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Schill, Ferdinand Baptista von (1776–1809)

Sam A. Mustafa


Entering the Prussian army in his adolescence, Ferdinand von Schill was a second lieutenant of dragoons during the disastrous 1806 campaign against Napoleon. He was nearly killed at the battle of Auerstädt (October 14, 1806), but escaped to form a Freikorps (a semi-autonomous raiding/guerilla force) based in the Baltic port of Kolberg, where Prussian remnants held out under siege for the rest of the war. His exploits behind French lines became legendary. Promoted and decorated for his heroics during that campaign, Schill, now a major, became arguably the most celebrated cavalier in Prussia and probably northern Germany: the subject of dozens of pamphlets, folk songs, and paraphernalia. Schill soon became heavily involved in the Tugendbund , the Prussian-sponsored pan-German propaganda movement that sought to prepare Germans for a unified uprising against Napoleonic rule. Schill was closely associated with several well-known Prussian reformer/activists like Gerhard von Scharnhorst, August von Gneis-enau, Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher, and Baron vom Stein, but also active in several other nascent conspiracies in neighboring Westphalia, the new German state Napoleon created to be ruled by his brother Jérôme Bonaparte. By spring 1809, when the Austrians launched a new war against Napoleon, Schill found the temptation to raise an anti-Napoleonic revolt irresistible. Despite an official ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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