Maximilian Ritter von Rodakowski

Maximilian Ritter von Rodakowski was born in Lemberg in 1825. Following his graduation from the Engineer Academy, he entered Uhlanen-Regiment Kaiser Franz Joseph Nr. 4 as a cadet on the 16th of October 1843 in which he was commissioned as a Lieutenant on the 16th of January 1844. His promotion to Oberlieutenant followed on the 9th of December 1847 and in this rank he saw action during the campaign against Piedmont in 1848. He successfully accomplished four missions as a courier from the blockaded city of Mantua to the Austrian headquarters in Verona. He then further distinguished himself in command of two troops of his regiment at Curtatone for which he was awarded the Military Merit Cross on the 7th of July 1850. In the meantime he had advanced to rank of Rittmeister 2. Classe within his regiment on the 5th of July 1849 becoming a Rittmeister 1. Classe on the 12th of October 1853.

Rodakowski decided to leave the army and on the 31st of August 1857 returned to civilian life. However just over a year later he rejoined the service entering Uhlanen-Regiment Erzherzog Ferdinand Maximilian Nr. 8 on the 4th of September 1858. Promoted to Major on the 8th of May 1859 he was appointed to the command of the West Galician Volunteer Rifle Battalion and following the disbandment of the battalion on the 13th of September 1859 was assigned to Uhlanen-Regiment Erzherzog Karl Ludwig Nr. 7. 

By an Imperial Decree dated the 17th of January 1860, a volunteer Lancer regiment was to be formed and on the following 1st of March the freiwilligen Ulanenregiment was assembled from two squadrons each from Lancer Regiments 1, 2, 8 & 10. Major Ritter von Rodakowski was transferred to the newly forming regiment effective the 22nd of January 1860 and was appointed as the commander of the 2nd Division (3rd and 4th Squadrons). With the appointment of Ludwig Graf von Trani, Prince of the Two Sicily's as the Regimental-Proprietor or Inhaber on the 15th of May 1861, the regiment was henceforward known as the Trani-Ulanen. On the 1st of July 1862 the volunteer Lancer regiment was renamed as the 13th Lancers but continued to be described with the Regimental-Proprietor's name. Rodakowski was promoted to Oberstleutnant on the 17th of August 1862. During the period preparatory to the outbreak of hostilities with Prussia and Italy in the Spring of 1866, the regimental commander Oberst Ludwig Pulz was appointed to the command of a newly formed reserve cavalry brigade and on the 26th of April. Ritter von Rodakowski became the regimental commander of the Trani-Ulanan-Regiment.

The regiment was assigned to Oberst Pulz's Reserve Cavalry Brigade along with the Husaren-Regiment Fürst Liechtenstein Nr.13 and Husaren-Regiment Kaiser Franz Josef  Nr.1. Oberst Pulz also assumed the overall command of South Army's entire cavalry reserve which included Oberst August von Bujanovic's Cavalry Brigade of three regiments. Prior to the commencement of the battle of Custoza, due to a paucity of available infantry, Pulz's cavalry was assigned the task of covering South Army's southern flank against the approaching Italian forces under King Victor Emanuel II. With the enemy approaching from the town of Villafranca on the morning of the 24th of June 1866, Oberst Pulz had ordered von Rodakowski to investigate the situation with the Trani-Ulanen. What transpired was a full blown cavalry charge with the colonel at the head of his regiment. After delivering an inspiring address in Polish to his regiment he concluded with the order to follow him, and if they could no longer see the regimental standard, to look out for the plume in his cap and show what the Trani-Ulanen can do.... In the charge that followed the regiment hit the gap between the divisions of Prince Umberto and General Bixio and lost nearly four hundred of the six hundred effectives at the commencement of the charge. Although the casualties had been severe and the Italian opponents had also conducted themselves bravely, the net effect of the charge was to bring about a complete cessation of movement by the Italians on the southern flank of the battle and a breakdown of morale in the Italian rear areas. Thus Rodakowski's charge brought about, however unwittingly a decisive outcome to the overall battle¹.

For his gallantry at Custoza he was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Order of Leopold on the 18th of July 1866. The War Decoration to the award followed somewhat later. On the 30th of October 1871 he was appointed to a brigade command in the 24th Infantry Division and handed the regiment over to his successor - Oberst Franz Suchodolksky de Suchodol, formerly of the 13th Hussar Regiment. Promoted to Generalmajor on the 23rd of April 1873 he was assigned to a cavalry brigade command in the 1st Infantry Division in which he remained until retiring on the 1st of May 1876². In appreciation of his especially distinguished accomplishments and long service he was given a brevet promotion (Charakter ad honores) to the rank of Feldmarschall-Lieutenant just prior to his retirement on the 17th of April 1876. The General died at Graz in 1899.

¹. See John Pocock's Bitter Victory - The Campaign in Venezia and the South Tyrol and the Battale of Custoza, June-July 1866 for an account in English of the battle and the charge.

². Armee Album by Gustav Amon Ritter von Treuenfest.

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