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The Germans under the French Eagles: Our Allies the Bavarians  – Conclusion

The Germans under the French Eagles: Our Allies the Bavarians  – Conclusion

The Germans under the French Eagles: Our Allies the Bavarians  – Conclusion






It is a mixed feeling of pride and gratitude that we must experience as we consider the proper and loyal conduct of our Bavarian allies until they were relieved of their military duties to us.  Very different was the way in which the Saxons left us in Leipzig –betraying us in the middle of the battlefield and firing loaded cannons into our ranks at their former brothers in arms!  –How many other defections could we not recall!  The Württemberg cavalry and Westphalian hussars at Leipzig, the infantry of the Duchies of Saxony in Altenburg, the battalion of the Prince-Primate and 2nd Regiment of Nassau in Spain…[1]  The policy of the governments of the Confederation of the Rhine had evolved with events; the ideas of freedom which France had sown in Europe were now exploited against her; after having grown in the shadow of our flag, our allies claimed to free themselves from us a suzerainty which seemed intolerable to them –and they were only going to change protectors…  If the military failures of the German troops were numerous in this troubled period when governments and their troops were often on opposing sides, it is fair to do justice to the perfect loyalty which some leaders had shown in difficult circumstances.  –Aside from the Count of Hochberg, who did the honor for the Baden army by claiming at Leipzig for his soldiers and for himself the right to be treated as prisoners of war until he has officially given the orders from the Bavarian troops:  Zoller in Thorn, Maillot in Torgau, Buttler in Danzig escape criticism.  Their honour as soldiers remains intact  –even increases– and when they left our ranks, they were followed by the deep sympathy of our army and by the grateful admiration of its leaders.

From 1805 to 1813, the Bavarian army fought alongside us, always with honor and often with glory.

Bavaria’s alliance with France in 1805 was magnificently rewarded:  Maximilian-Joseph received from Napoleon a king’s crown to replace his Elector’s cap.

As a result of its accession to the Confederation of the Rhine in 1806 and its brilliant participation in successive campaigns against Prussia, Russia and Austria, the House of Bavaria acquired borders which made the country a compact mass and its king the most powerful of the German princes.

At first a little hesitant and timid –they had so long served as “troops of the circle” and “of the Empire” and under the orders of the tried leaders that the Emperor knew how to give them:  victorious of the Prussians in Silesia, of the Russians in Poland, from the Austrians on the Danube, they became solid, aggressive, and finally competed with the old soldiers of the Grand Army who often applauded their exploits:  and they were good judges in the matter!

The Bavarians paid generously for their glory:  the campaigns of the Empire cost them, too, important losses:  nearly 800 of their officers were put out of action during the Napoleonic period, and of this figure more than 150 were killed by the enemy:  the brave general Deroy, generals von Zandt and Sibein, colonels von Pappenheim, Pierron, Wrèden, von Preysing, von Arco, Fleuret, von Wittgenstein; the lieutenant-colonels von Pölnitz, von Tanzel, von Gédoni, Gunther, von Dietfürth …

Tyrol, which had to be conquered twice, cost the Bavarian army nearly 150 officers; a still greater number fell gloriously before Polotsk.  Outside the Inn valley and the plains of Poland, 130 officers were put out of action under Iglau, 37 remained on the field at Neumark and 47 were struck at Tesswitz; the six regiments of light horse –all the Bavarian cavalry– which took such a glorious part in the victory of Moskowa left 69 of their officers on this battlefield.[2]

The political necessities of the beginning of the last century had forced Bavaria to seriously increase its military system; the active army, considerably increased, unified and supervised, received an important reinforcement by the fact of the organization of reserve units; the national guards created “for the defense of the territory” were to, following events, give a new boost to the campaign troops employed beyond the borders of the kingdom.  It was 90,000 men that Bavaria could put in line in the full development of its new organization.

The Bavarian General Staff showed itself up to the height of its task:  it always behaved with distinction and we have seen that it was more than decimated under Polotsk.  As for the artillery, reorganized and commanded by the French officers of the army of Condé, the Cologne, Comeau, Zoller, it did not fear a rival and was rightly passed for one of the best in Europe.

How did this campaign end for the Bavarians at the beginning of which, in 1813, they had still fought in our ranks?

Reunited with the allies, they took part in the campaign in France in 1814, suffered significant losses and began to have serious difficulties with the Austrians for the application of the articles of the Treaty of Ried.

A second convention, signed in Paris on 3 June 1814 by Wrede for Bavaria and by Prince von Metternich for Austria, claimed to give a more precise interpretation to the stipulations of the previous treaty and to prevent any misunderstanding which could arise from a false interpretation of his secret articles.  It was understood that Bavaria ceded Tyrol, Vorarlberg, the Principality of Salzburg, the Inn district, the circle of Hausruck to Austria, except for a few specified small territories; the Tyrol was to be immediately occupied by the Austrians; in exchange for these realities, the Austrian government undertook “to use its best offices” to bring Mainz and the former Palatinate of the Rhine into the lot of Bavaria…

But the great powers, victorious, now cared little for their small allies; they refused the annexation of the palatinate to Bavaria and did not agree to guarantee its reversibility, on both banks of the Rhine, unless the current Grand Duke died without a male heir!…

The treaty of 23 April 1815 consecrated the cessions made by Maximilian-Joseph and the compensations that were granted to him:  Bavaria returned to Austria the Tyrol, Vorarlberg, Innviertel, Hausruck, such as the latter had had to cede them to him in 1805 except for some slight modifications, and the southern part of the old archbishopric of Salzburg; it received in return the Grand Duchy of Wurzburg, Aschaffenburg, Redwitz and some territories ceded by Hesse (Hanau), Fulde, Württemberg (Nordlingen, part of the circle of Mein and Tauber, etc.) and the principality of Isembourg; he was promised the reversibility of the old palatinate, failing a male heir in the dynasty currently reigning in the Grand Duchy of Bade; the King of Prussia renounced his rights over Anspach and Bayreuth, and the King of Bavaria his own over the Duchy of Berg; finally, the castle of Bayreuth was assigned as residence to Prince Eugene and his family.

“In short, the house of Bavaria recovered its possessions on the left bank of the Rhine, duchy of Deux-Ponts and the Rhine palatinate, for which it had already been compensated in Germany; it kept the territories received from the Emperor Napoleon in Franconia and returned the countries taken from Austria.  The possession of the old palatinate gave rise to interminable disputes with Württemberg and Baden, which ended only in 1819 with the cession of all that Bavaria had on the right bank of the Rhine.”[3]

From the history of these seven years spent with profit and glory by Bavaria in the alliance of France, what must we conclude?  It is Rambaud, in one of his wonderful works on the influence of the French Revolution in Germany, who will tell us:

“Napoleon was the creator of Bavaria, like Baden and Württemberg.  In place of a dust of small states and small knights, he left a powerful state, of almost European importance.  The republicans of the German Rhine and the princes of the Rheinbund had sought in the French alliance, some for “the freedom of the human race”, others for the independence of their states.”

“French suzerainty fell in Germania only when those who first supported and acclaimed it then rejected and fought it, and when the Saxon or Bavarian soldiers, decorated with the hand of the Emperor, turned against him.”

“But, in driving out the conqueror, Germany wanted to keep the legislator; and neither the soldiers nor the wise men of the time could decide to curse her entirely…”

“The Bavarians were not ashamed of having won in Breslau, Wagram, Polotsk, Moskowa, Wurschen…  And they did not believe that this epic of a hundred common victories was ignominy for their value…”

“How far were the feelings of hatred carefully stirred up by the Prussian professors in the hearts of their descendants!…”[4]

And Nickas Müller, in his “Book of songs for the Veterans who served in the Grand Army of Napoleon from 1803 to 1814”,[5] writes in his preface:

“The warrior who followed Napoleon in all climates of the universe, the warrior who fought under his orders in so many kingdoms, who so often took his share of glory and triumph, who led this tormented life, full of privations, sufferings, fatalities and mortal dangers, cannot, must not forget its great general…  What ruler could take offense to see the veterans celebrate the old victories, cast a moving gaze on the broken eagles from Leipzig and Waterloo, to drop a tear of pain in the waves of the Berezina? …”

“Napoleon, on the stage of the world, was the classic image of the hero; but he was also the father of the soldier, the strong shield of honor.  The camp, the misery, the danger, the fatigue, he shared everything as a comrade and healed our sick minds.”

“Which Charlemagne, which Othon, which Alexander did as much as him?  Everyone calls them great, but he is still above them.  Under his victorious standards, we served, faithful and intrepid:  his name can only remind us of endless new memories of heroism…”

These are the memories that the French alliance left in the hearts of German soldiers!


Military Cross of Bavaria from 1813-1814.

(Collection of M. Captain von Fromont.)


This cross, made of melted down cannon, decreed on 4 December 1814 in memory of the war of 1813 to 1814, was distributed on 27 May 1817 to the active army and the Bavarian National Guards; by extension, the soldiers of 1815 participated in its distribution.

It is attached to the left of the habit: but the Prince von Wrede, by a special distinction, wore it as a sash.  It was also suspended from the flags of the troops, mobile legions and the landwehr who then gathered to defend the frontiers.

(White ribbon, sky blue and black border, with sky blue outer border.)

(Wahlen, Order of Chivalry.)


[1] “Then began a time when passions had so altered feelings that one wanted to honor betrayal.” (General Pelet, Principle Operations of the 1813 Campaign, page 36.)


[2] M. A. Martinien, in his Tables of Officers Killed and Wounded during the Wars of the Empire (main work and supplement), figures the losses of the Bavarian army from 1805 to 1813 as follows:


killed. wounded.
For the staff 5 24
For the line infantry 96 378
killed. wounded.
For light battalions 11 70
For the cavalry 50 116
For the artillery and engineers 3 14
Which would give a total of 165 and 602



[3]Armand Collin, text appended to the box reproduced in this book.


[4]Rambaud, Germany under Napoleon Ist, passim.


[5] Liederbuch fur die Veteran der Grossen Napoleonarmee von 1803 bis 1814, Mainz, 1837.