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General von Blumenthal.

Leonhard Graf von Blumenthal (July 20, 1810 ‚Äď December 21, 1900) was a Prussian Generalfeldmarschall. He was a member of the von Blumenthal family.

Blumenthal was born in Schwedt, Brandenburg. He was the son of Captain Ludwig von Blumenthal, who was killed in 1813 at the Battle of Dennewitz).

Brought up on his grandfather's estate at Reddenthin, where his uncle Gustav von Below was founding what would become the Pentecostal movement, Blumenthal was educated at the military schools of Culm and Berlin. He entered the Guards as 2nd lieutenant in 1827. He studied at the Berlin General War School (later called the Prussian Military Academy). After serving in the Rhine Province, he joined the topographical division of the general staff in 1846. As lieutenant of the 31st foot, he took part in 1848 in the suppression of the Berlin riots, and in 1849 was promoted captain on the general staff. The same year he served on the staff of General Eduard von Bonin in the First Schleswig War, and so distinguished himself, particularly at Fredericia, that he was appointed chief of the staff of the Schleswig-Holstein army when the previous chief of staff, Captain von Delius, was killed.

In 1850 Blumenthal was general staff officer of the mobile division under Tietzen in Hesse-Kassel (or Hesse-Cassel). He was sent on a mission to England in that year (4th class of Red Eagle), and on several subsequent occasions. Having attained the rank of lieutenant-colonel, he was appointed personal adjutant to Prince Frederick Charles in 1859. In 1860 he became colonel of the 31st, and later of the 71st, regiment. He was chief of the staff of the III. army corps when, on the outbreak of the Second Schleswig War of 1864, he was nominated chief of the general staff of the army against Denmark, and displayed so much ability, particularly at Dybb√łl and the night attack on the island Als, which he masterminded and which ended the war, that he was promoted major-general and given the order Pour le M√©rite, only its 50th recipient.

In the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, Blumenthal was chief of the general staff to the crown prince of Prussia, commanding the 2nd army. It was upon this army that the brunt of the fighting fell, and its arrival at K√∂niggratz saved the day. Blumenthal's own part in these battles and in the campaign generally was most conspicuous. On the field of K√∂niggratz the crown prince said to his chief of staff, "I know to whom I owe the conduct of my army", and Blumenthal soon received promotion to lieutenant-general and the oak-leaf of the order pour le m√©rite. He was also made a knight of the Hohenzollern Order. From 1866 to 1870 he commanded the 14th division at D√ľsseldorf.

In the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71, Blumenthal was chief of staff of the 3rd army under the crown prince. Eighteen other members of his family also fought in this war, including both his sons and three nephews, of whom two were killed. Blumenthal's soldierly qualities and talent were never more conspicuous than in the critical days preceding the battle of Sedan, and his services in the war have been considered as scarcely less valuable and important than those of Moltke himself. Bismarck said "He won the battles of Wörth and Wissembourg, and after that of Sedan." He directed the Siege of Paris and resisted calls to bombard it: we owe the Paris of today to this civilised act. He also directed the operations conducted by General von der Tann around Orleans, and defended the Grand Duke of Mecklenburg from interference by Moltke. In 1871 Blumenthal represented Germany at the British manoeuvres at Chobham, and was given the command of the IV. army corps at Magdeburg. In 1873 he became a general of infantry, and ten years later he was made a count. In 1888 he was made a general field marshal, after which he was in command of the 4th and 3rd army inspections. He retired in 1896, and died at Quellendorf near Köthen on the 21 December 1900. He was noted (among others by the English journalist William Howard Russell who followed him during the Franco-Prussian War) for his kindliness and sense of humour. Like the Crown Prince, Moltke and other key Prussian leaders, he had an English wife (Delicia Vyner) and it was widely thought in conservative circles that this was the basis of a liberal Prussian clique. His least appreciated but arguably most important work was the development of the doctrine of Fire and Infiltration, the basis of Blitzkrieg.

Blumenthal's diary of 1866 and 1870-1871 was edited by his son, Count Albrecht von Blumenthal (Tagebuch des G.F.M. von Blumenthal), 1902; an English translation (Journals of Count von Blumenthal) was published in 1903.


This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.

Terminology note

  • Regarding personal names, Graf is a German title, translated as Count, not a first or middle name. The feminine form is Grafin.

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