Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Blücher at the Burgtor

It is time to set the spotlights on Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher, the charging Hussar general who once believed he was pregnant with an elephant (true story!). That didn't stop him from some prodigious feats on the battlefield while in his seventies and of giving Napoleon and his marshals a few bloody noses.

The Burgtor, or Castle Gate

This is the site from where he made the leap to national hero. On holiday in Hamburg last summer, we made a day trip to Lübeck and the nearby beach at Travemünde. When you enter the town from the east, you do so through the Burgtor.

Commemorative plaque on the wall of the gate

In the autumn of 1806, with the Prussian army in flight from its humiliating defeats at Jena and Auerstädt, Blücher was one of the few that kept ahead of the furious French pursuit. On November 5th his troops reached Lübeck and he set out to prepare the city for defence.*

The Burgtor from a slightly different angle

Next day the French attacked the city and managed to enter through the Burgtor, which was defended with little competence. Desperate counterattacks failed to throw the invaders back and Blücher's chief of staff, Scharnhorst was taken captive. The general himself managed to fight his way out of the city with the remnants of his force. However, on 7th November his men and ammunition were exhausted and there was nowhere left to run as they had entered Danish territory. The general realised that further resistance was futile and accepted a French demand for surrender.

The fight for the Castle Gate from a contemporary  print
(wiki commons)
* Some of you will know that Lübeck was then still an independent city. Blücher demanded access to the city from the city council. The French sacked Lübeck as they would have any defended city, not knowing that it had been against the wishes of the population.

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