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FREDERICK THE GREAT - Frederick the Great Deals with a Deserter
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FREDERICK THE GREAT - Frederick the Great Deals with a Deserter

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FREDERICK THE GREAT, KING OF PRUSSIA. (1712-1786). King of Prussia beginning in 1740. LS. (“Frch”). 2/3p. 4to. Berlin, March 25, 1752. In German with translation.


“His most gracious Lord and Royal Majesty of Prussia has seen in the report humbly submitted on the 21st of this month by secretary Ludewig that Lieutenant von Seyffertitz, who had deserted along with his orderly Klaremann from the Bonin regiment, has been turned over to the commando sent to pick them up and that they left from there on the planned day. As everything has turned out well and according to Your wishes, so, too, the imposed fees will be paid without a doubt, the General Lieutenant of Bonin having already received the necessary orders to deliver them to the magistrate, assuring Your Royal Majesty’s gracious satisfaction to have him comply in this matter so promptly. Berlin, March 26, 1752…”

Rebelling against his despotic father at an early age, Frederick became deeply engrossed in the courtly arts – an interest that his father detested. He corresponded with philosophers including Voltaire who published Frederick’s treatise Antimachiavel. Despite his interest in music, poetry and philosophy, Frederick proved himself to be a skilled military strategist upon his ascent to the throne in 1740, successfully concluding the many territorial wars that were fought during his reign. “The Peace of Hubertusburg (1763) left Frederick his previous conquests and made Prussia the foremost military power in Europe… His tactics were studied and admired by Napoleon Bonaparte and exerted great influence in the art of warfare,” (The New Columbia Encyclopedia). Behind his military achievements was Frederick’s expansion of military spending through which he made Prussia into one of the most powerful nations in Europe. Nonetheless, desertion was a significant problem for Frederick as it was for every military rulers of the time. “The current scholarly consensus… is that ‘the eighteenth century was the age of the deserter.’ …Indeed desertion in wartime could reach spectacular proportions… The failed campaign in Bohemia in 1744 cost Frederick over 10,000 deserters, some 15 per cent of his entire force… A good example of the importance placed by eighteenth-century commanders on preventing desertion comes from Frederick the Great’s instructions to his generals. This first and most influential of his military writings [Les Principes Généraux de la Guerre, appliqués à la Tactiques et à la Discipline des Troupes Prussiennes] begins by outlining the preventative measures to be taken against desertion,” which numbered 14 in total, (Motivation in War: The Experience of Common Soldiers in Old-Regime Europe, Berkovich).


Descended from a prominent Pomeranian family, Kasimir Wedig von Bonin (1691-1752) commanded his own cavalry and cuirassier regiments during the War of Austrian Succession. He attained the rank of lieutenant general and was awarded the Black Eagle Order in 1748. His reputation was of such significance that his name was added to Berlin’s equestrian statue of Frederick the Great in 1851.


Our letter concerns the desertion of a LieutenantSeyffertitz, likely a member of a prominent aristocratic family, members of which held Schloss Ahlsdorf, a manor house in Schönewalde, Brandenburg.


Written between the second and third Silesian Wars, which Prussia fought against Hapsburg Austria. Folded with some normal toning and wear. In very good condition.


Item #19853

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