Prussian Generals of the Napoleonic Wars  1793-1815

Prussian Generals of the Napoleonic Wars  1793-1815: Kurland, Gustav Calixt, Prinz Biron von

By: Digby Smith

Kurland, Gustav Calixt, Prinz Biron von (1194)

Born on 19 January 1780 in Bomst. His grandfather, Ernst Johann, was a senior official at the court of the Czarina Anna but later he was banished. His son, Karl Ernst, bought lands in Germany (as had his father before him), among them was the Herrschaft of Wartenberg in Silesia. Gustav Calixt was also a chamberlain to the Russian court, but he gave it up to farm Wartenberg. The Empress Catherine the Great made him Duke of Kurland. Following the union of Kurland and Russia, he became a lieutenant in the Russian Imperial Guard. In the spring of 1807 he supported Prussian troops in his area in every way that he could; he brought greatcoats and shoes for the garrison of Kosel and helped Graf von Götzen raise new units for the fight against the French. In thanks, Friedrich Wilhelm III awarded him the RAO and invited him to join the Prussian army; on 15 May 1807 the duke transferred into Prussian service as Obstlt. After the Peace of Tilsit he offered to raise a regiment at his own expense, but the king advised him to wait. In 1808 the duke was part of Graf von Götzen`s team and on 3 Jun 1809 he requested to be appointed Chef of the 2. Schlesische HusR; the king said that this was impossible at the moment, but that he would get a regiment when new ones were raised. On 12 Dec 1809 the duke was appointed Chef of the newly formed Schlesisches UlR (later the 2. Schlesisches), which had been raised from the men of the disbanded HusR von Schill. Commander of the regiment was Maj Laroche von Starkenfels. Biron raised, clothed and equipped 40 men for the regiment and also bought two 6 pounder guns which were presented to the garrison of Neisse. In February 1813 the king sent him to negotiate the neutrality of Silesia with the Russian General Miloradowitsch, which he successfully did. Biron also suggested schemes for the best use of Russian prisoners of war in Prussian custody and provided two preachers for the Prussian Garde-Kossacken-Eskadron. On 19 March 1813, he was attached to General von Kleist`s headquarters; in the spring campaign he proved his worth as commander of a Freikorps and earned the EK II. His regiment was distinguished in action under his command at Altenburg, Weissenfels, Merseburg, Freyburg an der Unstrut and Kösen. He also fought at the battles of Dresden, Leipzig and Hanau, La Rothiere, Brienne, Montmirail, Champaubert, Laon, Chateau-Thierry and Paris, the clashes at Merseburg, Zeitz, Stoessen, Gelnhausen, the Rhine crossing at Mannheim and the siege of Verdun. On 25 September 1813 he was awarded the EK I, on 9 May 1814 the PLM with oakleaves. On 29 April 1815 he was appointed GOC of a brigade in von Yorck`s V Corps. On 3 October 1815 he was appointed Inspector General of Landwahr in the Posen region. On 14 August 1816 he received permission to wear the Austrian MTO insignia. On 4 December 1816, he was appointed governor of Glatz fortress. On 30 March 1817, he was promoted to GL. Prinz Biron died on 20 June 1821 in Bad Ems, just east of Koblenz.

Placed on the Napoleon Series: April 2011


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