The Freischar was the German name given to an irregular, volunteer military unit that, unlike regular or reserve military forces, participated in a war without the formal authorisation of one of the belligerents, but on the instigation of a political party or an individual. A Freischar deployed against a foreign enemy was often called a Freikorps. The term Freischar has been commonly used in German-speaking Europe since 1848. The members of a Freischar were called Freischärler. As early as 1785 Johann von Ewald published in Kassel his Essay on Partisan Warfare (German: Abhandlung über den kleinen Krieg, which described his experiences with the rebels in the North American colonies.
The Hague Convention of 1907 distinguished between militia, volunteer corps and members of the regular armed forces. According to the then ruling legal principle, volunteers did not have to be brought before a court. They could be sentenced by a court martial and executed. A historic example is the execution of the officers of the Freischar of Ferdinand von Schill in 1809.
This legal situation changed with the signing of the Geneva Convention. Freischärler were given combatant status if they had an organisational structure, a fixed distinctive emblem recognizable at a distance, carried arms openly and conducted their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war. They also had a right to humane treatment and a fair trial.
Freischaren were deployed:
In conservative circles the term was often used in a hostile and derogatory fashion, but it achieved great popularity especially in 1848. There was even a cultural magazine, Der Freischärler.
Units and formations of republican Freischars in the Baden Revolution of April 1848:
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