Station:  Military Affairs in the 18th Century
F: He was gifted, but reckless. He was a bon vivant with a fondness for opulent parties and a magnificent court. On the other hand, Duke Carl Eugen had less of a talent or liking for political matters. The consequences for the Duchy of Württemberg of his style of government and his tax policy were nothing less than catastrophic.
M: To make up for a notorious shortage of cash, he regularly disposed of his regiments to other rulers. Some of the troops were sold, others were hired out. For the Seven Years' War, Carl Eugen promised the King of France no fewer than 6,000 soldiers.
F: A huge number for a small duchy like Württemberg. After all, there was no universal conscription in those days. So where did they find all those men?
M: "Recruiting officers" roamed the countryside and tried to enlist young boys, especially in the alehouses. They lured them with all kinds of promises, with beer and wine and pretty girls. But the recruitment campaigns fell far short of what was needed.
F: So Duke Carl Eugen enforced several "Aushebungen" – conscription drives. We have one such conscription order in the display case, dated June 1758. Yet again, the duke had concluded what was known as a “Subsidienvertrag” with France. Nothing to do with subsidies, though. It was a military support agreement. This time, he’d promised 12,000 soldiers! Patrols went from place to place and pressed every man who was fit for military service – sometimes using brute force.
M: Bailiffs and mayors were also ordered to take recruits to Stuttgart. These "conscription drives" mainly affected farmers' sons and day labourers.
F: Later, there were decrees targeting a group identified as "Übelhauser". These orders called upon practically the whole population to denounce disagreeable fellow citizens and hand them over to the military. "Übelhauser" were defined as...
M: (...) "illegal idlers, restless characters, subtle and insidious agitators and other burdensome male persons up to the age of 60".
F: The majority of the soldiers were pressed into military service in this way. And as you can imagine: most of them weren’t very happy about it.
Foto: © Garnisonsmuseum Ludwigsburg