The Only Man in Prussia
The Only Man in Prussia.
North Germany 1803
The Electorate of Hanover had not yet recovered from the deep financial wounds which the French revolutionary war, the support of the Empires army on her frontier, and, above all, the occupation of her territory by Prussia, had inflicted upon the resources of the state; when new misunderstandings between France and England threatened her with a renewal of hostilities, coming hard on the heels of the impending collapse of the Peace of Amiens.
Emboldened by sound measures to strengthen the economy, an extreme effort on the part of the Hanoverian government, had been for some years operating to heighten the military importance of the electorate, and now rendered it well qualified to assume a defensive position; the army had been increased, the fortresses in the main repaired, and a great part of the existing force suffered to return to the ranks, many vacancies in regiments, both among officers and men, had been filled, and a general tightening of military discipline and military spirit had been encouraged to develop.
In March, 1803, the nominal strength of the army, including cavalry, infantry, artillery, and engineers, amounted to 15,546; however, more than one third more were on furlough, and the effective force could be fairly estimated at more than twenty thousand men.
Such was the strength of the Hanoverian army, when M. de Talleyrand’s celebrated note verbale to the English ambassador (Communicated to lord Whitworth at Paris, on the 11th of March, and which stated, "If we do not receive satisfactory explanation respecting these armaments in England, and if they actually take place, it is natural that the first consul should march 20,000 men into Holland. These troops being once in the country, it is natural that an encampment should be formed on the frontier of Hanover." &c.) sufficiently indicated the first consul’s designs upon the electorate.
According to the principles of justice, good faith, and the acknowledged rights of nations, Hanover was justified in an expectation of being allowed to remain an undisturbed spectator of the impending contest. Under the treaty of Basle, Hanover could claim neutrality, and, as an integral part of the German empire, the protection afforded her by the peace of Luneville. However, such claims had little weight with the French First Consul. Under the pretext that if the sovereign of both Britain and Hanover declare war as King of one, his other territory must necessarily be involved in the same contest, Napoleon justified his occupation of Hanover.
That Napoleon would do such a thing, however, was to be expected by the Hanoverian Electorate, Hanover’s Prime Minister, the Baron von Lenthe, Knew only too well that such course of events would happen; that The Ogre, Napoleon, who had violated the most solemn engagements of the treaty of Luneville; who, instead of restoring the independence of Switzerland, Holland, and the Italian republic, was endeavouring to fix more firmly his despotic rule in those occupied states; Napoleon who, it was believed was both uninfluenced by national or personal honour, sought to evade his sacred promise to the German emperor, and withhold all indemnification to the grand duke Ferdinand for the loss of Tuscany; That the perfidious Bonaparte, who had scarcely ratified the treaty of Amiens, when he took measures for its violation; should now meditate a breach of faith with the Holy Roman Empire by invading one of her provinces, Baron von Lenthe determined to raise the alarm.
Baron von Lenthe was further convinced by his imperious wife, who was determined that her standing in the Empire would be no less than that she saw for herself (some believed she acted as if she thought she was the head of state herself!) arguing that to be a First Rate State, one should act as a First Rate State, and not let the machinations of the Jacobins and murderers now ruling France, affect the fortunes of Hanover, or the ambitions of it’s ruling families to raise the State to the be foremost in North Germany.
Subsequently and notwithstanding the King’s message to parliament of the 8th of March, the consequent preparations in England, (of which von Lenthe, residing in London, was fully aware,) M. Talleyrand’s note verbale of the 11th, and still more decisive evidence of approaching war which an actual assembly of French troops in Holland furnished, this exasperated statesman persevered in an opinion that hostilities would take place, and succeeded in rendering his colleagues in Hanover equally mindful of the gathering storm.
In England, the King was encouraging an expectation of war, and it was no surprise that he was engaged in energetic measures for the defence of the electorate and the protection of her troops; these measures were in no small part echoed in the confidence and actions of his Hanoverian minister.
So early as the end of March, major von der Decken, aid-de-camp to His Royal Highness the duke of Cambridge, (who, without being a member of the Hanoverian cabinet, served as lieutenant-general in that army,) was commissioned, at an interview with the King in London, to acquaint the Duke that his majesty’s wishes were, first, that endeavours should be made to procure assistance from Prussia, in case of which being unsuccessful, the troops to be drawn towards Stade, and if then found unable to oppose any effective resistance to the enemy, that they should be there embarked for England.
His majesty, the Prince of Wales, and their royal highnesses the dukes of York and Clarence, strenuously supported the views of the King, and the English ministry sanctioned the preparation of transports for the conveyance of the Hanoverian troops, and their being taken into British pay on their arrival in England.
This considerate and judicious design was totally supported by the indomitable will of Baron von Lenthe; and the non-interference of the British government in Hanoverian politics left that minister at full liberty to guide the helm of the electorate, and to dictate to his acquiescent colleagues forthright and determined policy envisaged by his majesty.
Unknown by all in the theatre of North Germany, Alexander, the Czar of Russia had secretly mobilised 70’000 troops ready to intervene if, as he saw it, the neutrality of Hanover was corrupted by either the threatened invasion of France; or the occupation of Hanover by Prussia, even if that occupation was to prevent the French invasion! It is quite incredulous that such a mobilisation was not heard about until some time later in the year, when the force moved into East Prussia without prior notice. But of that, more later!
However, after England had been one month in expectation of, and in preparation for, the invasion of Hanover of which his majesty’s message to parliament intimated the approach, Baron von Lenthe decided that more precautionary measures on the part of Hanover were also advisable, and in furtherance of this view an official communication was despatched from London, on the 8th of April, addressed to field marshal von Wallmoden Gimborn, then at the head of the Hanoverian army. This document stated that, "it appeared adapted to circumstances to employ the present time, usually devoted to the exercise of the troops, to call in all those on furlough, and to make arrangements for a camp of instruction, in order that the regiments might be brought together without exciting public attention, and thus, at all events, to prevent the scattered garrisons from being unexpectedly cut off;" it further empowered marshal Wallmoden to take the steps necessary on his part for the execution of the proposed plan, which was stated to be, for the present, "solely limited to measures of defence!"
It must be noted that on the occasion of this letter being penned, the Barons wife had been absent for some time from her influence on his forthright stance against France, and thus some of his old habits of prevarication had again surfaced. The Barons wife had been invited to Brunswick, to an audience with Her Majesty Queen Louise of Prussia, and her fellow Princesses from Mecklenburg (her sister in law) Brunswick (the hostess of the assembly of the Princesses) Saxony and Hesse-Kassel. Such an audience appealed to the Barons wife as only fitting for the First Lady of Hanover, and she went without hesitation.
The official note which contained these instructions reached marshal Wallmoden on the 19th, and on the following day he sought further instruction from the ministry respecting the prescribed arrangements, which not corresponding with his own notions of the best means to be adopted for putting the country into a state of preparation against danger, also feeling doubtful as to the extent of preparation intended to be made, led him to submit to the ministry the following queries:
In what part of the country are the troops to be assembled?
Upon what place are they to fall back?
Is the fortress of Hameln to be put in a full state of defence?
What are in general our means of resistance?
To what extent shall we be permitted to employ them?
The field marshal added his conviction that the execution of "the measures which the approach of danger would require, could not be effected in a short time," and concluded by stating that "he found himself obliged to press most urgently for a decision respecting the points of preparation alluded to, or to give up the possibility of being able to execute them with promptitude."
The reply of the Hanoverian cabinet, on the 22d, was as inconsistent as extraordinary.
"The ministry," say they, "entirely acknowledges the necessity for detailed determinations, which the object in view requires; and, as those determinations depend entirely upon the future development of affairs, it would be not only dangerous but altogether impracticable to countenance them with too much determination, and to fix positively upon points of detail. On the whole the ministry view two points as the most important to be first decided on; the one to avoid for the moment all that could give the enemy reason to accelerate his actions; the second to concert all the preparatory measures which are not contrary to the first point of view, and which might assist the execution of the King’s orders."
The field marshal, perceiving clearly that this note of the cabinet empowered him literally with the fate of the Electorate, decided upon laying the state of his forces and options before the King himself, and on the 27th addressed a letter to London, in which he unreservedly detailed the situation of the country.
"The army," said he, "is very different from what it appeared on paper at the end of March; it has been considerably increased by the efforts of the Officers, and it is absolutely exhausting of all means of being recruited. We shall be obliged to leave small garrisons in several places; the fortress of Hameln will not be abandoned; and all the infantry that can be calculated on amounts to twenty thousand bayonets; the cavalry need fewer than five hundred horses, and at the same time means are found to supply one hundred and forty men, which the cavalry want to complete, and so on.
The Electoral Army of Hanover
Light Dragoon Brigade
First Heavy Brigade
Second Heavy Brigade
Third Heavy Brigade
Fourth Heavy Brigade
Meantime the designs of France became more developed, and the title of Armée d’Hanovre, given to the troops which she had collected on the Dutch frontier, rendered their destination no longer doubtful. The troops thus assembled in this army were, however, not the force that all believed them to be. Stories had multiplied them from a twenty thousand strong force of infantry, some cavalry and no field artillery; to a corps of all arms exceeding thirty five thousand strong, and gaining more men and materials every day! The real state of affairs in this army were hidden from the understanding of the Hanoverian command by a mixture of efficient French border police, and the rumour of the uninformed populace. This “fog of war” was to help the French marshal Mortier in his initial march in to Hanoverian lands, and prevented the early arrest of the Marshal by a more determined Hanoverian military than actually occurred.
Marshal Wallmoden, therefore, did not delay in taking every step compatible with the orders by which his exertions were bounded; the Elbe and Weser were reconnoitred, the necessary field equipage put in preparation, the repairs required at Hameln commenced, and on the 4th of May an exact account of what had been done was laid by him before the ministry, who were at the same time informed that, "in consequence of the interdiction of all preparations that might give ‘umbrage’ he found himself incapable of making any further arrangements." He had done all he could and more!
(The following anecdote, in explanation of the meaning attached by the ministry to the word "umbrage," was related to me in Hanover. The general commanding the Hanoverian army having been instructed by the ministry not to suffer the troops to fire, and only in case of emergency "to use the bayonet with moderation," Baron Arentschildt -, one of that body, was questioned by a friend, "whether such orders had absolutely been given," and "what was meant by using the bayonet with CHRISTIAN moderation?" The Baron, in reply, acknowledged "that the statement was substantially true," but declared "that the word ‘Christian’ was an uncharitable addition made in a sarcastic way to reflect on the nature of the note!"), This declaration the marshal supported, on the following day, by a long and pressing note in which the ministry were plainly told that, "according to the principles which they had laid down, their measures literally amounted to doing nothing, by not antagonising the enemy into accelerating his actions;" a considerable augmentation of the army was now complete; the details consequent upon this measure brought to their notice; and, finally, they were requested to inform the marshal, who naturally felt that he would be held responsible for the execution of their plans, (especially if they went awry, what were their absolute intentions with regard to the defence of the country.)
The ministry had already decided upon authorizing the assembly of the camp of instruction, suggested to them by the official communication from London, which has been already mentioned, when this note reached them; and marshal Wallmoden was consequently, on the following day, empowered to undertake the arrangements necessary for the accomplishment of that object; and the camp of instruction appeared to be the of the utmost usefulness in the preparation of the recruits in which the Ministry had eventually decided to call upon.
With reference to this measure, marshal Wallmoden reported, on the 9th of May, that the regiments could be brought together in less than one week. The intelligence from London now furnished a confirmation of the probability that war would be immediately declared, and that from Holland announced the approach of a French army. Wallmoden, therefore, again addressed the ministry, and after detailing the arrangements that he had been able to make, again made clear to the ministry his design as to what should be undertaken to secure the Electorate.
"The ministry have already been informed of the actual number of effective troops, and can judge what will remain after Hameln has been garrisoned with three thousand men; the number remaining is sensible to support an obstinate and continued defence; the insufficiency of the corps without others aid, however stimulated by duty its ardour and bravery may be, cannot escape the observation of the ministry. But we have resources; this is a fact not doubtful; they exist, and we did not hesitate to have recourse to them under circumstances of much less danger than those which probably now await us."
"This is no question of war with foreign countries; we seek but to defend our own, to protect the property of individuals, our own homes, and to ensure our personal safety. Who would withhold his person and all his exertions from a co-operation in this defence? Arms and ammunition are not wanting; we have only to assemble the combatants. The field-marshal feels confident that they will be found not wanting, given the measures be taken to procure them."
"If we should even be unable to assemble such an army as the electorate furnished during the seven years’ war, we may at least calculate on collecting, in a short time, from twenty-eight to thirty thousand men."
"A corps of this strength would always render an absolute defence possible, and, even anticipating the most unfortunate consequences, that of being obliged to yield to a superior force, the position must be again laid down, that it is only with arms in our hands, and provided with a respectable force, that we can hope to obtain an equitable, and not a disgraceful capitulation."
This note was drawn up by marshal Wallmoden in concert with His Royal Highness the duke of Cambridge, who, however, did not place much dependence upon the doubtful prospect of a capitulation, (more than once alluded to by marshal Wallmoden,) but strongly advocated the more vigorous measure of determined resistance.
The deputies for the province of Calenberg (Calenbergischen Landstände) also advocated defensive measures; and to these united counsels the ministry agreed. An augmentation of the army from twenty-five to thirty thousand men was achieved, and the note of the 13th of May, which communicated to marshal Wallmoden this acquiescence in his proposition, invited him, at the same time, to a personal communication with the ministry; a freedom of intercourse which, although so imperatively called for by the official activity and expedition which the state of the country demanded, had yet, up to this moment, never been offered to him.
His actions and efforts were rewarded by a note received from no less a person of Her Majesty Queen Louise of Prussia, delivered by Baroness von Lenthe. The note was designed to assure him that the Queen was campaigning strenuously on Hanover’s behalf, that the Electorate should not be left alone to the mercy of the Corsican wolf. She inferred to the Treaty of Luneville; and advised him that she was in progress around the North German States treating with her fellow Princesses and Ladies of State, cousins all, to ensure that the Kings and Princes had their full support in the coming storm.
Wallmoden considered the note and its contents; and considered that Her Majesty was a very talented and capable lady. He put the note in his walnut and brass campaign desk and locked the drawer. For the first time in weeks Wallmoden smiled. Her Majesty was a very talented and capable lady indeed!
Last edited by Colonel Troutstrangler; March 23rd, 2009 at 01:12 PM.. Reason: Poor format
The Ride of the Valkyrie
The Ride of the Valkyrie
The Only Man in Prussia.
Queen Louise was returning to Berlin after her rather successful tour of the northern states of the Empire. She had managed to persuade and recruit the noble women of the region to her league of patriots. A whit, on hearing of her scheme called it “The last ride of the Valkyrie”! The Queen liked the title, had the man thrashed, and shortened it to “The Valkyrie”. Over three hundred of the most auspicious families in North Germany now had their women in league with the Queen; it was to prove an irresistible force.
On the 13th of May, about two months after the king’s message to parliament was known in Hanover, the Hanoverian government decided upon taking the final step of any value towards its defence, and the manner in which this was attempted to be put in execution was singularly successful.
The belief implied in marshal Wallmoden’s note of the 11th of May, that no subject of the Hanoverian electorate would not come to the defence of the country, if proper means were adopted for calling them into action. This opinion was afterwards supported by his verbal expressions to the same effect, This belief was adopted by the ministry to such an extent as to induce them to issue a proclamation on the 16th of May, which set forth, "that, although the King, as Elector and member of the German empire, had determined to observe the most strict neutrality with regard to the points of difference between the governments of England and France, yet as the movement of troops in Holland made evident the possibility of the existing negotiations not terminating pacifically, it was, therefore, necessary to ascertain, without delay, the number of inhabitants capable of bearing arms; that, merely with this view, the magistrates were required to make out a complete list of all subjects of the government, and solemnly to bind them to place themselves, in case of necessity, at its disposition, for the defence and deliverance of the country, for so long a period as the necessity may exist and the defence of the land require."
"Any one avoiding this engagement by removing himself out of the country, should," it was added, "forfeit his property and patrimony without hope of pardon."
This proclamation, which was naturally interpreted to be a requisition for a levée en masse of the inhabitants, was received with marked satisfaction throughout the country; whole districts (amts bezirke) had already formed volunteer corps for local defence; others required time to compile the lists, but employed that time in sending all their sons to the garrisons who were capable of bearing arms. The reports which poured in to the ministry from the authorities charged with the execution of their orders, soon communicated to them the success of their measures, and impressed them with the necessity of speedily creating the necessary logistical requirements to cope with the swell of volunteers; another proclamation was, therefore, issued on the 24th, which explicitly declared that "the views of the government had never been directed to a levée en masse, and that in requiring a list of all subjects capable of bearing arms, they did so merely for the purpose of being able to call out the number of men necessary to complete the regular army, in which it was intended they should serve in the capacity of regular soldiers for so long a period as the defence of the country required."
This contradictory document created much confusion, and served only to confirm the people in the opinion that the Volunteer movement was not originally intended, and many of the original volunteers made their way home this had the beneficial effect of relieving the great pressure on the magazines of the Electorate.
Meantime, another communication from London added to the difficulties and caused further confusion to all, to the adoption of any vigorous or decided measures. This note, which was addressed to general Wallmoden in reply to his statement of the 27th of April, acknowledged the painful feelings with which his representations had been received, and rendered justice to the zeal for the troops entrusted to his charge, in view of the imminent invasion of the Electorate.
However, to that point on which it was so necessary that he should be precisely instructed, namely, whether, in case of invasion, an actual resistance was or was not to be made, it merely informed him that "the decision of this question must entirely depend upon the degree of utility which, under the circumstances, such a measure might be expected to afford; and it would be superfluous to add that, if there was a probability of repulsing the enemy, and really defending the country, they should not hesitate in employing all possible resources to obtain this essential object.
If, on the contrary, the too superior force of the enemy, and other too disadvantageous circumstances, should reduce them to feel satisfied with saving the most valuable effects, and that it should be necessary to limit themselves to withdrawing the corps into a position where there might be some probability of its receiving assistance, or effecting its embarkation, or, in fine, obtaining a less unfavourable capitulation, then the means to be employed should only be proportionate to these objects."
"However warm an interest," it continued, "his majesty may take in the safety and honour of his brave troops, the paramount attention which should be paid to the good of the country in general, and that of the subject, ought to prevent the adoption of measures, the weight of which would, without producing any general benefit, only augment those evils which are already inevitable. It is under this point of view that the ministry and the field-marshal should consider the subject; it is impossible, in consequence of the great distance, and the uncertainty respecting the events which may arise, to give here more precise orders. It is confidently felt that, if the troops be called upon, they will give new proofs of their bravery, and of their attachment to the king and his house, whose benevolent participation will be always insured to them," etc.
Discouraging and indefinite as these instructions were, they yet gave to marshal Wallmoden and the ministry a power of deciding upon the course to be pursued; and although this freedom of decision was coupled with a responsibility which gave every reason to believe that the result, and not the motive, of their measures would be judged by the public, they yet ventured to persevere in the preparations for defence, which had now been earnestly commenced.
An augmentation of each infantry regiment to twelve hundred men, and a general enlistment for this supply were ordered and entered upon; the organization of a rifle corps, to be formed out of the game-keepers (jagd-bedienten) and other good marksmen, was authorized; conscriptions of horses were levied throughout the country; incessant exertions made to place Hameln in a final state of defence; conspicuous endeavours shown by the officers of artillery to render that arm effective; in short, all that activity which a union of zeal, patriotism, and courage could give, was exhibited throughout the several military departments.
Nevertheless, a painful conviction was soon afforded that the decision of the ministry had been formed too late to increase the numbers before the enemy made his play.
Major von der Decken, who, early in May, had been sent to Berlin for the purpose of endeavouring to obtain assistance from Prussia, returned from there on the 30th of the same month, having been entirely unsuccessful in the object of his mission! Diplomatic intrigues, terminating in a strong note of Russia, which stated that the occupation of Hanover by Prussian troops would be considered by the autocrat as a declaration of war, were the immediate causes of this result; the Duke of Brunswick also, who, it was proposed, should have the command of the allied army, declined the offer.
Thus was the electorate, notwithstanding the boasted benefits of the Germanic confederation, the protecting solemnity of the imperial decree (In the imperial decree, addressed to the Reichs Versammlung, September 1, 1792, it is said, "If an individual state or province of the empire be attacked by a foreign power, the whole of Germany is thereby attacked, and the confederation of the empire being thus involved, powerful assistance, from the united means of the empire, shall be afforded to the state attacked."), and her expected guardianship by the British government, thrown, finally, upon her own limited resources, and left single-handed to cope with the armies of France.
Unbeknown to the Major, his pleas had not fallen on stony ground. The Queen of Prussia, A lady as resolute as she was beautiful was determined that her King and husband would show some fortitude and honour, and be resolute in his role as King of his people, and as an Elector of the Empire. She was with her gathering of ladies in her withdrawing room of the palace after reviewing her Regiment of Dragoons, eating a meal freshly delivered by the maids, of bread and honey, when she heard the news that Hanover was to be abandoned. Angrily she gathered her petticoats and stormed into the Chancery where her husband was discussing the worth of the palace treasury. Resplendent in her blue uniform of a Colonel in chief of Dragoons, she gathered up her skirts and petticoats to reveal her black riding boots beneath, so that she could move toward her target with greater speed. “You vill leave us alone” she cried, and the gathered Ministers saw her angry countenance and knew discretion to be the better part of valour, and left the King to the tender ministrations of his Queen! This was even heard by the maid in the garden hanging out the clothes, when down came a black hussar and told her to mind her nose!
The Queen assailed the King with her crop and pursued him through the multitude of tables and chairs until he tripped and lay prostrate over a low chaise lounge. “You vill display some backbone you liddle schit!” she screamed. She reigned blow after blow on the unfortunate monarch, “please mien leibschen” he cried, but she swore she would only stop when he agreed to order the support of his cousin the elector of Hanover. “Unt besides, you vill get nein more jiggy jig unt till you do!” At that last threat, the King in much pain and anguish capitulated to his Queen, and Marshal Mollendorf was called for.
It was on or about this occasion that his royal highness the duke of Cambridge, in a letter addressed to baron von Lenthe, expressed those noble sentiments which will ever stand a bright example of princely feeling and patriotic devotion. "Rest assured," wrote his royal highness, "that I will sacrifice my blood and life for a country to which I am so much attached." It was noted that he, as did the King of Prussia, exhibited a fine martial air, and refused to sit in the meetings they attended.
The Kings equerry noted also that “ze Koningin must not be zo active mit der krop as she has vorn out five of ze tings zis veek alone! She vill be hurting der pherdes zo!
It was also on or about this time, that the Elector of Hesse Kassel, and the Elector of Saxony were also seen to exhibit a subservient attitude when in the presence of their consorts, indeed rumours abounded in the palace at Cassel that a new dungeon had been built on the express orders of the Electors young wife!
But despite the exertions of the army, the ministries prevarication in raising the additional men necessary, had a sorry effect on the possible strength of the army. The most effective young men, and those with whom their families could best dispense, having been prepared, by the proclamation of the 16th, for the enforcement of a levée en masse, had now returned home to find that conscription had now began! The magistrates were in most places obliged to enrol only sons of farmers, or shopkeepers and even them were unable to furnish their prescribed quota.
The supply of horses was attended with a different attitude. No obstruction was given to compiling the general returns of the horses of the country, and an examination of the available horses and selection of them was, therefore, ordered. This alone was an operation which required some weeks; but was commenced early enough to produce the necessary numbers to complete the cavalry, artillery, and train.
A most unaccountable ignorance, both of the force and position, as well as of the designs of the enemy, existed among the authorities in Hanover. The French troops on the Yssel, which did not exceed twelve thousand ill-appointed combatants, without artillery, and having but a few squadrons of badly-mounted cavalry, were magnified into an army of thirty thousand men. These, it was supposed, would not pass the Ems before the Hanoverian ministry had been allowed time and opportunity to negotiate, or should any hostile movement be commenced by them, that it would be confined to occupying the mouths of the Elbe and Weser, taking possession of Hamburg and Bremen. And, perhaps, that part of the electorate situated near these places. The ministry, therefore, judged it prudent to abstain from any offensive measure, and decided that, even if it were positively ascertained that the French were advancing towards the frontier, their movements should be met by a deputation, having for its object the obtaining, by negotiation, favourable terms for the electorate.
The former suppositions were soon found to be completely wrong, and the rapid advance of the French forced the Hanoverian ministers to send immediately two deputies, M. von Bremer, chief of the tribunal of justice, and lieutenant-colonel von Bock, of the regiment of life-guards. These men were therefore, selected to meet the French head-quarters on their entrance into the country. At the request of Messrs. von Bremer and Bock, privy counsellor Brandes was permitted to accompany them; and, supposing the march of the French army to be directed upon Quakenbrück, Wildeshausen, and, perhaps, Osnabrück, these three gentlemen left Hanover.
In order to gain further information respecting the enemy’s line of march, the deputies took the road by Nienburg, Suhlingen and Diepholtz, on which they soon ascertained that, instead of the French being, as was supposed, in march for Wildeshausen, they were moving upon Quakenbrück, at which place the head-quarters had absolutely arrived, the advanced guard being on the road to Diepholtz.
The departure of the deputies did not cause any relaxation in the defensive measures which had been commenced. On the 30th of May, the Footguards left Hanover for Nienburg, and on the same day prince Schwartzburg’s regiment repaired to Neustadt; a number of light cavalry, and one battery of horse-artillery, followed these regiments, marshal Wallmoden’s intention being to unite the whole on the right bank of the Weser, and form a line of defence extending from the junction of that river with the Aller to Stoltzenau.
Meantime accounts of the enemy’s continued advance towards the frontier followed each other with rapidity. Every succeeding hour rendered the situation of the electorate more critical, the reports made to Marshal Wallmoden by the different colonels of regiments, and from the employés of the army in general, determined him to order the transport of recruits to be discontinued; a mass of undisciplined men would, he conceived, prove rather an incumbrance than an acquisition to the army. It was, also, impossible to furnish them with ammunition and appointments, and he therefore felt justified in taking a step apparently inconsistent with his former suggestions.
The Only Man in Prussia.
On the 1st of June his royal highness the duke of Cambridge took the command of the troops which had been brought together at Nienburg, amounting to about four thousand men of the Guards and Grenadier Brigades; supported by the brigades of the third column and his royal highness made immediate dispositions for surprising the enemy’s advanced posts on the night of the 2nd.
But, on the 2d of June, the deputies returned to Hanover with the appalling intelligence that the French commander, general Mortier, had been instructed to require the surrender of the whole Hanoverian army as prisoners of war, the object of the first consul being, as he informed them, to procure as many prisoners as possible, in order that he might be provided with the means of regaining, by exchange, those French troops which the English might capture during the approaching war.
In not insisting upon the troops becoming prisoners of war, general Mortier stated that he would be departing from his instructions, and suffering himself to be guided by the advice and opinion of the generals whom he had consulted, and who thought with him that the advantage of avoiding considerable losses on both sides, and the sacrifice of so many brave men, would justify him in thus departing from the express orders of the first consul.
The deputies were pressed to give a final answer, and were forewarned that the march of the French troops would not be discontinued, and that if the least resistance was made to them, and the French general had once crossed the Weser, he should no longer feel himself bound by any offer which he had previously made.
The whole effective force at general Wallmoden’s disposal might, at this moment, be confidently calculated at four thousand seven hundred cavalry and twelve thousand three hundred infantry; and the regiments coming from the Göttingen country were already in march (the second column), and would have reached the Weser in a few days; neither marshal Wallmoden, however, nor the ministry felt sufficient confidence in this force to trust to it either for the defence of the country against the invading army, or for the obtaining, by the success with which its first offensive efforts were almost sure to be attended, more favourable conditions than those which Mortier had already proposed; and they therefore decided that the deputies should be sent back to the French head-quarters fully empowered to conclude a convention on those terms, at the same time endeavouring to moderate Mortier’s demand if possible; which negotiation having been decided upon, his royal highness the duke of Cambridge was recalled from Nienburg.
Between this place and Neustadt the prince was met by the deputies, now proceeding with their final instructions to the French head-quarters; and having learned from them that they were empowered to concede to that proposition of general Mortier which rendered it obligatory on the Hanoverian army not to serve against the French during the war, his royal highness, in accordance with a previous declaration which he had made, "never to become a party to such an engagement," demanded the deputies accompany him to review his troops, better then to determine the chance of rebuking the French invasion.
Notwithstanding the disposition with the government exhibited to terminate their labours by negotiation, and the preliminaries which they thought had commenced, the invading army continued to advance; and this determination to take advantage of the forbearance imposed upon the Hanoverians, led at length to an affair of outposts, in which the intruders received a just correction.
About three o’clock in the afternoon of the 2d of June, the advanced vidette of a cavalry piquet of thirty-two men, under the command of lieutenant von Linsingen, which was stationed near the village of Borstel, on the high road between Nienburg and Suhlingen, gave notice that the enemy were advancing. Lieutenant von Linsingen, agreeable to the course which he had been ordered in such a case to adopt, rode forward with a trumpeter bearing a flag of truce, and stated to the officer in command of the enemy’s party, "that the French and Hanoverian authorities were already in treaty, and that the conference was likely to terminate in a capitulation on the part of the Hanoverians," adding a request that the officer in command of the detachment would suspend hostilities until the result of the negotiation had been made known.
The French officer replied by taking lieutenant Linsingen and his trumpeter prisoners, and forthwith attacking the Hanoverian piquet, which, deprived of its commander, fell back upon a detachment of the same strength, that was stationed as reserve in the rear, under lieutenant Krauchenberg. This officer, ignorant of what had passed, but seeing enough to convince him that, as far as the outposts were concerned, it was no affair of diplomacy, quickly drew the united detachments behind a small bridge, and prepared to check the enemy’s advance. The French cavalry followed, and their advanced horsemen passed the bridge; but no further indulgence was shewn them by Krauchenberg, who, charging with impetuosity, drove the whole back on their support.
The enemy were, however, too strong to admit of this attack being followed up with any chance of success, and, sending a few skirmishers after them, he retained his position. The French now re-assembled, and having brought off their wounded, again tried to force a passage; but in vain. Three several attempts were defeated, and seeing that no opening was likely to be effected by them across this part of the stream, they sent a detachment higher up to seek another passage. Krauchenberg, aware that this could be easily found, and his party thus surrounded, was about to retreat, when the brigade of the ninth and tenth dragoons, with two guns, and a light company of infantry, came up to his support.
The Hanoverians now assumed the offensive, and the enemy as quickly commenced their retreat, falling back on to the main body of French troops some way behind them. Krauchenberg followed them to Borstel, where, apprehending an ambuscade, he prepared to draw off, and return to his former position, having lost in the whole affair two men killed, and nine men and seventeen horses wounded. The casualties of the enemy could not be ascertained, in consequence of their wounded having been brought off, but it must have at least equalled that of the Hanoverians.
Thus terminated the only collision of military force which attended the entrance of the French army into the electorate; for general von Hammerstein, who commanded the advanced corps, finding that he could not maintain his position beyond the Weser, ordered the troops under his command to retire behind that river; and on the 3d of June General Mortier made an all out assault on the Hanovarian lines.
Despite their superiority of numbers (a fact of which they were unaware), the Hanovarian army nervously waited the French onslaught, made as it was against several points of the greatly extended Hanovarian line. River crossings are never easy, but the French élan seemed to be carrying the day, and all along the line the Hanovarian officers feared the worst.
At this juncture in the events, much commotion was to be seen in the French lines on the Hanovarians left flank, and a great noise of irregular fire was heard. Individuals, and then whole sections of the French force then started toward the Hanovarian lines at an alarming rate! Fearing an impetuous attack, the left most Hanovarian brigade deployed to face this new threat, when the French lines were torn asunder by a large body of Horse bearing white uniforms. The Officer commanding the Hanovarian Line quickly determined the Horse to be Prussians, and ordered his brigade in to the opportune action of destroying the French force for all time.
It did not take long for this action to be transformed into a manouver designed to bring the left flank brigade of the Hanovarians to bare on to the flank of the remaining French, and commence to roll them up!
Unbeknown to the Left flank, the Hanovarian right had witnessed an equally outstanding cavalry action where the Hanovarian horse had breached the ridge of the valley overlooking the river and hit their French opponents with complete surprise. The big men on big horses pushing the astounded French back down the gentle slope toward the river crossing they had left only so recently. All along the line the Hanovarians experienced an unlooked for success, and then the final event happened to cap an outstanding day; a brigade of Prussian line infantry marched on to the field with banners flying, General Prince Louis Ferdinand requesting to deploy in line with the Hanovarians, and together the whole force advanced to route the unfortunate Mortier and his rapidly diminishing army.
After the event, General Prince Louis Ferdinand made his greetings to the Hanovarians, their General aghast as to where the Prussian Kurassiers had appeared from, but equally grateful that they did. Together they moved to accept the French commanders sword in surrender, only to find a French General of Brigade tearfully report on his Generals death at the hand of a Prussian Kurrassier sergeant.
Last edited by Colonel Troutstrangler; May 13th, 2009 at 02:09 PM..
Please space the paragraphs.
From little acorns, great butterflies grow!
The Only Man in Prussia.
From little acorns, great butterflies grow!
The machinations of the Valkyrie, had caused many ripples in the North German pond. In the days before “The Great Battle of Nienburg” many tiny movements of the North German armed forces had come to fruition. The battle merely sealed the fate of the lesser princes into following the King of Prussia and Electors of Hesse Kassel and Saxony in their grand schemes.
In Brunswick, Queen Louise had bid a rousing farewell to her young princes, as they rode with haste to take up the command of the troops that would later appear on the field of battle in support of the Hanovarians. The King had been “persuaded” by his Queen (and his more robust Ministers), that the French encroachment on to the Empires soil must be stopped. And who better to stop it? The heir to Frederick the Great was the only man capable, so he was told. Their perfidious Emperor would not come to the Kings support, would he? He would only march if it meant that he could recover the lost province of Silesia, thus he would be with the French, and not for the Empire! The English were nowhere to be seen, and could not be counted upon to provide a force of arms on land to support the cause; even if they were willing to!
The Saxon Elector pledged his support (with the promise of new lands to add to his domains) and gave orders to move troops west to defend the Saxon lands in Thuringia and beyond. (So kind of him to support his lesser cousins so – without their cry for help!)
The Elector of Hesse also mobilised troops to “support” his cousin the Elector of Hesse Darmstadt, in his decision to remain neutral in the coming war. It was of small concern that he also sat his battalions in the province of Waldeck; for the defence and well being of the people of Waldeck, of course!
As Mortier crossed into the North German lands, he was shadowed by the Prussian officer von Borstell, who had carefully moved the troops guarding the frontier with France, out of the line of march of Mortier, and to the North. As the days progressed, Mortier passed through the southern lands of Oldenburg, it was then that von Borstel moved on to Mortier’s lines of communication and severed his ties with France. Due to the distances involved, Mortier was unaware of this until the morning of the battle.
Prince William of Prussia, had led the Kurrassier brigade from its garrison of Minden, through Rahden, and on to the rear guard of Mortiers ill fated corps. His Kurrassiers had ridden through the few dragoons and wagons they found, and as night fell, prepared to join up with Price Louis Ferdinand to engage the French around the town of Nienburg the following day. The lands of Lippe Detmold and Lippe Buckenburg were kindly opened to the princes to allow their glorious march no hindrance. The princes also requested that the Princes of Lippe raise troops to support the good cause! The ladies of the houses of the courts of the princes of Lippe, good Valkyrie that they were, ensured that no real dissension to this aim was had.
Queen Louise had also persuaded her father Duke Charles of Mecklenburg, to take up his sword and lead the Hanovarian army as he had done for many years before. He was so taken with her oration, that he marched with his army (what there was of it!) to join with the Hanovarian cause.
Now that the die is cast, Prussia, Saxony and Hesse issued orders for the full mobilisation of their respective armies. War with France was inevitable, with Austria possible, and Russia was for the time being more concerned with her trials with Britain, the Ottomans and Persia. It was noted by the more observant, that the representatives of these three august nations were regularly found at the soirées held by Queen Louise in Berlin!
Sweden was asked for sureties that they would not intervine from Pommerania, and Denmark was asked that they did not mobilise troops in Schleswig or Holstein. Both Sweden and Denmark objected to this affront to their honour, and went quiet on the matter. The Prussians suspected a plot!
The plot thickens! does anyone have any comments on where this is going to date? (apart from the noob sorting the format of the thread) Coming soon: The war with the north; the defeat of the tyrant, the stand off with the Emperor; poland reduced; England expects, and gets! The Order of Louise; The Order of Tuton? The Great Queen of Naples, The drive to the east; The treasure ships. and so on!!!
The Only Man in Prussia
The Rage of Bonaparte
Hearing of Mortier's defeat and death at the hands of the Prussian and Hanoverian Armies, Napoleon flew in to one of his infamous rages (Ee' he were vexed!) The following days and nights were marked by a flurry of activity. Orders were sent to the many disparate parts of the French armed forces. Gone were his plans to form an army for the invasion of England. Gone were his attempts to woo the King of Prussia with bribes of territory in Hanover. Vengeance and victory against the Prussians were all that mattered now. Once Prussia was beaten into submission, he was sure that the other German States would fall in line with his desires.
Gathering his nearest forces from the Lowlands and the Rhine, he gave orders to Berthier to gather as many units as were available, and follow him across the Rhine to support his small armies advance into North Germany.
Crossing the Rhine, The First Consul followed the path of Mortier's advance in to Hanover. He reasoned that if the British were to land a force on the Friesian coast, that his army would be well placed to come between them and the Prussians.
The first action came at Ems (Lingen), when the Advanced Guard of Bonaparte’s army under the command of General Lannes, came upon the light troops under the command of General von Borstel. The contest was over before an hour had passed, the Prussian Corps being pinned and outflanked by Lannes avenging columns. Most of the troops in that unfortunate corps simply surrendered when pressed on all sides. Casualties in the French columns were heavy on the first contact, but quickly subdued the Prussian lines with the French light infantry rapid deployment and attacks.
Davout’s flanking brigade saw another swift victory for the French force of arms, capturing another Prussian Brigade recently come up from Munster, and stretched out in line of march, unaware of any French presence in the vicinity. Bonaparte’s army was not the best in terms of strength or materiel, but its men were determined to avenge Mortier.
Order of Battle of the French Army of North Germany.
Commander-in-Chief : First Consul General Napoleon
Consular Guard :General Jean Baptiste Bessières
Consular Guard Infantry :
1st Brigade : Général de Brigade Hulin
Grenadier à Pied Regt : (1500)
2nd Brigade : Général de Division Soulès
Chasseur à Pied Regt : (1500)
Consular Guard Cavalry :
1st Brigade : Général de Brigade Ordener
Guard Grenadier à Cheval Regt : (780)
2nd Brigade : Colonel Morland
Guides Regt : (455)
Mameluk : (65)
Consular Guard Artillery :
Old Guard Horse : Two Batteries (8-8pdr, 4-4pdr & 4-6" How)
1st Infantry Division : Général de Division Oudinot
1st Brigade : Général de Brigade Laplanche-Morthières
1st Gren Regt : 1st Bn d’élite from 13th Ligne (600)
1st Gren Regt : 2nd Bn d’élite from 58th Ligne (600)
2nd Gren Regt : 1st Bn d’élite from 9th Ligne (600)
2nd Gren Regt : 1st Bn d’élite from 81st Ligne (600)
Foot Artillery : Foot Battery (4-8pdr & 2-4pdr)
I Corps: General Jean Baptiste Bernadotte
1st Infantry Division : Général de Division Rivaud de la Raffinière
1st Brigade : Général de Brigade Dumoulin
8th Ligne Regt : (1800)
2nd Brigade: Général de Brigade Pacthod
45th Ligne Regt : (1500)
54th Ligne Regt : (1500)
Divisional Artillery :
Foot Artillery : Half Battery (4-3pdr & 1-5.3" How)
Horse Artillery : Half Battery (4-3pdr & 1-5.3" How)
2nd Infantry Division: Général de Division Drouet
1st Brigade : Général de Brigade Frere
27th Légère Regt : (1200)
2nd Brigade: Général de Brigade Werlé
94th Ligne Regt : (1800)
95th Ligne Regt : (1800)
Divisional Artillery :
Foot Artillery : Battery (5-3pdr & 1-5.3" How)
Horse Artillery : Battery (5-3pdr & 1-5.3" How)
III Corps : Maréchal Louis Nicolas Davout :
2nd Infantry Division: Général de Division Friant
1st Brigade: Général de Brigade Kister
15th Légère Regt : (600)
33rd Ligne Regt : (1200)
2nd Brigade: Général de Brigade Lochet
48th Ligne Regt : (900)
111th Ligne Regt : (900)
3rd Brigade: Général de Brigade Heudelet
15th Légère Regt : (150)
108th Ligne Regt 900)
Divisional Artillery :
Foot Artillery : Battery (4-8pdr & 2-6" How)
1st Dragoon Regt : (260)
4th Dragoon Division : Général de Division Bourcier
1st Brigade : Général de Brigade Sahuc
15th Dragoon Regt : (260)
17th Dragoon Regt : (260)
2nd Brigade : Général de Brigade Laplanche
18th Dragoon Regt : (260)
19th Dragoon Regt : (260)
3rd Brigade : Général de Brigade Verdière
25th Dragoon Regt : (240)
27th Dragoon Regt : (240)
Horse Artillery : Half Battery (2-8pdr & 1-6" Howitzer)
V Corps : Maréchal Jean Lannes
3rd Infantry Division : Général de Division Suchet
1st Brigade: Général de Brigade Claparède
17th Légère Regt : (1500)
2nd Brigade: Général de Brigade Beker
34th Ligne Regt : (1500)
40th Ligne Regt : (1200)
3rd Brigade: Général de Brigade Valhubert
64th Ligne Regt : (1200)
88th Ligne Regt : (1500)
Divisional Artillery :
Foot Artillery : Two Batteries (2-12pdr, 8-8pdr, 2-4pdr)
Attached to III Corps : 1st Inf Division: Général de Division Caffarelli
1st Brigade: Général de Brigade Demont
17th Ligne Regt : (1500)
30th Ligne Regt : (1200)
2nd Brigade: Général de Brigade Debilly
51st Ligne Regt : (1200)
61st Ligne Regt : (1200)
3rd Brigade: Général de Brigade Eppler
13th Légère Regt : (1200)
Divisional Artillery :
Foot Artillery : Battery (4-8pdr & 2-6" How)
Attached : 2nd Dragoon Division : Général de Division Walther
1st Brigade: Général de Brigade Sébastiani de la Porta
3rd/6th Dragoon Regts : (260)
2nd Brigade: Général de Brigade Roget de Belloguet
10th/11th Dragoon Regts : (130)
2nd Brigade: Général de Brigade Boussart
13th/22nd Dragoon Regts : (130)
Horse Artillery : Half Battery (2-8pdr & 1-6" How)
Reserve Cavalry Corps Commander : Maréchal Joachim Murat
1st Heavy Cavalry Division: Général de Division Nansouty
1st Brigade: Général de Brigade Piston
1st Carabinier Regt : (260)
2nd Carabinier Regt : (260)
2nd Brigade: Général de Brigade La Houssaye
2nd Cuirassier Regt : (260)
9th Cuirassier Regt : (260)
3rd Brigade: Général de Brigade Saint-Germain
3rd Cuirassier Regt : (260)
12th Cuirassier Regt : (260)
Divisional Artillery :
Horse Artillery : Half Battery (2-8pdr & 1-6" How)
Attached to 1st Corps : 1st Light Cav Div : Général de Division Kellermann
1st Brigade: Général de Brigade Van Marisy
2nd Hussars : (390)
5th Hussars : (390)
2nd Brigade: Général de Brigade Picard
4th Hussars : (260)
5th Chasseurs à Cheval Regt : (260)
Divisional Artillery :
Horse Artillery : Battery (2-6pdr, 2-3pdr & 2-5.3" How)
Attached to 5th Corps : 5th Light Cav Div : Général de Brigade Fauconnet
1st Brigade: Général de Brigade Treillard
9th Hussars : (240)
10th Hussars : (240)
2nd Brigade: Général de Brigade Fauconnet
13th Chasseurs à Cheval Regt : (240)
21st Chasseurs à Cheval Regt : (240)
Grand Parc d’Artillerie :
Foot Artillery : Battery : 12pdr ?
Foot Artillery : Battery : 12pdr ?
As can be seen, the main forces available to Bonaparte were the Consular Guard, with a brigade of combined grenadiers under Oudinot taking the centre of the French advance. The Corps of General Jean Baptiste Bernadotte marched on the left (north) flank, whilst the corps of Davout marched on the right (south) flank. General Jean Lannes Corps taking the van. Murat's cavalry provided a screen behind which the French advanced
The army was thrown together, and was desperately short of everything, from horses to supplies. One veteran remarking that it was just like the old days in the army of Italy, and just like that army, Our General Bonaparte will lead it to riches and a full belly in the enemies lands!
Lannes caught and pinned the main allied army at Diepholtz, with Davout executing a flanking manoeuvre from the south. Bernadotte was ordered to do the same from the North. Inexplicably he failed to turn up and was found with his corps a full twenty km to the north at Goldenstedt. His forces missing the battle that day!
Bonaparte’s forces shook the Prussian and Hanoverian army and drove right through its initial dispositions. The allies commander, Duke Charles of Mecklenburg, skilfully withdrew the remainder of his forces behind his cavalry. He was forced though, to turn and stand once again two kilometres behind his original position.
Late in the evening, Bonaparte advanced with his leading divisions in square to counter the superior enemy cavalry, and watched as that cavalry turned away from him again. This time they revealed a line of guns. The duke had managed to collect one Hanoverian company of six pound guns, and two companies of Prussian 12 pound guns in to a gun line on a long low ridge towards which the advancing French were moving. The lead French divisions were stopped in their tracks, as canister from the guns tore great gaps in the massed ranks of the squares. Within the nearest French square, officers sheltered the prostrate body of General Bonaparte, his chest and right arm were now only raged remains of tattered flesh and bone. Bonaparte was dead!
The French advance gradually faltered along the whole line. Though none but those in his square knew of his death, the demise of Bonaparte seemed to affect the whole army, as if its driving life force was taken away. In the ensuing chaos, the allied army slipped away.
The following morning, Bernadotte arrived on the field of battle, determined to march the army back to Paris. He was sure that Bonaparte’s death would cause upheaval in the capital, and he wanted to be there to benefit. He was also sure that Morau would also make a play for leadership.
Whilst violently disagreeing with his right to command (some went as far to say he left Bonaparte to fight the battle alone on purpose, seeking this very end result), The gathered French Generals decided that to return to France was the best thing to do. And so that morning they made plans to help their wounded and return home.
Bernadotte, however, had no casualties to be concerned about. He marched that morning on the road to Paris at the head of an army. The inference was not lost on the government in Paris!
My Timeline: The Only Man in Prussia
I haven't got very far into your work, but I want to praise you to the heavens for illuminating the inner workings of the Hanoverian administration, one topic which I have been unable to find any information on anywhere for my own timeline.
Actually, von Lenthe was a prevaricating spineless shit, who instructed the army to "do nothing that might antagonise the enemy". If you want to read the original tract that I plagiarised, look at the history of the Kings German Legion website. It's German, but also in English.
Also you might find my use of “Germanese” of interest. The Prussian Queen sounds great using it, and it comes from a Euro diatribe I read from the German members of our erstwhile Euro Parliament:
From the Head of Modern Languages:
European English :
The European Commission has just announced an agreement whereby English will be the official language of the European Union rather than German, which was the other possibility.
As part of the negotiations, the British Government conceded that English spelling had some room for improvement and has accepted a 5- year phase-in plan that would become known as "Euro-English".
In the first year, "s" will replace the soft "c". Sertainly, this will make the sivil servants jump with joy. The hard "c" will be dropped in favour of "k". This should klear up konfusion, and keyboards kan have one less letter. There will be growing publik enthusiasm in the sekond year when the troublesome "ph" will be replaced with "f". This will make words like fotograf 20% shorter.
In the 3rd year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expekted to reach the stage where! more komplikated changes are possible.
Governments will enkourage the removal of double letters which have always ben a deterent to akurate speling.
Also, al wil agre that the horibl mes of the silent "e" in the languag is disgrasful and it should go away.
By the 4th yer people wil be reseptiv to steps such as
replasing "th" with "z" and "w" with "v".
During ze fifz yer, ze unesesary "o" kan be dropd from vordskontaining "ou" and after ziz fifz yer, ve vil hav a reil sensi bl riten styl.
Zer vil be no mor trubl or difikultis and evrivun vil find it ezi tu understand ech oza. Ze drem of a united urop vil finali kum tru.
Und efter ze fifz yer, ve vil al be speking German like zey vunted in ze forst plas.
My Timeline: The Only Man in Prussia
The Hanoverian Review
The Hanoverian Review
Prior to the French retaliation under Bonaparte, King Frederick William III had invited the jubilant heads of state of “his” alliance to Hanover. The main aim was to impress upon his new found friends that the Prussian army was a force well armed and trained, and more than capable of defeating the French in a duel of strength. The celebrations of the defeat of Mortier’s corps were inflated to become a chest beating display from the Prussian military. It was as if the Hanoverian army wasn’t even on the field at Diepholtz, annoying, as well, those lesser states who supported the action, even if they did not provide contribute actual troops.
The celebrations were to take the part of a Grand Parade of all the assembled household troops, from all the forces of North Germany. Much arguing was had as to the order of march that would be adopted for the parade, with the Prussians again upsetting the equilibrium of the gathered host, insisting as they did, that they should both lead the parade, and provide its rearguard as it was paraded through the city.
No fewer than nineteen battalions and sixteen squadrons were present, all wearing a plethora of dress representing Prussia, Saxony Hessen Kassel and many minor states, though notably all bar the Hanoverian guard were modelled on the Prussians. This re-enforced the Kings pomposity, and did nothing to reduce his inflated airs and graces. The parade took place the morning before the French Invasion, Thousands of parading “guardsmen”, uniforms and arms resplendent and glittering in the morning sun. After five hours, the parade was still moving past the assembled audience. At this stage, many of the crowd decided they had seen enough and went home. The Kings and Princes thought much the same and retired to discuss the Kings much vaunted alliance, leaving the parade to continue past an empty dias for a further six hours! Those of the audience still remaining, along with those just arrived saw the ridiculous sight of the various princes running out to the Dias to take the salute of their own corps as they marched past.
The beautiful and intelligent Queen of Prussia held her own parade of sorts, eighty of her Valkyrie attending a lavish dinner in her honour, where the Queen instituted the Order of Louise, and awarded the honour to the most prominent of her circle. She sat at the head of a great oval table (it was supposed to be round but the room wasn’t big enough!) with her erstwhile ladies arrayed around the table by order of seniority. Thus it was seen that rank alone would not be a guarantee of the award of the ribbon and star of the order. Ladies throughout the gathering were shouldering this honour, those not so fortunate to hold the honour this time dreamed of the endeavours they could breath life into, in order that they might be a part of this erstwhile corps d’esprit.
Meanwhile a lone horseman dashed into the square in the evening light. The news he carried was that anticipated and relished by all. Bonaparte was coming!
A week later on the 24th July, 1803, in the very same square, in the centre of Hanover, the wreck of the allied army crawled past the King of Prussia. The Generals stood behind him realised at that moment, that their armies were not the honed blades of steel they had believed them to be. Something had to be done! The belief that had Bonaparte survived, their armies would not have, was universal.
In the meanwhile, certain of the North German States had decided upon a different course of action to that orchestrated by the King of Prussia. Certain Princes resented the influence of the Queen, (That interfering Bitch!) and determined to seek peace with France and its new leaders, whoever they were. That the French had marched away was taken as a sign by these dissenters, that the war was over. Both sides had been hurt and now was the time to build pacific relations with the people of France.
First to dissent was Hesse Darmstadt. That state was quickly followed by the states of Aremberg and Salm. Days later Anhalt Bernberg, Nassau and Frankfurt followed suite. The Elector of Saxony even waivered in his staunch support, rationalising that Hesse Darmstadt’s approach to France was the best option.
The Queen again had a “little talk” with her husband! Are you going to let zo’s schpineless liddle schits ged avay mit destroying your beudiful grande scheme? Zy vill open der door to a neu Frenchy invasion, don’t you zee? Ze all important natural frontier of ze Rhein is now no more, and particularly your kousin ze Duke ouf Darmstadt vil be friends viv der Frenchies unt not Prussia. Vot are you going to do to schtop it? Or schould I persuade you of ze correct action mit mine krop again?
The King once again called for Mollendorf!
The allied princes acted swiftly. Darmstadt was issued with a note stating that if it approached the French, whom all in the alliance were strictly still at war with, Darmstadt would be considered an ally of France, and occupied. Similar notes were issued to the other dissenting states. They were given 24 hours to respond. No response was received, so the allied forces moved into the dissenting states. Only Darmstadt had the man power to resist, but by the 2nd August, after a sharp encounter with troops from neighbouring Hesse Kassel, they surrendered. The dissent was over.
They had called upon Austria for help, but the Austrian army in Bohemia was not yet mobilised. Though the Emperor realised his chance to re-assert his influence over North Germany had now come, he was unable to act as his armies were facing the Bavarian lands the Emperor coveted so much!
Meanwhile, unknown at that time, The 70’000 men mobilised by Czar Alexander were now marching through East Prussia. The Russians were coming!
My Timeline: The Only Man in Prussia
The Story in Russia - So far!
The Russian Story
At the Treaty of Teschen, Catherine II mediated the Austro-Prussian peace settlement after the War of the Bavarian Succession, this fact enabled the Czar Alexander to claim he was the guarantor of the Holy Roman Empires constitution. Additionally his mother was a Princess of Hesse, His wife a Princess of Baden, his brother in law was the Duke of Oldenburg and a cousin the ruler of Wurttemberg.
On a broader front, the pro-British Russian Foreign Minister Nikita Panin obtained a peace treaty with Britain in 1801 before being dismissed by Alexanders father Czar Paul, where the maritime rights of not just Russia, but all the Baltic states was insisted upon by the Czar.
On the 23rd March 1801, Czar Paul accidentally fell down the Palace steps on to the bayonet of a Guardsman - seventeen times. Soon after, Paul’s place was taken by Alexander as Czar of all the Russia’s. A Czar possessed by over confidence, ambition, vain glory and a desire to become the greatest hero of his age. He was to view himself as the servant of God, and the liberator of Europe.
October 1801 saw Panin replaced by Victor Kochubei, and a new treaty with France promising Bonaparte support for his plans for the re-drawing of Germany, so long as he respected the rights of Alexander in Germany.
At Memel in 1802, Alexander had very warm relations with the King and Queen of Prussia. He found the Queen as intelligent as she was beautiful, and spent some time lavishing his affections upon her. She, on the other hand, thought him a religious bore, and endeavoured to spend her time with the Czar’s mother and wife, both “good Germans” The King of Prussia enjoyed a few games of cards with the young Czar (loosing heavily!), whilst the Czar endeavoured to discuss matters of state. The objective was to strengthen Prussia by the acquisition of further lands in the West and middle Germany. This would in turn bolster the relations that the Czar had in Germany, and could not but threaten Austria.
Czartoryski became Deputy Foreign Minister in September 1802, and was a friend of the Czar and a member of his inner circle of advisors. He, being Polish, naturally recommended a free Kingdom of Poland to the Czar, under the guidance of Alexanders brother Constantine. He also recommended to the Czar the establishment of other free states, a Greek state, a South Slav state and a Danubian state (i.e. Roumanian) all of them of course, under the protection of Russia – while Italy, Germany, the Low Countries and Switzerland were all to be organised as national federations.
Czartoryeski also saw Britain and Russia as natural partners. The Polish prince was therefore determined for war with Prussia to recover the Polish lands at present under the control of that Kingdom gained in the several partitions of Poland in the recent past. Also war with the Ottoman Empire was envisaged, to secure the control of the European lands of that weakened state, who Czartoryeski clearly saw as doomed.
War was also in hand with the Persian Empire. Russia had invaded Georgia, after the Persian ruler, Fath Ali had himself occupied the territory thus threatening Russia. In 1801, Britain had negotiated a treaty with Persia, however, the French usurped Britain’s role in Persia, and sent a military mission to advise and train the Persian forces in their coming war with Russia. And they didn’t do to badly either!
The European lands of the Ottoman Empire were also not immune to Russian demands. The northern borders had been crossed by Russian troops after two pro-Russian “Hospodars” (independent Christian rulers of the lands) had been deposed by the Porte. It would be some time before a full war developed between the Ottomans and Russia, but when it eventually did, it would erupt into some of the most fierce and bloody fighting seen for decades.
The eventual and wholly expected French invasion of Hanover (and the Italian peninsular) was met with a demand from the Czar that France return to the natural boundaries achieved for France under the treaty of Luneville. The resulting Prussian attack on the French forces, involving as it did, the death of Bonaparte, and the subsequent occupation of Hanover by Prussia, brought a determination on the part of the Czar to recover Hanover’s independence by war. The close proximity of Oldenburg had also aided the Czar in determining his policy, worrying as he did, that the Prussians were determined to involve that state in it’s grand schemes.
The growth of hostility toward Prussia could be seen as a pretext for annexation of fresh lands in Eastern Europe and the Balkans. This suited Czartoryeski’s designs, and accorded with the ideals of the Czar. Thus the 70’000 men originally mobilised against the French, now marched against Prussia.
France, for the time being, was out of the reckoning, whilst it’s Generals vied with each other for power. The Czar saw this as the perfect time to strengthen his hand in Germany, without fear of an immediate French reprisal.
The Russian army at this time, was not in the best condition, in so far as Czar Paul’s machinations within the Officer Corps had created a great deal of unrest, purging from their ranks, those individuals perceived as “Eastern”, and loosing some of the most able minds into the bargain. Czar Paul was an extremely volatile figure, renowned for his outbursts of uncontrollable rage, his fascination from boyhood of all things military, and his singular determination to transform Russia’s ramshackle armed forces.
However, Paul’s attempt to revive the Fredrician systems had come to grief on the battlefield, most notably at Zurich. The army Alexander had ordered into East Prussia was still re-learning it’s role and tactics, and all this had a direct bearing on the eventual performance of it’s officers in the coming campaign.
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The Russian Story Part Two
The Russian Generals could not decide on how to invade the lands of East Prussia and New East Prussia. They all new what they had to do, but could not agree on the method of how to do it. This was the moment Alexander had been waiting for, as he entered the strategy meeting the General Staff. He decided that as they were incapable of coming up with a plan, he would come up with one for them.
Prussia, he stated, was at war with France and thus would be “looking the other way” whilst the Russians occupied the East Prussian territories. He reasoned, he said, that the garrisons of East Prussia would be depleted, and that any potential force available for the Prussian relief of their lands, would be weeks away, marching to the Rhine.
Thus, he stated, We can march our armies in to the East Prussian territories with impunity. Straight to the strategic targets he had decided upon, and straight to the de-facto control of the Prussian lands.
Consequently, the Russian armies were spit into smaller components, and selected the best routes to arrive at their strategic targets in the soonest possible time. Some marched by the Northern coast roads, on their way to the Vistula fortresses and ports. Some marched across the Massurian Lakes Plateau, on their way to Torun and Posen. Yet more marched by southerly routes, to take the cities of Novgorod and Warsaw. Indeed, with a name like Novgorod, it was only right it was a Russian city.
The divisions marched on with a purpose. Gone was the strife between the Generals. They couldn’t talk to each other because of the distance involved, so they couldn’t bicker! The Czar was a happy man, confident in his Grande Scheme, and sure that the Prussians would sue for peace to regain their lands, for a small profit to the Russians who would only retain the Polish territories as compensation. It would be the only fair thing to do!
Now unbeknown to the Czar, the Prussians had not moved their forces West! Indeed, the French invasion of Hanover was turned back at the last moment. No forward planning had been done in anticipation of the Prussian involvement, (other than the machinations of the intelligent and beautiful Queen Louise) The Prussian forces involved had been minimal, and most of the troops actually fighting were Hanovarian, Hessen and Saxon troops.
The Prussians actually found they could rely on the alliance to defend the western marches, traditionally a de-militarised zone for the Prussians, and they could counter the threats, real or imagined from their nearer rivals in Vienna or St Petersburg.
A consequence of this was that the troops in East Prussia had mobilized in case they were needed, but did not march west. The garrison of Warsaw remained in Warsaw and the forces on the Vistula from both West Prussia and Pommerania, were able to march with the garrison of Posen toward the looming threat in the east.
The Prussians learned of the routes the disparate Russian forces were taking, made their own adjustments to the their order of march, and struck at the heart of the Russian advance on the Massurian Lakes Plateau.
The Russians were surprised early one morning as they were waking in their camp deep in a forest between two lakes. Two Prussian Advanced Guard brigades, trained sharpshooters, horse artillery and hussars struck the sleeping Russians. They only managed to penetrate the leading Russian Brigade, only a few casualties were actually received in the gloom of the forest, but the terror experienced by the fleeing Russian forces was palpable.
The Commanding Russian General eventually regained some semblance of order and demanded his regiments pursue the Prussian devils. His Colonels beat their men into line and advanced through the trees to the edge of the woods. There they met their doom. Thousands of Prussian line infantry were waiting for the Russians to emerge from the woods. Artillery placed between the battalions gave supporting fire with canister, as the musketeers poured volley after volley into the emerging Russians.
Unable to see, the troops supporting the lead divisions of the Russians pressed forwards, adding to the confusion at the front. Lakes covered their flanks, and thus they were unable to turn away, or go round the Prussian line. Finally they broke, running back through the forest, and pursued by elements of Prussian hussars and lancers.
General Lestoq, commanding the Prussian forces asked the name of the small village nearby, to traditionally name the battle just fought after the place. He was told, Tannenberg. A name that reverberated throughout Prussia in the weeks to come!
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Meanwhile, back in Berlin
News of the Invasion was given by the Russian Ambassador to Prussia in Berlin. He simply stated that the note given by the Czar to the King back in May was treated in all seriousness by the Czar. It was the Czar’s holy duty to uphold his obligations to his allies and family in North Germany, and that his Imperial Majesty was even now, at the head of his troops, avenging sword in hand!
The King learned of the fact a few days later whilst returning from Hanover. He was very confused at the news, until the Queen put him straight that the Czar spelt with a C was the same person as the Tsar spelt with a T, and that his friend Tsar Alexander, with whom he had played cards with only last summer, was indeed the very same bad man called Czar Alexander now invading his lands!
Frederick William was very annoyed at such a duplicitous trick as to have two names, that he stamped his foot and declared war on the Czar and the Tsar there and then! The Queen quietly informed him that such an act was impossible, and he would have to declare war against Russia, not the person of the Czar! He stamped his foot again and said “Vell all right, ve declare der krieg gainst the Russkies then! His ministers completed the formal declaration and ze krieg, sorry, the war then was allowed to commence.
The news soon followed of the great Prussian victory at Grunwald, though all referred to it as Tannenburg because of its historical connection with the first battle there in 1410, where the Polish and Lithuanian troops defeated the Teutonic Knights, the King declared the commanding officers of the forces involved to be worthy of the highest praise, and awarded them all with membership of the order Pour le Mérite.
Ever mindful of the support gained from the heroic women of the country, (and at the insistence of the beautiful and intelligent Queen) the King also awarded the Order of Louise to honour the wives of the hero’s, those already holders of the order were raised in rank.
The whole might of Prussia was now focused on the lands of East Prussia, and the expulsion of the Russian horde. The Generals and the Court moved with unseemly haste to the Fortress of Torun, there to manage the war effort more closely.
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Events in Britain Timeline
Or lets play “catchup”
14th November, 1802, Bonaparte threatens Portugal and demands the dismissal of D’Almeida’s situation as Minister for foreign affairs. British intelligence is sure that the aim of Bonaparte is to scare Portugal into surrendering Goa to the French in return for more peaceful times. Lord Hobart writes to Lord Wellesley “I should not be surprised if a sacrifice in territory was substituted for that of the Minister. In the event, however, of Portugal being involved in hostilities, she will claim, and probably receive support from this country
Addington quietly orders a delay in the evacuation of both Malta and Egypt. Lord Whitworth dispatched to Paris as ambassador to France. He was an associate of the war party
Reports of an expedition fitting out in the Dutch port of Helvoetsluys throughout the winter of 1802-3, with the purpose of establishing a French presence on the mainland of the Americas in Louisiana.
January 1803, The Sebastiani Report published in the Moniteur on the 30th, suggesting that Egypt would be easy to re-conquer, the Mamelukes being in disarray and the British garrison being weak and poorly commanded.
Russian ambassador to England (Vorontzov) hints that the Russians are not averse to the British retaining Malta.
British mobilise the Militia and increase the navy by 10’000 men
8th March, Kings message to Parliament stating his fears for war with France given the climate of international affairs at that time.
11th March 1803, M. de Talleyrand threatened Lord Whitworth in Paris that unless the agreements reached under the treaty of Amiens were adhered to, that the first Consul would move troops into Holland and thence to Hanover.
The tirade received by Whitworth that followed from the First Consul proved counterproductive. In London it was perceived as the ranting of an Italian bully to frighten us into submission and to blind us by fear.
13th March, Bonaparte again harangues Whitworth at a court levee.
“So you are determined to go to War – If you would live on terms of good understanding with us, you must respect treaties. Woe to those who violate them”!
29th March 1803, major von der Decken ADC to the Duke of Cambridge, receives orders from the King as to the Kings preferred deployment of the Hanoverian troops, and the Kings desire to gain assistance from Prussia.
3rd April 1803, Addington administration demands that Britain retain Malta, and that France was to evacuate Holland and Switzerland, compensate the King of Piedmont for his losses in Italy and provide a satisfactory explanation for Bonaparte’s intentions in Egypt
6th April 1803, A brigade of all arms is assembled at Cork with the intention of descending on French and Spanish possessions in the West Indies, should war break out. It is to work in conjunction with the troops already garrisoned in the West Indies.
8th April 1803, Baron von Lenthe writes from London to Marshall Wallmoden Gimborn, with the objective of ordering the Marshall to instigate the full mobilisation of the Hanoverian army, in line with England’s preparations for war discussed in parliament and elsewhere.
12th April 1803, The force assembled at Cork sails for the West Indies
1st May 1803, Declaration of War on the Republic of France and her allies.
18th May, Sinking of a French convoy in the Channel, bound for Louisiana.
3rd June, 1803, Note received in Berlin that the British have moved against the French and Spanish allies, however, not in Europe, but in their colonial possessions.
1st July, Landing of Marines, Foreign regiments and a few Line regiments of the British Army in New Orleans. French and Spanish vessels are ceased, and the French and Spanish officials are taken on board a naval vessel and removed to the West Indies. Naval battle destroys the few Spanish vessels in the area.
4th July, The convoy of troops from Cork arrives in New Orleans to support the incumbent Garrison. The force contained three battalions, four squadrons of horse, a company of Artillery and a troop of Horse artillery.
Further naval battles are had over the next few days, as the small groups of French naval vessels are hunted down in the Caribbean. This is a great blow to the French as their most seaworthy vessels are involved and their loss sets back French naval strength for the foreseeable future.
14th July 1803, American representations to British Government to remove British presence from New Orleans, Negotiating party returns from France with the news that the French refuse to sell New Orleans, preferring instead to improve on their New World Empire. Talleyrand’s preferred option.
20th July, Parliament debates the necessity to strengthen British claims on the American mainland, in New Orleans, Oregon Territory and the Pacific coast trading facilities. It is decided to use the Sandwich Isles as a forward base for these eastern operations. It is also decided to refute the provisions of the Nootka Sound Dispute settlement, and take possession of the Spanish Forts in the area. Russia is assured that its trading interests will not be affected. The United States are to be invited to a conference to determine the boundaries of the lands in the Americas, and discuss how the two nations can co-exist without animosity on this continent.
24th July 1803, Spanish vessels laden with treasure from it’s possessions in South America is taken by the Royal Navy in an action of the coast of Cuba. The vessels are taken to New Orleans and unloaded, until such time as the British can ship the treasure to London without fear of running into French privateers. The only other alternative being a convoy of warships, a resource lacking in this part of the world to the British, as the warships required are busy looking for French and Spanish war ships.
26th July, 1803, A Spanish force of all arms is discovered marching away from New Orleans some 150 miles away, endeavouring to return to within the boundaries of the lands still claimed and held by Spain to the west. They were crossing the river at Morgan’s point in Galveston Bay by ferry, when spotted by a brig from the British Royal Navy. Assuring himself that the direction in which they travelled posed no threat to the operations in New Orleans, the Captain of the Brig ran back to his flagship to report. It was during this return trip that the brig was assailed by three hostile vessels. The brig escapes the conflict, but with heavy loss of life. It is thought the assailants were pirates, trying to capture the vessel.
Comments please, especially from you Yanks!
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An American perspective
The Eagle takes flight!
Alexander Hamilton, was arguing with President Jefferson that the British were the ones to back, and that the French proposed sale of New Orleans would only lead to war with Spain. This was backed by the Federalists, who strongly opposed the purchase believing it to be unconstitutional, and that the U.S. would only pay a large sum of money just to declare war on Spain.
The United States House of Representatives also opposed the purchase, and John Randolph led the majority into calling the house to vote against the purchase. That the vote was won by his supporters proved a hollow victory, as the sale was decided against by M. de Talleyrand, and the First Consul. (Not until after a blazing row lasting some five hours between the two, Talleyrand’s reasoning prevailed on Bonaparte. Talleyrand knew that Bonaparte could not be relied upon to maintain this view, and sent the negotiators back to America, before Bonaparte could change his mind!)
The Federalists feared that the recent British seizure of New Orleans and it’s hinterland, would threaten the power of the western seaboard states. They reasoned that to allow the British to retain this territory, would open up a strong contender to the merchants and bankers of New England. It was also a concern that this would exacerbate divisions between the North and the South, allowing the southern states another outlet for their financial and market needs.
Massachusetts Senator Timothy Pickering, even went so far as to propose a pre-emptive strike at these developments, and form a separate northern confederacy, offering Vice President Aaron Burr the presidency of the proposed new country, if he could persuade New York to join!
The Southern states were concerned that their slaves would find sanctuary in a British establishment so close to home, and were also worried that their trade would also suffer with increased competition from a British presence in the region.
Meanwhile, it was agreed by all that the British should not be allowed to stay in Louisiana, and a diplomatic effort to achieve this end was decided upon, as for the moment, the navy and military were not ready for a war.
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“Only military glory had brought him supreme power. That same glory was all that associated him with hope and enthusiasm, and it was that same glory that sustained him to the end!”
At one-o-clock precisely, Bonaparte’s funeral cortège left the Tuileries. Three thousand picked men of the Consular Guard, among whom was the superb regiment of chasseurs, were assembled for the occasion. All marched in their finest order, with their band playing a sombre hymn. The Consular gun carriage was drawn by six white horses. These beautiful horses had been presented to the First Consul by the Emperor of Germany after the Treaty of Campo Formio. It’s coffin was topped with the magnificent sabre which had been given to him by the Emperor Francis. The approaches to the Tuileries were lined by Consular Guard ……….
As Bonaparte’s funeral moved inexorably to his final place of rest, the people of Paris held their breath. All anticipated the crumbling of the fine façade that was the ruling establishment. The old protagonists marshalled their support in the growing shadows. Each unwilling to show their hand, but each equally determined to hold the reigns of France firmly in their hands.
Some held popular support, but most held the blind brutal strength that was an army of disparate corps without a singular leader. All anticipated trouble, and trouble found easy bed fellows!
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The East Prussian Campaign
As the Russian Divisions marched to their allotted destinations, the Prussian army, by virtue of its victory at Tannenberg, now found itself in the middle of the Russian deployments. The Prussians were gaining strength daily, and even Saxon regiments could be counted in their number.
A force of Prussian and allied (Hessen and Hanoverian) troops were detailed to cover the Swedish army based in the Swedish Pommeranian territories, in case they decided to support the Czar’s invasion (and grab some more of north germany for the Swedish crown), whilst the rest of the Prussian army marched to recover their lands in East Prussia.
The losses sustained by the Russians at Tannenberg had been exacerbated by the surrender of most of the Russian corps involved in the days following the battle. The shock of the Prussians appearing in their midst as if out of nowhere had disorientated the defeated masses, pursued by relentless Prussian light horse, and denied even the basic necessities, they had given up their rout in the wild forests for the chance of food warmth and shelter .
The westernmost divisions of the Russian army were cut off from their lines of communication. Denied news or orders, they were blind to their impossible position. Unable to gain access to the occupied fortresses that were their targets, they were astounded to find overwhelming numbers facing them when they tried to retrace their steps and contact their disparate confederates.
Those in the east of the Prussian lands new little of what happened. They received news of the defeat of the Russian divisions at Tannenberg, but little else. By mid September, they too succumbed to the Prussians overwhelming numbers, but not without a fight.
The remaining Russian forces had combined at Tilsit, to effect the crossing of the river at that point. As the Prussians came up behind them, the Russians turned and gave battle. And what a battle,for two days it raged, the Russians, though outnumbered, fought with a determination and stoicism that brought the Prussians to a halt. Thousands died on that river bank, both sides determined to win, both sides not willing to turn and run. Numbers, in the end, told in the Prussians favour. That and the inability of the Russian engineers to erect a pontoon bridge, under fire as they were, from the Prussian guns.
A few days later, a party of escaping Russian officers were taken near Insterburg. They were trying to skirt round the town through the woods to escape detection. Several were killed as they fought like madmen to bar the way as more of their companions endeavoured to escape. All were eventually caught.
Later that night as the Prussian General Blucher interrogated his noble captives, he realised that they had captured the greatest prize of the campaign, none other than the Czar himself!
Unaware of the fate of the Russians to the east, The Swedish ambassador had demanded that the Allied forces arrayed against his sovereigns lands in Pomerania be withdrawn. Indeed, the Swedish General commanding the fifteen thousand men in his corps, had even marched them out of their garrison in a show of strength. Too late they realised their blunder.
Too late they tried to regain their composure and tact with the Prussian leaders. The Prussians declared the Swedish armies show of strength to be tantamount to a threat against the King of Prussia himself! In Berlin, the officers of the Garde du Corps sharpened their sabres on the steps of the Swedish embassy building. The Swedish ambassador demanded their arrest, and an apology given. The tension grew, the insults and accusations gained momentum. Then the Prussian King could take no more.
Sure of himself as never before, and aided by the Queen (though most now knew she called the shots) Boyed by his recent victories over both France and Russia, the King declared war on Sweden!
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Count Ludwig von Coblenzl, from 1800 the Foreign Minister for Austria, had through discussions with his fellow Ministers decided to follow his posts previous incumbents ideas for the subjugation of revolutionary France, and the expansion of the Austrian territories in Italy and southern Germany. Previously, Thugut had determined that the collapse of royalist France into revolution, had actually given impetus to the development and strength of the French army. He considered it better than that of Louis XIV, and a very dangerous threat to the stability of the Empire.
August 1803, brought several opportunities to the attention of the Emperor, not the least being the troubles Prussia was experiencing with its neighbours. At war with both France and Russia, Prussia had, however, managed to maintain its balance and certainly the war with France was, so far, going entirely in Prussia’s favour. Added to which was the appearance in the Austrian court of Lord Hawksbury, who was of the opinion that any interference in the affairs of Prussia at this moment by Austria, would not be well received by London.
Though France was in turmoil, it’s government had pursued the war with vigour. Each of the theatre commanders had seen the demise of Napoleon, and the recall to Paris of the great Generals, as an opportunity to shine. Each relished the chance to defeat the enemy, and the general upkeep of the officers moral was in the main, good. Bonaparte would be missed, but each officer thought of the opportunities available as an chance to emulate the great man. Though North Germany was for the moment off the agenda, the rumblings from Vienna provided enough potential excitement for all.
The Austrian plan of action was to open the war on two fronts. The first was for the subjugation of Bavaria, and the incorporation of the state into the lands of the Emperor, in compensation for the lands lost in the low countries in the earlier wars. Centred upon the fortress of Linz, the idea was to march east through Bavaria and link up with a much smaller force moving from the Tyrol, north, into Bavaria.
The second and more adventurous front would be the recovery and reordering of the Italian states taken by Bonaparte’s exemplary campaigns in those lands. Based in the great city of Padua, the Austrian generals envisaged a Grande Parade through the Po valley, defeating the smaller independent commands of the French in detail, and presenting to the Directory in due course, the fate accompli of Austrian domination of north and central Italy
Lord Hawksbury concurred with their schemes, and held the promise of financial support for the Austrian efforts, if the Sardinian King was restored his territories on the mainland. Austria agreed (and promptly forgot about the Sardinian King!)
And so the Austrians went to war. Their people tired of the constant strain war had on their finances, and the loss of their sons, did not support the war. The Emperor knew if successful, he would be able to placate them with the victories their exertions had provided. All he needed was the victories!
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