Friedrich Wilhelm von Seydlitz
(Drawing by Menzel)

Friedrich Wilhelm von Seydlitz was along with Joachim von Ziethen, the most famous Prussian cavalry commander under Frederick the Great. Born in 1717, he joined the Prussian Army in 1737 (in the early years of his career he signed himself as Seidlitz, his name appears as such in the Ranglisten of the period. Initially he served in the hussars, in August 1750 he was a Major and he was called from his garrison to Potsdam and was promoted to Oberstlieutenant and transferred to the Württemberger Dragoner in Pomerani. He then joined the Kürassierregiment von Rochow (K 8) in 1753 as and commander (he was appointed Oberst on 19th June 1755). His early actions included Mollwitz (1741) and the Siege of Prague (1744).

In the autumn of 1755 the King attended the annual General-Revue of the Silesian cavalry regiments (8th to 15th September), and came away very pleased with Seydlitz` regiment. The result was that it was the only cuirassier or dragoon regiment from Silesia that marched into Saxony with the King`s army in 1756. In 1756 he fought at Lobositz, then in 1757 at Prague and Kolin. At Kolin he took command of the Krosigk cavalry brigade after Generalmajor von Krosigk was killed and led them in an attack which overran several Austrian battalions and brought the battle to its high point; the Prussians were not able to exploit this success however, and the Austrians recovered.

After Kolin he was promoted to Generalmajor and awarded the Pour le Mérite. At Rossbach Frederick put him in command of the cavalry over the head of the more senior cavalry generals von Meinicke and von Schönaich-Carolath. He was promoted to Generallieutenant later in 1757 at the age of 35 and awarded the Order of the Black Eagle. In 1758 he fought at Zorndorf.

Seydlitz was wounded at Kunersdorf in 1759 and did not return to duty until 20th May 1761 (then with Prince Henry`s army in Saxony).

After the Seven Years War Frederick appointed Seydlitz Inspector of the Silesian cavalry regiments, a task he carried out from his headquarters at Ohlau. His influence and insistence on perfection pervaded the whole Prussian cavalry. In wartime he had been an energetic and active leader, and Frederick had rewarded his performance with decorations and very rapid promotion.


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