"Do not pull me without thinking, and do not bring me back without glory!" Maximilian Baron of Wimpffen (1770-1854)

Hubert Michael Mader

 

In Deutsch-Wagram one can have a look at the sword of General Maximilian of Wimpffen, on the blade of which the following French words are engraved: „Do not pull me without thinking, and do not bring me back without glory!” - This motto determined the whole life of this distinguished officer of the Old-Austrian army and has lasted from the Napolean era until today. In the following article a short biography of Wimpffen will be described and, afterwards, the important Battle of Aspern 21st/22nd May 1809 will be outlined in brief. Maximilian Baron of Wimpffen was born on 19th February 1770 in Münster/Westphalia. As a son of the Austro-Hungarian Lieutenant Field Marshal Georg Siegmund he entered the Academy in Wiener Neustadt on 1st May 1781, from where he was put on duty as a cadet with the 9th Clerfait-Infantry on 1st November 1786. In the following year already he was posted with the 19th Alvinczy-Infantry, where he excelled several times during the Turk War 1788/1789. He was promoted second lieutenant in the course of this campaign already, was involved in the assault against Belgrade (30th September 1789) at the head of volunteers who invaded the town first. A stone fragment injured Wimpffen on the left foot, but it did not put him out of action. Thus, his commander Count Kolowrat went on putting him into action in several important and dangerous missions. The decisive turning point of the Austrian Army at Aspern (21st/22nd May 1809) against Napoleon’s troops as well as the Wimpffen’s personal flight of fancy ended abruptly for a while years later. Napoleon engaged the Austrians in a decisive battle at Deutsch-Wagram (5th/6th July 1809) once again. Another trial of strength took place northeast of Aspern where Wimpffen acted as general. The battle ended with a defeat of the Austrians, who left the battlefield “defeated, but certainly not conquered”. On 11th July the Battle of Znaim with the subsequent armistice followed, which led to the Peace Treaty of Schönbrunn on 14th October, forcing Austria to submit to hard conditions. For the Austrians the painful realization remained that the Habsburg Monarchy had to fend for itself and was unable to defy Napoleon’s military genius. Wimpffen appeared as a high officer of the “second line”, which means that he was not meant for appearing gloriously as a strategist like Archduke Karl or, later, Radetzky. Bravery, loyalty, determination, and authority were and will always be those decisive features marking a good officer. Wimpffen’s bravery as well as his loyalty to his supreme commander is uncontested. As an officer of the new era Wimpffen presented himself determined to follow his perspicacity. In doing this he was quite prepared to put his own life as well as the lives of his troops at risk. The numerous examples of his spirit, however, have nothing in common with recklessness and gamble. His behaviour at Austerlitz are Aspen proves this.