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Prussian Generals of the Napoleonic Wars  1793-1815

Prussian Generals of the Napoleonic Wars 1793-1815: Borstell, Karl Leopold Ludwig von

By: Digby Smith

Borstell, Karl Leopold Ludwig von. (1182). MG. Commander, 5th Division, III Corps in 1813.

Born on 30 December 1773 in Tangermünde, west of Berlin and north of Magdeburg; died on 9 May 1844 in Berlin. He was commissioned into military service 29 May 1790 as Kornett, Kür R von Ilow Nr 7, in which his father (Hans Friedrich Heinrich) and elder brother served; on 24 November 1792, he was promoted to Sklt, Kür R von Borstell Nr 7. From 1792 to 1795, he fought against France on the Rhine at B Kaiserslautern, B Pirmasens, for which he was awarded the PLM; he was also at the siege of Mainz. In 1793, he was appointed Adj to his father, Hans Friedrich von Borstell. On 13 November 1799, he was promoted to Strttm and transferred to the Garde du Corps (Kür R Nr 13). On 1 February 1803, he was promoted to Rttm, and on 5 Oct 1805, to Maj. In the 1806 campaign, he was distinguished at Auerstädt, after which, he escaped to East Prussia to join the king. On 11 May 1807, he was transferred to Blücher`s corps on the island of Rügen. On 16 May 1807, he was appointed Fl Adj to the king, and on 20 September, was appointed to be a member of the Military Reorganization Committee. He had frequent and violent arguements with Scharnhorst. The latter finally went to the king and forced him to choose between them; von Borstell was removed from the Committee and on 4 October 1808, was made temporary CO of the Ulan R. On 20 May 1809, he was promoted to Obst, and on 5 February 1810, was appointed Gen Adj of the cavalry. On 13 February 1810, he was appointed GdB of the cavalry in Brandenburg. On 3 August 1811, he was awarded the RAO III. On 12 November 1811, he was transferred and appointed to be GdB of the cavalry in Pomerania. On 7 May 1812, he was appointed to be Governor and 1st Cmdt of Colberg. His secret instructions were to keep the French out of the fortress and he was so successful that the French ambassador complained about his conduct to the king. Borstell`s knuckles were VERY gently rapped . The king wrote to him

`Es ist durch die kaiserlich französische Gesandschaft zu Berlin über die Behandlung der französiche Offiziere zu Colberg Beschwerde geführt und dabei angegeben worden, wie diese Offiziere dermassen eingeschränkt wuerden, dass sie nicht einmal auf den Wällen frei umher umgehen dürften. Ich trage Ihnen auf, auf diese Beschwerde Ihre ganze Aufmerksamkeit zu richten und darauf zu halten, dass gedachte Offiziere nicht durch zweckwidrige kleinliche Formalitäten übel gestimmt werden, man muss ihnen vielmehr mit Achtung überall so entgegen kommen, als solche Offiziere einer befreundeten Macht zu erwarten berechtigt sind und ihr Dienstverhaeltnis in Colberg überdies efordert; zumal der Kaiser Napoleon den Wunsch geäussert hat, sie möchte gleich den preussischen Offiziere behandelt warden und es sein Wille ist, dass Sie auf den Fall einer Belagerung unter Ihnen zur Verteidigung der Festung mit Dienste leisten sollen. Potsdam, 9.6.1812.`

(The imperial French ambassadorto Berlin has registered a protest at the treatment of French officers in Colberg, complaining that their movements are so limited, that they may not even walk freely on the ramparts. I urge you to focus completely on this complaint, so that the said officers will not be annoyed by small-minded restrictions; on the contrary, officers of an allied power must be welcomed as such, as their duty in Colberg demands. Emperor Napoleon has asked that they should be treated as Prussian officers are and that it his wish that they will be employed by you in defence of the fortress in case of a siege.)

Von Borstell was much in favour of action against the French and in February 1813, on his own initiative, but egged on by Scharnhorst, he took 7 battalions, 6 squadrons and 4 batteries to Königsberg and `placed them at the king`s service` adding: `I beg Your Majesty most humbly to let us go.` The dithering Friedrich Wilhelm castigated him, but on 9 March placed him under Gen Wittgenstein`s command - the die was finally cast. On 9 May 1812 – von Borstell had been promoted to GM, and on 10 March 1813 he was appointed GOC, 5th Bde, III Corps. He fought at Vehlitz, where he won the EK II. At Gross-Beeren (23 August) he decided the day with his brigade`s assault on the enemy right flank. At Dennewitz (6 September) he was again very distinguished when he held out against heavy odds and was awarded the  EK I. On 8 September 1813, he was awarded the Russian OStA I. On 19 October he led the storming of the Grimma gate in Leipzig, and on 21 October he was awarded the PLM with oakleaves. On 26 November 1813 he closed up to Wesel fortress on the lower Rhine and blockaded it. On 13 December he was promoted to GL, and on 22 January 1814 he was awarded the Swedish OS and on 3 May the RAO II with oakleaves. In 1814 in the Netherlands he was involved in a furious row with von Bülow and the king had to intervene to restore peace. On 21 January 1815 he received a gift of Thr 1,000 from the king. On 19 March, he was appointed GOC II Corps, but on 16 May he was relieved of his command for refusing to obey Blücher`s order to burn the colours of the Saxon regiments which had mutinied at Namur. Von Borstell was court - martialled and sentenced to 6 months arrest in Magdeburg fortress on 20 September 1815. Blücher visited him there and appealed to the king for clemency and on 10 January 1816, von Borstell was pardoned and made GOC, 7th Div. On 5 March 1816 he was appointed GOC-in-C in Prussia, and on 6 June 1818 he was awarded the RAO I; on 3 April 1820 he was appointed GOC I Corps. On 18 June 1825 he became GOC VIII Corps. On 13 September of that year, he was appointed Chef of Kür R Nr 5, and on 18 January 1832 he was awarded the HOSA Ch. On  20 September 1834, he was awarded the Hanoverian Guelfenorden GC; on 14 July 1838 he received the Orden de Zaehringer Loewe GC (of Baden). On 19 May 1840 he was appointed member of the Council of State, and on 9 August of that year, he was awarded the Swedish Order of the Seraphim; on 4 November 1840 he was appointed President of the General - Ordenskommission. He died on 9 May 1844 in Berlin.


Placed on the Napoleon Series: April 2010


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