Karl Friedrich von Steinmetz

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Karl Friedrich von Steinmetz
Signature Karl Friedrich von Steinmetz.PNG

Karl Friedrich von Steinmetz (born December 27, 1796 in Eisenach , †  August 4, 1877 in Bad Landeck ) was a Prussian field marshal .


Karl Friedrich von Steinmetz in 1806 entered the Kulmer Cadet House. His father, Johann Wilhelm von Steinmetz, died at the age of 46 in 1808. Karl Friedrich moved up to the Berlin cadet house and there quickly acquired the rank of portepee sergeant .

At the beginning of 1813 Steinmetz was assigned as a second lieutenant to the 1st Infantry Regiment, which was part of the Yorck Corps, and participated in all the battles of this corps, for which he received the (newly donated) Iron Cross .

In 1818 he was promoted to prime lieutenant and in 1819 transferred to the 2nd Guards Regiment . In 1820 he went to war school and in 1824 was assigned to the topographic office . In 1828 he was promoted to captain ; In 1839 he became major and commander of the Düsseldorf Guard Landwehr battalion. In 1841 he got the Guard Reserve Battalion Spandau.

It was not until 1848 that he was able to prove his military skills for the first time in the field since the Wars of Liberation . A royal order entrusted him with the command of two battalions of the 2nd (later 32nd) Infantry Regiment. At the head of these troops, Steinmetz went into the Schleswig-Holstein War . For his achievements during this campaign he received the order Pour le Mérite , which Prince Wilhelm put on him personally at the parade of the returned battalions.

On May 8, 1849, he became a lieutenant colonel , on January 18, 1851 , and on April 17, 1851 , commander of the cadet corps . On April 25, 1854 he was appointed Commandant of Magdeburg and in July 1854 Major General. On December 3, 1857 he took over command of the 1st Division in Königsberg . On May 22, 1858, he was promoted to lieutenant general . Steinmetz commanded the great parade at the coronation of Wilhelm I in Königsberg on October 18, 1861 and received the Order of the Red Eagle, 1st class. On January 29, 1863 he took over the leadership of the II Army Corps in Stettin, but had to cede it to the Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm on May 18, 1864 and therefore took over the leadership of the V Army Corps in Posen on August 15, 1864 .

German war

In 1866, as commanding general of the V Army Corps , Steinmetz took part in the Austro-Prussian War. He became the second army of the Crown Prince allocated over three passes of the Giant Mountains in Bohemia marched. The Steinmetz corps formed together with the VI. Army Corps under Louis von Mutius took over the left wing of the Crown Prince's Army. The imperial general, General Feldzeugmeister Ludwig von Benedek , wanted to prevent the unification of the corps of the Crown Prince at all costs. On June 27, 1866 there were heavy but victorious battles against the VI near Nachod . Corps under Wilhelm Ramming . For this, Steinmetz was given the nickname "Lion of Nachod" . With this victory Steinmetz had fought his way out of the mountains and his troops had conquered the high plateau of Vysokov .

The next day parts of his troops completely defeated the Austrian VIII Corps under Archduke Leopold at Skalitz . In the battle of Pig Skull the following day, he and his troops defeated part of the Austrian IV Corps. The victory at Skalitz forced the Austrian army to give up the previous goal and to retreat to Königgrätz, since otherwise Steinmetz would have been in the rear of the Austrians. With these successes of the units led by Steinmetz, the decisive victory at Königgrätz was really prepared. His corps was not involved in this decisive battle, as it had to lag behind the other three corps after the fights with Pig Skull. He and his troops did not arrive on the battlefield until around 8 p.m. His troops had covered 40 km that day, partly on unpaved roads and even cross-country. Alongside Moltke , Karl Friedrich von Steinmetz was the most celebrated Prussian military leader at the time.

On June 27th and June 28th, his corps defeated an entire enemy corps with only a part of his troops and on June 29th, 1866, completely destroyed a reinforced regiment. His own losses amounted to 2,889 men, his opponents lost over 13,000 men.

For his services in this war he received a considerable amount of money and already after the Battle of Pig Skulls he received the Order of the Black Eagle and the Grand Cross of the Order of the Red Eagle with Swords. In the award letter, King Wilhelm explicitly pointed out that this was his (Wilhelm's) first award and the first award ever since the Wars of Liberation.


Karl Friedrich von Steinmetz, 1870

Steinmetz 'successes in the Bohemian campaign gave him an independent command as a military leader in the Franco-German War of 1870/71 . The German 1st Army , consisting of the VII. And VIII. Corps , was subordinated to him, to which the I. Corps and the 1st Cavalry Division later joined. The 74-year-old was no longer able to show himself at the height of his time at this post. With the introduction of the telegraph , the army commanders were much more closely tied to the orders of the highest army command. Moltke has made efficient use of this facility since the war of 1866. On August 6, 1870, von Steinmetz not only ordered the loss-making assault on the Spicherer Heights without orders , but also set out on the march road of Prince Friedrich Karl's 2nd Army , which led to friction between the two army commanders-in-chief and the General Staff.

After the Battle of Colombey , his army was reduced to a single corps. As with Spichern, Steinmetz was not there at all during the battle, he only got there after the end of the fighting. During the Battle of Gravelotte on August 18, 1870, he ordered a frontal attack on a strong French position, with the two army corps involved suffering considerable losses. For this attack he had arbitrarily submitted to the VIII Corps of the 2nd Army. Steinmetz had obviously completely underestimated the effectiveness of the modern breech-loading rifle, but was not ready to break off the failed attack in time. Meanwhile, the French commander, Marshal Bazaine, did not have the plan to exploit Steinmetz's bloody partial defeat.

The consequence of his behavior was the subordination of his army to the command of Prince Friedrich Karl. During the siege of Metz there was a complete break between the two. But it was only when Steinmetz, in his resentment against the prince, was guilty of behavior contrary to subordination by failing to report to his commander-in-chief, was he transferred to Posen as governor-general .

The king initially rejected the resignation he had submitted. "I owe it to your excellent service to save you from taking such a step," the monarch wrote to his old general. It was only at the end of the war that Karl Friedrich von Steinmetz was transferred to the army officers while at the same time being given the character of field marshal. His first wife died on November 19, 1863, and in 1867 he married Else von Krosigk, 52 years his junior (born November 21, 1848, † October 3, 1905) at Hohenzollern Castle . The old field marshal retired in Görlitz and died of a heart attack at the age of 80 on the night of August 3rd to 4th, 1877 while staying at a spa in Bad Landeck . His widow married Count Karl von Brühl (born January 22, 1853 - December 31, 1923) on April 12, 1880 , patron saint of Seifersdorf Castle .


  • In 1889 the Fusilier Regiment No. 37 was named after him.
  • A barracks was named after him in the fortress of Metz.
  • The Prussian military musician Carl Bratfisch dedicated the well-known Steinmetz-March ( AM II, 197) to the General Field Marshal .


  • Bruno Garlepp: The Lion of Nachod. Life story telling. M. Woywod, Breslau 1891.
  • Wolfgang Hofmann: Karl Friedrich von Steinmetz. in: Jürgen Hahn-Butry (Ed.): Prussian-German field marshals and grand admirals. Safari, Berlin 1937, pp. 176-186.
  • Siegfried Fiedler: Field Marshal Carl Friedrich von Steinmetz. In: German Soldiers Yearbook 1971. Schild, Munich 1971, page 291 ff.
  • Bernhard von PotenSteinmetz, Karl Friedrich von . In: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB). Volume 36, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1893, pp. 10-19.

Web links

Commons : Karl Friedrich von Steinmetz  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Militair-Wochenblatt , 46th year, Ernst Siegfried Mittler and Son, Berlin 1861, p. 311, digitized from Google Books
  2. ^ Wawro: The Austro-Prussian War. Page 176–180
  3. a b Wawro: The Austro-Prussian War. Page 272.
  4. The campaign of 1866 in Germany, War History Department of the great General Staff. Page 430 Digitized by Google Books
  5. 1122 in Nachod, 1367 in Skalitz, approx. 400 in pig skulls
  6. 5719 in Nachod, 5572 in Skalitz, approx. 2000 in pig skull
  7. ^ Fontane, The German War of 1866, p. 353
  8. ^ Wolfgang Hofmann: Karl Friedrich von Steinmetz. in: Jürgen Hahn-Butry (Ed.): Prussian-German field marshals and grand admirals. Safari, Berlin 1937, pp. 176-186.
  9. A promotion that is no longer common today . It says that Steinmetz was allowed to call himself field marshal, but did not receive the pension of one; he was characterized Field Marshal General. (See also rank ).
  10. ^ Yearbook of the German Nobility. Tape. 2, 1898, p.349