Thursday, July 26, 2007

Who are these people?

As well as a wargamer I am also a role player. The combination of the two hobbies has meant that whenever I am given a real person to play I always like to find out a little about them. It also helps if you are researching the abilities of the commander, but finding out something of his character is fun too.

So in keeping with the Austerlitz theme, I present

General der Kavallrie, Michael, Freiherr von Kienmayer.

Early Career

This is the character I played at the Austerlitz game. Born in 1755 he was nearly 51 at the time of Austerlitz and at the mid-point in his career as a field officer. He had started life in the infantry, as a cadet in IR12 in 1774, but less than six months later he had risen to the rank of second lieutenant in the Dragoon Regiment DR8 ‘Jung Modena’. By the time he first saw action, against Prussia in 1778 in the War of the Bavarian Succession (or the Potato War) he was already in the Hussars, HR35 ‘Barco’. As an enterprising junior officer he conducted several raids against Prussian outposts, and when the Turkish War broke out in 1787 Kienmayer was a Rittmeister (he had received a field promotion to this rank in 1779) and, once again, showed enterprise and flair against the Turks. By the end of this war he had his own regiment, ChlR 19 ‘Levenehr’ and a strong reputation, backed up by no lesser man than Suvurov who mentioned his name several times in despatches.

When the war against France broke out in 1792 Kienmayer was once again to the fore. By 1793 he was in command of his old regiment, the Barco Hussars, and fought in the Low Countries and in Germany. In 1794 he was made a Generalmajor and continued his career but never was sent to Italy. Again, in 1799, he was in Germany under Charles at Ostrach and went with him into Switzerland. Here he showed that he had lost none of the Hussar spirit, and cut off from the bridge over the river Thur by the French he jumped the river, an event entering Austrian military history as the “Kienmayersprung”. His personal bravery and competence were rewarded some months later by promotion to Feldmarschalleutnant. Although he did reasonably well with his division under Kray he did not do too well at Hohenlinden, one cannot help feeling that he was a bit out of his depth as his command had swollen to over 16,000 men.

1805 onwards

In 1805 he was with Archduke Ferdinand and Mack at Ulm. Refusing to be encircled, like Schwarzenberg he too broke out and made his way home with his men. At Austerlitz he covered the allied extreme left under Buxhowden. He stubbornly covered the retreat of Buxhowden’s columns as the battle ended, but to little avail. He was packed off to be commandant at Olmutz until 1808.

Recalled in 1809 he campaigned along the Danube with his Reserve Division and was at Aspern-Essling commanding a heavy cavalry division under Liechtenstein. Then came the apex of his military career. He was packed off to northern Bohemia to command IX Korps, the main body charged with disrupting enemy forces in upper Saxony. His opponents were Jerome, King of Westphalia and Junot. Learning that the two intended to unite and invade Bohemia, Kienmayer daringly left a small holding force at Dresden and took the bulk of his forces into Bayreuth to defeat Junot before he and Jerome could unite. At Gefrees on the 8th July Kienmayer convincingly beat Junot, who retreated leaving Kienmayer in possession of the region. Intending to settle things with Jerome Kienmayer then began marching on him, but after a brief clash Jerome also withdrew, disheartened by news of Junot’s defeat and feeling he was unable to trust his own men.

Kienmayer had, by the Znaim armistice, taken and held most of Bayreuth, kept hold of much of Saxony including the capital, and foiled any French efforts to break into Bohemia. It was the best result for Austria on all 4 key fronts and clearly played to Kienmayer’s strengths: relatively small forces, rapid movements and sharp engagements. He seems to have been most comfortable at this level or commanding small advance forces, his performances in large armies with big formations do not seem to have been as striking.

After 1809 he was made governor of Galicia and General der Kavallrie. He was not activated in 1813 and the reason seems to be illness. Certainly he would have been a better choice than Hiller, and possibly even Bellegarde, for the Italian campaign but it was not to be. He was made Military Governor of Moravia and Silesia in 1820 and was pensioned off due to illness in 1826, dying some two years later.


Kienmayer was clearly a good general. Personally brave, his victory over Junot and Jerome is testament enough to his abilities as an independent commander in a small campaign but one where he was outnumbered. He was able to defeat his opponents in detail and hold on to his gains. As an Avantgarde commander he also showed much zeal and ability, but in charge of larger formations, such as at Hohenlinden, he appears out of his depth. But a character I knew little about until I had to play him, but one I came to appreciate.

No comments: