Albrecht von Roon

Last updated
Albrecht Graf von Roon
Albrecht von Roon Gunther BNF Gallica.jpg
Albrecht von Roon in the 1870s
Born(1803-04-30)30 April 1803
Pleushagen, Prussia, Holy Roman Empire
(present-day Pleśna, West Pomerania Voivodeship, Poland)
Died23 February 1879(1879-02-23) (aged 75)
Berlin, Province of Brandenburg, Kingdom of Prussia, German Empire
Buried
Reichenbach
Allegiance
Service/branch Prussian Army
Years of service1821–1873
Rank Generalfeldmarschall
Battles/wars
Awards

Albrecht Theodor Emil Graf von Roon [1] [2] (30 April 1803 23 February 1879) was a Prussian soldier and statesman. As Minister of War from 1859 to 1873, Roon, along with Otto von Bismarck and Helmuth von Moltke, was a dominating figure in Prussia's government during the key decade of the 1860s, when a series of successful wars against Denmark, Austria and France led to German unification under Prussia's leadership. A moderate conservative and supporter of executive monarchy, he was an avid modernizer who worked to improve the efficiency of the army.

Prussia state in Central Europe between 1525–1947

Prussia was a historically prominent German state that originated in 1525 with a duchy centred on the region of Prussia on the southeast coast of the Baltic Sea. It was de facto dissolved by an emergency decree transferring powers of the Prussian government to German Chancellor Franz von Papen in 1932 and de jure by an Allied decree in 1947. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organised and effective army. Prussia, with its capital in Königsberg and from 1701 in Berlin, decisively shaped the history of Germany.

Otto von Bismarck 19th-century German statesman and Chancellor

Otto Eduard Leopold, Prince of Bismarck, Duke of Lauenburg, known as Otto von Bismarck, was a conservative Prussian statesman who dominated German and European affairs from the 1860s until 1890 and was the first Chancellor of the German Empire between 1871 and 1890.

Helmuth von Moltke the Elder German Field Marshal

Helmuth Karl Bernhard Graf von Moltke was a Prussian field marshal. The chief of staff of the Prussian Army for thirty years, he is regarded as the creator of a new, more modern method of directing armies in the field. He is described as embodying "Prussian military organization and tactical genius." He is often referred to as Moltke the Elder to distinguish him from his nephew Helmuth Johann Ludwig von Moltke, who commanded the German Army at the outbreak of World War I.

Contents

Education

Roon was born at Pleushagen (now Pleśna), near Kolberg (now Kołobrzeg, Poland). His family was of Flemish origin and had settled in Pomerania. His father, an officer of the Prussian army, died in poverty during the French occupation of the Kingdom of Prussia (see Napoleonic Wars), and the young Roon was brought up by his maternal grandmother. [3]

Pleśna, West Pomeranian Voivodeship Village in West Pomeranian, Poland

Pleśna is a village in the administrative district of Gmina Będzino, within Koszalin County, West Pomeranian Voivodeship, in north-western Poland.

Kołobrzeg Place in West Pomeranian, Poland

Kołobrzeg is a city in the West Pomeranian Voivodeship in north-western Poland with about 47,000 inhabitants. Kołobrzeg is located on the Parsęta River on the south coast of the Baltic Sea. It has been the capital of Kołobrzeg County in West Pomeranian Voivodship since 1999, and was in Koszalin Voivodship from 1950 to 1998.

Dutch people or the Dutch are a Germanic ethnic group native to the Netherlands. They share a common culture and speak the Dutch language. Dutch people and their descendants are found in migrant communities worldwide, notably in Aruba, Suriname, Guyana, Curaçao, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, and the United States. The Low Countries were situated around the border of France and the Holy Roman Empire, forming a part of their respective peripheries, and the various territories of which they consisted had become virtually autonomous by the 13th century. Under the Habsburgs, the Netherlands were organised into a single administrative unit, and in the 16th and 17th centuries the Northern Netherlands gained independence from Spain as the Dutch Republic. The high degree of urbanization characteristic of Dutch society was attained at a relatively early date. During the Republic the first series of large-scale Dutch migrations outside of Europe took place.

Roon entered the corps of cadets at Kulm (now Chełmno, Poland) in 1816, from where he proceeded to the military school at Berlin in 1818, and in January 1821, he received a commission in the 14th (3rd Pomeranian) regiment quartered at Stargard in Pomerania. In 1824, he went through the three-year higher course of study at the General War School in Berlin (later called the Prussian Military Academy), where he improved his general education. Two years later, he was transferred to the 15th regiment at Minden. [3]

Chełmno Town in Kuyavian-Pomeranian, Poland

Chełmno is a town in northern Poland near the Vistula river with 20,000 inhabitants and the historical capital of Chełmno Land. Situated in the Kuyavian-Pomeranian Voivodeship since 1999, Chełmno was previously in Toruń Voivodeship (1975–1998).

Minden Place in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

Minden is a town of about 83,000 inhabitants in the north-east of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. The town extends along both sides of the River Weser. It is the capital of the district (Kreis) of Minden-Lübbecke, which is part of the region of Detmold. Minden is the historic political centre of the cultural region of Minden Land. It is widely known as the intersection of the Mittelland Canal and the River Weser. The town is over 1,200 years old and has yet some buildings in the Weser Renaissance style, in addition to its architecturally symbolic 1,000-year-old cathedral.

Publications

In 1826, he was appointed an instructor in the military cadet school at Berlin, where he devoted himself especially to the subject of military geography. He was a student of the noted geographer Carl Ritter who taught at the Berlin military school. [4] In 1832, Roon published the well-known Principles of Physical, National and Political Geography, in three volumes (Grundlage der Erd-, Völker- und Staaten-Kunde), which gained him a great reputation, and of which over 40,000 copies were sold in a few years. This work was followed in 1834 by Elements of Geography (Anfangsgrunde der Erdkunde), in 1837 by Military Geography of Europe (Militärische Landerbeschreibung von Europa), and in 1839 by The Iberian Peninsula (Die Iberische Halbinsel). [3]

Carl Ritter German geographer (born 7 August 1779, died 28 September 1878)

Carl Ritter was a German geographer. Along with Alexander von Humboldt, he is considered one of the founders of modern geography. From 1825 until his death, he occupied the first chair in geography at the University of Berlin.

Von Roon statue, Berlin Roonstatue.JPG
Von Roon statue, Berlin

Early military career

In 1832, Roon rejoined his regiment and was afterwards attached to the headquarters of General von Müffling's corps of observation at Krefeld, where he first became aware of the very inefficient state of the Prussian army. In 1833, he was appointed to the Topographical Bureau at Berlin. In 1835, he entered the General staff, and, in 1835, he was promoted captain and became instructor and examiner in the military academy at Berlin. In 1842, after an illness of two years brought on by overwork, he was promoted to major and attached to the staff of the VII Corps, in which post he was again impressed with the inefficiency of the organization of the army, and occupied himself with schemes for its reform. [3]

Krefeld Place in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

Krefeld, also known as Crefeld until 1929, is a city in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. It is located northwest of Düsseldorf, its centre lying just a few kilometres to the west of the river Rhine; the borough of Uerdingen is situated directly on the Rhine. Krefeld is accessed by the autobahns A57 (Cologne–Nijmegen) and the A44 (Aachen–Düsseldorf–Dortmund–Kassel).

German General Staff Full-time body at the head of the Prussian Army and German Army

The German General Staff, originally the Prussian General Staff and officially Great General Staff, was a full-time body at the head of the Prussian Army and later, the German Army, responsible for the continuous study of all aspects of war, and for drawing up and reviewing plans for mobilization or campaign. It existed unofficially from 1806, and was formally established by law in 1814, the first general staff in existence. It was distinguished by the formal selection of its officers by intelligence and proven merit rather than patronage or wealth, and by the exhaustive and rigorously structured training which its staff officers undertook. Its rise and development gave the German armed forces a decisive strategic advantage over their adversaries for nearly a century and a half.

In 1844, as tutor to Prince Friedrich Karl of Prussia, he attended the prince at Bonn University and in his European travels. In 1848, he was appointed chief of the staff of the VIII Corps at Koblenz. During the disturbances of that year he served under Prince William, later king and emperor, in the suppression of the insurrection at Baden and distinguished himself by his energy and bravery, receiving the 3rd class of the order of the Red Eagle in recognition of his services. While attached to the prince's staff at that time, he broached to him the subject of his schemes of army reform. In 1850, after the revelation of defective organization and efficiency that led to the humiliating Treaty of Olmütz, Roon was made a lieutenant-colonel and, in 1851, full colonel. [3]

Koblenz Place in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany

Koblenz, spelled Coblenz before 1926, is a German city situated on both banks of the Rhine where it is joined by the Moselle.

William I, German Emperor 19th-century German Emperor and King of Prussia

William I, or in German Wilhelm I, of the House of Hohenzollern, was King of Prussia from 2 January 1861 and the first German Emperor from 18 January 1871 to his death, the first Head of State of a united Germany. Under the leadership of William and his Minister President Otto von Bismarck, Prussia achieved the unification of Germany and the establishment of the German Empire. Despite his long support of Bismarck as Minister President, William held strong reservations about some of Bismarck's more reactionary policies, including his anti-Catholicism and tough handling of subordinates. In contrast to the domineering Bismarck, William was described as polite, gentlemanly and, while staunchly conservative, he was more open to certain classical liberal ideas than his grandson Wilhelm II.

Baden historical region in present Germany

Baden is a historical territory in South Germany, on the right bank of the Upper Rhine.

Army reform

Promoted to major-general in 1856 and to lieutenant-general in 1859, Roon had held several commands since 1850, having been employed on important missions. Prince Wilhelm became regent in 1858 and, in 1859, appointed Roon a member of a commission to report on the reorganization of the army. During the Austro-Sardinian War, Roon was charged with the mobilization of a division. At the end of 1859, although he was only a junior lieutenant-general in the army, he succeeded Eduard von Bonin as war minister. In 1861 the ministry of marine was also entrusted to him. [3]

Supported by Edwin von Manteuffel and the new Prussian Chief of Staff, Helmuth von Moltke, Roon drew up plans to adapt Gerhard von Scharnhorst's system to Prussia's altered circumstances. Scharnhorst proposed an increase in universal military service to three years, with new regiments raised and a reduced role for the reserve ( Landwehr ), whose role in the War of Liberation (1813) was still celebrated in nationalist myth.

Roon, by contrast, believed that the Landwehr was both a politically and militarily false institution, limited in utility and lacking martial qualities. Roon's proposals for army reorganization met with strong opposition from the Prussian Landtag, which was dominated by the liberal German Progress Party, which wanted parliamentary control over the military budget. It took years of political fighting and the strong support of the new prime minister, Otto von Bismarck and Moltke, before Roon carried the day.

Roon, center, with Otto von Bismarck (left) and Helmuth Graf von Moltke (right). The three leaders of Prussia in the 1860s. BismarckRoonMoltke.jpg
Roon, center, with Otto von Bismarck (left) and Helmuth Graf von Moltke (right). The three leaders of Prussia in the 1860s.

National hero

After the successful outcome of the Second Schleswig War of 1864, Roon went from being widely disliked in Prussia to a national hero in still-disunited Germany.

At the start of the Austro-Prussian War, Roon was promoted general of infantry. He was at the decisive victory at Königgrätz, under the command of Moltke. He received the Black Eagle at Nikolsburg on the road to Vienna. His army system was adopted after 1866 by the whole North German Confederation. [3] In later years, his army system was copied throughout continental Europe.

During the Franco-Prussian War in 1870-71, Roon was in attendance on Prussian King Wilhelm I. The war was a great victory for Prussia and Roon's contribution to success was considerable. He was created a Graf (count) on 19 January 1871, just after Moltke. In January 1873, he succeeded Bismarck (who continued to be Imperial Chancellor) as Minister President of Prussia. Ill-health compelled him to resign later that year, handing the job back to Bismarck. Roon was promoted to field marshal on 1 January 1873. [3]

Roon died in Berlin on 23 February 1879. He was interred in the Roon family crypt at Schloss Krobnitz, west of Görlitz.

Memorials

The armored cruiser SMS Roon, completed in 1906, was named for Albrecht von Roon.

Bibliography

His son published Denkwürdigkeiten aus dem Leben des Generalfeldmarschalls Kriegsministers Grafen Roon (Memorable experiences from the life of General Field Marshal and Minister of War Count Roon) (2 vols., Breslau, 1892), and Kriegsminister von Roon als Redner politisch und militärisch erläutert (Minister of War Roon's Political and Military Speeches Examined) (Breslau, 1895). His correspondence with his friend Professor Cl. Perthes, 1864–67, was also published at Breslau in 1895. [3]

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References

  1. Regarding personal names: Until 1919, Graf was a title, translated as Count , not a first or middle name. The female form is Gräfin. In Germany since 1919, it forms part of family names.
  2. In German, Roon is pronounced with a long 'O' – "Rohn."
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Wikisource-logo.svg One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Roon, Albrecht Theodor Emil, Count von"  . Encyclopædia Britannica . 23 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 706.
  4. Wikisource-logo.svg  Gilman, D. C.; Peck, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905). "Roon, Albrecht Theodor Emil"  . New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.
Political offices
Preceded by
Eduard von Bonin
Prussian Minister of War
1859–1873
Succeeded by
Georg von Kameke
Preceded by
Prince Bismarck
Minister President of Prussia
1873
Succeeded by
Prince Bismarck