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Hamburg Citizen’s Militia (1815 - 1868)

Hamburgs Bürgermilitär (1815 - 1868)

Last modified: 2017-11-11 by klaus-michael schneider
Keywords: hamburg | militia | hanseatic cross | wreath | hamburg greater arms | cockade |
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Historical Introduction

Hamburg’s citizen’s guard was already planned by David Christopher Mettlerkemp(1774-1850) and Friedrich Christoph Perthes during the French occupation (1806-1814) of Hamburg. In 1813 Mettlerkamp became commander of the "Hanseatische Bürgergarde". The only purpose of the "guard", in fact a militia of citizens and not consisting of professional soldiers, was to free Hansa cities from French occupation. But it didn’t take part in the war against Emperor Napoleon I., took however part in the siege of Hamburg by allied troops. Mettlerkamp was appointed to reorganize the "guard" on 3 June 1814, when citizen’s militia had already begun to dissolve itself after the end of war. On 10 September 1814 the local government, the senate, introduced the compulsory military service for all Hamburgian males between 20 and 45. Last but not least, because the Hamburger Bürgerwache, a pseudo-military formation with mainly police functions, meanwhile had seriously deteriorated.

The concept of citizen’s militia was based on the constitution of Hamburg and the principles of armed masses, born in the Wars of Liberation. The chief of the militia was a lieutenant colonel, since 1840 a colonel. Each battalion was commanded by a major, each company by a captain. The officers were elected by a commission, the chief was elected from a list of proposals, edited by the government. As a militia the members were not on any pay roll. They had to make own efforts in order to buy their personal equipment. For that reason the militia was a "cheap army". A state controlled by merchants liked that form.

The militia was needed during the great fire in 1842 and during the 1848 revolution. The militia was finally dissolved 30. July 1868. The citizens were really sad, feeling that they had lost another bit of sovereignty, after a few months before the Hamburg merchant ensign had been replaced by the ensign of North German Federation (Norddeutscher Bund).
Already on 1 October 1867 the Hamburg garrison of Confederated troops of the German Confederation (Deutscher Bund) had been dissolved and the troops were replaced by Prussian infantry regiment no.76.
Source:Andreas Fahl: "Das Hamburger Bürgermilitär, 1814-1868", Berlin and Hamburg 1987.
Klaus-Michael Schneider, 6 Jan 2009

In view of the debilities after the wars of liberation a new formation should be established, which united the advantages of the Citizens' sentinels, if they had any advantages, and the ephemeral Citizen's Guard. The target was an elevation of the clout by introducing a compulsory service for all males from 20 years up to 45 years. The resistance of the Sentinels' captains, being afraid to lose their privileges, was obstinate. Thus at first the Citizens' Guard was dissolved and the Sentinels were restored. In 1815 a subdivision into six battalion-districts was planned. Each district had six quarters being homes of a regiment. Each regiment consisted of 200 militiamen, altogether a number of 7200 soldiers was advised. Additional units were scheduled as follows: one company of rifles (/Jäger/) and one company of sharp-shooters for each district, both consisting of 100 men, two squadrons of cavalry, one company of artillery, one company for St. Georg, another company for the region between Hamm and the so called wood villages, east of St. Georg, finally another company of rifles for the Ritzebüttel district, all together another 1000 men. Furthermore there should have been reservists.

The commander in chief had the rank of a lieutenant colonel. Each battalion was granted a colour. Officers out of the Citizens' Sentinels and the Citizens' Guard were freed from service due to their own request.

The size of a company was adapted to the requirements several times. The cavalry should be reduced down to one squadron and the artillery should be restocked up to two companies.

In January 1815 the militia had about 2000 man, one year later 4700 men. In 1830 within seven battalions there were altogether 6810 infantrymen, 147 cavalrymen, 414 riflemen, 475 artillerists plus 12 staff officers, altogether 858 men.

Already in 1826 the regulations were changed and the age of the conscripts was reduced from 22 years up to 35 years, because the old regulations were considered to be "too burdensome".

Also the districts of the battalions had to be adapted several times due to disproportionate strength of the units. In 1849 a reorganization was attempted, which was however refused. The Citizens' Militia's prime function should no longer be the defence of the city but the perpetuation of law and order. After many quarrels in 1852 new regulations were passed, which designed an official duty for all militiamen from 22 years up to 40 years. Between 1841 and 1866 the strength levelled off around 8900 men, another 3000 men since 1861 preferred to pay /Wachgeld/ in order to escape the unpopular service. In this year according to Hamburglexikon all the 10 scheduled infantry batallions had been deployed. (A colour of the 9th battalion is still existing today.)

When the militia was dissolved in 1868, it consisted of eight battalions infantry (478 up to 789 men), one battalion artillery (316 men), one battalion rifles (249 men) and cavalry (112 men), altogether only just some ca. 5700 men. (editorial remark: The Citizens' Sentinels had around 11,000 men).
Source:Cipriano Franzisko Gaedechens "Hamburgs Bürgerbewaffnung - ein geschichtlicher Rückblick", Hamburg 1872.
Klaus-Michael Schneider, 18 Aug 2013

The Flags

Infantry Battalion Colours

[Hamburg Citizens' Militia infantry obverse]
image by Klaus-Michael Schneider, 18 Aug 2013
[Hamburg Citizens' Militia infantry finial]
image by Klaus-Michael Schneider, 18 Aug 2013
[Hamburg Citizens' Militia infantry reverse]
image by Klaus-Michael Schneider, 18 Aug 2013
 
 
 

The infantry battalions differed in the colours of their pompons as follows: 1st (red), 2nd (blue), 3rd (yellow), 4th (white), 5th (green), 6th (orange), 7th (light blue), 8th (dark green), 9th (crimson) and 10th (brown). The first quintuple of colours was also the set of sheet colours of the Citizens' Sentinels. Since 1848 a cockade in the German colours was added. The colours of all infantry battalions according to Gaedechens displayed on a white sheet the (Greater) City Arms with lions on the reverse and the Hamseatic Cross in a wreath on the obverse. Here it shouldn't be unmentioned that the wreath of oak leaves just formed a semi-circle on the lower half. The upper half was formed by a motto in golden letters "Gott mit uns" (God with us). The small Hamburg flags within the crest had been replaced by 10 monochrome bannerets with golden, cross shaped finials. The colours of the bannerets were those of the infantry battalions as listed above. The flags of all battalions looked more or less the same, but different cravats, having the battalion's proper colour , were hanging down from the finials bearing the motto ""Libertatem quam peperere maiores digne studeat servare posteritatis" (reverse) and "Wir schwören, die Freiheit zu bewahren, würdig ihrer Stifter" (obverse). In 1848 another cravat in the German colours black-red-gold was added, which was however obviously replaced later by another one. The colours are not clearly recognizable. Probably they were black-white-red and the replacement happened shortly before the disbandment, after the German Confederation (Deutscher Bund) had been dissolved.
Exercising the battalions used interim flags in the battalion's proper colour, some of them were bonnily embroidered. The companies used little jalonneur flags in the battalion's colour bearing the company's number. They were carried by an NCO within his gun barrel.
Until 1811 the Hamburgian military wore monochrome, black cockades, which had been stuck upon their hats. During the Wars of Liberation they were replaced by white cockades with a red cross, which since then was called "Hanseatic Cross". From the cockade the cross forged ahead to the standards of the Hanseatic Legion, the Citizens' Guard and later on to those of the Citizens' Militia, which had no longer a special connection with the Hanseatic League.
When the Citizens' Militia was disbanded on 29 July 1868, all the colours were given back into custodial care of the civil authorities.
Source: Museum für hamburgische Geschichte , filing card no. ABII 1093
Klaus-Michael Schneider, 18 Aug 2013

Colour of the 5th Infantry Batallion

[Hamburg infantry 5th battalion] image by Klaus-Michael Schneider, 19 Aug 2013

The 5th battalion is indicated by the green cravat with inscriptions as described before.
Source: Museum für hamburgische Geschichte , photo provided by Gudrun Hildebrandt

Obverse of the Colour of the 3rd Infantry Batallion

[Hamburg infantry 3rd battalion obverse] image by Klaus-Michael Schneider, 19 Aug 2013

The 3rd battalion is indicated by the yellow cravat with inscriptions as described before. The 3rd battalion used a hanging flag.
Source: Museum für hamburgische Geschichte , photo provided by Gudrun Hildebrandt

Reverse of the Colour of the 4th Infantry Batallion

[Hamburg infantry 4th battalion reverse] image by Klaus-Michael Schneider, 19 Aug 2013

The 4th battalion is indicated by the white cravat with inscriptions as described before. The 4th battalion used a hanging flag.
Source: Museum für hamburgische Geschichte , photo provided by Gudrun Hildebrandt
Klaus-Michael Schneider, 19/20 Aug 2013

Infantry Colour reported 1868

[Hamburg infantry 1868] image by Klaus-Michael Schneider, 6 Jan 2009

Description of flag:
It is a white square flag with a red Hanseatic cross in its centre. Beneath the cross is a garland of oak leaves, formed like a half circle. Upon the cross is a golden embowed inscription: “Gott mit uns” (=God with us). The flag has golden fringes at three edges.
(editorial note: looking at the photos of the Museum für hamburgische Geschichte, the cross in this painting is far too thin. The shape is the same like that of a Maltese cross ; kms 2013)
Source: Adolph Schieck: "Das Hamburgische Bürgermilitär im Jahre 1868", Hamburg 1887; with eight additional lithographies. I spotted the image on 22 April 2007 in HH-Altona.
Klaus-Michael Schneider, 6 Jan 2009

Cavalry Standard

[Hamburg cavlry 1816] image by Klaus-Michael Schneider, 22 Aug 2013

The cavalry already since 1816 had a proper standard with complete greater city arms on a white sheet. Beneath the finial was a big, white cockade with a red Hanseatic Cross, looks as if a second finial was fixed on top of the original finial. There are some details, not mentioned by Gaedechens: The standard had fringes and a bordure of leaves, probably laurel. It is supposed that both elements had been golden. Above the greater arms was an inscription "Einigkeit." (= Unity.) in Gothic letters. Finally there had been tassels and a long cravat, the latter probably in the Hanseatic Colours red and white.
Sources:
1) Klaus Grot: "Chronik des Standortes Hamburg - Bilder aus Hamburgs militärischer Vergangenheit", Hamburg 1993
2) Cipriano Franzisko Gaedechens: "Hamburgs Bürgerbewaffnung - ein geschichtlicher Rückblick", Hamburg 1872
3) F.H.W. Rosmäsler: "Hamburgs Bürgerbewaffnung in 35 Figuren", image no. 20; Hamburg 1816
Klaus-Michael Schneider, 22 Aug 2013


Unknown Hamburg Military Flag (1859)

[Unknown Hamburg military flag (1859)] image by Klaus-Michael Schneider, 11 Jan 2009

Description of flag:
The ratio is approx. 7:10. It was a white flag with a red bordure and the great coat of arms in the centre. The coat of arms was topped by an embowed black Gothic inscription: "Gott mit uns" (=God with us).
The flag was placed upon a waggon of the guild of "Quartiersleute" at a pageant in 1859, which was held in order to honour the German poet Friedrich von Schiller. The flag is using an official symbol of the city and the inscription is normally used for Hamburg military flags. Therefore I think, it might be a flag of the Hamburg citizen’s militia.
Source: I spotted this flag on 9 August 2008 in Museum für hamburgische Geschichte
Klaus-Michael Schneider, 6 Jan 2009

Unknown Hamburg Military Flag (CoA)

[Unknown Hamburg military flag (CoA)] image by Klaus-Michael Schneider, 11 Jan 2009

Description of great coat of arms: (I am only describing the differences to the current one)
1) The supporters are rampant guardant.
2) The shield is white with a red castle, masoned black with an open gate with portcullis.
3) The shield has a black tressure.
4) Among the peacock’s feathers are alternating red and blue flags unfurled.
5) Below all are two greenish wreaths.
Klaus-Michael Schneider, 11 Jan 2009


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