The Prussian Campaign of 1762 in Saxony III

The Prussians struck first instead. During the night of October 28–29, the bluecoats succinctly pushed off.24 Prince Henry himself was with Seydlitz. The enemy had been tipped off by a deserter, and, about 0100 hours, the Allies braced themselves for the coming blow. The plan was indeed bold, for Otto Stutterheim’s stroke, if not repulsed, would split open Stolberg’s front, while, more or less simultaneously, Johann Stutterheim and Seydlitz would serve to encircle Stolberg if he were not careful. Prince Henry’s plan, indeed, was nothing short of the complete destruction of the Allied army. General Hülsen took his force (some 10,500 men) and moved up the Triebisch, pressing against the barrier of Buttlar’s men. The latter had some 8,000 men under his charge, which included 24 squadrons of the precious Allied cavalry, and 34 pieces of artillery. Buttlar’s was just one of the different Allied forces round about in that area. General Hadik had his main Austrian force in the vicinity of the Saxon capital, MacQuire staying close to the Weisteritz, with the aforementioned Buttlar bridging the all-important gap between Hadik and the Imperialists of Stolberg. As for Stolberg, his main Imperial army stayed put northwest of Freiberg extending down into the city. There can be little doubt that Stolberg felt the positions his army were holding could not be maintained against aggressive attacks by the Prussians.

Stolberg was bluntly told by Austrian advisers (among them our old friend Major Seeger) he needed to keep close to the vest the outlying wooded areas around Freiberg. His fatal flaw, if he listened to his advisers, lay in the fact that he lacked sufficient numbers of men to hold the very extensive posts that those very same “advisers” were pontificating about. On the Allied right close by to Freiberg, Campitelli’s little force was ensconced, at Klein-Waltersdorf. On the Allied left about Freiberg, Lt.-Gen. Meyer led his force thereabouts. As for the Prussians, the rough terrain around Freiberg had necessitated the splitting of the attack force into four bodies (shades of the king’s plan at Torgau): Seydlitz with the largest (more than 9,000 strong) was to move round the Spittel Wald and sweep in upon Stolberg, headquartered in Freiberg itself, by launching against the Allied left wing. General Otto Stutterheim (with a 3,600-man force) was to lead the second column through the wood, while General Johann Stutterheim (with some 4,400 men) led the third on a diversionary assault upon the eastern end of the works between it and the Mulde.

Otto Stutterheim’s men stormed forward, pressing the enemy as speedily as was possible and practical from the crowded space in front of Klein-Waltersdorf. As soon as that patch of ground was seized from the struggling foe, Prussian artillery was being set up and sited in, while the second column of the younger Stutterheim was moving up to strike at the Spittel-Wald and the positions held by the Imperialists in and about Freiberg. The younger Stutterheim temporarily halted his men and probed briefly at the woods before him. The enemy opposite to him, a body of men under Lt-General Aton Friedrich Rodt, put up an unexpectedly stiff resistance to the Prussian incursions. The bluecoat advance was met most solidly here not only by Rodt’s men, but by the Baden-Baden Infantry.

The initial Prussian efforts thereabouts were repulsed, but Stutterheim brought up reinforcements and finally pressed the foe back from forward posts to fall back slowly upon the lines of abatis behind the Allied forward positions there. Stutterheim’s men pressed against the enemy taking refuge behind those works, but the latter were being reinforced in their turn by Salm-Salm and other units, including Prince Stolberg himself coming forward, sword in hand, in a desperate bid to head off the enemy’s efforts here. After some hard fighting, the Prussian advance was finally headed off, and they were forced to retire from this forward position.

The attacks of Generals Hülsen and Forcade (the latter leading some 3,000 men), along with the valiant efforts of the Stutterheim brothers, were all merely diversions to keep the Imperials & Company busy while the main attack force of Seydlitz and “Green” Kleist, accompanied by Prince Henry, proceeded with its mission. Seydlitz’ column started out from Marbach, and made a wide swinging maneuver to take on the enemy in the area opposite to where they arrived.

Seydlitz’s men reached Klein-Schirma, near the edge of the Spittel Wald, before they encountered significant Imperialist resistance. About 0700 hours, “Green” Kleist encountered and drove part of Török’s command, which had in the meanwhile taken post at Klein-Schirma, back from that locale. Seydlitz’ men had reached open country hard about Brand, where Meyer’s men were deployed. The latter force was a significant body of men, but the bluecoats took a calculated risk that paid off by pitting a small detachment of men to work at trying to contain Meyer while the remainder of the main attack force bypassed this element and proceeded with the main assault.

Meanwhile, though, our old friend Major Seeger had detected the movement of the Prussian main attack force over by the hamlets of St. Michaels and Lindon, and immediately deciphered, as best he could that is, what was going on. The upshot was, while a dispatch rider or two galloped off to headquarters to inform Prince Stolberg & Company what was occurring, Seeger proceeded to round up what forces he could gather, and took post at the edge of the woods. With this force, he battled the oncoming force of Seydlitz & Company to a standstill. Imperialist cavalry tore into the cavalry escort of the Prussian column, and, for a brief time, Seeger and his compatriots threatened to derail the whole enemy plan of action. Although outnumbered from the word go, Seeger managed to keep the bluecoats from debouching into the open terrain in front of them until just past 0900 hours.

Now, unfortunately for the Allied cause, while several of the understrength Imperialist cavalry units were having the day of their careers at Freiberg, their Austrian counterparts, for the most part, did not fare so well. A number of the latter were understrength, too, it must be admitted, but that does not exactly explain the deficiency. As the troopers began to be driven back from the field, even belated reinforcements from Meyer failed to help stem the tide. The Prussian troopers now pressed forward in their turn, in some instances even hitting the backs of units fighting the bluecoat advance from by the Spittel Wald in the rear.

Events seemed on the verge of taking a disastrous turn the worse for the Allies just about then. Then Major-General Vecsey suddenly appeared with two full hussar units, the 34th Hussars of Dessewiffi and those of Baranyáy. These particular entities behaved with more stability and stamina on the day of Freiberg than many of their contemporaries. The newcomers were immediately pressed into a stirring counterattack, against the bluecoat body surging forth from the confines of the Spittel Wald. The Prussians, in their turn, were brought a standstill in the heat of the action. In no time, the bluecoats were driven off the Galgen-Berg, by the surging opponent. It looked like Prince Henry might be on the verge of a devastating defeat. But the fighting then stabilized for the moment thereabouts.

Meanwhile, the fighting to the south, in the vicinity of St. Michaelis and Brand, had taken a decided turn for the better in favor of the Prussians. The bluecoat forces in that vicinity, led head-on by “Green” Kleist and Seydlitz, surged right at the town of Freiberg. Stolberg, who could certainly have mounted a most dogmatic defense of Freiberg by destroying part of the place in order to make the way more difficult for the Prussian force, instead conducted what amounted to a ‘fighting withdrawal’ from Freiberg. This action saved the place from undergoing significant damage in the battle.

As for the efforts of the Stutterheim brothers, their advance had been renewed by about 1030 hours in the morning. First up, Prussian units pressed what was left of the foe clinging to Klein-Waltersdorf out of the place. Otto Stutterheim’s forces, chiefly here the 7th Infantry of Bevern, stormed forward, driving the embattled enemy from a mountain post in which it captured “five cannon and a flag, surrounding the enemy from the south.” The 4th Cuireassiers of Schmettau were another of the nearby formations, they galloped over and through “two regiments at the Spittelwald, captured ten guns and eight flags.”

On the side of these units of Otto Stutterheim, his brother Johann, along about the same time, seized the mantle and renewed his attack with his task force. This one was over towards Freiberg itself. The momentum by just about 1100 hours had swung decisively in favor of the Prussians. The 33rd Infantry of Esterhazy was sent by Buttlar forthwith to help prop up Stolberg, but the foe was encroaching steadily by then from both west and south, and the vision of Stolberg was slowly settling on Frauenstein and the route of escape in that region. Just before 1300 hours, Prince Stolberg began the process of withdrawing his men from the lost battle. General Buttlar played a key role in covering this retreat, and the Prussian commanders, for the most part, did not pursue the retreating Imperialists. Buttlar’s guns, sited in to inflict as much damage to the enemy as was possible, were now utilized, to cover the withdrawal of his force while Stolberg pulled back.

Freiberg’s garrison was alerted, but there were no support troops available yet. Passing the Spittel Wald, the Prussians discovered a previously undetected body of enemy cavalry on the heights near Brand—under Lt.-Gen. Karl Friedrich von Meyer—and a detachment was put out to contain it. Hülsen pressed right up to the Mulde. The general was coming up behind Stolberg’s army, in order to sidetrack the Imperialists as to the main effort, as we have noted above. General Hülsen hitched into Dittmannsdorf and Reinsberg, hard by which Buttlar’s force was ensconced. Freiberg was the last major battle of the war in Saxony. The first major one in the province since Torgau. In short, the attacking columns, unlike at Torgau in 1760, had all struck about the same time; Seydlitz/Kleist rolled up the allied wing, while Otto Stutterheim’s men smashed his front. The Allies reeled back under the blows, while Johann Stutterheim’s assault then finished off the foe. The fighting was fierce indeed, but, the Prussians had taken Freiberg from the enemy. The latter retired as best they could across the Mulde.

General Forcade had the opportunity to close up and hem in the enemy forces, possibly destroying them in the process; he fumbled it! In spite of this, this Battle of Freiberg was short but decisive and it gave Prussia a complete victory just when one was needed. Losses were correspondingly heavy: Prussians, about 1,400 killed/wounded; Austrians, about 2,700 killed/wounded, 4,390 men and 79 officers captured, with 28 guns and 11 battle flags. Even as the Allies slowly retired upon Dippoldiswalde, they realized the war was lost. That being stated, final movements on this front can be quickly wrapped up: Wied got into the vicinity of the Prussians in Saxony after the Battle of Freiberg was already a done deal. October 31, Wied reached Merschwitz, bringing with him a full 20,000 men. Prince Henry moved on Pretzschendorf, where he was joined by Wied (November 4). The forces of General Hülsen had missed the battle entirely.

Wied had one last little enterprise in mind. Early on the morning of November 7, a force of bluecoats, divided into two columns, advanced with Krockow leading the first from Kätzenhäuser; this while the second, under Wied (which consisted of five squadrons of the Ziethen Hussars, the Czettritz Dragoons (the 4th), ten battalions of infantry, and the 9th Cuirassiers (Bredow), along with Prince Henry 2nd Cuirassiers), also progressed.

This command advanced and fell upon an Austrian force under Friedrich Ludwig von Dönhoff, which was made up of two battalions of Croats, two squadrons of cavalry, and a body of some 300 infantry. The action took place at the Landsberg, over near Spechthausen. A short, but sharp fight resulted, in which the Austrians were completely defeated. The entire force under Dönhoff would have fallen into Prussian hands if not for the timely arrival of Major-General Amadei, who marched out of the Tharandter Wald, and forced the bluecoats to back off of their pursuit. As it was, this last fight of the whole war involving Prussians and the Austrians resulted in the bluecoats taking 573 prisoners and lost 32 men as casualties. Dorn states that Prince Henry’s 2nd Cuirassiers “fought in Saxony with Hussar Regiment 2 at Spechthausen, where 600 prisoners and four guns fell into its hands.” Wied took Hülsen’s place in his command; the latter joined Henry. “Green” Kleist was dispatched into Bohemia (November 7), heading for Leitmeritz, although he never made it. Instead, after laying waste to the Austrian supply depot at Saaz, and threatening the main one at Leitmeritz, Henry recalled him to Chemnitz to take post. This closed the Saxon Campaign for this season and the war on this front along with it.

As for the Allies, while Hadik continued to occupy Dresden and vicinity until the bitter end, this with a full 13 battalions of foot, the Imperialists in the meanwhile had retired to Altenberg, with no further field operations in mind. Other than watching the lines-of-communication/supply of General Hadik with home, the Imperialists were retreating. November 13, Stolberg & Company were at Teplitz. In this situation, “Green” Kleist was unbuckled with his otherwise idle cavalry and sent on a “glorious” raid into the heart of the German Reich. Prince Henry detached him (with some 6,000 men) with specific instructions to plunder and lay waste to the more important states of the Reich (November 11). Kleist was to go with the goal of seizing at least half a million talers from the vulnerable enemy countryside and towns.

Kleist took hostages, shelled towns, ranging from Bamberg, Würzberg, Erlangen. The captives and contributions were forthwith started on their way to Leipzig, where Frederick was preparing to take up his headquarters for the coming winter. Kleist was involved in this largest raid into the Reich of the entire war until he and his crew were chased back into Saxony, arriving at Leipzig on December 9. By then a general truce with Hadik was underway. Hadik had reached agreement with his opponents (on November 24) for a general truce to last until Spring.

Now we can look briefly at Prince Ferdinand’s Campaign of 1762 with the French on the Western Front. We left the French and their opponents going into winter quarters at the end of the 1761 season. As we have already seen, Broglie as commander was out, so Soubise had supreme control of the French armies in the field facing Ferdinand. He had subordinates in Marshal d’Estrées and Prince Louis-Joseph de Bourbon Condé—the latter commanding a second, smaller army on the lower Rhine. The Allies continued to operate at a numerical disadvantage: the French totaled more than 120,000 men, joined by Prince Xavier of Saxony, while Ferdinand had less than 85,000 men with him.

Ferdinand came out swinging for the new campaign, defeating Soubise at Wilhelmstahl (June 24), while Prince Xavier, coming up to face him, was similarly beaten by Ferdinand at Lütternberg on July 23. The latter now set to blockading the enemy strongholds in Hesse-Cassel, Ziegenhayn, Marburg, and, of course, Kassel. With his main army mauled by the Allies already, Soubise urgently ordered Condé to bring on his army immediately. Between Lahn and the Mayn, the two French forces performed a juncture, on August 30 near to Freiburg.

The same day, the Prince of Brunswick was rebuffed at Johannisberg (near Nauheim) by the enemy in his designs upon them. Göttingen, however, had fallen to the Allies, already—August 16. Ferdinand was gradually driving the French from most of Hesse-Cassel, and putting Kassel under a siege. Soubise and d’Estrées decided to try to bypass Ferdinand’s forward posts and drive him away from the French posts in Hesse-Cassel. Marshal d’Estrées started maneuvering about, trying to break across the Ohm River. Prince Ferdinand had been throwing up blockposts to prevent the French from interfering with his designs upon Kassel. Marshal d’Estrées tried to seize the Brücken-Mühle bridge near Amöneburg on September 21.

Ferdinand had a garrison of not quite a thousand men within the place, although General Zastrow and his Prusso-Hanoverian troops and Lord Granby’s English soldiers were nearby. About 0500 hours, the French struck; by 0800 hours, their progress was so beyond containment with local defenders that Zastrow was forced to feed reinforcements into the fight. A steadily strengthened French effort brought d’Estrees and Zastrow into a cannonade duel. A protracted struggle waged on into the afternoon, the French inflicting heavy losses on the defenders but failing to gain their bridgehead. By 2000 hours, the discouraged attackers broke off their effort (having themselves suffered more than 1,000 casualties) and fell back. Thus the final French effort to relieve Kassel utterly failed. Ferdinand redoubled his efforts upon the fortress and Ziegenhayn. On November 1, Kassel and its impressive garrison of 10,000 French troops surrendered. This drove Soubise & Company from Hesse-Cassel, and, as the campaign closed, Ferdinand took up winter quarters with the expectation that peace was finally coming.

Back in Silesia, Frederick heard the news of Prince Henry’s efforts in Saxony, including its culmination at Freiberg. November 4, Frederick was in Meissen, and, on November 9, he met Henry and Seydlitz on the scene of Henry’s triumph at the Freiberg battlefield. Prince Henry had sent Kleist into Bohemia, but with his return he was dispatched towards the Reich to try to break Imperialist obstinacy, as we have observed.

The Austrians refused to release Imperialist units to cover the Reich, and as long as Austria remained at war with Prussia, it lay open to the incursions of Prussian raiders. The Reich Diet was induced to thus seek peace with the Prussian king. And, on November 24, the Austrians themselves, worn out and realizing that they could not conquer Prussia alone (with the Imperialists wavering already and the French on the verge of peace with the British), finally approached Frederick’s court to have a truce. But this was only for themselves, as Prince Stolberg took his Imperials into the Reich to defend it.

Stolberg arrived at his destination in late December, but as Kleist had already moved off for home (December 13), there was no enemy present there. The Prussians took winter quarters in Meissen-Freiberg region, Frederick himself once again at Leipzig (December 5). Thus finally ended the military operations of the long, bloody Seven Years’ War in Germany. All of the nations were now ready for peace; all that remained was in working out the details.

The final drama of the war, the peace negotiations, was almost anticlimactic considering the duration and scope of the war. The Prussian representative, Ewald von Hertzberg, met, along with other Prussian diplomats, with Allied representatives in that same old hunting lodge at Hubertusburg that Frederick had pillaged once upon a time.

The Austrian representative, Heinrich von Collenbach, at first held tough; he demanded that Glatz be handed over to the Habsburgs and that Prussia should pay compensation to Saxony, but caved in when Frederick, too, held tough. Glatz was not to be turned over to the Austrians, if the king could do anything about it. Eventually, both sides agreed to return to the status quo of before the war. Finally, on February 15, 1763, the two major opponents officially ended the war by their signatures on the Treaty of Hubertusburg. It had been a long, bloody and costly war, and, no doubt, both in Berlin and Vienna, not to mention Versailles, people were glad that it was finally over with. On February 10, the British, French, and Spanish had already signed the Treaty of Paris, ending their hostilities. As for Frederick, he made his way back home to Berlin, incognito. The crowds gathered, rumors flew about the impending arrival of Prussia’s great king back “home.” The people gathered all right, to greet their monarch, and waited, and waited. March 30, 1763. When the next dawn came, Frederick was back at his desk. Working. Such was the measure of the man!

What had been the cost of the war? The combatants suffered about 500,000 dead, nearly 200,000 of these being Prussian. In fact, the population of Prussia had stood at about 4,400,000 persons before the war, now it totaled about four million even. The Allies had collectively suffered in about equal measure, although individually had gotten off lighter than Prussia. There had been a tremendous amount of damage inflicted upon the entire region of Central Europe, most especially in Germany. There was much work to be done. Such was the war’s heritage.

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