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Prussian Generals of the Napoleonic Wars  1793-1815

Prussian Generals of the Napoleonic Wars 1793-1815: Braunschweig-Oels, Friedrich Wilhelm, Herzog von

By: Digby Smith

Braunschweig-Oels, Friedrich Wilhelm, Herzog von

Born on 9 October 1771 in Braunschweig. His father was Herzog Karl Wilhelm Ferdinand who was mortally wounded at Auerstädt on 14 October 1806 as C-in-C of the Prussian army. He was the fourth son, the three seniors were all physically or mentally ill. He entered Brunswick`s military service in 1787 as Stkpt, in the IR von Riedesel; on 1 July 1787 he transferred to Prussian service as Kpt, in the IR von Lengefeld Nr 5. On 21 September 1790 he was awarded the HOSA Ch. On 7 January 1791 he was appointed ADC to his father. On 26 May 1791 he was promoted to Maj, in the IR von Kalckstein Nr 5. On 22 April 1792 he was attached to his father`s staff in the war with France and served at Valmy, the battle of Kaiserslautern, the clashes of Grandpré, St Amand and Eich (W) and the sieges of Longwy, Landau and Verdun. Many officers of his regiment were killed, wounded or captured  in 1794. On 20 January 1794 he was promoted to Obstlt; on 30 Mar 1795 he became Kdr, IR von Thadden Nr 5 (his old regiment). On 12 January 1796 he was promoted to Obst; on 4 January 1797 he became Kdr, IR von Kleist Nr 12. On 20 November 1800 he was appointed Chef of IR von Kleist Nr 12. On 13 June 1801 he was promoted to GM. On 8 October 1805 he became owner of Oels in Silesia. In the campaign of 1806 he was initially in the Duke of Weimar`s corps at Jena, but then attached himself to Blücher`s corps in the confusion of the retreat. He incurred Blücher`s great displeasure by his actions in the raid on Lübeck on 6 November. He was captured at the capitulation of Ratkau the next day together with the remnants of Blücher`s corps. He was placed on the inactive list.

Dispossessed of his estates by Napoleon, he went to Austria in January 1809 and was offered a command in their army. He refused the offer, preferring to raise a force: `The Black Band` under Austrian auspices and invaded Saxony on 21 May when the war broke out. In a daring campaign, he took Dresden and Leipzig and then turned south into Franconia. When Austria signed the armistice with France after the battle of Znaim, he refused to recognize it and fought his way up to the north German coast at Elsfleth and Brake near Bremen on the River Weser, where his corps was picked up by British ships on 7 August and taken to England. Until 1815 the corps remained in British service, fighting as light infantry and hussars in the Peninsular war. On 24 July 1810 he was dismissed from Prussian service. The duke did not accompany his corps to Portugal and Spain but remained in London on an allowance of £8,500 p.a. Gneisenau was often in the city and they met frequently. He was restored to his estates in 1814. For the Hundred Days he commanded his own corps and was mortally wounded at Quatre-Bras on 16 June 1815, leading it against the French.

Placed on the Napoleon Series: May 2010


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