Wednesday, 30 October 2013

" If your light cavalry thus takes fortified towns, I must disband the engineers and melt down my heavy artillery."

In the Capitulation of Stettin on 29–30 October 1806, Lieutenant General Friedrich Gisbert Wilhelm von Romberg surrendered the garrison and fortress to a French light cavalry brigade led by General of Brigade Antoine Lasalle. This event was one of a number of surrenders by demoralized Prussian soldiers to equal or inferior French forces after their disastrous defeat at the Battle of Jena-Auerstedt on 14 October. Stettin, Prussia, is a port city on the Oder River near the Baltic Sea lying 120 kilometers north-northeast of Berlin.

Lasalle, serving under Murat, marched to Stettin where he demanded its surrender in the early afternoon of 29 October. Lieutenant General Friedrich Gisbert Wilhelm von Romberg refused at first. At 4:00 PM, Lasalle sent another summons to Romberg, this time with a threat of harsh treatment to the city. The French general claimed the Lannes' entire corps of 30,000 men was present. In fact, the V Corps advance guard got no nearer than Löcknitz that day. The elderly Prussian general entered negotiations and capitulated during the night of the 29th and 30th.

Romberg surrendered the Stettin fortress, 5,300 troops, and 281 guns. One hundred officers were released on their word of honor not to fight against France while the common soldiers became prisoners of war. Lasalle's entire force consisted of 800 horsemen of the 5th and 7th Hussar Regiments plus two cannons.

Historian Francis Loraine Petre concluded that Stettin's surrender was "shameful". Its adequate garrison and supplies would have allowed it to sustain a siege. Even if the fortress was indefensible, there was nothing preventing the troops from crossing to the east bank of the Oder, joining their Russian allies, and continuing the war. Lannes wrote to Napoleon, "The Prussian army is in such a state of panic that the mere appearance of a Frenchman is enough to make it lay down its arms."

Napoleon congratulated Murat,
"My compliments on the capture of Stettin; if your light cavalry thus takes fortified towns, I must disband the engineers and melt down my heavy artillery."

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