Der Lange Kerls, of Frederick Wilhelm of Prussia

One of the things I like best about history are the unique footnotes which for me bring history alive. One example, Louis XVI imported potatoes and served them at his own table, his daughter Marie-Thérèse loved to eat them fried. Now what kid doesn't eat french fries? A connection with the past.

Today I write about another. The Prussian infantry regiment No 6, called the Lange Kerls, which basically translates into the long guys. Formed in 1675, by Prince Frederick of Brandenburg, who later became Frederick I of Prussia. Frederick I's son Frederick Wilhelm became the nominal commander at his birth. He continued with recruiting and maintaining the regiment all through his reign.

King Frederick Wilhelm was consumed by thing military and this regiment in particular. All over his kingdom tall men were sought out. Farmers and landowners could be payed a supplement if they gave up their tallest labourer. Kingdoms who desired good diplomatic relations would send men to be enlisted as soldiers to Frederick Wilhelm I. If men of the correct height could not be found legally they might be kidnapped. Even priests and monks were not safe.

Frederick Wilhelm I drilled his personal soldiers everyday. Tall women were called in to marry soldiers so that tall children might be born who would continue to serve in the ranks and maintain the regiment.

Discipline in the Prussian army was severe. Any infraction, even as small as being out of step could result in running the gauntlet, being flogged or beaten with an iron ram rod. Naturally, desertion was not uncommon, nor was suicide.

The uniform was spectacular however, a dark blue coat, with a red sleeved vest worn under the coat, red pants, and a grenadier cap. He carried a musket of the Prussian pattern, white leather belts, and a grenadier sword. The grenadier cap had the effect of making the soldiers appear even taller.

Frederick the Great, der Alte Fritz, son and heir of Frederick Wilhelm I, considered the regiment a waste of money and the regiment was reduced to a battalion (half a regiment) with most of the soldiers being sent to other regiments. This did not mean that kidnapping of men (not impressment) for the ranks ceased and even captured soldiers were employed to fill the ranks of the Prussian regiments, the pool of Prussian men being exhausted by years of warfare.

The battalion served at Hohenfriedberg during the War of Austrian succession, and at Rossbach, Leuthen, Hochkirch, Liegnitz und Torgau throughout the Seven Years War. The battalion existed until 1806 and the Prussian defeat at the Battle of Jena-Auerstedt by Napoleon.

Vive le Roy.


MadMonarchist said...

I posted on this unit over at my blog a while back. I had just come across the website of a group of what I suppose would be called reenactors who keep the memory alive of this famous regiment.

Brantigny said...

I originally posted this a couple of years ago. It did not receive much notice then so I redid it a bit.