British Generals of the Napoleonic Wars  1793-1815

Prussian Generals of the Napoleonic Wars  1793-1815: Introduction

By: Digby Smith

Freiberg

Prinz Heinrich, although commanding an army made up mostly of ‘second line’ troops and free- battalions, decided to take the offensive against the Reichsarmy commanded by GFZM Prince Karl von Stolberg-Gedern who had the support of Hadik’s Austrian Corps. The Allies were dug in behind field works situated on top of high ground to the west of the town of Freiberg. This position blocked all approaches to Dresden. To the rear of the allied position was the River Mulde, which was crossed by several bridges to the east of the town. On 28 October Prince Henry and his staff performed a reconnaissance of the allied position. This was hampered by the Austrian light troops who occupied the woods in front of the high ground. Henry gathered enough information however, to form a good picture of the enemy’s dispositions.

It was clear to Henry that the main Austrian force, the Corps under Campitelli, was securely ensconced on the heights to the south-west of the town, whilst the Reichsarmy held the heights blocking the western access to Freiberg. Although the front of their position had been strengthened by the construction of several redoubts and abbatis, no force appeared to be protecting the right flank of the allied army leaving the Reichsarmy troops somewhat ‘out on a limb’. This was too tempting a target for the Prince, who planned to pin the Austrians to the south-west with a small detachment while his main army outflanked and defeated the lower quality Reichsarmy. Henry was gambling that the Austrian Corps under Meyer, comfortable behind their entrenchments, would not want to leave their lofty position.

At dawn on 29 October, Prince Henry formed his army on the ground to the west of Lang Hennersdorf, detailing Forcade with the reserve to the north, Kleist to the south to pin Meyer, with Seydlitz and Stutterheim to attack the heights held by the Reichsarmy. As they advanced, the leading elements of the Prussian army skirmished briefly with the Croats in the woods but these troops soon withdrew in the face of formed infantry. Young Stutterheim’s attack however, met stiff resistance from the corps of Campitelli and for a time the attack stalled. Several Prussian cavalry attacks also failed to shift the Austrians and a regiment had to be borrowed from the left wing in order to stabilise this front. While the main Prussian army attacked this position, Seydlitz, finding the ground difficult for his cavalry, took command of the infantry on his wing and attacked Campitelli’s flank. With the pressure mounting, Stolberg began to move his line to the south in order to bolster the defence of a hillock known as the Trois Croix. Henry also recognised the importance of this feature and rushed his grenadiers towards it. The Imperial cavalry charged the Prussians, and although driven off with loss, bought enough time for the Reichsarmy grenadiers to take possession of the hill.

Old Stutterheim, never one to stand idly by, noticed the shift of the Reichsarmy southwards and realised that the defenders to his front had become weakened by this move. He ordered his troops to attack without delay and the Austrian infantry began to crumble. The Prussian Belling Hussars and KR4 charged through the enemy infantry who broke and were cut down by the victorious Prussians. With his allies in retreat and his flanks wide open, Stolberg ordered a general retreat. The Reichsarmy withdrew from their positions followed by the remainder of Campitelli’s troops. As predicted, Mayer’s corps did not leave their positions to help the rest of their army, Meyer later protesting that he had stuck to his orders to hold his position to the last drop of blood. The Prussians lost 1400 men, the Allies lost 7000 men, 9 colours and 28 guns.

The Allies retreated all the way back to Pirna, the Prussians following up cautiously at first and then more boldly. Kleist was detached during the first week in November in order to raid the Austrian magazines in Saxony, which he did, completely destroying them. He then took his footsore soldiers into Franconia under orders from Henry to upset the Imperialists. Naumberg, Wurzberg and Ratisbon were taken and ‘contributions’ were extracted from the ruling Princes. Stolberg pleaded in vain with Hadik to be allowed to return and protect his homeland but unbeknown to him, Hadik had been in secret talks with King Frederick and they reached an agreement which lead to the disbandment of the Reichsarmy.

Sources: The biographies in this file are mainly based on the book: `Soldatisches Führertum` by Carl von Priesdorff, Hanseatischer Verlag, Hamburg 1937. This basis has been widely expanded by use of other English and German language books and internet sites, including Wikipedia.  The four- and six-digit numbers, in brackets behind the names, are the numeric references of those officers in `Soldatisches Führertum`. Absence of these numbers means that the biographies have been culled from other sources.

Abbreviations used in the texts. B - Battle. Badj - Bataillons-Adjutant: a junior officer in an assisting function within a battalion. Bn or bn - Battalion: a unit consisting of two or more companies. Brandb - Brandenburg or Brandenbürgisch: a Prussian provincial designation. BW - badly wounded. C - Clash. Cav Insp - Cavalry Inspectorate. Chef - the colonel-in-chief of a regiment; the regiment bore his name. In the XVIII Century it was the practice to arrange regiments in the line of battle, from the right, in order of the seniority of their Chefs. Cmdr - Commander. Cmdt - Commandant: an officer in command of a static post such as a fortress. Coy or coy - company. Esch - Eskadronschef - squadron commander. Estkr - Estandartenjunker - junior commissioned rank in a cavalry regiment.  Frch - Fähnrich: in 1763 the five most senior and best Freikorporale of a regiment were distinguished by being given commissions as `Fähnriche` (or Fahnenjunker) and wore the officers` sword knot on their NCO`s sabre. FlAdj - Flügel - Adjutant: an officer on the staff of a senior commander or member of the royal household. GAdj - General Adjutant: a junior officer , assistant to a general. GC - Grand Cross. Gfkpl - Gefreitenkorporal, or Freikorporal: a young man of noble birth who joined the army to be trained to be an officer. They were used to bear the regimental colours and were also known as `Fahnenjunker`, `Standartenjunker` and `Stückjunker` in the infantry, cavalry and artillery respectively. They were often only ten years old. The position vanished in the reforms of 1808. GdC - General der Cavalerie: the highest rank for a cavalry general under FM. GdI - General der Infanterie: the highest rank for an infantry general under FM. GInsp - General Inspector. GL - General-Leutnant - the rank of a general between GM and GdI or GdC. GM - General-Major: the lowest rank for a general. Gov Gen - Govenor General. HM - His Majesty the King. HOSA - High Order of the Black Eagle. Inf Insp - Infantry Inspectorate. Insp Gen – Inspector General. IR - Infanterie-Regiment: a unit consisting of two or more battalions. Kpt - Kapitän: captain in a non - cavalry unit. Lt - Leutnant: a junior commissioned officer. Obst - Oberst : Colonel. Obstlt - Oberstleutnant: Lieutenant-Colonel. OStA - Russian Order of St Anne. OStAw - Russian Order of St Andrew. OStG - Russian of St George.  Ostpr - Ostpreussen or Ostpreussisch: a Prussian provincial designation for East Prussia. OV – Russian Order of Vladimir. PFrch - Portepee - Fähnrich: see Frch. PLM - Pour le Merite: one of the highest Prussian military and civil orders, awarded for specially valuable services to the state. Plt - Premierleutnant: PW - prisoner of war. 1st Lt . QM - Quartermaster: an officer responsible for logistics. QMLt – junior officer on the logistics staff. RAO - Order of the Red Eagle. Schl - Schlesien or Schlesisch: a Prussian provincial designation for Silesia. Sklt - Sekondeleutnant: 2nd Lt, the most junior commissioned officer. Stkpt - Stabskapitaen - junior captain in the infantry or artillery . Strtmstr - Stabsrittmeister - junior captain in the cavalry. Thlr p.a. - Thaler per annum: the annual salary. W - wounded. Westpr - Westpreussen or Westpreussisch: a Prussian provincial designation for West Prussia.

 

 

 

Placed on the Napoleon Series: March 2010 - January 2013

 

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