Friday, November 16, 2018

In the Service of Two Kings: Polish and Prussian Common Soldiers in the 18th Century (Part 1)

Painting of Polish soldiers by J. Ch. Mock,
"Kampament wojsk polskich i saskich pod Wilanowem w 1732 r.",
Muzeum Wojska Polskiego w Warszawie.
Today, we have a post from Dr. Tomasz Karpinski, on Prussian and Polish common soldiers.[1] Few stories of common soldiers and their lives serving in either the Polish or Prussian Armies are passed down to us from written sources. It is not easy to follow someone's life. It is even harder if this person lived 250 years ago, especially when they failed to write anything down or leave behind a diary, a letter, or other writings. In these cases, still another way we can learn something more about common soldiers. This source is the Krixrecht or Kriegs-recht, or in simpler terms court martial records. 

Some time ago I discovered a very interesting article about former African-American slaves in Hessian service during war of American Revolutionary War. This brought me to learn about a very big database of soldiers served in "Hessian" units during that war. By curiosity I found out that also a few Poles served in the Hessian Landgrave’s Subsidientruppen army. It was strange to me that such men would choose hard service so far from home. But was the distance and their life choices really that exceptional? 

Over the next few weeks, I would like to describe the stories of 4 men that served in army of both Prussian and Polish armed forces. Their lives were simple and in many aspects still stand unknown to us, but understanding such lives is frequently the job of historians. The central basis for these stories are of course manuscripts of so called inquisitions - questioning and describing the criminal activities of those men, which have been in archives. Only a small fraction of these records survived the fires of the Second World War. Digging up these stories exposing them to the light of day allows us to understand a topic rarely examined by English-language historians, because of language barrier, etc. In today's post, we will examine the first of these four men: Michael Schultz.

Elbing in the 18th Century
Michał Szulc was of rather medium height, 73 1/2 inches (about 176,4 cm). Unfortunately we do not know how old he was. He joined the Polish Army, and had been recruited on the 24th December 1737 to the Prinz Foot Regiment, which stationed at this time in Elbing (Elbląg, PL). He served in company commanded by Lieutenant Baltazar Bystram, who was promoted to captain in 1740. As a younger inexperienced soldier, he was assigned to a musketeer company.

 In his court martial records, we read:
"... when he was at furloughed in Danzig (Gdańsk, PL), he secretly married a woman, and upon his return, he kept that secret until it was revealed. He then deserted to the King of Prussia on 21 April 1744 and joined Möllendorfs' Dragoons [DR6] o. He served (in this Prussian unit) for two years, and during “the grassing” (and eighteenth-century term for pasturing) he deserted [from that unit] and asked for a pardon (from the Polish Army), which he received and was returned to his previous company with another deserter named Both, and once again swore loyalty to articles of war by the flag. He received Tractament [XVIII Century "pay" name] and uniform regularly with the others, and after 4 months with together with musketeer Both and one more musketeer ran away during the night from the regiment. He crossed the wall and ditches and cost his company loss of his weapon and uniform. On 17th this month when one of the NCO's was returning from furlough from Danzig, [Schultz] has been seen in Elbling in a suburb by others soldiers of the Garrison, and was identified, captured and taken under arrest. By the inquisition he could bring nothing llogical for his defense, whereupon for his malicious desertion by the laws of war and 8th article accordingly he was sentenced to death by hanging."[2]

In the eighteenth-century, furlough was not something that everyone could acquire, and it was often denied to common soldiers for fear of their deserting. We do not know what had happened in Danzig, and what was the name of woman who Michael decided to marry. Michael likely chose to keep that fact a secret for financial reasons, since soldiers marriage usually required the permission of the Regimental Chef who needed to be paid off for such agreements (Ger. Frau-schein).Clearly Michael fell in love or was being reckless, not taking into consideration those obvious obstacles and made a promise he could not have kept. The girl lived quite a distance from city where Schultz served in the garrison. When the whole affair (if we can use this word?) finally came to light (maybe the girl came to search for her husband?) and Michael was afraid of punishment and fled to Prussia, also changing his branch of service from infantrymen to cavalrymen. Maybe Michael was born into military service or really enjoyed this way of living. It is unknown when Schultz joined Möllendorfs' Dragoon Regiment, nor if it was in 1744 soon after he deserted from Prinz Regiment and took part in War of Austrian Succession or he wandered some time before joined the army again. 

Schultz was likely born in Prussia (Not the kingdom, but the region in 18th century Poland),and he chose to join a regiment which had its quarters nearby at Königsberg (Królewiec, today Kaliningrad, RU). Soon after, he deserted from Prussian service as well, and was willing to rejoin the [Polish] Crown Army. The reasons might be lighter duty or less rigor - we cannot say for certain. He did not flee alone, but took with himself a friend named Both. Serving his Polish Majesty August III wasn’t exactly the stuff of dreams, and after 4 months three soldiers (Schultz, Both and one more musketeer) deserted again. For Schultz it was probably last time. Michael decided that military life had nothing more to offer, and he laid low as a civilian until he was caught in April 1751, 7 year after his first desertion. The treacherous musketeer who had sworn his loyalty twice (three times including Prussian service) was punished with the highest vigor, although it turns out Michael was not killed.

A portrait of General Goltz, Chef of Schultz's Regiment
The court martial had not yet finished with Michael, however Two months after being captured and convicted he was sent deep into territory to Poland to Częstochowa (PL):

"As regards to convicted Michael Schullza, although for double desertion the holy Krixrechts recommends the gibbet, which is a just punishment for this crime, I will give him his life, but for the first 3 Fridays he shall run the gauntlet of 200 men 10 times, and after that pro comendo caput general major de Goltz has ordered for this Schultz to be sent to Fortress Częstochowa under secure guard, so he is unable to desert again. After running the gauntlet he will serve in this prison [working with a barrow] 1 year and 6 weeks after which He can rejoin his regiment or not."[3] 

This is the last trace of Michael Schultz in the documentary record. Over the next few weeks, we will examine of the lives of three more such common soldiers from court martial records. If you enjoyed this post, or any of our other posts, please consider liking us on facebook, or following us on twitter. Finally, we are dedicated to keeping Kabinettskriege ad-free. In order to assist with this, please consider supporting us via the donate button in the upper right-hand corner of the page. As always:

Thanks for Reading,

Dr. Tomasz Karpinksi

[1] Dr. Tomasz Karpinksi works as an archivist in Poznań. He has published on the Prussian and Polish armies of the eighteenth-century, and works to promote knowledge regarding military cultures in the ancien régime. 
[2]Archiwum Główne Akt Dawnych, Archiwum Branickich z Rosi, Militaria,  Pudło 7, plik 3;
[3]Archiwum Główne Akt Dawnych, Archiwum Branickich z Rosi, Militaria,  Pudło 9, plik 7;