Ferdinand von Schill

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Ferdinand von Schill , portrait by Ludwig Buchhorn (1808/09). Schill's signature:Signature Ferdinand von Schill.PNG

Ferdinand Baptista von Schill (born January 6, 1776 in Wilmsdorf near Dresden , † May 31, 1809 in Stralsund ) was a Prussian officer who became known as a free corps leader in the wars with France of 1806/07 and 1809 .


The house where he was born in Wilmsdorf

Schill came from a family of soldiers. His father Johann Georg von Schill (1736-1822) was a cavalry officer in the Austrian, later in the Saxon, and most recently in the Prussian army . In 1790 his father introduced Schill to Count Kalckreuth , the commander of the renowned Anspach-Bayreuth dragoon regiment with the honorary name Die Hohenfriedberger , who accepted Schill as an ensign. In Pasewalk , Schill, who had served as a second lieutenant since 1793 , served in the aforementioned Dragoon Regiment, which had been called Queen Dragoons since March 1806 . His house was at Grünstraße 17.

Freikorps Schill in Pomerania 1806/07

In the war of Prussia against Napoleon in 1806, Schill was seriously wounded by a sword blow to the head in the battle of Auerstedt and escaped via Magdeburg and Stettin to the Kolberg fortress , where he reported healthy to the commandant Colonel Ludwig Moritz von Lucadou on the occasion of the siege of Kolberg in 1807 . This allowed Schill to make forays into the area with a few people. He was supposed to bring defenses, recruits and money into the fortress, as well as conduct reconnaissance. But Schill started a guerrilla war against French occupation forces all over Pomerania . For the successful attack on Gülzow on December 7, 1806 he was from King Friedrich Wilhelm III. promoted to prime lieutenant that same month and decorated with the order of Pour le Mérite . He ignored requests from his regimental commander to return to the regiment in East Prussia . Schill quickly became famous and his troop grew rapidly.

In a cabinet order of January 12, 1807, the king allowed him to set up the Schill Freikorps with his own resources from dispersed or rancied soldiers of the Prussian army . With the support of the population to the best of their ability, the smaller operations of the corps were mostly successful, but the larger ones were unhappy. The attack on Stargard attempted on February 15, 1807 was repulsed with losses, the fortified Naugard office of Schill, who had been promoted to Rittmeister , defended valiantly but unsuccessfully. Even with these actions, Schill's fateful overestimation of himself became apparent. He had to return to Kolberg, wounded, where the opposition to the commandant Lucadou intensified as a result of his subordination relationship, which was not clearly defined by the king.

When the French had enclosed Kolberg in March 1807, Schill appeared in Stralsund to persuade the Swedish troops in Swedish Pomerania to support Kolberg. In mid-April he went to Stockholm on the same mission . On May 12th, he embarked with his cavalry from Kolberg to Western Pomerania to Blücher to Rügen , while the infantry stayed behind to defend the Maikuhle. After the Battle of Friedland on June 14, 1807, Prussia had forced the peace of Tilsit , Schill and his troops had to withdraw with Blücher to the demarcation area between Kammin and Köslin - without having participated in any fighting ; the corps was transferred to training service.

Promoted by the Prussian king to major on June 30, 1807 for his services , Schill was appointed owner of the 2nd Brandenburg Hussar Regiment ("von Schill") formed from his cavalry . The king incorporated his foot troops into the new body infantry regiment as von Schill's light battalion . On December 10, 1808, after the withdrawal of the French occupiers, Schill rode in triumph with his hussar regiment at the head of the returning troops in Berlin.

Survey 1809

In the uprisings planned for 1809 at the same time as Austria's uprising against Napoleon's rule in Germany, he was assigned an important role, but Schill did not want to wait. The cheering applause of the population, the reawakened patriotism and probably also a certain amount of self-overestimation raised the hussar officer Schill above himself and led him to rash actions that were not coordinated with the army leadership. General Ernst von Rüchel , too, tried in vain , to whose daughter Elise Schill had become engaged and on whose West Pomeranian estate Haseleu he was occasionally a guest, to have a moderating effect. After the beginning of the war, Schill left Berlin with his regiment on April 28 - as if to maneuver. A mile outside of town, he gave his soldiers a speech that reinforced the impression that he was acting on a higher order. He ignored the command from the commandant's office to return immediately. The troop became known as Schillsche Jäger .

Schill first turned to Dessau , which he occupied on May 2nd. There he had his appeal “To the Germans” printed.

Ferdinand von Schill
Schill's death in Stralsund
Memorial plaque on Schloßplatz, in Lutherstadt Wittenberg

The news of the suppression of the uprising in Austria , which arrived at the beginning of May, put a clear damper on his thirst for action, but he allowed himself to be carried away by his officers and, on May 5th, near Dodendorf not far from Magdeburg, also offered the French side with the battle of Dodendorf loss-making battle with a division of the Magdeburg garrison . On the same day, Jérôme Bonaparte , Napoleon's brother and King of Westphalia, had put a price of 10,000 francs on his head. The Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm III. spoke out sharply against Schill's unauthorized act.

His regiment , which grew through recruitment, went to the lower Elbe and from there, pursued by Dutchmen under Carl Heinrich Wilhelm Anthing and Danes , in the direction of Stralsund, whose crew consisting of Poles and Mecklenburgers came towards him, but was defeated at Damgarten .

The end in Stralsund

On May 25, 1809, around ten o'clock, the Schill hunters from Damgarten arrived in Stralsund. Schill moved into the city that he knew from 1807 through the Tribseer Tor . After successfully fighting in Damgarten, he hoped for a beacon for liberation from French rule in the fortress town of Stralsund. He called out to his fellow combatant, Lieutenant Leopold von Lützow : "We need Stralsund as a base for the guerrilla warfare, even if we should honorably fall."

Schill's entry into Stralsund accompanied a victory against French artillerymen fighting in Mönchstrasse . With the help of the Swedish officer Friedrich Gustav von Petersson , Schill's troops succeeded in driving out the French occupation of the city. He now pushed ahead with the re-installation of the razed defenses and attracted up to 1,000 farmers in the area. His arrival did not inspire the people of Stralsund as they had hoped, as they were less patriotic than Schill and rather groaned about the renewed involvement of their city in fighting, which always brought burdens for the citizens. Doubts also arose in Schill's troops in view of the seemingly hopeless situation in Stralsund. Troops from Generals Gratien and Ewald moved in, who represented a superior force with 6000 men (Danes and Dutch). Some of Schill's officers withdrew from Stralsund, including Leo von Lützow.

On May 30, 1809, Schill published a "Publicandum" with the following content:

“By taking possession of the local city and fortress with arms in hand, I, by virtue of my fortune in arms, step into the rights of the conqueror. My intention is to return a country that has been illegally subjugated and forcibly torn from the crown in my undertakings, as the following is due to you. But as long as this land is returned by me to the hands of the rightful owner, and as long as the possession of it is combined with the execution of my further plans, I must secure its possession for myself. If, however, the acceptance of all and every state treasury, as domain revenue, customs and tax money and the like, is now required for food, clothing and other maintenance of my troops, then from the day of taking possession of them all will be required Managed the country's coffers for me, and only me are the returns responsable. The violation of this commandment, as well as the slightest slip that occurs, is punished with a fortress penalty. A commission appointed by me will check the cash books tomorrow afternoon and take the inventory.
Stralsund, May 30, 1809.
Schill, commanding officer of the local province. "

On May 31, 1809, as Schill expected, the French attacked the city at Tribseer Tor, through which Schill himself had entered six days earlier. The first attack could be repelled. However, the attacking troops only approached the Tribseer Tor as a diversion. Her main power was concentrated on the knee gate , where she could quickly advance into the city. The Schill troops defended themselves desperately against the overwhelming power. Only a small part managed to escape through the Frankentor ; most fell in battle. Some officers were taken prisoner and were initially held captive in the cellar of the house on Fährstrasse / Alter Markt, a memorial plaque above the cellar entrance to this day. Schill himself was fatally hit by a bullet while riding through Fährstrasse in front of house number 21 after an attempt to escape, which had led him to the Johanniskloster there, assuming he could leave the city . His body with an injury to his face and his abdomen pierced by a bayonet was taken to the town surgeon's house on the old market . On June 1, 1809, a victory parade took place in the city. Then Schill's head was severed in the presence of Gratien and sent to King Jerome as a trophy . Schill's body was buried in an unknown location on June 2, 1809 in the St. Jürgen cemetery in Stralsund . Schill's companion in arms, von Petersson, was captured and shot on June 4, 1809 in front of the knee gate. A memorial plaque reminds of this today.

Memorial stone at the point where Schill fell
Schill's death mask

About 200 horsemen and some hunters fought their way through and forced permission to move freely to Prussia, where the soldiers were released to their homeland. The officers of the corps were brought before a court martial, partly in absentia. Some were acquitted, others punished with imprisonment for a fortress, and six officers who had only followed Schill afterwards were sentenced to dishonorable discharge from military service (cassation) for deserting.

Another detachment escaped from Rügen by water to Swinoujscie , but the rest of the corps remained in action. 557 NCOs and men were taken prisoner. After being thrown away , fourteen of the prisoners in Braunschweig were shot at the site of today's Schill memorial . The rest came to French bagnes .

Eleven captured officers were brought to Wesel and shot dead on September 16, 1809. In 1835 a memorial was erected here by the Prussian army. The desertion process against the fallen Schill was put down by the king, since Schill was already dead. On the other hand, as is customary with desertions, his property was confiscated for the state.

The saying "Better to end a horror than a horror without end" goes back to von Schill and this time and expresses his determination to bring about a quick end to a situation, even if one has to accept major disadvantages.

Memory and honor

As early as October 18, 1838, citizens of Stralsund placed an iron plaque at Schill's grave with the inscription (in the original Latin, from Virgil's " Aeneid "):

“To have wanted great things is great. He sank through fate. The mighty hull lies on the shore. Ward also unhooks the head, the body is not nameless. "

On May 30, 1859, a memorial ceremony for surviving Schill comrades and Stralsunders took place in Stralsund, in 1909 the bronze Schill memorial was erected in the Schillanlage .

A stone plaque set into the sidewalk also reminds of Schill at the place of his fall in Fährstrasse. The Schillstrasse near the place where he died is also a reminder of him.

It was not until 1837 that Schill's head, which had long been in a natural history cabinet in Leiden, the Netherlands , was brought to Braunschweig in an urn . A Schill memorial was erected there in the same year , under which there is a crypt in which Schill's fourteen shot comrades in arms were buried. The urn with Schill's skull was buried at the foot of the monument on Schillstrasse .

In 1870 a street in Berlin-Tiergarten was named after Ferdinand von Schill. In Dodendorf a memorial stone commemorates the battle of Magdeburg. There is a memorial stone in his honor on the market square in Arneburg . Shortly before the end of the war in April 1945, an infantry division was named after him.

The former Heerstraße in Damgarten was renamed Schillstraße after 1945. Here Schill took a break in a hostel. Until 1898 there was an oak tree on this street where the Mecklenburg fighters had smashed their rifles out of shame that they had fought against Germans.

Schill memorial stone at the Baumgarten Bridge in Geltow

In Wilmsdorf near Dresden is the house where Schill was born, the so-called Schillgut. In addition to a memorial plaque on the house, a Schill memorial was erected here in 1904 and in 1984, on the 175th anniversary of Schill's death, Dorfstrasse was renamed Ferdinand-von-Schill-Strasse.

On the occasion of its 200th birthday, the GDR coin minted a 5-mark commemorative coin with a mintage of 100,000 in 1976. The Combat Helicopter Squadron 67 (later: Combat Helicopter Squadron 3 ) of the NVA Army Aviation Forces received the traditional name "Ferdinand von Schill" in 1984.

The Schill memorial stone is located directly at the Baumgartenbrücke between Werder / Havel and Geltow on Bundesstrasse 1 in the Potsdam-Mittelmark district . There bivouacked on April 28, 1809 Major Ferdinand von Schill with his 2nd Brandenburg Hussar Regiment .

In memory of Major Ferdinand von Schill, the Stralsund Schützencompagnie 1451 has been recreating the Battle of Stralsund as a re-enactment every second weekend in September since 2005 .

In the Hotel Norddeutscher Hof in Stralsund, directly on the Neuer Markt , there is a Schillstube where testimonials and documents about the life and work of Schill are shown.

View of the exhibition in the Schill casemate in Wesel / Niederrhein

In the casemate of the main gate building of the Wesel Fortress, a museum exhibition traces the history of Ferdinand von Schill and his officers who were also held captive in these rooms.

The barracks of the Bundeswehr in Torgelow are called Ferdinand-von-Schill barracks. In the Bundeswehr locations Lütjenburg and Wesel, other barracks were named after Ferdinand von Schill, there they are called Schill barracks.

5 Mark commemorative coin of the GDR for the 200th birthday of Ferdinand von Schill from 1976

In the Cologne district of Nippes , Schillstrasse is named after Schill. The naming of the previously unnamed square in Schillplatz on that street was completed on July 4, 2019.

Schill served several times as a motif in literature and for feature films

  • Der Feuerreiter , feature film about Ferdinand von Schill, 1940
  • Kolberg , feature film about the defense of Kolberg , 1945
  • The eleven Schill officers , Märkische Film GmbH Berlin


  • Frank Bauer: "Schill's Zug April 28-May 31, 1809: Hope and Failure of an Attempted Rebellion", Small Series History of the Wars of Liberation 1813–1815, no. 26, Potsdam 2009.
  • Helmut Bock : Major Schill, the betrayer. Military Publishing House, Berlin 2013, ISBN 978-3-360-02714-6 .
  • Great General Staff , War History Department II (Ed.): Documentary contributions and research on the history of the Prussian Army, Vol. 4, Kolberg 1806/07. Berlin 1912.
  • Wolfgang Janke: The Royal Prussian von Schillsche Freikorps and the 2nd Brandenburg Hussar Regiment von Schill. A military observation. Berlin 1938 (contains an extensive bibliography).
  • Hermann Klaje : Ferdinand von Schill, 1776–1809 in: Walter Menn (arr.): Pommersche Lebensbilder . Vol IV. (= Publications of the Historical Commission for Pomerania. Series V: Research on Pomeranian History. Issue 15). Böhlau, Cologne 1966, pp. 241-266.
  • Hermann PetrichSchill, Ferdinand von . In: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB). Volume 31, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1890, pp. 210-212.
  • Helmut Schaeffler: Ferdinand von Schill and his officers - a bibliography of the printed literature with explanations (= workbook. 7). Historical Association Wesel e. V., Wesel 1984.
  • Veit Veltzke (ed.): For freedom - against Napoleon. Ferdinand von Schill, Prussia and the German Nation. Böhlau, Cologne / Weimar / Vienna 2009, ISBN 978-3-412-20340-5 .

Contemporary literature

  • Anonymous: Diary of the siege of Colberg Fortress in 1807 . 1808 ( Google Book ).
  • Karl von Bagensky : History of the 9th Infantry Regiment called Kolbergsches. Kolberg 1842 ( Google book ).
  • Gottfried Basse: Schill's train to Stralsund and its end. Diary of a confidante. Quedlinburg / Leipzig 1831 ( Google Book ).
  • Friedrich Karl von Vechelde : Ferdinand von Schill and his crowd. Braunschweig 1837 ( Google Book ).
  • Franz Fiedler: The condemnation and execution of the eleven Prussian officers from Schill'schen Corps by the French near Wesel on September 16, 1809. In memory of Schill and his companions at the unveiling of the monument erected on their graves on March 31, 1835. Becker , Wesel 1835 ( digitized version )

Web links

Commons : Ferdinand von Schill  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Helmut Langhoff: The Schillschen officers. Profiles, fates and careers . In: Veit Veltzke (ed.): For freedom - against Napoleon. Ferdinand von Schill, Prussia and the German Nation . Böhlau Verlag, Cologne / Weimar / Vienna 2009, p. 158, with illus. P. 159 and proof
  2. Duden editorial office: Duden general education. Famous quotes and sayings: you have to know them . Bibliographisches Institut GmbH, September 17, 2014, ISBN 978-3-411-90768-7 , p. 125.
  3. Schillstrasse. In: Street name lexicon of the Luisenstädtischer Bildungsverein (near  Kaupert )