Prussian Generals of the Napoleonic Wars  1793-1815

Prussian Generals of the Napoleonic Wars  1793-1815: Tauentzien, Friedrich Bogislav Emanuel, Graf von Wittenberg

Tauentzien, Friedrich Bogislav Emanuel, Graf von Wittenberg (1017)

Born on 26 September 1760 in Potsdam near Berlin. His father was a famous general of the Seven Years` War and he was close to the royal household. On 1 March 1774, he entered the Academie Militaire in Berlin and on 1 September 1775, joined the R Gensd`armes Nr 10 as an Estjkr; but his father, fearing that the high expenses of maintaining a post in this very favoured regiment might ruin his son`s finances, had him transferred on 22 July 1776, to the IR Prinz Heinrich Nr 35 as Frch and ADC to the Prinz. From 1784 - 1788 he travelled to France several times with the prince. He fought in the war with Austria in 1778 – 1779, and on 1 June 1784, was promoted to Sklt. On 21 August 1786, he was promoted to Kpt, and on 12 October 1790, to Maj. At the death of his father in 1791, the king called him into his suite. On 3 June 1792, he was appointed liaison officer to the Austrian army in the Netherlands, and on 6 June of that year, was ennobled as Graf. On 13 December 1792, he was awarded the PLM, and on 31 of that same month, was promoted Obstlt and appointed Flügeladjutant to the king. Tauentzien was more at home in the diplomatic world than in the front line, as his subsequent career showed. On 15 January 1793, he was attached to the Austrian FZM Clerfait`s corps; in his first report to the king on the state of the Austrian army of 25 June of that year, he gave an accurate and comprehensive picture of that army and of the workings of its staff.  On 24 January 1794, he was appointed ambassador extraordinary to the court of Csarina Katherine II of Russia; where he accompanied GM Graf von Goltz; he was also appointed Kammerherr (Chamberlain). On 8 January 1795, he was pomoted to Obst, and on 3 May 1797, was recalled from St Petersburg, when Czar Paul I came to the throne. He then asked the king on 10 March 1800 to give him a regimental command as opposed to more diplomatic work; however, due to his high seniority, this was very difficult. In the absence of such a post, he took sick leave, retired to his estates and visited spas to improve his health. After 30 years` service he finally was granted his wish; on 4 June 1801, he was promoted to GM  and on  24 September 1804, became Chef of the IR von Laurens Nr 56, which was stationed in the detached Prussian state of Ansbach, in southern Germany. He threw himself into the training of his officers and men, and on 28 June 1806, was awarded the RAO Ch. When the French invaded Anspach in 1805 he reacted realistically; he was far too weak to stop them so he let them through, but conducted a bitter diplomatic campaign with French officialdom in southern Germany. Early in 1806 Blücher took over command in Anspach; it seems that he and Tauentzien fell out badly and Tauentzien tendered his resignation; the king refused to accept it. At the start of the 1806 campaign he was at Hof with a Prusso-Saxon division of 8 battalions and 9 squadrons. He withdrew to Schleitz where he was defeated on 9 October by Bernadotte in the opening action of the campaign. His dispositions for this action have been criticized. He withdrew to Jena and on 14 October  commanded Hohenlohe`s advanced guard. He was captured in the capitulation of Prenzlau on 28 October, then released on parole and went to Charlottenburg. Napoleon was incensed about his actions in Anspach in 1805 and ordered him re-arrested (without charges being laid against him) on 23 December 1806 and held prisoner in the French fortress of Bitsch, in Lorraine, until April 1807. Tauentzien returned to Anspach and Bayreuth where he was greeted with great popular acclaim, again annoying Napoleon. For this, Napoleon had him rearrested in Posen and jailed under harsh conditions in Fort Joux in the Jura mountains. On 30 April 1807, he was transferred to Nancy fortress where he was held until November 1808. His promotion continued during his captivity: on 4 May 1807 to GL. After his release on 20 November 1808 - he was appointed commander of the Brandenburg Brigade in Berlin. He accompanied the king on a visit to the Russian court at St Petersburg. Tauentzien was a very conservative officer of the old school and not appreciated by von Scharnhorst and his reformers. Years of good, diplomatic living had thickened his figure and many doubted his ability to remain effective in the field. He was also a great supporter of German nationalism and carefully watched by the French secret police. On 6 May 1809 he was arrested (again on Napoleon`s insistence)  after Schill (whose regiment was under his command) had left Berlin to go on his raid through northern Germany, but the subsequent court of inquiry found him innocent of any complicity. Incensed at his arrest, he tendered his resignation again; again it was rejected on 5 February 1810. On 11 October 1811 - he took over as Governor of Pomerania in place of Blücher, whom Napoleon had insisted be removed form that post. On 24 March 1812, Tauentzien became Governor of Berlin, and on 2 March 1813, was appointed Military Governor of all forces between the Oder and the Vistula. He asked for a combattant command and when this was refused, he again offered his resignation; as usual, this was refused, but he was then given command of the corps blockading Stettin under Russian FM Kutusov. Kutusov warned him not to try to take the city, but Tauentzien disobeyed, mounting a raid on 7 April 1813 which was defeated. On 12 July 1813 – he was appointed to command IV Corps, mainly gren LW regiments. His task was to reduce the fortresses on the Oder and Elbe and to cooperate with the armies of Blücher and Bernadotte. On 22 August he won a skirmish at Blankenfelde, which contributed much to the allied victory at Gross-Beeren on the next day. On 28 August he occupied Luckow and then-on 5 September- was attacked at Jüterbogk (Dennewitz). Initially he was alone and heavily outnumbered, but hs LW troops held on until von Bülow`s III Corps came up and together they soundly defeated Ney`s army and saved Berlin from capture. For this, he was awarded the EK II. At midday on the day of the battle his staff advised him to withdraw and save his corps. He replied : `Wenn ein kommandierende General einem andered ein Versprechen gibt, so darf man wohl nicht daran zweifeln, und ich werde eher mit meinem ganzen Korps auf dem Platz liegen bleiben, als dass ich einen Schritt weiche.` (When one commanding general gives his word to another, one must not doubt it and I would rather die here with all my corps, than retreat one pace.) He received the HOSA Ch for Dennewitz on the  8 September 1813 and the Russian OStG III from the Tsar two days later. In mid October he heard that Napoleon was marching on Berlin with 30,000 men and he withdrew northwards over the Elbe in order to protect the city. This was a strategic error for which he earned much criticism, for,as he was rushing to save the capital on the night of 15/16 October, Napoleon`s army was concentrating at Leipzig-in the opposite direction- for the fateful Battle of the Nations. The IV Corps missed that great battle. On 26 Dec 1813 Tauentzien took Torgau fortress and in the night of 12/13 Jan 1814 he captured Wittenberg, although most of the work was done by Gen von Dobschütz, the commander of his reserve. For this Tauentzien received the EK I. His corps then blockaded Magdeburg which only surrendered on 24 May 1814, after hostilities had ceased. On 8 December 1813, Tauentzien was promoted  GdI and on 26 January 1814, he received the EK GC and the title `von Wittenberg`. There then erupted a great row between Tauentzien and von Bülow when the former claimed the credit for the victory at Dennewitz. On 18 June 1814 Tauentzien was appointed GOC of all troops in the Neumark and Pommerania and on 7 August, the king gave him the ex-Cistercian monastry of Schoenfeld, Kreis Züllichow-Schwiebus. On 23 March 1815, he became GOC VI Corps, but the war was over before he reached the front. After the end of the Hundred Days (3 October 1815) he resumed his command in Prussia. On 3 April 1820, he was appointed GOC III Corps and in that same year he wnt to London to carry Friedrch Wilhelm`s condolences to the court at the death of George III. On 9 September 1823, he was appointed Chef of IR Nr 20 - it bore his name until 1918. He died 20 February 1824 in Berlin.

Placed on the Napoleon Series: August 2012

 

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