The wars that changed the political powers of European modern history were the Austro-Prussian War (1866) and the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871). As Prussia gained power and pursued unification, France, Austria, and Russia tried to thwart its ambitions. However, Prussia defeated the allied forces of Russia and Austria as well as France. Prussia emerged as the new power and achieved unification of Germany, becoming stronger than ever.
At the same time, Germany succeeded in taking vengeance on France, which had occupied Germany during Napoleon’s rule. Ironically, Germany’s revenge took place when Louis Napoleon, cousin of Napoleon Bonaparte, ruled France. Germany continued to gain power and eventually started both World Wars. Germany’s economic powers are still strong today despite being defeated in both wars.
The Dreyse needle gun was a major contributor to achieving Germany’s peace. Before the Dreyse needle gun, bullets had to be inserted from the muzzle of the gun, which are known as full-length rifles. Its shooting speed was much slower, and soldiers had to stand up to load the guns and fire. Soldiers could afford to crouch down, but that was as far as it could go. After rifles were invented, they dramatically boosted power and accuracy rates, allowing soldiers to shoot as they moved forward, which created a line battle format that resulted in massive deaths. Breach-loading rifles, in which breechblocks were pulled to insert bullets, dramatically boosted firing speed and enabled soldiers to lie flat for shooting. Most of the battling still took place with soldiers standing, but significantly altered the ways of battling.
Some say that role of breach-loading rifles was overrated. Varying difference in weapon performance in wars between strong nations usually does not play a defining role. The real factor to victory was the human factor, their tactics, capabilities, bravery, and determination. This confidence, however, is being tested and threatened. Drones, Artificial Intelligence, robots, space wars are truly questioning whether the age of humans is being replaced by machines. Wars are not the only area where we are being challenged. We stand before new testing grounds for all walks of life.