Siege of Hamelin

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Siege of Hamelin
Part of The War of the Fourth Coalition
Hameln-1654-Merian.jpg
Hamelin, showing the town's defences in 1654
Date7 to 22 November 1806
Location Hamelin, 36 km southwest of Hanover
Result

French victory:

  • surrender of the Prussian garrison
Belligerents
Flag of France.svg First French Empire
Flag of the Netherlands.svg Kingdom of Holland
Flag of the Kingdom of Prussia (1803-1892).svg Kingdom of Prussia
Commanders and leaders
Flag of France.svg Édouard Mortier
Flag of the Netherlands.svg Jean Dumonceau
Flag of France.svg Jean Savary
Flag of the Kingdom of Prussia (1803-1892).svg Karl von Lecoq
Units involved
VIII Corps Garrison of Hamelin
Strength
6,000, 12 cannons 10,000, 175 cannons
Casualties and losses
minor 60010,000, 175 guns

In the Siege of Hamelin or Siege of Hameln (7 November 180622 November 1806), First French Empire forces captured the fortress of Hamelin from its garrison composed of troops from the Kingdom of Prussia. The siege was begun by the VIII Corps under French Marshal Édouard Adolphe Casimir Joseph Mortier. The marshal initially left General of Division Jean-Baptiste Dumonceau in charge of operations. General of Division Anne Jean Marie René Savary soon arrived to conduct negotiations with the Prussian commander General Karl Ludwig von Lecoq, who was quickly persuaded to surrender. Technically, the operation from the War of the Fourth Coalition was a blockade because a formal siege never took place. Hamelin is located 36 kilometers southwest of Hanover.

First French Empire empire of Napoleon I of France between 1804-1815

The First French Empire, officially the French Empire, was the empire of Napoleon Bonaparte of France and the dominant power in much of continental Europe at the beginning of the 19th century. Although France had already established an overseas colonial empire beginning in the 17th century, the French state had remained a kingdom under the Bourbons and a republic after the Revolution. Historians refer to Napoleon's regime as the First Empire to distinguish it from the restorationist Second Empire (1852-1870) ruled by his nephew as Napoleon III.

Hamelin Place in Lower Saxony, Germany

Hamelin is a town on the river Weser in Lower Saxony, Germany. It is the capital of the district of Hamelin-Pyrmont and has a population of roughly 56,000. Hamelin is best known for the tale of the Pied Piper of Hamelin.

Kingdom of Prussia Former German state (1701–1918)

The Kingdom of Prussia was a German kingdom that constituted the state of Prussia between 1701 and 1918. It was the driving force behind the unification of Germany in 1871 and was the leading state of the German Empire until its dissolution in 1918. Although it took its name from the region called Prussia, it was based in the Margraviate of Brandenburg, where its capital was Berlin.

Contents

After Emperor Napoleon I smashed the main Prussian armies at the Battle of Jena-Auerstedt on 14 October, his victorious Grande Armée chased his enemies across the Elbe River. This left the Prussian force defending the former Electorate of Hanover strategically isolated west of the river. While Napoleon's Grande Armée hunted down Prussian forces between the Elbe and the Oder River, subsidiary forces invaded Hanover and Hesse-Kassel. The defenders withdrew into the fortresses of Hamelin and Nienburg where they were blockaded and captured.

The Grande Armée was the army commanded by Napoleon during the Napoleonic Wars. From 1805 to 1809, the Grande Armée scored a series of historic victories that gave the French Empire an unprecedented grip on power over the European continent. Widely acknowledged to be one of the greatest fighting forces ever assembled, it suffered terrible losses during the French invasion of Russia in 1812 and never recovered its tactical superiority after that campaign.

Nienburg, Lower Saxony Place in Lower Saxony, Germany

Nienburg is a town and capital of the district Nienburg, in Lower Saxony, Germany.

Background

In September 1806, when King Frederick William III mobilized the Prussian armies, a substantial force assembled in or near the former Electorate of Hanover. Lieutenant General Gebhard von Blücher concentrated 16 battalions of infantry and 17 squadrons of cavalry to the west at Paderborn, Osnabrück, Leer, and Oldenburg. In Hanover proper were 20 battalions and 28 squadrons at Celle, Hildesheim, and Braunschweig. [1] This body became the westernmost field army and its 30,000 troops were placed under the command of General of Infantry Ernst von Rüchel and Blücher. [2]

Paderborn Place in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

Paderborn is a city in eastern North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, capital of the Paderborn district. The name of the city derives from the river Pader and "born", an old German term for the source of a river. The river Pader originates in more than 200 springs near Paderborn Cathedral, where St. Liborius is buried.

Osnabrück Place in Lower Saxony, Germany

Osnabrück is a city in the federal state of Lower Saxony in north-west Germany. It is situated in a valley penned between the Wiehen Hills and the northern tip of the Teutoburg Forest. With a population of 168,145 Osnabrück is one of the four largest cities in Lower Saxony. The city is the centrepoint of the Osnabrück Land region as well as the District of Osnabrück.

Leer Place in Lower Saxony, Germany

Leer is a town in the district of Leer, the northwestern part of Lower Saxony, Germany. It is situated on the river Leda, a tributary of the river Ems, near the border with the Netherlands.

The Prussian high command understood that Napoleon's major thrust must come from the south, so the western field army marched toward Erfurt at the beginning of October. General-Major Christian Alexander von Hagken and General-Major Karl Friedrich von Brüsewitz were left behind to defend against a French offensive from the Kingdom of Holland and the lower Rhine. Taken together with the garrisons of Hamelin and Nienburg, the entire Prussian strength in the area numbered about 12,000 soldiers. The small mobile forces were assembled near Münster and placed under the command of General Karl Ludwig von Lecoq. Opposing the Prussians were King Louis Bonaparte in Holland and Marshal Édouard Adolphe Casimir Joseph Mortier at Mainz. Louis deployed a 5,000 to 6,000-man division near Wesel and another similar-sized division at Utrecht, while Wesel itself was well-defended. Napoleon planned to hold Louis and Mortier in place until he defeated the Prussian main army, at which time they would seize Hesse-Kassel and Hanover. [3]

Erfurt Place in Thuringia, Germany

Erfurt is the capital and largest city in the state of Thuringia, central Germany.

Kingdom of Holland former country

The Kingdom of Holland was set up by Napoléon Bonaparte as a puppet kingdom for his third brother, Louis Bonaparte, in order to better control the Netherlands. The name of the leading province, Holland, was now taken for the whole country. In 1807 Prussian East Frisia and Jever were added to the kingdom but in 1809, after a British invasion, Holland had to surrender all territories south of the river Rhine to France.

Rhine river in Western Europe

The Rhine is a European river that begins in the Swiss canton of Graubünden in the southeastern Swiss Alps, forms part of the Swiss-Liechtenstein, Swiss-Austrian, Swiss-German and then the Franco-German border, then flows through the German Rhineland and the Netherlands and eventually empties into the North Sea.

Operations

Louis Bonaparte LouisBonaparte Holland.jpg
Louis Bonaparte

On 9 October, Lecoq and Hagken began advancing west in separate columns. The march was slow and on 19 October, the Prussians received news of the catastrophe of Jena-Auerstedt. Lecoq and Hagken immediately fell back on Hamelin, arriving on 23 October. From there, Lecoq set out the next day for the Elbe. Hearing a report that French forces already blocked his path, he halted his march on the 27th and returned to Hamelin where he began acquiring food and supplies to sustain a siege. He sent Oberst (Colonel) Christian Friedrich von der Osten with one dragoon regiment and one infantry battalion across the Elbe, where he joined a part of Blücher's command. [4]

Oberst is a military rank in several German-speaking and Scandinavian countries, equivalent to Colonel. It is currently used by both the ground and air forces of Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, and Norway. The Swedish rank överste is a direct translation, as are the Finnish rank eversti and the Icelandic rank ofursti. In the Netherlands the rank overste is used as a synonym for a lieutenant colonel.

Dragoon mounted infantry soldiers

Dragoons originally were a class of mounted infantry, who used horses for mobility, but dismounted to fight on foot. From the early 18th century onward, dragoons were increasingly also employed as conventional cavalry, trained for combat with swords from horseback.

Marshal Edouard Mortier Dubufe - Marshal Mortier.jpg
Marshal Édouard Mortier

After hearing of Jena-Auerstedt, General-Major Karl Anton Ernst von Bila left Hanover on 20 October with one battalion, the treasure, and the archives. He managed to get safely across the Elbe but his small force was caught in the French sweep that followed the Capitulation of Stettin. He met his younger brother General-Major Rudolf Ernst Christoph von Bila at Anklam on 31 October, but the next day they and their 2,200 troops surrendered to General of Division Nicolas Léonard Beker's dragoons. [5]

Capitulation of Stettin

In the Capitulation of Stettin on 29–30 October 1806, Lieutenant General Friedrich Gisbert Wilhelm von Romberg surrendered the garrison and fortress to a much smaller French light cavalry brigade led by General of Brigade Antoine Lasalle. This event was one of a number of surrenders by demoralized Prussian soldiers to equal or inferior French forces after their disastrous defeat at the Battle of Jena-Auerstedt on 14 October. Stettin, now Szczecin, Poland, is a port city on the Oder River near the Baltic Sea, about 120 kilometres (75 mi) northeast of Berlin.

Anklam Place in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany

Anklam [German pronunciation: [ˈaŋklam](listen)], formerly known as Tanglim and Wendenburg, is a town in the Western Pomerania region of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany. It is situated on the banks of the Peene river, just 8 km from its mouth in the Kleines Haff, the western part of the Stettin Lagoon. Anklam has a population of 14,603 (2005) and was the capital of the former Ostvorpommern district. Since September 2011, it has been part of the district of Vorpommern-Greifswald.

Nicolas Léonard Beker French general

Nicolas Léonard Beker or Nicolas Léonard Becker or Nicolas Léonard Bagert, born 18 January 1770 – died 18 November 1840, joined the French army as a dragoon before the French Revolutionary Wars and rose in rank to become a general officer. In 1800 he married the sister of Louis Desaix, who was killed at the Battle of Marengo. He led an infantry brigade in the 1805 campaign and commanded a dragoon division in 1806 and 1807. In 1809 he became chief of staff to Marshal André Masséna but ran afoul of Emperor Napoleon and was banished from the army for several years.

On 17 October, Napoleon dispatched orders to Louis and Mortier. The King of Holland was supposed to capture Paderborn and Münster, while the marshal was to seize Fulda and come into contact with General of Division Henri Jacques Guillaume Clarke at Erfurt. Once, Louis and Mortier were in position, Napoleon wanted them to converge on Kassel where they would extinguish the state of Hesse-Kassel. Though William I, Elector of Hesse maintained an official neutrality, Napoleon knew that he was hostile to France and decided to depose him. [6]

Mortier's command, known as the VIII Corps, included General of Division Louis Henri Loison's infantry division. [7] The 5,500-strong formation was composed of three light infantry regiments. On the morning of 1 November, Mortier's force entered Kassel from the south while Louis' troops arrived from the north soon afterward. The Hessian soldiers were disarmed without resistance and the annexation of Hesse was proclaimed. The Elector and his son escaped. Louis left the army pleading sickness on 9 November and Mortier assumed command of their combined forces. On 7 November the first French troops reached the outskirts of Hamelin, while more arrived on the 10th. [8]

Siege

Anne Jean Marie Rene Savary Savary peinture.jpg
Anne Jean Marie René Savary

Mortier left Dumonceau 6,000 men and 12 cannons to blockade Hamelin, [7] while he continued on toward the city of Hanover, which he seized on 12 November. [9] Dumonceau's Dutch Division was organized into four brigades. General of Brigade Crass led the 1st Brigade, made up of the 1st battalions of the 2nd and 3rd Jäger Regiments. General of Brigade von Heldring commanded the 2nd Brigade, which consisted of two battalions each of the 2nd and 3rd Line Infantry Regiments and one battalion of the 4th Line Infantry Regiment. General of Brigade von Hasselt's 3rd Brigade included two battalions of the 7th Line Infantry Regiment and one battalion of the 8th Line Infantry Regiment. The 3rd Hussar Regiment, four squadrons strong, was the only unit in the 4th Brigade of General of Brigade Mascheck. [10]

Lecoq commanded approximately 10,000 troops and 175 guns in Hamelin. General-Major von Schöler's 3,058-man garrison consisted of the 3rd battalions of the Schenck Infantry Regiment # 9, Tschammer Infantry Regiment # 27, Hagken Infantry Regiment # 44, and Hessen Infantry Regiment # 48. The 75-year-old Schöler also commanded two battalions of the Oranien Infantry Regiment # 19. The remainder of Lecoq's force consisted of four Invalid companies from Schenck, Tschammer, Hagken, and Hessen regiments, 181 gunners, 40 hussars, 1,000 refugees from Jena-Auerstedt, and recruit drafts from the Treuenfels Infantry Regiment # 29 and Strachwitz Infantry Regiment # 43. The fortress had ample stocks of food and munitions. [10]

Mortier applied continuous pressure on Lecoq in order to get him to capitulate, but at first the Prussian refused. [10] Meanwhile, Napoleon was negotiating an armistice with Girolamo Lucchesini, the ambassador of King Frederick William III. One proposal included the surrender of all Prussian fortresses. Though the document had Lucchesini's approval, it was shortly to be rejected by his sovereign. Nevertheless, Napoleon sent Savary to see if he might use the information to induce the Hamelin garrison to surrender. Savary arrived at Hamelin on 19 November and received an audience with Lecoq and his generals. The Frenchman reminded his enemies that there were no Prussian forces within 400 kilometers, then dropped his bombshell, the armistice agreement reached with Lucchesini. Though he outnumbered his adversaries almost two to one, Lecoq consented to capitulate the next day under the same terms as the surrender of Prenzlau. That is, the officers were to be paroled while the rank and file became prisoners of war. [11]

Two differing accounts exist of the surrender, which occurred on 22 November. [10] In one version, when the Prussian troops found out about the capitulation, they mutinied. The soldiers burst into the wine-shops and soon became drunk. They rioted through the streets, robbing and shooting at the people of Hamelin and one another. The officers demanded that the soldiers be sent home instead of being treated as prisoners of war. In order to enforce the terms of surrender, Savary unleashed his cavalry into the streets. The horsemen herded the Prussian garrison outside the city where they were encircled and disarmed. [9] In the second version, only 600 Prussians were captured. [7] The rest of the garrison, approximately 9,000 men, escaped from Hamelin in the confusion attending the mutiny and scattered into the countryside. [10] [12]

Result

Plassenburg fortress Plassenburg oben.jpg
Plassenburg fortress

Leading Dumonceau's division, Savary marched to Nienburg which was already being blockaded by a small force. General-Major von Christian Georg Ludwig Strachwitz commanded a 2,911-man garrison made up of the 3rd battalions of the Wedell Infantry Regiment # 10, Prince Ferdinand Infantry Regiment # 34, and Lettow Infantry Regiment # 41. In addition, there were 168 gunners, 54 hussars, three Invalid companies, and one company of Gravenitz Infantry Regiment # 57. On 26 November, the garrison capitulated. The officers gave their parole while the non-commissioned officers and married men were allowed to go home. The men from Westphalia were marched to Minden and released, while only a handful were sent to France as prisoners. [13]

On 25 November, the impregnable fortress of Plassenburg capitulated without a shot being fired. The place, which is near Hof, was invested by a Bavarian force [14] on 11 October at the beginning of the war. General Mezzanelli's command included the 13th Bavarian Line Infantry Regiment. The day before the surrender, the 13th was relieved by the 6th Line Infantry Regiment. The garrison of 629 fusiliers and men unfit for field duty was under the leadership of General-Major von Johann Adam Siegmund Uttenhoven. [10]

Historian Francis Loraine Petre asserted that it was Lecoq's duty to hold out to the last. His early surrender made it easier for Napoleon to devote resources to the winter campaign in Poland and Eastern Pomerania. [9] Digby Smith called the Hamelin surrender "shameful". [10]

A few days before the final surrenders, on 16 November, Napoleon issued a bulletin. He claimed that of the 145,000 men in the Prussian and Saxon armies, only "the King, the Queen, General Kalckreuth, and 10 or 12 officers are all that escaped." Petre noted that, for once, Napoleon's bulletin was not a wild exaggeration. Hundreds of captured horses would be used to remount the French cavalry. Aside from the enormous losses in men and horses, the Prussians lost 275 field pieces, 236 battalion guns, 12 wagon train columns, and three pontoon trains. [15]

For surrendering Hamelin, Lecoq was sentenced to life imprisonment in December 1809. However, he was allowed to spend most of his confinement in the city of Spandau rather than the fortress prison and was allowed to visit his estate in 1812. From 1813 he was permitted to live in Oranienburg and in 1814 he received a pardon. The talented cartographer continued to make maps until he went blind, and he died in 1829. [16]

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References

  1. Petre, F. Loraine. Napoleon's Conquest of Prussia 1806. London: Lionel Leventhal Ltd., 1993 (1907). ISBN   1-85367-145-2. p. 64.
  2. Chandler, David. The Campaigns of Napoleon. New York: Macmillan, 1966. p. 456.
  3. Petre, pp. 291-292.
  4. Petre, pp. 292-293.
  5. Petre, p. 254.
  6. Petre, pp. 293-294.
  7. 1 2 3 Pigeard, Alain. Dictionnaire des batailles de Napoléon. Tallandier, Bibliothèque Napoléonienne, 2004, ISBN   2-84734-073-4. p. 369.
  8. Petre, p. 297.
  9. 1 2 3 Petre, pp. 298-299
  10. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Smith, Digby. The Napoleonic Wars Data Book. London: Greenhill, 1998. ISBN   1-85367-276-9, p. 233.
  11. Petre, p. 298.
  12. Poten, p. 108.
  13. Smith, pp. 233-234.
  14. Petre, p. 299.
  15. Petre, pp. 300-301
  16. Grosser Generalstab, p. 46.

Sources

The following link is an excellent source for the full names of Prussian generals.