1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Mercy, Franz, Freiherr von
MERCY (or Merci), FRANZ, Freiherr von, lord of Mandre and Collenburg (d. 1645), German general in the Thirty Years War, who came of a noble family of Lorraine, was born at Longwy between 1590 and 1598. From 1606 to 1630 he was engaged in the imperial service, By the latter year he had attained high military rank, and after distinguishing himself at the first battle of Breitenfeld (1631) he commanded a regiment of foot on the Rhine and defended Rheinfelden against the Swedes with the utmost bravery, surrendering only after enduring a five-months' siege. He now became a general officer of cavalry (General-Feldwachtmeister), and in 1635, 1636 and 1637 took part in further campaigns on the Rhine and Doubs. In September 1638 he was made master-general of ordnance in the army of Bavaria, then the second largest army in Germany. In the next campaign he was practically commander-in-chief of the Bavarians, and at times also of an allied army of Imperialists and Bavarians. He was now considered one of the foremost soldiers in Europe, and was made general field marshal in 1643, when he won his great victory over the French marshal Rantzau at Tuttlingen (Nov. 24–25), capturing the marshal and seven thousand men. In the following year Mercy opposed the French armies, now under the duke of Enghien (afterwards the great Condé) and the vicomte de Turenne. He fought, and in the end lost, the desperate bat le of Freiburg, but revenged himself next year by inflicting upon Turenne the defeat of Mergentheim (Marienthal). Later in 1645, lighting once more against Enghien and Turenne, Mercy was killed at the battle of Nordlingen (or Allerheim) at the crisis of the engagement, which, even without Mercy's guiding hand, was almost a drawn battle. He died on the 3rd of August 1645. On the spot where he fell, Enghien erected a memorial, with the inscription Sta viator, heroem calcas.
His grandnephew Claudius Florimond, Count Mercy de Villets (1666–1734), Imperial field marshal, son of his brother Kaspar, who fell at Freiburg, was born in Lorraine, and entered the Austrian army as a volunteer in 1682. He won his commission at the great battle of Vienna in the following year; and during seven years of campaigning in Hungary rose to the rank of Rittmeister. A wound sustained at this time permanently injured his sight. For five years more, up to 1697, he was employed in the Italian campaigns, then he was called back to Hungary by Prince Eugene and won on the field of Zenta two grades of promotion. He displayed great daring in the first campaigns of the Spanish Succession War in Italy, twice fell into the hands of the enemy in fights at close quarters and for his conduct at the surprise of Cremona (Jan. 31, 1702) received the emperor's thanks and the proprietary colonelcy of a newly raised cuirassier regiment. With this he took part in the Rhine campaign of 1703, and the battle of Friedlingen, and his success as an intrepid leader of raids and forays became well known to friend and foe. He was on that account selected early in 1704 to harry the elector of Bavaria's dominions. He was soon afterwards promoted General-Feldwachtmeister, in which rank he was engaged in the battle of the Schellenberg (July 2, 1704). In the rest of the war he was often distinguished by his fiery courage. He rose to be general of cavalry in the course of these ten years. His resolute leadership was conspicuous at the battle of Peterwardein (1716) and he was soon afterwards made commander of the Banat of Temesvar. At the great battle of Belgrade (1717) he led the second line of left wing cavalry in a brilliant and decisive charge which drove the Turks to their trenches. After the peace he resumed the administration of the Banat, which after more than 150 years of Turkish rule needed a humane and capable governor. But before his work was done he was once more called away to a command in the field, this time in southern Italy, where he fought the battle of Francavilla (June 20, 1719), took Messina and besieged Palermo. For eleven years more he administered the Banat, reorganizing the country as a prosperous and civilized community. In 1734 he was made a general field marshal in the army, but on the 29th of June was killed at the battle of Parma while personally leading his troops. He left no children, and his name passed to Count Argenteau, from whom came the family of Mercy-Argenteau (see below).