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A Waterloo KIA & Query: German or French Military Units?


Owen
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I have just bought a new Brunswick Waterloo medal, named to Johann Siebrecht of the Brunswick Leib-Battalion. I don't have it in my hands yet...it is inbound from Spink. Johann Siebrech (from Meinbrexen) was killed in action at Waterloo.

As soon as iI have the medal, I will post something a bit more specific.

In the mean time, I am trying to do some armchair research - a bit of a rush on as I am due to head overseas for another stint shortly.

Early research tells me that two other Siebrecht's (also from Meinbrexen) were killed or wounded during the Napoleonic wars in the period 1811-1812 (in Wesphalian service ...perhaps with the French army?). These 2 men are:

1. Ludwig Siebrecht, a 'Schmied' (a metal smith) with the "Ouvriers-Kom";

2. Wilhelm Bernhard Siebrecht, a Soldat (Private soldier) with the 3rd Battalion, Feld Regiment.

I have no idea if the 3 men are related, but it seems likely - i.e. all with the same surname and living in Meinbrexen around the same time. The info on Ludwig & Wilhelm came from http://www.denkmalprojekt.org/Verlustlisten/vl_hzgtm_bs_1811-1812_s-z.htm

I just wonder if any of you have come across the Siebrechts and could shed some light on them - obviously my main interest is in Johann Siebrecht, but anything regarding the relationship between the men is of interest.

Also, if anyone knows either of the two military units mentioned (Ouvriers-Kom & 3rd Bn, Feld-Regt)...it would be great to hear what you know. At the moment, both are a mystery to me...I wonder if they are French.

Many thanks, in anticipation... Owen

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Well, you have got me searching. The first chap was a smith- and died at the collection area of the army before it crossed the border- probably of typhus, which made its first sweep through the massed ranks as all the troops gathered together.

The other chap I think was in the Westphalian Line, but I am still looking.... and if they aren't related I'll eat my hat.

The third medal is superb! I did not know Brunswick gave medals to KIA!

I do not have even 10% of the documentation that has recently (as in the last 15 years) been uncovered for the Brunswickers since the old state librarians changed, but I do know that the muster rolls exist, so do equipment issues and ration lists and even the court martial records and EVEN the wound lists!!!!! ..... and your chap was probably no more than 20 years old and probably killed by a cannon shot to the legs. I can't say for sure, but I read in a recently republished letter that 70% of the Waterloo wound casualties were in the legs and caused by cannon shot. ...."of every 20 amputations, 18 are of the legs and caused by cannon shot").

There are two guys in Germany right now doing the final edits on a book on these medals and they plan to publish next year. If you are on Facebook, the 1815 forum run by Jon Franklin has a whole series of useful topics on the Brunswick troops.

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Many thanks for sharing your knowledge and valuable insight, I am very grateful. Grateful too for anything else you can discover. It really helps breathe some life into Siebrecht's medal. Even in the period/time that these events played out, the Siebrechts must be considered unlucky (and brave).

Do you know what type of Unit the 'Ouvriers Kom' were (i.e. what does it mean?...is Kom short for Komissariat?)...my guess would be a sort of Blacksmiths & Other Trades type of Unit?

I am not on facebook, so guess I am missing a lot of info there, but I am in touch with one of the Germans working on the book you mention. I will also be writing to Wolfenbuttel Staats Archive to see what they have on Johann (I have a German friend living in Berlin who will hopefully act as my middle man/interpreter!).

Following is a copy of a print that came with the medal (not sure what it is from) - unfortunately, the scanner has not done a particularly good job of copying it (took a picture too, but the flash has also affected it...grrr).

BrunswickUniformsScan.jpg

BrunswickUniforms.jpg

There are also copies of pages from a book or books (some in what appears to be 'old German' script that came with the medal. They are bound together, so not easy to scan and in German so I can't read them! Have attached a scan of one page that seems to have a notation (there is a margin mark on page 70 and a note on page 71 (again it is the best scan I get from the bound pages....so, not sure if they are readable)...also, not sure if it is relevant to Siebrecht??

Page7071withmedal.jpg

Owen

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  • 3 weeks later...

Your medal is superb and I am very jealous. Without having my ancestry account I can't confirm all 3 chaps are related- but I reckon the odds are 99% that they are- this is not a big village after all.

Willhelm was certainly part of the Westphalian Line infantry in 1812 and wore a white colored French style uniform. Haythornwaites' book is quite good and there are numerous accounts of 1812. He probably died a miserable death in Russia.

Johann was part of the unit that was a mere 25 paces from the Duke of Brunswick when he was killed on the 16th.

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Your medal is superb and I am very jealous. Without having my ancestry account I can't confirm all 3 chaps are related- but I reckon the odds are 99% that they are- this is not a big village after all.

Willhelm was certainly part of the Westphalian Line infantry in 1812 and wore a white colored French style uniform. Haythornwaites' book is quite good and there are numerous accounts of 1812. He probably died a miserable death in Russia.

Johann was part of the unit that was a mere 25 paces from the Duke of Brunswick when he was killed on the 16th.

Thanks again, this is all very helpful indeed. With the help of a German friend, we have written to the Staat Archives in Wolfenbuttel (with a million questions!). I am hopeful that we will learn some more about Johann.

It seems clear from my reading so far, that the Brunswickers bore a large brunt of the fighting at Quatre Bras and that the Lieb-Battalion in Bossu Wood took a heavy toll of casualties, particularly from skirmishing fire. I believe that it was in part the Lieb-Battalion that the Duke was trying to rally when he was shot.

After the misery of the intense close quarter fighting at QB, Johann was plunged straight into the thick of things at Waterloo. The Lieb-Battalion were posted (together with the Avantgarde and the 1st Light Battalion) at the North West corner of Hougoumont. So, they were under direct fire from the very outset. Although Otto Von Pivka (in his 'Brunswick Troops 1809-15') relates that it was a further 3 hours before the Brunswickers at Hougoumont became seriously involved.

Serious it was too...Johan faced the Allies first massive French cavalry attack as the massed might of Millhaud's 24 Squadrons of Cuirassiers and Lefebvre-Desnouette's Light Cavalry Division of the Guard (7 Squadrons of Red Lancers &12 Squadrons of Chasseurs a Cheval de la Garde) ascended the slope straight at the Lieb-Battalion and others (in square)...the sight and sound of this massed cavalry pouring over the allied cannons to the front of the Lieb-Battalion must have been simply terrifying...and then of course the cavalry horses, swords and lances layed into the squares (maybe this is when Johann was killed).

The Brunswickers appear to have fought bravely (as well as any vetreran British unit, according to Otto Von Pivka) and the attack was fought off. The Brunswick Hussars and the Uhlans took part in the counter attack...pushing the French out of the Allied lines. The French cavalry re-grouped and attacked again...this developed into a cavalry battle in which the French outnumbered the Allies by 2:1...despite this, the French were again pushed back (after some particularly bloody fighting) and the Brunswick Squares (including the Lieb-Battalion) were instrumental in this - pouring fire into the French Cavalry. The Brunswickers were commended for their bravery in this action.

Whatever the truth of how Johann met his end on the battefield that 18th June (whether by cannon, shot, sword, lance or trampled under horse) it is clear that he was in the thick of the fighting for two days, with a long march and a night under the pouring rain in between. Utter misery.

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