August Karl von Goeben - Encyclopedia

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AUGUST KARL VON GOEBEN (1816-1880), Prussian general of infantry, came of old Hanoverian stock. Born at Stade on the 10th of December 1816, he aspired from his earliest years to the Prussian service rather than that of his own country, and at the age of seventeen obtained a commission in the 24th regiment of Prussian infantry. But there was little scope there for the activities of a young and energetic subaltern, and, leaving the service in 1836, he entered the Carlist army campaigning in Spain. In the five campaigns which he made in the service of Don Carlos he had many and various vicissitudes of fortune. He had not fought for two months when he fell, severely wounded, into the hands of the Spanish Royal troops. After eight months' detention he escaped, but it was not long before he was captured again. This time his imprisonment was long and painful, and on two occasions he was compelled to draw lots for his life with his fellow-captives. When released, he served till 1840 with distinction. In that year he made his way back, a beggar without means or clothing, to Prussia. The Carlist lieutenantcolonel was glad to be re-admitted into the Prussian service as a second lieutenant, but he was still young, and few subalterns could at the age of twenty-four claim five years' meritorious war service. In a few years we find him serving as captain on the Great General Staff, and in 1848 he had the good fortune to be transferred to the staff of the IV. army corps, his immediate superior being Major von Moltke. The two "coming men" became fast friends, and their mutual esteem was never disturbed. In the Baden insurrection Goeben served with distinction on the staff of Prince William, the future emperor. Staff and regimental duty (as usual in the Prussian service) alternated for some years after this, till in 1863 he became major-general commanding the 26th infantry brigade. In 1860, it should be mentioned, he was present with the Spanish troops in Morocco, and took part in the battle of Tetuan.

In the first of Prussia's great wars (1864) he distinguished himself at the head of his brigade at Rackebiill and Sonderburg. In the war of 1866 -Lieutenant-General von Goeben commanded the 13th division, of which his old brigade formed part, and, in this higher sphere, once more displayed the qualities of a born leader and skilful tactician. He held almost independent command with conspicuous success in the actions of Dermbach, Laufach, Kissingen, Aschaffenburg, Gerchsheim, TauberBischofsheim and Wiirzburg. The mobilization of 1870 placed him at the head of the VIII. (Rhineland) army corps, forming part of the First Army under Steinmetz. It was his resolute and energetic leading that contributed mainly to the victory of Spicheren (6th August), and won the only laurels gained on the Prussian right wing at Gravelotte (18th August). Under Manteuffel the VIII. corps took part in the operations about Amiens and Bapaume, and on the 8th of January 1871 Goeben succeeded that general in the command of the First Army, with which he had served throughout the campaign as a corps commander. A fortnight later he had brought the war in northern France to a brilliant conclusion, by the decisive victory of St Quentin (r8th and 19th January 1871). The close of the Franco-German War left Goeben one of the most distinguished men in the victorious army. He was colonel of the 28th infantry, and had the grand cross of the Iron Cross. He commanded the VIII. corps at Coblenz until his death in 1880.

General von Goeben left many writings. His memoirs are to be found in his works Vier Jahre in Spanien (Hanover, 1841), Reise-und Lagerbriefe aus Spanien and vom spanischen Heere in Marokko (Hanover, 1863) and in the Darmstadt Allgemeine Militarzeitung. The former French port (Queuleu) at Metz was renamed Goeben after him, and the 28th infantry bears his name. A statue of Goeben by Schaper was erected at Coblenz in 1884.

See G. Zernin, Das Leben des Generals August von Goeben (2 vols., Berlin, 1895-1897); H. Barth, A. von Goeben (Berlin, 1906); and, for his share in the war of 1870-71; H. Kunz, Der .Feldzug im N. and N.W. Frankreichs 1870-1871 (Berlin, 1889), and the 14th Monograph of the Great General Staff (1891).

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