By purchasing three or more boxes of the Franco-Prussian Prussian infantry from the Perrys I received a free mounted figure of General Karl von Steinmetz - in fact I have two of them, because I ordered two batches of three or more boxes. Steinmetz has become synonymous with the Franco-Prussian War for the wrong reasons. Known throughout his career as arrogant and bull headed he showed a resentment of authority to the extent that he deliberately wore his 1813 fatigue cap directly against regulations. History has rather harshly judged him as a bumbler, but I have always considered that judgement harsh. He was a man misplaced, out of his time - a soldier of the old school better suited to a Napoleonic battlefield than one of von Moltke's. The “Lion of Nachod” was perfectly at home commanding a corps in 1866 but as an army commander four years later failed to understand or embrace the subtlety of Moltke’s strategy. He probably should have been retired from the army before the campaign of 1870.
Born in 1796 Steinmetz came from an impoverished background, but still managed to find means to attend the cadet school at Stolp between 1807 and 1811, entering the army, along with his elder brother, at the outbreak of the War of Liberation. As a second lieutenant he served in the battles of 1813, including Leipzig where he was wounded and his brother was killed. He entered Paris with the Army of Occupation and at the conclusion of the war did a period of service in the 2nd Foot Guards in Berlin before attending the War Academy between 1820 and 1824, taking a posting to the general staff at the conclusion of the course.
Promotion was slow in the peacetime army and not until 1839 did he make major in command of a guard battalion that he led nine years later during the disturbances of 1848. A year later he was involved in the Schleswig campaign where he earned the praise of General Wrangel for his part in the action at Schleswig and was awarded Pour le Merite for his role at Duppel. He served briefly as Governor of Cassel in 1850 before being made colonel and commandant of the cadet school in Berlin. After 41 years in the service he was made major general and posted at Magdeburg and then to Berlin in 1857 in command of a brigade of the Guards, before assuming command of a division in I Corps. Made lieutenant general the following year he took command of II Corps and then V Corps.
Promoted to general of infantry in 1864 he did not participate in the Danish War of that year, but led his V Corps in the Austrian war two years later. His hard fought victories at Nachod, Skalitz and Schweinschadel in that war opened the way for the Prussian invasion of Bohemia and raised him to hero status. After the war he was elected to the North German Confederation Parliament.
He was 74 years of age when he was given command of First Army in 1870. In the opening weeks of the campaign he proved a liability to the German High Command, bringing on an unexpected and unwanted battle at Spicheren, deliberately holding back at Borny then committing much of First Army to a disastrous frontal assault at Gravelotte. After the latter Moltke had had enough of Steinmetz, removed him from field command and sent him to Posen as the Military Governor. He resigned from the army in 1871 with the rank of Field Marshal and died in 1877. In his honour the 37th Fusiliers bore his name in their title.
The Perry model is based on the Carl Röchling painting of Steinmetz at the Battle of Skalitz on 28 June 1866 where he led his V Corps to victory over the Austrian 6th and 8th Corps.
Just what I am going to do with the second Steinmetz model I am not sure, but with plenty of spare heads from the plastic sets, I am sure a conversion is a possibility…perhaps I can use it as General von Zastrow who commanded the VII Corps in the war.