Anton Weinhara

Anton Weinhara was born at Hodolin (Moravia) on the 26th of December 1819. His files are not clear at this point but it seems that his father, a common soldier, had not married his mother - a fatal social mark at this time - but it made it possible for him to became a boarder at the 1st Galician Soldatenknaben-Erziehungshaus in Lemberg. This institute was part of the social services of the Army for orphans, or half orphans, of soldiers to made good soldiers or possible NCOs out of them. Weinhara was much too small and weak for his age but it seems that he had a great talent for mathematics. Perhaps he never learned love or kindness during his childhood but he soon realized that knowledge is power and learned that he must be harder and smarter than the others to survive, only hard work, self-discipline and excellent marks could bring him up. On the 10th Of January 1838 he was enlisted as an Unterkanonier in the 3rd artillery regiment and promoted to Kanonier after passing through basic training on the 21st of September 1838.  The artillery had the lowest possible prestige of all branches and the work there was hard and dirty but Weinhara found time for further learning besides his daily duties. On the 1st of August 1841 he managed to effect the desired transfer to the Bombadiercorps as a Bombardier. This unique Bombadiercorps was the centre of technical science in the Austrian Army. After the basic training which took 2 years the man could then take the higher course of five years duration and on completion be promoted to Feuerwerker with the possibility of further advancement to Oberfeuerwerker and eventually commissioned rank. Later the Feuerwerker was simply the title of a Feldwebel of the Artillery, but at this time the Feuerwerker and Oberfeuerwerker, especially those of the Bombadiercorps, were highly qualified technical men engaged in the construction, development and production of all sorts of guns as well as ammunition and all kinds of explosives. The seven years in which one had to successfully pass through practical training during the summer and theoretical lessons during the winter months was full of hard examinations in mathematics, physics, chemistry and ballistics. Indeed one of the major reasons for the eventual disbandment of the Bombardiercorps was the difficulty in finding students of the required calibre willing to complete this long and hard course of instruction but this system created many excellent technical designers and officers during its existence - but for Weinhara it was the only way to win the Golden Portepee!

After successfully graduating from the advanced course of the Bombadiercorps from 1841-1845, Anton Weinhara was promoted to Feuerwerker on the 26th of June 1847. When the war started in 1848 Weinhara found himself in the Italian theatre. As commander of the 30 pounds howitzer battery number 2 he played a remarkable part in the capture of Treviso on the 13th and 14th of June 1848. He would distinguish himself again as the commander of his battery, meanwhile promoted to Oberfeuerwerker on the 16th of November 1848, during the siege of Brescia from the 31st of March and the 1st of April 1849 and during the blockade of Venice from the 19th of April to the 30th of April 1849. Then, probably for the first time in his life,  luck would meet the nearly 30 years old Anton Weinhara! On the 1st of May 1849 he was promoted to Leutnant in the 5th artillery regiment taking over command of a battery. It was a continuing problem of the artillery at this time to get enough qualified officers and this situation was aggravated when so many officers of Hungarian nationality left the army - a small difficulty for the army but a great chance for soldiers like Anton Weinhara. As a brand new officer he would immediately distinguish himself as commander of a howitzer battery during the siege of Malghera from the 1st of May to the 26th of May 1849. For his excellent performance there he recieved the commendation of the Kaiser on the 11th of June 1849. The following months of the war his regiment was part of the besieging force around Venice As commander of divisional battery number 24 he would again distinguish himself during the artillery duels against the bridge batteries at St.Antonio and the ships artillery of the enemy fleet. On the 28th of October 1849 he was honored, for his dashing conduct during the 1849 campaign in Italy, with the Military Merit Cross, which allowed him to wear the war decoration to this cross when it was introduced in January 1860. On the 1st of December 1850 Anton Weinhara was transferred to the 7th fortress artillery battalion at Zara where he received the promotion to Oberleutnant three years later in December 1853. In August 1854 Oberleutnant Weinhara was transferred to the 3rd artillery regiment and after a few months of troop duty he was engaged as an instructor in mathematics at the artillery cadet company at Liebenau near Graz from the 31st of January 1855 to the 1st of September 1857 followed by his  engagement as an instructor for arithmetic and geometry at the military academy of Wiener Neustadt for a further year. In September 1858 the instructor became a student again when he started the higher staff course (Stabskurs) which was necessary for further promotion. For the duration of attending this course he was transferred first to artillery regiment number 5 and than to the Raketeur-Regiment on the 31st of December 1858 where he received his promotion to Hauptmann 2nd class on the 13th of April 1859. This particular course was essentially shortened because of the war in Italy but Weinhara didn't see any action during the 1859 campaign, because shortly after he returned to his regiment in Italy he was transferred to artillery regiment number 8 on the 31st of August 1859. His promotion to Hauptmann 1st class was effected on the 9th of September 1862 followed by his transfer to artillery regiment number 9 in November 1863.

When the Volunteer Corps for Mexico was planned there was no question that there should also be a small but effective artillery unit. The basic work especially regarding the equipment and organization was effected by the Major of artillery Friedrich Müller who formed, following the Austrian artillery organization, an artillery company with 3 Gebirgs-Batterien (mountain battery's), with a total of twelve 3-pounds mountain guns with iron made mounts and a company of Zeugs-Artillerie (ordnance) for their support. The 2 artillery companies were transported to Mexico, together with the other troops, under the temporary command of Oberleutnant (Hauptmann since May 1865) Wilhelm Hanke. An officer like Anton Weinhara would be the perfect man General Thun would need to command his artillery but it was not so easy to convince him. He was in the meantime in his middle forties and could look back on a respectable career, particularly if one considers his roots, briefly said, he had much to lose if he agreed to get involved in this adventure. However in the end it appeared that the prospect of rapid promotion and the promise of a completely free hand in all aspects of the artillery carried the day as on the 12th of December 1864, Anton Weinhara transferred as a Major and commander of the artillery into the Mexican Volunteer Corps. When he arrived in Mexico he left a detachment of 40 men in Mexico City to reorganize the arsenal there and settled with the rest at Puebla. His main interest was to build everything which was needed to became completely independent of any, mainly French support. With Oberleutnant Hanke, who he made his deputy commander, he built a small arsenal at Puebla, founding a locksmith's, a tannery, a blacksmith's, a joiner's and coach-builder's workshop, a gunsmith's and armourer's workshop and facilities for the preparation of saltpetre and gunpowder which created apprenticeships for 40 local boys in several different professions. Major Weinhara took part in the expedition through the Sierra del Norte between the 22nd of July and the 12th of August 1865 with excellent performance during the battles at Xochitlan on the 30th of July and near Xachiopulco on the 4th of August. Based on his experiences he organized that every gunner received a rifle to protect himself. It was a common practice in these times (also in the Austrian army) that the soldiers in the artillery did not have any rifles which left them helpless during any kind of ambushes and there were also troops of other branches permanently needed to protect the gun crews. This system of arming the artillery soldiers with rifles, not at least because of the experiences during the Mexican campaign, caused at last the introduction of rifles to the Austrian artillery in the 1870s. The first commander of the Austrian Volunteer Corps, General Graf Thun-Hohenstein, honored Major Weinhara by a handwritten decree saying that he was the perfect commander of the artillery, excellent in providing any material and armoury, lowering the costs of any acquisition by his talents of trading and improvisation. Actually he was excellent in dealing with the local population as well as with all kinds of soldiers of fortune characters because they all knew he would not order anything he would not do himself. They respected him therefore and especially the common soldiers adored him because he became what he was because of hard work and superior knowledge in contrast to all those noble officers who reached their ranks by the fortune of their families. On the 5th of July 1866 he was promoted to Oberstleutnant and on the 26th of December 1866 (his 47th birthday) he was honored with the award of the knight's cross of the Order of our beloved Madonna of Guadalupe. When the Volunteer Corps was disbanded he was realistic enough to recognize that there would be no further prospects in that country for him, he declined the offered command in the Mexican National Army and returned disappointed to Europe.

On the 14th of April 1867 he found himself again as an Hauptmann 1st class in the Silesian artillery regiment number 9, shortly followed by his transfer to artillery regiment number 6 at Josephstadt on the 1st of May of the same year. With this regiment, meanwhile transformed into the field artillery regiment number 6, he received his promotion to Major on the 1st of November 1869. In May 1870 he was transferred to field artillery regiment number 9 at Vienna followed by a leave on half-pay status from August 1871 to January 1872 on health grounds. For further promotion it was necessary to gain some experience on general staff duty, so he was attached to the general staff from October 1872 to May 1874 engaged as chief of the general staff of the 9th infantry division. But the times had changed, a new kind of officer was desired now, theoretical highly educated, gentlemanly or noble officers were preferred and a practical officer, with an unknown father and the speech of a NCO, like Major Weinhara, could not be accepted by the officers corps. His ratings were devastating; they awarded him excellent marks for any bureaucratic work but absolutely no suitability for any further general staff duty. Major Weinhara was transferred back to the troops to field artillery regiment number 3 at Comorn. Deeply injured he asked for an extended leave on half-pay status on health grounds which was granted from October 1874 to April 1875 and than extended to the end of October of the same years. But Anton Weinhara was not the man who would give up, on the 1st of November 1875 he was back on troop duty with the 4th field artillery regiment at Josephstadt where he received his promotion to Oberstleutnant on the 1st of May 1876 with seniority from the 1st of November 1875. He was now nearly 57 years old and tried again to reach the rank of Oberst and the desired command but he was again disappointed. During the maneuvres in the summer of 1877 he became involved in some heated exchanges with several general staff officers leading possibly to a duel. Nothing can be found in his file about a duel but the fact was that he was retired on the 11th of October 1877 without any of the usual honours like the promotion to the next rank or the granting of nobility after more than 40 years of service or even the expression of the commendation of the Kaiser. Oberstleutnant Anton Weinhara lived deeply injured and embittered in Vienna where he died shortly after his 88th birthday in December 1907.

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