Prussian Generals of the Napoleonic Wars  1793-1815

Prussian Generals of the Napoleonic Wars  1793-1815: Pirch, Otto Karl Lorenz von (Pirch II)

By: Digby Smith

Pirch, Otto Karl Lorenz von (Pirch II) (1213)

Born on 23 May 1765 in Stettin, on the Baltic coast, son of Franz Otto. He ntered Prussian military service in 1775 as Gfkpl in the IR Hessen-Kassel Nr 45; his brother, Karl Otto Lorenz, was also in this regiment and his father commanded it.  On 9 July 1777, he was commissioned as Frch; he served in the War of the Bavarian Succession in 1778/9 as ADC to his father. On 16 January 1787, he was promoted to Sklt; he served in the campaign in the Netherlands in 1787 and was in the occupation of the bishopric of Liege in 1789/90. On 17 January 1794, he was appointed ADC to the Pomeranian Infantry Inspectorate. In 1794, he served in the war against France, and on 16 January 1795, he was promoted Stkpt. On 6 January 1798, he was promoted to Kpt and on 20 May 1802, to Maj. On 28 January 1805, he was granted a pay rise of Thlr 300 p.a. On 30 August 1806, he was posted to the staff of the Duke of Brunswick, commander-in-chief of the Prussian army; he fought at Auerstädt on 14 October of that year. On 24 December 1806, he was appointed brigadier of the Reserve Battalions being formed in Prussia. On 20 January 1807, he was appointed a member of the Untersuchungskommission über die Kriegsereignisse. On 25 July 1807, he took over from Obst Bronikowski in the task of raising new reserve infantry battalions. On 3 March 1809, he was  appointed governor to Prinz Wilhelm von Preussen (the king`s son) and Prinz Friedrich (the king`s nephew) until December 1813. On 18 January 1810, he was awarded the RAO III. On 8 February 1810, he was promoted to Obstlt, and on 8 August 1812, to Obst. At the start of the 1813 campaign, he and the two princes joined von Blücher`s staff; after the battle of Bautzen (20/21 May) all three moved on to von Yorck`s staff in his I Corps On 3 June 1813, von Pirch was promoted to GM; on 29 July 1813 – his salary was Thlr 3,000 p.a. During the Wars of Liberation he fought at Gross-Görschen, Bautzen, the Katzbach (where he won the EK II) and Leipzig (winning the EK I). On 4 December, von Pirch wrote to the king that the two princes needed no more tuition and requested a field command; on 30 Dec 1813 was appointed GOC of the 1st.Brigade in von Yorck`s I Corps. In 1814 he was shot through the thigh at Montmirail on 11 February and only rejoined his command on 10 April, after hostilities had ceased. This wound effectively crippled him, but he continued to serve. He blockaded Didenhofen fort and took Vitry-le-Francois. On 21 January 1815, he was awarded a gift of Thlr 1,000 by the king. In 1815 he commanded the 2nd. Brigade in Zieten`s I Corps and fought at Charleroi and Lambusart on 15 June, Ligny (where he was distinguished) and at Waterloo. He ambushed the garrison of the fort at Villers-Cotterets on 28 June and took 14 guns from Grouchy there that day. He then fought at Sevres, Meudon and Issy and blockaded Philippeville, which capitulated on 9 August 1815.

General von Zieten wrote of him:

`Bestand die Gefechte am 15.Juni bei Charleroi und Lambusart mit besonderer Tapferkeit und Einsicht. Seiner Aufstellung und Verteidigung ist es zu verdanken,dass das Korps sich bei Fleurus konzentrieren konnte. Den 16. Juni, als Saint-Amand vom Feinde genommen war, nahm der General von Pirch es mit ausgezeichneter Tapferkeit wieder, hielt diesen Ort gegen einen überlegenen Feind drei Stunden, ward abgelöst, und da der Feind das Dorf abermals genommen hatte, eroberte es der General von Pirch zum zweitenmal und hielt es bis zum Abend. Am 27. Juni hatte er mit seiner Brigade die Avantgarde und sollte bis Villers-Cotterets vorgehen. Nach einem 28-stundigen Marsch traf er daselbst ein, fand den Ort vom Marschall Grouchy besetz, griff Ihn sofort mit vieler Entschlossenheit an und nahm ihn 14 Kanonen ab.`

(He fought in the clashes on 15 June at Charleroi and Lambusart with particular bravery and skill. To his disposition and defence, we owe the fact that the corps was able to concentrate at Fleurus. On 16 June, when Saint-Amand had been taken by the enemy, General Pirch re-took it with splendid bravery, held it for three hours in the face of a superior enemy, was relieved, and, as the enemy subsequently recaptured the place, he again recaptured it and held it until evening. On 27 June, his brigade was the advanced guard and was tasked with advancing to Villers-Cotterets. After a 28-hour march, he arrived there, to find it occupied by Marshal Grouchy; he attacked at once with great determination and captured 14 cannon.`)

On 24 September 1815, he was appointed GOC, 8th Brigade, and on 2 October of that year, he was awarded the PLM with oakleaves. On 27 October 1815, the king awarded him another gift of Thlr 2,000. On 19 December 1815, von Pirch retired as GL due to the effects of his wound. On 7 February 1817, he was appointed a member of the Ordenskommission (Decorations and Awards Commission), and on 27 March of that same year, was permitted to wear the Russian OStA I.On 16 January 1818, he was  awarded the RAO I. On 22 April 1819, he was appointed president of the Ordenskommission. On 26 December 1819, he was  promoted to GL and appointed Oberdirektor,Allgemeine-Kriegsakademie,of the Kadettenkorps (Senior Director of the General War Academy) and president of the Militär-Studienkommission (Commission of Military Studies). On 24 November 1823, his salary was increased by Thlr 1,200 p.a. He died on 26 May 1824 in Berlin.  


Placed on the Napoleon Series: July 2011

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