Prussian Generals of the Napoleonic Wars  1793-1815

Prussian Generals of the Napoleonic Wars  1793-1815: Hünerbein, Friedrich Heinrich Karl Georg, Freiherr von

By: Digby Smith

Hünerbein, Friedrich Heinrich Karl Georg, Freiherr von (1183) MG. Commander, 8th Brigade, I Corps in 1813.

Born on 23 August 1762 in Harkerode, Kreis Mansfeld, between Brunswick and Halle / Saale; his father, Georg August Christoph, was Oberforstmeister (senior forester) in Mansfeld, died on 4 February 1819 in Breslau. From 1776 - 1778 Hünerbein junior studied in Mansfeld and in Leipzig university. He entered Prussian military service in 1778 as a Junker in Hus R von Czettritz Nr 1; on 9 September 1781 he was promoted to Kornett and on 15 September 1787 to Sklt. From 1794 - 1795 he fought in the war in Poland and was distinguished in the clash at Rawka – for which he was awarded the PLM on 8 June 1794. On 25 May 1795 he was appointed Gen Adj to Prinz Ludwig von Preussen; on 22 January 1796 he began a novitiate in the Order of the Knights of St John and was invested into the order on 21 August 1796. On 26 January 1797, after the death of Prinz Ludwig, he transferred to Drag R von Bieberstein Nr 12 as Stkapt. He was not happy in the regiment and asked King Friedrich Wilhelm II for a transfer; the king replied : `Had you stayed in the Husar - Regiment L`Estocq, you would now have been still the 6th Sekondeleutnant ; in the Dragoner - Regiment Bieberstein you are now the 5th Major. There is nothing more to be done for you at the moment`. On 10 March 1798 he joined the general staff as Brigade Major. On 26 February 1799 he was promoted Kapt and on 3 January 1801 to Maj. He saw no actions of note in 1806 and on 27 May 1807 he was promoted to Obst Lt on the staff; he was sent to Sweden to whip up help in the struggle against Napoleon and to buy muskets. Hünerbein was a fervent member of the War Party and a great friend and admirer of von Scharnhorst.

On 20 May 1809 he was promoted Obst and joined General von Tauentzien`s staff; Tauntzein sent him to the king with a letter saying that if the king would not take arms against France, he would resign. Hünerbein was the officer who broke the news to the king of the fact that Schill had taken most of his regiment and set off on his raid through north Germany. In1812 he fought in the Russian campaign as commander of the cavalry. Right at the start of the advance, Gen Gräwert (the corps commander) accused his 1st (Combined) Hus R of looting. Hünerbein defended his men robustly and Gräwert threatened to report him to the king for insubordination. Gräwert then fell ill and von Yorck took over command of the corps. Gräwert`s letter of complaint about von Hünerbein only reached the king three months later; the king passed it to Yorck for action. Yorck sent it on to Hünerbein with the comment: `Please take notice of that which concerns your good self `. And that was the end of the matter.

Hünerbein was thoroughly in favour of the Convention of Tauroggen which Yorck signed with Diebitsch on 30 December 1812 and which effectively dragged the reluctant King Friedrich Wilhelm III onto the side of the allies against Napoleon. On 14 March 1813 von Hünerbein was promoted to GM and appointed GOC, 8th Bde. He fought at Möckern, Dannigkow, Leitzkau (awarded the EK II), he was badly wounded at Gross–Görschen. He also fought at the Katzbach (awarded the EK I), Wartenburg and  Leipzig. Here he shone at Möckern on 16 October. As his wound from Gross-Görschen was still not healed on this day, he led his brigade on foot and they performed very well.

On 26 October he was very distinguished at the clash at the Hörselberg and the blockade of Mainz (for which he was awarded the Russian OStA I). On 8 December 1813 he was promoted to GL. On 27 December he was appointed to be GOC of the Grand Duchy of Berg. Hünerbein was an intelligent officer, a good tactician who shared the hardships of his soldiers and led from the front.

When he took over the troops in Berg in Dec 1813, the situation was very bad. Morale was rock-bottom, desertion very high. He published the following proclamation to his command .

`The conduct of the infantry of Berg is a disgrace. The grenadiers are the worst. Hundreds have run off home; they steal clothing and weapons from the state, and what is worse still, they are taken back in by their families. What sort of people are the citizens of Berg? Do these people have no honour? Have they no concept of duty? Have they no religion? Do they honour no God?

Soldiers! You should be ashamed to belong to his evil! What has happened will be forgiven and forgotten if you will be faithful from now on; you will hear not a word more of criticism and I will be proud to call myself your commanding general.

Wiesbaden, 6. April 1814.`

On 15 April 1815 he was appointed Governor of Breslau and GOC of Silesia. On 18 January 1817 he was awarded the RAO II with oakleaves and on 18 January 1818 he was awarded the RAO I with oakleaves.


Placed on the Napoleon Series: February 2011


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