Bibra, Heinrich Carl von
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Franconian Major-General (1705-1709), Feldmarschall-Lieutenant (1709-1723) General der Kavallerie (1723-1730)
Bamberg Feldmarschall-Lieutenant (1730-1734)
born 20 February 1666 (10 February Old Style)
died 11 January 1734, Forchheim (in present-day Bavaria/Germany)
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.
Heinrich Carl 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.
As usual in nobility, Bibra from 1685 for a short time went to the Königsberg university. When in 1687 the legacy from his father was divided among the brothers, he obtained Castle Euerburg (some ten km east of Schweinfurt), worth 23.000 fl., but he had to pay 10.000 fl. to his brothers. In 1695 he exchanged the castle to Hans Heinrich for Mühlfeld estate (c. 50 km north of Schweinfurt). Bibra‘s first military service was with the Dutch as a cornet from 1688 to 1690. In 1691 or 1692 he changed into Würzburg service as a lieutenant of dragoons with the regiment Truchseß von Wetzhausen, Küchenmeister company (Schade/Fechenbach/Wolfskeel Dragoons during the War of the Spanish Succession), was promoted captain and took over a company from Johann Wilhelm von Wolfskeel between February and September 1692.
In 1694, Bibra again changed service, this time he became major (Obristwachtmeister) and commander of a Saxe-Eisenach squadron of dragoons. He was promoted lieutenant-colonel in 1695. Bibra now prepared another step in his career, back to a more important Franconian principality by converting to Catholicism. So it was possible to get a Bamberg company with the Franconian dragoons as a lieutenant-colonel in march 1697 – he exchanged with his brother Christian Erhard.
On 3 August 1698, Bibra and his brothers were made heritable Reichsfreiherren (Imperial barons).
On 9 October 1701, Bibra at last was promoted colonel in the Franconian regiment of dragoons – without any raise of pay. As the senior colonel of the regiment, he applied for a lieutenant-colonel's salary in late 1704, arguing that he did a major-general’s duties in the Franconian cavalry. He had to wait until Christian Wilhelm von Aufseß, proprietor of the regiment died on 3 December 1704, to have the chance to have his characteristic coat of arms with the beaver embroidered on the dragoon’s kettledrum’s hangings as a proprietor five days later.
When Bibra tried to exercise one of the usual rights of a proprietor and to change the regiment’s uniform, he had to learn that a Franconian Circle’s regiment was something special and a proprietor’s possibilities were rather limited: the estates didn‘t react to his wishes and equipped the regiment as before in white and blue instead of red and blue as had been his idea.
With his wife Maria Johanna Theresia von Eyb (1685-post 1740), whom he had married on 13 February 1701, he had ten children: Franz Johann Anton Christoph (1703-1739), knight of the Teutonic Order und functionary, Friedrich Christoph (1704-1705), Johann Rudolph Carl (1704-1751), knight of the Teutonic Order and electoral Cologne lieutenant-colonel, Maria Eleonore Catharina Sibylla (1706-1771), who married Christoph Carl Maximilian von Egloffstein, a Bamberg general, Catharina Elisabetha Josepha (1708-?) married to a Bamberg Rittmeister, Maria Magdalena Catharina Charlotta (1709-?) married to a Electoral Cologne Rittmeister, Carl Sigmund (1711-1788), Fulda prince-bishop under the name Heinrich VIII.; Maria Sophia Catharina (1712-c. 1800), married to an Austrian captain, Philipp Wilhelm (1714-1788), Bamberg major, and Georg Christoph (1715-1734), who after a few months of service died as a second lieutenant of grenadiers during the siege of Philippsburg.
In 1702, Bibra was present at the first siege of Landau. In the Battle of Friedlingen on 14 October, he was heavily wounded.
On 20 September 1703, Bibra was at the first Battle of Höchstädt under Limburg-Styrum and later invading the Upper Palatinate, and seizing the fortified town Neumarkt/OPf.
On May 8 1704, Bibra also took part in the failed assault on Ulm. On 13 August, he was at the second Battle of Höchstadt (aka Blenheim for the British). In August, Bibra served under Aufseß with the observation corps at Ingolstadt.
On 12 May 1705, Bibra was appointed major-general, being supported by the Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach. Once more he had to wait two years to be granted the appropriate pay. With the circle only paying three generals’ salaries, but having appointed more – in 1704 there were eight generals – so some of them were referred to a pay as colonels or even lower ranks.
In July 1705, we find Bibra in the camp at Lauterburg (Lauterbourg) under Thüngen and his brother Christoph Erhard von Bibra. In August, he and his regiment were part of a force of 1.000 troops under Major-General Count Mercy, which occupied the Stollhofen Lines. In August, Mercy advanced against Pfaffenhofen, but the French retreated in time. Bibra probably was present at the short siege of the Fortress of Hagenau (Haguenau) from September 29 to October 5.
In 1706, the Reichsarmee was rather unlucky. The French pushed them back to the right bank of the Rhine, Drusenheim and Hagenau were lost and only Landau kept. In September, the Franconians once more occupied the Stollhofen Lines under the command of FZM Erffa.
On 25 January 1707, Margrave Christan Ernst von Brandenburg-Culmbach took over command of the Reichsarmee after the death of Ludwig Wilhelm of Baden-Baden, not to the advantage of the Reich. In May, facing Villars’ advance from his position at Daxlanden and Mühlburg (both present-day Karlsruhe) some km southwest to Neuburgweier, Bibra’s regiment and the Franconian cuirassiers had retreated to make a junction with FZM Erffa’s corps. But the retreat from the Stollhofen Lines to Durlach had already begun. On 23 May, Bibra reached Durlach. The loss of the lines and the following French raids as far as Ulm and Nördlingen provoked outcry throughout the Reich, so the Margrave was replaced by Field Marshal Heinrich Sigbert Count Heister, and later by the Elector of Hanover.
In June 1707, we find Bibra encamped with the army at Iggingen (between Stuttgart and Nördlingen) in command of three squadrons from the Electoral Palatinate Leibregiment and Hahn Dragoons. On 22 June, Bibra‘s Dragoons and Württemberg Cavalry succeeded in repelling a French attack on the rearguard at Oberleinzell (50 km east of Stuttgart).
For the year 1708, nothing notable is to be reported on Bibra. The Franconian regiments were posted on the Ettlingen Lines.
On 12 August 1709, Bibra was promoted Feldmarschallieutenant (being paid as such with 2.000 fl. From 10 March 1713 for the duration of the war, after he had applied for it in 1712 after the death of General der Kavallerie Christian Ernst von Brandenburg-Bayreuth), after General Paulus XII. Tucher had died. He even had his letter of thanks to the district printed. His attempt to gain the same rank in the Imperial Army was not successful.
When his nephew Lothar Franz died in 1709, the Brandenburg-Culmbach fief of Schnabelweyd and the Bavarian fief of Troschenreuth, worth around 40.000 fl. went to him and the surviving three brethren. Bibra paid his brothers 3.000 fl. each to obtain the fiefs in full. In Schnabelweyd, he later tried to introduce Catholicism to the disapproval of the margrave. Because of these difficulties, his son sold Schnabelweyd after his death. To finance these deals Bibra sold his property of Mühlfeld, worth 25.000 fl.
Bibra in vain had tried to obtain an Imperial rank of FML in 1710. But he was appointed Geheimer Rat (privy councillor) and Amtmann (bailiff) by the prince-bishop of Bamberg on 25 January 1711 (after having converted to Catholicism like his brother Johann Ernst). This sort of combination of military and civilian ranks was not unusual, thus securing the person concerned an adequate income.
In 1714, Bibra became chamberlain of Bamberg and Pfleger of the Amt (director of an administrative district) Giech. Furthermore, in 1715, he became Oberamtmann (senior bailiff) in Scheßlitz. He obtained governorship of the city and fortress of Forchheim when the charge became vacant by the death of General Waldenfels in November 1717. One of his new duties was to prevent the burghers from poaching…
After the peace Bibra vainly applied for supplementary pay to his colonel’s salary, as all generals’ pays had ceased. But obviously he had enough means to have built a city-palace in Bamberg, known as the Bibrapalais.
On 21 May 1718, Bibra was appointed Würzburg Erbuntermarschall (hereditary junior marshal).
On 21 January 1721, there followed a further senior title for Bibra, Erbtruchseß (hereditary stewart) to the prince-bishop of Bamberg, being officially feoffed on July 12, 1723 (!). Part of his revenues was the so-called Truchsessenhöflein on the Bamberg Domberg.
Bibra obtained the rank of General der Cavallerie on 13 May 1723, as he had been senior Feldmarschallieutenant after the promotion of Hermann Friedrich von Hohenzollern, who became Feldzeugmeister. He once more applied for the rank of field marshal in 1727, but in vain.
As late as 24 December 1729, Bibra was appointed Bamberg Counsellor of War and half a year later, on 28 June 1730, he was promoted Bamberg Feldmarschallieutenant and proprietor of a regiment of foot.
Heinrich Carl von Bibra died on 11 January 1734 between 2 and 3 a.m. in Forchheim after two months of illness. He was buried in the Jesuit Kollegiatkirche in Bamberg. As a devout Catholic, he bequeathed to the church in Forchheim a priest’s vestment and a gilt cup, both of course ornamented with his arms, the beaver.
Bibra‘s widow (who died in 1771) repeatedly tried to get a month’s pay and a pension, the latter being rather unusual. Especially the catholic estates approved, but in result the Circle only bestowed 2.000 fl. on behalf of Bibra’s merits, because he had equipped himself as a general and “thus contributed to the circle’s honour” and because he hadn‘t sold his regiment.
Philipp Carl von Linsingen became the new proprietor of Bibra‘s regiment of dragoons; while Otto Philipp von Schrottenberg became proprietor of his Bamberg regiment.
Bibra, Wilhelm von: Beiträge zur Familien-Geschichte der Reichsfreiherrn von Bibra. Vol. 3, München 1888, pp. S. 208–226.
Biedermann, Johann Heinrich: Geschlechts-Register Der Reichs-Frey unmittelbaren Ritterschaft Landes zu Francken Löblichen Orts Steigerwald. Nürnberg 1748, Taf. XXV.
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. 203–205.
Tessin, Georg: Die Regimenter der europäischen Staaten im Ancien Régime des XVI. bis XVIII. Jahrhunderts. Osnabrück 1986-1995, vol. 1.
Klaus Roider for the initial version of this article