Prussian Generals of the Napoleonic Wars  1793-1815

Prussian Generals of the Napoleonic Wars  1793-1815: Le Coq, Karl Ludwig Jakob, Edler von

By: Digby Smith

Le Coq, Karl Ludwig Jakob, Edler von (1051).

Born on 23 September 1754 in Eilenburg, Kreis Delitzsch, Saxony. His father was Johann Ludwig, a GL in Saxon service and Chef of an infantry regiment there. On 18 September 1760, he entered Saxon military service as Frch, in the IR Prinz von Gotha. On 16 February 1768, he was promoted to Slt and transferred to IR Pinz Carl; on 1 December 1776, he was promoted to Prlt and appointed 2. Adj. On 4 December 1779, he was promoted to Kpt and Kiech in IR von Riedesel. On 4 April 1786 Le Coq left Saxon service and on 1 May 1787, entered Prussian service as a a Maj in Füsilier Bataillon von Legat Nr 20 in the Magdeburg fusilier brigade. On 13 December 1787, he was appointed QMLt in the general staff and on 4 June 1790, appointed QMLt of the army. From 1792 – 1794, he served in the war with France. On 8 May 1792, he received a pay rise of Thlr 200. He wrote the journal of the year`s campaign. He fought at the siege of Mainz and the clash at Kostheim for which he earned the PLM . He then fell very ill. On 15 January 1795, he was promoted to Obstlt. In this year he wrote a paper on the defence of the realm and another on the exact strength and character of the Austrian army and forwarded them to the king. He was rewarded by being appointed Amtshauptmann (steward) of Ragnitz with an annuity of Thlr 420 p.a. He also negotiated the transfer of Scharnhorst into Prussian service from that of Hanover. After years of work he completed the mapping of the province of Westfalia on a scale of 1: 86,400 together with von Müffling and von Steinmetz.  On 3 January 1798, he was appointed GQMLt and on 28 May 1798, he was promoted to Obst. In 1799, he was attached to the Duke of Brunswick`s staff. In 1800 he was sent together with the Saxon GL von Rechten to Franconia to observe and report on the conduct of the war between France and Austria. On 3 February 1801, he was appointed member of a commission in Köln negotiating the return of 3 - 4,000 Russian PWs from France. On 24 February 1801, he was posted to Berlin and on 20 December of that year, he was appointed Chef of the Grenadier-Garde Bn Nr 6. On 20 May 1803, he was promoted to GM . In 1804 he opened a Junkerschule (officer cadet school) in Potsdam. On 24 September 1806, he was appointed GOC of the Observations-Korps on the River Ems in place of Gen von Brusewitz. On 9 October, he was ordered by Blücher to advance; he was about to move off when he received news of the twin Prussian defeats of Jena and Auerstädt. He determined to withdraw to the Elbe, but, fearing that he wouldn`t make it, he stopped at Hameln fortress on 24 October. Commander of the fortress was GM von Schöler; GM von Hagken was also there. On 7 November, part of the French VIII Corps appeared and Le Coq withdrew into Hameln fortress. The place was in good condition, well stocked and had a total of 10,000 Prussian troops in it. Le Coq was the senior officer there and was blamed for urging the surrender of the place on 22 November to the Dutch division of Gen Dumonceau with only 6,000 men and no siege artillery. The troops of the garrison mutinied when they heard the news and over 9,000 of them escaped. On 28 August 1807, a court of inquiry into the surrender of Hameln was convened. On 9 September 1807, Le Coq requested permission to transfer to the Danish army; this was refused. On 9 Dec 1809 - sentenced to be cashiered and imprisoned in Spandau citadel. The report of the court martial wrote:

`Es mangelt der Kriegsgeschichte an einem Beispiele wo eine unangegriffene Festung , mit allem hinreichend versehen und welcher noch ein zur Aussenverteidigung anzuwendendes Korps zu Gebote stand, sich auf eine schimpflichere Art und ohne auch nur einen Versuch zur Gegenwehr zu machen, an eine Handvoll feindlicher Truppen ohne Geschütz ergeben hat.`

(There is no example in military history, where a fortress, which has not been assaulted, which was  adequately supplied with all necessities and which possessed a corps for external defenc, has been surrendered to a handful of enemy troops, without artillery, in such a shameful manner, without making even one attempt to defend itself.)

In the autumn of 1812 Le Coq`s brother - a Saxon general - wrote to the Prussian king pleading for mercy for his brother. Friedrich Wilhelm replied: `

Ich muss bedauern, werter Herr Generalleutnant, dass höhere Rücksichten Mich verhindern Ihren, Mir unterm 31. vorigen Monats zu erkennen gegebenen Wunsch in Absicht der Milderung des unglücklichen Schicksals Ihres Bruders Genüge zu leisten.`(I regret, my dear general, that higher concerns forbid me to accede to your request of 31st ult. for leniency for your brother.)

On 16 Apr 1812 the king allowed Le Coq out of prison to visit his estate in Pichelsdorf (west of Berlin), and on 20 April 1813 he relented and allowed him to live in Oranienburg. After 1815 Le Coq returned to Berlin where, despite failing eyesight, he continued his cartography. He was completely blind when he died on 14 February 1829 in Berlin.

Placed on the Napoleon Series: April 2011

 

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