Letter 417f

417f. Adalbert Friedrich Marcus to Schelling in Munich: Bamberg, 16 October 1806 [*]

Bamberg, 16 October 1806

My dear Schelling,

Let me seize this first moment of calm to send you some sign of life, my dear friend. It was as if a new world had been shoved between us. For the past two weeks, we have seen and suffered more than one can otherwise comprehend even in years. The grand army and its emperor, like the raging host, rather than pass by around us, instead passed straight through us. [1]

Five or seven large army corps were here in town . . . One cannot really comprehend how in a single night a town of this size can feed and house at least 20,000 people. I often had 30 men in my house at a time. . . . You will receive news of victory first hand in Munich. [2] The emperor’s headquarters is in Jena, in whose vicinity there was a bloody encounter on the 14th. [3] The two armies’ courage, and their bravery, will cause rivers of blood to flow. Indeed, even in the larger sense one can anticipate significant, perhaps even extremely significant consequences from this war.

I saw the emperor several times; an extraordinary coldness and calm reigns in his physiognomy. – There can hardly ever have been a more beautiful and terrifying army than this French one. If these 200,000 men, all of whom are resolved to be victorious or die trying, and led by a military genius, cannot throw the world off its axis, then no army will ever be able to do so.

Schelling’s Darstellung des wahren Verhältnisses is lying on my table here. [4] And I have also read it often; but after genuinely careful reading one always believes with your writings that this one is the best of all. In a few days I intend to return to my own work. If our allies remain victorious, [5] it would seem things would calm down here in our area. The troop transits still continue uninterruptedly. —

Köhler’s appointment did my soul good . . . I am hoping to see him here soon in transit. [6]

Ever yours,


[*] Source: Fuhrmans 3:370. Back.

[1] Napoleon was commanding the French army (Marcus’s German expression translates as grande armée) that passed through Bamberg on its way from Franconia to its engagements with the Prussians at Saalfeld and in the battles of Jena and Auerstedt (Post Karte Durch ganz Deutschland, ed. J. Walch [Augsburg 1795]):


He departed Bamberg at 3:00 a.m. on 8 October 1806 for Kronach, the headquarters of Marshal Bernadotte. French wounded were already being brought back to Bamberg on 9 October 1806 from initial skirmishes with Prussian troops (“Central Europe: Wars of the Third Coalition 1805–7,” Cambridge Modern History Atlas [Cambridge 1912]):


“Raging host,” Germ. das wüthige Heer, here a reference to the French army.

In folk mythology, the expression otherwise referred to a ghoulish band of female spirits associated with the hunt and with strange, rushing noises at night (“the raging host whooshed through the village last night”), but whom one never sees. They were also thought to be vaporous, even headless figures on horseback who dwelled in local wild or forbidding areas, and in illustrations were often portrayed as indistinct, menacing figures.

In Goethe’s later (1813) ballad “Der getreue Eckart,” the figures appear in the first three stanzas but are called thus only in stanza three (here translated as “wild hunters”; “Faithful Eckart,” Goethe’s Works, vol. 1, trans. George Barrie [Philadelphia 1885], 80–81; illustration: 1934 postcard; Der deutsche Schulverein postcard no. 2103):

Faithful Eckart

"Oh, would we were further! Oh, would we were home,
The phantoms of night tow'rd us hastily come,
The band of the Sorceress sisters.
They hitherward speed, and on finding us here,
They'll drink, though with toil we have fetch'd it, the beer,
And leave us the pitchers all empty."

Thus speaking, the children with fear take to flight,
When sudden an old man appears in their sight:
"Be quiet, child! children, be quiet!
From hunting they come, and their thirst they would still,
So leave them to swallow as much as they will,
And the Evil Ones then will be gracious."


And said, so 'twas done! and the phantoms draw near,
And shadowlike seem they, and gray they appear,
Yet blithely they sip and they revel:
The beer has all vanish'd, the pitchers are void;
With cries and with shouts the wild hunters, o'erjoy'd,
Speed onward o'er vale and o'er mountain.

The children in terror sly nimbly tow'rd home,
And with them the kind one is careful to come:
"My darlings, oh, be not so mournful!" —
"They'll blame us and beat us, until we are dead." —
"No, no! ye will find that all goes well," he said;
Be silent as mice, then, and listen!

"And he by whose counsels thus wisely ye're taught,
Is he who with children loves ever to sport,
The trusy and faithful old Eckart.
Ye have heard of the wonder for many a day,
But ne'er had a proof of the marvellous lay, —
Your hands hold a proof most convincing."

They arrive at their home, and their pitchers they place
By the side of their parents, with fear on their face,
Awaiting a beating and scolding.
But see what they're tasting: the choicest of beer!
Through three times and four times they quaff the good cheer,
The pitchers remain still unemptied.

The marvel it lasts till the dawning of day;
All people who hear of it doubtless will say:
"What happen'd at length to the pitchers?"
In secret the children they smile, as they wait;
At last, though, they stammer, and stutter, and prate,
And straightway the pitchers were empty.

And if, children, with kindness address'd ye may be,
Whether father, or master, or alderman he,
Obey him, and follow his bidding!
And if 'tis unpleasant to bridle the tongue,
Yet talking is bad, silence good for the young —
The then will the beer fill your pitchers!

Marcus was not the only German to associate the grande armée with this “raging host.” See Joseph von Görres in his article “Preussen und sein Heer,” Rheinischer Merkur (1814) 8 (Saturday, 5 February 1814), n.p.; 9 (Monday, 7 February 1814), n.p., here at the beginning of issue 9 recounting Prussia’s history of resistance to French imperialism, including at the disasters of Jena and Auerstädt, and bringing readers up to date on the current disposition of its army and the nation itself:

It was a spectacle the likes of which recent history has hardly experienced, when Prussia finally cast off the unbearable burden and suddenly rediscovered its true strength, which seemed to have dried up in the sand of its provinces, and then rose up from derision and mockery. Like the strong man [Samson] whose hair has finally grown back of which he was robbed by deceit and treachery, and as if awakened from a deep sleep and bad dream, the nation suddenly jolted up, looked around, and surveyed the devastation visited by the raging host — which had ravaged through forest and fortress and every road with its shrill, piercing cry — and reached for its sword that had lain beneath its head.

The foreigners fled, as if propelled by a windstorm. And not a single one remained from one border to the other. And suddenly, heaven itself, as far as one could see, was cleansed and purified of the toxic vapors of war that had caused the sun to appear blood red for so many years over the entirety of Germany, opening up vistas into the clear, blue sky. Back.

[2] I.e., first hand because Bavaria was directly allied with the French.

The Bavarian newspaper Königlich-Baierische Staats-Zeitung von München, which both Caroline and Schelling presumably read, was full of missives from towns involved in the military encounters beginning with issues on 14 October 1806 itself, albeit initially only concerning early skirmishes because of the time lag between the action and the arrival of its news in Munich.

Although news concerning these battles was doubtless arriving in Munich daily, the Königlich-Baierische Staats-Zeitung von München did not publish its “Results of the Battle at Jena on the 14th of this month” until issue 248 on Monday, 20 October 1806, p. 999:

According to news delivered today by a courier from the headquarters of His Majesty the Emperor Napoleon in Jena, French conquests in this battle include between 30,000 and 40,000 prisoners of war, ca. 30 flags, 300 cannons, and countless magazines of foodstuffs Prisoners include more than 20 generals, also several lieutenant generals, including Lieutenant General Schmettau.

The number of dead soldiers from the Prussian army is indescribable; more than 20,000 dead and wounded have been counted. Field Marshall Möllendorf is wounded; the Duke of Braunschweig dead; General Rüchel dead; Prince Heinrich of Prussia severely wounded. The confusion among the ruins of the enemy army has reached horrific levels.

The French lost a brigade general, Debilli, one of the most distinguished officers, and several colonels. French Hussars and Chasseurs exhibited courage worthy of the highest praise. Nowhere was the Prussian cavalry able to stand up to them.

The Prussian army lost every possible route of retreat in this battle along with the entire line of operations. Its left wing, pursued by Marshal Davoust, withdrew to Weimar. The king had to withdraw across open fields at the head of his cavalry regiment.

French losses are being estimated at 1100 dead and 3000 wounded. The archduke of Berg is at this very moment surrounding the fortress at Erfurt, where a corps under the orders of General Möllendorf and the Prince of Orange are holding out.

A follow-up report appeared in issue 251 on Thursday, 23 October 1806, p. 1011:

Jena, on 15 October. Yesterday was a decisive and, as always, an extraordinarily glorious day for the French army. An hour and a half from here, the corps of [General] Hohelohe were attacked and overcome after putting up extremely tenacious resistance. Three Saxon regiments were wholly routed and for the most part also taken prisoner. Prisoners allegedly include seventy-year-old General Niesenmäuschel; General Senft is dead; on our side as well, many did not return from battle, and several generals were wounded. Thus the news from yesterday evening; today, however, one learns that the consequences of this affair are far more significant.

The latest reports from the theater of battle relate that the grande armée pursued the advantages of victory with a concerted effort. On the same day of the battle [at Jena], it concentrated its troops anew and moved out, the left wing to Erfurt to cut off the Prussian army corps in Fulda and its territory; and the center allegedly moved out past Naumburg and on to Merseburg, while the advance guard of the right wing took possession of Wittenberg. It appears the entire mass of these troops is now moving toward Magdeburg etc. to constrict the Prussians from this side as well.

These and following issues also include copious information about troop movements, billeting (see illustration), and other military encounters (Hippolyte Bellangé, Le Billet de Logement [Paris 1823]; Rijksmuseum):


The issues essentially provide a running, detailed account of military developments, events, and their consequences for the affected territories and towns during this period of such seemingly confusing activity. Back.

[3] The battles of Jena and Auerstedt. Back.

[4] Schelling thought this piece was one of his best, namely, the Darlegung des wahren Verhältnisses der Naturphilosophie zu der verbesserten Fichte’schen Lehre. Eine Erläuterungsschrift der ersten von F. W. J. Schelling (Tübingen 1806) (Sämmtliche Werke 7:3–126). It was his response to Fichte’s publications in 1806. See Schelling’s letter to Carl Joseph Windischmann on 1 August 1806 (letter 417b), which also discusses Schelling’s review in the Jenaische Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung of one of Fichte’s pieces. Back.

[5] The Bavarians were closely allied with the French. Back.

[6] Martin Heinrich Köhler had become a military physician with the Bavarian troops allied with Napoleon after losing his position in Würzburg after the change of administration in early 1806. “In transit”: accompanying French troops northward.

Here an illustration of such a physician or surgeon (at left) with battle casualties during the war of 1809 (“Napoleon and Marshal Lannes at Essling,” in William Milligan Sloane, Life of Napoleon Bonaparte, vol. 3 [New York 1901], plate following p. 174) and a makeshift military field hospital during the Wars of Coalition ca. 1800 (anonymous, sepia drawing ca. 1800):




Translation © 2018 Doug Stott