Thielmann was born at Dresden. Entering the Saxon cavalry in 1782, he saw service against the French in the Rhine campaigns and served on the side of Prussia in the Jena campaign. After the disaster of Jena, Thielmann was sent by Saxony as ambassador to Napoleon I, became his ardent admirer, and did much to bring about the Franco-Saxon alliance. Thielmann accompanied the Saxon contingent which fought at the siege of Danzig and at Friedland.
In 1809, as colonel of Free-Corps, he opposed the advance of the Austrians into Saxony, and was rewarded for his services with the grade of major-general, further promotion to lieutenant-general following in 1810. As commander of the Saxon Heavy Cavalry Brigade he took part in the advance on Moscow two years later, and his exceptional bravery at Borodino attracted the attention of Napoleon, who took Thielmann into his own suite. His own sovereign at the same time made him Freiherr.
In the war of the Sixth Coalition, Thielmann, now von Thielmann, took a prominent part. As governor of Torgau, by his king's orders he at first observed the strictest neutrality, but on receipt of an order to hand over the fortress to the French he resigned his command and, accompanied by his staff officer Aster, joined the Coalition. As a Russian general he was employed in reorganizing the Saxon army after Leipzig, and in 1814 he commanded the Saxon corps operating in the Low Countries.
Early in the following year he became a lieutenant-general in the Prussian service, and in command of the III Corps (with Carl von Clausewitz as his chief of staff) he took part in the Waterloo campaign.[c] From the field of Ligny he retired with the rest of Blücher's army on Wavre, and when the other corps marched towards Waterloo, von Thielmann defended this movement against Grouchy, fighting in the Battle of Wavre (18–19 June 1815), thus contributing materially to the victory at Waterloo.
- His name is also spelt Johann von Thielemann.
- Regarding personal names: Freiherr was a title before 1919, but now is regarded as part of the surname. It is translated as Baron. Before the August 1919 abolition of nobility as a legal class, titles preceded the full name when given (Graf Helmuth James von Moltke). Since 1919, these titles, along with any nobiliary prefix (von, zu, etc.), can be used, but are regarded as a dependent part of the surname, and thus come after any given names (Helmuth James Graf von Moltke). Titles and all dependent parts of surnames are ignored in alphabetical sorting. The feminine forms are Freifrau and Freiin.
- Carl von Clausewitz, author of the influential book On War, was appointed von Thielmann's chief of staff.
- Summerville, Christopher (2014). "Thielemann". Who was Who at Waterloo: A Biography of the Battle. Routledge. p. 371. ISBN 9781317868194.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Thielmann, Johann Adolf, Freiherr von". Encyclopædia Britannica 26 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 847. Endnotes:
- von Hütel, Biographische Skizze des Generals von Thielmann,Berlin, 1828.
- von Holzendorff, Beiträge zur Biographie des Generals Freiherrn von Thielmann, Dresden, 1830.
- von Petersdoff, General Johann Adolf Freiherr von Thielmann, Leipzig, 1894.
|Wikisource has the text of the 1905 New International Encyclopedia article Thielmann, Johann Adolf, Baron.|
- Hermann von Petersdorff (1894), "Johann Adolf Freiherr von Thielmann", Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB) (in German) 37, Leipzig: Duncker & Humblot, pp. 755–759