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The Napoleon Series > Biographies > Biographies

Prussian Generals of the Napoleonic Wars  1793-1815

Prussian Generals of the Napoleonic Wars 1793-1815: Steinmetz, Karl Friedrich Franziskus von

Steinmetz, Karl Friedrich Franziskus von (1214) 

Colonel Commanding the Cavalry Brigade, I Corps in 1813.

Born on 26 October 1768 in Namslau to an old Hessian family. His father (Johann Werner) had been in Dutch service but transferred to that of Prussia in 1759 and was repeatedly distinguished in the Seven Years War. On 23 February 1778, the king wrote to his father, telling him to raise a Freibataillon and promoting him to Obst; he died in an ambush at Komeise on 13 November 1778, fighting to the last cartridge. The young Steinmetz and his three brothers entered military service on 30 September 1781 as cadets in Berlin; the eldest, Moritz Christopf Gottfried, became a Junker in the IR von Koschembar Nr 55, won the PLM in the war with Poland, the EK II in the Wars of Liberation and died in Berlin on 30 November 1854. His next brother, Philipp Christopf Wilhelm Ernst, became a Junker in the IR von Wolffransdorf Nr 37 in 1790 and joined the dispossed Duke of Brunswick`s Black Corps in 1809. The youngest brother, Alexander Philipp Eugen, became a Junker in the IR von Crousatz Nr 39 in 1793, and died on 22 May 1816 as a retired captain. On 10 March 1786, Karl Friedrich Franziskus became Gfkpl in the Garde Gren Bn Nr 6; on 15 June 1787, he was promoted to Sklt in the Füs Bn von Borke Nr 5. In 1794, he took part in the war on the Rhine. On 19 February 1796, he was transferred to the Kurmark Füs Bde, and on 19 May 1803, he was promoted to Prlt in the Füs Bn Graf von Wedel Nr 5. On 8 October 1805, he was praised for his actions in Westphalia. On 9 December 1805, he was promoted to Stkapt in the Kadetten - Korps in Berlin; this was a compromise, as he was too poor to join the general staff. At the outbreak of the war in 1806, he took all the cadets to Königsberg, in East Prussia, where he raised and commanded the 2nd Pommeranian Res Bn. On 13 December 1806, he was transferred to 2nd Pommeranian Res Bn, and on 24 December, was given command of this battalion. On 18 April 1807, he was sent to reinforce the garrison of Colberg with his battalion, and on 30 June of that year, he was appointed Deputy Cmdt of the fortress. He was repeatedly distinguished in the defence of the place. On 30 July 1807, he was promoted to Maj, and on 17 August 1807, was awarded the PLM. On 20 August 1808, he was given command of the 1st Bn Leib IR Nr 8. On 9 September 1809, he was awarded a pay rise by the king,` …zum Beweise Meine Zufriedenheit mit Ihrem stets bezeigten Diensteifer`(as proof of my satisfaction at your zeal). On 4 June 1810, he was appointed to command the Colberg IR Nr 19, and on 18 March 1812, he was given command of the  3rd Combined IR in the Prussian corps mobilised for the invasion of Russia. He was distinguished in the clash at Gräfenthal on 29 September, and on 5 November was awarded the ROA III for the actions at Clievenhof (?) and Dahlenkirchen (22 August). On 14 March 1813, he was promoted to ObstLt and given command of Russian General Wittgenstein`s advanced guard of 12 battalions, 2 cavalry regiments and a battery.He fought at Gross-Görschen on 2 May, for which he was awarded the EK II. In the subsequent allied retreat, he had a stiff rearguard action at Colditz on 5 May. His comrades had given him up for lost, and when he eventually made contact with them again, he was embraced by von Blücher and von Gneisenau. He was again distinguished at Weissig on 19 May and fought at Bautzen and Gross-Beeren. On 19 July he was promoted to Obst; during the armistice he was transferred to von Yorck`s I Corps. He then fought at the Katzbach, where he took two battalions, waded the raging River Neisse and formed line in the path of Langeron`s fleeing Russians of the VI Corps, rallied them and saved the day. He also fought at Dennewitz. At Wartenburg on the Elbe on 3 October, his first assault on the enemy position failed and for seven hours he had to hold out alone against heavy odds until the main Prussian force completed its outflanking move. His brigade had heavy losses and two of his ADCs were killed at his side. On 16 October at Möckern, the situation was even worse. The advance of Steinmetz`s brigade and the close artillery support forced the French to fall back; Steinmetz continued advancing but his artillery support died away, partly due to lack of ammunition but mainly because Steinmetz`s men now obscured the target. The enemy artillery now opened up and most of Steinmetz`s officers were soon killed or wounded. Steinmetz himself was grazed by a cannonball and had to leave the field. He was taken first to Halle, then to Berlin. After his recovery on 8 December he was promoted GM and on 27 December, was given command of all LW between the Rivers Weser and Rhine. On 26 September 1814, he was appointed Commandant of Wesel fortress on the lower Rhine. On 28 January 1815, he received a gift of Thr 500 from the king, and on 23 March, he was appointed commander of the 1st Bde of Zieten`s I Corps. On 15 June the French surprised his brigade at Gilly on the Prussian extreme right wing and he could only gather his men at Fontaine-l`Eveque and conduct a fighting withdrawal to St Amand. He was severly criticised for this, but fault must be shared by Zieten as Steinmetz had reported enemy movement to his front the previous day but had been left in his exposed post without support. He fought at Ligny and was distinguished at Waterloo where he drove the French out of Frischemont . As General Graf von Zieten wrote: `Er griff in der Schlacht von Belle Alliance das vom Feinde besetzte Dorf Francimont (sic) mit unglaublicher Lebhaftigkeit an, setzte dann den Angriff in des Fiendes Flanke fort und trug so wesentlich zur Entscheidung des Sieges bei.` (In the battle of Belle Alliance, he attacked the enemy-held village of Francimont with incredible energy and continued his thrust into the enemy flank, thus contributing considerably to the victory) His last action was at Issy-now a suburb of Paris. Von Zieten wrote`Steinmetz hatte den 2. Juli mit seiner Brigade die Avantgarde, warf den Feind aus dem Defile von Sevres, nahm diesen Ort und Meudon mit vieler Tapferkeit und griff demnächst den ueberlegenen Feind in seiner schoenen Stellung bei Issy und Vanres an und nahm diese Doerfer. Der Mut und die Ausdauer und die höheren Einsichten des Generals von Steinmetz an diesem Tage verdienen die grösste Lobeserhebung.` (On 2 July, Steimnmetz and his brigade were the advanced guard; they threw the enemy out of the defile of Sevres, took that place and Meudon with great bravery and went on at once to assault the superior enemy in his fine position at Issy and Vanres and took these villages. General von Steinmetz`s courage, stamina and judgement this day deserve the highest praise)

Gneisenau later wrote to Steinmetz:` Ich bin einigemale in Issy gewesen. Es ist mir unbegreiflich, wie Sie dieses Dorf haben erobern können.` (I have been in Issy several times. I cannot understand how you were able to capture the place) On 2 October 1815, he was awarded the EK I and oakleaves to his PLM. Next day, he was given command of a brigade in France, and on 27 October of that year, he received a gift of Thr 2,000 from the king. On 10 December 1816, he was awarded the Russian OStG III. He retired on 16 March 1817, with the rank of GL. The date of his death is unknown.


Placed on the Napoleon Series: May 2012


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