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Loser’s Medal

In modern military history the soldiers on the losing side usually don’t get medals for their service. The reason is obvious since most of the time their country is bankrupt and the government that sent them to war no longer exists. Austria in 1866 was an exception. After the Prussians defeated them the mild Prussian peace terms left the Austrian government intact and solvent. In September of that year Emperor Franz Josef had 1,880 silver medals ( one of which is illustrated below) struck for the Prague Volunteer Militia units which formed after the outbreak of the war. The Kaiser also had similar silver medals struck up for the Tyrolian homeland units that defended their province. But what of the army regulars that went into battle with obsolete arms and tactics? They got nothing. I guess old Franz Josef wasn’t too thrilled with their performance. By the end of 1873 a small degree of fair-mindedness had returned when the Emperor established the 1873 General War Service Medal made of old cannon bronze. Did you notice the use of the word old in place of captured? This medal was awarded to all veterans of Austria’s wars from 1848 until 1916 when the Emperor died. In that way the neglected veterans of 1866 got a medal and the Emperor was sparred the embarrassment of having to commemorate a lost war.