Frei-Infanterie von Hordt

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Origin and History

The unit was created on April 12 1758 with 800 Austrian prisoners captured at Breslau and Schweidnitz and with recruits from Swedish-Pomerania and Mecklenburg. On April 20, it assembled at Altdamm near Stettin. It counted two battalions.

According to Bleckwenn's classification system, the unit is designated as “Frei-Infanterie Regiment F9”. The unit consisted of one battalion of:

  • 5 musketeer companies, each of:
    • 4 officers
    • 7 NCOs
    • 1 drummer
    • 150 privates
  • 2 x 1-pdr guns.

At the beginning of 1759, the two 1-pdr guns of the battalion were replaced by 3-pdr guns.

During the Seven Years' War, the unit was under the command of:

  • since April 12 1758: Johann Ludwig Count von Hordt (of Swedish origin, his real name was Johan Ludvig Hård), during his captivity (from 1759 to 1762), the regiment was under the command of Lieutenant-colonel Karl Friedrich von der Goltz

N.B.: In 1759, while participating in the operations in Brandenburg against the Russians, Count von Hordt was taken prisoners and brought the prison of the Peter-Paul fortress in St. Petersburg. He was not released because Frederick II had executed a Russian officer, who had started a rebellion in one of the border fortresses on the Oder. Count Hordt later became a Prussian general and wrote his memoirs.

In 1763, at the end of the Seven Years' War, the battalion was incorporated into the Prussian regiments of Pomerania.

Service during the War

In June 1758, the unit was part of Platen's corps opposing the Russian invasion of East Prussia. On July 14, during the Russian invasion of Brandenburg, the unit which was garrisoning Driesen on the Netze River, was forced to retire from this town when a Russian detachment tried to surround it. Hordt retired through Friedeberg towards Cüstrin. On July 15, the Russian cavalry caught up with the unit at Freideberg and attacked it. Immediately, 400 men of the unit (mostly former Austrian prisoners) deserted to the Russians. Nevertheless, Hordt managed to retire in good order with the rest of his unit, the militia and 3 guns and was timely relieved by Ruesch Hussars. Frederick immediately replenished the ranks of the depleted unit with soldiers from the land militia. On August 23, when Frederick's army crossed the Oder, the unit was assigned to the guard of the bridge at Alt-Gütebiese. On August 25, while Frederick's main army fought the battle of Zorndorf, the unit had to defend the bridge against the attacks of strong cavalry corps under Romanov which wanted to burn the bridge to prevent the retreat of the Prussian army. On August 28, it was part of a detachment under the Prince of Brunswick which was sent to Lower-Lusatia to prevent the incursions of Austrian light troops under Loudon. By September 26, the unit had returned to Dohna's army and it took part to the capture of Landsberg. On October 3, the unit was detached to Kolbatz to cover the line of communication with Stettin. On October 23, the unit was detached, along with 300 hussars, to Dolitz on the road that the retiring Russian army had taken. On October 24, a Russian force attacked this detachment but was repulsed. The regiment then wintered in Pomerania to prevent Swedish incursions.

At the beginning of the campaign of 1759, the regiment was operating with the Prussian army of Pomerania. Around September 28, near the village of Trebatsch midway between Beeskow and Lieberose in Brandenburg, Hordt, who was part of the rearguard, had been sent with 300 men of Belling Hussars to observe the movements of the Russian army. At sunset, Hordt sent back 30 of his hussars to the Prussian camp by the riverside (probably the Lieberoser Mühlenfliess). Meanwhile a cossack unit numbering some 500 men under Colonel Krasnajock had sent forward an advanced party of 200 cossacks who attacked and captured a Prussian outpost and the officer commanding it. Count Hordt had climbed a height to observe the movements of the Russians who had started to build camp just north of the Prussian camp, the two camps were separated only by a small river. When he saw the Russians capturing his outposts, he realised that he would soon be taken prisoner. Indeed, the cossacks turned their attention to Hordt who was only accompanied by an orderly. The latter managed to escape but Hordt's horse got stuck in a marsh. The cossacks beat him with the butt of their carbines but Hordt managed to fire his two pistols. He then fell from his horse and finally surrendered as prisoner of war. The cossacks took his purse and all his valuables and then gave him a small horse and brought him to Colonel Krasnajock who knew Hordt from earlier campaigns in Finland in the 1740s. Hordt was then introduced to General Tottleben who offered him soup as a politesse. Hordt was not exchanged, the Russians then refusing such exchanges because of an episode where Russian officers held prisoners by the Prussians had tried to mutiny and had been executed. Accordingly, Hordt was sent by Thorn (present-day Torun) to Königsberg (present-day Kaliningrad) where he stayed by the Russian governor of that city, General Korf. Later he lived in a house in the centre of the citadel (probably Peter-Paul fortress) of St. Petersburg. He had relative freedom in his prison and seems to have been able to walk around St. Petersburg. He had to wait the reign of Peter III before being freed. Meanwhile, at the end of September 1759, when Frederick realised that the Russian army was no more a threat for Brandenburg, he transferred a force (including Frei-Infanterie von Hordt) under Lieutenant-general Manteuffel to contain the Swedish operations in Pomerania. In mid October, Manteuffel's corps arrived at Pasewalk. He sent major Knobelsdorf at the head of 1 bn of Hordt Frei-Infanterie and 100 hussars behind the Swedish lines. On October 21, Knobelsdorf surprised the town of Demmin, seized the Swedish war chest and retired to Malchin closely followed by the Swedes.

By the Spring of 1760, the regiment was attached to Stutterheim's corps operating in Pomerania.

For the campaign of 1761, the regiment served once more in Pomerania where, along with Kleist Hussars, it withheld an army of 15,000 Swedes.

For the campaign of 1762, the battalion was attached to the army of the King. As part of Belling's corps, the regiment marched on Eger and Bayreuth to turn the flank of the Reichsarmee. By August 13, the first battalion of the regiment occupied outposts near Schweidnitz at Langenbielau.

Uniform

Privates

Uniform in 1758 - Source: Kronoskaf
Uniform Details
Headgear black tricorne without lace with 1 pewter button, 1 light blue pompom and 1 smaller similar pompom in each lateral corne
Neck stock black
Coat Prussian blue lined red; 2 pewter buttons on the right side and 2 white laced buttonholes on each side at the waist; 1 white laced buttonhole on each side in the small of the back; and 3 pewter buttons on each side to fasten the skirts forming the turnbacks
Collar light blue
Shoulder Straps Prussian blue fastened with a pewter button (left shoulder only)
Lapels light blue with 6 pewter buttons and 6 white laced buttonholes arranged 2 by 2 on both sides
Pockets horizontal pockets piped red, each with 2 pewter buttons
Cuffs light blue “Prussian-style” cuffs with 2 pewter buttons and 2 white laced buttonholes above each cuff on the sleeve
Turnbacks red fastened with a small pewter button
Waistcoat light blue with one row of pewter buttons
Breeches light blue
Gaiters tall black gaiters
Leather Equipment
Crossbelt white
Waistbelt white
Cartridge Box black
Bayonet Scabbard brown
Scabbard brown
Footgear black


N.B.: a second uniform was introduced during the war. It was almost identical to the initial uniform but with simpler white laced buttonholes and without collar. However, officers now had more elaborate silver embroidered buttonholes (no decoration around the buttonholes on the pockets).

Privates were armed with a short musket, a bayonet and a curved blade sabres.

NCOs

NCOs wore uniforms similar to those of the privates with the following distinctions:

  • tricorne with wide silver lace; a small siver button; and black and white quartered pompoms
  • no shoulder strap
  • silver edged collar and cuffs

NCOs were probably armed with a sabre and a half-pikes measuring 7 ½ Rhenish feet (2.37 m.).

NCOs also carried canes (normally attached to a button at the top of the right front while carrying the half-pike).

Officers

Officers had tricorne wearing a scalloped silver lace, a black cockade fastened with a small silver button and a silver strap; and 2 black and white pompoms (1 in each lateral corne of the tricorne). Their coats were similar to those of the privates but had no turnbacks nor shoulder straps; 2 white laced buttonholes on each pocket and 2 white laced buttonholes on each side in the small of the back.

Officers probably carried spontoons measuring 7 ½ Rhenish feet (2.36 m.).

Musicians

Musicians wore uniforms similar to those of the privates with the following distinctions:

  • collar, coat, cuffs and lapels edged white
  • 1 white rosette on each side around the upper button fastening the skirts of the coat
  • no shoulder strap
  • Prussian blue swallow nest on each shoulder (5 vertical and 1 horizontal white braids)

Colours

None of the Freikorps units carried official colours or standards to the exception of von Kleist Frei Korps.

References

Bleckwenn, Hans (Hrsg.): Das Altpreussische Heer - Erscheinungsbild und Wesen 1713-1807, Teil III: Übersichten altpreußischer Uniformgestaltung, Band 5: Die Uniformen der preußischen Technischen Truppen, Rückwärtigen Dienste und Kriegsformationen 1753-1786, Osnabrück 1984

Cremer, Peter: Die Preussischen Freikorps im Siebenjährigen Krieg: Auflistung der Freikorps, ihrer Einsätze, der Uniformen, der Chefs und deren Geschichte, KLIO-Arbeitsgruppe 7jähriger Krieg, Friderzianische Epoche, Manuskript, o.J.

Großer Generalstab, Kriegsgeschichtliche Abteilung II (Publisher). Die Kriege Friedrichs des Großen. Dritter Teil: Der Siebenjährige Krieg 1756–1763, Vol. 1 Pirna und Lobositz, Berlin 1901, Anlage 1-2

Jany, Curt: Geschichte der Königlich Preußischen Armee bis zum Jahre 1807, Zweiter Band: Die Armee Friedrichs des Großen 1740-1763, Reprint Osnabrück 1967

Acknowledgments

Michael Zahn and Digby Smith for the information provided for the creation of the initial version of this article.

Gunnar W. Bergman for the additional information on Count Hård