Württemberg

Württemberg, the dominant power in the Swabian Circle of the Holy Roman Empire, was anomalous in that a traditional representative body, the Territorial Estates, still exercised an authority parallel to that of the ruler in domestic and foreign affairs. Its history nonetheless exemplifies the perils and opportunities that the Revolution presented to German states of the second rank.

Duke Carl Eugen (ruled 1744-1793) advocated neutrality in the war with France, but his brothers, Ludwig Eugen (ruled 1793-1795) and Friedrich Eugen (ruled 1795-1797), had no such reservations, and a decade of conflict proved devastating. Württemberg sued for peace in 1796, and suffered crushing exactions, first from the conquering French and then from the returning and vengeful Austrians. Both the Estates and Duke Friedrich II (ruled 1797-1816) exploited the resultant fiscal-political crisis by flexing their muscles and pressing their versions of reform.

Content to use Austria against the Estates, but humiliated when it dragged him down to defeat and exile in the War of the Second Coalition, Friedrich turned from the weak Habsburg ally to the strong French enemy. He thereby acquired territory and protection, undercut the separate diplomacy of the Estates, and crushed their resistance to centralization. The Imperial Recess of 1803 raised Württemberg to an electorate and exchanged its lost French possessions for German ecclesiastical territories and imperial cities. Overawed by Napoleon in 1805, Friedrich concluded an alliance (solidified in 1807 by marrying his daughter Katharina to Jérome Bonaparte). After Austerlitz, Württemberg was rewarded with Habsburg lands in Swabia and the status of a kingdom in the new Confederation of the Rhine (1806). Friedrich abolished the Estates, imposing an absolutist administration. Modernization was initiated and carried out by the sovereign rather than, as elsewhere, by bureaucrats.

By 1810 Württemberg had doubled the population and territory it had possessed before the Revolution. One price was supplying troops for Napoleon’s campaigns (some 20,000 in 1809 and 16,000 in 1812). One paradoxical result was to instill both pride in service for the Emperor and a new national consciousness that could be directed against France in the “War of German Liberation” of 1813.

Following the Battle of Leipzig (16-19 October 1813), Friedrich returned to the Allied side. The Congress of Vienna confirmed the kingdom’s borders but rejected Friedrich’s attempt to dictate a constitution, forcing him to restore the Estates. Tension between the latter and the crown were resolved in 1819 under the popular King William I (reigned 1816-1864), when a constitution blending elements of the “Good Old Law” and the new order was promulgated.

Württemberg’s elite educational system produced generations of outstanding intellectual talent-including the poets Friedrich von Schiller and Friedrich Hölderlin and the philosophers Georg Hegel and Friedrich Wilhelm von Schelling-whose work, which entered the canon of a German national literature, reflected their encounter with the upheaval of revolution.

The Duchy of Württemberg allied with the French in 1805, as a reward Duke Friedrich was crowned King on 1 January 1806 and Württemberg joined the Confederation of the Rhine on 12 July 1806 (Treaty of Paris) the federal contingent being fixed at 18000 men.

The Württemberg army (12 July 1806)

One Leib Garde squadron

One Fuss Garde battalion

Seven line infantry regiments

Two jäger infantry battalions

Two fusilier battalions

Two chevaux leger regiments

Two jäger zu pferd regiments

One horse artillery battery

Two foot artillery batteries

In 1806 each infantry regiment comprised one battalion of 4 musketeer companies (of 160 men).

In 1806 each jäger and fusilier battalion also comprised 4 companies (of 160 men).

In 1806 each cavalry regiment comprised 3 squadrons (of 160 men).

In 1806 the Württemberg artillery included

2 foot batteries equipped with six 6pdr guns and four 7pdr howitzers manned by 137 men.

1 horse battery equipped with six 6pdr guns and two 7pdr howitzers manned by 61 men.

Between 1807 and 1808, all infantry regiments were gradually increased to two battalions:

The first battalion of one grenadier and three musketeer companies

The second battalion of four musketeer companies.

In December 1807 a third foot battery was raised.

In 1807 the horse battery was transferred to the Household and a new line battery was raised. The strength of both batteries was raised to 78 men.

In 1808 the Household battery was transferred to the Guard, the line battery transferred to the Household and a new line battery raised.

Prior to the 1809 Austrian campaign, all infantry regiments were expanded to an establishment of two battalions, all cavalry regiments to four squadrons and the three existing artillery batteries were renamed “light” batteries and a fourth “heavy” battery was raised and equipped with three 12pdr guns and two 7pdr howitzers manned by 122 men

During the 1809 Austrian campaign the Württemberg forces made up 2 divisions assigned to Vandamme’s Corps:

An infantry division of 2 line brigades (each of 2 regiments) and 1 light brigade (all 4 jäger and fusilier battalions).

A cavalry division.

By the end of the 1809 Austrian campaign Württemberg had raised an 8th regiment of line infantry and a regiment of dragoons.

In March 1809, the newly raised 5th squadrons of the Herzog Heinrich and Leib Chevaux Leger regiments were transferred to the Guard as the 3rd and 4th (Grenadiers Cheval) squadrons of the newly created Horse Guard regiment.

By the end of 1809 the Horse Guard Regiment was at full strength, comprising:

1 squadron of Leib Chasseurs Cheval,

1 squadron of Leib Garde

2 squadrons of Grenadiers Cheval.

During the 1812 Russian campaign Württemberg troops made up 2 divisions assigned to Ney’s III Corps:

25th Infantry Division of 3 brigades (2 line brigades, each of 2 line regiments and 1 chasseur (jäger?) battalion and 1 light brigade with the 2 light battalions).

The Corps Light Cavalry Division (2 regiments of Chevaux Leger and 1 of Jäger zu Pferd (the division was detached from III Corps later in the campaign).

One line infantry regiment was posted to garrison duty in Danzig.

After the 1812 Russian campaign the artillery corps is reorganised to include four horse batteries (1 Guard horse battery and three line horse batteries).

On 23 October 1813 Württemberg deserted the Imperial cause.

References and further reading Gill, John H. 1992. With Eagles to Glory: Napoleon and His German Allies in the 1809 Campaign. London: Greenhill. Sheehan, James J. 1989. German History, 1770-1866. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Württembergisches Landesmuseum Stuttgart, ed. 1987. Baden und Württemberg im Zeitalter Napoleons [Baden and Württemberg in the Age of Napoleon]. 2 vols. Stuttgart: Württembergisches Landesmuseum.

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