By David Wetzel
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Additional info for A Duel of Nations: Germany, France, and the Diplomacy of the War of 1870-1871
In 1832, he joined the General Staff at Berlin and was soon promoted to second lieutenant, largely as the result of the inﬂuence of Prince William, at the time a lieutenant general but destined to become King William I of Prussia. Here Moltke acquitted himself with distinction in a long series of responsible and important assignments in the ﬁeld of military planning and engineering. Conscious of his duties and an indefatigable worker, he began to rise to a position of preeminence in the Prussian military.
Moltke stood, in competence, in intelligence, and, indeed, in all the qualities that make for a successful military career, at the head of the leading Prussian military ﬁgures of his time. Moltke was born in 1800 to a family that was all but impoverished. His father, Friedrich, joined the Danish army, in which his relatives also had commissions and, hardly able to support his fourteen children, enrolled his son as a cadet at Frankfurt / Oder near the Polish border at the age of eleven. The young Moltke was then for three years drawn into military service, ﬁrst in Silesia, then in Posen.
The distinctive quality of Bismarck’s realism lay in his ﬂexibility, in his refusal to be bound by any ﬁxed rules or preconceptions, his sense of limits, of proportions, of dimensions. His plans were robust, always allowing for the intervention of accident, of mistake, of the unforeseen—the imponderabilia, as he once 19 politics and personalities called it. Bismarck received extensive attention in European and American historical literature even before his death, in 1898, and the full pattern of his complicated and subtle personality continues to emerge in the light of the more intensive and detached scrutiny to which it is constantly subjected.