Wilhelm Anton Graf Neidhardt von Gneisenau
(27.10.1760 - 23.08.1831)
place of birth: Schildau, Sachsen (Saxony)
The courageous and brilliant Prussian Field
Marshal Graf von Gneisenau remained a strong supporter of German unity.
He was the son of a Saxon artillery officer and served briefly in the
Austrian cavalry (1778-80) before heading to Canada as a lieutenant in
a mercenary Ansbach regiment (1782-83). Commissioned as a captain in
the Prussian Army in 1786, he spent the next 20 years on garrison
Gneisenau fought at Jena during
the 1806 campaign and distinguished himself in the defense of Colberg.
He worked with Scharnhorst from 1807-1813 as a reformer, establishing a
general staff and developing the Krümper
(reserves) system for clandestinely rebuilding the Prussian Army.
Served as von Blücher's chief
of staff during the 1813 campaign. He was also von Blücher's
chief of staff during the Waterloo campaign (1815),
fighting at Ligny and, when von Blücher
was wounded, made the important decision to retreat to Wavre,
which made possible the timely arrival of Prussian support for
Wellington at Waterloo. Served briefly as governor
of Berlin and then was promoted to field marshal in 1825 when he was
given command of the Observation Army sent to protect Prussia's eastern
border during the Polish insurrection of 1831. As Scharnhorst's
right-hand man and successor as Chief of General Staff (1813-14), his
attempts to promote liberal reforms in the army were thwarted by the
aristocracy. Like Clausewitz, he died of cholera at the age of 71, in
the Posen province.