Looks like Alec Guinness – Oberstleutnant Georg Adolf von Schneider-Egestorf 1834-1915

One of the few hobbies I have (excluding writing and research work) is to collect portraits of German soldiers and veterans of the wars of 1848, 1864, 1866 and 1870/71. The reason for this is probably that each photo allows me to do more research work. One of my favoured portraits is this one here (moved here from one of my obsolete blogs)

This awe-inspiring and dignified gentlemen is Oberstleutnant Georg Adolf von Schneider-Egestorf (Born in 1834 in Klötze/Saxony, died in Egestorf 1915).

The large cabinet photograph was taken on his 80th birthday on the 6th of January 1914. Before 1911 his name was Schneider only. In June of that year he was raised into the Prussian nobility by Kaiser Wilhelm II and was given the manor of Egestorf. From then on his name was “von Schneider-Egestorf”. His father had served with the Royal Hannovarian Army later rising to the rank of Oberst. His name was Friedrich Schneider (born 2nd of April 1797 and died in Einbeck in 1875). 

Eges

Not only does he look a little bit like Sir Alec Guinness he is also wearing his Iron Cross 2nd Class which he earned in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870/1871. On top of it you can see the oakleaves which were awarded to all holders of the Iron Cross of 1870 on the 25th anniversary of the war in 1895. The fact that he chose to wear his Iron Cross only shows the importance of the award to a 19th century soldier. 45,000 Iron Crosses 2nd Class were awarded for the period 1870/71 (in contrast to more than 5,000,000 in World War 1)

The Prussian Award lists for the year 1877 list 123 officers by the name of Schneider and we are lucky that only one of them has the christian name of Georg Adolf.

Number 32.377 in the list is Georg Adolf Schneider. In 1877 a Hauptmann in the7. Brandenburgisches Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 60.”.

This catalogue lists all german officers still alive at the date of print. We know that Georg Adolf was alive then and so we find him in the Prussian Rangliste (Officers lists) of 1870/1871 serving in the same regiment.

See the name of Schneider in the left column (Iron Cross 2nd Class)

He is also found in the Rangliste of 1881, now a Major and still serving in the 7th Brandenburg Infantry. He has now been awarded the Dienstauszeichnung für Offiziere (Meritous Service award for officers). In 1889 he seems to have been transfered to another unit. In this year the lists have him as Major in the “1. Thüringisches Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 31″By then he had also been awarded the Knights Cross 2nd Class of the Royal Hannovarian Order of Ernst-August (Ritterkreuz des königlich Hannoveranischen Ernst August Ordens 2. Klasse). Quite interesting as the Kingdom of Hannover didn’t even exist anymore but its King (living in Exile) continued to hand out awards.

So far I have not been able to trace him in any earlier lists, as his father was a Hanoverian officer, it might well be that Georg served in the Hanoverian aswell and only joined the Prussian Army after 1866. Still a bit of work to do here.

The Oberstleutnant a.D. with his impressive wife, 1914

Voices from Iron Times 1864-1871, Veterans’ Tales

Just an article I pulled over from one of my old and now obsolete blogs. 

ek1870A couple of days ago I bought an old book on a flea market close to where I live. Its title is “Unsere Veteranen” (Our Veterans) and was published by a chapter of the Reichskriegerbund (Reichs Warrior Association) in 1914. Most interestingly for me the chapter was a local one. The veterans that were members of it lived in my town and the towns and villages around it.

The book itself is special. Privately published by an association member it was meant to commemorate the 25thanniversary of the Kriegerbund and contains the tales of its members which fought in the wars of 1864, 1866 and 1870/71. According to the preface only 524 copies were printed, one for each veteran of these wars still alive in 1914.

It’s not in any library catalogue so I suppose the one I have here might easily be the only one remaining and it’s easy to tell why. It was very cheaply made. The binding has rotted away and the whole thing is falling to pieces.

What astounds me about these stories is their honesty. They lack a lot of the patriotic “With God for King and Fatherland” pathos which can be found in most period reports and writings. It’s clear that no one censored or proof read anything. The language is sometimes crude and the writing style is naive. The veterans wrote for their comrades. There was just no need to change anything. Facettes of the wars which you don’t find in the “popular” histories. Blood, Gore, cowardice, friendly fire, the harsh treatment of civilians, war against partisans.

HERMANN ANHUF  

Hermann Anhuf in 1914 wearing his 1870/71 campaign medal and the 1897 centenary medal.

Unit: 12. Kompanie, Infanterie-Regiment “Graf Barfuß” (4. Westfälisches) Nr. 17

Drawing by Carl Röchling - "Vor Metz" 1870

Drawing by Carl Röchling – “Vor Metz” 1870

1870/71 – War against France / Battles and Sieges: (20. Inf.-Div., X. Armeekorps) 16.8.1870: Vionville-Mars la Tour, 18.8.1870: Gravelotte-St.Privat, 19.8.-27.10.1870: Siege of Metz, 23.9.1870 La Maxe, 27.9.1870: Bellevue & Franclonchamp, 7.10.1870: Bellevue, 3. u. 4.12.1870: Orléans (II. Batallion), 11.12.1870: Swequeu Château u. Mortais (II. Batallion), 15.12.1870: Vendôme, 16.12.1870: Vendôme, Tuilleries & Courtiras (II. Batallion), 17.12.1870: Epuisay (I. Batallion), 20.12.1870: Monnaie (I. u. F.), 28.u.29.12.1870 Château Renault, 31.12.1870: Vendôme, 31.12.1870: Danzé (9th and 12th company only), 1.1.1871: Azay (I.), 4.1.1871: Courtiras (II. Batallion), 6.1.1871: Azay-Mazange (I.  and II. Batallion), 6.1.1871: Montoire-Les Roches, 9.1.1871: Chahaignes & Brives, 12.1.1871: Le Mans.

“When the war started I was serving with 12th coy of Infanterie-Regiment 17. We crossed the border into France in August as part of II. Armee, which was commanded by Prince Frederic Karl. On the 8th of August we left our luggage and backpacks behind to able to march faster, each man only keeping his 80 cartridges and the “Iron Ration”. The weather was hot but no one was allowed to drink! All wells were guarded by provosts as there were rumors that the french had poisoned them. On the 16th of August we marched towards the sound of the guns. On the 18th, near the village of St. Privat we were sent into action in support of the Guards. The enemy kept up a murderous fire and the Guards suffered severe losses, dead and maimed guardsmen lying everywhere. It was a ghastly sight.

I heard an officer calling “Forward now men of the 17th! On them! Charge!” and forward we charged towards the French. By then the whole village of St. Privat, including the church, was burning fiercely. Our Sergeant was hoping to get the Iron Cross and tried to lead our section into the attack on the left of the village where there was a huge open field, with no cover at all. When our Hauptmann noticed that he called out “Sergeant Albers, stop at once or I will have the men open fire on you!” So we rejoined the company very shortly afterwards.

On the 19th of August I noticed a small crowd of civilians and soldiers standing in a hollow close to our camp. I went to join them as I was curious about what was happening there. There were two women, about 30 years old and with their hands bound on their backs lying on the ground. Our lads were beating them with rifle butts. They were getting punished as they had been caught in the night after the battle when they were plundering some our wounded that were left lying on the field. One had even cut off the ring finger of a wounded soldier get his marriage ring. The other had mutilated the corpse of one of our officers. A while after the beating we shot them both.

On the 20th we marched through a ravine near Metz which was under siege. On the 27th we took part in the skirmish near La Maxe. During a rest near Les Grandes we were cleaning our rifles when our Hauptmann arrived and ordered us to reassemble them as the enemy was advancing on us. We were encamped in a large farmyard. Two platoons of our company were ordered to take defensive positions behind a wall while the third platoon took position outside the yard. Soon we could clearly see the french soldiers and opened fire. We fired until we had spent all of our ammunition, but luckily an ammunition cart arrived which enabled us to continue the fight. Our rifle barrels were red hot and it was getting hard to hold and aim the rifle at all. There were so many good targets that our Hauptmann ignored the order to leave the position and soon we began to get shelled by our own artillery. I can not put any blame on the gunners as they thought our position abandoned. The first shell missed us by about 50 meters. The next one went into some stables on our right. The third shell detonated right between the men of our platoon, killing two comrades and wounding another twelve.

After the fall of Metz I was ordered to escort a french prisoner, an artilleryman, to the POW camp. On the way there we encountered three stray sheep. I shoved the Frenchman into a ditch told him to bugger off home and herded the three sheep back to my company. The lads were more than happy. A good meat stew was far better than a single French prisoner!  After we had slaughtered the sheep we traded the beasts intestines against some good bottles of wine in a nearby village. Stew and wine made this night the most memorable of the campaign.”

Hermann Anhuf

Prussian Warhorse – Generalfeldmarschall Friedrich Heinrich Ernst Graf von Wrangel 1784-1877

When one hears that Kaiser Wilhelm did not appear when the Goethe Memorial in Berlin was unveiled, but turned up when the Wrangel Memorial was first presented to the public it might seem shocking, but it’s logical looking from the perspective of the German military monarchy. Wrangel, the old Puss in Boots, who always carried sweets in his pockets which he distributed to the children of Berlin, a crowd of which always “marched” behind him when he was walking the streets of the city. In Wrangel, the “old sabre”, with his babarian grammar and thick Prussian accent, lives the spirit of the old Prussian monarchy. When his son came into debt by gambling and faked his fathers signature on a certificate of debt he came to him and asked for his help. Old Wrangel answered: “You acted without honor, you are not my son anymore”. When his son asked what he was to do now, Wrangels answer was short: ” You own a pair of pistols”. The son shot himself.
Looking at the Prussian Monarchy the spirit of old Wrangel did indeed more than Goethes to bond it together and to give it its peculiar atmosphere. – Georg Brandes

Frederick Count von Wrangel was born into an old baltic German, Swedish-Pommeranian officers family on the 13th of April 1784. In 1796, at the age of only 12 years, he joined the Prussian army as Fahnen-Junker (ensign) in Dragoner-Regiment “von Werther” Nr. 6 (Dragoons) getting promoted to the rank of Seconde-Lieutenant in 1798.

Graf von Wrangel in 1875

Graf von Wrangel in 1875 in full war regalia and carrying his heavy cavalry sword

During the campaign of 1806/1807 we find Wrangel and his regiment in the Battle of Eylau (7th & 8th of February 1807), subordinated to the Corps led by General l’Estocq. Leading the last operational unit in the Prussian army, L’Estocq was only able to bring eight battalions, twenty-eight squadrons, and two horse artillery batteries (estimated at 7,000-9,000 men) to the battle in which Wrangel distinguished himself as being a courageous and dashing Dragoon officer. Getting badly wounded by a sabre cut during the Battle of Heilsberg in June 1807, Wrangel was taken out of action for more than six months during which he was awarded the coveted Pour le Merite and the Russian Order of St. Vladimir 4th Class.

Battle of Eylau

Battle of Eylau

In 1813/1814 Wrangel, now a major, was serving in the East Prussian Cuirassier Regiment (Ostpreussisches Kürrasier-Regiment, formerly Dragonerregiment „von Zieten“). With this regiment he participated in the Blockade of Luxemburg, the Battles of Groß-Gröschen, Bautzen, Dresden, Kulm, Leipzig, Laon and Paris and a lot of smaller engagements i.e. Haynaut, Montmirail, Etoges, Champaubert, Gue a Trenne, La Ferte-Milon, Oulchy le Chateau, Sezanne and Claye. For his bravery in this impressive list of battles and skirmishes Wrangel was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd and 1st Class. On the 2nd of June 1814 he finally got his first regimental command, taking over the 2. Westpreussisches Dragoner Regiment (2nd West-Prussian Dragoons), and his rise through the ranks was continuing still.

In 1837 we find Wrangel, now a General-Major in command of 13th Cavalry Division, suppressing civil risings in Münster, something he, as a stout conservative and fanatic royalist, most probably enjoyed. In 1839 he was serving as commanding General of I. Armee-Korps in Königsberg (Prussia) and in 1842 of II. Armee-Korps in Stettin.

In 1848, the year of the German Revolution, Wrangel moved against revolutionary Berlin (10th of November). The Revolutionaries had threatened to hang Wrangels wife if he would lead his troops into the capital, but Wrangel was not the person to be unsettled by such threats. When passing the Brandenburg Gate (in those days marking the western boundaries of Berlin) at the head of his troops he is said to have remarked in thick Prussian dialect “I wonder if they have hanged her by now“.
What followed was a short and harsh dispute with the commander of the civil militia Major Otto Rimpler in which both sides agreed that there was no need to shed blood. The militia was demobilized and disarmed, the assembly of the civil representatives in the Schauspielhaus was dissolved. On the 14th Wrangel declared the city to be under Martial Law. The Revolution was over and Frau von Wrangel was left unhanged and unharmed.

In 1849, now a favourite of the Kaiser and a full General der Kavallerie, Wrangel was put in command of a Prussian corps fighting in the First Schleswig War. There he fought in the Battles of Schleswig, Oversee and Düppel (being awarded the Order of the Black Eagle for his services).

Having been promoted to the rank of Generalfeldmarschall in 1856, during the Second Schleswig War in 1864 Wrangel was appointed Commander in Chief of the allied Prussian and Austrian Armies. The problem was that the now eighty year old Wrangel was old for his years and, though popular with the conservatives at court, at best a mediocre general. All his recent combat experiences had been acquired in against civilian insurgents in the revolutions of 1848 and the short war of 1849. He never visited a war academy and all his fighting experiences were gained in the saddle, carrying a sword against the soldiers of Napoleon. While Wrangel lurched from blunder to blunder in Denmark, the Austrian units acquitted themselves with courage and skill. On 2 February 1864, one Austrian brigade charged and took the Danish positions at Ober-Selk with such panache that old Wrangel rushed to embrace and kiss the Austrian commander on the cheeks, much to the embarrassment of his Prussian brother officers. In mid-February, Wrangel sent an advance detachment of Guards north of the Jutland border despite instructions to the contrary. But Bismarck persuaded the war minister to send a sharp reprimand to the elderly general, and Wrangel was relieved of his command at Bismarck’s insistence in mid-May. The enraged Wrangel sent a dispatch to Berlin complaining about “certain Diplomats playing soldiers, who should be hanged at the gallows“. A deed for which he apologised to Bismarck after the wars end in October 1864.

During the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 Wrangel joined his former regiment the Ostpreussisches Kürassier-Regiment Nr. 3 as an honorary officer and observer. He had become too old to join the actual fighting. The same happened in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871 in which he was given an honorary staff and was allowed to follow the Prussian Army in an observing role. After both wars and the victory parades that followed Wrangel was allowed to ride at the head of the victorious Prussian Army and in front of officers like Bismarck, Roon and Moltke which is a potent example of the popularity Wrangel enjoyed in Prussia.

Wrangel and his honorary staff in France, 1870

Wrangel and his honorary staff in France, 1870

Wrangel died in Berlin in the year 1877, aged 93 years.

Died 120 years ago, General Hellmuth von Gordon 1811-1892, a Scot in the Prussian Army

von Gordon

vongordonsigThis impressive old gentleman is General Hellmuth von Gordon, General of the Prussian and later Imperial German Army and it is because of his family name I chose him to feature in this post. Hellmuth von Gordon was a direct descendant of the Scot John Gordon (the Gordons of Coldwells) who went to Poland as a merchant in 1716 as proved in a birth brieve dated to the 27th of June 1718 (a copy of which is found in the Aberdeen City Archives). One of his sons Joseph Gordon (later von Gordon), served as an officer in the army of Frederick the Great, rising to the rank of Oberstleutnant before getting raised into the Prussian nobility in Stargard in Oktober 1760.

Hellmuth von Gordon was born in Kolberg on the 30th of July 1811 and joined the army after finishing his military education as a cadet in 1828. During the German Revolution in 1849 he fought in Breslau holding the rank of Lieutenant in the 6th Prussian Jäger Bataillon (Jäger Batallion Nr. 6). In 1866, in the Austro-Prussian War, we find him in command of the advance guard of the Prussian 7th Division fighting in the Battles of Blumenau, Münchengrätz and Königgrätz (in which he participated in a cavalry charge at the head of the Mecklenburg Cavalry Brigade) for which he received the Pour-le-Merite on the 30th of October 1866.

During the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871, now a Lieutenant-General in command of 11th Division, he took part in the Bombardment of Pfalzburg and Thoul, the siege of    the Fortress of Ivry and Moulin-Saquet, finally entering Paris on the 3rd of March 1871. For his services in this war he was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd and 1st Class and Star of the Order of the Red Eagle with Oakleaves and Swords aswell as getting promoted to the rank of General der Infanterie

Hellmuth von Gordon died on this day, 120 years ago, the 24th of December 1892.

Gordons feature prominently in the military history of Prussia and Germany – further information can be found in the pdf “The Scots in Prussia” which you will find below

Scotsprussia