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Our Allies the Bavarians: Appendix I – On Generals Deroy and von Wrede

Our Allies the Bavarians: Appendix I – On Generals Deroy and von Wrede

Our Allies the Bavarians: Appendices

I. On Generals Deroy and von Wrede (Archives of General Ameil).

II. Capitulation of the fortress of Plassenburg.

III.  A letter from Marshal Lefebvre to the Emperor, during the Tyrol campaign (War Archives).

IV. Captain von Voelderndorff’s report on pillaging soldiers, 1812.

V. Affairs of Polotsk (Memoires of General d’Albignac).

VI. Bavarian officers killed in the service of France.


(Extracts from the Archives of General Baron AMEIL.)

In his preface to the Notes and Documents of General Baron Ameil[1], Frédéric Masson tells us about this marvellous horseman of the Epoch:

‘General Ameil is this officer who, exiled in France by the Bourbons, succeeded after a series of miseries and unprecedented adventures, gained a foot in Hanover from where he would have passed near Bernadotte who called him to his service; it is this officer who, on the point of embarking, was, in defiance of the rights of nations, arrested at Lüneburg in March 1816 and imprisoned in Hildesheirm as a state prisoner.  There, says the editor of the Biography of Contemporaries, –given by English generosity the choice between extradition, that is to say of certain death, or that of eternal captivity in a foreign land, his reason has succumbed under the weight of such misfortune.’

During his captivity, General Ameil wrote with a lively and quick pen Notes and Memories filled with curious anecdotes, personal observations, portraits taken from life of officers he had known.  We take from this part of his work, with the kind authorization of Commander Ameil, owner of the family archives, the following fragments for which we leave, of course, all the responsibility to their author:  they shed light in a very interesting way on the military events and the people who have been mentioned in this story of our Bavarian allies.

On the Bavarian Lieutenant General Count Deroy, mortally wounded and dead under Polotsk, in 1812.

When in 1805 Marshal Bernadotte came from Hanover with the 1st Army Corps on Anspach, he came to take up position in the vicinity of Frankfurt and suddenly moved on Würzburg.  The court of Bavaria had just taken refuge there by the advice of the influence of Montgelas, and it had gathered all its troops in the bishopric. Marshal Bernadotte and M. Otto were instructed by Napoleon to convince Bavaria to its alliance with France.  The Elector was very far from wanting to make war on France, but he preferred the neutrality where he was strongly influenced by the electress.  However, the Marshal and our minister imposed on this court; it decided on an alliance with France, and placed her troops under the command of Bernadotte as a first condition.  The Elector, presenting his generals to Marshal Bernadotte, said to him pointing to Lieutenant General Deroy:  “This one is my old friend; I recommend him to you, he thinks like me.”  Lieutenant General Deroy commanded the Bavarians in chief; he followed the movements of the 1st Corps, delaying its maneuvers a little by the weight of its troops which marched slowly; he entered Munich, followed by the march on Salzburg, from where he was instructed to go and invest and besiege Kufstein.  He was very seriously injured in one of the actions which preceded the taking of this place, but he nevertheless had the consolation of learning of the capture on his bed of pain, which contributed greatly to his recovery.  He resumed service, continued to be employed in the Bavarian troops and commanded them in the Russian campaign, under the command of Marshal Gouvion Saint-Cyr.  He served under Polotsk and was killed on 18 August 1812 while bravely defending the approaches to this town.  His son, colonel of an infantry regiment, died gloriously the same day, in the same affair.  General Deroy was missed by his troops, of which he was the father, and by the French who regarded him as a loyal ally.[2]  There was no one who did not feel, on seeing General von Wrede take command, that the Bavarian troops would cease to be loyal.

On the Bavarian Lieutenant General von Wrede.

Von Wrede was born a subject of Bavaria and the Palatinate.  He was bailiff there; he enjoyed a rather bad reputation.  He was a restless man, involved in everything, protector of the peasants or of the nobility, according to his interests; he became Archduke Charles’ spy in his campaign on the Rhine, and the French troops were even ordered to arrest him.  He escaped prosecution; having no more asylum, he placed himself at the head of a corps of peasants of the Palatinate, and combined his operations with those of the Archduke of Bavaria, who admitted him into his service as colonel; he served in the Austrian army in the Hohenlinden campaign and rose to the rank of general officer.  In 1805, he was employed in the Bavarian corps commanded by Lieutenant General Deroy under Marshal Bernadotte.  He was soon judged as an extremely ambitious man, boasting, wanting everything; when Marshal Bernadotte approached Munich, there was talk of entering and attacking General Kienmayer.  Von Wrede, who was in the vanguard, reported that Kienmayer was with 35,000 men in position between Munich and Dachau. News of this nature, given by a general officer, warranted precaution; a final resolution was postponed until the next day, and the enemy line was ordered to be reconnoitered.  Von Wrede, who was in charge of the army, did not allow any French reconnaissance to pass, so that reports were received only from him and everything was in the direction of the former.

The next day, a party of 80 horses, which had escaped von Wrede’s surveillance during the night, entered Munich at daybreak, took 1,500 prisoners there and took a lot of baggage from Kienmayer and reported that the army Austrian was in full retreat on the Inn.  Von Wrede was too compromised and hastened to arrive with the cavalry, crossed Munich, running in pursuit of the enemy, reached him, took away baggage, personnel and 18 to 20 pieces of cannon; circumstances made it happy, but there were great grounds for suspecting his loyalty.  Everyone felt that if we had attacked the day before, Kienmayer would have been cut off from his retreat to Munich and that a large part of his army would have been taken from him.  They were astonished that von Wrede, commanding the vanguard in his country, three leagues from the capital, had also informed him, and suspicions were already raised about his loyalty. He returned with trophies, which at the start of a campaign was always flattering; they did not dare to worry him too much about the falsity of his reports because nothing had yet been decided at Ulm and they wanted to spare his allies.  Von Wrede declared with a sort of frankness that he had feared an engagement in Munich and the disorders which usually ensue, etc., etc.  But the army was no less convinced that von Wrede had failed in the loyalty he owed to his allies.  It turned out that he had met with emissaries in Munich, that the delay in his march had been calculated with Kienmayer, under whom he had served previously, and that he had received money not to advance.  Von Wrede followed the operations of Marshal Bernadotte and took command of the Bavarian corps when Lieutenant General Deroy was wounded at Kufstein.  He marched through Upper Moravia; he entered Iglau, where Adjutant General Maison had preceded him with a French party.  Von Wrede found immense stores there, which he had the impudence to sell, although they did not belong to him:  they were to be employed for the needs of the army; in the end, he sold them for a hundred thousand crowns.  This affair was extremely scandalous.  Napoleon gave the stores to the King of Bavaria who left them to Von Wrede, who was therefore right and kept the funds.  The whole army was raised against the brigandage of de Wrede.

The Emperor having called the 1st Corps to him to fight at Austerlitz, Marshal Bernadotte left Wrede in position at Iglau with orders to observe Archduke Ferdinand who covered the eastern border of Bohemia with the debris he had rallied.  As long as von Wrede had seen himself supported by French divisions, he had been very impertinent and insulted the Austrians against all kinds of conveniences and customs received in war.  Archduke Ferdinand learning of Bernadotte’s movement on Brünn, did not miss the opportunity, leading off von Wrede cutting his communication to the Emperor, beats him, drives him out of his position.  The news of the success of Austerlitz and of the armistice arrived very timely to suave the Bavarian troops who were very good and could have, under another leader, balanced the efforts of Prince Ferdinand.

Wrede appealed to Marshal Bernadotte’s kindness for restitution of the prisoners he had lost.  They were claimed under I do not know what pretext.  Prince Ferdinand was kind enough to return them.  Wrede made a bulletin which he sent to his corps and had it published by all the newspapers in Europe:  to hear it, he had beaten Prince Ferdinand; the Austrians and the French laughed a lot.

Wrede returned to Bavaria, taking away from the French army the reputation of a swagger, a thief, a disloyal man and above all a suspicious ally.  There was no doubt for a moment that, if fortune had declared itself against France at Austerlitz, von Wrede would have been against the Austrians and (would) have attacked us; it was in his character.  Von Wrede still served in the campaign of 1807.  The Emperor Napoleon created him count of the Empire and gave him an estate of 30,000 francs income which he bought in Bavaria.  Von Wrede imagined that his title of count of the French Empire freed him from the justice and sovereignty of the King of Bavaria.  He had the arms of his sovereign removed, substituted his own.  There was a lawsuit he even won, which is a monument of impertinence and ingratitude.  Time would get the better of this derision.

Von Wrede had, on the occasion of a letter which was intercepted and of several inconsistencies which he committed, a scene and a very venomous correspondence with the Swedish ambassador in Vienna, from whom he received a cartel.  He made a great noise and did not fight.  It did him no honor.

Von Wrede, in 1809, was part of Napoleon’s army; he attacked Landshut on 21 April; he was beaten at Neumark on the 24th by Hiller and Jellachich; on 12 May 1809, he carried the entrenchments of Loffers and the pass of Strub in Tyrol; on 13 May, Schwaz was captured and burned in the Innthal.

Von Wrede followed General Deroy’s corps in 1812 and campaigned in Russia.  He had taken the main influence in the Bavarian corps.  General Deroy was old, tired, and was not sorry that someone came in for him.  It was positively that in this campaign, von Wrede never had his troops in a condition to march: sometimes they were tired, sometimes they had not eaten the soup; finally, this corps only counted for the number, but not owed everything for a day of combat.

Von Wrede, believing Wittgenstein to be beaten, wanted to engage in a rearguard affair on Biéloe and was beaten. When, on 18 October, Wittgenstein attacked Polotsk, the Bavarians did very well, von Wrede could not take part in the combat; but when he had crossed the Dvina again, he isolated himself from the army, leading the Corbineau Brigade, and he went to war on his own behalf towards Gluboky, that is to say, isolated himself from all the movements of the army.  He thus avoided the disasters of the Russian campaign and he joined only towards Vilna. He returned to Bavaria, from which he left the following year only as an enemy of France.

During the Saxon campaign that Napoleon had to hold against the allies, von Wrede reorganized the Bavarian army and kept observation on the Inn against the Austrian army.[3]  The Wertchen Armistice took place.  A congress assembled.  Castlereagh appeared there with 75,000 pounds sterling in a bill of exchange, bought Metternich and determined the alliance of Austria against France.  Castlereagh, who knew very well that it would be very difficult to train Bavaria, relied on Wrede, who was not inaccessible to corruption.  The latter, together with the Crown Prince, enemy of France, finally convinced the King, who, in fact, could hardly do otherwise.

Von Wrede reunited with his Bavarian army the Austrian army of Frimont, against which he was under observation, took command of it, one hardly knows in what capacity, and ran at full speed over Frankfurt in hope to cut off the routing French army, to make a cheap reputation, and to plunder it.  His dispositions had been badly made, his troops were overwhelmed, beaten, he himself was wounded, and the French army won the day.  The little baggage it lost fell into the hands of the Russians, for anyone in Wrede’s corps would not have dared to follow him after the lesson they had just received.

Von Wrede wasn’t wrong to persuade his king to leave the alliance of France, for this measure was political and in the sole interests of Bavaria, but he was wrong to solicit the first command against a prince to whom he owed his fortune and its existence, and the kind of perseverance he put into his movement proved that he was but a wretched man without faith, without law, without process.

Wrede made the two invasions of France in 1814 and 1815, and his troops were noted for their destruction and love of looting.  Austria and Prussia had already known them in this respect.  He was appointed prince:  a rank he did not deserve.  I doubt he will finish well.  His height with the Bavarian nobility makes him many enemies; many officers value it; the slightest event may tip it over.  Von Wrede is a very dangerous subject for the King of Bavaria.

[1]Magazine of La Sabretache“, September and October 1907.

[2] General Deroy was of an age to live quietly and not to go on adventures in Russia.  It appears that he only made this campaign out of deference to the King, whose friend he was.  The King was suspicious of von Wrede and wanted to avoid anything that could give him influence in Bavaria.  It was for this reason that he wanted to see Deroy command his troops in chief, which left Wrede under his command. (General A.)

[3] He aspired to the great cordon of the Legion of Honor which the Emperor insisted on refusing him (General A.)