Reichsflotte: Sail-Frigates Eckenförde and Deutschland 1849


SMS Eckernförde (left), & SMS Deutschland (right) in 1849.

The Reichsflotte (Imperial Fleet) was the first all-German Navy. It was founded on 14 June 1848 during the Revolutions of 1848 in the German states by the Frankfurt Parliament to provide a naval force in the First Schleswig War against Denmark.

The German Confederation, founded in 1815, was initially not in need of a navy, as it could rely on three members who commanded large fleets: The Grand Duke of Luxembourg as commander of the Royal Dutch Navy, the Duke of Holstein as the commander of the Danish Navy, and last but not least, the King of Hanover as commander of the British Royal Navy. This had changed by the late 1830s, though, as the Kings of the Netherlands and Great Britain ceased to be members of the German Confederation, and Denmark turned against Germany in the First Schleswig War that started in early 1848. Soon, the Danish Navy stopped all German trade in the North Sea and the Baltic Sea.

This newly-created provisional government was headed by Archduke Johann of Austria as regent (Reichsverweser), i.e., as a temporary head of state. Johann named as August von Jochmus as Foreign Minister and Navy minister.

Soon after the parliament first met on 18 May 1848 in Frankfurt, the diet of the German Confederation turned over its budget to the parliament on 12 June 1848. Only two days later, the parliament decided to spend 6 million Reichsthaler for a navy under Prince Adalbert of Prussia. When he had to resign due to an order by the King of Prussia, Konteradmiral Karl Rudolf Brommy took over.

In the Battle of Heligoland (1849) on 4 June 1849, the fleet under Brommy saw its first and only combat action, which also remains the first and only naval combat under the black-red-gold Flag of Germany.

Until 1852, the fleet had

2 sail frigates : Deutschland (1848), Eckernförde (captured Danish SMS Gefion (1852))

3 steam frigates : SMS Barbarossa (ex-RMS Britannia), Erzherzog Johann, Hansa (1848)

1 sail corvette : Franklin (ship) (donated by Hamburg, not accepted)

6 steam corvettes : Der Königliche Ernst August, Großherzog von Oldenburg, Frankfurt (1848), Bremen (1848), Hamburg (1841), Lübeck (1844)

27 gunboats

On 2 April 1852, the Reichsflotte was dissolved. While most ships were sold off, two 2 steam frigates were given to the Prussian Navy, which later evolved into the Northern German Federal Navy (Norddeutsche Bundesmarine, 1866-1871) and became the Imperial Navy (Kaiserliche Marine, 1872-1918).


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