Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Lützow Freikorps, 1813 - 1815

The Lützow Free Corps (Lützowsches Freikorps) was raised in February 1813, and was officially titled the Königlich Preußisches Freikorps von Lützow The C.O.was Ludwig Adolf Wilhelm Freiherr von Lützow, who had served under Major von Schill during his ultimately successful raid in 1809.

The following is from the Uniform Evolution site:

The Freikorps eventually consisted of three, four-company, battalions; five squadrons of cavalry and two batteries one horse and the other light foot.  Eleven of the infantry companies were Musketeer; the other, which was part of the 2nd Battalion, being "Tyrolean Jager". This unusual unit was raised by Lieutenants Riedel and Ennemoser, the latter having fought with Andreas Hofer in 1809. Their men were drawn from the Tirol and were dressed in the style of the Austrian Jagers. Of the cavalry, three squadrons were Hussars, 1st, 4th and 5th; the 2nd was mounted Jager and the 3rd were Uhlans. In June 1813, the 1st Squadron were converted to Uhlans. In the reorganization of March 1815, the Musketeer Battalions formed the new No. 25 Erstes Rheinisches Infanterie Regiment; three squadrons joined the 6th Uhlan Regiment and one squadron went to the 9th Hussars; the mounted Jager squadron was disbanded.

The Musketeers were dressed in a black Litewka, the collar, Polish cuffs and shoulder straps of which were piped in red; the buttons were brass. They had black trousers with narrow red stripes down the outside seams; they were generally worn over short black spats. The head-dress was a Fusilier shako to which could be affixed black cords and a horse-hair plume. Usually a waxed cover was worn with the shako.

The Tyroler Jager-Kompagnie were dressed in grey jackets with green Polish cuffs, collars, shoulder straps, lapels and turnbacks. Their trousers were also grey and had a wide green stripe running down the outside seams. Their head-dress was made of black felt and was modeled on the Austrian Jager pattern "Corsehut". To it was fitted a green plume, officers having a green and white feather Busch. The leather belts were blackened and a brace of pistols was carried in the waistbelt.

The Freikorps was raised and promoted as as a "Pan-German" unit, not a specifically Prussian one, and included volunteers and deserters from the other many German states. As such, the unit enlisted a number of students and intellectuals (and at least 2 women, serving in disguise). The most prominent of these was the young Prussian poet and dramatist Theodor Koerner. Koerner wrote a number of romantic poems and songs about the Lützowers, and the cause of the Befreiungskreig. He was killed during a raid on a French supply train at the age of 21, but his father  published a collection of his works from this time, which became very popular. 

The Lützowers have also been featured in (German) film far more than we non-Germans might expect, occupying a major niche in the pantheon of German nationalism, even though they had the highest desertion rate of any unit in the army - 40%!

Was Steine erzählen (“What the Stones Tell”) (Germany 1925
Lützows wilde verwegene Jagd ("Lutzow's Wild Hunt") (Germany 1927, based on a poem by Koerner of the same name, later set to music by the famous German romantic composer, Carl Maria von Weber - see later in this post )
Theodor Körner (Germany 1932)
Lützower (GDR 1972)

The dramatic black uniforms - even the facings are black, piped in red), have made them a favorite tabletop unit for wargamers. It has even been suggested that the colors of the uniform - Black - Red-Gold (brass buttons) inspired the national flag of the German Republic!  They evidently retained some or all of these uniforms during the Hundred Days in 1815. The flag chosen here (for 1815) is again purely decorative and unlikely  - I chose it from among the pre 1807 Prussian standards.

I used Delta Ceramcoat "Charcoal" for their black Litwekas (a very dark grey color, almost black), with highlights in CC Hippo Grey, and shading with "pure" black; I used CC Paynes Grey for the pants for some contrast - a very dark, slightly bluish grey color. With the red stripe down the seams, they look more than a bit like modern  track pants! From a painting of the Korps (and Koerner), it seems that perhaps the "wings" of the musicians might have been black with white lace instead of red. Since these Old Glory figures ("Militiamen") have clogs and tattered pants, I did without the black spats, etc!

Overall, the Freikorp's raiding activities were an annoyance to the French, but not of any great military consequence. During the Armistice of 1813, the Korps marched to join the main Allied army under the safe passage terms of the agreement. They were intercepted by French cavalry. The Lutzowers nationalism and guerrilla tactics had made them particularly hated by the French in general, and Napoleon in particular, and were told the terms of the Armistice did not apply to "brigands" like themselves. The infantry was largely wiped out, although most of the Cavalry escaped. The Korps was re-raised during the winter of 1813-14, and fought with the main army thereafter.

At Ligny in 1815, it was officers from former Lützower formations who saved Feldmarschal Blucher when he was trapped beneath his horse and nearly captured by the French. For more information on this famous unit, try:

As a testament to their role in German history, there is a German Lutzow re-enactor group, a Lutzow facebook page, and many more German language sites dedicated to them.

"Lützow's Wild Hunt", Körner's poem, set to music by Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826)

1. Was glänzt dort im Walde im Sonnenschein?
Hör’s näher und näher brausen.
Es zieht sich herunter in düsteren Reihn
Und gellende Hörner schallen darein,
Erfüllen die Seele mit Grausen.
Und wenn ihr die schwarzen Gesellen fragt:
Das ist Lützows wilde, verwegene Jagd!
1. What glistens there in the forest sunshine?
Hear it roaring nearer and nearer.
It comes down this way in dark rows,
And blaring horns sound in it,
And fill the soul with terror.
And if you ask the black fellows:
That is Lützow’s wild daredevil hunt.
2. Was zieht dort rasch durch den finsteren Wald
Und streifet von Bergen zu Bergen?
Es legt sich in nächtlichen Hinterhalt,
Das Hurra jauchzt, die Büchse knallt,
Es fallen die fränkischen Schergen.
Und wenn ihr die schwarzen Jäger fragt
Das ist Lützows wilde, verwegene Jagd!
2. What moves quickly there through the dark forest
And streaks from mountains to mountains?
It settles down for a night ambush,
The Hurrah rejoices and the gun bangs,
The French bloodhounds fall.
And if you ask the black hunters:
That is Lützow’s wild daredevil hunt.
3. Wo die Reben dort glühen, dort braust der Rhein,
Der Wütrich geborgen sich meinte.
Da naht es schnell mit Gewitterschein
Und wirft sich mit rüstigen Armen hinein
Und springt an das Ufer der Feinde.
Und wenn ihr die schwarzen Schwimmer fragt:
Das ist Lützows wilde, verwegene Jagd!
3. Where the grapes glisten there, there roars the Rhine,
The scoundrel thought himself hidden.
Then it approaches quickly, looking like a thunderstorm,
And throws itself in with vigorous arms,
And springs onto the enemy’s riverbank.
And if you ask the black swimmers:
That is Lützow’s wild daredevil hunt.
4. Was braust dort im Tale die laute Schlacht,
Was schlagen die Schwerter zusammen?
Wildherzige Reiter schlagen die Schlacht,
Und der Funke der Freiheit ist glühend erwacht
Und lodert in blutigen Flammen.
Und wenn ihr die schwarzen Reiter fragt:
Das ist Lützows wilde, verwegene Jagd!
4. Why roars there in the valley the loud battle,
Why do the swords strike one another?
Wild-hearted riders attack the fight,
And the spark of freedom has awakened, glowing,
And smolders in bloody flames.
And if you ask the black riders:
That is Lützow’s wild daredevil hunt.
5. Was scheidet dort röchelnd vom Sonnenlicht
Unter winselnde Feinde gebettet?
Es zucket der Tod auf dem Angesicht,
Doch die wackeren Herzen erzittern nicht,
Das Vaterland ist ja gerettet!
Und wenn ihr die schwarzen Gefall’nen fragt:
Das ist Lützows wilde, verwegene Jagd.
6. What departs there, rattling, from the sunlight,
Put to bed among whimpering enemies?
Death twitches across the face;
Yet bold hearts do not waver,
For the fatherland is indeed saved!
And if you ask the black fallen ones:
That was Lützow’s wild daredevil hunt.
7. Die wilde Jagd und die deutsche Jagd
Auf Henkersblut und Tyrannen!
D’rum, die ihr uns liebt, nicht geweint und geklagt!
Das Land ist ja frei, und der Morgen tagt,
Wenn wir’s auch nur sterbend gewannen.
Und von Enkel zu Enkel sei es nachgesagt:
Das war Lützows wilde, verwegene Jagd.
7. The wild hunt, and the German hunt,
Upon hangmen’s blood and tyrants!
Therefore, those who love us, no weeping and lamenting;
For the land is free, and morning dawns,
Even if we only won this by dying!
And from grandchildren to grandchildren be it said:
That was Lützow’s wild daredevil hunt.


  1. Another fine piece of scholarly and artistic work, Peter!
    I have yet to dive deeply into Napoleonic Prussians. One or two corps' worth of Prussians (about 400 figures) can be fielded along with allies for the 1813-1815 period in 15mm but that is about it.

    CC makes a Paynes Grey? Your posts always enlighten me!

    1. Thanks, Jon. "ONLY" a couple mof Corps worth of Prussians, LOL! My Prussians got their jump start from old figures of Jamie's and Joe's followed by a modest build out for the first time I ran Dresden in 2003; another boost for Dresden and Mockern in 2013, and a somewhat unanticipated boost for Ligny for 2015 - there forces now rank up there with the other three main Continental powers - a sure sign I "need": more French, Russians, and Austrians! :-)

  2. Well, as a French guy, I would have prefered officers from former Lützower formation did not save Feldmarschal Blucher, but they look great, dynamic and motivated! Very nice job Peter, and great historical background as well...

    1. Thanks! I would have preferred "Marshal Vorwarts" being captured at Ligny, too, Phil!

  3. Very interesting post Peter - I had heard of the Lutzow Freikorps but nothing of the specifics. I thought about purchasing some figures to include for when I eventually get around to starting my Calpe Prussians and decided against them, but might reconsider when the time comes.

    1. I think the history and unique uniforms, I'd include a few Lutzower's - doubtless Calpe has at least 2 dozen figures for them, LOL!

      One can discuss for many hours the role of German nationalism that resulted from the Napoleonic wars, and its consequence for the next 130 years, but regardless of one's viewpoint about it, there is little doubt that the Lutzowwers were an important part of it, perhaps even more in German national mythology than in actual fact.

  4. Excellent as ever Peter.
    More Prussians going 'bare foot in the park'...!
    Not long now; most exciting!

    1. Thanks, James. They *do* have clogs on! :-)

      Yes, pack up for Historicon is 4 weeks away. Finishing 4 artillery batteries this week, then just 2 Hussar regiments left to do before H-Day!

    2. Sorry, I did not look closely enough! :)

  5. Lovely Lutzow Peter, just catching up on everyone's blogs after getting swamped on YouTube through May. You have done them proud!!!