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The Childhood and Youth of a Prussian Nobleman in the Late 18th Century. From the Memoirs of Friedrich August Ludwig von der Marwitz (Retrospective Account)

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From Joining the Army to the Death of Frederick William II (1790-97)

It never occurred to me or my parents that I could ever become anything other than a soldier. Nearly all my ancestors and relatives were and thus there was no deliberation of any kind about whether I should enter this class or another, just as it was assumed most decidedly that I could only join the regiment of gendarmes. For about hundred and forty years, as long as there has been a Brandenburg-Prussian military force, our family has given it several hundred officers, and among those seven generals. Fate had determined me to become the eighth. There are few families who have given their fatherland more war leaders. [ . . . ]

Thus on January 2nd, 1790 I entered the regiment of gendarmes, where both of my uncles had served and which they had led, that is, I was signed up for it and temporarily exempted from service since I was still too young and frail. [ . . . ]

I had begun riding lessons about three months earlier. My father held the belief that one should learn all kinds of physical exercise properly right from the beginning in order not to develop any bad habits in them. Therefore I was sent to the royal horse track to see the famous equerry Ploen. Since I didn’t have any experience at all and was very short for my age, however, it was very difficult for me and I did not learn very much.

[ . . . ]

I now wore a uniform and truly began my military service in the beginning of 1791. – I was very short and frail and a bad horseman. When the exercises began at the end of March things became very unpleasant for me. Since all exercise began at the earliest dawn in those days I usually had to be at the stables at two-thirty in the morning to clean them. This meant I had to leave our home on Wilhelmstraße at two in order to be at the stables in the academy building at the end of Unter den Linden on time. At half past three everyone went home in order to dress, and at four thirty we were back in the stables for saddling; we rode out at five when the entire regiment exercised in front of Hallesches Tor, on the field near Tempelhof. This was followed by almost an hour of marching, the same on the way back, and about two hours of exercising so that we were back at nine o’clock and home at about ten, after the watchword had been issued.

[ . . . ]

In this year, 1792, the second of the three generals v. Goltz (a colonel at the time) who was my father’s cousin, returned from his posting to Paris, where the Revolution was in full swing. He had been there for nearly thirty years and since my father was his closest relative and almost the only person he knew in the fatherland he visited our house almost every day. He was a very well informed and educated man, and while none among us or our acquaintances ever found anything to excuse or praise about the nonsense happening there [in Paris], we were thoroughly informed very early on about the causes and forces of this terrible rebellion of human haughtiness against divine order and law as well as about the lies, slander and machinations of those rebels due to his expert knowledge of the situation there. Now, after so many years, few of those who have made an effort to study the true history of the revolutions are this well informed while the large majority believes the lies of the revolutionary authors and even the newspaper writers to be the truth. It was thus unavoidable for us to develop a thorough disgust for those evildoers. [ . . . ]

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