General Adolf Wilhelm, Freiherr von Lützow, 1782-1834

General Adolf Wilhelm, Freiherr von Lützow, 1782-1834, was a Prussian general famous for raising a Freikorps during the War of Liberation of 1813.

Lützow was born in Berlin in 1782 and joined the Prussian army in 1795. By 1806 he had been promoted to lieutenant, and he fought at Auerstädt with that rank. In the aftermath of the defeat at Auerstädt he managed to find his way to Colberg, where he joined the defenders of that fortress. During this period he was commanded by Major Ferdinand von Schill, and led a squadron of cavalry with some success. He was promoted to major in 1808, but in the same year resigned from the army in protest at the terms of the Peace of Tilsit.

In 1809 Schill attempted to raise a revolt in northern Germany. Lützow joined Schill's force, but was wounded at Dodendorf and didn't take part in the final part of the campaign. Schill retreated to the coast, and was killed with most of his men at Stralsund.

Lützow rejoined the Prussian army in 1811 with his former rank. In the following year the Prussians were forced to send a corps to support Napoleon's invasion of Prussia, but at the end of the year General Yorck, the commander of that corps, negotiated its neutrality. This helped trigger a wave of anti-French revolts in northern Germany, and pushed Prussia towards changing sides. In February 1813, as part of the preparation for war, Scharnhorst ordered Lützow to form a Freikorps, one of the many volunteer regiments that helped expand the Prussian army in 1813. Lützow's unit became known as the Lützow Corps or the Black Jägers, and was a mixed body with five cavalry squadrons, three infantry battalions and eight guns, for a total strength of around 3,000 men. Most of his recruits came from the areas west of the Elbe lost by Prussia after the events of 1806-7.

Lützow's corps had an unusually high number of educated young middle class men from urban areas, perhaps as many as one third of his men. Amongst his volunteers were the future writers Theodor Korner (who wrote a famous poem about the corps before his death in 1813), Joseph Eichendorff and Friedrich Ludwig Jahn, and his later fame owned much to their work.

In the first stage of the War of Liberation Lützow's corps operated behind the French lines, in an attempt to trigger anti-French revolts and threaten their lines of communication. This first phase of the war ended with an armistice that was to come into effect on 14 June 1813. Lützow's men were to be escorted back across the front lines, but on 17 June they were attacked and almost wiped out. Lützow and a few of his men escaped back to PRusian lines.

During the brief truce Lützow reformed his unit, this time ending up with 3,600 men, once again a mix of infantry, cavalry and artillery. His unit formed part of Wallmoden's corps, operating with Bernadotte's Army of the North in the area around Hamburg. His unit performed well at the action of the Göhrde (16 September 1813), Clausewitz's one battlefield command, in which a French force was forced to retreat into Hamburg.

Lützow was wounded at Göhrde, and his freikorps was dissolved. The infantry became the 25th Prussian Infantry Regiment and the cavalry the 6th Uhlan Regiment. In 1815, after Napoleon's return from Elba, Lützow was given command of the 6th Uhlans. He fought at Ligny, but was captured and missed Waterloo, although he escaped from French custody on the day of the battle.

After the wars Lützow became a symbol of German nationalism. The black, red and yellow of his freikorps uniform became the colours of the German nationalists in 1818, and later formed the colours of the German flag. He was promoted to Colonel in 1815, Generalmajor in 1822 and Generalleutnant on his retirement in 1830.

His corps became famous because of his patriotic motives and because it contained a number of intellectuals and other unusual volunteers

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (19 December 2016), General Adolf Wilhelm, Freiherr von Lützow, 1782-1834 ,

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