German Martyrs

And Other Facts Related to the French Occupation of German Lands

"Oh, welcome death for Fatherland!

Whene'er our sinking head

With blood bedecked, then we will die

With fame for Fatherland"

Klopstock..."Heinrich der Vogler"

French Troops Enter a German Village, by Woodville

One of Napoleon's main concerns was providing for his army. This had made him loved and trusted by his troops while he was still a General fighting in Northern Italy. During that campaign, he had devined the concept that war should feed itself. In this, it was meant that when his troops entered an area, the local authorities would be brought before whomever was in command of the occupying force, and coerced into providing shelter, food, and whatever else they desired. There was also much plundering. Some of his Marshalls were to prove the most able plunderers, stealing away with great works of art or anything else they wished. This was to have grave repercussions on the French citizenry during the campaigns of 1814 and 1815.

Napoleon at the Desk of Frederick the Great at San Souci, by Woodville

Although Napoleon, while standing at the Tomb of Frederick the Great, is quoted as having said: "If he were still alive, we would not be here" his show of respect for Old Fritz disappeared shortly thereafter.

Napoleon was to prove himself one of the greatest of plunderers. With no shame, he rifled through the private possessions and papers of the Princes whose capitals he occupied, taking anything and everything he desired.

All of the trophies garnered by feats of Prussian arms were "liberated" to Paris, including the sword of Old Fritz. These prizes were to be burned, or in the case of Old Fritz's sword, broken and destroyed as the Allied armies neared Paris.

The Death of Johann Palm

The Execution of Johann Palm, by Woodville

In the summer of 1806, in the small picturesque town of Nuremberg, in the nation of Bavaria lived a bookseller by the name of Johann Palm. One day, he received three bundles of books, completely wrapped in paper. He was totally ignorant of the contents of these packages. He was simply arranging a transaction between two separate clients. Amongst them, was an anonymously authored pamplet titled Germany in Her Day of Shame. It was a small work, commenting on the hardships placed upon the Bavarian people by the French military establishment. Another bookseller in Augsburg received these books and had allowed his children to read the pamphlet. It fell into the hands of some French officers quartered in a nearby village. Napoleon heard of this, and ordered that Johann Palm be tried by a court-martial and executed.

Completely sure of his innocence, and having absolute proof that he was not the author, he avoided all temptation to flee to neighboring Austria or Prussia. Arrested, he was taken to the town of Braunau in Austria which was garrisoned by French troops. Given two short hearings on August 22, he was locked in his cell. At 11 o'clock, August 26, 1806, his prison door was opened. He presumed he was to be set free. Instead, he was notified that he would be shot at 2PM.

This judgement came as a surprise to everyone in Braunau except the French. The people of Braunau approached the French commandant and begged for mercy for Johann Palm. It was not to be.

At the appointed hour, he was placed on a cart, and taken beyond the walls of the town, with the entire French garrison in attendance. His wrist bound behind his back. The firing squad of six French soldiers fired once. All but one bullet missed. He was brought to the ground with a cry of pain. He struggled to his feet to recive another volley. Again, he was brought down, helpless, but not dead. Two of the soldiers now ran forward, placed the muzzles of their muskets to his head, and finished the deed.

The killing of Johann Palm can be classified with the killing of the duc' de Enghien two years earlier. More than a crime...also a terrible blunder. Again, he had asserted his right or power to reach past his borders, and into the heart of a sovereign nation, in a time of peace. This brought mortification and anger into the heart of every German, no matter to which state he belonged.

Schill's Death Ride

The Death of Schill in the Marketplace in Stralsund, by Woodville

In the Spring of 1809, almost all of Western Europe was at war. From Portugal, to Bavaria and the Alps, and to Northern Italy, France and her allies were arrayed against Austria, Britain, Portugal, Spain, and the Tyrolean Revolt. Napoleon's check at Aspern-Essling was yet to occur.

After leaving his garrison on the pretext of training, the brave Schill and his men marched to Magdeburg, arriving on 5 May, 1809. This band of heroes numbered 400 Cavalry and 60 Infantry. It's real intention was to start a popular uprising of Germans.

Arrayed to meet him were 1,000 French and Westfalian infantry and three 6 pounder cannon, under the command of Col. Vautier. Schill sent forward an emmisary named Lt. Stock under a flag of truce to speak with the Westfalians of the common Fatherland. This so angered the French commander that he told him to return to Schill. Young Stock obeyed, and while riding back was killed by a bullet from French lines.

An angered Schill sounded the battle-call, and forward sprang his men brandishing their sabres. They cut the enemy to pieces, killing 140 men, and capturing 160 more. Col. Vautier was killed.

Schill now knew it would take more that than a regiment of Hussars to make a successful insurrection. His best hope lay in reaching the Baltic and seeking shelter aboard a British Man-of-War. So, he led his men toward Stralsund. His hopes were slim, for the English fleet had sailed westwards, and couldn't be reached.

At Dammgarten, the French commander with his garrison of 900 infantry from Stralsund supported by 140 Polish uhlans, and two guns marched out to meet Schill, whose forces were slightly reduced from the fight at Magdeburg.

Schill's force routed the enemy, capturing 600 men, 34 officers, 2 cannon and 4 colours.

Wasting no time, Schill and his band arrived at Stralsund to hear the cannon fire celebrating Naopleon's entry in Vienna. The remainder of the garrison had expected that Schill's force would have been destroyed, and were very surprised when Schill's troops burst into the town and captured them all.

Schill's force had been augmented by some Swedish Landwher and artillery to a force of 1,500 with 15 guns. He had little time to improve the dilapidated fortifications before a force of Dutch and Danes numbering 5,000 stormed the walls on 31 May.

The Dutch and Danes battered in the town gates, Schill knew the end was near. Gathering a group of his hussars together, he shouted: "Come, let us carry our hides to a good market!" They tore through a large group of Dutch and attacked the officers directing the enemy force. After cutting these down, he wheeled his horse about and headed for another part of town where his men were making a stand. These men, seeing him come to their aid, gave shouts of "hurrah!" "Schill!", giving his presence away. This drew upon him the vengeance of the Dutch who surrounded him, attacked him with the bayonet, dragging him from his horse.

These Dutch soldiers then mutilated him with bayonet and sabre, stripping from him his uniform. They then left him exposed, naked in the town square for two days. On the second night, his head was cut off in the presence of Gen. Gratien, the body buried in an unmarked grave. Schill's head itself was pickeled and kept in a Dutch Army Museum until 1839.

The battle that day cost the Dutch and Danish armies much loss of life. 1,600 men were killed including 1 general, 2 colonels, and 2 captains.

Napoleon's men captured 11 officers and 557 men, mostly wounded who were marched to Cassel despite their wounds, and locked in a common jail as if they were highwaymen. Without trial, the men were sentenced to hard labor at Brest and Cherbourg, the officers executed.

Thus, had the Duc' de Enghien been shot in 1800, thus was Johann Palm disposed of, and now, the brave Schill.

"These steps are steps of German men,

That, when the tyrant keeps his den,

Come crowding round with midnight tread,

To vow their vengeance o'er the dead.

Dead? No, that spirit brightens still.

Soldier, thou seest the grave of Schill!"

The Murder of Citizen Soldier

Andreas Hofer

Hofer Conferring with the Austrian Stadtholder, by Woodville

After the 1805 Ulm Campaign, among the territories ceded by Austria was the Alpine province of the Tyrol, which was given to Bavaria.

This was very gauling to the Tyroleans, who were very loyal to Kaiser Franz, who had always received a special treatment in that they were never subject to conscription, only the defence of their homeland. This changed with the incorporation of their land into the state of Bavaria. There was little that they could do in 1805, but in 1809 the Tyroleans, under orders from Kaiser Franz, took up arms against their new Bavarian masters and the French.

The Tyroleans were led by an innkeeper by the name of Andreas Hofer who had the genius for guerilla warfare. Through most of 1809 they would be a huge thorn in the sides of Napoleon and Max I Josef, forcing the withdrawal of troops from the main campaigning against Austria and humiliating some of the best regiments arrayed against them.

After the campaign against Austria had ceased, Napoleon and Max I Josef were able to send large numbers of troops to the Tyrol to fight the insurgents, whose army had began to number more than 8,000. Yet the brave Tyroleans fought on. As the number of enemy troops grew, their fortunes began to change, and on November 1, 1809 they realized that their struggle could only have one possible ending. For on 14 October 1809 did Kaiser Franz once again make peace with Napoleon and surrender the Tyrol. They were forced to give up the struggle and return to their homes.

Andreas Hofer Brought a Prisoner From the Mountains, by Woodville

Andreas Hofer had ample opportunity to leave the Tyrol and escape any reprisal. But, he loved his land, and refused to leave, taking refuge in a hut high in the mountains.

On 20 January 1810, his cabin was surrounded by troops, and he was arrested. His hiding place given away by a priest named Donay who had been cajoled and bullied into treachery. He was manacled like a common felon, and marched between loaded muskets all the way to the Italian fortress of Mantua where he was locked up.

At Mantua, it was intended that he should be tried by Court-martial, but it was discovered that some of his judges may have been disposed to mercy, since Hofer had, after all, been carrying out orders issued by Kaiser Franz. Suddenly from Milan came a peremptory order sentencing him to exection by firing squad. This put and end to the sham trial. He was taken out and shot like a rabid dog on 20 February, 1810.

All this occured while arrangements were being made for the wedding of Napoleon to Kaiser Franz' daughter Marie Louise. Where a few words from either Kaiser Franz or Marie Louise might have saved the life of this peasant soldier there was only silence. They were too caught up in the arrangements for the marriage.

But, Andreas Hofer did not die in vain. The story of his struggle and shameful execution spread like wildfire through the German lands, and made many men ashamed when they learned how so much had been done by a handful of brave peasants.

The Story and Tragic Loss of Prussia's

Queen Louise

A Bust of Prussia's Queen Luise

It has often been written that Queen Luise was the most beautiful of women. But, not only were her feminine qualities beautiful to behold, but as the wife to her King, and queen to her people, her actions were to show that inside beat a pure, beautiful German heart.

From the earliest days of her engagement to Frederick Wilhelm can be found love letters that showed how she had given her heart to this man in the fullest sense. Unlike most heraldic marriages, this was a union to be cemented by real, true love.

Nor was Queen Luise the aloof monarch who stayed away from her people closeted behind the walls of a castle. As Frederick Wilhelm toured his regiments, she made herself available to her people, listening and sharing in their cares. Even as she entered Berlin for her marriage to the Crown Prince was she to show of herself a quality that would endear her to her Prussian subjects.

As her coach arrived in Berlin in state, it was stopped by a group of young girls dressed in white with wreaths of flowers in their hair. One of them hadwith verses of welcome to recite. The programme required her to only make a formal acknowledgement and then drive on. But Luise loved little children, so beofre the whole amazed crowd she picked up the litle girl and affectionately kissed her.

This act of kindness and breach of protocol pleased the Berliners to no end. The attention of the crowd became torn away from the King and his uniformed men, and became fixed upon this beautiful, kind woman.

One day, two english travellers hired a boat and rowed to Pfaun Island near Potsdam. The Lord-Chamberlain saw them beach their boat and ordered them to leave the island or be arrested. As they retruned to their boat, they met a lady leaning upon the arm of a young Prussian officer. They knew not who she was, but tipped their hats in greeting. Speaking in English, she asked them if they'd if she could give them a tour of the Island. They told her that they had been ordered away by the Lord Chamberlain. "Oh," said the lady with a smile. "I know that official very well. He and I are good friends. I will intercede for you. He will not be angry."

So, she showed them about for a bit, and finally they came upon a group of people who bowed as only courtiers can. The English travellers finaaly suspected that they had been shown around by no other than the King and Queen of Prussia. In embarrassment they tried to escape, but to their surprise, Queen Luise bade them stay for a luncheon. This was no average, cold queen.

The Flight of Queen Luise, by Woodville

After the disaster at Jena-Auerstadt and the encroachment of French forces on Berlin, Luise began her flight to Konigsberg from Weimar where she had accompanied her king before the battle. She had had no time to gather her belongings, nor her most private papers. She was separated from her children and her husband.

With an escort of 60 cavalrymen, she flew east as fast as her carriage could move, struggling to stay ahead of the French advance. Eastward through Brandenburg, West Prussia, through the barren and sandy Frische Haff, and finally to Konigsberg where she was reunited with her children. Two, of which had fallen desperately ill. Though weakened and fatigued by her perilous journey, she sacrificed her own health to remain vigilant and nurse her children. Finally, she also came down with typhus.

As the French army again came near, Frederick Wilhelm finally arrived. The whole family, Luise still suffering from typus, then moved on to Memel, where They met Alexander I of Russia and his Guards. Here, Alexander embraced Frederick Wilhelm and exclaimed: "We shall not fall singly...either we fall together or not at all!"

Recovering, encouraged by the Czar's word's, and the results of the battle of Eylau, Luise returnd to Konigsberg, devoting herself to organizing relief for the wounded and encouraging the spirit of patriotism.

On 14 June 1807, Bennigsen, commanding the Russian army blundered into a trap set by Napoleon and was badly beaten. Again, Luise had to pack up and fly to Memel.

At Tilsit, she came to Napoleon to make a supreme sacrifice. Her dignity. She was going to beg Naopleon for an honourable peace. With tears in her eyes, she begged as a mother pleading for the lives of her children. Napoleon said to her: "You are asking for a great deal....but we shall see." This gave Luise some hope, and she asked at least that Prussia be allowed to keep Magdeburg. Napoleon replied to her plea with: "Permit me to remind you, madame, that it is my place to offer and yours to accept."

Later, joking with Talleyrand, Napoleon said: "that Magdeburg was worth to him more than a dozen Queens of Prussia". He was later to heap insults upon the fair Queen Luise. He was to call into question her fidelity, her character, and her womanhood. Base insults far below the level of chivalry expected of a European monarch!

Queen Luise died in 1810 at the age of 34, some saying, of a broken heart. She took with her, to her death, the memories of the executions of Johann Palm, Schill, and Andreas Hofer, the deaths of each were a blow to her.

A post-mortem examination discovered a strange growth upon her heart resembling the initial letter of the great Corsican conqueror.

Memories of their great Queen were to inspire the Prussian people long past the Napoleonic wars. Her eldest son, King Frederick Wilhelm IV was to write: "The unity of Germany lies close to my heart. It is an inheritance from my Mother."

return to homepage