Sunday 1 May 2011

Baron Ferencz Neszmery

Baron Ferencz Neszmery

Franz, Freiherr von Neszmery, Ritter des Maria-Theresien Ordens

Ferencz Neszmery was undoubtedly the most illustrious member of this family, and indeed one of the most illustrious and gallant characters of late 18th century Austria and Hungary. He was born in Magyar Bel (today Velky Biel), a village adjacent to Reca: his family moved to Reca in the 18th century.

Neszmery was a soldier who moved up the ranks and, due to his extraordinary courage and personal bravery during the last great Ottoman war in the late 18th century, achieved the post of Colonel and was given the Knight's Cross of the Order of Maria Theresa. This knightly order, instituted in 1757, was the highest and most sought-after honour for any Austro-Hungarian military officer. Officially, the order ranked second to the Order of the Golden Fleece; however, the Maria-Theresa Order was seen as even more prestigious because it was given purely on merit - It was specifically given for "successful military acts of essential impact to a campaign that were undertaken on [the officer's] own initiative, and might have been omitted by an honorable officer without reproach." The order was so prestigious, that upon receiving it the officer had a right to either i) being raised to the nobility or ii) if he was already noble, to be elevated to a further rank. Accordingly, Neszmery (who was already a Hungarian aristocract) was raised to the rank of an Austrian Baron (Freiherr) in 1806.

Ferencz Neszmery's son, Baron Johann Neszmery, was also a military officer: he was Colonel of the 62nd Linien Regiment, which was incorporated in 1798 in honour of his father.

Below is a short excerpt from the Biographisches Lexikon des Kaiserthums Oesterreich, by Constant von Wurzbach (vol 20, Wien 1869) - the original is in German and goes into much more detail.

Neszmery, Franz Freiherr von (K.u.K. Colonel and Knight of the Order of Maria Theresa, born in Hungary in Magyar Bel in 1747, died November 21 1818). In 1763, at 18 years of age, he joined his elders as a cadet in the Hungarian Infantry Regiment No. 2, where he rapidly advanced through the ranks to Lieutenant and to Captain in March 1783. In 1788, he went with his regiment to fight in the last great Turkish war by Dubicza and Novi. At Dubicza under General Brentano, he was so keen to drive out the enemy that, after three charges, he hurried ahead with his Division and in the heat of battle advanced so far that he was at once alone amidst the Turk.

Eventually, Neszmery and his regiment alone faced the entire force of the Spahis [the heaviest Turkish cavalry]. There was no choice, either escape or death. Neszmery, without reflecting further, decided to keep the position to the last man. Attacked from all sides, he made brave and bloody resistance from the repeated attacks of the superior enemy: he not only held his place but moved up the battlefield until he stormed the enemy positions and gotten possession of three hills, which were very important for our side. He displayed no less heroism a few days later, on the night of 23 to 24 August 1788.

The text continues to elaborate of further acts of (reckless) heroism, especially Neszmery's propensity to storm fortresses and blow up castles by himself in the face of impossible odds and with no help from his fear-struck colleagues and men.