DEFENCE OF TOULON, 1707

In October 1707, Association, commanded by Captain Edmund Loades and with Admiral Shovell on board, was returning from the Mediterranean after the Toulon campaign. She was lost in 1707 by grounding on the Isles of Scilly in the greatest maritime disaster of the age.

This was a highly successful combined operation against Toulon with the total elimination of France’s Mediterranean fleet thanks to an Anglo-Dutch naval bombardment which was combined with a siege by Austrian and Piedmontese forces. The siege was stopped when it appeared clear that the city would not fall speedily and, instead, could resist until the arrival of overwhelming French forces. During the siege, the Anglo-Dutch fleet played a key role in supporting the siege, providing cannon, supplies and medical care. The Toulon campaign indicated both the growing importance of amphibious operations and the extent to which the key issue was not the seizure of territory, but the achievement of particular strategic goals in the shape of destroying the fleet.

In 1707 the Duke of Marlborough during the War of the Spanish Succession, proposed an assault from north and south. In the north he could depend on Belgian bases, but in the south Toulon had to be seized and made into a depot for an advance up the Rhone. There were delays before the Emperor could be coerced into any operation. Eugene advanced along the Provençal coast aided by Shovell’s fleet. The land operations against Toulon failed (July-Aug. 1707) but Shovell destroyed the naval base with the French fleet in it. The threat was enough to bring the French back from Germany and Spain, but the failure was an expensive strategic defeat.

Marlborough’s year of victory was followed by a year of disappointment. Louis XIV tried to open peace negotiations, but the triumphant Allies were having none of it, unless the French abandoned all dynastic claims to Spain. During 1706 the Imperialists had won a victory at Turin, which effectively cleared the French from much of Northern Italy. Plans were laid to build on this success in 1707 by staging an invasion of Provence, supported by an Anglo-Dutch fleet. Prince Eugene was sent to Italy to lead the offensive, and consequently Marlborough was starved of the German troops he needed to campaign effectively in Flanders. In the end Eugene advanced as far as Toulon, where a combination of disease and French reinforcements caused him to lift the siege and withdraw to Italy.

Toulon in 1707 was a well-fortified town with a modern earth wall with 7 bastions. They were well-armed with cannons from disarmed ships of Toulon squadron. There were two gates, one (St. Lazare) between Minims & St. Bernard bastions, & the other (New) between Royal & Arsenal bastions.  

Toulon fortifications (see above):

A – Mimins bastion

B – St. Bernard bastion

C – St. Ursule bastion

D – De la Fonderie (Foundry) bastion

E – Royal bastion

F – Arsenal bastion

G – Du Marais a Gauche

H – batteries at New Dock

I – batteries at Old Dock

J – Ponche-Rimade bastion

K – earth redoubt at Minims bastion

L – entrenched field camp

The War at Sea, 1701-1714

Opposing navies had resumed their familiar game on the high seas as soon as war broke out. The French resumed the guerre de course their Navy had practiced during the second half of the Nine Years’ War, prosecuting it to great effect. The privateers of Dunkirk alone brought in nearly 1,000 Allied or neutral prizes. The French effort was so effective Parliament passed the “Cruisers and Convoys Act” in 1708, specifically assigning additional warship escorts to convoy duty along the Western Approaches and off major British ports. This forced French cruisers and privateers to hunt in the West Indies, off the coast of Africa, and in other less well-defended waters. The Allies also practiced cruiser warfare and privateering against French convoys and individual merchantman. This forced the French to use some warships to escort Spanish convoys across the Atlantic and led to squadron-on-squadron fighting in the Caribbean in August 1702. Unlike the French, who cleaved to a strategy of guerre de course throughout the war, the Allies also sought to utilize their clear advantage in battlefleets to outflank the French operationally and strategically. The Allies suffered early failures at sea, however, notably their inability to take Cadiz through amphibious assault during August-September 1702. The troops were put ashore too far from the city, the officers were inept and lost control, and most of the expedition got drunk and began looting and desecrating Catholic churches (perhaps consciously recalling the tradition of Francis Drake). On the return journey, English escorts surprised the Spanish silver fleet and their French escorts at Vigo Bay (October 12/23, 1702). The Allies missed most of the silver, but captured or destroyed 12 rated French warships and 19 Spanish vessels. The outcome of the fight and the prospect of more amphibious assaults into Iberia helped persuade Portugal to switch to the Grand Alliance. The next year, England formally detached Portugal from its French alliance, signed the Methuen Treaties, and secured at Lisbon a base of operations for the Royal Navy in the Mediterranean.

An Anglo-Dutch amphibious operation failed to take Barcelona in June 1704. On its return journey, it took Gibraltar instead. That led to the only fleet action of the war, off Velez-Malaga (August 13/24, 1704). Although the French won a tactical victory, operationally the battle blocked them from retaking Gibraltar, thereby inflicting a major wound. Afterward, the French Navy and privateers cleaved to an effective and lucrative guerre de course: in the last decade of the war, the French took over 4,500 Allied prizes on the high seas, and sank or burned hundreds more Allied or neutral ships. French squadrons, usually under War of the Spanish Succession private loan if not privateer command, also raided and extorted various overseas outposts from West Africa to the Caribbean (and later, against Rio de Janeiro in 1711). An English squadron attacked a Spanish treasure fleet in the West Indies in 1708, intercepting or sinking the equivalent of £15 million of bullion.

Meanwhile, the Allies moved troops by sea into the Mediterranean from the north, as dominance at sea enabled them to sustain armies fighting in Spain. In 1704 an Anglo-Dutch fleet escorted 8,000 Redcoats and 4,000 Dutch to Spain, where they joined 30,000 Portuguese fighting Philip V ostensibly for the Grand Alliance. An Anglo-Dutch fleet parked off Barcelona for two years after an amphibious operation finally captured that city on September 28/October 9, 1705. The French Mediterranean squadron and fortified city of Toulon was bombarded, burned, and besieged from July 28-August 22, 1707. The French sank or burned 15 of their ships-of-the-line at anchor rather than see them captured or burned by Allied bombardment. However, the blockade had the principal effect of provoking an even large French commitment in Iberia. By 1708 Parliament authorized, and the Royal Navy transported, 29,395 men to campaign in Spain. That did not prevent a decisive defeat of the British at Almanza in April 1707. Sardinia fell to Allied marines in August, providing a potential naval base in the western Mediterranean close to France. Minorca was taken shortly thereafter, along with its superb harbor at Mahon. Once the Allied naval blockade of Barcelona was lifted at British behest, the end came into sight for Archduke Charles in Spain. Among the last significant actions involving sea power was a failed British expedition to take Québec mounted in 1711. It was a poorly planned disaster.

SHOVELL, Sir Cloudesley or Clowdisley (1650-1707), seaman, cut out the corsairs at Tripoli (1676) and cruised against the Barbary pirates until 1686. He was Rear Admiral in the Irish Sea in 1690 and 2-in-C at Barfleur (1692), where he broke the French line. He was C-in-C in the Channel in 1686-7, became M. P. for Rochester from 1698 and was Comptroller of Victualling as well as C-in-C in the Channel from 1699 to 1704 when, with Rooke, he captured Gibraltar and fought the B. of Malaga. Next he co-operated with Peterborough at Barcelona (1705) and with the Austrians and Savoyards before Toulon (1707), where he destroyed the French Mediterranean Fleet. His brilliant career ended abruptly in a shipwreck on the Scillies when he reached the beach exhausted and a woman murdered him for his ring.

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Germany – 1813

Russian, Austrian, and Prussian troops in Leipzig.
Painting by Alexander Sauerweid.

The Treaty of Reichenbach between Austria, Russia and Prussia signed on 27 June set out the four minimal Austrian conditions and guaranteed that Austria would enter the war unless Napoleon had accepted them by the expiry of the armistice on 20 July. The allies made it clear to Metternich, however, that although they would enter negotiations on this basis they would only sign a peace if it included other terms which would end Napoleon’s domination of Germany and guarantee Prussian security. Relations between Austria and the allies reached their lowest ebb when Metternich returned from discussions with Napoleon in Dresden and imposed an extension of the armistice until 10 August. Some of the loudest denunciations of this extension came from Baron Stein. In his case the normal allied view that Austrian peace terms were inadequate was enhanced by fierce disagreement with Metternich about the war’s ultimate goals. Stein wanted a reborn and more united German confederation with a constitution guaranteeing civil and political rights. He appealed to German nationalist feeling to achieve this. Since April 1813, however, Stein’s influence with Alexander had been in decline as Germany failed to revolt against Napoleon and the allies’ need for Austrian assistance became more pressing. Now he attempted to strike back, claiming that Metternich was pulling the wool over allied eyes and that with half a million Russians, Prussians and Swedes ready to take the field against 360,000 enemy troops Austrian help was probably unnecessary anyway. Previously he had supported Nesselrode because the latter shared Stein’s view that Russia should commit herself wholeheartedly to the liberation of Germany from Napoleon. Now, however, he called Nesselrode Metternich’s dupe, a well-meaning but empty weakling.

In reality Nesselrode was right and Stein was wrong. The allies could not have driven Napoleon out of Germany without Austrian help. At the very moment when Stein was writing these denunciations Metternich was moving quietly to swing Austria towards the allied camp. With peace negotiations now in the offing, Metternich wrote to Francis II that it was essential that he and the emperor were in complete agreement as to future policy. The peace negotiations might have three outcomes. The two sides might agree terms, in which case Austria need only rejoice. Metternich did not need to spell out to Francis how unlikely this outcome was, since the Austrians were well aware how far apart the opposing sides were as regards acceptable peace terms. A second and somewhat likelier possibility was that Napoleon would accept the Austrian minimal terms and the allies would reject them. Metternich wrote that Austria could not determine in advance what to do in this event since to some extent it would depend on contexts and circumstances. Under no circumstances could it side with France, however, and the defeat or dissolution of the allied coalition would be a great threat to Austrian security. Armed neutrality might be a short-term option but it would be very difficult to sustain for any length of time and the only other alternative would be to join the allies.

Metternich’s memorandum concentrated, however, on the third and likeliest possibility, which was that Napoleon would reject the Austrian terms. In that case Metternich’s unequivocal advice was that Austria must declare war. He concluded his memorandum with a question: ‘Can I count on Your Majesty’s firmness in the event that Napoleon does not accept Austria’s conditions for peace? Is Your Majesty resolutely determined in that case to entrust a just cause to the decision of arms – both those of Austria and of the whole of the rest of united Europe?’

Francis responded that any decent man must desire stable and lasting peace and that this was all the more true for a sovereign like himself who bore responsibility for the well-being of ‘his good subjects’ and their ‘beautiful lands’. No greed for territory or other advantages could justify war. But he trusted Metternich’s judgement: ‘To a great extent I have you to thank for the present excellent political situation of my monarchy.’ Therefore he agreed with his foreign minister’s conclusions. In the event that Napoleon accepted Austria’s terms and the allies rejected them he would await Metternich’s advice. If Napoleon rejected the Austrian terms then the monarchy would declare war on France.

In the end therefore everything depended on Napoleon and he played into the allies’ hands. The French representatives at the Prague peace conference arrived late and without powers to negotiate terms. Nothing could have done more to confirm Austrian suspicions that Napoleon was merely playing for time and had no interest in peace. Not until two days before the armistice was due to expire did Napoleon make a serious diplomatic move. On 8 August Caulaincourt, one of the two French delegates to the peace conference, visited Metternich’s quarters to inquire what price Austria required to stay neutral or join the French camp. Not until the day after the armistice expired did the French provide Metternich with a response to the four minimal peace conditions set out by Austria. Napoleon agreed to abandon the Poles and hand over much of Illyria to Austria. He conceded nothing as regards the north German ports, rejected Prussian annexation of Danzig, and required compensation for the King of Saxony to make up for the fact that he had lost his position as Duke of Warsaw. These conditions would never have satisfied Metternich and by now it was in any case too late. Austria had closed the peace conference and now declared war on France.

Ever since August 1813 most historians, French ones included, have condemned Napoleon’s ineptitude in failing to use diplomacy to divide the allies and keep Austria neutral. Even the inadequate concessions presented to Metternich on 11 August might have made an impact on Francis II if put forward as a first move at the beginning of the peace conference. There was room to exploit differences in Austrian and Russo-Prussian war aims, as regards both German and Polish territories. If the peace conference could be extended to include Britain, Napoleon’s chances of sowing dissension must improve further. All the continental powers resented the fact that, while their territories had been occupied and ravaged, the United Kingdom had remained inviolate and become seemingly ever richer. They hoped to achieve territorial concessions by Napoleon in Europe in return for British willingness to hand back French colonies.

Nevertheless, even if Napoleon erred in not using diplomacy more skilfully to explore potential splits among his enemies, it is possible to understand his point of view in the summer of 1813. Refusal seriously to explore peace terms was much less obvious a blunder than his initial agreement to the armistice. The French monarch feared that once he began making concessions the allies would raise their demands. He was correct: the Russians and Prussians intended to do just this. The concessions he was being urged to make in north Germany might conceivably be acceptable in the context of a general peace which would include the return of French colonies, but Napoleon could hardly be expected to concede these territories in a continental peace and thereby find himself naked when he had to bargain later with the British.

A fundamental issue underlay all these peace negotiations. The allies, and indeed Austria, wanted to restore something approaching a balance of power in continental Europe. Napoleon was committed to French empire or at least hegemony. His defenders might plausibly assert that unless he preserved some version of French dominion on the continent he had lost his war with Britain and the vastly powerful maritime empire which it had created. Napoleon’s basic problem was that although the continental powers resented the British version of empire, the French version was a much more direct threat to their interests. No amount of clever diplomacy could alter this. The only way in which Napoleon could get the continental powers to accept his empire was by re-creating their terror of French military power, which the disaster of 1812 had undermined. This was not an impossible task in August 1813. Napoleon had good reason to believe that he could defeat the Russians, Prussians and Austrians because the chances were very evenly matched. This adds to the drama of the autumn 1813 campaign.

In numerical terms Napoleon’s forces were inferior to the allies but not greatly so. The Russian and Prussian official histories put allied numbers in Germany at the beginning of the autumn campaign at just over half a million. Napoleon himself reckoned in early August that he could put 400,000 men in the field, not counting Davout’s corps at Hamburg, which was subsequently able to detach 28,000 men from garrison duties for an offensive against Berlin. On 6 August his chief of staff reported 418,000 men in the ranks. Exact numbers available for action on the battlefield are impossible to calculate for either side: roughly speaking, however, in the first two months of the campaign Napoleon could put rather more than four men in the field to every five allies. It was fortunate for the allies that 57,000 French troops were facing Wellington in the Pyrenees and another small corps under Marshal Suchet was still attempting to hold Catalonia.

After two months the odds would shift somewhat towards the allies. The only reinforcements Napoleon could expect were Augereau’s small corps which was forming in Bavaria. There were dangers in moving Augereau forward, since this made it easier for Bavaria to switch sides, which is what happened in October. To some extent the Russians faced a similar dilemma in the Duchy of Warsaw, where Bennigsen’s Army of Poland was both a strategic reserve and an occupation force. In the Russian case, however, it was possible to move Lobanov-Rostovsky’s Reserve Army into the Duchy to replace Bennigsen’s 60,000 troops when they set off for Saxony. A steady flow of Austrian recruits also joined Schwarzenberg’s army in September and October. In addition, once one began looking beyond the 1813 campaign it was clear that Austria and Russia had greater reserves of untapped manpower than Napoleon, especially if he was forced to rely just on France’s own population. Napoleon’s best chance of defeating the allies would therefore come in the first two months of the autumn campaign. This thought is unlikely to have worried the French emperor. After all, most of his great victories had been won in less time than this.

They had been won by better soldiers than he commanded in August 1813, however. Above all, Napoleon remained very inferior to the allies in cavalry. His mounted arm had improved considerably during the armistice, chiefly in terms of numbers. Some good cavalry regiments subsequently arrived from Spain. The Guards cavalry was mostly competent, as were the Polish and some of the German regiments. But the bulk of Napoleon’s French cavalry was still well inferior to the Russian reserves formed by Kologrivov, not to speak of the veteran Russian cavalrymen. In addition, all sources agree that the cavalry was the best arm of the Austrian army. The situation as regards artillery was if anything the opposite. French equipment was much less cumbersome than Austrian guns and caissons. The Prussian artillery was so weak that the Russians had to second some of their own batteries to a number of Prussian divisions in order to give them sufficient firepower. The Prussian general staff history concluded that French artillery officers were usually more skilful than their allied counterparts. The main allied advantage as regards artillery was numerical. If they could concentrate their three field armies and Bennigsen’s Army of Poland on a single battlefield, the weight of their firepower should be overwhelming.

The majority of both the allied and the Napoleonic infantry were recruits, most of whom had never seen action before August 1813. The French conscripts were younger than their allied peers, but on the other hand many of them had experienced the spring campaign, which was true neither of the Austrians nor of the Prussian Landwehr. The Russian reserves were also going into action for the first time but at least in their case they had enjoyed plenty of time to train and were usually very tough and resilient. Above all, however, the Russian infantry contained more veterans than its French counterpart. This meant not just the men who had served throughout the 1812 and spring 1813 campaigns, but also many thousands of veterans who returned to their regiments during the armistice from hospitals and detached duties. Not surprisingly, the Guards contained exceptionally large number of veterans. The Guards regiments had not seen action in the spring 1813 campaign, and many of them had received drafts of veteran troops from regiments of the line.

Though his army was inferior to the allies in both numbers and quality, in other respects Napoleon enjoyed key advantages. As he himself pointed out to Count Bubna, Metternich’s envoy, interior lines combined with a clear chain of command and his own undisputed leadership were very valuable in themselves. When opposed to a coalition made up of equal great powers with diverse interests, and with armies deployed in a huge semicircle from Berlin in the north to Silesia in the east and Bohemia in the south, these advantages ought to be decisive. In his memoirs, Eugen of Württemberg wrote that in August 1813 he had been optimistic about allied victory but having discovered after the war how disunited and conflict-ridden the allied leadership had been he was now very surprised by ultimate allied success.

The allied commander-in-chief was the Austrian field-marshal, Prince Karl von Schwarzenberg. Before 1813 Schwarzenberg had shown himself to be a skilful ambassador and a competent and courageous commander of a division. His record of commanding larger units had been less impressive. Nothing in his personality or career suggested that he was a match for Napoleon as the commander of a huge army. Schwarzenberg was a patient, tactful, kind and honourable man. He believed in the allied cause and served it unselfishly and to the best of his ability. A grand seigneur, he had the manners and the lack of personal ambition appropriate to his status. In the manner of an Eisenhower, he could absorb and defuse conflicts between the many ambitious and aggressive personalities over whom he exercised command. Of course, the aristocratic Schwarzenberg was fluent in French, the lingua franca of the allied high command. As commander-in-chief, however, he was hampered by his lack of confidence in his own military ability, his awe of Napoleon, and the immense difficulty of commanding a coalition army of equal great powers, two of whose sovereigns insisted on travelling with his headquarters and second-guessing his decisions. Though he often found Alexander very difficult to handle, Schwarzenberg on the whole liked him. He echoed the consensus that the Russian monarch was ‘good but weak’. Frederick William III on the contrary was ‘a coarse, churlish and insensitive person whom I dislike as much as I value the poor, valiant Prussians’.

For all his inadequacies, Schwarzenberg was the best man available for the post of commander-in-chief. The supreme commander had to be an Austrian, not a Russian. This reflected allied dependence on Austria in August 1813 as well as the fact that the largest allied army was deployed on Austrian territory. Even if the Austrians had been willing – which was far from the case – Alexander himself would never have accepted the job. Had he wished to be the supreme military commander, the position was his for the asking after Kutuzov’s death in April 1813. Some of his generals urged him to take personal command then but Alexander was far too lacking in confidence in his military abilities to agree. Instead he preferred to operate from behind the shoulder of the actual commander-in-chief, to the latter’s acute discomfort.

The emperor treated Schwarzenberg with more respect than he had Wittgenstein. At the beginning of the autumn campaign, for example, one even finds him telling Wittgenstein to obey Schwarzenberg’s orders when they conflicted with Alexander’s own commands. Quite soon, however, confidence in the supreme commander began to fade and old habits to some extent returned. Schwarzenberg quickly learned that the only way to guarantee that Russian commanders would actually execute his orders was to consult in advance the emperor’s representative at allied headquarters, Karl von Toll, and on any major matters to get Alexander’s own approval. Inevitably this delayed and blurred decision-making to a degree which could have proved fatal.

Consulting Alexander and Frederick William entailed listening to the opinions of their military advisers. In Alexander’s case this meant above all Barclay de Tolly, Diebitsch and Toll. Always inclined to trust foreign ‘military professors’, Alexander now found a partial substitute for Pfühl in Major-General Antoine de Jomini, one of the most respected military writers of the time, who had deserted from Napoleon’s army during the armistice. Alexander put even more trust in Napoleon’s old rival General Moreau, who had defeated the Austrians at Hohenlinden in 1800 and whom he had invited into his entourage from American exile. For Schwarzenberg and his Austrian staff officers it was bad enough having to listen to the allied monarchs and their Russian and Prussian generals. Having to defer to Moreau and Jomini was the final straw. The commander-in-chief wrote to his wife about the frustrations of being ‘surrounded by weaklings, fops of every sort, creators of eccentric schemes, intriguers, idiots, chatterers and fault-finders’. Mikhailovsky-Danilevsky commented in his diary that allied decision-making was sometimes akin to the deliberations of a popular assembly, quite unlike the clear-cut system of command which had existed – in his rather idealized memory – at Kutuzov’s headquarters in 1812.

If Schwarzenberg’s power over the main army – the so-called Army of Bohemia – was conditional, it was almost non-existent as regards the two other allied armies. The Army of the North was commanded by Bernadotte and was deployed around Berlin. As the de facto sovereign of a large, independent country Bernadotte had to be given command of one of the armies and would be very difficult for any commander-in-chief to control. In so far as anyone at the main army headquarters could influence Bernadotte’s actions, it was Alexander to whom the Swedish crown prince to some extent deferred. In any case, the whole area between Schwarzenberg’s and Bernadotte’s armies was held by Napoleon, so messengers between the two headquarters generally made a huge detour to the east and took many days to shuttle back and forth. Even Schwarzenberg’s attempts to control General Blücher, the commander of the Army of Silesia, bore little fruit. By delay and by appealing to Alexander and Frederick William the Prussian general successfully resisted all the commander-in-chief’s many efforts to draw the Army of Silesia into Bohemia in order to cover the main army’s right flank. At least in the Army of Bohemia Schwarzenberg could give direct orders to the 120,000 men who formed its Austrian contingent. In the Army of Silesia and the Army of the North, however, there were no Austrian troops.

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The Sinking of the Szent Istvan

Death at Dawn – The Emperor’s Last Battleship. Szent Istvan. from Stephan Mussil on Vimeo.

The Austro-Hungarian Navy in late WWI had suffered a consistent decline and severe setbacks. Since 1917, the Allies had begun to use large convoys in the Mediterranean and the Adriatic in order to maintain their supplies to the Middle East, as well as to Italy and the Salonika front, in a similar way as in the Atlantic. While escorting these convoys took up a large capacity of the naval forces, the effort was worth it. Following the entry into the war by the USA, American destroyers were incorporated into these escort operations, alongside the British, French and Italian naval forces. However, the Allies were aware that this protection was only a conditional one and that, ultimately, it came down to hitting the German and Austro-Hungarian surface and submarine vessels in such a damaging way that the threat to Allied shipping would be reduced. Attempts were made at improving the fight against the naval forces of the Central Powers in that – in the second half of 1917 in particular – everything possible was done in order to precisely monitor the radio traffic and to decipher the code words whenever expedient.

Germans, Austrians and Hungarians had long ago become dissatisfied with the development of the naval war in the Mediterranean, despite sporadic successes. German statisticians had calculated that the tonnage figures of the ships sunk by the submarines were decreasing constantly per boat and per day. Even the numbers of Austro-Hungarian sinkings since the autumn of 1917 alone were cause for concern. In October 1917, an outstanding 12,000 tons of shipping space had still been destroyed, but in November only 4,000, and in December 1917 not a single sinking. The Germans were also becoming increasingly concerned due to the Allied aerial threat to Pula (Pola) and Kotor.

On 12 November 1917, Kaiser Wilhelm had visited Pula and had made a vain attempt to convince the Commander of the Fleet, Admiral Njegovan, to decommission the capital ships and to use the crew for other purposes. The visit by Kaiser Wilhelm took place at a time when the breakthrough Battle of Flitsch-Tolmein had been fought, and Austro-Hungarian and German troops had crossed the Tagliamento River and advanced to the Piave.

For the Allied fleet presence in the Mediterranean, this naturally did not remain without consequences. Italy had requested additional support from its allies, and wanted it to be transported across the sea in particular. The first to react were the British, who had two monitors enter the lagoons of Venice. However, Italy had also requested that Japan send additional destroyers. This request could not be met, while instead, the British and French gave the Italians the good advice of using their own naval forces more actively. British destroyers spent 70 per cent of their time at sea, while the Italians lay in the ports for a larger proportion of the time. However, the Entente powers had naturally understood Italy’s concern that the Austro-Hungarian troops might perhaps still wish to expand on the successes of the Twelfth Battle of the Isonzo by landing in the Rimini area, or attacking Venice. The Allies were also concerned that Italy might be forced to withdraw from Albania. If Italy were to retire from the war, it was even considered how the Allies might take possession of the Italian fleet. But all these worries had been groundless.

The situation in Italy had continued to occupy the minds of the Allies. At a naval war conference at the end of November and the beginning of December 1917, the Italian Prime Minister Orlando pointed out that the Italian armaments industry could no longer function due to a lack of coal, and hoped that additional coal supplies from the Allied marines of at least 100,000 tons could be provided. The British and French were not in a position to fulfill the Italian requests, but they could do nothing else but assume additional tasks in the leadership of the naval war, transport more supplies across the sea and protect the convoys as best they could. Here, the Imperial and Royal Navy no longer appeared to represent a significant danger.

The activities of the Fleet continued to be reduced. Like the land army, the crews on the ships and the entire naval personnel were forced to acknowledge that the hardships were now being felt everywhere, and that the shortages caused significant limitations. In the short term, a measure appeared to take effect that had in fact seemed obvious: Vice Admiral Richard von Barry organised a fishing fleet of 650 boats and 4,500 sea men, most of them former fishermen, who were to provide additional food supplies. However, ultimately, this was also not the solution. Morale continued to sink, and lethal boredom became rife. In 1916, the Naval District Commander of Trieste, Vice Admiral Alfred von Koudelka, suggested deploying the sailors with the land army according to a type of rotation principle. This would surely stave off the boredom. He then received the inmates of the naval prison in Pula, who did indeed serve at the front, but who after completing their sentences returned to their ships. The experiment was not repeated.

Aside from more minor activities, Njegovan failed to disrupt the Allied fleets in the Adriatic. Neither were connections interrupted, nor were there larger naval battles com parable to the one in the Strait of Otranto, for example. With the sinking of the Wien, however, the calamity had already begun to descend upon the Imperial and Royal Navy. Next came the mutiny in Kotor, then Njegovan was dismissed and replaced by Rear Admiral Miklos von Horthy. His nomination as Commander of the Fleet was accompanied by a full shake-up of the command authorities in Vienna, new appointments and reassignment of posts. Horthy began to prepare the Fleet for action, even if it was not aimed at achieving much more than keeping the people busy, and thus counteracting at least one reason for the mutiny. And when, in May, another mutiny occurred on a torpedo boat in Pula, Horthy decided to make an example of those involved, and had the two ringleaders, a Czech and a Croat, shot as a public warning. Twenty men from each ship lying in Pula were required to attend the execution.

Clearly, the measure had an effect, since until the autumn the Commander of the Fleet no longer had substantial cause for concern with regard to the discipline of his ships’ crews. However, this altered nothing when it came to the lack of activity of the Fleet. Older ships were taken out of service and disarmed. Particular attention was paid to Kotor, where there had been fears of an Allied attack since the autumn of 1917. In April 1918, Emperor Karl asked Horthy whether an Austrian submarine might be sent to the Black Sea. Horthy refused; he referred not least to the fact that the Austro-Hungarian flag was already present in the Black Sea, since the Danube Flotilla units had arrived there.

In the spring of 1918, the naval war in the Adriatic had begun to take on other forms. Italians and Austrians attempted to cause damage through small forays, landing operations and penetration into the naval ports. The Allied measures for protecting their shipping, particularly the convoy system and the intensification of the fight against submarines, were taking effect. In January 1918, the Germans lost more submarines in the Mediterranean than throughout the entire year of 1917. In May 1918, German submarine losses in the Mediterranean again increased sharply. The British intensified their air attacks on Kotor, which had a greater effect than the British themselves were aware. The necessity of taking protective measures, and only being able to depart and come in to port under highly specific conditions had an enormous deceleration effect on the naval warfare and also obstructed the submarines in particular.

In this situation, Rear Admiral Horthy wanted to repeat his raid on the Otranto barrier. This time, however, not only a relatively small squadron was to take part, but also the 1st Battleship Division. The campaign was planned for 11 June. On the evening of 8 June, the first battleship group, with two ‘Tegetthoff’ class ships, left Pula. Horthy himself travelled on the flagship of the Fleet, the Viribus Unitis. The second group of battleships, with Szent Istvan and Tegetthoff, left Pula on the evening of 9 June. However, the Allies had been warned. The increase in radio traffic and aviation activity had drawn their attention to the fact that an operation was being planned. Even before dawn on 10 June, Italian torpedo boats (MAS = Motoscafi Antisomergibile) fired two torpedoes at the Szent Istvan. The battleship was so severely hit that it sank in less than three hours. Then Horthy abandoned the operation, since the element of surprise had without doubt been lost. Thus, the final turning point in the naval war had been only too obvious. Of less significance was the fact that the Americans had also sent a submarine fighter unit to the Mediterranean, in order to participate in the blockade of the Strait of Otranto. The ships, the majority of which were manned by volunteers and crews who had no experience of naval war at all, were now no more than an outward extension of the Allied presence. Until the end of the war, they failed to sink even a single submarine.

Following the failure of the Piave Offensive, the situation also deteriorated week by week, indeed almost daily, for the Imperial and Royal Navy. The transport of supplies by sea for the Imperial and Royal XIX Corps, which was then renamed `Army Group Albania’, was already very highly at risk. No other supply and evacuation opportunities were available. Loyalty among the troops was diminishing continuously. The submarines were achieving almost no further successes. The Germans were now nowhere near being able to make good the loss of the Austro-Hungarian vessels, and an increase in their number to 28 in total in the Mediterranean in August 1918 (including the submarine UB 128 under the command of Lieutenant Wilhelm Canaris) remained without impact, since the number of vessels that were suitable for action was decreasing steadily. Horthy described the Fleet as still ready for service, and also claimed that the consequences of the revolt in Kotor had been overcome. However, he pointed out that the continuous escorts provided for the convoys sailing up and down the Adriatic coast, which were attempting to reach Albania in particular, were making extremely high demands on the torpedo boat flotilla. Since the construction of fourteen submarines and nine torpedo boats had been ordered, and that it could still not be predicted when they could be put into service, the collapse of the Fleet within a foreseeable period of time appeared to be inevitable. On 17 October, the Army High Command ordered the Austro-Hungarian submarines to end the commercial warfare and instructed them to restrict themselves from then on to standing ready to defend the Dalmatian ports. At this time, the Allied fleet formations were already more or less sailing freely in the waters of the Mediterranean. They even used their battleships to attack the Albanian coast and to block the Austrian ports. The last major operation conducted by the Imperial and Royal naval forces was to fire at the port of Durazzo on 2 October, which, while having no significant effect on the port itself, gave an Imperial and Royal submarine under Ship-of-the-Line Lieutenant Hermann Rigele the opportunity to torpedo a British cruiser. Thus, the end had also come for the Imperial and Royal Navy.

Austro-Prussian War (1866)

Causes of the Austro-Prussian War (1866)

The Convention of Gastein of August 14, 1865, provided for joint Prussian and Austrian sovereignty over Schleswig and Holstein. Austria would administer Holstein, and Prussia would have charge of Schleswig. Lauenburg was awarded to Prussia outright in return for a payment of 2.5 million thalers. Austrian Schleswig was thus an enclave within Prussian territory.

Bismarck now skillfully worked to create tension between Prussia and Austria to bring about war. He was confident that Prussia could defeat Austria militarily, but he needed to secure the neutrality of the other major powers. Russia was still grateful to Bismarck for his actions in helping to put down the Polish revolt of 1863 and also wanted to see Austria humbled for having blocked its aspirations against the Ottoman Empire.

France was another matter, however. For centuries French interests had been served by a divided Germany. In October 1865, Bismarck met with French emperor Napoleon III at Biarritz and secured French neutrality by allowing Napoleon to believe that, following a Prussia victory, France would be allowed to annex Belgium and Luxembourg or receive other territorial compensation along the Rhine. On his part, Napoleon expected Austria to win the war or for it to be lengthy, as the last war between Prussia and Austria had lasted from 1756 to 1763. If protracted, France could enter the conflict late and dictate a settlement advantageous to itself.

Napoleon actually encouraged the war, urging Bismarck to take the Kingdom of Italy as an ally to tie down Austrian forces in the south and receive Venetia from Austria in compensation. Napoleon could thus gain credit with Italy as furthering Italian unification.

In November 1865 the Prussian government offered to buy Holstein outright from Austria in a cash settlement, as with Lauenburg. Vienna refused. This may have been Austrian emperor Franz Joseph I’s worst mistake, for had Vienna done so, this would have made it far more difficult for Bismarck to create war.

Italy was at first reluctant to ally with Prussia in fear that Prussia might lose. So anxious for war was Napoleon, however, that he guaranteed Italy Venetia no matter the outcome. On April 8, 1866, Prussia and Italy concluded an offensive alliance against Austria in which Italy insisted that the war had to occur within three months.

On June 12 with war between Prussia and Austria apparently inevitable, Austria concluded a secret treaty with France. In return for a pledge by Napoleon III to work to ensure Italian neutrality, Austria agreed to cede Venetia to France, which would then cede it to Italy, no matter the war’s outcome. In the event of an Austrian victory, Vienna would consult with Napoleon III on any major changes in Germany. Austria also made a verbal promise not to oppose the creation of a new French dominated state along the Rhine.

Bismarck now worked to create the war. Casting himself as a good liberal, he ordered the Prussian representative to the Diet of the German Confederation at Frankfurt to demand that the body be abolished and a new German political entity based on universal manhood suffrage be created without the participation of Austria. The thrust of this, of course, was to bring on war.

Both sides commenced military mobilization, and Austria foolishly allowed its governor of Holstein on June 6 to call its Diet into session to discuss the future of the duchy. Bismarck denounced this as contrary to the Convention of Gastein and ordered Prussian troops into the duchy. On June 14 on the motion of Austria, the Diet of the German Confederation at Frankfurt voted for war against Prussia for the latter’s invasion of Holstein. The vast majority of the German states, including Bavaria, Hanover, and Saxony, sided with Austria. Prussia declared this a violation of the federal constitution and also declared the German Confederation to be at an end.

Course of the Austro-Prussian War (1866)

Although the war also involved Italy, it is generally referred to as the Austro Prussian War or, for its duration, the Seven Weeks’ War. Bismarck intended it to be short. Fighting occurred in three theaters: Germany, Bohemia, and Italy.

Chief of the Prussian General Staff General von Moltke sought to make maximum use of the railroad and telegraph to strike quickly and catch his opponents by surprise. Austria, meanwhile, had done little to prepare for a two-front war that would involve Italy, which declared war on June 20.

With the south German states slow to mobilize, Moltke sent General Vogel von Falkenstein’s 40,000-man West Army against Hanover’s 19,000-man army under King George and General Alexander von Arentschildt before it could link up with the Bavarian Army. The West Army entered Hanover and converged on the Hanoverians at Langensalza (Bad Langensalza) from the south, west, and north.

Eager for glory, General Eduard Flies, commanding the southern Prussian force, disregarded Moltke’s orders and attacked prematurely on June 27 before the other Prussian forces could arrive. Flies’s men were badly mauled by the Hanoverians and were forced to withdraw in disorder. This victory went for naught, however, as the next day the other Prussian corps arrived, and on June 29 Hanoverian king George was forced to surrender at Nordhausen. The Prussians disarmed the Hanoverians and sent them home.

Meanwhile, the bulk of the German forces were moving southward against the Austrians, placed by intelligence reports concentrating northwest of Olmütz (present-day Olomouc in the Czech Republic). Moltke utilized the railroad to move and the telegraph to coordinate three separate Prussian armies. Prussian king Wilhelm I had nominal commands. The Army of the Elbe, under General Karl Herwarth von Bittenfeld, occupied Dresden in Saxony on June 19, then moved to join the First Army under Prince Friedrich Karl to enter Bohemia via passes in the Erzgebirge and Riesengebirge during June 22-23. Meanwhile, the Second Army under Crown Prince Friedrich moved south through Silesia.

At Münchengrätz on June 28, the Army of the Elbe and the First Army joined to defeat retreating Saxon troops under Prince Albert and the Austrian I Corps under General Count Eduard Clam-Gallas. The Prussians suffered 341 casualties and inflicted some 2,000 (1,400 of them prisoners). There was also fighting at Burkersdorf, Rudersdorf, and Skalice (Skalitz).

Austrian General Ritter Ludwig August von Benedek commanded the Austria North Army and allied Saxon forces in Silesia. An incompetent strategist whose military experience was confined to Italy, he had never before commanded large numbers of troops. Meanwhile, the far more capable Field Marshal Archduke Friedrich Rudolf Albrecht was assigned command of Austrian forces in Italy, where the House of Habsburg was most likely to be victorious.

On July 2, Moltke learned that Benedek’s North Army was concentrating along the upper Elbe, north of Königgrätz (today Hradec Kralové). The Austrians were within striking distance of two of Moltke’s armies, Bittenfeld’s Army of the Elbe and Prince Friedrich Karl’s First Army. In numbers of men, the two sides were about equal. Moltke commanded about 221,000 men and 702 guns, while Benedek commanded some 206,000 men (184,000 Austrians and 22,000 Saxons) and 650 guns. The Prussians had a distinct advantage in small arms, however. Their Dreyse breech loading needle gun could fire six times as fast as the Austrian Lorenz muzzle-loader.

Moltke, who was in contact with all three of his advancing armies by telegraph, attempted a double envelopment. That night, however, the telegraph link with Crown Prince Friedrich’s Second Army broke down. Moltke nonetheless decided to proceed with the other two armies and sent a courier to ride the 20 miles to the crown prince to tell him to bring up his army as soon as possible.

Cavalry engagement at the battle of Königgrätz (Alexander von Bensa, 1866).

The ensuing Battle of Königgrätz (Hradec Kralové), also known as the Battle of Sadowa (Sadova), was the largest European land battle until World War I. The Army of the Elbe and the First Army at tacked in a pouring rain at dawn on July 3. Crowded onto too narrow a front, they thus were ideal targets for the Austrian artillery but were saved only by foolish Austrian bayonet counterattacks, which forestalled the artillery and brought little result. Nonetheless, by 11:00 a. m. the Austrians had blunted the Prussian attacks. Benedek might have won the day had he committed his cavalry, but he refused. At about 1:30 p. m., the Prussian Second Army at last arrived and fell on the Austrian northern line, quickly reversing the situation. Benedek ordered a retreat, covered by his artillery. Moltke did not pursue.

Austrian and Saxon losses were nearly five times those of Prussia. The Prussians sustained some 9,000 casualties (1,900 killed, 6,800 wounded, and 275 missing). Austrian and Saxon losses were roughly 44,000 (5,735 killed, 8,440 wounded, some 22,000 prisoners, and 7,925 missing). Austria also lost 116 guns. The battle was decisive. With its heavy losses, on July 22 Vienna had no choice but to agree to an armistice on Prussian terms.

To the south, the Italian strategic plan called for an invasion of Austrian Venetia along the Mincio and Po Rivers by 200,000 men and 370 guns, defended by Archduke Albrecht’s Austrian South Army, with only 75,000 men and 168 guns. The critical battle of the campaign occurred at the old battlefield of Custoza, southwest of Verona. In a major tactical blunder, Italian commander General Alfonso Ferrero di La Marmora, who was unaware of the South Army’s strength and dispositions, managed to get only 65,000 troops and 122 guns across the Mincio before they were confronted by virtually the entire Austrian South Army.

In the daylong Battle of Custoza on June 24, the Austrians defeated the Italians piecemeal, with the Austrian Light Cavalry Brigade playing the major role and the Italians driven back across the Mincio into Lombardy. Albrecht did not pursue. The Italians suffered 3,800 killed or wounded and 4,300 taken prisoner. Austrian casualties were 4,600 killed or wounded and 1,000 missing. Despite the outcome of the battle, on July 3 Napoleon III arranged the transfer of Venetia to France, then ceded it to Italy.

Given command of 10,000 men and a flotilla on Lake Garda, Italian general Giuseppe Garibaldi fought a series of small, indecisive engagements with the Austrians during July 3-21. He was about to attack Trent when he was ordered to withdraw. Bismarck made it clear to the Italian government that it would not be allowed to se cure part of the Trentine Tyrol.

The only sea battle of the war was at Lissa in the Adriatic on July 20, between virtually the entire Italian and Austrian Na vies. Commanders proved important. The incompetent Admiral Count Carlo Pel lion di Persano commanded the Italians; capable young rear admiral Wilhelm von Tegetthoff had charge of the Austrian side. Persano sortied on July 15. He proceeded not to Pola, where the Austrian fleet was located, but against the Austrian island of Lissa. For two days the Italians bombarded Lissa with little effect. Persano was landing men there when informed of the Austrian approach. Tegetthoff had 21 ships, Persano 31. Each side had a half dozen ironclads. Tegetthoff immediately attacked and won the battle, with the Italians withdrawing. The Italians lost 2 ships; 4 others were badly damaged (1 of which subsequently sank). They also suffered 619 dead and 39 wounded. The Austrians had only several ships damaged and 38 men killed and 138 wounded. The Battle of Lissa was the first between oceangoing ironclad fleets at sea and the only major fleet encounter between ironclads in which the principal tactic was to ram the opposing vessel.

On July 5 a badly shaken Napoleon III had offered his good offices to end the war. Bismarck accepted on condition that the terms of peace were agreed to before any armistice was concluded. Napoleon, ill and his army unready to intervene, agreed to the Prussian terms imposed in the Preliminary Peace of Nikolsburg in southern Moravia on July 26. Prussia annexed the states of Hanover, Hesse-Kassel, and Nassau as well as the free city of Frankfurt. The German Confederation was abolished, and Austria was excluded from German affairs. Prussia then reorganized Germany north of the Main River into the North German Confederation under its leadership. The south German states of Bavaria, Baden, and Württemberg remained independent. King William I wanted an indemnity, a parade in Vienna, and additional territory from Austria, but Bismarck set himself against this and won his point. Austria retained all its territory, and there was no indemnity. The August 23 Peace of Prague merely confirmed these terms.

The long struggle between Prussia and Austria for mastery in the Germanies, which began with the War of the Austrian Succession in 1740, was over. Prussia now dominated Germany.

Battle of Reichenbach

King Frederick the Great sent word to his post at Neisse to forward the guns and equipment thereabouts in preparation for his long anticipated siege of the enemy forces now shut up within the Schweidnitz Compound. He then moved his men forward to take up posts for this endeavor. Dittmannsdorf was made his headquarters, and the bluecoat army was put into a half-moon position southwest of the fortress—some ten miles off in the distance—between Seiferba and Juliansdorf. Marshal Daun was, as we know, at Tannhausen, another ten miles southwest and about 20 from Schweidnitz. The latter was now reduced to trying to come up with a plan of his own to foil the Prussian designs upon the fortress. His army was deployed from Donnerau and Gross-Giersdorf, through Tannhausen, leaning over on Falkenberg. The whitecoat right was entrusted to Marshal Lacy, who was by now engaged in some sniping back and forth with the Prussian general Wied.

In this position, the marshal made himself as secure as possible. Daun could not claim ignorance of the importance of keeping a tight grip upon Schweidnitz, if at all possible. July 25, Kaunitz wrote to the marshal a communication conveying the absolute urgency of keeping fast hold upon the Schweidnitz Fortress. The ambitious Frederick had to be denied the place. If the fortress fell, the Austrians would be driven out of Silesia. There would be no further means or forces at hand to prevent this from happening. In response, Daun ordered entrenchments erected to prevent the very aggressive Prussian king from attacking his main post. This seemed to preoccupy the marshal’s time rather than the more important task of trying to relieve Schweidnitz.

Meanwhile, Frederick drove forward with his preliminaries against the place with a great will. He appointed the finest of his officers in that sort of work, Tauentzein (memorable from his staunch defense of Breslau in an earlier time) to head up his siege forces. Tauentzein was given a force of men, about 12,000 strong (composed of 21 battalions and 20 squadrons), with great expectations being looked for. The batteries of Tauentzein were of 28 24-pounders, 50 12-pounders, 20 50-pounder mortars, and 12 7-pounder howitzers. That being stated, the king fully anticipated the fall of the fortress within a few short weeks. Then the confident Frederick could proceed to clear out Silesia of the enemy and then go help Prince Henry over in Saxony. As soon as the required equipment could come forward, Tauentzein at once set to his task. August 7, he had his first parallel dug, which commenced the siege. This first effort of the siege was some “nine hundred paces from the Jauernicker Fort” at northwest Schweidnitz. The king about this time recalled Bevern from out near Glogau to escort the supply trains coming in from Neisse against light parties of the enemy.

As for the Austrian garrison shut up in Schweidnitz, they at least had an abundance of provisions and supplies within the walls of the compound; in the short term. This could only help them in the defense of Schweidnitz. As for the Prussians engaged in besieging the place, they suffered to a great degree in the initial phases of the siege, especially in view of the very energetic garrison there, from the effectiveness of their own efforts to render Schweidnitz as impregnable as possible in the days when they had the fortress. The measures that their engineers had devised were thus turned against them by Guasco & Company.

In the event, the bluecoats opened (and maintained) a fierce bombardment of Schweidnitz, but Franz Guasco himself made a determined resistance with his own resources. He defended the fortress with a tenacity and vigilance that might, under different circumstances, have caused even Frederick to admire his efforts. While the besieging forces were laboring on their works, Guasco’s garrison tried their best to interrupt the enterprise. Guasco’s force, although handpicked, was largely composed of homogenous groups, none of which had enough members to establish even a unit identity. In fact, apparently language alone was a great barrier within the ranks of Schweidnitz’s garrison. A number of different tongues were understood by the defenders, which, in combination with the above factor, served even further to separate the men into little groupings. German was, of course, the major language used, but there were also French, Italian, Hungarian, Czech, even English, among the rest. Intrigue and cliqués could not help but thrive under these conditions. For example, Major-General Ernst Friedrich Giannini, the immediate commander of the Austrian field forces within the place, was at odds with Guasco. Giannini disliked the commandant intensely and made no secret of it. Worse, Guasco was fully aware that Giannini had shared several negative communications with Marshal Daun concerning the conduct of the siege.

Back to the unfolding events. A large part of the garrison, about 5,000 men, emerged from behind Schweidnitz’s walls and attacked the bluecoats very early in the siege (night of August 7–8). The assailants forced back the parties engaged in digging siege works around Schweidnitz. The effort, although valiant, was speedily contained. Tauentzein attempted to mine under the fortress, but Guasco employed an expert of his own, Jean-Baptiste Vaquette de Gribeauval, and he spoiled this effort in the bud. Soon, however, hunger must force the issue, for the number of people sealed off in Schweidnitz itself meant that the food supply situation must speedily become downright critical. Simon Deodat Lefèbvre (Tauentzein’s engineer in this business) kept up the pace, while Marshal Daun stayed put right where he was, at Tannhausen, perfectly content not to interfere. His subordinates, Laudon, Lacy, Beck, were all deployed on the flanks and rear.

Lefebvre was a great believer in building both a rampart and a retaining wall on which to work overhead simultaneously. This design he would freely practice, with the Prussian king’s blessing, upon Schweidnitz. The future besieger of Schweidnitz had once penned a note to the conceiver of a device known as ‘globes,’ which could be planted to explode at critical points in tunnels, causing great damage. The correspondence was addressed to Bernhard Forest de Belidor, a French artillery/siege/mining warfare expert. The latter was decent enough to reply, giving Lefebvre some ‘pointers’ he could use later at the Siege of Schweidnitz in 1762.

Daun played the part of a thorn in Frederick’s side during these proceedings to perfection. But he could not afford to vacillate. Something which the powers that be back in Vienna had to be weary of. In short order, it became necessary to order the marshal to go relieve Schweidnitz, as Daun was in danger of “meandering.” August 10, the necessary instructions were sent to the marshal’s headquarters. It was imperative that some attempt or another be made to relieve the fortress. Austrian honor and the coming peace negotiations both demanded some satisfaction in this matter.

Daun now decided to attempt a maneuver to take some of the pressure off of Guasco. The bluecoats would have to be thrown off-balance, and supplies slipped in to shore up the faltering defenders of the fortress, particularly of ammunition. Unlike foodstuffs, there was a potential shortage in the supply of suitable shot and shell. One which could prove critical long before the food supply would ever become low. As usual, the marshal was to leave the main work of dealing with the Prussian threat to others; in this case, to Generals Beck and Lacy. The scheme was to outflank the enemy by a maneuver to round the Prussian lines in the south near Költschen and so gradually wiggle the Austrian formations up to Zobten and the rise thereabouts.

This would, of course, mean the immediate ruin to the bluecoat effort upon Schweidnitz. Beck and Lacy would start the effort upon the enemy nearby, at a rise called the Fiscaberg, where the Duke of Brunswick-Bevern (who had arrived from Neisse attended at a distance by Beck’s troopers) was in charge. This height, located near Reichenbach (about 12 miles southeast of Schweidnitz), had to be laid hold of before the Koltschen enterprise could begin.

The wheeling movement was very involved, and the only Prussian force that could bar the Austrian motion was a cavalry force of 38 squadrons under Prince Friedrich Eugene of Württemberg, deployed in and about Peterswaldau. Another block force, this one under General Werner, moved up to join his compatriots at Peterswaldau. The king would still need to keep the remaining forces of Daun busy over by Tannhausen and that region in the meanwhile. Just about the same time, the bluecoats were no doubt beginning to realize that their Oriental “allies” were going to be a No-Show in their long-projected (but never implemented) invasion of the Habsburg Empire.

As for General Beck, he and his force had been kept busy barring Moravia from the incursions of the Prussians. The Duke of Brunswick-Bevern had been consolidating his position in the hills to the south of Schweidnitz. These passes turned out to be critical for both sides, especially with the Prussian investment of Schweidnitz. General Beck, with a force of some 12,000 men at Zuckmantel, was Daun’s chief relief force in the area immediately by those hills. August 8, Beck was ordered to move from that locale in Moravia, to join up with the main Austrian army about Kloster-Kamenz.

Bevern endeavored to intercept his enemy over by Nimptsch, and by means of a night march, from Münsterberg, the previous night, in the late afternoon of August 13, the Prussians of Bevern took up post in and about Reichenbach, hard about Peilau in the process, they drove back a force from Beck’s rearguard that sought the very same ground for their camp at just about the same time. Prussian pickets pressed back the Johnnys-come-lately, and forthwith took up posts of their own at Pulzendorf and Ellgeuth. The effort paid off hadsomely. Bevern was able to bring 11 battalions and 25 squadrons to bear on the day of Reichenbach. The horse, under General Lentulus, were deployed over by the Fiscaberg. As for artillery, Bevern boasted a large force of guns, 28 heavy pieces and ten 7-pounder howitzers.

Now, suddenly, it was the turn of the bluecoats to be a thorn in Marshal Daun’s side, this in the form of Bevern and his men hard about Reichenbach. The events connected with this effort would lead directly to the aforementioned wheeling movement that would precipitate what was to be the last offensive operations of the Austrians of the war in Silesia.

So Daun ordered out Lacy to recover the rise, with Beck and Brentano, as usual, to play the roles of subordinates. Laudon was detached and sent with a body of some 20,000 men back towards the Warta to keep that area secure. Daun was to remain at Tannhausen with the main army to follow as soon as the Fiscaberg was taken. However, this last offensive effort undertaken by the Austrians in Silesia during the war, as usual, was a lot more plan than actual substance.

The whitecoat forces here totaled about 45,000 men. Of that total, some 25,000 men would constitute the main attack force, divided into 33 battalions and nine units of Austrian cavalry. Lacy reached the western end of the target rise shortly after dawn on August 16. He encamped within the vicinity of three nearby population centers (Upper-, Middle-, and Nether-Peilau) on the road to Gross Nossen, south of Reichenbach. Lacy was determined to recover the rise, and the Prussians were resolved to hang on to the height to thwart Daun’s efforts to upset the siege of Schweidnitz. The king, who was with Bevern, observed the newcomers for a time, while Lacy was busy feeling out the strength and the layout of the Prussian positions. On Lacy’s flank, Beck was positioned with his men, of 14 battalions, four cavalry regiments, and one hussar regiment (Brentano was with Lacy). Brentano boasted a force of eight battalions, four cavalry regiments, and two of the by now invaluable Croats. Now entered a modicum of deception on the part of the whitecoats. When Lacy, with nine battalions, deliberately showed his apparent intention to remain quiescent for a time (i.e., by pitching tents, cooking the men’s meals, etc.), Frederick took this view at face-value and just returned to his headquarters.

Beck’s march shortly afterwards escaped his notice (in fact his men were visible to the king’s sight but the latter apparently felt that Beck would likewise stay put). The Austrian plan was similar to that carried out by Frederick at Burkersdorf, turned in this case against the originator, with the exception that this effort was to be directed against an enemy on one rise only.

Beck’s command struck off through the thick woods, aiming to steal round and strike from the eastern side, while Lacy did his best to keep Bevern occupied on the western face. About 1700 hours, Lacy suddenly deployed his well-prepared, rested men in long lines to distract Bevern on the Fiscaberg, opening a spirited bombardment, in the meanwhile, towards the Prussian positions. Austrian cavalrymen endeavored to threaten Bevern, but he deployed riders of his own to deal with that incursion. Meanwhile, General Carl O’Donnell, with five small cavalry regiments, would act as a screen over by Nieder-Peilau against the Prussian cavalry force massed at Peterswaldau.

Lacy did not attack, he never intended to; as we have seen, his only function was to keep the enemy busy while Beck did his job. The latter’s march through intricate terrain was of necessity slow, in three individual columns, and it was long after Lacy showed his men when Beck finally got into position. The latter drove forward at once, but found the foe, complemented by swampy ground there and blockposts, ready for just such a maneuver. Prussian artillery opened up with a raking fire, under which Beck’s men became bogged down. In short order, the bluecoats occupying Dittmannsdorf and Kleutsch had been driven back.

Meanwhile, the force of General Beck, divided into three different groupings, moved out about 1430 hours. Beck’s left, of three cavalry regiments, deployed over towards Gnadenfrei, this to shield Beck’s main body from the irruptions on his left. Simbschen, meantime, in the immediate area advanced a body of infantry (and some of the jäger) to go take post in the churchyard at Oder-Peilau. From that point, they began peppering the bluecoats, which kept Bevern’s attention fixed to that vicinity while General Beck took his main force, led chiefly by the 21st Cavalry Regiment of Trautmannsdorf, on a swing round to the Girlsberg. At the latter, three regiments which were present erupted about 1750 hours. The Prussians in that post, at least initially, repulsed the first stroke, but a renewed attack was pressed home with rather more success. The bluecoats in that region, principally the 28/32 Grenadier Battalion, put up a tough resistance. Reinforcements of grenadiers promptly joined the ruckus, and, significantly, the opposing 35th Infantry of Prince Henry, suffered almost to a debilitating degree from the battle effort and had to retire. It had been visibly shaken in the drama of the moment.

In sum, the whitecoats could not fail to take advantage of the enemy’s retreat, the limited extent of it that was thereabouts, and Beck was soon at Girlsberg. There a flanking position was turned round to confront the enemy on the Fiscaberg. The Austrians set up ordnance of their own to shell the Prussian posts opposite to them. General Beck, quite naturally, assumed that both Lacy and Brentano would forthwith attack the foe in short order. The order to advance was given, but the Prussians before him, who were actually not engaged just then in any other fight, instead sharply repulsed Beck’s men when they were launched in a short while. As for General Brentano, his “attack” made little forward progress at all. The bombardment by the Prussian guns in the area where Brentano’s men were was sufficiently intense that the whitecoats could not get free from the ground about Nieder-Peilau, although O’Donnell’s cavalry sure did its part. There was more. Brentano’s men did unhitch their guns, over on the rise called the Sampertsberg. Brentano failed utterly to attack the foe with his infantry.

Subsequently, Beck’s attacks all miscarried, Bevern rushing reinforcements (a total of about 25 squadrons of fresh cavalry) to the scene from the still quiet western face, knowing what the enemy had really intended now. In the meanwhile, O’Donnell was making the most of the opportunity offered to him. The Austrian horse emerged into the streets of Nieder-Peilau late in the afternoon, about 1600 hours. The horse accompaniment of Brentano galloped over to join up, and the whitecoat cavalry now formed up in that immediate vicinity with much more on its collective mind than just screening the army from the incursions of Prussian cavalry.

At the appearance of their foe and the relatively weak cavalry screen, Bevern and Lentulus’s riders erupted into full bore action as quickly as they could. This charge was a drawn-out affair, participated in by not just Bevern’s horse, a composite grouping under Lt.-Col. Karl Philipp von Owstein (consisting of some 700 men), but also by the 13 squadrons that General Lentulus was bringing with him to the scene. The ensuing action was short-lived but sharp, and it was noticeable. The bluecoat riders sped past the Spittelberg and over by Sampertsberg. Initially, the fight favored the Prussians, but the support of the Austrian ordnance in the short run eventually forced Bevern’s and Lentulus’ riders to recoil. General O’Donnell was thus enabled to try to rally his shaken cavalry screen against this backdrop.

It was a good thing that O’Donnell was allowed a respite in which to rally his forces. This was very shortly, by about 1800 hours, to bear fruition with the reality that Brentano and Lacy had no real intention of attacking, Frederick turned his attention to the one Austrian force before him, small as it was, that was apparently in earnest. Accordingly, the king himself “riding the exceptionally fast white Cossack horse Caesar was in the lead,” bringing a force of Prussian cavalry galloping from Peterswaldau over the way to Reichenbach on a mission.

Prussian Horse Artillery, under Major von Anhalt, making a rare appearance in the war, then opened a punishing fire right into the soon serried ranks of the Austrian cavalry, emptying saddle after saddle as well as decimating the enemy’s horse.

The Prussian reinforcements moved quickly to the scene. To elaborate, a large part of the bluecoat force making its way towards Reichenbach was composed of foot soldiers, whose advent was of necessity to be slower. Three full regiments of the cuirassiers, including the 8th Cuirassiers of Seydlitz, galloped to the area as fast as their horses could carry them. The newcomers (about 1830 hours) rolled across the Hühn Bach, striking and rolling over the already shaken Austrian cavalry. Five Austrian battle flags were captured in this particular tussle.

While Bevern’s cavalry again took O’Donnell’s force under fire, Lentulus’ command (the Duke of Württemberg Dragoons, the Flanns Dragoons, and a hussar force) also reappeared, after a suitable interval. The latter sought at once to overwhelm the Austrian right, which pressed hard against the whitecoats, causing them much anxiety. Resistance was determined to be sure, but the efforts of General O’Donnell and of his cavalry screen were all in vain this time. The Prussian superiority in numbers here was just too compelling to resist. Added to all of this was the fact that the attack from the front and right flank simultaneously was threatening to squeeze the defenders like a vise, which did nothing but aggravate the situation. The Austrians soon reeled back towards Nieder-Peilau in short order. At the latter post, almost entirely within the confined spaces of the little town, stood the beleaguered infantry of General Brentano. The horse were simultaneously leaving the field in confusion. On the other hand, the foot soldiers, with more to shelter behind, and with plenty of cracks and crevices to fire from behind, immediately put the pursuing Prussian cavalry at a distinct disadvantage. The fire of the infantry thereabouts quickly brought the Prussian pursuit to a screeching halt.

All of this had to be visible to the eyes of Marshal Daun, who was, at that moment, hard by the village of Habensdorf. It must have been clear that Austrian efforts to secure a rescue route in to Schweidnitz were going up in literal smoke. Different riders coming and going throughout the course of the battle must have filled Daun and his entourage with some sense of uneasiness.

Frederick, by then, had also figured out what the whitecoats were doing. Earlier he had returned to his lines in the north, believing that Lacy had no intention of trying an attack on that day. Then, later, he heard the sounds of cannonading to the south near Reichenbach, although he was still hesitant to believe that the Austrians were stirring. When the firing failed to die down, the king hustled off reinforcements to go help Bevern. The forces dispatched raced to the aid of the bluecoats near to Reichenbach.

Bevern, in the meanwhile, proceeded to repel Beck’s best efforts, and Lacy unaccountably failed to give aid to his subordinate. Now word reached the scene that Frederick was after all coming to Bevern’s rescue, and Beck, seeing no gain for all his wasted labors here, drew back to Tannhausen, accompanied by the Lacy-Brentano force (Frederick sent horsemen on ahead to strike a blow against Lacy and deployed some horsed artillery to lob shells at the latter). General Andreas Panovsky’s Walloon Dragoons charged forward and brought the intruders up short in heavy fighting, but the extent of Frederick’s force convinced the Austrian commander that it was time to go. This was about 1900 hours. Lacy’s withdrawal ended the Battle of Reichenbach; which was actually more like a heavy skirmish by the standards of Zorndorf and Torgau.

But this was Daun’s last legitimate effort to rescue his trapped garrison in Schweidnitz from certain surrender. Guasco & Company were now left to their own paltry resources. The next morning, the joy fires of the foe told the disheartened Guasco all that he needed to know. He realized now that his position was nothing short of dire.

The losses of the two sides in the Battle of Reichenbach were the following: the Austrians lost 140 killed, 373 wounded, and 407 missing, a total of 920 men; the Prussian loss was 997 men from all causes. Marshal Daun, after celebrating the “victory” of Beck and reorganizing his army, fell back on Warta and the Silberberg. Reichenbach, which was claimed as a victory by both the Austrians and the Prussians, was the final battle of the war waged by the army under Frederick’s own command. In a war which seemed to be winding up in a stalemate, it is perhaps fitting that the final battle between the two major antagonists should be so considered. Now Prince Ferdinand and Prince Henry still had some unfinished business of their own. The Austrians were also still stirring, even after August 16. Marshal Daun sent a dispatch rider to Guasco’s lines. He had no recourse but to inform the latter that this last effort to save Schweidnitz was an utter failure, in spite of the “victory” of Reichenbach.

Guasco, as a result, was finally given free rein to seek an honorable surrender for Schweidnitz on the best terms available from the Prussians. From Warta, meanwhile, with one weary eye turned towards possible enemy pursuit, the marshal’s army commenced, one more time, to drift backwards. August 19, the Austrians withdrew in earnest, by Schafeneck, on to Neurode.

The king’s army followed up, placing detachments at and about Habendorf and Weiselsdorf. The only option left to Guasco at this point was to hold out as long as he was able to and could offer a reasonable defense. Frederick had resorted to mining under the Austrian defenses of Schweidnitz, but this turned out to be one of the king’s most neauseating, least-rewarding, occupations. He was neither good at it, nor did he have the patience to be able to practice it well. Lastly, conducting sieges were so rare an occurrence for the king, that he lacked practice as well. On the other hand, the successful siege/capture of Schweidnitz, even by the slow machinations of mining, would finally salt away the Prussian occupation of Silesia for themselves. In effect, achieving the main reason for war in the first place, especially in view of Maria Theresa’s efforts to regain Silesia from the beginning.

The Affair of Teplitz

August 2, 1762

During August 1762 the Prussians were after more than just a nuisance raid or two. Tearing up property, looting, raping citizens, might all help demoralize the civilian population in the affected areas all right, at least to an extent, but the destruction of the Austrian magazines in Northern Bohemia would compel the whitecoats to give up Saxony. At least in the short run. This last one was a most desirable outcome. The expedition unfolded accordingly, General Kanitz rolled into Sebastienberg (August 1), about the same time, Seydlitz with his body of men ranged to Komotau. The enemy thereabouts, under our old friend Török, slowly pulled back, confronted on his side by the appearance of Kleist, who was at Johnsdorf almost before the Allies realized it. Seydlitz & Company made a juncture, then pressed on Dux. Some of the bluecoats made it first to Ossegg, other forces drove the enemy scouts to and through Brüx.

But the enemy, led thereabouts by Count Löwenstein, did not come to blows. This time, the duo failed a mission, finding Löwenstein firmly emplaced at Teplitz. “Green” Kleist wanted to attack at once, proposing the very bold plan of striking fully at the enemy on August 1, before they ascertained the presence of the bluecoats and before the Allies had withdrawn to a post where they could put up a decent defense. In their present state, Löwenstein’s force was both understrength and very unsteady for battle. But the bold Prussian stroke for August 1 was thwarted by the normally very bold General Seydlitz. Seydlitz, unaccountably, insisted on a one-day grace to allow the infantry time enough to arrive. This delay enabled Löwenstein to repel the initial Prussian assault when it came, promptly forcing the Prussians to beat a retreat back to base. The Allies left 165 men in the clutches of the enemy. The upshot was, the foe held him cold and Prince Henry was most certainly disappointed.

As for Löwenstein, his command was most typical of the field formations that the Allies could field for this last campaign of the war in Saxony. Almost entirely bereft of light cavalry, even the “regular” cavalry formations, unlike their Prussian counterparts, were often very much understrength. As for General Seydlitz, he had seen little service (at least in a military sense) since the field of Kunersdorf in 1759. “Seydlitz’s health was also so poor that he often said of himself … the prince could not always depend upon him.”

Nothing daunted, the prince’s command was nothing if not resilient. The bluecoats were unbuckled upon Neuhof, leaning over at Preschen, which movement was well screened by the cavalry of Belling. The Prussians did not lack for confidence, and it was a worried Count Löwenstein who sent a dispatch rider galloping to General MacQuire, requesting the prompt dispatch of reinforcements to help out his hard-pressed command. At the same time, he shifted his forces to as favorable a post as possible for the forthcoming bluecoat attack.

Meanwhile, during the overnight, the bluecoat cavalry tried its very best to earn its reputation here by putting as much pressure on the enemy as was possible. Under cover of darkness, the bluecoats commenced assembling for attack the next morning, beginning their preparation at about 2200 hours. While the Allies kept within their lines during the night, their foes were moving into attack position, maneuvering to make an effort to drive away the enemy. The Belling Hussars about this time gained possession of the Wachloderberg and vicinity. By about 0400 hours, the Allies, not willing to wait for the enemy to strike, unleashed a large cavalry attack to try to drive Belling off of his post.

The Prussian march was still moving up, which commenced at about 0400 hours on August 2. “Green” Kleist, leading a force of six full battalions of infantry and 18 squadrons of fine cavalry, moved round towards the eastern side of Löwenstein’s position hard by the little village of Hundorf. As for the main attack, it was to be entrusted to General Seydlitz, with a force of some five battalions and another 18 squadrons of cavalry. The front of the Allied position was covered by marshy ground and dotted with little ponds. This was probably the best possible position in which to await attack, particularly when the enemy just happened to be Prussians. In the event, Seydlitz’ men erupted by Ullersdorf, from where they were screened from enemy detection by swarms of light troops flung out before them. The enemy, who had so few of the valuable light troops, were indeed caught by surprise. The move up was, of course, in the predawn darkness, and Löwenstein was thus almost entirely blind to the intentions of his enemy. In all fairness, the commander tried his best, but the budget cuts, well…

At this point, the initial Austrian cavalry charge pressed Belling off from his new post on the Wachloderberg. The Benedict Daun [27th] Cuirassiers, along with the Battyány (7thDragoons) and the 23rd Cuirassiers of Stampa, fighting all the while, played a prominent part in this repulse of the Prussian cavalry. Infantry support was provided by Major-General Carl Clemens Pellegrini, who rushed to the scene with elements of the Austrian 33rd and 15th Infantry Regiments. The latter also was insightful enough to send intelligence to some nearby Hungarian regiments, those of Gyulai and O’Kelly, that their presence was required forthwith. “Green” Kleist, in the meantime, had made his way towards the Wachloderberg to help Belling out if possible. But his Prussian force was met by the aforementioned mixture of Allied infantry and cavalry, which interrupted his mission. A short, but sharp, tussle resulted in the repulse of the bluecoats. The initial Prussian line was thus met and turned back, and the bluecoats withdrew as was their want a short way to the rear. Their foe advanced, led by the Gyulai Hungarian unit, which, although having shot off its ammo, was advancing with drawn sabers, straight at the vaunted forces of General Seydlitz.

The bluecoats were summarily driven back. The Austrian stroke of Gyulai & Company was checked forthwith by the second Prussian line, which had planted itself in the village of Kradrop hard-by. The encouraged Allies now surged forward, nonetheless, and finally defeated the Prussians, who skeddadled towards Dux (about 0800 hours). Count Löwenstein’s force could not pursue, again because of the utter lack of light troops.

The Prussian loss in this action was 558 men, 14 officers, and two pieces of artillery. The Austrians lost about an equal number: 667 men from all causes. Under the circumstances, this was a largely Pyrrhic victory. Nevertheless, the Prussians had to inevitably abandon any hope of further progress into Bohemia and withdraw from the province (August 5). Seydlitz’s shortcomings as a commander of a composite infantry-cavalry force, indeed, shone crystal clear in the affair of Teplitz. But it was equally obvious that Serbelloni would not be the man to reclaim the Saxon lands from the great foe. Shortly, Serbelloni was to be ordered back to Vienna.

Hadik replaced Serbelloni in command in Saxony. He had orders to do little more than hold his ground against the enemy wherever the latter was found. The Allies had not quite 60,000 men in Saxony as of the end of August, while Prince Henry was leading some 33,000 men. General Hülsen, Hadik’s old nemesis (who was by this point looking for little more than a way to retire gracefully from the king’s service) was ensconced in Wilsdruf. Prince Henry’s main force was still about, and the only sizable urban area in Allied hands (and thus not in the clutches of the Prussians) by this stage happened to be Dresden and vicinity.

Engagement at Döebeln

May 12,1762

In Saxony in 1762, an Austrian move opposite to him that first caused Prussian Prince Henry to go over to the offensive in the first place. The enemy were fearful of possible Russian intrusion into their homeland, as we have observed, and so transferred some troop formations from the Saxon front to stiffen the Austrian position in Silesia to confront the Prussians and the Russians. This weakened the Austro-Imperialist position in Saxony, however, and thus allowed Henry the opportunity to strike.

The enemy opposed to Prince Henry had been in motion in the meanwhile. Stolberg’s forward elements occupied Penig and Chemnitz in early May, while Prince Henry occupied the region all the way up to Oschatz (May 5), looking for signs of the enemy close-by. The Allied left flank, led by Major-General Johann Franz von Zedtwitz, was composed of about 4,000 men in all. Zedtwitz neglected, however, the most basic of defensive measures, including leaving unmanned guard posts open during daylight hours. Such carelessness would not go unpunished.

In the event, Henry was resolved to carry out his enterprise here, if at all possible. Late on May 11, the Prussians moved in preparing to strike at the Allies in the area. An Austrian guard post over by Nieder-Striegis was overrun by Prince Henry’s men during the twilight hours, and, before 0700 hours next day, May 12, the main bluecoat forces, summarily divided into four separate columns for the occasion, swept forward against the unsuspecting foe over by Döebeln. General Kanitz and his men pushed on to Gadewitz, while Friedrich Wilhelm von Seydlitz, with a second column (this one composed of some 37 squadrons of fine Prussian cavalry and some infantry), struck from near Mockritz leaning over at Zschornewitz. Kleist on the far left rolled forward between Knobelsdorf and Nauβlitz. Finally, the Prussians of General Alt-Stutterheim made their way at Stormitz. All but Kleist were scheduled to make a frontal charge against the Allies, but before the others could even approach, the advanced guard of Kleist’s men crossed the Mulde River suddenly and bagged an entire battalion of Austrians as prisoners (approximately 43 officers and 1,536 rank-and-file). The particulars follow.

The beginning of the fray is debatable. Apparently in the confusion of the moment, Kleist’s gunners accidently fired off a shot. This precipitated the attack. Seydlitz felt this action was intentional, and apparently with the avowed aim of seeking glory for Kleist. Of course, this charge was vehemently denied. Nevertheless, Döebeln turned out to be a pleasant interlude for the bluecoats. Moreover, what a surprise when one of the captives turned out to be General Zedtwitz himself, captured over near Littdorf while leading his cavalry in a hopeless counterattack to stem the enemy’s progress. A short, but involved effort followed, compelling the Allies to retreat, leaving behind nearly 50 percent of their men as prisoners, along with five pieces of artillery. The survivors scurried to safety at and about Dippoldiswalde. Bluecoat casualties on this occasion amounted to some 60 men.

One of the backlashes of this fight was the feud that grew out of the altercation between the persons of Generals Friedrich Wilhelm Gottfried Arnd von Kleist [‘Green’ Kleist] and Seydlitz. Both men resented the actions of the other on this occasion. Perhaps both men, seeing the end of hostilities coming and wanting more opportunities for glory, were a tad shortsighted on this occasion. In the final analysis, the Prussian effort was indeed a success, but one which did not lend itself to an easy follow up by the victors, especially as Prince Henry’s army lacked any means at all to secure reinforcements.

Serbelloni, for his part, was visibly shaken by the reverse. The Allies held posts west of the Elbe, which included a number constituting a stranglehold on the Saxon capital; they were thus able to hold interior lines from Dresden extending over towards Dippoldiswalde.