Prussian Generals of the Napoleonic Wars  1793-1815

Prussian Generals of the Napoleonic Wars  1793-1815: Preussen, Friedrich Heinrich Ludwig Prinz von

Preussen, Friedrich Heinrich Ludwig Prinz von

Friedrich Heinrich was born on 18 January 1726 in Berlin; he died on 3 August 1802 in Rheinsberg, north of Berlin. He was the 13th child of King Friedrich Wilhelm I of Prussia and his wife, Queen Sophie Dorothea (von Hannover). Confusingly, he was known as `Prinz Heinrich von Preussen`, a fact which makes research difficult for the uninitiated.

In 1740, at the age of 14, he was made Chef (Colonel-in-Chief) of Fusilier Regiment Nr 35, a post he held until his death. He first took the field in the war of the Austrian Succession (1740-1748) and also served in the Seven Years War (1756-1763). Although he was ever in his elder brother`s shadow, he knew his generalship well enough to criticise some aspects of Frederick the Great`s martial skills and foreign policy in a pamphlet published in 1753 under the nom-de-plume of `Marechal Gessler`. His military training was overseen by Oberst von Stille, whom he accompanied as adjutant (Aide-de-Camp) in the 1st Silesian War (1740-1742), fighting in the battle of Chotusitz on 17 May 1742. From May 1744 he received permission to drill his regiment himself.
In the 2nd Silesian War (1744-1745) he again took the field and was almost taken prisoner on one occasion. He earned his spurs in the Prussian victory in the battle of Hohenfriedberg (now Dobromierz in Polish Silesia) on 4 June 1753. On 15 July of that year, he was promoted to General-Major. He also distinguished himself in the clash of Trautenau on the subsequent retreat.  He then fell ill with  smallpox and had to leave the field. Over several campaigns, he proved himself to be a much more careful general than his brother, husbanding his men well and losing fewer casualties.  

At the outbreak of the Seven Years War in 1756, Heinrich commanded an infantry brigade in the invasion of Saxony. On 16 February 1757 he was promoted to Generallleutnant. In the battle of Prague (Sterboholy, 6 May 1757) he commanded the Prussian left wing (Generals von Schwerin with the infantry and von Zieten with the cavalry), which rolled up the Austrian right wing and secured the Prussian victory. Following the Prussian defeat at Kolin (18 June 1757) which led to the abandonment of Bohemia by Frederick the Great, he commanded the rearguard under Feldmarschall Keith as they fell back into Saxony and was distinguished in the clash at Lietmeritz. In the legendary Prussian victory of Rossbach (5 November 1757), Heinrich commanded the right wing. He was wounded and forced to return to Leipzig until the spring of 1758. He was then given command of an independent force, covering the line of the River Elbe against Franco-Imperial incursions. He also managed to recover the Duchy of Brunswick from French control. In 1759 he went over to the offensive and advanced southwards to the River Main. After the devastating Prussian defeat by the Austro-Russians in the battle of Kunersdorf on the lower River Oder (12 August 1759) his royal brother fell into a state of depression for four days, in which time, Heinrich assumed command of the army. In this time, he was very active. On 25 September, after slipping away from under Austrian FM von Daun`s nose at Görlitz, on the upper River Neisse two days earlier, he defeated an Austrian corps of 3,000 men under General von Wehla at Hoyerswerda, northeast of Dresden, and pushed the French-Imperialist army back west to Bautzen. This minor victory at Hoyerswerda caused the ultra-cautious Austrian commander-in-chief, General Graf Leopold Joseph von Daun, to abandon further operations against Prussia for this year. On 29 October, Prinz Heinrich defeated another minor Austrian corps at Pretsch.

Heinrich was appointed Commander-in-Chief in Silesia in 1760; he relieved Breslau (now Wroclaw, Poland) and prevented the union of the Austrian and Russian armies. In 1761 he was given the Saxon theatre to command and was again successful. On 29 October 1762, with 22,000 men, he defeated an Austrian force of 30,000 under FM Prinz Christian Karl von Stolberg-Gedern at Freiberg, between Dresden and Chemnitz, causing them some 7,400 casualties. This was the last major action of the war. After 1763, Heinrich embarked on a diplomatic career, visiting Stockholm and St Petersburg, preparing the ground for the 1st Partition of Poland in August 1772. He was an active Freemason, as was internationally popular in the upper ranks of European society.

He was offered the crown of Poland, much to his royal brother`s annoyance. The partition took place, Prussia, Russia and Austria each slicing off chunks of the hapless state.

On 25 June 1752, Heinrich married Princess Wilhelmina von Hessen-Kassel, with whom he led a distant relationship. In 1778 he again commanded an army in the War of the Bavarian Succession, a very low-key affair, but showed little energy or activity, which earned him much criticism from the king. On several occasions, he was aided by Generalfeldmarschall von Kalckreuth on his staff. Following the death of Frederick the Great in 1786, Heinrich hoped to have great influence over his successor, Friedrich Wilhelm II, but this was not to be.

In the grounds of his palace in Rheinsberg, on a lake, east of Wittstock, north of Neuruppin and northwest of Berlin, he built an obelisk, on which were the names of all those Prussian generals who had fallen foul of his royal brother. They included Prinz August Wilhelm von Preussen (2nd son of King Friedrich Wilhelm), FML von Keith, FML von Schwerin, Prinz Leopold von Anhalt-Dessau, Prinz August Ferdinand von Preussen ( 4th son of Friedrich Wilhelm), General von Seidlitz, General von Ziethen, Herzog von Bevern, General von Platen, Oberstleutnant von Wedel, General von Hulsen, GvI von Tauentzien, GvI von Möllendorf, Generalleutnant von Haucharmoi, General von Retzow, Oberst von Wobersnow (ADC to the king), August Wilhelm (?), von Goltz (ADC to the king), Major von Blumenthal of the IR Prinz Heinrich, General von Reder, von Marwitz (Chief of Staff of the army), von Quede (ADC to Prinz Heinrich), von Platen (ADC to FM von Schwerin), GvI von Wunsch, Generalleutnant von Saldern, GvK von Prittwitz, General of Hussars von Kleist, Generalleutnant der Artillerie von Dieskau, GM von Ingersleben GL Graf von Henkel (ADC to Prinz Heinrich).

Placed on the Napoleon Series: October 2011

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