Beispiel eines jungen Helden 

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A short entry from Campe’s Kleine Kinderbibliothek (Seite 281), I think it’s fair to say that opinions on what constitutes a good example for children may have changed over the years.

Almost exactly the same account appears in Chronologen (1779). I’m guessing that they both refer to the Battle of Freeman’s Farm.

Beispiel eines jungen Helden

Bei dem Treffen zu Freemans’ House in Amerika, welches im Jahr 1777 zwischen den Engländern und Amerikanern vorfiel, focht auch der elfjährige Sohn des Kapitain Monin an der Seite seines Vaters mit blanken Säbel.

Die Freiwilligen von Kanada, welche Kapitain Monin anführte, standen auf dem linken Flügel,  der von den Amerikanern lebhaft angegriffen wurde, und Kapitain Monin stürzte von einer Flintenkugel todt zu Erde.

Der Oberst Fraser, welcher sich an der Spitze des englischen Korps befand, bat den Jüngling, das Gefecht zu verlassen und beim Leichname seines Vaters zu bleiben.

Der Knabe trat hierauf nur zwei Schritte zurück, um die erkaltende Hand seines Vaters zum letztenmal zu küssen; dann trat er wieder ins Glied und rief den Soldaten zu: beherzt, brave Kanadier, drauf zu!

–Aus den Zeitungen

 

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Von Blücher

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Marwitz with regards to the standard of military commanders of the time, and von Blücher, in 1807 (Nachlasse 1, seite 247):

Dies ist auch eine von den großen Kriegernaturen, die durch die Zeitumstände zu Grunde gingen. Was würde Friedrich der Zweite in seinen jüngeren Jahren aus Männern, wie der Herzog von Braunschweig, Hohenlohe, Rüchel, und auch aus Schmettau, Prinz von Oranien (König Wilhelm I. der Niederlande) und L’estocq gemacht haben? Nur Blücher ist es gewesen, der sich seinen eigenen Weg gemacht hat.

 

Die Emser Depesche

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Today is the anniversary of the Emser Depesche incident, which led sofort to the Franco-Prussian War. The blame attached to Bismarck by most historians seems a little overdone to me, in line with general prussiabashing, but I’m no expert. If indeed the Prussians did provoke France into war it was a lesson well learnt by France/England/Russia in 1914, some would say.

Some more reading:

German Historical Documents

Aktenkunde

documentArchive

Kamenskoi (Kamensky) – Russian or Prussian?

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Russian or Prussian? Hero or Villain?

Marwitz states in his memoirs (Seite 210), apparently relating what he had heard from Major (later Field Marshall) von Knesebeck regarding Kamenskoi, commander of the Russian troops in Prussia in 1806:

Kamenskoi war ein preußischer Offizier, im 7jährigen Kriege von den Russen gefangen, und in ihre Dienste übergtreten, also eigentlich ein Deserteur, der sich durch seine Tapferkeit, vorzüglich unter Suvarow, emporgeschwungen hatte.

So, a Prussian officer, captured in the 7 Years War who went over to the Russians and rose through the ranks due to his bravery.

Wikipedia however, clearly states that he was a Russian, with Russian forenames, born in St. Petersburg. Strange that Marwitz got it so wrong, particularly since Marwitz assures us that he got the story from Knesebeck who had had private meetings with Kamenskoi, couldn’t he tell a Russian from a Prussian?

The standard account surrounding the Battle of Pultusk seems to be that Kamenskoi lost his grip, possibly his mind, left the army, General Bennigsen particularly, in the lurch, and was removed from his command.

The account from Knesebeck and Marwitz is that Kamenskoi went out to reconnoitre the left flank of his troops, got separated and lost in the dark and the terrible weather and, getting on in years, became ill. However he managed to retain enough of his wits to order a regrouping of the army near Novograd, in order to prepare for a large scale offensive against the French.

This order was obeyed by General Buxhöwden but ignored by Bennigsen, who saw an opportunity to attack a weak French force, and thereby increase his own prestige, furthermore, by writing a scathíng report about both Kamenskoi and Buxhöwen he hoped to take command of the army. As indeed happened.

If Helen Mirren (a descendant apparently?) is reading this, which I doubt, then if it’s any consolation Marwitz seemed to think Kamenskoi was a decent man and that the confusion around the battle of Pultusk was not down to him, but to the “greedy” and “arrogant” Bennigsen.

Even more curiously Marwitz says that Kamenskoi died shortly after this event (Seite 216), not murdered by one of his mistreated serfs as stated by Wikipedia:

Wo dieser in dem Augenblick gewesen? weiß man nicht, wahrscheinlich todtkrank, denn er starb bald darauf, vermuthlich aus Aerger über seinen Fehlgriff.

Marwitz’s account differs wildly from the received one, personally I trust him more than Wikipedia, but I don’t suppose we’ll ever know the complete truth.

So to partially put the record straight, or confuse it even more, here’s Marwitz’s conclusion (Seite 217/218):

So war also zuerst Kamenskoi, der noch ein Preußisches Herz hatte, und den Zweck des Krieges erkannte, dann der tapfere Buxhöwden beseitigt, der Kaiser war betrogen, und der hochmüthige, geldgierige Intriguant (Bennigsen) führte die Armee nach seinen, nicht nach des Krieges Zwecken.

Bellona and the Magic Stick

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Time for another Marwitz instalment, this time a couple of small, superstitious observations from 1806.

In the lead up to the war with Napoleon (der Pferdedieb), Berlin and the surrounding area were apparently shook up by the bad omen of the head of the statue of Bellona (Minerva) being blown off the top of the Zeughaus in a storm and crashing to the ground. It wasn’t restored until 1817. It’s the group on the left in the photo below.

Zeughaus

Later in 1806 when Marwitz returned to his estate at Friedersdorf, badly neglected in his absence, there was a big fire, allegedly set by Gypsies. Almost all the stables were destroyed, apart from one, apparently saved by magic (Füßnote, Seite 160/161):

Ein kleiner Stall blieb mitten in der Brandstelle stehen. An selbigem stand ein Stock. Wie ich mich wunderte, das dieses kleine Ding von Holz und Stroh mitten in den Flammen unversehrt geblieben, sagte man mir:

“Ja, das macht der Stock!”

“Wie so?”

“Es kam ein alter Mann, sah das Feuer an, murmelte einige Worte setzte den Stock gegen den Stall, sprach: laßt den Stock da stehen! — und ging fort.”

— So viel war Wahr, der Stock stand da und der Stall war wunderbarer Weise nicht mitverbrannt.

Seems unlikely.

Hauptmann von Blumenstein

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Hauptmann von Blumenstein, billeted with Marwitz in Dresden in 1805 seems like quite the character. Although stereotypically French (lively, quick-witted and educated, angeblich), he maintained nonetheless that Blumenstein was his real name.

After leaving France (where he served in the Royal Musketeers) because of the revolution he becomes a dedicated Prussian officer, complete with, if Marwitz’s transcription is anything to go by, a rather curious accent.

When the French garrison he was besieging at Glogau in 1813 wanted to negotiate, he refused to speak in French and made them use an interpreter:

Ick bin ein Deutscher! Ick verstehe der verfluchten Kerlen ihre Sprake nick. Wollen sie mit einem Deutschen Offizieren reden, können Deutsch lernen! Müssen wir wohl Französisch lernen, wenn nach Frankreich kommen!

Later he retired to a small estate near Breslau  where he apparently speculated unsuccessfully with a new type of brick(?), and ended up on his uppers.

Aus dem Nachlasse Friedrich August Ludwig’s von der Marwitz, Volume 1, Pages 138-139.

Der Tag ist Angebrochen #2

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Today I received a copy of Der Tag ist Angebrochen! in the post, via AbeBooks as usual.

TagAngebrochen

2nd edition, 1852, a little tatty but solid. I’m confident that it will provide the opportunity for a few more blogposts yet…

*Edit: Now sandwiched in my bookcase between Bismarck’s Gedanken und Erinnerungen and a book of his speeches. You can feel the spinning in the Bismark Mausoleum.

Campe’s Kleine Kinderbibliothek

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A new purchase, once again inspired by a reference in Marwitz’s memoirs (Seite 77), apparently he read this whilst stuck in Nieszawa in Poland without German books or newspapers. A present for his brother that fortunately he had been unable to deliver.

Campe-Kinderbibliothek

A lovely little book, full of poems, prayers and short stories, all you need to correctly bring up a Prussian. More of an insight into the way people thought in that time and place than any historian could tell me, I like to imagine.