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Georg von Derfflinger
Georg von Derfflinger about 1670
Georg von Derfflinger (20 March 160614 February 1695) was a field marshal in the army of Brandenburg during and after the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648).

Early years

Born 1606 in Neuhofen an der Kremsmarker, Upper Austria, into a poor Protestant family, Derfflinger had to leave his home due to religious persecution. He served in the armed forces of various combatant powers, most of the time in that of Swedenmarker. He was an able and daring cavalry leader and gained a reputation for brilliance and bravery, which eventually persuaded the Elector of Brandenburg, the Great Elector Frederick William, to offer Derfflinger a senior position in his army.

Personality

Derfflinger was supposedly a notorious drunkard who would constantly drink schnapps, but his fondness for alcohol did not impede his military abilities. His marriage in 1646 to an heiress of Brandenburgian nobility had already secured him a number of possessions, which he was able to augment with estates granted to him for his military exploits. A lifelong soldier, Derfflinger had no formal education, but was entrusted by the Elector with numerous important military tasks and played a central role in the reform of the Brandenburgian cavalry and artillery. He had a very stormy relationship with Frederick William and argued with him incessantly, at one point quitting. In order to gain back the Elector's employ, he wrote down a list of incredible demands, which included a clause stipulating that no man charge into battle ahead of him and that he take a certain percentage of plunder and captured officers from every engagement.

Brandenburg Service

In 1674 Derfflinger was elevated to Reichsfreiherr. A year later, he was decisive in defeating the Swedes and driving them out of Brandenburg in 1675. He impersonated a Swedish officer, a feat he was able to do because he had served in the armies of Sweden, and was able to convince the Swedes to open the gates of Rathenowmarker, allowing him and 1,000 nearby dragoons to storm the fortress. He was also a commander in the Battle of Fehrbellin, where Derfflinger won a decisive victory over the Swedes, who were under Charles XI, and were occupying Brandenburg, pillaging the countryside, and abusing the locals. His last military campaign was in 1690 against King Louis XIV of France when he was 84 years old. Derfflinger died in Gusow-Platkowmarker.

Legacy

The Imperial German Navy's battlecruiser SMS Derfflinger was named after him.

Literature

Gerd-Ulrich Herrmann, Freiherr von Derfflinger, Stapp-Verlag 1997, ISBN 3-87776-178-X.

Citino, Robert M.. The German Way of War: From the Thirty Years War to the Third Reich. University Press of Kansas. Lawrence, KS, 2005. ISBN 0-7006-1410-9


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