Gebhard Leberecht von Blucher

Nation: Germany

Military Leader

Birth Date: December 16, 1742
Germany Gebhard Leberecht von Blucher Military Leader Cover
I. Origins and Early Service
II. Reinstatement
III. Napoleonic Wars
I. Origins and Early Service
Gebhard Leberecht von Blucher was born at Rostock, Mecklenburg-Schwerin on December 16, 1742. His father was an officer in the service of Hesse-Cassel and at the age of fifteen the son, against the wishes of his parents, became a comet in a Swedish regiment of hussars. His first campaign was against the Prussians, and he was taken prisoner in 1760 by the very regiment of hussars which he afterwards himself commanded. He at this time entered the army of Prussia, the country which he was destined to serve so ably.

Blucher was present in some of the battles of the Seven Years' War, and acquired a reputation as a daring and resolute soldier, though his coarse and violent temper brought him into frequent difficulties, and impeded his promotion. At the age of twenty-eight he retired from the service, in anger at a slight from the Friedrich the Great, who had promoted another officer over him. He did not return to the army until 1786, after the death of his first wife and of Friedrich The Great.

Spofford, A. R., Weitenkampf, F., & Lamberton, J. P. (1899). Blucher. In The library of historic characters and famous events of all nations and all ages (Vol. 7, p. 293). Boston: Art-Library Pub. Co.
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II. Reinstatement
Before being reinstated in the Prussian Army in 1786, Blucher had devoted his last 16 years to agriculture with great success. When the wars of the French Revolution commenced, Blucher was colonel of a regiment of Black Hussars. He commanded the left wing of the Duke of Brunswick's army in 1793, gaining credit for skill as well as courage. He particularly distinguished himself at the Battle of Leystadt, September 18th, 1794, and was in consequence appointed major-general of the army of observation stationed on the Lower Rhine. After his second marriage, he was made lieutenant-general, and was employed as governor of some districts of Prussia.

Spofford, A. R., Weitenkampf, F., & Lamberton, J. P. (1899). Blucher. In The library of historic characters and famous events of all nations and all ages (Vol. 7, pp. 293-294). Boston: Art-Library Pub. Co.
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III. Napoleonic Wars
In the second war between France and Prussia, 1806, Blucher was commander of the Prussian cavalry. After the disasters of Jena and Auerstadt, Blucher signalized himself by the ability of his retreat, and by his desperate resistance at Lubeck before he capitulated to his pursuers. Another period of retirement from military life then enused from 1806 to 1813, during which Blucher was deprived of command in obedience to Napoleon's requirement. The brave general watched eagerly for Prussia's opportunity of rising against her French oppressors.

The opportunity for revenge finally came after Napoleon's Russian campaign of 1812. Blucher was now seventy years old, but his spirit was as fiery as ever, and there was no general in the war of German Liberation who was followed with more enthusiasm, or who did more for the rescue of the Fatherland. His army, called the Army of Silesia, was composed partly of Prussians and partly of Russians. From the latter, he earned his well-known title of "Marshal Forward," that being his favorite word of encouragement to his troops.

On August 26, 1812, Blucher's army routed and nearly destroyed the French army under Marshal Macdonald, at the Katzbach; a victory that partly redeemed the reverses of Lutzen and Bautzen. Blucher was, by Napoleon's own confession, the keenest, the most indomitable, and the most formidable of the foes who now drove the French back across the Rhine. No reverses disheartened him, no difficulties appalled him; and he was only held back by the more cautious policy of other chiefs of the Allies.

In 1814, when the Allies entered France, Blucher was again the fiercest and foremost among Napoleon's assailants. He had the advantage over him at Brienne and, though he was surprised and severely punished by the Emperor at Montereau, he was soon pressing forward again upon Paris. He fought desperately at Craou, was victorious at Laon, and finally joined in the attack upon Paris on March 30th, 1814, which caused the surrender of the French capital and the end of the war. Blucher was now made Prince of Wahlstadt, and proceeded in June with the allied monarchs to London, where he was received by the English people with enthusiasm.

When Napoleon returned from Elba in 1815, Blucher commanded the Prussian army in Belgium which, in conjunction with the British army under Wellington, fought the campaign of Waterloo. Blucher's army was the first the French Emperor attacked; on June 16th the obstinate Battle of Ligny took place, in which as Blucher himself remarked, the Prussians lost the day but not their honor. Though forced to retreat in consequence of this defeat, Blucher had his army rallied and ready for action again before a day was over, a result on which Napoleon had certainly not calculated.

On June 18th Blucher marched, according to promise, to aid Wellington at Waterloo. He came on the field in force towards the evening of that ever-memorable day, leading his columns on Napoleon's right flank and rear, with the intention of not only succoring the almost defeated English, but of utterly crushing the French. His success is well known. Often repulsed, and at last fiercely charged in front by Wellington's army, the French were unable to hold back Blucher on their right, and were swept from the field in irretrievable ruin. After this finally decisive battle Blucher advanced into France in conjunction with Wellington, and was present at a second surrender of Paris.

Blucher's fierce animosity against the French made him wish to storm their capital, and he expressed a purpose of shooting Napoleon himself on the very spot, in the ditch at Vincennes, where the Due D'Enghien had been murdered. He yielded, however, though sullenly and reluctantly, to the advice of Wellington. He returned to his country to enjoy well-earned repose after his toils. This brave veteran died at his estate of Keiblowitz, in Silesia, September 12, 1819, at the age of seventy-seven.

Spofford, A. R., Weitenkampf, F., & Lamberton, J. P. (1899). Blucher. In The library of historic characters and famous events of all nations and all ages (Vol. 7, pp. 294-295). Boston: Art-Library Pub. Co.
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