The Sonderbund War, or Sonderbundskrieg, took place in Switzerland in 1847 and was a short but significant conflict that played a crucial role in the country's history. The Sonderbund was a coalition of seven conservative, Catholic cantons seeking to preserve their traditional autonomy and resist the growing influence of the liberal, Protestant cantons and the central Swiss government.
The tensions between the conservative and liberal cantons had been escalating for years, primarily revolving around issues such as state sovereignty, religious freedom, and the role of the federal government. The Sonderbund, formed in 1845, sought to defend what its members perceived as their rights and privileges against what they viewed as encroachment by the central government.
In 1847, diplomatic efforts failed to resolve the conflicts, and the federal government, led by the radical-liberal faction, decided to use force to suppress the Sonderbund. The Sonderbund War began in November 1847 and lasted only about three weeks. The conflict was relatively small in scale but marked by some notable battles, including the Battle of Geltwil and the Battle of Freiburg.
The federal forces, with a superior and more modern military, quickly gained the upper hand. The decisive Battle of Freiburg in particular led to a significant victory for the federal forces. Realizing the futility of continued resistance, the Sonderbund forces capitulated, and the war officially ended on November 29, 1847. The outcome strengthened the authority of the federal government and paved the way for the Swiss Constitution of 1848, which established the modern federal state of Switzerland.
The Sonderbund War is significant in Swiss history as it marked the end of the era of cantonal sovereignty and the consolidation of a more centralized, federal state. It demonstrated the challenges of balancing regional autonomy with the need for a unified national identity and government structure. The war's relatively swift resolution contributed to Switzerland's reputation for neutrality and stability in the years that followed.