Friday, July 20, 2018

Ewald von Kleist & IR55

The death of Ewald von Kleist by the hands of Cossacks at the Battle of Kunersdorf in August 1759

Ewald Christian von Kleist(1715 - 1759) was considered the "poet of the Prussian army" and one of the small  cadre of literary men in the officer corps during the late 1750s. You can read his Wikipedia biography by clicking the link below:

Ewald Christian von Kleist

Ewald von Kleist was a major in the Hauss fusilier regiment (IR55), which was one of the few Saxon regiments , from the mass forced conscription of all Saxon regiments captured at Pirna in 1756, that remained in service. Christopher Duffy describes the regiment as a fusilier regiment wearing fusilier mitres. Kronoskaf illustrates the uniform with a tricorn hat rather than a fusilier mitre.

Colonel's flag of the Hauss regiment - Kronoskaf

IR55 Hauss fusilier regiment uniform - Kronoskaf
Regimental flag of Hauss regiment - Kronoskaf

He died from wounds received at the battle of Kunersdorf (actually some ten days after the battle) and Alfred Rambaud (The Russians and Prussians in the Seven Years War, translated by George Nafziger, 2013).

Among the Prussian officers who fell at Kunersdorf, was one who was mourned in all of Europe's newspapers: it was Ewald von Kleist, major of the Hausen Regiment (IR55), the poet who wrote "Printemps", the author of so many other energetic and gracious pieces. Kleist, aged 44, found a glorious and cruel death. Frederick had drawn this regiment from the army of Prince Henry (serving in Saxony). With Finck's infantry he attacked the Russian positions. He already had a dozen contusions and two fingers  of his right hand were cut. His saber in hand, he charged an Austrian battalion and received a ball in his left hand. Taking  his saber from his mutilated right hand, he continued to fight. A canister shot broke his right arm and knocked him from his horse.

Two of his soldiers carried him to the ambulance, where a surgeon began the necessary amputations. The surgeon was killed by a ball. Some Cossacks came up, robbed him, took his hat, his wig, his shirt. They would have killed him had he not spoken to them in Polish. Taking him for a Pole, they contented themselves with throwing him naked into the swamp. During the night he was saved by some Russian hussars, who dried him off, gave him an old coat and a hat; they warmed him at a camp fire, giving him some bread and water. One of them offered Kleist an 8 Groschen piece, and he refused it.

The Cossacks returned, taking from him everything the hussars had given him. The next morning a Russian officer named Stackelberg, a cavalry captain, found him and had him taken to Frankfurt. Professor Nicolai received him at his house and cared for him. A number of Russian officers came to visit Kleist and offer their services. However, the care arrived too late and on August 24, 12 days after the battle, Kleist died of his wounds. The Russian commander of Frankfurt, Chettnov, rendered him military honors. The body was carried by a dozen grenadiers and the funeral procession was followed by the principal officers of the garrison.

It is obvious that Ewald von Kleist was well-known throughout Europe for his poetry and other literary works, noting the extraordinary care and attention that he received after the battle.

I find the von Kleist story very interesting and having some background on the person makes his regiment more interesting to me. As a consequence, I plan on painting the regiment and adding it to my Prussian Pomeranian Corps army. I note that the uniform has the Swedish cuffs rather than the smaller Prussian style cuffs, so this should add some variety to the uniforms in my army.


  1. So, the question begs: Tricornered hats then? Or fusilier caps for the enlisted men?

    Best Regards,


    1. That is the perplexing question isn't it? My Bleckwenn book only goes up to IR49. 😕

  2. Were I in the same enviable position, I would throw caution completely to the wind, ignore those who might accuse you of being a cavalier libertine, and opt for the fusilier caps.

    Best Regards,


  3. The uniform collection of 1786 contains artifacts from the new regiments created from 1773 on, not the earlier Saxon versions. That may be why you do not find them in Bleckwenn. These later regiments had the caps.

  4. Nice post. Good background information and a chance to portray the man with the sword in the wrong hand.

  5. The picture at the top of this post is just begging for a vignette....perhaps signifying a broken unit! ;-)

    As far as the hat or mitre goes...Dorn & Engelmann only show the units raised after the SYW for these numbers. Summerfield in his Saxon Army 2nd edition gives some detail. He states that of the 10 Saxon units pressed into service (S50 - 59), S50 - 53 & S57-59 were disbanded within a year because of desertion. The remainder were consolidated into S54,55 & 56. S55 was designated FR55 initially under von Hauss (from 10/1756) then von Röbel from 25/12/60. It was derived from Saxon IR Lubomirski. The uniform schematics with his section show the initial uniform likely to be that of Lubomirski (white coat with yellow collar, cuffs & turnbacks - no lapels) then changing to that shown above. Regretably there is no information on the headgear.
    I could suggest that initially they wore their Saxon uniforms with a tricorne, but when issued with the Prussian kit and designated fusiliers, they may well have been issued the fusilier mitre. This latter may perhaps been a "sop to boost morale" by giving them the more "elite" headwear. The grenadier companies of the Saxon units did not last long - they were formed into Converged Granadier Battalions in March 57, and all disbanded by 11/57..that of S55 combined with S52 & called GB von Kahlenberg disbanded in 7/57.
    I hope this may be useful. Cheers, Rohan

  6. I could add another thought to the above...perhaps because of their less than glittering behaviour, they may have been denied the Fusilier cap as an indication that hey were not deserving of this distinction! I guess you "pays yer money & makes yer choice"! :-D Cheers, Rohan.