Oelhafen von Schöllenbach, Georg Christoph
Oelhafen von Schöllenbach, Georg Christoph
Franconian General Feldwachtmeister (1762-66), Feldmarshall Lieutenant (1766-79)
born March 5, 1710, Altdorf, Franconia
died July 3, 1779, Eismannsberg, Franconia
Georg Christoph Oelhafen von Schöllenbach was born March 5, 1710 in Altdorf, a small Nuremberg town. He was second son to Christoph Elias Oelhafen and Anna Maria nee Gewandschneider von Weiherhaus. The family was one of the so-called gerichtsfähige (capable of sending members as functionaries to courts of justice) families, forming the second rank in the Nuremberg society.
Oelhafen’s career was typical for Nuremberg officers of the time. After a short study in Altdorf (matriculated in 1726), he decided on a typical career of younger sons: from April 1, 1728, he served as a volunteer in the Nuremberg company of Johann Sebastian Haller in the Franconian district infantry regiment Möck. He probably acquired his knowledge through experience and practice.
On April 25, 1730, Oelhafen received his first officer's position as an ensign in the Nuremberg company of Lieutenant-Colonel Christoph Achatius Hülß von Rathberg (Infantry Regiment Tastungen). In this rank Oelhafen participated in the defence of the Imperial fortress of Philippsburg (June 3 to July 18, 1734) in the War of Polish Succession (1733-35), where he is mentioned honourably.
Oelhafen finally became lieutenant 1734 in the Franconian infantry regiment of Heinrich Philipp Hoelzl von Sternstein. Oelhafen was promoted according to his seniority and was now in the company of Johann Ludwig Quintin. Up to the rank of captain, it was possible and customary to change between regiments and companies within the individual contingents. Merit was rewarded, as long as death befell higher ranking colleagues in time.
From 1738 to 1740 Oelhafen, as usual in noble families, undertook an educational journey to “Augsburg, Munich, Venice, through Lombardy and the Papal States to Naples, and from there back again via Rome, through Florence, Genoa and Piedmont, through the most important part of France, the Austrian and Dutch Netherlands and then up the Rhine, to Durlach and finally back to the fatherland through Swabia.” In Venice he had visited General Schmettau, renowned defender of Candia (Crete).
During this journey, Oelhafen changed back to his old regiment, which was now owned by the Nuremberg General Johann Sebastian Haller von Hallerstein. In the Leibkompanie, he became captain-lieutenant on April 3, 1739.
On May 3, 1741 Oelhafen's promotion to captain took place and he received a company (formerly Johann Wolfgang Praun’s company). He now had reached the highest rank in the Franconian military, on whose award the Imperial City of Nuremberg could decide independently.
During the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-48), Captain Oelhafen initially served as Nuremberg's marching commissar during the marches of French troops through the territory of the Imperial City.
In 1744 and 1745, we find Oelhafen as captain of the Franconian contingent in Philippsburg. The Franconian district had provided part of the garrison since the end of the War of Spanish Succession (only one company since the end of the War of Polish Succession). Oelhafen had come to Philippsburg in May 1744 in a difficult situation. The Imperial fortress was under an Imperial, i.e. Bavarian, governor, who was thus a party to the war, while the Franconian district was neutral. So he had to try to keep his company out of the fighting.
The next step in Georg Christoph Oelhafen's career was his promotion to the regiment staff. Staff officers and generals were appointed and paid by the Franconian district (for the portion of the salary exceeding the captain's fee), not by the individual estates. The few lucrative staff positions were to be allocated as fairly as possible according to the contribution to costs made by the various Stände. At the same time, all officers should have the opportunity to advance to higher ranks, as at the level of the company officers, promotions were normally made strictly according to ancienneté.
On November 20, 1750, Oelhafen, as the most senior captain, was promoted to major. On September 20, 1755 he was promoted to colonel. Two senior officers had made room: Colonel Varell had been promoted, and another officer had died.
At the beginning of the Seven Years War, Oelhafen was used several times for negotiations with the notorious free corps-leader Mayr during the Prussian invasion of Franconia. He then marched out as colonel and commander of Infantry Regiment Varell. Wounded near Roßbach, Oelhafen is especially mentioned in 1759 during the Combat of Korbitz near Meissen on September 21, 1759, when the Imperial Army tried to cut off the Prussian troops of Generals Finck and Wunsch from Torgau and Leipzig. The battalion commanded by him had “acquired particular fame and honour,” it was said, but was also among those who “suffered a great deal.” A source also refers to the pursuit of a Prussian corps by the Imperial Army in September 1760 and the battles before the siege of Wittenberg in October of the same year.
Oelhafen was also used independently of his regiment. In 1759 and 1760 he commanded the Grenadier Corps of the Reichsarmee.
Several times in 1761, Colonel Oelhafen asked for the charge of major-general, but in vain.
On April 24, 1762, Oelhafen, as the longest-serving colonel, received the rank of major-general after an above-average waiting period. There is no satisfactory explanation for this promotion. It is possible that every regiment wanted to have a general in service and one had to promote a number of colonels in order to take seniority into account. As a general, he was not particularly conspicuous during the last year of the war.
Shortly after the end of the war, the District of Franconia had graciously promoted a number of colonels to major-generals. But Oelhafen was not in for promotion at first. Only when Field Marshal Lieutenant Varell died on November 6, 1765 did the infantry regiment in which Oelhafen had spent most of his career become free. It was awarded to him on December 4, 1765. At the same time he became Feldmarshall Lieutenant.
Oelhafen was no longer involved in the daily business of the Nuremberg military. After the Seven Years' War, he retreated to his Eismannsberg estate and led a quiet life. Perhaps his wound from the Battle of Rossbach played a role after all? Perhaps also his blindness in the last years of his life.
Georg Christoph Oelhafen died on July 3, 1779 and was buried five days later in the crypt of the church in Eismannsberg. He had remained unmarried and without children.
A portrait from 1779 shows Oelhafen in an uniform obviously after the example of Austrian general's uniforms. See the notes on General Varell.
Roider, Klaus: Georg Christoph Oelhafen von Schöllenbach, Nürnberger Offizier und fränkischer General. Jahrbuch des Historischen Vereins von Mittelfranken 101, 2010/2012, pp. 71-99.
Klaus Roider for the initial version of this article