Ernest Gideon, Freiherr von Laudon

laudon

Laudon in victory pose at the Battle of Kunersdorf, 1878 portrait. Baron Ernst Gideon von Laudon (German: Ernst Gideon Freiherr von Laudon (originally Laudohn or Loudon) (February 2, 1717 – July 14, 1790) was an Austrian generalisimo, one of the most successful opponents of the Prussian king Frederick the Great, allegedly lauded by Alexander Suvorov as his teacher.

Austrian Lieutenant-colonel (1756-57), Colonel (1757-58), Feldmarshall Lieutenant (1758-59), Feldzeugmeister (1759-78) born February 2, 1717, Tootzen, Livonia died July 14, 1790, Neutitschein, Moravia

Loudon was the son of Petrol Gerhard von Loudon, a lieutenant-colonel, retired from the Swedish service and of Sofia Eleonore von Bornemann. His family was of Scottish origin and had settled in Livonia before 1400.

In 1732, Loudon was sent into the Russian army as a cadet.

In 1734, during the War of the Polish Succession, Loudon took part to the siege of Danzig by Field Marshal Münnich.

In 1735, Loudon accompanied the Russian corps who marched to the Rhine.

In 1738 and 1739, Loudon participated to the war against Turkey.

In 1741, dissatisfied with his prospects in the Russian army, Loudon resigned from the Russian service and sought military employment elsewhere. He applied first to Frederick II of Prussia who declined his services. Finally, thanks to his relations with Lieutenant-colonel Franz von Trenck, Loudon was enlisted in the Austrian army as captain in the famous Trenck’s Pandour Corps.

In 1744, Loudon fought with Trenck’s unit in Alsace where he was wounded and taken prisoner. He was shortly released by the advance of the main Austrian army.

In 1745, Loudon saw active service, once more under Trenck, in the Silesian Mountains. During this campaign, he greatly distinguished himself as a leader of light troops. On September 30, Loudon was present at the battle of Soor. Later, he had a conflict with Trenck, left his unit and went to Vienna.

In 1746, Loudon was appointed captain in the Karlstädter Infantry Regiment, a unit of Grenzers (frontier light troops). He spent the next 10 years with this unit in the Carlstadt district. At Bunich, where he was stationed, he built a church and planted an oak forest now called by his name.

In 1753, Loudon was promoted lieutenant-colonel. With his Grenzers unit, he served under Browne.

Before the beginning of the campaign of 1757, Loudon was promoted colonel. In August, he repeatedly distinguished himself while conducting guerrilla operations against the Prussian army during its retreat from Bohemia.

In 1758, Loudon became a knight of the newly founded Order of Maria Theresa. During the Prussian invasion of Moravia, he got his first opportunity to act as commander of an Austrian corps. On June 30, by his action at Dormstadtl where he destroyed a Prussian supply convoy of 4,000 wagons, he forced Frederick II to abandon the siege of Olmütz and to retire into Bohemia. Three days later, Loudon was rewarded with the grade of Feldmarshall Lieutenant (roughly equivalent to lieutenant-general). After the battle of Hochkirch where he showed himself an active and daring commander, Loudon was created a Freiherr (baron) in the Austrian nobility by Maria Theresa and in the peerage of the Holy Roman Empire by her husband the Emperor Francis. Furthermore, Maria Theresa gave him the Grand Cross of her order and an estate near Kuttenberg in Bohemia.

In 1759, Loudon was placed in command of the Austrian contingent sent to join the Russians on the Oder. He advanced into Neumark and made his junction with the Russian army of Saltykov. On August 12, they both won the battle of Kunersdorf but failed to pursue the Prussians. After this victory, Loudon was promoted Feldzeugmeister (general of infantry) and made commander-in-chief in Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia.

At the battle of Landeshut on June 23 1760, Loudon destroyed an entire Prussian corps led by Fouqué. He also stormed the important fortress of Glatz (present-day Kłodzko). On August 15, he sustained a reverse at Frederick’s hands in the battle of Liegnitz, which action led to bitter controversy with Daun and Lacy, the commanders of the main army, who, Loudon claimed, had left his corps unsupported.

In 1761, Loudon operated in Silesia in conjunction with a Russian corps. All attempts against Frederick’s entrenched camp of Bunzelwitz failed. However, on the night of September 30 to October 1, he succeeded in the storming of Schweidnitz. His tireless activity continued to the end of the war, in conspicuous contrast with the temporizing strategy of Daun and Lacy. The last three years of the war are marked by an ever increasing friction between Daun and Loudon.

After the peace, when Daun became the virtual commander-in-chief of the army, Loudon fell into the background. Offers were made, by Frederick II amongst others, to induce Loudon to transfer his services elsewhere. Loudon did not entertain these proposals. When Lacy succeeded Daun as president of the council of war, Loudon was made inspector-general of infantry. Dissensions, however, continued between Loudon and Lacy, and on the accession of Joseph II, who was intimate with Lacy, Loudon retired to his estate near Kuttenberg.

In 1769, under the influence of Maria Theresa and Kaunitz, Loudon was appointed commander-in-chief in Bohemia and Moravia. He assumed this function for three years.

In 1776, Maria Theresa repurchased his estate near Kuttenberg on generous terms. Loudon then settled at Hadersdorf near Vienna.

On February 27 1778, Loudon was finally appointed Feldmarshall. At the outbreak of the War of the Bavarian Succession, Emperor Joseph and Lacy reconciled to Loudon. Lacy and Loudon then commanded the two armies in the field. However, the performance of Loudon during this war did not stand to his reputation. For two years after this Loudon lived quietly at Hadersdorf.

In 1779, other Austrian generals having suffered important reverses against the Turks, Loudon was called for the last time into the field. Though old and broken in health, he was commander-in-chief in fact as well as in name and won a last brilliant success by capturing Belgrade in three weeks (October 8).

In March 1790, Loudon received supreme command over the Observation army on the Prussian border. On July 14, he died at Neu-Titschein, his Moravian headquarters, while still on duty.

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