Letter 443

• 443. Caroline to Philipp Michaelis in Harburg: Munich, 16 August 1809 [*]

[Munich] 16 August [1809]

|559| I received your letter from Kassel. [Power of attorney.] [1]

The disturbance and unrest that held our brother back are as — well, as depressing as everything else one constantly sees and hears today. A leaden heaviness hangs over the world now that makes it hard even to breathe freely anymore. [2] [Legal disputes.]

We are planning on leaving the day after tomorrow. [3] If you are back now, you will already have received an enclosure from me through Perthes. [4] I hope your trip was pleasant and that ours will be so as well. Actually I would not mind if we did not return at all. —

We are depressed because the Tyroleans, who seemed ready to surrender, are now desperately defending themselves. [5] Our own people [6] had advanced as far as the [Brenner Pass], indeed, I believe even as far as Bressanone [Brixen], finding nothing but devastated areas except for Insbruck, something that was never in the condition |560| of . . actually, at least from its own movement, the border mountain passes [fell] to us without significant losses, but then at the Brenn[er Pass, where] they all retreated into the mountains, our losses were extremely [bad] [7] — the French troops who were supposed [to come] from the Italian side never showed up because there were also . . . on the other side of the Tyrolean Alps.

Hence they [8] were able to bring their entire force to bear against ours, albeit not in a pitched battle, since they are too cowardly for that, but rather by shooting down at them from the heights. They even blew up boulders and then cast them down, smashing both people and cannons to pieces. [9]

The day before yesterday, [10] Count Arco, who is the brother-in-law of our prime minister and has been leading a militia corps against the rebels for several months now, [11] was killed during a different affaire when a bullet from above went through the top of his skull and came out beneath his chin. [12] There is no end to the lamentation.

Under a previous regent, Max Emmanuel, I believe, yet another Arco lost his life in the Tyrolean narrow pass during a similar engagement, except that in that case he was killed by a bullet that was in fact intended for the prince elector himself. [13]

Although the French envoy celebrated the emperor’s birthday yesterday, [14] the celebration was dampened when the count’s body arrived here unannounced the night before and was brought to the house of the elderly father. [15] Understandably, no one belonging to this extended family was present.

I do not really believe I will be able to write Luise from here again before we leave. Send this letter on to her in any case. Schelling has recovered to the [extent] that wind and weather have allowed. [16] We are hoping to get [news about] the peace, but everything is still very quiet in that regard — no one knows anything. Some people are interpreting the fact that [Archd]uke Karl has abdicated as pointing to peace, [others] as pointing to war. [17] |561| Indeed, one rumor even has it that he is going [to] Spain.

I do nonetheless believe there will be peace, and in any event it is the only hope for our country.

I would very much like to know whether Duke Oels will be coming through, and how Schill will end up. [18] If afterward he were to become a prince, then his arrival in Braunschweig really must have made an impression. [19]

The English seem to have preferred the Dutch coastline to the German. They will probably encounter more resistance there. [20]

Be commended to God.


[*] The manuscript of this letter was damaged, whence the lacunae. Back.

[1] Presumably in connection with their mother’s estate, who had died back in February 1808 (here an attorney reads the last will and testament of the deceased to the assembled family [Der Freund des schönen Geschlechtes 1808]):



[2] Fritz Michaelis, a professor of medicine in Marburg in Hesse, nearly 350 km northwest of Caroline in Munich, with whom Caroline had once lived, had just been through a difficult episode in that town in connection with military developments associated with the War of 1809 and the Austrian advance in particular (Thomas Kitchin, Germany [n.p., n.d.]):


Caroline had probably read — in addition to whatever accounts Philipp had given her — the account published in the Baierische National-Zeitung 3 (1809) 151 (Monday, 3 July 1809), 638, under regional news, “Cassel”:

Incited farmers, 4 or 500 in number, appeared before the town gates of Marburg. During the night of 24–25 June, they pushed their way into town. When they arrived at the grand square, they were pushed back by the departmental guard and pursued. The leaders were arrested, including a certain Herr Emmerich, a former English colonel. Among his papers, officials found a letter addressed to Schill in which Emmerich reported to the latter that Dörnberg would soon be joining the band of robbers under his command.

As noted in chap. 6 of the supplementary appendix on that war, Archduke Karl of Austria was hoping that the general opposition to Napoleon in northern Germany and Tyrol would prompt insurrections in connection with the Austrians’ own advance in both Bohemia and Italy. Caroline mentions insurrectionists in both these areas later in this letter.

In this instance, she is referring to a considerably lesser known insurrection that culminated in Marburg itself back in late June and early July 1809. It was led by the seventy-three-year-old retired officer and former forestry official Andreas Emmerich, who was, however, the leader by default, the original leader being a colleague of Fritz Michaelis in the Marburg medical school, namely Johann Heinrich Sternberg, and it is the latter’s (and his wife’s) story that has probably prompted Caroline’s melancholy lament concerning a “leaden heaviness hanging over the world.” For the story of this insurrection and of Sternberg and his wife, see supplementary appendix 443.1. Back.

[3] I.e., Friday, 18 August 1809; that this date was indeed the day of departure is confirmed by Caroline’s letter to Meta Liebeskind on 28 August 1809 from Maulbronn itself, in which she remarks that “we have been away from the capital for hardly 10 days now.” Back.

[4] Presumably a copy of Schelling’s Von der Weltseele, eine Hypothese der höheren Physik zur Erklärung des allgemeinen Organismus Über das Verhältniß des Realen und Idealen in der Natur oder Entwickelung der ersten Grundsätze der Naturphilosophie an den Principien der Schwere und des Lichts, 3rd, revised ed. (Hamburg 1809).; see Schelling’s letter to Friedrich Frommann on 2 October 1808 (letter 435a), note 13. Back.

[5] Concerning the beginning of the Tyrolean revolt and the locales Caroline mentions below, see also chap. 18 in the supplementary appendix on the War of 1809. Back.

[6] I.e., the Bavarian army. Back.

[7] Concerning how these events unfolded, see the supplementary appendix on the War of 1809, esp. chaps. 18–19; the conflict extended to the end of 1809. Back.

[8] The Tyroleans. Back.

[9] See illustrations of these tactics in (1) Marie-Joseph-Louis-Adolphe Thiers, “Combat de Wortel, Tirol,” Collection de 350 gravures, dessins de Philippoteaux, etc. pour l’histoire du Consulat et de l’Empire, 2 vols. (Paris 1870), no. 163, and (2) Gottfried Wilhelm Becker, Andreas Hofer und der Freiheitskampf in Tyrol 1809: mit 24 Stahlstichen, vol. 3 (Leipzig 1841), plate following p. 30.

In the first illustration, precisely as Caroline describes, the Tyroleans fire down on the Bavarian troops from above:


In this second illustration — again, precisely as Caroline describes — Tyroleans bind tree limbs and trunks, earth, and stones with ropes, wait for the Bavarian troops to march through a narrow pass en masse, then cut the ropes and allow all the materials to plunge downward onto the troops below, “tearing all the crags, outcrops, and other rocks along the cliff down with them with a loud, thunderous noise and explosion” (ibid., 31):



[10] Correct: 13 August 1809. Caroline is mistaking the day of death with the day (night) the body was returned to the family in Munich. See below. Back.

[11] Count Max von Arco’s sister was the wife of Maximilian von Montgelas. Back.

[12] As noted in the supplementary appendix on the War of 1809, “in their mountain valleys [the Tyrolese] fought the detested enemy with rifles, scythes, and rocks.” Here an illustration of Count von Arco’s death from Gottfried Wilhelm Becker, Andreas Hofer und der Freiheitskampf in Tyrol 1809: mit 24 Stahlstichen, vol. 3 (Leipzig 1841), plate following p. 60:


See also note 15 below. Back.

[13] In connection with the War of Spanish Succession that began in 1701, Maximilian II Emanuel of Bavaria (1662–1726), engaged in a military campaign, on the side of the French, against Tyrol in 1703.

After attaining a measure of success, however, he was quickly forced to leave, with Tyrolean peasants and Austrian sharpshooters waiting in ambush.

The incident took place at the steep Martinswand (“Martin’s Wall”) near Zirl, just west of Innsbruck ([1] illustration: Eduard Duller, Deutschland und das deutsche Volk, 2 vols. [Leipzig 1845], 1:193; [2] map: Reliefkarte von Westtirol mit Vorarlberg, Engadin u. Bayr. Hochland [1912]; Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Cartes et plans; [3] illustration: Wilhelm G. Becker, Andreas Hofer und der Freiheitskampf in Tyrol, 1809, vol. 1 [Leipzig 1841], plate following p. 66):




An imperial rifleman, Anton Lechleitner, was indeed waiting for the prince elector to pass by on 23 July 1703 retreating with his staff. Quite by chance, Count Ferdinand von Arco, a Bavarian officer, rode ahead a bit and, because he was wearing a brightly colored coat, was mistaken for the prince elector and shot down off his horse, dying a few minutes later.

Max Emanuel was so incensed by the event that he immediately gave his troops permission to plunder and destroy the surrounding villages.

The troops took horrific revenge, burning the villages, destroying the churches with all their ornamentation and liturgical equipment and even the sacramental hosts and wine, stripping the priests down to their shirts and some completely naked, beating them, locking sick persons inside their burning homes, killing others with their swords, gouging out their eyes, severing their feet and throwing them into fires, and so on.

The real reason behind the horror was, however, arguably the fact that Max Emanuel had lost the campaign for Bavaria. Back.

[14] Napoleon had just turned forty. Caroline is otherwise recounting what she has just read that day in the article “[News of ] Bavaria, Munich, 16 August [1809],” Baierische National-Zeitung 3 (1809) 188 (Wednesday, 16 August 1809), 799:

Munich, 16 August. Yesterday morning, the firing of cannons announced the birthday of His Majesty Napoleon the Great, Emperor of the French, King of Italy, Protector of the Confederation of the Rhine. That evening, His Excellency the Imperial Ambassador and Plenipotentiary Minister at the Royal Court, Herr State Counselor Otto, held a splendid party to celebrate this day, which was also attended by Their Majesties the King and Queen along with His Royal Highness Duke Karl. Back.

[15] Again, Caroline has most of this information from the day’s Baierische National-Zeitung 3 (1809) 188 (Wednesday, 16 August 1809), 799–800:

This past Monday night [14 August], the body of Royal Colonel and Brigadier Maximilian Count von Arco was brought here under escort, who was killed in a battle with the Tyrolean insurgents near Schwaz on 13 of this month [August] by after being shot in the head. He lived long enough for his fame but fell too early for his fatherland and for one of the first and noblest families of this kingdom, whom his death has plunged into the most profound grief.

When last spring he saw that his fatherland was being attacked and endangered by enemies, he voluntarily left behind the quiet pleasures and conveniences that his wonderful circumstances afforded him, and entered into the dangers and hardships of war. His Majesty the King had entrusted him with the command of a corps with which he protected the borders of the Inn and Isar River circles against the marauding intrusions of the Tyrolean rebels.

He devoted himself to his new vocation with the entire energy of his lofty spirit, and as a knight without fear and reproach boldly despised the dangers, instead proceeding courageously toward death. Though his military comrades trembled for him when bullets tore his clothes, and, as happened several times, his horse was shot out from under him, he remained calm and unruffled.

And thus, while riding toward an entanglement barrier that the rebels had set up near Schwaz, did he die with honor, renewing, moreover, the memory of his famous ancestor who 106 years ago, quite the same way, was killed in action at the Martinswand near Innsbruck full of loyalty and devotion for his prince.

Schwaz is located just northeast of Innsbruck on the Inn River (Rudolf Leuzinger, Reise-Relief-Karte von Tyrol, nebst den angrenzenden Gebieten [Augsburg 1890]; Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Cartes et plans):


Here its location with respect to Munich; Schwaz, although not indicated on the map, lies on the Inn River to the northeast of Innsbruck (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):


See this slightly more detailed account in Beda Weber, Andreas Hofer und das Jahr 1809, mit besonderer Rücksicht auf Passeiers Theilnahme am Kampfe (Innsbruck 1852), 123–24, which suggests that much the same devastation took place after this Arco’s death as after the first one earlier:

The advance guard under Arco had in the meantime made it as far as Kolsass. On the way, he set fire to Castle Ashach at Volders and several houses along the road. These actions embittered the farmers, who now followed his procession from up in the mountains. At Heiligenkreuz [Heiligkreuz] just before Schwaz, where the Inn River comes close to the road, they assembled on the heights perfectly overlooking and controlling his route.

Here Schwaz (Schwatz), just north of Heiligkreuz, with the road directly on the Inn River (Views in the Tyrol: From Drawings by T. Allom after Original Sketches by Johanna V. Issler [London 1836], following p. 78):


The narrow valley road was now rendered impassable by entanglement barriers, and removing them would require a lengthy period of time. Colonel Count von Arco rode imperiously forward. Suddenly shots rang out from the dense forest and killed the horse of his adjutant. The colonel pushed forward as if nothing had happened. Suddenly a bullet flew into his head, and he fell from his horse without making a sound.

A fierce firefight broke out between the two sides, and only after two hours could the Bavarians work their way through to Schwaz with a loss of 200 men. That night and the following day, the embittered warriors raged through the remaining houses of the marketplace of Schwaz with ruthless passion, unrestrained and merciless. Back.

[16] Schelling had been ill since ca. 26 June 1809 with, initially, catarrhal fever, and then a persistent cough. Caroline mentions the illness in her letter to Pauline Gotter on 7 August 1809 (letter 442), as does Schelling, also on 7 August, in letters to Carl Joseph Windischmann and Martin Wagner Back.

[17] The following was published just two days before in the Baierische National-Zeitung (1809) 187 (Monday, 14 August 1809), 794–95:

Austria. The Wiener Zeitung contains the following:

The following daily order from the Archduke Karl has just been made known:

Littau, 31 July 1809

Extremely important considerations have prompted my decision to petition His Majesty to relieve me of the army command he earlier bestowed upon me. I received the the agreement of His Majesty the Emperor yesterday and at the same time received the order to transfer the supreme command to Cavalry General Prince von Lichtenstein.

In leaving the army, I continue to take the greatest interest in its fate. My complete conviction of its bravery, the trust I put in it, and my perpetual habit of devoting all my efforts to it make this separation extraordinarily painful for me. I flatter myself that this feeling is shared and reciprocated.

Signed: Karl

See Hubert N. B. Richardson, A Dictionary of Napoleon and His Times (London 1920), 113, s.v. “Charles (Karl Ludwig)”:

When peace was concluded [in 1805], however, he labored strenuously at the reorganization of the [Austrian] army. His newly trained forces were first tested in 1809. He was now field-marshal and president of the council of war, and was the only Austrian general who had proved his ability to defeat the French. This success, especially in his late campaigns, is probably due to the fact that he employed to some extent the French methods and tactics.

When the new Austrian Army took the field in 1809 it had not yet undergone the full curriculum of training that he had mapped out for it, yet it had many more excellencies than its predecessor, and was beaten only after a most desperate resistance. It achieved one noteworthy success, the battle of Aspern-Essling, and made a notable stand at Wagram. At the end of this campaign the Archduke retired from the army and spent the rest of his life privately. Back.

[18] Concerning the Duke of Oels and Ferdinand von Schill, see the supplementary appendix on the War of 1809, chap. 20. Caroline does not realize that Ferdinand von Schill had been killed in action back on 31 May 1809 in Stralsund, and that The Duke of Oels had escaped with his “Black Troop” across the English Channel to the Isle of Wight on 6 and 7 August 1809. Back.

[19] Duke Friedrich Wilhelm von Braunschweig-Oels, the rightful heir to the throne in Braunschweig, which had become part of the Kingdom of Westphalia under Jerome Bonaparte, had entered Braunschweig on 31 July 1809. See the anonymous Account of the Operations of the Corps under the Duke of Brunswick, from the time of its formation in Bohemia to its embarkation for England (London 1810), 38–39:

On the 31st of July the Duke arrived at Brunswick through Wolfenbüttel. It was a most interesting event to see the Duke, after an absence of several years, once more in the midst of his affectionate people; the danger and fear of incurring the punishment of death were not sufficient to restrain the marks of attachment and love which all were eager to show him; every countenance expressed the sentiments which good citizens entertain towards their legitimate sovereign; and tears of gratitude were that day paid to the respected memory of the princes who, with an indefatigable and generous attention to the happiness and prosperity of their subjects, had for centuries governed the people of Brunswick, and had made the country one of the finest and most flourishing provinces of Germany.

Think what must be the feelings of a prince, who, with the noblest and best inclinations, finds himself under the necessity of quitting his early home, his lawful inheritance, and all the glorious works of his ancestors! yet he went under the influence of a steady and determined resolution to make every possible effort to release his faithful people from the chains of an overbearing French despot, and to restore the happiness of his brave countrymen.

Illustration of the Duke of Braunschweig-Oels among his fellow citizens at Braunschweig (Louis Ferdinand Spehr, Friedrich Wilhelm Herzog von Braunschweig-Lüneburg-Oels, 2nd ed., ed. Wilhelm Görges [Braunschweig 1861], plate following p. 136):


See also Christopher Kelly, History of the French Revolution, and of the Wars Produced by that Memorable Event etc., vol. 2 (London 1831), 404–5:

He now directed his course towards his native city. Late in the evening of the 31st of July, he entered Brunswick, on whose ramparts, wrapped in a cloak, he passed the night. And here it has been justly asked by a writer of great respectability:

What must have been the feelings of the prince, when he beheld the palace, once the residence of his illustrious ancestors, his own cradle, and the theatre of his juvenile years; when he traversed the streets in which his parent had so often been seen, attended by crowds of happy mortals, who awaited the father of his people, to pay him the tribute of grateful tears; when he encountered the anxious and timid looks of those who once hoped to see the prosperity and the glory of their country augmented by him, whom alone, from among his three sons, his father had deemed worthy to be his successor?

These were, perhaps, the most painful moments experienced by this high-spirited prince, since the sable genius of Auerstedt eclipsed the splendour of the house of the Welfs. Fate seemed to shew him once more the happy land, to which he was the rightful heir, to make him more keenly sensible of his loss.

He, nevertheless, retained sufficient strength of mind to conduct himself with exemplary moderation. If he could not confer happiness, neither would he involve others in his own calamity: but, in a proclamation, magnanimously recommended to his countrymen to be obedient to their present rulers. Back.

[20] Concerning this ill-fated English expedition, see the supplementary appendix on the War of 1809, chaps. 21 and 22. Back.

Translation © 2018 Doug Stott