Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Blücher, Gebhard Leberecht von

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Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition
Blücher, Gebhard Leberecht von
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BLÜCHER, Gebhard Leberecht von, field-marshal of the Prussian armies, prince of Wahlstadt in Silesia, was born at Rostock in 1742. In his fourteenth year he entered into the service of Sweden; and in the war between that power and Prussia he was taken prisoner. He afterwards entered into the service of Prussia, in which he became distinguished by his activity; but conceiving himself neglected by the great Frederick, he became a farmer in Silesia, and by his enterprise and perseverance in fifteen years he acquired an honourable independence. On the accession of Frederick-William II. he was recalled to military service, and replaced as major in his old regiment, the Black Hussars, where he distinguished himself in six general actions against the French, rose to the rank of colonel and major-general in 1793-4, and gained a high reputation by his energy, promptitude, and foresight. He was in a subordinate command in the disastrous battle of Jena in 1802; but he made a masterly retreat with his column to Lübeck, and extorted the praises of his adversaries, who testified on his capitulation that it was caused by “want of provisions and ammunition.” He was soon exchanged for General Victor, and was actively employed in Pomerania, at Berlin, and at Königsberg, until the conclusion of the war. When Prussia shook off the French yoke in 1813, he first obtained a separate command. At the head of 60,000 troops, chiefly composed of raw militia, he defeated four French marshals at Katsbach, and rapidly crossing the Elbe, materially contributed to the signal victory of Leipsic. In several severe actions he fought his way to Paris, which he entered on 31st March 1814; and there, it has been stated, but for the intervention of the other allied commanders, he was disposed to make a severe retaliation for the calamities that Prussia had suffered from the armies of France. Blowing up the bridge of Jena across the Seine was said to be one of his contemplated acts. When war again broke out in 1815, the veteran was at the head of the Prussian armies in Belgium, and exhibited his wonted enterprise and activity. But partly owing to his own confidence and temerity, partly to the skilful strategy of his celebrated opponent, he was defeated in the severe battle of Ligny on 16th of June; yet, with his characteristic spirit and energy, Blücher rallied his defeated forces, and appeared on the field of Waterloo on the 18th, just as Wellington had repulsed the last attack of Napoleon on the British position. At that critical moment Blücher was seen emerging from the wood of Frichemont on the French right; and the simultaneous irresistible charge of the British forces converted the retreat of the French into a tumultuous flight. The allied commanders met on the Genappes road, near the farm called Maison du Roi, where the British forces were halted. The pursuit was continued through the night by sixteen fresh Prussian regiments with terrible carnage. The allies soon again entered Paris, where Blücher remained for several months; but the health of the aged commander having declined, he retired to his Silesian residence at Kirblowitz, where he died on the 12th September 1819, aged seventy-seven. The life of Blücher has been written by Varnhagen von Ense (1827), Rauschnick (1836), Bieske (1862), and Scherr (1862).