Military History/Franco Prussian mass conscription 1870
QUESTION: What was the punishment for draft evasion during the Franco Prussian War of 1870-71? Per family oral history our grandfather was imprisoned for same and then walked away from incarceration. He was able to avoid re-arrest for up to 10 years before coming to the U.S. around the early 1880's. What would have been the sentence were he recaptured? How could one avoid getting caught for so long? Your help/insight is much appreciated because I haven't been able to find anything online that is of real help.
ANSWER: Was your grandfather French or Prussian/German?
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QUESTION: He was Prussian German. A ship manifest states he was from Modern (not Modern) Austria. I believe that was his place of birth and in 1871 he would have been 20 years old, just right for conscription. Most of our family evidence also points to him moving to Germany's Harz Mt. area. It may be that he walked away from prison in Austria and went to Harz Mts. to avoid being caught for draft evasion. Were borders that open? Could he have crossed without papers? Did the Austro Hungarian Empire encompass both Austria & Germany in 1871 and wouldn't the laws re. military service apply the same? Sure hope I haven't overwhelmed you with "stuff". Thanks.
Answer"Did the Austro Hungarian Empire encompass both Austria & Germany in 1871 and wouldn't the laws re. military service apply the same?"
In 1871 the Austro-Hungarian empire encompassed modern day Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and small portions of other modern Central European and Balkan countries. The rulers of Austria-Hungary (the Habsburgs) had lost “control” of Germany after losing the Austro-Prussian war.
German/Austrian/Prussian interconnections and relations is a subject befitting many very large books, so I will avoid trying to go into detail on it here. Suffice to say, Germany was not
under Austrian control at the time.
“Per family oral history our grandfather was imprisoned for same and then walked away from incarceration. He was able to avoid re-arrest for up to 10 years before coming to the U.S. around the early 1880's. How could one avoid getting caught for so long?”
Ah, the Austrian bit explains it.
Prussia had just beaten Austria in the Austro-Prussian war just a few years earlier. Things were looking a bit tense between the Prussian led Northern-German-Confederation and the Austrian led Austro-Hungarian empire during the Franco-Prussian war, so it's entirely possible that your grandfather was arrested by the Germans for being too Austrian, or by the Austrians for being too German. It's also possible that he was jailed by the Austrians for refusing to fight his fellow Germans, or jailed by the Germans for refusing to fight his fellow Austrians.
The fact that he was able to walk away and avoid further legal entanglements also makes sense. Prussia and Austria-Hungary never did actually go to war with each other in the 1870's, and became close allies. Any evidence of a military buildup against each other (such as lists of draft-dodgers/conscientious objector) may have been swept under the metaphorical rug for the sake of good relations.