Freikorps von Kleist

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Origin and History

Uniform in 1760 - Source: detail of an illustration of Richard Knötel

On July 15 1759, Frederick II ordered the creation of a squadron of volunteer hussars to be attached to the Hussar Regiment No. 1 von Kleist. He entrusted the creation and command of this new unit to Colonel Friedrich Wilhelm von Kleist. This first squadron (80 men) was raised in Dresden and consisted mainly of Hungarian deserters. This squadron was placed under the command of Lieutenant Johann Michael von Kovacs.

At the end of 1759, the first 4 squadrons of dragoons (aka Horse-Grenadiers) of the Freikorps were organised. They initially consisted of Prussian volunteers from Berlin, Magdeburg, Mecklenburg and Leipzig but later recruited deserters. In January 1760, the new squadrons of dragoons were presented to Prince Henri. On February 27 of the same year, the new unit was accepted by Frederick II. The unit had 2 trumpeters and 4 hornblowers and each squadron consisted of:

  • 4 officers (5 in the Leibeskadron)
  • 10 NCOs
  • 1 surgeon
  • 1 smith
  • 3 drummers
  • 130 troopers

On February 28 1760, a second hussar squadron was raised.

In 1760, the first squadrons of Uhlanen (Polish lancers) of the Freikorps were raised.

As per a cabinet order of November 30 1760, the Freikorps received 4 additional squadrons of dragoons before the opening of the campaign of 1761, bringing its total strength to 8 squadrons of dragoons. The 4 new squadrons were ready by April 15 1761.

In December 1760, 3 additional squadrons of hussars were added to the Freikorps. These new squadrons were operational by May 1 1761, bringing the total strength of the hussars of the Freikorps to 5 squadrons.

On February 15 1761, the Freikorps received three 6-pdr and three 3-pdr guns.

In the spring of 1761, 3 Frei-Jäger companies, each of 100 privates, were also raised.

On May 1 1761, a first battalion of Hungarian infantry, known as "Green Croats" was added to the Freikorps.The battalion assembled in Wittenberg. On June 16, it was at the camp of Katzenhäusern. By June 18 of the same year, it counted 1 battalion of 3 companies. Each company had 100 privates.

On September 18 1761, Frederick II authorised many modifications to the Freikorps:

  • The battalion of "Green Croats" was reorganised into a regiment of Hungarian infantry counting 2 battalions. The second battalion was ready for service by September 1 1762.
  • The creation of 5 more squadrons of hussars bringing the strength of this unit of Freihusaren to 10 squadrons, the equivalent of a regular regiment of Prussian hussars. Indeed, the regiment received standards and the designation of Jung-Kleist Husaren. Recruitment of these new squadrons was completed by April 1 1762. The unit recruited mostly in Saxony, 2 squadrons being raised in Leipzig and 2 in Zerbst.
  • The creation of 2 additional squadrons of dragoons, thus increasing the unit to 10 squadrons of dragoons. The 2 new squadrons were ready by April 1 1762.

By 1762, the Freikorps counted 10 squadrons of Uhlanen (lancers). By April, the new hussars squadrons were at full strenght bringing the total force of the 10 hussar squadrons to:

  • 41 officers
  • 90 NCOs
  • 10 trompeters
  • 10 smiths
  • 10 surgeons
  • 1,000 troopers

By December 3 1762, the dragoons of the Freikorps had the following artillery:

  • 1 lieutenant
  • 1 artificer
  • 1 wagon driver
  • 1 Riemer
  • 1 Stellmacher
  • 1 Schirrmeister
  • 1 smith
  • 2 x 6-pdr guns served by 1 NCO, 8 gunners and 3 servants with 6 horses
  • 2 x 3-pdr guns served by 1 NCO, 8 gunners and 3 servants with 6 horses
  • 1 x 7-pdr howitzer served by 6 gunners and 6 bombardiers

During the Seven Years' War, the chef of the regiment was:

  • since July 15 1759: colonel Friedrich Wilhelm von Kleist

During the Seven Years' War, these commanders of the various sub-units of Freikorps von Kleist were:

  • for the hussars:
    • since July 15 1759: Lieutenant Johann Michael von Kovacs (killed in action at Charleston in 1779 during the American War of Independence)
    • from March 24 1760: R. von Deutsch
    • from January 1 1761: Major Karl August von Hohenstock
  • for the dragoons:
    • since July 15 1760: R. von Studnitz
    • from May 1 1761: Lieutenant-colonel Ernst von Bohlen
    • from November 25 1762: Major Johann Christian von Mahlen
    • from February 9 1763: M. von Kleist
  • for the Uhlanen:
    • since 1760: no information available yet”
  • for the "Green Croats":
    • since August 22 1761: Major Gottfried Heinrich von Berge
  • for the Frei-Jäger:
    • since May 1 1761: Captain Johann Tobias Kümpel

The entire Freikorps was disbanded in 1763 at the end of the Seven Years' War.

Service during the War

At the end of November 1759, the newly raised hussar squadron accompanied Kleist Regular Hussars in a raid in Bohemia, penetrating as far as Dux (present-day Duchcov), Aussig (present-day Ústí nad Labem) and Töplitz (present-day Teplice) and raising contributions. The monastery of Ossegg (present-day Osek) refused to pay and was plundered. Kleist then returned to Freiberg.

In 1760, Kleist launched another raid in Bohemia at the head of his Freikorps and of the Kleist Regular Hussars. He then joined Lieutenant-general Hülsen in Saxony. On August 20, 2 hussar squadrons fought at the combat of Strehla; 4 dragoon squadrons distinguished themselves in the same combat, attacking and pursuing Zweibrücken Chevaulégers, who lost 3 standards, and Baranyay Hussars. On November 2, Kleist advanced at the head of the vanguard towards Staupitz near Torgau. He drove back some Austrian cavalry units on Belgern, capturing 15 officers and 312 men. On November 3, 2 hussar squadrons and 4 dragoon squadrons took part in the battle of Torgau where they formed part of the Prussian vanguard. After the victory, they took part in the pursuit of the retiring Austrian army.

In mid September 1761, the 4 newly raised dragoon squadrons (ready since April 15) joined Platen's Corps and marched to the relief of Kolberg.

On August 2 1762, 2 dragoon squadrons and 1 Croat battalion fought at the combat of Teplitz where the dragoons were deployed on the left flank. On October 29, 10 hussar squadrons, 10 dragoon squadrons, 10 lancer squadrons, 2 Croat battalions and 2 jäger companies were present at the battle of Freiberg.

Uniform

Uniforms of the Hussars

Troopers

Uniform in 1760 - Source: detail of an illustration of Adolf Menzel
Uniform after Hans Bleckwenn - Source: Frédéric Aubert
Uniform Details
Headgear brown kolback with a red orange bag, green plume, green cords and red tassels
Neck stock black
Pelisse yellowish green
Fur trim black or brown (as per Becher) or white (as per Schmalen)
Lace white braids and cords
Buttons white
Dolman red orange edged white with white braids and cords and white buttons
Collar red orange edged white
Cuffs black pointed cuffs edged white or red edged white (as per Bleckwenn)
Cloak white
Trousers red orange
Leather Equipment
Crossbelt white
Waist-sash green with red barrels (as per Becher) or yellow with green barrels (as per Schmalen) or yellow (as per Bleckwenn)
Scabbard black decorated with white metal
Boots black Hungarian boots
Horse Furniture
Saddlecloth red, wearing a white crowned monogram (FR) and bordered with a green scalloped lace edged white
Sabretache red, wearing a white crowned monogram (FR) and bordered with a green scalloped lace


Troopers were armed with a short, curved sabre, two pistols and a carbine.

NCOs

NCOs wore the same uniform as the troopers with the following differences:

  • white cords and tassels on the kolback
  • cuffs edged with a more elaborate lace

Officers

Becher, Johann Christian: Wahrhaftige Nachricht derer Begebenheiten, so sich in dem Herzogthum Weimar by dem gewaltigen Kriege Friedrichs II., Königs von Preußen, mit der Königin von Ungarn, Marien Theresen, samt ihren Bundesgenossen zugetragen, Weimar, ca. 1757-1760

  • Original (Stiftung Weimarer Klassik - Herzogin Anna Amalia Bibliothek Weimar)
  • Copy (Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin)

Officers wore the same uniform as the troopers with the following differences:

  • white plume with silver cords and tassels on the kolback
  • silver button loops
  • a black and silver sash around the waist
  • yellow boots

Musicians

no information available yet

Uniforms of the dragoons

Knötel, Richard: Uniformkunde, Lose Blätter zur Geschichte der Entwicklung der militärischen Tracht, Rathenow 1890-1921, vol. I, plate 7 (Deutsches Historisches Museum)

Privates

Uniform in 1760 - Source: detail of an illustration of Adolf von Menzel
Uniform after Hans Bleckwenn - Source: Frédéric Aubert
Uniform Details
Headgear black bearskin with a small white metal front plate decorated with a black Prussian eagle; a Russian green skull cap with a silver spike
Neck stock black
Coat Russian green with 8 pewter buttons and white button loops with white tassels (arrangred 2-2-2-2) on each side and 1 white button loop with a white tassel on each side at the small of the back and 3 pewter buttons on each side to fasten the skirts forming the turnbacks
Collar Russian green
Shoulder Straps green fastened with a pewter button (left shoulder only); white aiguillette on the right shoulder
Lapels none
Pockets horizontal pockets with 2 pewter buttons and 2 white button loops with white tassels
Cuffs Russian green "Swedish style" cuffs, each with 2 pewter buttons and 2 white button loops with white tassels
Turnbacks Russian green fastened with a small pewter button
Waistcoat Russian green with 12 pewter buttons
Breeches buff leather
Leather Equipment
Crossbelt white
Waistbelt white
Cartridge Box n/a
Bayonet Scabbard n/a
Scabbard brown
Footgear black boots
Horse Furniture
Saddlecloth Russian green with rounded corners; bordered with a wide white braid; Frederick's white crowned "FR" cypher in the lower rear corner
Housings green rounded housings; bordered with a wide white braid; Frederick's white crowned "FR" cypher in the centre
Blanket roll n/a


Troopers were armed with a sword, a pair of pistols, a musket and a bayonet.

NCOs

NCOs wore the same uniform as the private with the following differences:

  • silver button loops
  • no shoulder strap

Officers

Officers wore the same uniform as the private with the following differences:

  • black tricorne scalloped silver (as per Menzel and Bleckwenn, Schmalen illustrates the same bearskin as the troopers)
  • silver button loops
  • no turnbacks
  • a black and silver sash around the waist

They carried an officer stick.

Musicians

Black tricorne with red plumetis and a small white button.

Hanging green sleeves edged white and fastened at the waist.

The laces of the musicians consisted of a white braid. The coat, pockets, collar and cuffs were decorated with a wavy white braid. Shoulder decorated with 6 vertical laces and 1 horizontal lace. No button loops.

Uniforms of the Uhlanen

Troopers

Uniform Details
Headgear red fez trimmed with a black fur band and decorated with a white plume (left side)
Neck stock none
Coat long knee length Cossack style green kaftan lined red decorated on each sleeve with a red horizontal stripe within a wide white band
Waistcoat dark olive green with narrow red cuffs
Trousers dark olive green baggy trousers
Leather Equipment
Crossbelt white
Waist belt natural leather
Scabbard black decorated with white metal
Boots black hussar boots
Horse Furniture
Saddlecloth red, wearing a white crowned monogram (FR) and bordered with a green scalloped lace
Housings red bordered with a green scalloped lace
Sabretache orange, wearing a white crowned monogram (FR) and bordered with a green scalloped lace


Troopers were armed with a short, curved sabre, two pistols and a lance with a green (upper part) and red (lower part) swallow tailed pennant decorated with a black “FR” cipher.

NCOs

NCOs wore uniforms similar to those of the troopers with the following differences:

  • white plume tipped black on the fez
  • cuffs of the waistcoat edged silver
  • pennant: upper part black with a yellow sun, lower part white with a black eagle

Officers

Officers wore the same uniform as the troopers with the following differences:

  • long knee length Cossack style green kaftan lined red and edged silver; decorated on each sleeve with a red horizontal stripe within a wide silver band
  • yellow boots

Musicians

Musicians wore the same uniform as the troopers with the following differences:

  • red fez with a white turban decorated with a white plume (left side) and with a white badge carrying the Prussian black eagle
  • long knee length Cossack style green kaftan lined red and edged white; decorated on each sleeve with horizontal red laces ended with red tassels
  • red waistcoat with pointed green cuffs edged white
  • red baggy trousers
  • yellow boots

The musicians used bagpipes, flutes and cymbals.

Uniforms of the Green Croats

Basically the uniforms of these Green Croats were hussar uniforms where the pelisse was replaced by a coat.

Privates

Uniform in 1761 - Source: Richard Knötel
Uniform Details
Headgear black felt shako with white cords and tassels (a black tricorne without lace with a small pewter button and small pompoms in the lateral cornes was also worn)
Neck stock black
Coat dark olive green Hungarian style coat with 4 white button loops with white tassels on the chest on each side and 3 pewter buttons on each side to fasten the skirts forming the turnbacks
Collar none
Shoulder Straps none
Lapels none
Pockets horizontal pockets with 2 pewter buttons
Cuffs green pointed cuffs edged white
Turnbacks green(also described as red)
Waistcoat dark olive green dolman edged white with white braids and pewter buttons
Trousers dark olive green Hungarian trousers with white lace
Gaiters none
Leather Equipment
Crossbelt white
Waistbelt red sash
Cartridge Box black
Bayonet Scabbard n/a
Scabbard brown
Footgear black shoes or black Hungarian boots


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

NCOs

NCOs wore the same uniform as the privates with the following differences:

  • black and white cords on the mirliton
  • 6 pairs of cords on the coat (arranged 1-2-3)
  • a black tricorne laced silver
  • pointed cuffs edged with wide silver lace

Officers

Officers wore the same uniform as the privates with the following differences:

  • a black tricorne with a silver scalloped lace and a black cockade fastend with a silver strap and a small silver button; silver tassels in the cornes
  • wide silver lace on the breeches
  • a black and silver sash around the waist
  • black boots

Musicians

Drummers wore a black tricorne with a black cockade fastened with a small white button and small white pompoms in the cornes; a green coat with red buttonholes and tassels and 5 horizontal red laces ended at each end by a red tassel on each sleeve; red dolman edged white with white braids and buttons; red Hungarian trousers; short black Hungarian boot.

Drums had light green rims decorated with black grenades with white flames. They are also described with red rims decorated with blue grenades with white flames.

Uniforms of the Jägers

Privates

Uniform in 1761 - Source: Kronoskaf
Uniform Details
Headgear black unlaced tricorne with a small pewter button and a green pompom in each lateral corne
Neckstock black
Coat dark olive green lined red, 2 pewter buttons on the right side at the waist and 3 pewter buttons on each side to fasten the skirts forming the turnbacks
Collar red
Shoulder Straps green fastened with a small pewter button
Lapels red with 6 pewter buttons (arranged 2-2-2) on each side
Pockets horizontal pockets, each with 2 pewter buttons
Cuffs red (in the Swedish pattern) with 2 pewter buttons
Turnbacks red fastened with a pewter button
Waistcoat dark olive green
Breeches dark olive green
Gaiters black
Leather Equipment
Crossbelt black
Waistbelt black
Cartridge Box black
Bayonet Scabbard brown
Scabbard brown
Footgear black shoes


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

N.B.: we found no direct statement as to the armament of Kleist Freijäger but Wernitz mentions that much of the authority concerning equipment was left to the chief ("Inhaber") who tried to equip his soldiers at the least expense. So it is probable that captured foreign muskets were often handed out. However, a new recruit who brought a rifle with him would most probably be integrated in the Freikorps as a Jäger and would keep his own weapon.

NCOs

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

  • wide silver lace on the tricorne with black within a white pompom in each lateral corne
  • silver laced collar and cuffs

Officers

Officers had silver scalloped tricorne with black and white quartered pompoms, a black cockade fastened with a silver strap and a silver button. Their coats were similar to those of the privates but without shoulder strap or turnbacks.

Musicians

The hornblowers wore the same uniform as the privates.

Uniforms of the Artillerymen

Privates

Uniform Details
Headgear black unlaced tricorne with a small yellow
Neckstock black
Coat Russian green lined sea green, 7 yellow buttons (arranged 1-2-1) on each side, 2 yellow buttons on the right side at the waist and 3 yellow buttons on each side to fasten the skirts forming the turnbacks
Collar none
Shoulder Straps n/a
Lapels none
Pockets horizontal pockets, each with 2 yellow buttons
Cuffs Russian green (in the Prussian pattern) with 2 yellow buttons on the sleeve above each cuff
Turnbacks sea green
Waistcoat Russian green with yellow buttons
Breeches Russian green
Gaiters black
Leather Equipment
Crossbelt white
Waistbelt white
Cartridge Box n/a
Bayonet Scabbard none
Scabbard brown
Footgear black shoes


NCOs

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

  • wide yellow lace on the tricorne with a black and white quartered pompom
  • cuffs edged yellow

Officers

Officers had gold laced tricorne. Their coats were similar to those of the privates but without shoulder strap or turnbacks. Their waistcoat was edged yellow. They wore black boots.

Musicians

no information available yet

Colours

Guidons of the Hussars

During the winter of 1761-62, when the unit became a full strength hussar regiment, it received swallow tailed standards with gilt “FR” finials and silver cord and tassels. The lances used as staffs for the standards were white.

Regimental standards: white field. Centre device consisting of a white medallion surrounded by a silver laurel wreath and surmounted by a silver crown. The medallion is decorated with a black eagle surmounted by a white scroll edged silver bearing the silver motto "Pro Gloria et Patria". Under the centre device, a scene depicting a soldier surrendering to a hussar. Between the centre device and the scene at the bottom, a trophy of arms (flags, drums, cannon and cannonballs). Corner monograms (crowns, laurel wreaths, ciphers) in silver.

Guidons of the Dragoons

The guidons had a black field.

Standards of the Uhlanen

Quite unusually, this unit seems to have carried two different standards a black and a red. We do not know which one was considered as the “Leib standard”. These square standards had silver cords and tassels and a gilt finial with the “FR” cipher.

Black standard: black field. Centre device consisting of a white medallion surrounded by a silver laurel wreath and surmounted by a silver crown. The medallion is decorated with a black eagle surmounted by a black scroll bearing the golden motto "Pro Gloria et Patria". Under the centre device, a trophy of arms (flags, drums, cannon, kettle-drums and cannonballs). Corner monograms (crowns, laurel wreaths, ciphers) in silver.

Red standard: red field. Centre device consisting of a white medallion surrounded by a silver laurel wreath and surmounted by a silver crown. The medallion is decorated with a black eagle surmounted by a black scroll bearing the golden motto "Pro Gloria et Patria". Under the centre device, a trophy of arms (flags, drums, cannon, kettle-drums and cannonballs). Corner monograms (crowns, laurel wreaths, ciphers) in silver.

Colours of the "Green Croats"

no information available yet

Colours of the Jägers

The jägers probably did not carry colours.

References

Becher, Johann Christian: Wahrhaftige Nachricht derer Begebenheiten, so sich in dem Herzogthum Weimar by dem gewaltigen Kriege Friedrichs II., Königs von Preußen, mit der Königin von Ungarn, Marien Theresen, samt ihren Bundesgenossen zugetragen, Weimar, ca. 1760 (Stiftung Weimarer Klassik)

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.

Funcken, L. and F.; Les uniformes de la guerre en dentelle

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

Knötel, R.; Uniformkunde, Lose Blätter zur Geschichte der Entwicklung der militärischen Tracht, vol. 1 plate 7, Rathenow 1890-1921

Menzel, Adolf v.: Die Armee Friedrichs des Großen in ihrer Uniformierung, Berlin 1851-1857

Schmalen, Accurate Vorstellung der sämtlich Koeniglichen Preusischen Armee Worinnen zur eigentlichen Kenntniss der Uniform von jedem Regiment ein Officier und Gemeiner in Völliger Montirung und ganzer Statur nach dem Leben abgebildet sind, Nürnberg 1762

N.B.: the section Service during the War is mostly derived from our articles depicting the various campaigns, battles and sieges.

Acknowledgments

Tomasz Karpiński from Gniezno/Poznań, Michael Zahn and Digby Smith for their contribution to this article