Bibra, Christoph Erhard von
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Christoph Erhard von Bibra zu Adelsdorf, Frankenwinheim und Schnabelweyd
Electoral Mayence Major-General (1699-1705), Feldmarschall-Lieutenant (1705-1706)
Imperial Major-General (1704-1706)
born 15 May 1656 (5 May Old Style), Roßrieth, Franconia
died 28 January 1706, Adelsdorf, Franconia
The Bibra are a wide-spread, ancient family from the Franconian Reichsritterschaft (Free Imperial Knights). They still flourish in Franconia and even Australia and the USA.
Between 1680 and 1806, solely in the Franconian military, at least 24 Bibra were in military service, including ten of them during the War of the Spanish Succession. Five Bibra reached the rank of general, four during that war. So it is no wonder, that a number of regiments bear the name of Bibra:
|Regiment of Foot, Würzburg, 1690-1705||Johann Ernst von Bibra|
|Regiment of Foot, Saxe-Weimar, 1693-1702||Georg Friedrich von Bibra|
|Regiment of Dragoons, Electorate of Mayence, 1697-1706||Christoph Erhard von Bibra|
|Regiment of Dragoons, Franconian Circle, 1704-1733||Heinrich Carl von Bibra|
|Regiment of Foot, Bamberg, 1730-1734||Heinrich Carl von Bibra|
Curiously, all four were brothers.
Christoph Erhard belonged to the senior branch of the family. His parents were Georg Christoph jun. von Bibra, Würzburg Domherr, Ritterhauptmann (lit. captain of knights, the director of the canton) of the Rhön-Werra canton, Free Imperial knights‘ counselor of the Steigerwald canton; and of Maria Barbara Bronsart von Schweickershausen. Five of his sisters reached adulthood, as did five of his brothers. Nearly all of his brothers went into military service, the three generals mentioned above and Hanns Heinrich (1664-1705), who became lieutenant-colonel in the Electorate of Mayence. Two of his sisters married, three became canonesses.
Unlike his brother Heinrich Carl, Christoph Erhard’s career led him in various foreign service. It began in 1669, when Christoph Erhard von Bibra became page-boy at the Württemberg Court, thus gaining experience in noble society and his first useful connections.
In 1672 Bibra was cornet in the cavalry regiment of the Prince-Bishopric of Münster, in the same year, he became lieutenant in the newly raised Imperial Harrant Cuirassiers. With the regiment, he attended the campaigns on the Rhine.
In 1679, we find Bibra at the Ansbach Court as gentleman of the bed-chamber (Kammerjunker, appointed an 26 May) and cavalry captain (Rittmeister).
At the Ansbach Court, Bibra met his first wife Juliana Salome von Buttlar (1656-1696), who was lady of the court to the Margravine Johanna Elisabetha. They married on 26 November 1679 and had eleven children. His surviving son Carl Heinrich (1685-1746) became captain in his uncle Heinrich Carl’s regiment of dragoons, but resigned his commission in 1708. Georg Philipp (1688-1708) made it Austrian captain and Lothar Franz (1696-1761) captain with a lieutenant-colonel-title in the Franconian regiment Ferntheil (Erffa during the War of the Spanish Succession).
Bibra’s second wife was Christiane Rüdt von Collenberg (1667-1742) whom he married on 5 July 1697. One son and three daughters died the day of their birth or few days later, only Carolina, born in 1700, grew up and married a Bamberg functionary. After the death of Christoph Erhard, Christiane had to cope with the excessive financial demands from her stepsons. In addition, denominational contention arose when she had held protestant masses for herself and the protestant part of the inhabitants in the predominantly catholic Adelsdorf.
In 1679 and 1680, Christoph Erhard donated a silver case and 12 Rthlr. for a new organ to the church at Schwebheim, a town closely connected with the family.
From 22 January 1682 (12 January Old Style) until mid-1683, Bibra was in command of the squadron provided by the Imperial Knights, serving as a bodyguard to Field Marshal Georg Friedrich von Waldeck. He took part in the famous relief of Vienna.
As it seems, Bibra then changed to a short-lived squadron of dragoons meant to be the nucleus of a new Franconian regiment of dragoons. This squadron being turned over to the Emperor in 1686, he transferred to the Franconian cuirassiers in 1687. In the same year, Christoph Erhard, after the demise of his father, inherited the Untereurenheim estate and his brother Heinrich Carl had to pay him an additional 5.090 fl. in the division of the heritage.
With the French invasion, imperial and Reichs-troops had to be moved to the Rhine. The Franconian cuirassiers, known for their rather low discipline at that time, had to stay in Rothenburg/Tauber as a garrison though (with two Würzburg companies in Würzburg). Christian Erhard von Bibra is last mentioned with the regiment in 1689, he exchanged once more in 1691.
In 1691, the Franconian Circle had at last raised a new regiment of dragoons, where Bibra became captain of a Bamberg company at the instigation of the Bamberg-Prince-Bishop Marquard Sebastian Schenk von Stauffenberg, who appointed him staff officer (lieutenant-colonel) on 20 February without consulting with the other Franconian principalities. Especially the Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach was displeased, as he pretended to be director of the circle along with Bamberg (an opinion contested by Bamberg).
At first, the dragoons, not yet properly recruited and equipped, had to stay at Mayence to help levying duties. Obviously the dragoons too did not live up to expectations as to discipline, as Christoph Erhard was ordered to put a stop to excesses.
Bibra became colonel (without a raise of salary) and commander of the regiment on 6 November (27 October Old Style), 1694, after Aufseß had been promoted major-general and Christian Ernst Margrave of Brandenburg-Culmbach had recommended him warmly.
Once more the army was assembled in June 1695 under Christian Ernst near Heilbronn. But the Electoral Saxons being transferred to Hungary, the Hessians to the Netherlands, actions were only possible on a small scale. On 12 July, a small skirmish took place at Waghäusel, where Bibra was in command of 1,200 men under Count Palffy (with 1,500 horse) and took numerous French prisoners.
Christoph Erhard did not stay long with the regiment, as he yielded his post to his brother Heinrich Carl in 1696 or 1697.
On 16 July 1696, Bibra was appointed Culmbach Amtshauptmann (bailiff, director of an administrative district) and governor of the Brandenburg-Bayreuth (!) Fortress of Plassenburg (Kulmbach).
A few months later, Bibra exchanged his estate Untereuernheim for Adelsdorf and Frankenwinheim with the prince-bishop. Adelsdorf became one of Christoph Erhard’s favourite abodes.
Together with his brothers, Christoph Erhard von Bibra was made hereditary Reichsfreiherr (Imperial baron) in 1698.
The personal union of the Prince-Bishop of Würzburg with the Electoral Prince-Bishop of Mayence, Lothar Franz von Schönborn, made it possible for Bibra to obtain Mayence ranks and functions: he was appointed major-general (1699) and governor of the Citadel of Cyriaksburg in Erfurt, so he had to move from Franconia to Erfurt. From 1700 to 1706, he was commander of the Fortress of Petersberg in Erfurt. In 1697, Bibra had been appointed colonel and proprietor of a Electoral Mayence regiment of dragoons.
On 8 April 1702, Bibra was appointed Würzburg Erbuntermarschall (hereditary junior marshal).
At the outbreak of the War of Spanish Succession, the elector put his newly-raised Bibra Dragoons in Imperial service. In June, the regiment formed part of Limburg-Styrum’s Corps at Wimpfen, later at Landau.
In 1703, Bibra was quartered in the Stollhofen Lines and succeeded in repelling French attacks. Later he marched by way of Gundelfingen and Augsburg to the rivers Iller and Lech. During winter, he again had to march to Bühl.
In early 1704, when Tallard crossed the Rhine, Bibra stood near Rottweil under FML Aufseß. As the Margrave of Brandenburg-Culmbach was too slow to try anything against the French, nothing was accomplished by the Allies.
On 2 July 1704, as a major-general of the Electorate of Mayence, Bibra was present at the Battle of the Schellenberg, where he commanded nine squadrons of cavalry and three battalions of infantry. On 13 August, at the second Battle of Höchstadt (aka Blenheim for the British), Bibra stood under the command of the Duke of Württemberg on the right wing with four regiments of cuirassiers. After the battle, he was praised by Prince Eugène for his steadfast regiment of dragoons. On the prince’s recommendation, Bibra was made Imperial major-general on 12 October “for his useful and beneficial services, especially in the battle of Höchstädt on 13 August 13.”
On 2 April 1705, Bibra was promoted Mayence FML by Elector Lothar Franz von Schönborn. He campaigned at Lauterburg, the Lines of Brühl and Kreuznach, but had to go to the famous Schlangenbad spa for his health later. After a short time with the army, his health again deteriorated and he went home to Adelsdorf in early December. On this occasion, we learn about his baggage-train. It comprised of 18 horses and four mules worth 3.650 fl.
Christoph Erhard von Bibra died of pneumonia on 28 January 1706 in Adelsdorf. He was buried in nearby Neuhaus.
Bibra, Wilhelm von: Beiträge zur Familien-Geschichte der Reichsfreiherrn von Bibra. Vol. 3, München 1888, pp. 46-68.
Biedermann, Johann Heinrich: Geschlechts-Register Der Reichs-Frey unmittelbaren Ritterschaft Landes zu Francken Löblichen Orts Steigerwald. Nürnberg 1748, Taf. XXVII.
Documents from the Bavarian state archives Bamberg and Nuremberg.
Stingl, Martin: Reichsfreiheit und Fürstendienst. Die Dienstbeziehungen der von Bibra 1500 bis 1806. Neustadt/Aisch 1994, pp. 165-167.
Klaus Roider for the initial version of this article