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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: Bülow, Friedrich Wilhelm, Graf von

By: Digby Smith

Bülow, Friedrich Wilhelm, Graf von Commander, III Corps in 1813.

Born on 16 February 1755 in Falkenburg, Kreis Osterburg, northwest Germany; (his father, Ulrich Arwed, was Herr auf Falkenburg) died on 25 February 1816 in Königsberg. Friedrich entered military service on 2 April 1768 as Gfkpl, in the IR Graf Lottum Nr 13; on 24 December 1772 he was commissioned as Frch; on 1 April 1778 to Sklt. In 1778 - 1779 he was on campaign against Austria and fought in the clash at Leopold. On 26 May 1786 he was promoted to Prlt; on 2 March 1790 to Stkpt. On 10 February 1793 he was promoted to Kpt and transferred to the army staff, becoming ADC to Prinz Louis Ferdinand von Preussen in the campaign on the Rhine. He fought at the battle of Kaiserslautern; Eschweiler, Meckenheim, Roth, Altdorf, Fischingen and at the siege of Mainz. On 17 July 1793 he received the PLM for the storm of the Zahlbacher redoubt at Mainz. On 3 April 1794 he was promoted to Maj; on 14 November 1795 he transferred to the Füs Bn von Stutterheim Nr 21. On 12 September 1797 he was appointed Chef of the newly-raised Füs Bn Nr 24. On 23 June 1803 he was promoted to Obst Lt and on 15 November 1805 he was appointed Cmdr, IR Prinz Louis Ferdidand Nr 20. On 7 December 1805 he transferred at his own request to 2nd Ostpr Füs Bde. On 23 May 1806 he was promoted to Obst. He fought at Waltersdorf on 5 February 1807, where he was wounded, and at Thorn in L`Estocq`s corps. On 23 May 1807 he was appointed commander of a brigade in Blücher`s corps; he and Blücher quarrelled frequently. On 20 November 1807 he became a member of the Investigatory Committee to look into the disaster of 1806. On 22 January 1808 he transferred to the 2nd Westpr IR; on 22 June 1808 he was again a brigade commander in Blücher`s corps. On 25 November 1808 he was promoted to GM and given command of the Pommeranian Inf Bde. On 18 January 1811 he received the  RAO III and on 19 August he became commander of the Westprussian Inf Bde. He had been posted here to end his quarreling with Blücher, but once here, he began to fall out with his new commander, General von Yorck. On 12 November of that year, he was appointed commander of the East Prussian Inf Bde; on 29 November 1811 he transferred back to command the Westprussian Inf Bde. On 24 March 1812 he was appointed Governor General of East Prussia. On 12 June he became GOC of the non-mobilised troops in East Prussia. On 14 March 1813 he was promoted to GL and appointed GOC III Corps. He fought at Zehdenick (Möckern, Leipzig). He was accused of having dragged his feet at the battle of Bautzen on 20/21 May - his corps only came up after the allies had been defeated - but he had serious logistical problems to contend with. On 2 May he had taken Halle an der Saale and on 5 May he received the EK II for this deed. He also fought the clash at Luckau on 4 June, where he stopped Oudinot`s thrust on Berlin. He said to his staff: `Our bones must bleach before Berlin and not behind it` . Due to Bernadotte`s dithering in this action, Oudinot was allowed to escape after his defeat. For his victory at Gross-Beeren he was awarded the EK I; for Dennewitz, the oakleaves to his PLM. Bernadotte, as usual, had hung back with his Swedes on the day of Dennewitz on 6 September, when the third French thrust at Berlin under Ney was defeated. Bülow sent Bernadotte a note saying that he intended to attack. Bernadotte responded by saying: `Very well , but you will get no support from me.` After the victory, Bernadotte wrote a report, in French, making it sound as if his Swedes had won the day. He also gave casualty figures for the Swedes and Russians although they had suffered none. He sent a press release to Berlin claiming all credit for the victory and stating that Bülow had been acting under his orders. On 7 September Ney wrote to Napoleon: `I have been utterly defeated. I still do not know if my army has regrouped`. Once again, Bernadotte`s slow reaction to this victory allowed the beaten enemy to slip away. He rejected all Bülow`s urgings to cross the Elbe. Von Bülow was so exasperated with Bernadotte`s conduct that he wrote: `It must be God`s will that events are still so favourable for us`. Bernadotte tried to pacify von Bülow by presenting him with the OS GC, but then tried to side track him by ordering him to besiege Wittenberg instead of chasing the French. Bülow complained to King Friedrich Wilhelm who had the project abandoned . The king wrote to von Bülow;`Durch den Leutnant von Pfefferkorn habe Ich Ihren Bericht vom 1. dieses erhalten. Ihr Urteil über die Ihnen aufgetragene Belagerung von Wittenberg ist nicht unrichtig, und der Kronprinz von Schweden ist auch schon darauf aufmerksam gemacht worden, dass die Blockade und Belagerung der festen Plaetze an der Elbe ursprunglich dem IV Armeekorps bestimmt gewesen sind, welches dazu durch seine Zusammensetzung und weil es aus Mangel an Mitteln nicht mobil gemacht werden kann, am geiegnetsten ist. Ich hoffe daher, dass hiernach Ihre Bestimmung und die des Grafen Tauentzien sich abändern wird. Was die Besorgung eines Belagerungstrains betrifft, so habe Ich Mich dieserhalb an den englischen General Stuart gewendet, zu dessen Disposition, wie Ich erfahre, in Stralsund ein kompletter englischer Belagerungpark sich befinden soll…..Teplitz, 6 Oktober 1813.

(`I have received your report of the 1st from Leutnant von Pfefferkorn. Your opinion of the siege of Wittenberg, which was delegated to you is not wrong and the Crown Prince of Sweden has been made aware that the blockade and siege of the fortified places on the Elbe were originally delegated to the IV Army Corps, which is best organized to carry them out and because the funds are not available to mobilize it. I thus hope that your tasks and those of Graf Tauentzien will be changed. As to the procurement of a siege train, I have approached the English General Stuart, as I have learned that a complete English siege train is in Stralsund. Teplitz 6 October 1913.`)

On 8 September 1813, he was awarded the Russian OAN and on 15 September the EK GC for winning the battle of Dennewitz. On 18 October Bülow`s corps made the decisive assaults on Schönfeld and Stüntz, in the battle of Leipzig. After this, the III Corps was directed via Minden and Münster to the Rhine and thence into the Netherlands. They took Dösburg, Arnhem, Zutphen and `s Hertogenbosch. On 11 December 1813, he received the RAO I.

In early 1814 the III Corps had to detach officers and NCOs to train the embryonic Dutch army and to surrender part of a sorely-needed consignment of British muskets to arm the new troops of the old Grand Duchy of Berg. On 18 February 1814, the III Corps crossed the frontier into France and on 25 February von Bülow came under von Blücher`s command. The III Corps took La Fere and on 3 March took Soissons. On 9 March he occupied Laon and fought in the battle there next day. On  3 April he received the HOSA Ch; on 30 May he was promoted to GoI and on 3 June he was ennobled as Graf Bülow von Dennewitz. On 18 June he received the Austrian MTO GC and was appointed GOC of all forces in East and West Prussia. On 1 April 1815 he was appointed GOC of IV Corps, which fought at Waterloo (Plancenoit). On 11 July he was appointed Chef of IR Nr 15; on 28 July 1815 he was awarded the OW GC. Von Bülow accompanied the allied monarchs to Britain. On 3 October he was appointed GOC Prussia and awarded a gift of Thr 25,000.  

Klein-Hattingen, an acquaintance, said of him: `Bülow had an open, straight, noble character; a firm manner, he was well educated, a gentleman and a cavalier. Of course, he was vain, conceited and could be unbearable. He was a soldier of the old school, but very courageous and full of energy. He was a master in the art of having his men fully under control at all times. Due to his high self-esteem, touchiness and tendency to criticize, Bülow did not get on well with any of his superiors and certainly not Bernadotte whom he judged to be a traitor and hated from the depths of his soul.`


Placed on the Napoleon Series: May 2010


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