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Karl Friedrich von dem Knesebeck
Field Marshal von dem Knesebeck
Born (1768-05-05)5 May 1768
Died 12 January 1848(1848-01-12) (aged 79)
Place of birth Karwe (Carwe) near Neuruppin, Prussia
Place of death Berlin, Prussia
Allegiance Kingdom of Prussia Prussia
Flagge Herzogtum Braunschweig Brunswick
Hesse Hesse
Service/branch Army
Years of service 1782–1848
Rank Field Marshal
Unit Regiment von Kalkstein, Regiment Duke of Brunswick, Prussian General Staff, Feldjäger-Korps
Commands held Feldjäger-Korps
Battles/wars Battle of Auerstedt
Battle of the Nations
Battle of Pułtusk
and many more.
Awards Pour le Mérite with Oak Leaves,
Order of the Black Eagle,
Iron Cross,
Order of Max Joseph,
French Order of Military Merit[Clarification needed],
Order of Leopold,
Order of St. Andrew,
Order of St. Vladimir
and the Order of the Sword.[1]

Karl Friedrich von dem Knesebeck (5 May 1768– 12 January 1848) was a Prussian field marshal and military adviser in the Napoleonic Wars.

Early life[]

Knesebeck was born on the family estate Karwe, close to Neuruppin in the Margraviate of Brandenburg, as the son of an officer who had served under King Frederick the Great in the Seven Years War. Knesebeck entered military service in 1783, when he was commissioned into the Regiment of General von Kalckstein in Magdeburg. As he showed a keen interest in poetry, he soon made friends with the later famous authors and poets Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué and Heinrich von Kleist, who served with him during his early career. In 1787 he was posted to the Regiment of the Duke of Brunswick.

With this regiment Knesebeck came to Silesia in 1790. As a young lieutenant and writer, he became friends with Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

Wars against France[]

In the campaign of 1792-94, Knesebeck was noticed by the Duke of Brunswick for his ability and diligence; The duke ordered him to his staff in 1794, where he was promoted several times (1797 Premierlieutenant, 1799 Captain, 1802 Major).

In 1803, as adjutant to General von Rüchel and motivated by him, Knesebeck wrote a memorandum to the Duke of Brunswick as to the effect of the need of a Landwehr (militia), which he called "the Legion of Honour" of the Prussian state. This idea has to be seen as a laudable base for the later reorganisation of the Prussian Army by Gerhard von Scharnhorst.

In December 1803, Knesebeck was promoted to Quartermaster in the General Staff. With a mission for William I, Elector of Hesse, he began a series of diplomatic services for Prussia.

For most of the War of the Fourth Coalition in 1806, Knesebeck served with General Rüchel’s staff. In the Battle of Auerstedt, it was reportedly due to Knesebeck’s decisive cavalry action that King Frederick William III of Prussia evaded capture.

Knesebeck showed strategic abilities with the planning of the victorious Battle of Pułtusk on 26 December 1806. The King awarded him the Pour le Mérite with Oak Leaves [2] and promoted him to Lieutenant-Colonel on 16 May 1807.

On 21 September 1807 Knesebeck was discharged from military service upon his own wish and returned to his estates in Neuruppin. However, he was called back into service and received a secret order to observe enemy action in Austria and to report any opportunity for military action.

In 1812 Knesebeck received new diplomatic task, the success of which would create the basis of the allies’ later victories against Napoleon in 1813. From the Prime Minister of Prussia, Hardenberg, he received the official mission to inform Tsar Alexander I of Russia that Napoleon would deem it necessary to invade Russia, should the tsar not lay down his arms. Simultaneously, he was secretly ordered by the King of Prussia to persuade the Russian Emperor into luring Napoleon into the wide extremities of his country and not to make peace until Napoleon’s Grande Armée had worn itself down. According to Knesebeck’s own writings, the tsar answered that he would not "make peace, even if I would have to retreat to Kasan".

On 6 March 1813 Knesebeck was promoted to Colonel and Adjutant-General to the king; in the same year he was promoted to Lieutenant-General. The war of the years 1813-1815 he largely experienced in the king’s headquarters, upon whom he did not always exercise a positive influence; in 1815 he tried to push Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher aside.

In 1815 Knesebeck married Adolphine Susanne Luise Karoline Johanna von Klitzing.

Knesebeck was called to diplomatic services in 1815 to negotiate with Vienna to the effect of an Austrian participation in the Seventh Coalition. Later he accompanied the king to London and took part in the Congress of Vienna.


Neuruppin Karwe Knesebeck

Memorial on the wall of the Church in Neuruppin-Karwe

In 1822 Knesebeck became commander of the mounted Feldjäger-Korps. In 1823 King Frederick William III gave him the estate Huysburg,[3] in recognition of his services. Knesebeck was promoted to General in 1825 and was appointed commander-in-chief of the army in the Grand Duchy of Posen. He received the Prussian Order of the Black Eagle in 1832.

On 7 October 1847 Knesebeck was offered a promotion to active field marshal by King Frederick William IV of Prussia, which he declined due to his advanced age. He requested his discharge from the army, which was granted him with a simultaneous promotion to field marshal. He died on 12 January 1848 in Berlin.

On the church in Neuruppin-Karwe there can be found a memorial, with the inscription:

"Carl Friedrich von dem Knesebeck, born in Carwe 1768, died in Berlin 1848. A Prussian field marshal, he fought for the honour of his King and Country in 17 battles and served to the glory of his fatherland from his 13th year until his death. Peace to his remains, honour to his memory."


  • “Lob des Krieges” (“Praise of war,” 1805), a poem which enjoyed great popularity[4]


  • Jürgen Hahn-Butry (Hrsg.): Preußisch-deutsche Gemeralfeldmarschälle und Großadmirale. Safari, Berlin 1937.
  • Olaf Jessen: Preußens Napoleon? Ernst von Rüchel. 1754-1823. Krieg im Zeitalter der Vernunft, Paderborn u. a. 2006.
  • A. von dem Knesebeck: Haus und Dorf Carwe in der Grafschaft Ruppin. Berlin 1865.
  • Dr. Karl Griemank (Hrsg.): Gneisenau. Ein Leben in Briefen. Koehler & Umelang, Leipzig 1939.


  1. A. von dem Knesebeck: Haus und Dorf Carwe in der Grafschaft Ruppin. Berlin 1865
  2. Persons awarded the Pour le Mérite
  3. German Huysburg Website
  4. Wikisource-logo Rines, George Edwin, ed. (1920) "Knesebeck, Karl Friedrich von dem" Encyclopedia Americana 

External links[]

Titles of nobility
Preceded by
Friedrich Wilhelm Leopold
Baron von dem Knesebeck
(in Prussia)

Succeeded by
Alfred Cuno Paridam
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