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 Pomeranian 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] (German pronunciation: [ˈʔalbʁɛçt fɔn ʁoːn] ; 30 April 1803 Pleushagen, Prussia  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.

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. [2]

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. [2]

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. [3] 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). [2]

Von Roon statue, Berlin The Statue of Albrecht Graf von Roon.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 Prussian 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, where he was again impressed with the inefficiency of the organization of the army, and he occupied himself with schemes for its reform. [2]

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. [2]

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. [2]

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 to General der Infanterie. He was present 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. [2] 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. [2]

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. [2]

Related Research Articles

Franco-Prussian War 1870-1871 military conflict between France and Prussia

The Franco-Prussian War or Franco-German War, often referred to in France as the War of 1870, was a conflict between the Second French Empire and the German states of the North German Confederation led by the Kingdom of Prussia. Lasting from 19 July 1870 to 28 January 1871, the conflict was caused primarily by France's determination to restore its dominant position in continental Europe, which it had lost following Prussia's crushing victory over Austria in 1866. According to some historians, Prussian chancellor Otto von Bismarck deliberately provoked the French into declaring war on Prussia in order to draw four independent southern German states—Baden, Württemberg, Bavaria and Hesse-Darmstadt—into an alliance with the North German Confederation dominated by Prussia. Some historians contend that Bismarck exploited the circumstances as they unfolded. None, however, dispute the fact that Bismarck must have recognized the potential for new German alliances, given the situation as a whole.

Austro-Prussian War Conflict between the Kingdom of Prussia and the Austrian Empire (1866)

The Austro-Prussian War or Seven Weeks' War, known in Germany as Deutscher Krieg and by a variety of other names, was fought in 1866 between the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia, with each also being aided by various allies within the German Confederation. Prussia had also allied with the Kingdom of Italy, linking this conflict to the Third Independence War of Italian unification. The Austro-Prussian War was part of the wider rivalry between Austria and Prussia, and resulted in Prussian dominance over the German states.

Junker (Prussia)

The Junkers were members of the landed nobility in Prussia. They owned great estates that were maintained and worked by peasants with few rights. These estates often lay in the countryside outside of major cities or towns. They were an important factor in Prussia and, after 1871, in German military, political and diplomatic leadership. The most famous Junker was Chancellor Otto von Bismarck. Bismarck held power in Germany from 1871 to 1890 as Chancellor of the German Empire. He was removed from power by Kaiser Wilhelm II.

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.

Helmuth von Moltke the Elder 19th century German Field Marshal

Graf Helmuth Karl Bernhard 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 commanded troops in Europe and the Middle East, commanding during the Second Schleswig War, Austro-Prussian War and the Franco-Prussian War. He is described as embodying "Prussian military organization and tactical genius." He was fascinated with railways and pioneered their military usage. 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.

Friedrich Graf von Wrangel

Friedrich Heinrich Ernst Graf von Wrangel was a Generalfeldmarschall of the Prussian Army.

Leonhard Graf von Blumenthal

Karl Konstantin Albrecht Leonhard (Leonhardt) Graf von Blumenthal was a Prussian Field Marshal, chiefly remembered for his decisive intervention at the Battle of Königgrätz in 1866, his victories at Wörth and Weißenburg, and above all his refusal to bombard Paris in 1870 during the siege, which he directed.

Alfred von Waldersee

Alfred Ludwig Heinrich Karl Graf von Waldersee was a German field marshal (Generalfeldmarschall) who became Chief of the Imperial German General Staff.

Paul Bronsart von Schellendorff

Paul Leopold Eduard Heinrich Anton Bronsart von Schellendorf was a Prussian general and writer, who served as Minister of War from 1883 to 1889.

Order of the Black Eagle

The Order of the Black Eagle was the highest order of chivalry in the Kingdom of Prussia. The order was founded on 17 January 1701 by Elector Friedrich III of Brandenburg. In his Dutch exile after World War I, deposed Emperor Wilhelm II continued to award the order to his family. He made his second wife, Princess Hermine Reuss of Greiz, a Lady in the Order of the Black Eagle.

Friedrich Wilhelm Freiherr von Bülow

Friedrich Wilhelm Freiherr von Bülow, Graf von Dennewitz was a Prussian general of the Napoleonic Wars.

Albrecht von Bernstorff

Albrecht Graf von Bernstorff was a Prussian statesman.

Prussian Army

The Royal Prussian Army served as the army of the Kingdom of Prussia. It became vital to the development of Brandenburg-Prussia as a European power.

Eduard Vogel von Falckenstein

Eduard Ernst Friedrich Hannibal Vogel von Fal(c)kenstein was a Prussian General der Infanterie.

Eduard von Bonin

Eduard Wilhelm Ludwig von Bonin was a Prussian general officer who served as Prussian Minister of War from 1852–54 and 1858-59.

Karl Wilhelm von Willisen

Karl Wilhelm Freiherr von Willisen was a Prussian general.

<i>Bismarck</i> (1940 film) 1940 film by Wolfgang Liebeneiner

Bismarck is a 1940 German historical film directed by Wolfgang Liebeneiner and starring Paul Hartmann, Friedrich Kayßler, and Lil Dagover. It premiered at the Ufa-Palast am Zoo in Berlin.

Hugo von Kirchbach German general

Hugo Ewald Graf von Kirchbach was a Prussian general who commanded the Prussian V Corps during the Franco-Prussian War.

Eugen von Falkenhayn

Eugen von Falkenhayn was a German General of the Cavalry, commanding officer of the XXII Reserve Corps in World War I and Lord Chamberlain of Empress Auguste Viktoria.

Franz von John Austrian general, Minister of War of Austrian Empire and Austria-Hungary (1815-1876)

Franz Freiherr von John was an Austrian Feldzeugmeister, Chief of the General Staff, and Minister of War.

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. 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.
  3. 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
5 December 1859 – 9 November 1873
Succeeded by
Georg von Kameke
Preceded by
Prince Bismarck
Minister President of Prussia
1873
Succeeded by
Prince Bismarck