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Lübeck Citizens' Sentinels (Germany)

Lübeckische Bürgerwehr / Bürgerwacht (1628 - 1811)

Last modified: 2017-11-11 by klaus-michael schneider
Keywords: luebeck | sentinels | eagle(black) | eagle(double headed) | inescutcheon | coronet | wreath | arm | baton | grenade |
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[Lübeck Citizens' Sentinels 1740 (Germany)] image by Klaus-Michael Schneider, 25 Feb 2014 See also:

Lübeck Citizens' Sentinels (1628 - 1811)

Before 1628 there had been no own self-defence forces in Lübeck. Sometimes a few mercenaries were hired (and fired shortly afterwards). The only existing institution had been a little number of guards, watching over the city gates. Due to the permanent threat by Catholic troops in the 30-Years-War the government decided the introduction of permanent forces in 1628, which had already happened in Hamburg 11 years before: The Citizens' Sentinels (Bürgerwehr; Bürgerwacht) was planned as a conscript militia having permanent, unpaid staff. Obviously the defence had been organized before by the guilds in squads. Since 1628 they were replaced by companies, each one commanded by a civic captain (Bürgerkapitän), assisted by a lieutenant and an ensign. The militia had no uniforms and no commander-in-chief, but among the captains there was one captain, who - as a primus inter pares - had the supervision over the whole militia. His title was : Civic (Captain-) Lieutenant. He was the only paid member of the sentinels. There had been 26 companies ordered by quarters. Quarters were military districts. There boundaries didn't match the boundaries of the Lübeck parishes. All quarters were located alongside the main street with its four market squares, on which the companies of one quarter gathered in order to exercise. St. Mary-Magdalen (Marien Magdalenen) had eight companies. The others, St. James(Jacobi), St. Mary (Marien) and St. John (Johannis) had six companies each.
Besides the defence of the city (a case, which never happened) the sentinels replaced the gate guards and were some kind of city police. They restored law and order during an insurrection of the professional city soldiery in 1796 and executed the gang leaders. In theory every male had to serve within the sentinels, but in practice since the 18th century a lot of excuses were found, and it became a problem to man the militia properly.
During the battle of Lübeck (1806) the sentinels played no role. After the French occupation of Lübeck they de facto didn't exist any longer. They were formally dissolved by the French in 1811. There is only little information about the flags. Probably there had been no unique pattern and the flags were made due to fashion and the captains' preferences.
1) Thomas Schwark: "Lübecks Stadtmilitär im 17. und 18. Jahrhundert. - Untersuchungen zur Sozialgeschichte einer reichsstädtischen Berufsgruppe", published by Lübeck City Archive, Lübeck 1990, ISBN 3-7950-0456-X, (proceedings concerning the history of the Hansa City of Lübeck, vol.B18), pp.59ff.
2) Lübeck City Archive: Findbuch 1.11 (Interna H-K), p.193
Klaus-Michael Schneider, 25 Feb 2014

Company Flag 1740

It was a white over red horizontal bicolour. In the centre within a wreath of laurel, which was connected by a golden ribbon, was the black, double-headed eagle of Lübeck armed and tongued golden and topped by a golden coronet. Another coronet was on top of the inescutcheon, which was divided per fess into white over red. The eagle was flanked by two white, spiral batons: enwinded by laurel, topped by a golden coronet and having a grenade at the base. In the upper hoist and fly there were arms in silver armour. Above was a golden inscription "SOLI DEO GLORIA" (i.e. fame only for God) and beneath a golden number "1740".
It is not known, to which quarter or company it belonged. It had been in the local museum, which is unfortunately some 80 years ago (nowadays it was not in the museum and is probably lost).
Source: Neubecker 1932, p.16, image no. 48
Klaus-Michael Schneider, 25 Feb 2014

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