Baden Military History

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Baden Grossherzogtum (grand duchy)
Military History

Napoleonic Wars

Baden was greatly affected by the Napoleonic Wars. Its proximity to France made it a prime target for French influence and invasion. Its ruler, the Margrave Charles Frederick, initially supported Austria in the French Revolutionary Wars. Baden was once again devastated by these wars. In 1796, Baden was forced to pay France an indemnity and cede territory on the left bank of the Rhine. In 1805, Baden joined the war on the side of the French. Baden took part in the French victories at Ulm and Austerlitz, after which the Peace of Pressburg awarded Baden some Austrian territory. This treaty also marked the end of theHoly Roman Empire, which was replaced by the French-created Confederation of the Rhine.

The French Invasion of Russia

In June 1812, the Grande Armée invaded Russia. Of the early half a million men who crossed the Neman River on the way to Moscow, about 112,000 were German and 6,000 were from Baden. Of those French and allied troops who entered Russia, it is estimated that around 400,000 died. If the same percentage, i.e. over 80%, is applied to all units, then nearly 5,000 Badeners died in Russia.
The Battle of Leipzig in 1813 was a major turning point in the Napoleonic Wars and, indeed, European history. Involving more than 600,000 soldiers, it was the largest battle in Europe prior to World War I. Baden was at this time still a French ally. The battle lasted from for three days and resulted in enormous casualties, the French and their allies losing 38,000 killed or wounded. Many of these troops would have been Germans. The main result of the this battle was that Napoleon’s fortunes had waned and his German allies began to defect to the Allies. Baden was among the defectors.

The social consequences of such large-scale and long-lasting wars are enormous. As invading armies come, they cause widespread destruction, destroying property and killing both people and animals. Such actions cause a decrease in population not only by the killings but by disease and starvation that might follow. It also causes emigration. Also, a large part of the male population was called up for service and absent from home for long periods of time. This would have led to more children being born out of wedlock, both at home, as women had children to men to whom they were not married when their husbands were away and soldiers who were stationed far from home fathering children while on campaign. In such cases, it might be impossible to tell who a father was or where a soldier fathered a child.

Finally, many men would have died in other countries. In these cases, it is often impossible to locate the a death certificate of any individual. Think of the hasty retreat of the Grande Armée from Russia, with 80% casualty rate and the army trying to exit as quickly as possible, record keeping was nonexistent. Such is the lot of many a poor soldier—to die forgotten in a far-away land. However, sometimes a parish priest will write in his register that a member of his flock died in another place. But such entries are rare.

Military records from Baden, as with the rest of Germany, during the Napoleonic Wars, are difficult to use. One must know the unit to which the ancestor belonged. Sometimes a date and place of birth are given, but often not, the register being simply a list of soldiers. The lower the individual’s rank, the less likely it is that a researcher will find information on him. Click here for more information on German military records.