Google Answers Logo
View Question
Q: Prussian Military history ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   0 Comments )
Subject: Prussian Military history
Category: Reference, Education and News > Teaching and Research
Asked by: barnchild-ga
List Price: $10.00
Posted: 18 May 2003 09:06 PDT
Expires: 17 Jun 2003 09:06 PDT
Question ID: 205434
Family stories have it that my great grandfather, Theodore Ludwig
Knaak, was a Prussian soldier, before he came to the United States. He
was born June 4, 1843 in Kerlin, Prussia.  He was one of five sons of
Theodore Paul Knaak and Friederiche Wolf Knaak of Prussia. Do you know
what battles my great grandfather might have fought for Prussia?  What
were the war issues?  What uniform would he have worn?  Is there a way
to find his Prussian military records to verify these family stories?
(Note: I don't know the year he came to the United States, but it was
before our Civil War, because he enlisted with the 11th Missouri
Infantry led by Brigadier General Smith which was a part of the 16th
Army Corps of the Army of Tennessee, under General Sherman.)
Subject: Re: Prussian Military history
Answered By: scriptor-ga on 18 May 2003 11:30 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Dear barnchild,

I have collected some information on the Royal Prussian Army and its
service records, and I hope it will be useful for you.

I. Military Operations of Prussia

In the years 1849-1863, the Kingdom of Prussia was not involved in any
wars or other political events that would have led to battles and
military operations. The Prussian army played an active role in the
revolutionary processes that took part in Germany during 1848/49.
Prussian troops were, by request of other German sovereigns, sent out
to beat down revolutions in their principalities. Also, Prussia
intervened in the conflict between the dukedoms of Schleswig-Holstein
and the Kingdom of Denmark. However, Theodore Ludwig Knaak was still a
little child at that time.

After a 14-year peace period, Prussia and Austria together went to war
against Denmark in the war of 1863/64. Fighting between Prussians and
Danes began in the first days of February 1864. In theory, Theodore L.
Knaak could have been a soldier in the Prussian army then. In that
case, he might have fought in the following battles:

Missunde, 1 February 1864
Kappeln, 6 February 1864
Düppel Fortress Siege, 18 February-17 April 1864
Düppel Fortress Assault, 18 April 1864

These were only the more important battles; as in every war, there
were numerous small engagements of minor or no importance.

If Theodore L. Knaak really was a Prussian soldier in the war against
Denmark, he would have had to leave Germany shortly after the Prussian
victory, since he came to the USA in time to fight in the Civil War.

Though it is not clear whether T. L. Knaak was really involved in the
war against Denmark, it is still possible. So here is some detail on
that war:

Royal Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Denmark - History - The
Schleswig Issue

II. Prussian Uniforms

As a Prussian soldier around 1860, Theodore L. Knaak looked like this:

Prussian infanterymen with full marching gear. Left: With undress cap.
Right: With helmet ("Pickelhaube").
Source: Historiecenter Dybbøl Banke 

Prussian cavalrymen. From left to right: Cuirassier, Hussar, Dragoon,
and Ulan (Lancer). Traditionally, Dragoons were regarded mounted
infantry, not cavalry.
Source: Kaisertag: Militär - Das Reichsheer, by Oliver Henkel

Infantrymen, who made the main share of the Prussian army, wore blue
uniforms and black trousers (in winter) or white trousers (in summer).
On the march, for drill and for barracks duties, they wore the undress
cap ("Krätzchen"), a soft cap without visor (only officers' caps had
visors). For battle, parade, guard duties etc. they wore the famous
"Pickelhaube", a black helmet made of hard leather with shiny brass
parts. The artillery had the same helmet, but for safety reasons with
a small gunball instead of the spike. Jäger (Rangers) wore a black
Hussars had a red hungarian hussar tunic, embroidered in silver. Ulans
wore a tunic called "Litewka" and a helmet called "Tschapka", in
remembrance to the Polish roots of this kind of cavalry.
The Dragoons' uniform resembled the foot troops, since they were
regarded mounted infantry. The tunics' blue was slightly lighter.
Cuirassiers were considered the elite of the Prussian cavalry. Their
uniform was white, they had helmets similar to the Pickelhaube, but of
shiny steel. Also, they wore a cuirass, though this part of their
equipment was rather useless. Some privileged units were allowed to
wear the cuirasses they captured from the French in 1813-1815.

III. Sources for Research

Prussia had compulsory military service. All able men between 17 and
45 years could be drafted. Usually, a boy was enrolled in the military
service register ("Stammrolle") when he was still a child and then, at
the age of 20, drafted for 2 years of service (cavalry: 3 years). If
Theodore L. Knaak came to the USA before the Civil War ended, he must
have been drafted at relatively young age before he was 20 years old.

One should think that, with such bureaucratic background, finding
records for a particular soldier would be fairly easy. Unfortunately,
the direct opposite is true. During World War II, most of the Prussian
military register records were lost, the small rest scattered to the
four winds:
"All personnel rosters and card indices (Stammrollen und Karteimittel)
of the Prussian Army, the transition army ("Ubergangsheeres), the Army
(Reichswehr), and the Imperial Navy (Kaiserlichen Marine) were burned
in an air raid on Berlin in February 1945."
Source: Genealogy FAQ: Where can I find German military records?

And even if a soldiers' record still exists somewhere by mere chance,
it is almost impossible to locate without knowing the particular
military unit the person served in.

The only thing you can do is to contact the German Federal Archive:
"Preserved are medical records of those soldiers who were being
treated in military hospitals (Lazarett). The records, most with
personnel roster extracts (Stammrollenauszügen), (...) for those born
before 1890 are stored at the Bundesarchiv."
Source: Genealogy FAQ: Where can I find German military records?

So, if you are lucky, Theodore L. Knaak was treated in a Prussian
military hospital during his service time. You can contact the
Military Archive of the German Federal Archive using this contact

Bundesarchiv - Militärarchiv
Wiesentalstrasse 10
79115 Freiburg

Phone: +49(0)761-47817-0
Fax: +49(0)761-47817-900

When requesting information, please keep in mind that "Theodore" is
the English way to write your great-grandfathers first name. When he
was still in Prussia, he surely wrote his name "Theodor", without the
"e" at the end. "Ludwig" and "Knaak", however, should match.

Additional source:

Preußenweb: Prussian Wars - The German-Danish War, 1864 (in German)

Search terms used:
"preußische kriege"
preußen dänemark 1864
preußen wehrpflicht lebensjahr
stammrollen bundesarchiv

Hope this proves useful!
Best regards,
barnchild-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
A thorough answer was given.

There are no comments at this time.

Important Disclaimer: Answers and comments provided on Google Answers are general information, and are not intended to substitute for informed professional medical, psychiatric, psychological, tax, legal, investment, accounting, or other professional advice. Google does not endorse, and expressly disclaims liability for any product, manufacturer, distributor, service or service provider mentioned or any opinion expressed in answers or comments. Please read carefully the Google Answers Terms of Service.

If you feel that you have found inappropriate content, please let us know by emailing us at with the question ID listed above. Thank you.
Search Google Answers for
Google Answers  

Google Home - Answers FAQ - Terms of Service - Privacy Policy