1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Alvensleben, Constantin von
|←Alveary||1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 1
Alvensleben, Constantin von
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ALVENSLEBEN, CONSTANTIN VON (1809-1892), Prussian general, was born on the 26th of August 1809 at Eichenbarleben in Prussian Saxony, and entered the Prussian guards from the cadet corps in 1827. He became first lieutenant in 1842, captain in 1849, and major on the Great General Staff in 1853, whence after seven years he went to the Ministry of War. He was soon afterwards promoted colonel, and commanded a regiment of Guard infantry up to 1864, when he became a major-general. In this rank he commanded a brigade of guards in the war of 1866. At the action of Soor (Bürkersdorf) on the 28th of June he distinguished himself very greatly, and at Königgrätz, where he led the advanced guard of the Guard corps, his energy and initiative were still more conspicuous. Soon afterwards he succeeded to the command of his division, General Hiller v. Gärtringen having fallen in the battle; he was promoted lieutenant-general, and retained this command after the conclusion of peace, receiving in addition the order pour le mérite for his services. In 1870, on the outbreak of war with France, von Alvensleben succeeded Prince Frederick Charles in command of the III army corps which formed part of the II German Army commanded by the prince. Under their new general, the Brandenburg regiments forming the III corps proved themselves collectively the best in the whole German army, with the possible exception of the Prussian guards, and, if Prince Frederick Charles is entitled to the chief credit in training the III corps, Alvensleben had contributed in almost equal degree to the efficiency of the Guard infantry, while his actual leadership of the III corps in the battles of 1870 and 1871 showed him afresh as a fighting general of the very first rank. The battle of Spicheren, on the 6th of August, was initiated and practically directed throughout by him, and in the confusion which followed this victory, for which the superior commanders were not prepared, Alvensleben showed his energy and determination by resuming the advance on his own responsibility. This led to the great battles of the 14th, 16th and 18th of August around Metz, and again the III corps was destined, under its resolute leader, to win the chief credit. Crossing the Moselle the instant that he received permission from his army commander to do so, Alvensleben struck the flank of Bazaine's whole army (August 16th) in movement westward from Metz. The III corps attacked at once, and for many hours bore the whole brunt of the battle at Vionville. By the most resolute leading, and at the cost of very heavy losses, Alvensleben held the whole French army at bay while other corps of the I and II German Armies gradually closed up. In the battle of Gravelotte, on the 18th, the corps took little part. Its work was done, and it remained with the II Army before Metz until the surrender of Bazaine's army. Prince Frederick Charles then moved south-west to co-operate with the grand-duke of Mecklenburg on the Loire. At the battle of Beaune-la-Rolande, the corps, with its comrades of Vionville, the X corps under General v. Voigts-Rhetz, won new laurels, and it participated in the advance on Le Mans and the battle at that place on the 12th of January 1871. At the close of the war Alvensleben received the oak-leaves of the order pour le mérite, the first class of the Iron Cross and a grant of 100,000 thalers. He became full general of infantry in 1873 and retired immediately afterwards. In 1889 the emperor William II. ordered that the 52nd infantry regiment (one of the distinguished regiments of Vionville) should thereafter bear Alvensleben's name, and in 1892, on the anniversary of the battle of Le Mans, the old general received the order of the Black Eagle. He died on the 28th of March 1892 at Berlin.
His brother, Gustav von Alvensleben (1803-1881), Prussian general of infantry, was born at Eichenbarleben on the 30th of September 1803, entered the Guard infantry in 1821, and took part as a general staff officer in the suppression of the Baden insurrection of 1849. He became a major-general in 1858, aide-de-camp to the king in 1861, and lieutenant-general in 1863, and in the campaign of 1866 performed valuable military and political services. He was promoted general of infantry in 1868. In the war of 1870 he commanded the IV army corps, which took a conspicuous part in the action of Beaumont and afterwards served in the siege of Paris. He received the Iron Cross, the order pour le mérite, and a money grant, as a reward for his services, and retired in 1872. He died at Gernrode in the Harz on the 30th of June 1881.
Another brother, Albrecht, Count von Alvensleben (1794-1858), was a distinguished Prussian statesman.