Capture of Stettin
Following the French victory in the Battle of Jena-Auerstedt in 1806, Napoleon ordered a vigorous pursuit of the retreating Prussians and the rounding up of their garrisons lest they link up with and reinforce their Russian alliess, who were still under arms and contesting the issue. The once-proud Prussian army, less than two decades removed from its glory days under Frederick the Great, was demoralized after the disaster at Jena-Auerstedt when a cavalry brigade under General Antoine Lasalle approached the port city of Stettin.
Lasalle had about 500 hussars under his command, and 2 light field guns. Stettin was a well-fortified port city with a garrison of nearly 10,000 men, protected by 281 cannons, commanded by a general Friedrich von Romberg, a veteran with over 50 years’ experience, whose career stretched back to the Seven Years War, during which he’d fought under Frederick the Great. The city was well provisioned by the British Royal Navy, whose supply-laden ships sailed in and out of the port with no hindrance.
On the afternoon of October 29, 1806, Lasalle sent a subordinate under flag of truce to demand Stettin’s surrender, promising to treat its garrisons with all the honors of war. Von Romberg refused, vowing to defend the city to the last man. An hour later, the emissary returned, this time with a more ominous message: “If by 8AM you have not surrendered, the town will be bombarded by our artillery and stormed by 50,000 men. The garrison will be put to the sword, and the town will be plundered for 24 hours“. An alarmed von Romberg consulted with the town leaders, who urged capitulation, and that night, the details of the surrender were negotiated and finalized. The following morning, the garrison marched out and filed past the French to throw their arms down at their feet.
When von Romberg discovered just how tiny a force he had surrendered to, it was too late, and he had little choice but to stick to the negotiated agreement. Lasalle became a national hero, while von Romberg became a laughingstock. The Prussian general was tried by court-martial in 1809, convicted, and sentenced to life imprisonment for surrendering without a fight. He died two months later.