Brothers of the Blade: Two Lives against Napoleon
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There is a seemingly uncountable number of histories of the momentous British campaigns and battles of the Peninuslar War and the memoirs of British soldiers who fought in it are relatively common. Yet little has been published in English written by the French soldiers who faced them in battle, and even less by their allies, the Spanish. All this makes the campaign journal and memoir of two junior, but prominent Prussian cavalry officers in service of the Spanish crown one of the most interesting and valuable accounts of the Napoleonic Wars.
AN INTRODUCTION BY THE EDITOR
This book is based on the journals of the two young Prussian cavalry officers. One is the diary of Eugen von Hirschfeld who during the Napoleonic Wars, at the side of his beloved brother Moritz, gained fame in Germany and Spain as a resistance fighter, Freikorps leader, duellist and cavalrymen. Having first fled to England with the Schwarze Schar [‘Black Host’] of the Duke of Brunswick, both men joined Spanish service during the Peninsular War. The brothers were keen observers and journalists, and both kept a diary in which they recorded their tribulations and adventures in England and experiences in the service of the Spanish crown. When Eugen von Hirschfeld was killed in battle in January 1811, his anonymous diary was taken by his brother Moritz, who continued keeping it with his own, also anonymously. After the Battle of Saguntum on 25 October 1811, it was taken from the presumed dead Moritz von Hirschfeld and came into the possession of Italian General Giuseppe Federico Palombini, with whose troops the brothers had crossed swords several times before. In 1843, Palombini was living as a retired Fieldmarshal-Lieutenant of the Austrian army in the province of Saxony on the Grochwitz estate, which his wife had inherited. Next door lay the Wiederau estate, which was the ancestral home of Moritz von Hirschfeld's wife Ida von Kamptz. In conversation with her, Palombini was finally able to identify the authors of the diaries he had kept for so long, and immediately sent them to Moritz von Hirschfeld. After Moritz's death, on the 50th anniversary of the institution of the Iron Cross in 1863, his close friend General Heinrich von Holleben published a small edition of an abridged and slightly edited version of the manuscript.
I recently rediscovered the original, bound diaries and notes of the brothers in the Secret Prussian State Archive in Berlin. Eugen’s diary, which includes several of his beautiful watercolour maps and paintings, is framed by the memoirs which Moritz von Hirschfeld wrote based on his own diary, as well as several letters and thoughts on tactics, equipment and deployment of cavalry. Of great interest are notes in the margins, some by General Palombini, who comments on certain events from his own perspective, and by General Heinrich von Holleben, who added historical and factual remarks. Being in a position to compare the 1863 publication of the diaries with the original manuscripts, allowed me to include the all material which Holleben didn’t make use of in 1863. I also added historical and biographical footnotes in an effort to underpin this superb swashbuckling tale of travel, adventure and war with further and hopefully interesting information.
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BROTHERS OF THE BLADE ARCHIVE
WHERE YOU FIND ALL INSTALMENTS PUBLISHED SO FAR
Baron Joseph Friedrich von Palombini (also: Giuseppe Palombini), b. 3 December 1774 in Rome; † 5 April 1850 in Grochwitz) was a Napoleonic general and later Austro-Hungarian Fieldmarshal-Lieutenant. He was considered one of the most capable Italian generals under Napoleon
Heinrich Ludwig Friedrich Karl von Holleben (b. 9 May 1784 in Rudolstadt; † 11 June 1864 in Koblenz) was a Prussian infantry general and military writer.