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The Soldiers of Hesse Nassau Chapter VII: War in Spain 1810-13

The Soldiers of Hesse Nassau Chapter VII: War in Spain 1810-13

The Soldiers of Hesse Nassau Chapter VII: War in Spain 1810-13

The 1st Infantry Regiment of Nassau with the Army of Catalonia (1810-1813)

Translated by Greg Gorsuch

The Manresa expedition.

The Barcelona garrison.

Disarmament of the regiment and the chasseurs à cheval of Nassau in 1813.

While the main masses of the French armies conquered, guarded, then finally abandoned Spain, the province of Catalonia was the distinct theatre of a long series of operations which the difficulty of communications and the nature of the country did not allow to coordinate with the movements of other Imperial forces in the Peninsula.

The bellicose population of Catalonia, supported by numerous strongholds and supported by a few regular troops, had set up 50,000 volunteers organized in ‘tercios’ under the name of miquelets or somanténs.

General Duhesme, after seizing Figueres and Barcelona in 1808, ran aground in front of Girona.  Gouvion-Saint Cyr then arrived with two divisions, captured Rosas and defeated the Spaniards at Cardedeu and Molins-del-Rey (21 December); the Army of Catalonia became the 7th Corps of the Army of Spain and, from the beginning of 1809, the Emperor reinforced it with contingents demanded from the princes of the Confederation of the Rhine; a Westphalian division under the orders of General Morio (2nd, 3rd, 4th Infantry Regiments, 1st Light Infantry Battalion), a brigade of Berg (1st and 2nd Regiments), the regiment of Würzburg, and a battalion called ‘of the Little Princes’ provided by the principalities of Schwarzburg, Lippe, Waldeck and Reuss; with the help of these troops, Augereau, who replaced Gouvion-Saint Cyr, captured Girona on 11 December despite Blake’s efforts, after a memorable siege of seven months.








1810 – Marshal Augerau, Commander of the Army of Catalonia (After the lithograph by Delpech)



The war with Austria was barely over when the Emperor decided to send a new German division to Spain: it was General Rouyer, who had just fought in the Tyrol where several of his regiments had distinguished themselves, in particular that of the ‘Duchies of Saxony’. Rouyer crossed the Rhine in January 1810, reached Perpignan by a march of forty-four days and reached Girona on 13 March; Marshal Augereau reviewed the German Division there, which had the following composition:

Men present.
1st Brigade: { 1st Regiment of Nassau. 1,494
General SCHWARZ Regiment of the Duchies of Saxony. 929
2nd Brigade: { 5th Rhine Regiment (Anhalt-Lippe). 1,248
Colonel DE CHABAUD 6th Rhine Regiment (Schwarzburg-Waldeck-Reuss). 876
(from Anhalt).

Desertion, especially at the time of the crossing of the Rhine, had left many voids in the German regiments that the prospect of serving in Spain, far from their homeland, only moderately seduced. The Division also counted 635 men left in the hospitals en route (including 229 from the Nassau regiment). Nevertheless, General Rouyer had on arriving in Girona, 4,557 soldiers under arms.

The day after his review, Augereau set out for Barcelona with the Souham and Rouyer Divisions, part of the Verdier Division (French, Neapolitans, Westphalians, Germans), 500 cavalry, 4 batteries and a convoy of 1,000 carts intended for the resupply of the town. One arrived in front of Hostalrich: the city was taken by the Italian Pino Division, but the citadel was still occupied by the Spaniards. The latter held the road under the fire of their cannons, and it was necessary to follow, to avoid it, a bad path on which one used during the night of 14th to 15th March; the delayed tail of the convoy, was greeted at dawn by the enemy artillery whose shells hit several wagons. Finally, this awful stage was crossed and one formed up in the valley of Tordera.

To protect and cover the convoy on its flanks, the company of voltigeurs of the regiment of Nassau, the light battalion of Weimar and the company of voltigeurs of Cobourg left the road and climbed the neighboring slopes; the 1st Battalion of the Regiment of the Duchies of Saxony followed the bottom of the valley and that of Schwarzburg formed the rear guard.

Soon the detachments of flankers were engaged against the miquelets; the incessant combat which they sustained slowed down their march; on the other hand, the rear guard was far from the convoy which had accelerated its march at the sound of the guerrilla attack; the long column of carts therefore traveled, at a given moment, without immediate protection, and the Spaniards stationed with carts were looted, the teams were killed, panic setting in the rest of the convoy…  General Rouyer, warned of to the tail of the convoy; those troops commanded by Colonel von Polnitz were joined by the left flankers (Weimar battalion) and pushed back the miquelets with a vigorous bayonet attack.

The column then resumed its march; but, before it had completely crossed the Tordera bridge, on which only three men could pass abreast, at a signal given by the bell of a chapel, numerous bands of Catalans appeared on both sides of the steep-sided road; where the convoy painfully progressed and attacked it again; to drive away the Spanish partisans, it was necessary to launch on the slopes of the mountains the whole regiment of the Duchies; this one did not arrived at the bivouac until midnight, with more than 25 men out of action.

Finally on 16 March, after crossing Granollers, Moncada and Saint-Andreu without ceasing during all this time to be grappling with the guerrillas that had to be driven back several times with bayonets, Augereau reached Barcelona and hastened there bringing in his convoy. In execution of the Emperor’s orders, the Marshal sent the Souham and Severoli Divisions to Valls and Reus on 20 March, to watch over the town of Tarragona and to link up, if possible, to the corps of Suchet which was operating towards Lerida (Lleida) in the Ebro basin; at the same time, he organized a column intended to go and occupy the small town of Manresa, residence of the insurrectional junta and rallying center for the insurgents in Catalonia.


General Schwarz, an Alsatian, was appointed to command the troops intended for the occupation of Manresa: these troops consisted of 2 battalions of the Nassau regiment (1,600 men) under the orders of Colonel von Polnitz, and 8 companies of the regiment of Duchies of Saxony led by Major Knauth, of Gotha (3 companies from Gotha, 1 from Coburg, 3 from Weimar, 1 from Hildburghausen). The small expeditionary column numbered 2,200 men and left on the morning of 20 March from the village of Sans, south of Barcelona; it did not bring artillery; as a cavalry, it has 6 French cuirassiers.

Crossing the Llobregat at the Molins-del-Rey bridge, General Schwarz reached Martorell where he rested his troops and distributed a ration of wine; then, he continued his march through the village of Esparreguera -completely abandoned by its inhabitants -and settled in bivouac a league beyond; 1 officer and 40 men from Nassau were placed in the outposts. A few isolated shots had already saluted the column; one heard others, more distant, which served as signals to the Catalans to communicate the news of the approach of the Imperial troops. The provisions found in Esparreguera provided the evening meal; during the night, however, a few soldiers marauded the village from where they brought back objects ‘which really could not be regarded as edible…’; they were severely punished, and such excesses did not occur again.









On the 21st at dawn, Schwarz, continuing his movement, passed Bruch and entered the narrow defile located between the last point and the village of La Guardia; the column was then at the bottom of Montserrat, a mountain 3,000 feet high whose thirteen famous hermitages raised their steeples towards the sky, at the top of the steep slopes which fall into the Llobregat. The ridges dominating the road were occupied by the Catalans, so to dislodge them, the voltigeurs of Nassau and a company of Weimar were charged to flank the column on its right, while two other companies of Weimar and Hildburghausen filled the same. task on the left.

At the exit of this dangerous defile, it was necessary to deliver a real combat to the peasants; called by the tocsin which resounded from all parts, all had abandoned their villages and attached themselves to the column which they harassed without truce. Finally, after a ten-hour march which had only been an interminable fight, Schwarz arrived in front of Manresa; several hundred Spaniards grouped on a neighboring height pretended to resist; a detachment from Nassau, sent against them, charged them with bayonets and dispersed them; 300 men would occupy the city where only a few old monks who were in charge of the care of their families had remained; the main body of the detachment was established in the bivouac outside the city, the 1st Battalion of Nassau in the east, the 2nd Battalion in the north, and the battalion of the Duchies of Saxony in the west, holding the bridges of the Cardoner .

Manresa then counted from 8 to 9,000 inhabitants, numerous factories, 6 convents, 2 bridges over the Cardoner and 4 solid gates; it was an important road junction whose possession was to facilitate the Army of Catalonia’s connection with the troops of the 3rd Corps in operations in the valley of the Ebro.

The night of the 21st to the 22nd was spent under freezing rain; thanks to the bad weather, the guerrillas did not attempt to attack the bivouacs, and the Germans, exhausted by a long day of fighting, could enjoy a relative and well-deserved rest.

The day of the 22nd was spent in supplying food that laborers brought back from the city; wine was found there in abundance, but no meat; General Schwarz strived to ensure good distributions, and, as Lieutenant Jacob writes, of the Duchies regiment, “he thus acquired the recognition of all“.  During this time, the fire was still very lively all over the front; the armed inhabitants and the miquelets completely surrounding the town.

On the morning of the 22nd, the fusillade became so lively that General Schwarz decided to bring the troops closer to the city; the regiment of Nassau had just had a murderous engagement and counted several killed and a certain number of wounded. At the sight of the retreating movement of the Germans, the Catalans advanced in thick masses towards the city; their priests animating them, waving large red or black flags; but the attackers were received by such intense fire that they had to quickly withdraw, leaving a number of dead and wounded in place:  among these was a Capuchin who, crucifix in hand, had dragged behind him the whole attack of the band of peasants…

Two improvised hospitals were organized in the convents of the city; the wounded and sick are entrusted there to the care of the Spanish monks.

The Catalans repeated their attacks without success on the 24th; it was against a height crowned with a chapel and occupied by a company from Gotha that their main efforts were directed; but this company had had time to cover itself with an earthwork; supported by a Weimar company, it succeeded in repelling all the enemy’s attempts. As the city was closely surrounded and they knew the small number of its defenders, the Spaniards proposed to General Schwarz to capitulate: the latter answered them “that he did not deal with brigands“. The position became critical, however, because ammunition, like food, would soon run out and each passing hour diminished for the besieged garrison the hope of seeing the arrival of essential aid.

Fortunately, in the following day, a spy announced to the General the imminent arrival of an Italian battalion and 2 pieces of cannon. Eight companies from Nassau were immediately sent to meet this column; they forced the line of the Spaniards and at three hours’ march from Manresa found the expected convoy and its escort strongly engaged with the Catalans; already 2 ammunition carts out of 5 had fallen into the hands of the enemy…Without the timely arrival of the soldiers from Nassau, the last carts of cartridges would suffer the same fate. The two united troops marched together fighting as far as Manresa, where the Italian battalion was established north of the city: this day cost 4 officers and 20 men to the Nassau regiment.

During the absence of these eight companies, the besiegers taking advantage of the weakening of the garrison reduced to 900 men attempted a furious attack on the city; but, like the preceding ones, this assault was vigorously repulsed.

The Italian battalion remained on the 26th under Manresa; believing to set a salutary example, its commander hanged in the camp a peasant taken during the last fight, in accordance with the order which prescribed the immediate execution of any inhabitant taken prisoner with arms in hand: this execution later motivated from the Catalans terrible reprisals and exasperated the hatred of the Spaniards against the troops of the garrison.

To prevent the enemy from leaving for Barcelona, the Italian battalion had to leave Manresa on 26 March at eight o’clock in the evening, accompanied on the return road by Major Knauth’s Saxon battalion in charge of escorting it beyond the dangerous defile of Montserrat; but this column could not set out until eleven o’clock in the evening and consequently did not arrive at the point fixed for its dislocation until the 27th at six o’clock in the morning; the Spaniards, on the alert, saw the two troops separate, and careless of exposing themselves to the blows of the two Italian cannons, they waited until these last had moved far enough away and then threw themselves on the Saxons, seeking to cut them off from retreat to Manresa; Major Knauth had to fight fiercely to emerge and was fortunately collected by two companies from Nassau sent to meet him by General Schwarz; thanks to the intervention of this detachment all the wounded Saxons could be brought back and installed in the hospitals of Manresa.

We know that the troops of the garrison, especially the sick and wounded, suffered from lack of meat; some companies from Nassau went out on the night of March 29th to 30th with the mission of discovering cattle in the surroundings: their return was facilitated by a general sortie, and a certain number of animals could be introduced in the town.

The situation thus continued until 2 April. The lack of artillery was sorely felt; from morning to night, the shooting crackled all over their forefront; the outposts could not be relieved and the nights were spent entirely under arms; there were over 200 men in the hospitals, and also the cartridges were running out. General Schwarz then attempted a night expedition on Spanish powder mills established an hour away from Manresa; this expedition, carried out by a detachment from Nassau, was successful; many mules loaded with powder were brought back to the city, bullets were now nearly found; the pipes of the church organs provided the metal they needed, and thanks to hard work day and night one could make all the necessary cartridges.

This happy expedient arrived in time, because the forces of the enemy increased daily around the city, surrounded now by 4 to 5,000 peasants or miquelets; emissaries offered to the German soldiers to pass into the pay of Spain or that of England, or even to embark for the British Isles in order to regain their country from there. These shameful proposals were not listened to by our allies; the soldiers of Saxony and Nassau remained faithful to their flags.

On 3 April, a division of Spanish miquelets came to reinforce the troops of the besiegers in front of the town: it was led by Rovira, doctor of theology who had become a patriotic general, who immediately addressed a new summons to General Schwarz: the latter had just learned that a second ammunition convoy left Barcelona on 2 April and was due to arrive on  3 or 4 April at the latest; he therefore responded to Rovira’s summons with a general sortie; this sortie occupied the enemy, and 2 companies from Nassau with 2 Saxon companies took advantage of it to open a passage and go to the front of the expected help; but they looked for it in vain and returned in the evening after a day of combat, without reporting news of the announced resupply.

What had happened then?

Marshal Augereau had indeed sent on 2 April from Barcelona to Manresa a second convoy of ammunition escorted by a battalion of the French 67th Infantry Regiment, 250 men of the 5th Rhine Regiment (Anhalt-Lippe), 60 Saxons of the Duchies of Saxony taken from the two companies of this regiment that remained in Barcelona, ​​and around thirty convalescent soldiers from Nassau or Saxony who would join their companies in Manresa. This column had just passed Martorell when it was attacked by the Spanish regular division of Campoverde which, the day before, had taken Vilafranca from General Souham and had received from O’Donnell the order to move on Manresa to put an end to it with the German troops blockaded in this place.

Leaving Piera on the morning of 3 April, Campoverde was arriving near Esparreguera when the peasants informed him of the approach of a French column leaving Barcelona; ​​it was the supplies announced to General Schwarz; the Spanish general immediately attacked; the French colonel commanding the convoy bound for Manresa, judging himself to be too small in number to fight, first gave the order to fall back on Martorell; but as the enemy did not seem to follow him with much ardor, he changed his mind, reconsidered his first decision and attacked the village of Esparreguera; a violent engagement ensued and the Colonel, taking advantage of a lull, breaks it off to resume his retrograde movement; at this moment, the Spanish cavalry successfully charged a part of our troops and pushed them on a tributary of Llobregat behind which they rallied, but where a new attack of the enemy cavalry pushed them again. The bridge over the Noya, the detachment’s only line of retreat, was already occupied by the armed inhabitants of Martorell…The small Franco-German column was in turmoil; some units rushed on the bridge, showing themselves there with bayonets and managed to regain Barcelona; but the remainder, charged once again by the Spanish squadrons, was dispersed and pursued towards Noya or Llobregat…The fugitives found on the banks of the Noya a rocky escarpment of more than 30 feet at the bottom of which the river flowed ..they rushed there and many of them were killed in the waves. Of the 1,000 men who left for Manresa, only 500 -half of them without arms -returned to Barcelona; this fatal Martorell affair cost us 320 Frenchmen, 140 men of the 5th Rhine Regiment, 40 Saxons and most of the 30 convalescents of the regiment of Duchies and the regiment of Nassau.

Also, the next day around noon, the amazement was great in Manresa when, instead of the convoy still awaited against all hope, a strong Spanish column was seen approaching; it was the enemy division of Campoverde victorious the day before at Martorell, which brought to the besiegers the reinforcement of his exalted soldiers. A parliamentarian, sent to General Schwarz to inform him of the failure of the relief column and demand the immediate capitulation of the place, threatening him, in the event of refusal, with an immediate assault and the extermination of the entire garrison: he was dismissed with the simple answer “that the French general, full of confidence in the intrepidity of his troops, was awaiting the assault with which he was threatened”. But this time, the besieged saw that they were now dealing with regular troops, and they prepare for a desperate resistance.






Catalonia. — Martorell Bridge.




General Schwarz then published the following plan of the day:

I do not want to wait longer without testifying to MM. senior and subordinate officers, as well as non-commissioned officers, all my satisfaction for the good discipline they observe in the soldiers under their command, and I am sure that they will endeavor to continue to uphold the advantageous opinion that I made myself about them.”

The present order will be read three consecutive days before the troops, and I charge MM. the company commanders to express my complete satisfaction to their soldiers for their intrepidity before the enemy, and for their exact obedience in the last circumstances.”

The Brigadier General,


The enemy attack was not long in coming. At five o’clock in the evening, 4 Spanish line battalions supported by 1 squadron of the dragoons of Numancia attacked the breast works guarded by 6 companies of Nassau; they were received, at close range, by the murderous fire of these brave men. troops and retreated in disorder… At the same time, the miquelets and the Catalan peasants, encouraged by the presence at their side of regular troops, rushed to the west of the city against the battalion of the Duchies of Saxony; there too, the sustained shooting that welcomed them forced them to a hasty retreat. Without being discouraged, the enemy renewed their attempts, especially to the east and west of the town; but the efforts of the Spanish line troops to seize the external posts defended by the Germans remained useless; the Swiss Regiment Kaiser the best infantry of the Campoverde Division, engaged himself without result…

However, in spite of the success of the besieged, in front of the enormous superiority of the enemy which counted now more than 10,000 combatants around the town, General Schwarz decided to evacuate the advanced positions still occupied by his soldiers; in the evening, he gave the commanders of these posts the order to withdraw them into the city.  Captain Hopfensberger, of the Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen contingent incorporated into the Nassau 1st Regiment, only evacuated at eight o’clock in the evening the position he had valiantly defended against the Spanish regulars; he executed his movement, pressed so closely by the enemy and the dragoons of Numancia, that one of these dragoons took away his shako with a blow of his sabre …

Schwarz made up his mind to abandon Manresa that very night, clearing his way, to avoid a capitulation that would soon become fatal; because he only had 30 cartridges left per man and supplies were on the verge of running out …

The retirement being decided, it was necessary to prepare its execution with the greatest speed;  all the wounded officers, treated in different houses of the city, were gathered in one of the improvised hospitals with the 300 wounded or sick soldiers of the detachment and entrusted, with some surgeons, to the monks who remained in Manresa; the advanced posts received the order to feed their fires abundantly, in a manner that would allow them to burn through the night, after their departure; the wagons of munitions and supplies of the of the regiment of Nassau were broken up and burned (the battalion of Saxony had not brought any from Barcelona); the four gates of the town were firmly barricaded, the bridges over the Cardoner were broken by the sappers of the detachment; finally, the clappers of all the bells were removed, so that the alarm could not be given after the troops had left the city. It was not necessary to think of following the road from Barcelona by Esparreguera and Martorell, which was strongly held by the enemy:  the retreat would take place by the bad paths which led to the bridge of Villemaur on the Llobregat, and from there, by the passes of David and Sabadell, to Barcelona.

At eleven o’clock in the evening, in the greatest silence, the troops left Manresa by the gate opposite to the direction of Barcelona; a Frenchman established in the city served as a guide, he was accompanied by his wife and children; the two Nassau battalions were in the lead, followed by the Saxon battalion; 40 men from Weimar forming the rear guard. The column had a considerable length because of the small width of the paths. Half an hour’s walk from the city, a Spanish picket, near which they passed, fired at the head of the column, killing or wounding 5 men in this discharge and immediately fled into the night. The march continued; at the Villemaur bridge, they surprised a sleeping enemy post, all of whose men have gone to arms without a single shot being fired…  Thanks to the darkness, General Schwarz had gained two hours of marching, by difficult paths, through mountains and rocks. Once the bridge had been crossed, an error by the guide having caused the leading units to take a wrong direction for a moment, a certain confusion resulted; 450 men from Nassau, Weimar and Hildburghausen were separated from the rest of the column … Captain Marquand, of Nassau, took command of this group and tried to find the trace of the detachment:

The march of this little troop, lost in the middle of the night, in the middle of the mountains, in the very center of the insurrection, formed one of the most moving episodes of this war, so full of events of the same kind.  After incredible fatigue, pressed closely by the guerrillas stirred up by the tocsin, these brave men finally managed to rally with the main body:  it was time, because they already seen the Swiss regiment in their wake, forming the vanguard of the Campoverde Division.”[1]

How did this handful of soldiers manage to escape the enemy?  While his troops were stationed, motionless, and in the greatest silence, Captain Marquand sent three patrols half a league away, led by officers, each following one of the three paths on which General Schwarz’s column had been able to pass …At the end of a long wait, Lieutenant Kathreiner, from Nassau, returned announcing the discovery of fresh dung left by General Schwarz’s horse…They immediately embarked on this track, where the rocks often only allowed one man abreast, and the march continued without incident until five in the morning; on the height of Vallhonesta, the advance-guard was stopped by a Spanish “Quien viva?“: despite the answer “España!” that a Saxon officer made, the enemy sentry shot and seriously injured a German who had to be abandoned there…This time, the alarm was given, the tocsin called to arms the peasants who soon filled the neighboring ridges and occupied the defile in front of Captain Marquard’s small troop; this one did not progress any more except surrounded on all sides by the Spaniards; from that moment on, his wounded staked out the footpath, with no hope of salvation; fatigue, thirst, heat shattered the strength of the soldiers, and yet one must march, always march, or die…For to fall alive into the hands of the Catalan peasants was to be doomed to the most terrible martyrdom …

They finally approached the Col de David, after a race of four leagues, without stopping, and with a loss of half the effectives. There, the survivors greet with shouts of joy the appearance of the flags of General Schwarz’s column that they see floating on a neighboring height; finally, the meeting takes place and the whole troop finds itself in the hand of its leader.

But the coming of day now increased the danger. Barcelona was still twelve leagues away, and the Swiss Kaiser Regiment, the vanguard of Campoverde, was at the heels of the column; the Catalan insurgents were already surrounding the Col de David in thick masses; they had to leave without delay, abandoning the seriously wounded, because it was now impossible to transport them further; Major Knauth was in charge of the rear guard with the Weimar battalion; it was a mission of sacrifice, and the brave Saxons devoted themselves generously to the overall salvation.

The retreat continued under a fiery sun, without a drop of water to quench the thirst of the exhausted soldiers; a halt however became essential; hardly was the troop stopped than the Spaniards obliged it to resume the march quickly. Knauth then established his battalion on a ridge with steep slopes and his fire suspended for a moment the pursuit of the enemy; but, when he broke off the fight, he had to leave a large number of his soldiers, exhausted and dying, in the position he had just defended.

A little further on, 40 men from Weimar with 2 officers, forming the extreme rear guard, were ordered to hold the entrance to a narrow defile; this handful of brave fought without hope and allowed the column to gain a little advance; after a desperate fight, only 25 soldiers and 1 officer managed to rejoin; the others were killed or remained wounded in the hands of the Spaniards…

Finally, on 5 April, at four o’clock in the evening, General Schwarz reached the plain of Sabadell where he thought he could give his troops a little rest, having those wounded who had been able to follow them treated and obtain the wagons necessary for their transport; but hardly had he arrived at the bridge of the Riusech when he saw the yellow uniforms of the dragoons of Numancia, running at the head of the cavalry of Campoverde to cut off his line of retreat…Once again, it was necessary to resume the march leaving most of the wounded at Sabadell and gaining wooded heights where Nassau’s regiment stood up to the enemy. The Spaniards stopped their pursuit. The column then gained the pass of Moncada, and, from there, Saint-Andreu; it was at this point, at eight o’clock in the evening, after a continuous march of twenty-one hours, that the remains of Manresa’s detachment were collected by the Italian outposts which were covering Barcelona towards the north.

Marshal Augereau believed that General Schwarz’s troops had been lost when he learned of the concentration at Manresa of two Spanish divisions; so on 6 April, when the remnants of the German column returned to Barcelona, ​​he published the following order of the day:


Army of Catalonia

Barcelona, ​​6 April 1810.

His Excellency Marshal of the Empire, Duke of Castiglione, Commander-in-Chief of the Army of Catalonia, instructs Major General Rouyer to testify to General Schwarz and the senior officers of the German brigade who have been detached to Manresa, his particular satisfaction for the brilliant way in which his troops behaved in the last battles they had to fight against an enemy far superior in numbers. General Schwarz, in his mission, completely fulfilled the intentions of the Marshal, to whom this general officer will indicate by name the officers, non-commissioned officers and soldiers who have particularly distinguished themselves.”

By order of His Excellency the Marshal,  the General Chief of Staff











REGION MAP located between Barcelona and Manresa to follow the operations of the 1st Nassau Regiment in 1810 (From Seebach’s work)


The official situation addressed to the Emperor of the losses suffered by the German division in the Manresa expedition and in the combat of Martorell shows the figure of 664 killed, including 222 men in the 1st Regiment of Nassau, 306 men in the regiment of the Duchies of Saxony and 136 men in the 5th Rhine Regiment. The total losses in killed, wounded and prisoners amounted to 361 men, including 12 officers, for the Saxon regiment, and to 17 officers and 589 men for the Nassau regiment; in the latter corps, Captains Marquand and Hopfensberger, Lieutenants Kathreiner and von Mühlmann were prisoners; most of the war chest, carried on the backs of mules, had also been lost. As for General Schwarz, giving the example of fearlessness and composure to all, he had been slightly wounded by two bullets and had had his horse killed under him.

The Frenchman of Manresa, guide of the column, had his wife and one of his children killed during the retreat, during which 4 vivandières were also injured.

The 300 wounded who remained in Manresa only retained their lives through the intercession of the monks in whose care they had been entrusted. The other Germans taken prisoner on 5 April during the retreat of the detachment, gathered in a wood by the Catalan insurgents, were condemned by the latter, the officers to be taken under arms, and the soldiers to be burned in a barn where they had already been locked u; it was as “thieves of sacred objects” that these barbarian enemies wanted to inflict such torture on the soldiers of General Schwarz, to expiate the demolition of the organs of the church of Manresa whose metal had been used to melt bullets…With great difficulty, General Milan, leader of the Catalan miquelets, and Captain Molo, of the Swiss regiment in the service of Spain, managed to save the unfortunate Germans; the latter were taken to Tarragona, then dragged from prison to prison in Tortosa, Valencia, Alicante, Cartagena and finally transported to Saint-Paul Island and the Balearic Islands; those of them who, to escape captivity, did not serve in Sicily, Sardinia or England, almost all died of misery;  the officers remained prisoner for four years and did not return to their homeland until 1814.

After the Manresa expedition and at the invitation of Marshal Augereau, General Baron Schwarz established proposals for the Legion of Honor in favor of the officers, non-commissioned officers and soldiers who had distinguished themselves most in the battles of the 20 March to 6 April 1810. These proposals were as follows for the Nassau 1st Regiment:

Von Polnitz, colonel; von Steuben, senior-major; Thilemann, von Mootz, battalion commanders; Hegemann, of Waldschmidt, Méder, Gödeke, captains; Schüler, adjutant; Müller, adjutant-non-commissioned officer; Neuber, Fuhr, sergeant majors; Staader, Hartmann, Brumenwasser, sergeants; Berlbach, corporal; Schwaer, Dillmann, grenadiers; Lismann, Jager, Korner, voltigeurs.”[2]

It is probable that the government of Nassau delayed in officially transmitting these proposals, or did nothing, because Colonel von Steuben (who succeeded the brave Polnitz, killed in action at Mataró in 1811) was the subject submitted by General Maurice Mathieu, governor of Barcelona, ​of ​a new proposal in January 1812; the battalion chiefs Thilemann and Mootz as well as one of the wounded from Manresa, Captain Godefroy Hegemann, were again proposed on 2 June 1813 for the decoration of the Legion of Honor …

After the unfortunate battle of 3 April at Martorell, in which, as we saw above, the ammunition convoy intended for General Schwarz had fallen into the hands of the Spaniards, a small troop of 60 volunteers from the Swiss 2nd Regiment in service of France commanded by Captain Heidegger and Lieutenant Blaser[3] undertook to go from Barcelona to Manresa through enemy bands, to advise General Schwarz, on behalf of Marshal Augereau, that he had to maintain his post until 6 or 7 August, if it was possible, a strong detachment to join him at that time. The Marshal had the success of this daring enterprise at heart; also he promised the cross to the officers and great bonuses to the soldiers if they succeeded in fulfilling their mission; most of these men spoke Spanish and several knew the country well. The small detachment, which left on the night of 4 April, reached the environs of Tarrasa; but, when the day came, it was discovered by the inhabitants and soon enveloped by a crowd of armed Catalans who attacked them, killed or wounded a quarter of its force and finally forced him to surrender; the prisoners were going to be shot; their being Swiss saved their lives; with the exception of the officers, they were all incorporated into the Swiss regiment in Spanish service.

The enterprise of this handful of intrepid men strongly aroused the attention of the Catalans; this explains why General Schwarz found his line of retreat so heavily occupied by the Spanish peasants, between the Col de David and Sabadell, a circumstance which contributed to greatly increasing his losses.[4]

[1] Costa de Serda, p. 159.

[2] Archives of the Grand Chancellery.  Communication from Mr. Joseph Durrieu, archivist of the Legion of Honor.

[3] The first of these officers became lieutenant-colonel in the Swiss Regiment of the Royal Guard, under the Restoration, and the second was killed in Russia in 1812.

[4] Seebach, pp. 423-424.