (3 November 2014). "Dannevirke". danmarkshistorien.dk (in Danish). Aarhus University. Retrieved 20 December 2014.
  • Henrik Dannemand Jensen (4 February 2014). "Da 40.000 danske soldater opgav Dannevirke og forsvandt i ly af natten [When 40,000 Danish soldiers gave up Danevirke and disappeared under cover of darkness]". Berlingske (Kultur) (in Danish). Retrieved 20 December 2014.
  • Bjørn Østergaard (4 February 2014). "Danskerne opgiver Dannevirke [The Danes give up Danevirke]". 1864.dk (in Danish). Historiecenter Dybbøl Banke. Retrieved 20 December 2014.