Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The "Black Landgrave"

The Freikorps Pfaffenhofen has a unique and interesting- if little known- history.

The 5th Landgraf of the Rhine enclave of Nassau-Ringgwürm auf dem Skree, Ludovic-Augustus von Loseth-Pfaffenhofen, "The Black Landgrave" was one of the more colourful personalties to emerge on the Allied side during the Napoleonic Wars.

A small enclave situated at the confluence of the Skree river and the Rhine, Nassau-Ringgwürm earned a formidable reputation for military prowess and learning during the course of the 18th C.   Much of the family's considerable wealth came from the commercial traffic that flowed down the Skree to the Rhine river, as well as from silver mines that were located in this small, but prosperous, enclave.

Ludovic-Augustus von Loseth-Pfaffenhofen, Count of Loseth-Pfaffenhofen and Landgrave of Nassau-Ringgwürm.  "The Black Landgrave"

However, rivals naturally coveted the strategically-situated Nassau-Ringgwürm lands, none more so than France and Bavaria. So despite having declared neutrality at the onset of the Austerlitz campaign, the 4th Landgrave, Karl-Ludwig, saw the armies of the Emperor Napoleon run roughshod over the Landgraves' territory, seizing possessions, confiscating land and resources without regard to the treaty that had existed between France and Nassau-Ringgwürm for thirty years.

An enraged and bitter Landgrave was helpless to act.  Eventually, in an effort to win back his independence and to seek retribution for what had been plundered. he saw a chance for revenge and accordingly threw his lot in with the Austrians in their attempt to throw off the Bonapartist yoke in 1809.

However, it all ended in disaster after the failed campaign of Wagram.  In the one-sided peace treaty that followed, Nassau-Ringgwürm was carved up and awarded to the Kingdom of Bavaria, with the remnants being awarded to a junior member of the Wittelsbach family and forced into the Confederation of the Rhine. 

The proud and aged Karl-Ludwig was disconsolate; he died soon after, it is said, of a broken heart; but there was some evidence to believe that his death was brought about by the work of agents of Napoleonic France.   

The young (and now dispossessed) heir to the Landgraviate, Ludovic-Augustus, inherited both the pride and strong will of his father, and nurtured a bitter hatred towards Bonaparte as well as to the Bavarians.  His desire for revenge and the restoration of his rightful inheritance had no bounds.

Certain that he may well be next to fall victim the the machinations of the Bonapartist regime, Lodovic-Augustus chose exile rather than face the humiliation of having to pledge his allegiance to the Corsican upstart.  He first sought refuge with the sympathetic Austrians, but the French soon demanded that he be put under house arrest by the Austrian authorities, who found themselves being put under considerable pressure to turn him over to the French Interior Ministry.  

It was thus arranged that the Landgrave would "escape" from the Austrian court, and then travel in secret to join the British in the Peninsula (Nassau-Ringgwürm troops having served as auxiliaries in British service since the time of Marlborough up to the War of American Independence and beyond). Here he commanded a battalion of the King's German Legion, where he served with distinction.  
Come 1812 and the invasion of Russia, the Landgrave petitioned his uncle, King George III, for leave to quit the British service so that he could join the Russians  in their defence against the invader.   

This was soon granted, and in his service with the armies of the Tsar the charismatic Landgraf soon gained a reputation for tactical and strategic acumen, and a flair for independent command.

As well as his own personal prestige, his family had over the years amassed considerable wealth and influence in many of the courts of Europe.  Accordingly he lost no time in taking advantage of the French disaster in Russia, and during the armistice of 1813 he petitioned the Russian and Austrian Emperors for permission to raise a Freikorps, at his expense but clothed and supplied by the respective governments.

This permission was duly granted, and when hostilities resumed in the late summer of 1813 the Freikorps took to the field and began making life extremely difficult for the French forces unfortunate enough to be within the energetic Landgrave's reach.  They were attached to the Army of Silesia, where they were to fight with distinction alongside their Russian and Prussian comrades-in-arms. 

Often accompanied by Cossacks and other supporting units as well as his own Freikorps, Ludovic-Augustus soon earned the sobriquet "The Black Landgrave" from his enemies.  Mere mention of his name would consternation and dismay amongst the ranks of the French and their allies. 

The Freikorps Pfaffenhofen consisted of the following units.
1 Jagerbattalion:
This was uniformed in the Austrian style, as the Austrian Emperor allowed Duke Pfaffenhofen to raise them on the condition that after the peace, the regiment would be incorporated into the Austrian service whereupon the Duke would be compensated accordingly for his expense. 
The uniform was identical to the Austrian jagers, except that the initials L-P engraved on the brass buttons, and they bore the traditional blue and orange cockade of Nassau-Ringgwürm. This was a highly drilled and well-disciplined unit.

1 Feldregiment:
These were dressed in black laced uberrocks, faced orange, and either shakos or feldmutze caps.  Those officers who had served with those companies of the Nassau-Ringgwürm Leib-Battalion- which were captured during the fighting in Spain by the Portuguese and later repatriated- would frequently wear the uniform of that regiment.  
The regimental colour itself was a simplified version of that of the Leib-Battalion  (the remnants of which were still now fighting as part of the in anti-guerrilla operations in Spain).
As the reputation of the Freikorps grew, it accepted numerous volunteers eager to learn their trade in service with the Landgraf. Eventually the regiment was to reach a strength of three battalions.

Two squadrons of Hussars: 
Dressed in uniforms provided as a gift from the Emperor Alexander himself, these men wore black dolmans and pelisses with orange facings.  

Two squadrons of Uhlans:
Also dressed in black with orange facings, and in the black and orange livery. Pennons orange over  blue.

One section of artillery:
Supplied by and equipped as with the Austrians, but again with black coats and orange facings. Guns were of the 6pdr Austrian pattern, and carriages painted brick red.

Leib-Jaeger section:
These were men of the original  Jaeger-Garde of Nassau-Ringgwürm, who found themselves pressed into Bavarian service when the unit was incorporation into the Bavarian kingdom. Fiercely loyal to their rightful Landgrave, through various stratagems they managed to avoid having to take an oath of fealty to their new masters.  So when the opportunity came to desert from service with the hated Bavarians soon after the Grand Armee began its retreat from Moscow, they promptly went over to the Russians.
With the raising of the new Freikorps after Austria formally joined the Coalition, the jaegers were reunited with their rightful ruler, to whom they were to give excellent service in the coming campaign. Constantly in action often deep inside enemy territory, they are recorded as still having worn dark green Bavarian jager uniforms with orange facings, still dressed in Bavarian uniforms including the distinctive Raupenhelm
They had a reputation for being crack shots, and were considered by Sir Robert Wilson as being equal to any member of the 95th Rifles in enterprise, skill and discipline.


  1. I notice you replaced the rose of your original description with orange: more 'Nassau-Ringgworm' (and more different from Saint-Vignobles) indeed!

    I'm a little confused about the correspondance between the uniform of the 1 Feldregiment and the "They will be in Litewka tunics in black or midnight blue with orange facings." of your previous post?

  2. Hi, Abdul- thanks for posting.

    You can basically replace the first "incarnation" of the Freikorps con Pfaffenhofen with the one in this post. Thinking about it over time, the newer version made more sense in narrative terms, especially as my French Napoleonic commander is himself a Boullion-Cantinat- and a Marquis de Sangfroid!

    I haven't abandoned the 18th C.- it is still very much a period of interest to me. But currently we are gaming Napoleonics at the club. I am keen to keep my "imaginations" alive, so I thought that not only would "fast-forwarding" the protagonists into the Napoleonic Wars be fun, but it may also provide a basis for getting people interested in gaming earlier wars- but with a familiar "cast of characters".

    Regarding the uniforms, I have edited the post to make the situation, I hope, a little clearer. I also added a new post which focusses on the "parallel" career of the army of Nassau-Ringgwürm- as distinct to the Freikorps- that has been dragooned into serving with the Confederation of the Rhine. A complicated situation, but they were complicated times.

  3. Oh, and if I could only talk David into doing the relevant templates for the Napoleonic Wars as well. But I fear that would be a lifetime's work!