Baden Military History
Baden Grossherzogtum (grand duchy)
The Thirty-Years War
The Thirty-Years War that raged from 1618 till 1648 had enormous consequences for Germany and Baden. Marauding armies ravaged the countryside and destroyed many towns. It is estimated that Germany lost between 25% and 40% of her population ("History of Europe – Demographics". Encyclopædia Britannica). Large parts of Baden are thought to have lost over 33% of their population, and some parts as much as 66%. Freiburg im Breisgau, for example, is thought to have had 10,000-14,000 citizens at the advent of the war, but only 2,000 by war’s end. Disease, starvation, and emigration contributed to decrease in population. It would take some areas over a century to recover from these losses. For the genealogist, the Thirty-Years War is particularly lamentable, as many of what records were kept at this time were destroyed. On the other hand, the researcher must not think that ALL records from before this period were destroyed. The Family History Library has over 600 church books from Baden that predate 1648. Undoubtedly, there are more in archives in Germany.
During the War of Palatine Succession (aka Nine Years' War–the War of the Grand Alliance, the War of the Palatine Succession, or the War of the League of Augsburg) 1688–97. Baden suffered heavily again. The French King Louis XIV attempted to expand France to the Rhine and exert pressure on the Elector Palatine to sever ties with the League of Augsburg. The French began the policy of “brûlez le Palatinat!" whereby German towns were systematically destroyed. In 1689, Mannheim, Frankenthal, Worms, Speyer, Bretten, Maubronn, Pforzheim, Baden-Baden and numerous other towns and villages were set afire. In 1691, the French again besieged, attacked, and sacked Pforzheim. In 1692, they returned and took over the town, this time using it as a camp. From there, they set out on expeditions, looting and destroying the towns of Huchenfeld, Calw, Hirsau, Liebenzell, and Zavelstein. They also destroyed Liebeneck castle where part of the Pforzheim town archives were hidden. Another part of the town archive was held in Calw. Both sets of the archives were destroyed by fires set by the attackers. As with the Thirty-Years War, many records were destroyed during this war as well.
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 the Holy Roman Empire, which was replaced by the French-created Confederation of the Rhine.
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 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 fathered 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.
The 19th Century after the Napoleonic Wars
At the conclusion of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 Baden joined the newly-formed German Confederation. This loose association of German states was too weak to effect real German unity. Baden was affected by the revolutions that swept Europe in 1848. Baden troops, along with Bavaria and Prussia crushed the revolts there. However, any records from this time would simply be normal lists of soldiers and not specialized lists for any campaign.
The Austro-Prussian War
In the struggles between the two major German powers in the late 19th century, Baden was a supporter of Austria. In the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 Baden joined Austria, along with most of the other southern German states. The main campaign of the war took place in Bohemia, but most of Austria’s allies played little role there. No major battle took place in Baden. The Austrians and her allies were quickly and soundly defeated. Although on the losing side, Baden lost no territory, nor was it annexed by Prussia, as were other Austrian allies in the north. Baden was excluded from the North German confederation, but was kept from further alliance with Austria. Indeed, Baden was quick to make peace and an alliance with Prussia.
The Franco-Prussian War
The Franco-Prussian War had enormous consequences for Germany and Europe. This war initiated Geman unification. After the Austro-Prussian War Prussia became the leading state within the German culture area to the total exclusion of Austria. Prussia’s allies outside the North German Confederation maintained their own armies but adopted Prussian military tactics, drill and weapons. Baden was a participant in the Franco-Prussian War. Germany had about 1.2 million men under arms and nearly 500,000 concentrated on the Rhine. Superior weaponry, tactics, and troop movements allowed Germany to beat France in a short time. The fighting took place entirely on French soil. This means that no records were destroyed within Germany. So overwhelming was the German victory that many nations thenceforth modeled their armies, especially the general staff, on that of the Germans. With the establishment of the German Empire in 1871, the army of Baden was integrated into the new Kaiserheer and its military history is identical to that of the united Germany.