Prussian Generals of the Napoleonic Wars  1793-1815

Prussian Generals of the Napoleonic Wars  1793-1815: Platen, Gottlieb Wilhelm Christian von

Platen, Gottlieb Wilhelm Christian von (1253)

Born on 15 April 1765 in Krimvitz on the Baltic island of Rügen; his father, Bogislav Ernst Johann, was Herr auf Krimvitz. On 4 July 1779 Gottlieb entered Prussian military service as a cadet in Berlin; On 28 Februay 1780 – appointed Estandartenjunker, in KürR Nr 13 (Garde du Corps); on 5 September 1784, he was commissioned as Kornett, and on 14 November 1787, he was promoted to Sklt and transferred to DragR Graf von Posadowski Nr 6. He served in the war in Poland in 1794/5. On 7 November 1797, he was promoted to Prlt and, on 14 March 1801, to Stkpt. On 2 January 1802, he was promoted to Kpt, and transferred DragR von Auer Nr 6. In the war of 1806/7 he fought at Preussisch-Eylau and Heilsberg where he was awarded the Russian OV IV for his repeated charges against enemy cavalry. On 18 July 1807, he was awarded the PLM. On 19 November 1807, he was promoted to Maj and transferred again, to the 1. West Prussian DragR. On 8 August 1810, he again transferred, this time to the Lithuanian DragR. On 15 July 1811, he was court-martialled and sentenced to one year`s fortress arrest for fighting a duel with Maj von Unruh of his regiment; the two had had many violent quarrels prior to the duel, and von Platen repeatedly challenged von Unruh even though the practice was illegal. The situation became so bad that King Friedrich Wilhelm III warned von Platen that he would be thrown into prison if he persisted. This warning was ignored, the duel took place and both were sent into arrest. Von Platen was released on 9 January 1812. By now, von Platen earned the nickname `Der tolle Platen`  (Crazy Platen) throughout the army for his mad pranks in peacetime and his incomparable heroism in action. Stories about him were legion and most of them were true. On 1 February 1813, he was appointed to command the Lithuanian DragR. In 1813 his regiment was in the reserve cavalry of von Yorck`s I Corps; he fought with repeated distinction in the clash at Möckern early in 1813 (and won the EK II),battles of Gross-Görschen, the Katzbach (where he won the EK I) and Leipzig. Before going into action at the Katzbach, where torrential rain made musketry and artillery fire impossible, he said to his men:

`Wisst Ihr auch Kerls, was das wichtigste für einen Dragoner ist? Das wichtigste für einen Dragoner ist, dass ihm nach der Attacke die Pfeife noch brennt. Und nun, Gott befohlen, Kerls, und macht mir Ehre.` (Lads, do you know what id the most important thing for a dragoon? The most important thing for a dragoon is that his pipe is still alight after the charge. And now – as ordered by God – lads, do me the honour`).

After the battle of Leipzig, Oberst von Röder (Yorck`s chief of staff) criticised von Platen before Yorck for not having yet submitted his casualty lists. Von Platen rode his horse around von Röder making it carry out repeated jumps which unsteadied von Röder and retorted:

`Ich habe weder Zeit noch Papier und Tinte. Bisher war das Regiment bei der Avantgarde, heute bei der Nachhut, wann sollte ich da wohl Zeit haben zum Listenschreiben, Herr Oberst?`  (I have neither time, nor paper and ink. Up to now the regiment has been the advanced guard, today it is the rearguard; when would I have time to write lists, Colonel?) Röder complained to Yorck, but Yorck responded:` Der Platen hat ganz recht, lassen Sie ihn, er tut seine Pflicht auch ohne Tinte und Papier.` (`Platen is quite right, let him be, he does his duty without ink and paper.`)

On 11 August, von Platen was promoted to Obstlt, and on 31 May 1814, to Obst. In the 1814 campaign he fought at Chateau-Thierry where he was badly wounded and captured. He retired on 5 January 1816, due to the effects of his wounds, as GM with a pension of Thlr 1,000p.a. In 1819 he suffered a stroke; in his wallet was found his will. It stipulated that when he died, he was to be laid in his coffin in his greatcoat; the coffin was to be loaded onto a `Krümperwagen` (farm cart) and taken to the nearest battlefield where he was to be buried. Movement was to be at the trot and a trumpeter was to ride ahead sounding the reveille. Von Platen died on 20 February 1821 in Königsberg, now Kaliningrad.


Placed on the Napoleon Series: August 2011

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