The notice of the anniversary of this special date in the year 1800–"The Great Moltke's birth"–is being sent to the DailySpec because the Field Marshal was a dedicated speculator. His family lost all its wealth when the French burned their estates in Mecklenburg-Schwerin (north of Brandenberg, east of Prussia) during the War of the Fourth Coalition (1805-1807). Prussia lost half its territory and Napoleon and the Czar divided up the rest of Europe south of the Baltic between them at the Treaty of Tilsit.

The family moved to Holstein (then in Denmark) and sent Helmut to the cadet school in Copenhagen. By the time he was old enough to be a soldier (first in the Danish, then in the Prussian Army), all the fighting was over. In spite of his love and knowledge of art and music, von Moltke managed to be attached to the Prussian General Staff when he was 32. Over the next decade he produced the first German translation of Gibbon's Decline and Fall and traveled to Constantinople to serve as an adviser to Sultan Mahmud II. In his one direct experience of combat von Moltke and the rest of the Sultan's army were routed by Muhammad Ali of Egypt at the Battle of Nizib (1839).

von Moltke survived and returned to Germany to write, marry an Englishwoman, become a member of the First Board of Directors of the Hamburg-Berlin Railroad, which is still going strong.

And that was only the beginning.

Wikipedia has the rest.

One of Ulysses Grant's rare disappointments in life was that he did not get a chance to see the Field Marshal when he visited Berlin. He did get to see Bismarck and most of the other members of the General Staff. What they discussed remains almost entirely unreported; and–alas–what little is known is the fiction of the journalists–Adam Badeau, being the worst, who were repeatedly pissed off about not being allowed in the room.


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