1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Zieten, Hans Joachim von
Zieten, Hans Joachim von (1699–1786), Prussian general-field-marshal, began his military career as a volunteer in an infantry regiment. He retired after ten years’ service, but soon afterwards became a lieutenant of dragoons. Being involved in some trade transactions of his squadron-commander, he was cashiered, but by some means managed to obtain reinstatement, and was posted to a hussar corps, then a new arm. At that time light cavalry work was well known only to the Austrians, and in 1735 Rittmeister von Zieten made the Rhine campaign under the Austrian general Baronay. In 1741, when just promoted lieutenant-colonel, Zieten met his old teacher in battle and defeated him at the action of Rothschloss. The chivalrous Austrian sent him a complimentary letter a few days later, and Winterfeld (who was in command at Rothschloss) reported upon his conduct so favourably that Zieten was at once marked out by Frederick the Great for high command. Within the year he was colonel of the newly formed Hussar regiment, and henceforward his promotion was rapid. In the “Moravian Foray” of the following year Zieten and his hussars penetrated almost to Vienna, and in the retreat to Silesia he was constantly employed with the rearguard. Still more distinguished was his part in the Second Silesian War. In the short peace, the hussars, like the rest of the Prussian cavalry, had undergone a complete reformation; to iron discipline they had added the dash and skirmishing qualities of the best irregulars, and the hussars were considered the best of their arm in Europe. Zieten fought the brilliant action of Moldau Tein almost on the day he received his commission as major-general. In the next campaign he led the famous Zietenritt round the enemy’s lines with the object of delivering the king’s order to a distant detachment. At Hohenfriedberg-Striegau and at Katholisch-Hennersdorf the hussars covered themselves with glory. Hennersdorf and Kesselsdorf ended the second war, but the Prussian army did not rest on its laurels, and their training during the ten years’ peace was careful and unceasing. When the Seven Years’ War broke out in 1756 Zieten had just been made lieutenant-general. At Reichenberg and at Prag he held important commands, and at the disastrous battle of Kolin (18th June 1757) his left wing of cavalry was the only victorious corps of troops. At Leuthen, the most brilliant battle of the 18th century, Zieten’s cavalry began the fighting and completed the rout of the Austrians. He continued, during the whole of the war, to be one of Frederick’s most trusted generals. Almost the only error in his career of battles was his misdirection of the frontal attack at Torgau, but he redeemed the mistake by his desperate assault on the Siptitz heights, which eventually decided the day. At the peace, General Zieten went into retirement, the hero alike of the army and the people. He died in 1786. Six years later Frederick’s successor erected a column to his memory on the Wilhelmsplatz in Berlin.
See the Lives by his daughter, Frau von Blumenthal (Berlin, 1800), by Hahn (5th ed., Berlin, 1878), by Lippe-Weissenfeld (2nd ed., Berlin, 1878), and by Winter (Leipzig, 1886).