Scharnhorst, Gerhard Johann von
(1755–1813)
   A distinguished officer in the Prussian Army during the Napoleonic period who is known as a remarkable reformer and administrator rather than as a battlefield commander. Hanoverian by birth, Scharnhorst transferred to Prussian service in 1801. He served as chief-of-staff first to the Duke of Brunswick at the disastrous Battle of Auerstädt on October 14, 1806, where he was slightly wounded, and towards the end of the campaign with Gerhard von Blücher, later to become Prussia ’s distinguished commander-in-chief. As a major general Scharnhorst headed the reform commission appointed to rebuild and reorganize the Prussian army, and it was in this capacity that his considerable talents were revealed. He advocated the creation of a national army based on wide conscription, the opening up of officers’ commissions based on merit, and the creation of a national militia - all of which led to the establishment of the new fighting force, which in 1813 helped drive the French from Germany in that year. Scharnhorst became Blücher’s chief of staff in 1813 but died from an infected wound received at the Battle of Lützen.
   See also <>; <>; <>; <>.
   FURTHER READING:
    Craig, Gordon A. The Politics of the Prussian Army: 1640–1945. London: Oxford University Press, 1964;
    Dupuy, Trevor N. A Genius for War: The German Army and General Staff, 1807–1945. Fairfax: Hero Books, 1964;
    Goerlitz, Walter. History of the German General Staff: 1657–1945. New York: Frederick A. Praeger Publishers, 1953;
    Paret, 638 Scharnhorst, Gerhard Johann von Peter. Yorck and the Era of Prussian Reform: 1807–1815. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1966.
   GREGORY FREMONT-BARNES

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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