Levin August von Bennigsen

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Graf
Levin August von Bennigsen
Bennigsen.jpg
Portrait by George Dawe in the Military Gallery
Native name Russian: Лео́нтий Лео́нтьевич Бе́ннигсен
Born(1745-02-10)10 February 1745
Braunschweig, Electorate of Brunswick-Lüneburg, Holy Roman Empire
Died3 December 1826(1826-12-03) (aged 81)
Banteln, Kingdom of Hanover, German Confederation
Battles/wars
Awards Order of St. Andrew

Levin August Gottlieb Theophil Graf [1] von Bennigsen (10 February 1745 in Braunschweig – 3 December 1826 in Banteln) was a German general in the service of the Russian Empire. [lower-alpha 1]

Braunschweig City and district in Lower Saxony, Germany

Braunschweig, also called Brunswick in English, is a city in Lower Saxony, Germany, north of the Harz mountains at the farthest navigable point of the Oker River which connects it to the North Sea via the Aller and Weser Rivers. In 2016, it had a population of 250,704.

Banteln Ortsteil of Gronau in Lower Saxony, Germany

Banteln is a village and a former municipality in the district of Hildesheim in Lower Saxony, Germany. Since 1 November 2016, it is part of the town Gronau.

Germany Federal parliamentary republic in central-western Europe

Germany, officially the Federal Republic of Germany, is a country in Central and Western Europe, lying between the Baltic and North Seas to the north, and the Alps to the south. It borders Denmark to the north, Poland and the Czech Republic to the east, Austria and Switzerland to the south, France to the southwest, and Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands to the west.

Contents

Biography

Bennigsen was born on 10 February 1745 into a Hanoverian noble family in Braunschweig (English toponym: Brunswick). [2] His family owned several estates at Banteln in Hanover. [2] Bennigsen served successively as a page at the Hanoverian court and as an officer of foot-guards, [3] and four years later, in 1763, as captain, he participated in the final campaign of the Seven Years' War. [2] In 1764, after the death of his father and his marriage to Baroness Steimberg, he retired from the Hanoverian army, and settled at the estates he owned in Banteln. [2] In 1773, shortly after reentering Hanoverian service for a brief period, he entered the Russian service as a field officer, and was subsequently accepted into the Vyatka musketeer regiment in the same year. [2] [3] He fought against the Turks in 1774 and in 1778, becoming lieutenant-colonel in the latter year. In 1787 his conduct at the storming of Ochakov won him promotion to the rank of brigadier, and he distinguished himself repeatedly in smashing the Kościuszko Uprising and in the Persian War of 1796 where he fought at Derbent. [3] [2] On 9 July 1794, he was promoted to Major General for his accomplishments in the former campaign, and on 26 September 1794 he was awarded the Order of St. George of the Third Degree and an estate in Minsk guberniya. [2]

Seven Years War Global conflict between 1756 and 1763

The Seven Years' War was a global conflict fought between 1756 and 1763. It involved every European great power of the time and spanned five continents, affecting Europe, the Americas, West Africa, India, and the Philippines. The conflict split Europe into two coalitions, led by the Kingdom of Great Britain on one side and the Kingdom of France, the Russian Empire, the Kingdom of Spain, and the Swedish Empire on the other. Meanwhile, in India, some regional polities within the increasingly fragmented Mughal Empire, with the support of the French, tried to crush a British attempt to conquer Bengal. The war's extent has led some historians to describe it as World War Zero, similar in scale to other world wars.

Brigadier is a military rank, the seniority of which depends on the country. In some countries, it is a senior rank above colonel, equivalent to a brigadier general, typically commanding a brigade of several thousand soldiers. In other countries, it is a non-commissioned rank.

Kościuszko Uprising uprising against the second partition of Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth

The Kościuszko Uprising was an uprising against the Russian Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia led by Tadeusz Kościuszko in the Commonwealth of Poland and the Prussian partition in 1794. It was a failed attempt to liberate the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth from Russian influence after the Second Partition of Poland (1793) and the creation of the Targowica Confederation.

In 1798 Bennigsen was fired from military service by the Tsar Paul I allegedly because of his connections with Platon Zubov.[ citation needed ] It is known that he took an active part in the planning phase of the conspiracy to assassinate Paul I, but his role in the actual killing remains a matter of conjecture. Tsar Alexander I made him governor-general of Lithuania in 1801, and in 1802 a general of cavalry. [3]

Tsar title given to a male monarch in Russia, Bulgaria and Serbia

Tsar, also spelled czar, or tzar, is a title used to designate East and South Slavic monarchs or supreme rulers of Eastern Europe, originally Bulgarian monarchs from 10th century onwards. As a system of government in the Tsardom of Russia and the Russian Empire, it is known as Tsarist autocracy, or Tsarism. The term is derived from the Latin word Caesar, which was intended to mean "Emperor" in the European medieval sense of the term—a ruler with the same rank as a Roman emperor, holding it by the approval of another emperor or a supreme ecclesiastical official —but was usually considered by western Europeans to be equivalent to king, or to be somewhat in between a royal and imperial rank.

Paul I of Russia Emperor of Russia

Paul I reigned as Emperor of Russia between 1796 and 1801. Officially, he was the only son of Peter III and Catherine the Great, though Catherine hinted that he was fathered by her lover Sergei Saltykov, who also had Romanov blood, being a descendant of the first Romanov tsar's sister, Tatiana Feodorovna Romanova.

Platon Zubov Lover of Catherine the Great

Prince (Reichsfürst) Platon Alexandrovich Zubov was the last of Catherine the Great's favourites and the most powerful man in the Russian Empire during the last years of her reign.

In 1806 Bennigsen was in command of one of the Russian armies operating against Napoleon, when he fought the battle of Pultusk and met the emperor in person in the bloody battle of Eylau (8 February 1807). [3] In the Battle of Pultusk he resisted French troops under Jean Lannes before retreating. This brought him the Order of St. George of the Second Degree while after the battle of Eylau he was awarded Order of St. Andrew - the highest order in the Russian empire.[ citation needed ] Here he could claim to have inflicted the first reverse suffered by Napoleon, but six months later Bennigsen met with the crushing defeat of Friedland (14 June 1807) the direct consequence of which was the treaty of Tilsit. [3]

Napoleon 18th/19th-century French monarch, military and political leader

Napoléon Bonaparte was a French statesman and military leader who rose to prominence during the French Revolution and led several successful campaigns during the French Revolutionary Wars. He was Emperor of the French as Napoleon I from 1804 until 1814 and again briefly in 1815 during the Hundred Days. Napoleon dominated European and global affairs for more than a decade while leading France against a series of coalitions in the Napoleonic Wars. He won most of these wars and the vast majority of his battles, building a large empire that ruled over much of continental Europe before its final collapse in 1815. He is considered one of the greatest commanders in history, and his wars and campaigns are studied at military schools worldwide. Napoleon's political and cultural legacy has endured as one of the most celebrated and controversial leaders in human history.

Battle of Eylau battle

The Battle of Eylau or Battle of Preussisch-Eylau, 7 and 8 February 1807, was a bloody and inconclusive battle between Napoleon's Grande Armée and the Imperial Russian Army under the command of Levin August von Bennigsen near the town of Preussisch Eylau in East Prussia. Late in the battle, the Russians received timely reinforcements from a Prussian division of von L'Estocq. After 1945 the town was renamed Bagrationovsk as a part of Kaliningrad Oblast, Russia. The engagement was fought during the War of the Fourth Coalition, part of the Napoleonic Wars.

Jean Lannes Marshal of France

Jean Lannes, 1st Duc de Montebello, Prince de Siewierz, was a Marshal of the Empire. He was one of Napoleon's most daring and talented generals. Napoleon once commented on Lannes: "I found him a pygmy and left him a giant". A personal friend of the emperor, he was allowed to address him with the familiar "tu", as opposed to the formal "vous".

Bennigsen was heavily criticised for the Battle of Friedland and for the decline of discipline in the army[ citation needed ] and now retired for some years, but in the campaign of 1812 he reappeared in the army in various responsible positions. He was present at Borodino, and defeated Murat in the engagement of Tarutino [3] where he himself was wounded in the leg,[ citation needed ] but on account of a quarrel with Marshal Kutusov, the Russian commander-in-chief, he was compelled to retire from active military employment. [3]

Battle of Friedland battle in the War of the Fourth Coalition

The Battle of Friedland was a major engagement of the Napoleonic Wars between the armies of the French Empire commanded by Napoleon I and the armies of the Russian Empire led by Count von Bennigsen. Napoleon and the French obtained a decisive victory that routed much of the Russian army, which retreated chaotically over the Alle River by the end of the fighting. The battlefield is located in modern-day Kaliningrad Oblast, near the town of Pravdinsk, Russia.

Battle of Borodino battle of the French invasion of Russia during the Napoleonic Wars

The Battle of Borodino was a battle fought on 7 September 1812 in the Napoleonic Wars during the French invasion of Russia.

Bennigsen with Saint George Ribbon L.A.Bennigsen by P.E.Stroehling (c.1810-15, Royal coll.).jpg
Bennigsen with Saint George Ribbon

After the death of Kutusov, Bennigsen was recalled and placed at the head of an army. [3] Bennigsen participated in the battles of Bautzen and Lützen,[ citation needed ] leading one of the columns that made the decisive attack on the last day of the battle of Leipzig (16–19 October 1813). On the same evening he was made a count by the emperor Alexander I, and he afterwards commanded the forces which operated against Marshal Davout in North Germany, [3] most notably in the year-long Siege of Hamburg (1813–14). After the peace treaty of Fontainebleau he was awarded the St. George order of the First Degree - the highest Russian military order - for his actions in the Napoleonic wars in general.[ citation needed ]

Battle of Bautzen battle

In the Battle of Bautzen a combined Russian–Prussian army, that was massively outnumbered, was pushed back by Napoleon I of France but escaped destruction, some sources claiming that Michel Ney failed to block their retreat. The Prussians under Count Gebhard von Blücher and Russians under Prince Peter Wittgenstein, retreating after their defeat at Lützen were attacked by French forces under Napoleon.

Battle of Lützen (1813) battle during the War of the Sixth Coalition, 1813

In the Battle of Lützen, Napoleon I of France halted the advances of the Sixth Coalition after the French invasion of Russia and the massive French losses in the campaign. The Russian commander, Prince Peter Wittgenstein, attempting to forestall Napoleon's capture of Leipzig, attacked the isolated French right wing near Lützen, Germany. After a day of heavy fighting, the combined Prussian and Russian force retreated; due to French losses and a shortage of French cavalry, Napoleon was unable to conduct a pursuit.

Battle of Leipzig 1813 Napoleonic battle

The Battle of Leipzig or Battle of the Nations was fought from 16 to 19 October 1813, at Leipzig, Saxony. The coalition armies of Russia, Prussia, Austria, and Sweden, led by Tsar Alexander I of Russia and Karl Philipp, Prince of Schwarzenberg, decisively defeated the French army of Napoleon I, Emperor of the French. Napoleon's army also contained Polish and Italian troops, as well as Germans from the Confederation of the Rhine. The battle was the culmination of the German campaign of 1813 and involved 600,000 soldiers, 2,200 artillery pieces, the expenditure of 200,000 rounds of artillery ammunition and 127,000 casualties, making it the largest battle in Europe prior to World War I.

After the general peace Bennigsen held a command from 1815 to 1818, when he retired from active service and settled on his Hanoverian estate of Banteln near Hildesheim. [3] By the end of his life he completely lost his sight.[ citation needed ] He died on 31 December 1826, eight years after he had retired. [2] His son, Count Alexander Levin von Bennigsen (1809-1893) was a distinguished Hanoverian statesman. [3]

Bennigsen wrote the three-volume "Mémoires du général Bennigsen", which was published in Paris in 1907-1908. [2] Though they contain "fascinating" details regarding the Russian wars and battles between 1806-1813, the work often beautifies historical facts. [2]

Notes

  1. Russian: Лео́нтий Лео́нтьевич Бе́ннигсен, Leontiy Leontyevich Bennigsen
  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 10 Mikaberidze 2005, p. 34.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Chisholm 1911, p. 742.

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