Friday, March 3, 2017

Individual Spotlight: August Friedrich von Itzenplitz

Image result for august friedrich von itzenplitz
An officer of the Itzenplitz Regiment by Menzel
Dear Reader,

As a result of the famous Swiss diarist, Ulrich Bräker, many know that August Friedrich von Itzenplitz had a "Donner und Blitzen" reputation as a harsh commander of men, but did you know that he rose from the ranks? The Itzenplitz family served the Hohzollern dynasty of Prussia for much of the early modern period, and Friedrich August grew up in a family with a tradition of military service. 

August Friedrich von Itzenplitz enlisted in the Prussian army 1709 as a private, at age 16. He was assigned to an infantry regiment, sources disagree on whether this was IR 12 or IR 13, the unit which would later bear his name. Both after the Seven Years' War, and in the mid-nineteenth century, it was thought that he first served in IR. 13.  Itzenplitz served with distinction in the War of Spanish Succession, and was present at the bloody battle of Malplaquet in 1709. He transferred to leadership in 1715, when he was promoted to the rank of Ensign. 

By the time Frederick the Great ascended to the throne in 1740, Itzenplitz was an experienced junior officer, of the type which would carry Prussia to victory in the mid-eighteenth century. He served with distinction at the Battle of Mollwitz, and commanded both the IR 29 and IR 1 in the War of Austrian Succession. Itzenplitz met his greatest success in this conflict at the Battle of Hohenfriedeberg, where he commanded IR 1 (which exploited the charge of the Bayreuth Dragoons) and won the Pour le Merite. 

Itzenplitz was promoted to Major-General in the summer of 1750, and received the unit who would bear his name, IR 13/von Itzenplitz, in 1751. At the beginning of the Seven Years' War, he consistently held a brigade command, and successfully commanded infantry assaults at Lobositz, Prague, and Rossbach. At Rossbach in particular, he earned distinction, as he commanded a brigade of Grenadier battalions in Prussian first line, and his troops captured a battery of five cannon. Itzenplitz missed the Battle of Leuthen, remaining in Saxony to watch the French and Reichsarmee. 

Itzenplitz gained further notoriety in the retreat from Bohemia after the Battle of Kolin. A battery of Prussian guns was left exposed to a mixed force of Croats and mounted troops in the withdrawal from Prague. Itzenplitz, seeing this, rode up to the guns with a single adjutant, and remained with the gunners until the artillery was safely withdrawn. Itzenplitz and his adjutant were exposed to a heavy fire, and his aide received a minor wound. 

In 1758, he was given independent command of a Corps of 12,000 men, which he led in a march to join King Frederick's army. For successfully organizing this independent command, he was awarded the order of the Black Eagle, the highest honor for Prussian nobility. In 1759, he successfully raided Imperial territory, before meeting his end during the disaster at Kunersdorf. At Kunersdorf, he commanded the center right division of the second infantry line, behind Johann Dietrich von Hülsen. In this battle, he was non-fatality wounded in the head, but his leg was mangled when his horse collapsed on him, and he took a musket ball through the hand. Together, these wounds forced the 76 year old general to succumb to blood loss, and he was taken off the field. Itzenplitz died a month after the battle from these wounds, but was recognized by contemporary Prussians as a hero.

Today, a number of individuals in Europe and North America continue to remember the legacy of Itzenplitz's unit, later known as IR 13. Through public history events, these reenactors seek to keep knowledge of the Seven Years' War alive. You can find a link to the North American site here.

Thanks for Reading,

Alex Burns


  1. Just discovered your blog
    Simply inspiring
    Many thanks

  2. Very interesting; thanks. I had no idea Von Itzenplitz had started in the ranks; pretty unusual for a general of Frederick's! I am just doing flags and uniform plates for my blog on IR13 at, as I am producing the infantry flags for the Prussians at Rossbach. I'll probably go on to expand the Prussian flag list but I haven't yet decided which battle to base them on. (I've already produced many for French regiments of the SYW. They are sued by wargamers.)

    Your blog has some fascinating material and I've only just discovered it; yesterday I found the material you have on the de la Pegna paintings.

    Thanks again.



  3. Sorry - that should be "used by wargamers", not "sued"!



  4. If Itzenplitz's birth year of 1693 is accurate, which is the year that your first mention of his age of 16 in 1709 assumes that his birth year was, then he would have been 66 years old at his death, not 76.