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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: Hirschfeld, Karl Friedrich von

By: Digby Smith

Hirschfeld, Karl Friedrich von (1018)

Born on 18 July 1747 in Militsch, Silesia (now Milicz) into an old Meissen family. His father, Johann Friedrich, was an officer in the DragR von Schwerin Nr 2 and transferred as Sklt to the HusR von Natzmer (later  Puttkammer) Nr 4. He was mortally wounded on 21 April 1757 in a clash at Reichenbach in the Seven Years` War. Karl entered Prussian military service in 1761 as Gfkpl, in the IR  von Röbel Nr 6 (one of the regiments raised from the Saxon troops captured at Pirna). In 1762 he transferred to the Prussian IR von Münchow Nr 36. In 1762 - 1763 he fought in the clash at Böhmisch-Einsiedel and the battle of Friedberg. On 4 July 1763 he was promoted to Frch and on 18 June 1767 to Sklt. In 1775 he was appointed Adjutant of the 2.Bn of his regiment. From 1778 - 1779 - fought in the war against Austria. On 1 November 1780 he was promoted to Prlt. On 2 February 1784 he was appointed ADC to the Herzog von Braunschweig in the Magdeburg Infantry Inspectorate. On 26 February 1784 he transferred to IR Herzog von Braunschweig Nr 21 but retained his post as ADC. On 31 August 1787 he was promoted to Kpt. On16 February 1787he was ennobled. On 24 December 1787 he was promoted to Maj. He served in the war in the Netherlands and on 23 September 1787 he was awarded the PLM for the capture of the Arkeler Damm position near Gorkum. From 1792 - 1794 he served in the war against France. On 5 March 1793 he was granted the Lehngut (rented farm) of Emersleben near Halberstadt by King Friedrich Wilhelm II as a reward for his repeated acts of valour in the field. On 7 September 1793 he was promoted to Obstlt. He fought at the battle of Pirmasens on 14 September 1793 and was very badly wounded at the attempted storm of Bitsch fortress in Lorraine on 17 November 1793. Subsequently, he was on sick leave for 6 months. On 1 January 1795 he was promoted to Obst and on 10 February of that year, was appointed to command IR Herzog von Braunschweig Nr 21. On 19 January 1798 he transferred to command 1. Bn Garde Nr 15a and appointed commandant of Potsdam. On 20 May 1801 he was promoted to GM. He fell seriously ill in 1805 and returned to service only on 26 August 1806. In the 1806 campaign he fought bravely at Auerstädt in the Reserve and commanded a division of six battalions, 10 squadrons and a battery during the subsequent retreat. Most of the officers and men had lost their shoes and marched barefoot. He was captured at the capitulation of Prenzlau. In 1807 he was set on half pay. In 1809 his son, Eugen, with Lt von Katte, planned to raid the French garrison in Magdeburg. Eugen then asked his father if the raid would endanger his security. Hirschfeld replied that he must forget that he had a father if he had the chance to strike a blow for king and country. The raid failed; Hirschfeld senior was then arrested on Napoleon`s orders who held him to be responsible for the actions of two of his sons, Eugen and Adolf, who had raised Freikorps against the French.

In 1809 Hirschfeld was appointed commandant of Brandenburg-an-dem-Havel. He was arrested again on 5 November 1809 on Napoleon`s orders in the wake of Schill`s raid through northern Germany; he was released on 21 September 1810 but suspended from his command for several months. On 28 April 1813 he was appointed GOC of the 2nd Kurmärk. LW Infantry Division. He fought in the clash at Lübnitz, for which he was awarded the EK II. On 20 May 1813 he was promoted to GL and appointed GOC of a LW corps blockading Magdeburg until the armistice. On 27 August 1813 -with 8,200 Landwehr troops, who were under fire for the first time, he defeated Gen Girard`s veteran division of 10,000 men and 22 guns at Hagelberg and was rewarded with the EK I. He took 4,000 PW, 7 guns and 20 ammunition waggons. Only 1,800 French escaped into Magdeburg.  On 8 September 1813 he was awarded the OStA I. On 27 August 1814 he was appointed 2. Divisionär in the Kurmark. On 20 April 1815 he was appointed commandant of Magdeburg fortress He retired on 3 October 1815 as GdI and on 4 November 1815 he was awarded the RAO I. He died on 11 October 1818 in Brandenburg. His son, Karl Dietrich Eugen (born on 14 Mar 1784) was killed in action on 16 January 1811 at Plaa in Spain as colonel of the Spanish IR Alcantara . Four other of his sons became Prussian generals.

Placed on the Napoleon Series: January 2011


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