Winterfeldt, Hans Karl von
Hans Karl von Winterfeldt
Prussian Major-General (1745-56), Lieutenant-General (1756-57)
born April 4, 1707, Vanselow, Pomerania
died September 8, 1757, Görlitz, Lusatia
Wintefeldt's education was imperfect and in later life he always regretted his want of familiarity with the French language.
In 1720, Winterfeldt entered the cuirassier regiment of his uncle, Major-General von Winterfeldt.
In 1722, after two years if service, Wintefeldt was promoted cornet in the same cuirassier regiment. His stature and soldierly bearing attracted the attention of Frederick William I, who transferred him to his Giant Grenadiers Regiment as a lieutenant. Before long he became a personal aide-de-camp to the king.
In 1732, Winterfeldt was sent with a party of selected non-commissioned officers to assist in the organization of the Russian Army. While the guest of Marshal Münnich at St. Petersburg, he fell in love with and married his cousin Julie von Maltzahn, who was the marshal's stepdaughter and a maid-of-honour to the Grand-Duchess Elizabeth.
In 1734, Winterfeldt became intimate with Crown Prince Frederick whom he accompanied in the Rhine campaign. This intimacy with Frederick made his position very delicate and difficult during the period when King Frederick William and his son were estranged. Nevertheless, Winterfeldt remained Frederick's constant friend throughout this period.
In 1740, on the accession of Frederick II to the throne, Winterfeldt was promoted major and appointed aide-de-camp to the new sovereign. The same year, when the War of the Austrian Succession broke out, Winterfeldt was sent on a mission to St. Petersburg, which, however, failed.
On April 10 1741, at the Battle of Mollwitz, Winterfeldt commanded a grenadier battalion with great distinction. On May 17, Winterfeldt won further glory in the celebrated minor combat of Rothschloss, where the Prussian hussars defeated the Austrians. One month from this day, Winterfeldt was made a colonel, as also was Zieten, the cavalry leader who had actually commanded at Rothschloss. After this Frederick chiefly employed Winterfeldt as a confidential staff officer to represent his views to the generals, a position in which he needed extraordinary tact and knowledge of men and affairs and, as a matter of course, made many enemies.
In the short peace before the outbreak of the Second Silesian War (the second part of the War of the Austrian Succession), Winterfeldt was constantly in attendance upon the king.
In 1744, when the Second Silesian War broke out, Frederick II employed Winterfeldt in the same capacity as before. Winterfeldt was instrumental in winning a series of successful minor engagements.
In 1745, Winterfeldt was promoted to major-general. His promotion was to date from January 1743. After the battle of Hohenfriedberg, which took place on June 4 1745, Frederick gave Winterfeldt the captaincy of Tatiau for his great services during this combat. On November 24, at Katholisch-Hennersdorf, where the sudden and unexpected invasion of the Austro-Saxons was checked by the vigour of Zieten, Winterfeldt arrived on the field in time to take a decisive share.
During the ten years' peace that preceded the next great war, Winterfeldt was in constant attendance upon the king, except when employed on confidential missions in the provinces or abroad.
In 1756, Winterfeldt was promoted to lieutenant-general and received the Order of the Black Eagle. During the same year, he was very active in collecting information as to the coalition that was secretly preparing to crush Prussia, and in preparing for the war. He took a leading part in the discussions which decided Frederick to strike the first blow. He took part in the Prussian invasion of Saxony. He was at Pirna with the king, and advised him against absorbing the Saxon prisoners into his own army.
In 1757, when the Prussian army proceeded to the invasion of Bohemia, Winterfeldt accompanied Schwerin in the advance on Prague. On May 6, he took part in the ferocious Battle of Prague. In June, after the defeat of Kolin, Winterfeldt, who had the confidence of Frederick, was entrusted with the conduct of the retreat. During these operations, Winterfeldt was obliged to work in close contact with the king's brother, Prince Wilhelm, the Duke of Brunswick-Bevern, Zieten and others of his enemies. The situation degenerated into an open conflict and the Prince of Prussia retired from the army. After these events, when Frederick gave Winterfeldt renewed marks of his confidence, the general animosity reached its height. On September 7, Winterfeldt fell a victim to his own bravery in the Combat of Moys near Gorlitz. His wound, the first serious wound he had ever received, proved fatal and he died on September 8.
This article incorporates texts from the article "Winterfeldt, Hans Karl von" of the Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed. London: Cambridge University Press, 1911), a publication now in the public domain.