Kunersdorf 1759 Part I

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Frederick, once he had decided to march to the Oder, was swift about it. August 3, 1959 admitting he had failed to intercept Laudon, he pushed on towards Müllrose (within 12 miles of Frankfurt). Here he gave Wedell instructions to move what remained of his army to that village. Wedell made a genuine effort to comply with these orders, all right, and the result was all of the Prussians in the immediate vicinity were soon concentrated thereabouts. The army which Soltikov had brought from the other end of Poland was very strong in infantry, but the cavalry was weak; Laudon’s arrival helped change that.

The Russians were also busy. July 29 was a notable day for Frankfurt-on-Oder. For some time, there had been rumors of the impending advent of the Russians upon the city, and on that particular morning word spread through the place that the enemy was finally coming over from Crossen. Within Frankfurt, the defenses were insignificant. There was no regular garrison and the only defense force was a local body of some 400 militiamen raised rather hastily from the outskirts of the city under the command of Major Friedrich Wilhelm von Arnhim. As best it might, Frankfurt prepared itself. On the morning of July 30, a large force of Russians made their appearance on the eastern side of the Oder near the Oder-Damm. The grreencoats at once sent word to lower the city’s drawbridge, which led across to the western side and which Arnhim had pulled up on their arrival, and surrender. Arnhim was quick to realize that while Frankfurt’s walls protected it on the western, northern, and southern sides—also topped by heights—only the eastern side was really defensible.

He was stubborn, estimating the enemy force at about a thousand men, though they were in fact six times as numerous, and answered with a defiant “No!” to the Russian demand. Near 1100 hours, the Russians loosened a firebomb to show they were in earnest. At some point, the Prussian must have also realized the strength of the Russians present thereabouts. Arnhim now ordered his men to prepare to depart, as any resistance to the enemy, in addition to the futility, would entail risking heavy damage to the place.

Simultaneously, Arnhim ordered two field pieces under his control to go to the far northern gate in case the foe should move while Arnhim was preparing to leave. The Prussian commander was heading for Cüstrin, if the Russians allowed him to go that far. Some time later a second summons to surrender arrived, with the same reply as before. Then a third summons was likewise refused. Seeing their efforts to bully the garrison were in vain, the Russians sent word that another refusal would leave no option but shower Frankfurt from a prepared battery with incendiary shells. This time, the city fathers agreed to accept the enemy’s terms, but stubborn Arnhim (a valiant Prussian officer to the end) would not permit the drawbridge to be lowered nor any sign of surrender to take place.

The Russian guns then let off a single incendiary shell which landed near the churchyard, but Arnhim would not yield yet. The latter did offer to remove his garrison if the greencoats offered Free Withdrawal. But the Russians, in their turn, refused to do this. At this rude reply, and with his preparations complete, Arnhim pulled up his command and made off towards Lebus, taking the precaution of delaying the entrance of the Russians into Frankfurt. The enemy set off in pursuit of Arnhim, and caught up with him about halfway to Cüstrin. Arnhim drew out his men and fought hard, but at length resistance was overcome and he and his men were returned to Frankfurt in chains, Arnhim himself having suffered a serious wound.

Within a few days, Laudon and his force arrived, marching through the streets of the city and ordering up provisions for his tired men. Hadik had indeed turned back with his provision wagons, and Laudon’s men were virtually starving. Soltikov, who had been rather expecting the Austrians to bring supplies, summarily ordered Laudon to retire to Guben with his men. No real junction between the armies had, in fact, taken place.

Soltikov’s army, after the fall of Frankfurt, had been deployed on rises westward of the Oder, opposite the Jüdenberg Hill mainly, momentarily anticipating the advent of Frederick’s army. The Russians, in spite of superior numbers, were aware that they were no mean match for the great Prussian king. Fermor and possibly even Soltikov must have feared the results of such a confrontation. Fermor remembered Zorndorf all too well, and the news that Laudon’s men brought of Frederick’s attempts to intercept their march meant that he could be expected shortly.

The Russians promptly began entrenching, building high palisades/works complimented by strong batteries. The allies aimed to move out of Frankfurt, leaving just a small garrison, and come near the Oder to take post on the sandhills of the Kunersdorf Heights, eastwards from the Oder-Damm. For the moment, the allies kept to Frankfurt.

Wedell, meanwhile, had reached Müllrose about August 5, after which Frederick marched his forces to Frankfurt, finally arriving near there on August 7. Between Wulkow and Lebus, he made his army an encampment. Early on the following morning, the Prussian monarch pushed out a body of hussars towards Frankfurt to feel out the position of the enemy. Apparently the arrival of the king had not been noted by the allies. A surprising revelation. Indeed, a party of Austrian and Russian officers were just sitting down to dinner at the Fischer’s Mühle—on the western facing side of the Frankfurt bridges—when a local boy working at the millwork scrambled in with news that Prussian hussars, (led, in fact, by the king, although this was not suspected), were approaching.

The startled officers leaped to horse, and rode off at full gallop towards Frankfurt, where they flashed the news. The following day, August 9, Frederick received word that a great victory had been won by Ferdinand over the French at Minden, effectively ending the French threat for the rest of the campaign. His local reconnaissance of the enemy’s lines revealed that they were then encamped with the Oder at their backs and a ready retreat available by three pontoon bridges across the river (not to mention the main Frankfurt Town Bridge) in case of defeat. The king also noted a disparity in numbers of the contending antagonists: even with Wedell, he had no more than 40,000 men, while the allies totaled some 90,000 between them.

Plainly, an attack with those long odds was tantamount to disaster. So Frederick now ordered Finck with his 10,000 men or so to join him. This left Berlin to its own defenses and Saxony would practically have no Prussian forces present. With this juncture, the monarch was determined to get on with the necessary preliminary of crossing the Oder. He had decided not to cross at Lebus, as had originally been planned, but at Reitwein (some ten miles away) and proceed with the business at hand. Finck’s arrival was expected within a few days, and in the interim Frederick pressed preparations for the move, discreetly so as not to alarm the enemy.

Soltikov anticipated that the king would strike from the west side of the Oder, so he made his preparations with that view in mind. The Russians, along with Laudon, recrossed the Oder, leaving only a small garrison in Frankfurt. Soltikov took post on the rises near Kunersdorf, as planned, while Laudon was deployed nearer to the Oder behind him. The greencoats had put their heavy baggage on an island in the Oder—which was connected by pontoon bridges to the mainland where Soltikov was hastily readying to meet the Prussian whirlwind. In case of defeat, the Russians were not going to take any chances of being cut off from home. Soltikov, fearing for the safety of his baggage, detailed a force to cover it.

August 10, right on time, Finck reached Reitwein, while earlier in the day Frederick had arrived nearby. The bluecoats were even then erecting some bridges to cross the river. This work had of necessity been low-key, but the night after the junction the bridges were finished, and the army promptly began crossing in two columns, the foot soldiers/artillery there and the cavalry a short way off. By 0400 hours on August 11, the entire army was over, and the enemy still did not know of it. Soltikov unaccountably allowed the Prussians to break the barrier of the Oder River.

The Prussians now were near Göritz. Here Wunsch was left with skeleton forces to hold the bridges and the baggage train safe. The rest of the army moved southward, aiming at Bischof-Sëe and Leissow (which were within two miles of Kunersdorf itself). The morning sun rose up bright, there was little or no wind blowing across the sand dunes, and forced marches soon brought the men to the verge of exhaustion. To make matters worse, there had been no time for food that morning nor for sleep the last few nights. By 1300 hours, Frederick’s men reached their destination, by which time the troops were so weary that it was an open question if they could continue the trek. So the decision was made to encamp on the spot for the rest of the day and to move against the enemy’s camp on the morrow. Finck, with the vanguard, was ordered to bivouac where he was, his left leaning on a small pond thereabouts; the remainder of the army camped in two lines, the right on Leissow—with the cavalry posted to the rear in a patch of forest thereabouts.

Soon after his men were in place, the king took the opportunity to reconnoiter the enemy’s position. Ahead of him, straight facing the road to Kunersdorf, lay the village and Trettin Hill, which he rode out towards. Reaching there, Frederick mounted the rise and looked southward. Stretched out between Jüdenberg and Mühlberg, he noticed the whole Russian army, some 70,000 strong, with the front facing north. Off behind it, the king discerned Laudon encamped in a position that appeared to be wholly isolated from Soltikov, but might be capable of rendering support if necessary. The terrain there, he judged, at best to be marshy and not sure footed by any means. Cavalry was of little use, and neither were the big guns likely to be of tangible use in this ground. These considerations were important, for it had largely been through the efforts of Seydlitz and his cavalry (who was also present here) that had in the past gained the victory for the Prussians just when defeat appeared to be certain. If the artillery could not be brought into play at short range, it followed they could not blast at the entrenchments that the enemy had prepared to face the Prussian attack.

In front of the allied camp, intersecting between it and the Prussians, ran a small tributary of the Oder, the meandering Hühner-Fleiss. Running across this stream was the Trettin road leading to Kühgraben, a branch road from which led directly through Kunersdorf and on to Reppen. A little to the east of this road was the Walkberg; on the right looking north was the Klosterberg, to the southwest not quite a mile was the Kleiner-Spitzberg, which effectively dominated the approaches to Kunersdorf. Mühlberg lay at the extreme end of the Kunersdorf position and the Oder-Damm. The whole allied camp was about four miles in extent, but it was far too narrow—only about a mile wide—to allow much maneuvering room in which to shift their forces as the Prussians attacked. The ground was largely bushy and oozy bogs. To the east, but most especially to the south, a thick clump of woods arose, through which visibility could not have been good. But the ground was generally flat and level, except what was made up of the mounds thereabouts, largely sand dunes to the east and liable to be blown about by the wind.

Frederick, on viewing the allied camp, observed that Laudon was deployed then in a position which seemed to be isolated from the Russians. The Austrians were encamped in the west of the great marsh which protected the allied left flank, behind a scrubby post which to all appearances, from the Prussian lines at least, to be sufficiently cut off from Soltikov as to give no cause for worry. A local peasant who had brought the king water on that hot summer afternoon, and who knew the terrain in question, thought so, as did one of Frederick’s own officers (Major Linden), who was supposed to be familiar with the area. But the actual event turned out to be much otherwise, as we shall see.

Shortly after his reconnaissance was completed, Frederick rode back to his encampment, and spent the evening hours working out his plan-of-battle. The crux of his plan relied upon one of two alternatives he believed the enemy could take: (1) That of the allies remaining quiet where they were and await a battle; (2) That of the enemy attempting to retire upon Reppen. With numbers and position so clearly in their favor, the second possibility was really unlikely.

Late in the night (August 11–12), however, there was some smoke and flame visible on the southern horizon, which turned out to be the village of Kunersdorf on fire, having been deliberately set by the Russians. There was much speculation about the meaning of this event in the Prussian camp.

The allies, knowing that the foe had passed Göritz and Bischof-Sëe, made preparations for an attack. With no blow coming from the direction of Reppen, the front was reversed (as at Zorndorf, but this time with far more thoroughness); so the Russian left was now anchored on the Mühlberg, the army now past burnt Kunersdorf. Why was it burned? As a structure it would have proven a sizeable military obstacle to Frederick’s men, being in front of the Kuh-grund and all. Now only the stone churchyard and church remained. This could have been a distinct barrier to the bluecoats. Nevertheless, as best they might, the allies made ready to receive the stroke they knew was inevitable on the morrow. As for Soltikov’s most pressing worry, he did not wish to be cut off from his main communication center at Frankfurt, barely four miles to the southwest.

By 0300 hours on August 12, the Prussian army was aroused and standing in marching order. The march order was given and the men lurched off; the heads of their two columns pointed eastward, towards Reppen, and the woods there. At the lead was Seydlitz with his cavalry, his command was included in the column to be brought into battle as the left flank, while Eugene of Württemberg followed with the second to act as right wing in conjunction with Finck. The latter had been ordered to keep his bivouac posture near the Hühner-Fleiss, and decoy the enemy while the rest of the army made the swing for battle.

The king betook himself to the woods to encourage the troops with some more of that earthy, unassuming attitude he was well noted for. When his very tired men marched past him in the thick forest paths, he saluted them with a morning greeting, then is reputed to have said, “A good plate of beans would be nice just now, wouldn’t it?” What other high-born European monarch of the day would have done the same?

Finck could dispose of some 12,000 men for his task, with three infantry regiments (the 37th, the 38th, and the 55th Infantry) supported by strong batteries. He was ordered by Frederick to maintain the illusion that the main attack was to fall upon the Russians from the north. (A move which the king thought was impractical. It would have been better to attack from the north). This since the Russian lines were the strongest just where the attack was planned. The king discovered as much when it was already too late. Nevertheless, he was to go out as soon as it was daylight to scout the enemy’s lines but not to get involved in any serious fighting until the rest of the army could be brought into action. Wunsch was simultaneously ordered to move from Göritz to recapture Frankfurt.

While Finck and his peers were carrying out instructions, an enemy battery opened up on them. But the shots fell wide of the mark, and the Prussian generals ignored the fire. The Cossacks, as usual, were very active. They set fire to the little hamlets of Reipzig and Schwetigg (the latter about a mile south of the Russian baggage), but that was the extent of their effectiveness. The main Prussian columns in passing through the thick woods and over unstable, oozy ground—no doubt this made the lugging of the big guns difficult—were very slow with their advance. It was only after unanticipated delays that Frederick finally reached the Hühner-Fleiss and deployed his army on the Klosterberg, and Walkberg (opposite to the Mühlberg), setting up his batteries on the mounds to act as a counter to the Russian guns. By then it was nearly 0800 hours, and a large proportion of the attack force had taken the wrong turn in the woods and thick underbrush; they were still marching up. Thanks, in part, to the king’s miscalculation, the horsed teams lugging the big Prussian guns and the heads of the columns had to reshuffle in the woods. The bluecoats were just not ready.

By that time, Seydlitz and the first column were on the spot but Eugene was a little behind time. The Russians, scanning the front of their position, shortly before this noticed the movements in the thick woods and sped off the inevitable Cossack scouts. This produced a round or two from Finck’s guns, or perhaps from Frederick’s, but the gunners were quickly silenced by the king. The Russians still discerned Finck as the only plainly visible enemy, and believed him to be the main attack force. The men in the woods were thought to be scouting parties. That was until the main Prussian army appeared so unexpectedly out of the woods.

The composition of this force was the following: 13,000 cavalry in 95 squadrons; 36,900 infantry in 53 battalions; and a large quantity of ordnance, including 160 heavy guns and 126 battalion guns. A total force of roughly 50,000 men of all ranks. The Russian force consisted of 68 battalions of infantry (about 42,000 men); 36 cavalry squadrons (about 7,000 of the Cossacks and hussars, more than 4,600 line cavalry); and 200 guns, a total of approximately 61,000 men, when we factor in the gunners, engineers, and the staff; the Austrians had 18 battalions of infantry; 35 squadrons of cavalry; and 48 guns; a total of approximately 18,523 men. About 80,000 allied troops were involved in the battle. They were superior in number to their foe, in infantry and artillery, although there was near parity in cavalry between the two sides. But the Prussian squadrons were not the same vaunted troopers as they had been the year before at Zorndorf, and not nearly as well trained or equipped.

The Russian right was led on this day by General Demikow, while Fermor and Major-General Nikita Petrovich Villebois were to his side. Rumyantsev was commanding the all-important Russian center. The left was under Lt.-Gen. Prince Aleksandr Mikhailovich Golitsyn.

1759-08-12 – Battle of Kunersdorf

Kunersdorf 1759 Part II

Battle of Kunersdorf, Alexander Kotzebue

The Battle

A little more than an hour after their appearance from the thick woods, the Prussian main body stood ranked for battle and had the batteries set up. Finck had been waiting for the signal to attack since first light, and his gunners were waiting with their pieces. At about 1130 hours, the Prussians opened up from the guns on the Walkberg. The Russian batteries on the Mühlberg, which contained some 72 guns, replied as quickly as they could. The Battle of Kunersdorf had begun. Finck’s ordnance from the northward started a bombardment of the Muhlberg from that end.

Frederick’s batteries on the Walkberg held only about 60 guns,4 but they diligently kept up a steady shelling of the enemy from the southern side. The Prussian batteries were actually strung out in three batteries, about which more later. Although the bombardment and counter-bombardment was steady and methodical, the range precluded any major damage to either side. But the Prussians were helped out by an enemy blunder.

The Russian batteries had been built facing the field below and beyond to the shoulder of the hillocks, instead of towards the view of the great hollow they were supposed to defend. As for the opposite wing, the Russian left, as Soltikov’s chief side, boasted a 100 gun complement, almost an embarrassment of riches.

At about 1200 hours, Frederick sent the advanced force of the nine battalions (some 4,300 men) on the Walkberg forward to storm the Mühlberg. The latter was manned by the First Grenadiers, flanked by the Third Musketeers and the Fifth Musketeers. The bluecoats advanced into the hollow. The fire of the enemy batteries intensified as the Prussians came in closer, but the Prussian officers tried to steady their men in the “shelter” of the hollow before the blow fell. This shelling was far too inaccurate to hinder the move. The attackers were largely shielded by the terrain, until they reached the clearing.

The bluecoats reached the edge of the Mühlberg—within 110 feet of the Russian guns on the slope—before they were greeted by a withering enemy fire. The Prussians did not falter, in fact they pressed ever forward. The four lead battalions slashed forward, in an advanced formation. At point-blank range, the bluecoats loosed a crashing volley of musketry straight into the Russian artillerists and their supporting troops. These men were already shaken by heavy bombardment. The latter were swept back here, the greencoats abandoning their guns and works. Prussian cavalry were hit now. In a few minutes of heavy fighting, the 2nd Cuirassiers (Prince Henry) lost 206 men.

In the event, there were new reinforcements of Russians coming forward. Belosersk was disordered by the press of the first line and forced back, carrying the Nizhegorodv Grenadiers. By 1215 hours, the Prussians had nevertheless laid hold of the Mühlberg, the retreating Russians (of the observation corps of Golitsyn) falling back upon Kunersdorf itself—confusion now spreading through Soltikov’s army. Had the mass of the Prussian horse not been “trapped” behind the Prussian left, it might have been far worse for the greencoats. As it was, many of the Russians did not offer organized resistance and were slaughtered by the scores. Five large regiments were decimated. By 1300 hours, the left had been defeated and driven back on Kunersdorf, only small, mostly disorganized groups of Russians remained where the front had once stood, now broken and separated, capable of only token resistance. There was a bright spot. Soltikov, taking control of the faltering situation, sped 12 crack companies (led by General Campitelli) of Austrian grenadiers to Rumyantsev’s support.

Once more the crack unit of Baden-Baden appears in these annals. This solid unit stood firm despite Lt-Colonel Waldegg’s wound and even the unpleasantness of some of the Russians mistaking Waldegg’s men for the Prussians and taking them under fire. Horace St. Paul reports the unit had 64 officers wounded, although no mention is made of total casualties. Nevertheless, Baden-Baden helped bring the Prussian progress to a standstill. In addition, a timely force of Austrian grenadiers led by Major Joseph De Vins, struck at the enemy force now trying to stabilize its hold on the Mühlberg.

It was precisely at this moment that Frederick had determined to launch a pincer attack on the allied lines. The rearmost forces, under Eugene, were supposed to have advanced at this time straight against the Russians from the south, while the right wing did the same from the north, to stiffen Finck’s effort at the west. Together, they were to snuff out the foe. The right van, which had just stormed the Mühlberg, was where it was intended, but the left, which had just entered the fray and was in the process of driving the enemy from the walls of the Kunersdorf churchyard, was critically behind schedule. At the present, it had no troops capable of helping the other pincer arms, except for a couple of formations from the van. Finck, from his side, was also experiencing problems as his attack was held up by the intricacies of the terrain not to mention a couple of narrow bridges crossing the Hühner-Fleiss, hard going for the artillery teams.

The Prussians did their best. Krockow’s 2nd Dragoons smashed against Trettin Hill and the Jewish churchyard. The attacks were costly. Fully two-thirds of the unit were wiped out. 484 men, 51officers. The 6th Dragoons (of Schorlemer) lost 234 men and 18 officers in this bid.

The Kleist Hussars, normally a solid, reliable cadre, along with the 8th Dragoons, crashed straight into a mass of milling Russian horse. The Prussian effort was repelled, but when the massed allied cavalry tried to take advantage of the moment by following up, they were shredded by the timely squadrons of Seydlitz. This was accomplished in spite of the intricacies of the ground, cut up by numerous ponds and swamps. Seydlitz led an enthusiastic attack by hussars. In fact, the indomitable officer was over enthusiastic, for his charge insensibly tended into the fire of some Russian infantry. The bluecoats now recoiled. Nor were the cavalry units alone that suffered. Dohna’s 16th Infantry lost 550 men and 16 officers. Hülsen’s 21st in attacking the Kühgrund lost 783 men and 25 of its officers.

These factors seriously delayed the crucial timetable attack plan. Nevertheless, the left struggled to offer aid quickly as possible, but was impeded by the heavy woods about Kunersdorf. Heinrich’s 43rd Infantry led the left round the Klosterburg against the Backergrund. When at last the Prussians reached the clearing to the southeast of Kunersdorf, they found what had been little suspected. The ground in front there was bisected by great marshes, pools, and little lakelets, stagnant most if not all of them. Two morasses were even running within the confines of Kunersdorf village itself. The only way across these bodies of water were small tracts on either side, which necessitated breaking the order of march and then reforming once past the obstacles. This threw the left wing into a critical delay between the approach and the actual support. The artillery blasted away at the bluecoats, inflicting heavy losses. The 43rd overthrew the Russians on the Mühlberg, but the advance stalled out at the Kühgrund. In this one regiment, “550 men were lost.” It was not alone, by any means. A neighboring unit, Ferdinand’s 5th Infantry, advancing right beside it, was pounded before the Kühgrund, losing 91 dead and 244 wounded in a few minutes. Even the hard-used 7th Infantry could not escape further damage. Its grenadiers reportedly had 200 wounded and 117 killed of their number. The local terrain also fragmented the Prussian line, so Frederick compensated by choosing to attack what was now obviously the enemy’s right.

At the moment, the confusion spreading through the Russian army was widespread, but enemy guns which had been taken could not be used because there was no ammunition for them. This was important. From the Mühlberg, a few well-placed hits might have inflicted enormous casualties and confusion in the serried ranks of the Russian left. Instead, Frederick ordered up four of the light Prussian guns to the Mühlberg—from where they plastered the foe as best they could, while the 12-horse artillery teams struggled to lug the 60 heavy guns to their support. For more than a mile there, Soltikov’s army might have been decimated, but the delays of the teams getting forward the big artillery proved to be fatal to the king’s plan.

Frederick, meanwhile, had sent off a courier with premature news of “victory” to an anxious Berlin, although the enterprise was now slipping from his grasp. Soltikov had his army formed for a pitched battle, this side facing eastwards, while the king renewed his stroke upon the front of the enemy’s mass. There was now still greater pressure on the Russians as Finck, at last emerging from the difficult geography of the Hühner-Fleiss, attacked uphill (with eight full battalions) against the new Russian left, about 1535 hours. At length, the Russian lines were broken again, and the disordered men fell back upon the Jüdenberg, losing Kunersdorf and the Küh-grund in the process. A second courier was soon on his way to the capital, with more encouraging word of the progress of the battle. In the second attack, the bluecoats had captured 108 more guns and had inflicted terrible losses upon the foe. But their army was taking heavy losses as well. And they were handicapped by a narrow front over which to operate. In fact, the whole space for battle this day was quite narrow.

A little before this time—about 1500 hours or so—Laudon had extricated his men from the “isolated” peninsula to the side of the Russian position and ranked them quickly on Soltikov’s flank, though they had yet to be engaged. How had Laudon accomplished this? Well, Frederick’s assumption the Austrians were in a post from which they could not readily leave failed to take into account a causeway that had been constructed to connect Laudon and Soltikov. Through this route lay easy access. Here again was a classic example of a major blunder on the part of the Prussian reconnaissance. We have observed errors before; at Prague, at Kolin, and at Hochkirch, but they pale by comparison with that of Kunersdorf.

Laudon had 18,000 men, fresh and as yet uncommitted, while Frederick’s men were all but exhausted by the almost herculean task they had taken on. But the Russians had been dealt a major blow. Now Finck, Seydlitz and the generals protested to the king that the army should disengage, since the enemy had clearly been defeated. They would almost certainly withdraw during the night, and, besides, the army needed rest. Moreover “Wunsch … [reported] that the enemy were actually beginning to cross the river.” Failing a retreat by the battered enemy, the battle could always be renewed next morning with refreshed men. This was wise and appropriate counsel, and should in retrospect have been heeded. Sadly, impatient Frederick did not listen, and insisted on continuing the battle to whip the enemy, now. He called for the left, and ordered it forward upon the Russian battery on the Grosser-Spitzberg—which happened to be one of the strongest posts in the enemy’s front—the high battery to the south and some distance ahead of Soltikov’s right. It was under the command of Rumyantsev, with the Vologdskii Infantry regiment right on the spot, along with 16 more large Russian regiments in close support behind. Rumyantsev’s guns opened a terrible fire upon the Prussians as they emerged from behind the ponds in front of Kunersdorf and were forming up to attack.

Prussian artillery was hastily put together in a cluster behind the village of Kunersdorf, which was flanked by two batteries, at the Blanken-Sëe and the Dorf-Sëe, although the king was not prepared to put all of his eggs in one artillery basket. Nevertheless, the Prussian batteries went to work trying to overpower the allied batteries on the Grosser Spitzberg.

When at last the latter were ready, the bluecoats moved up to attack. They were pounded by the searing artillery fire and, unable to complete their task, they stalled out. The 47th Infantry (Major-General Christoph Heinrich von Grabow) had 600 losses. This stroke did knock the Russian Apcheronski Infantry for a loop, and the Rostovoski Infantry were likewise sucked into the vortex of the Prussian attack and badly used. Apcheronski was later honored because it continued to hold back the enemy “while standing, ‘knee deep in blood.’” Frederick now ordered forward the artillery, but the crews could not get the big guns up past the mud and the wagons sank up to their axles when this was tried. Worse, Seydlitz was wounded at that critical moment by a shot which tore away part of his right hand. The Prussians were thus deprived of the services of one of their best cavalry officers at a crucial stage. Seydlitz had to relinquish command to Platen and was taken off the field to have his wound tended to.

Frederick lost his head and commanded that the cavalry itself charge the foe’s battery on the Grosser-Spitzberg. Platen contested the order, in vain. He jumped to horse at last and galloped with his cavalry around the southern side of Kunersdorf. The charging, storming troopers made a hopeless effort. After a fine beginning, they were cut to ribbons by the merciless fire. The 5th Cuirassiers (Friedrich Wilhelm Prince of Prussia und Markgraf of Brandenburg-Schwedt) lost 170 men here. Kyau’s 12th Cuirassiers lost 260 more. Whole squadrons seemed to fall, and the rest were cut into little groups, not able to move forward. The leading unit, the 6th Dragoons of Schorlemer, was hit so savagely it was virtually wiped out on the spot. Even worse, this splendid effort had carried the bulk of the horsed formations past the west side of the ponds, and this exposed their flank to thousands of as yet unengaged enemy cavalry. Soon the magnificent squadrons had been shattered, falling back beyond the pools at Kunersdorf. Here they got steadied and were ranked again.

Following this repulse, which incidentally proved to be the turning point of the battle, the Prussian infantry, reforming again and again, attacked the enemy’s position on the Grosser-Spitzberg repeatedly, but again futilely. The 37th Infantry (Lt.-Gen. August Wilhelm von Braun) was utterly annihilated in the effort; 992 men and 16 officers went down here. The king himself dashed out to lead two attacks by the 35th Infantry, in which he had two horses shot dead under him and was in the process of mounting a third when a stray shot struck the poor animal in the neck and it fell to the ground, nearly on top of Frederick. He was snatched up by two of his adjutants. A bullet had smashed a snuff box in his heavy coat, saving Frederick’s life. Still, he reportedly grabbed a flag and uttered “I must do my duty here like any other!” Pragmatically, the 35th would, in the end, be the last Prussian unit off the field.

Although their leader was safe, the Prussians could make no further gains, holding instead tenaciously to the captured works in their hands, too exhausted to even retreat it would appear. This is not surprising.

The Allies were in similar shape. Their cavalry was truly heterogeneous, as the main thrust of the cavalry units were the 6th Dragoons and the Löwenstein riders of the 31st Austrian. Two units which were truly magnificent units, fully equal to the magnificent squadrons of Seydlitz. They were even stiffened by stubborn Russian cavalry, of inferior quality, but eager to demonstrate their worthiness as well. This mounted attack helped out the greencoats, who were being hard pressed. As for the valiant Apcheronski regiment and its neighbors, two fine Russian units—the Pskov and the Vologda Infantry—they lent their aid and momentarily helped check the stubborn Prussian advance. Then, near 1700 hours, the valiant king finally drove in his part of the front, temporarily. Soltikov responded the only way he knew how: with more reinforcements. Again, the newcomers (Kozen and Vyborg, joined by Pfern) contrived to move from the Russian right. This new body blunted the Prussian advance.

The fresh Austrian infantry/cavalry swooped down upon the recoiling Prussians, forcing them to gang together to form a defense. All of this, it must be remembered, took place along a relatively narrow front, allowing precious little room for maneuvering. The reformed Russians now joined the fray; together the allies drove the enemy mass before them, back to the Küh-grund, from Kunersdorf, back the way they had come. As it worked out, the Küh-grund and vicinity was to prove a strong “trap.” The Prussian cavalry were ridden down by the surging allied cavalry. Frederick rallied his men, trying to reverse the tide of battle. Finck was still attacking from the Hühner-Fleiss, to no avail, now the king ordered the horsemen to disengage and ride around to the Mühlberg to aid Finck there. Eugene led some support forces to the scene, to the eastern end then west before they finally turned to face south directly at the enemy. The bluecoats here intended a decisive stroke to roll up Soltikov, but the men had scattered when they marched off, quickly dispersing.

Eugene was badly wounded trying to extricate himself from the carnage. When he returned, Frederick ordered Puttkammer and his hussars to the task. But that commander was killed and his stroke ended much the same as the first. After this latest assault had miscarried, the Russian infantry, now directly before the Küh-grund, struck forward and retook the line. They remanned the batteries at once, while Frederick reacted by sending orders to retake those guns. A large force of bluecoats advanced then to within some 50 yards of the Russian lines and halted there, exchanging volleys of musketry with the latter for about ¼ of an hour. It was past 1730 hours. A few Prussians even made it to the crest of the nearby hillocks, but unfortunately they lacked either the physical or numerical stamina to recapture the Küh-grund and the disputed vicinity. Kanitz’ 2nd Infantry, pounded so fiercely by these same Russians at Zorndorf, suffered more. Some 472 men and nine officers fell all told on this day.

Seeing the Prussian attack stalled, Laudon took the chance to launch his still largely intact forces from behind the Grosser-Spitzberg to complete the overthrow of the Prussian army. By then it was about 1800 hours, and the sun was dipping low in the western sky. As soon as the bluecoats got a view of the surging Austrian force, they were suddenly gripped by panic. The army dissolved into a mass of running men in a matter of minutes, the troops forsaking their weapons and equipment as they did so. However, not all of the men fled. One small force planted itself on the Walkberg to guard the retreat. Elsewhere, isolated groups still put up a bold front. Lestwitz’s 31st lost 431 men on this retreat. But, for the most part, the army had been converted into a confused, milling mass of fugitives with only one thought pressing in mind: to retire to the rear and away from the enemy as fast as they could. Indeed, seldom in military history has a battle been so completely lost by an organized army in such a short space of time.

The press of the Prussian retreat was towards the north to the shelter of the ground beyond. The remnants of Schorlemer’s command strove to cover the retreat, but were forthwith driven into the swamps nearby. This exposed the retreating mass, which were ridden down and bagged by the thousands in their flight towards Zolow and the Hühner-Fleiss at Faulen-Bräcke and Stroh-Bräcke. Still, a great number of the bluecoats managed to take refuge in the churchyard at Trettin, where they briefly thought about rallying. Any such thoughts were put to bed by the impetuous Austrian cavalry of Kalnolky’s Hussars, aided by the nearby 11th Hussars. A vigorous attack, led by the dismounted horsemen, drove the already shaken Prussians from the village. This left them no choice but to abandon what artillery they had managed to drag to a sunken road forward of Trettin. Even by foot rescue was difficult, for the final tally was some 650 bluecoats taken. This really put paid to the matter of providing any meaningful resistance to the allied pursuit. In the event, “he [Frederick] demanded more of his men than they could bear.”

The king himself was in the midst of the rout. He seemed to be stupefied by what he saw. Frederick galloped about, shouting, “Children, don’t forsake your King, don’t leave me in this pinch!” and “will none of these blasted balls hit me, then!?!” However, his attempts to rally his men were as useless as they were brave. A panicked army must be like an angry mob, not really aware of what is happening about and deaf to the voice of reason. Frederick was on the point of being surrounded by the enemy troopers when he shouted out “Prittwitz, I am lost!” The latter dashed up, along with an adjutant. The adjutant grabbed his horse’s bridle, and led the king and his horse off at a gallop from the field, while Prittwitz with his command battled the pursuing Cossacks to a standstill.

That evening, the agitated Prussian king took shelter at Reitwein while Wunsch, who had been left at the bridge to prevent the escape of the enemy, waited until most of the scattered fugitives had gathered at Öetscher and Goritz before he closed up the bridge. Both to anticipate the enemy from moving across the Oder and to prevent a possible wholesale desertion of the demoralized men. Wunsch had earlier marched to Frankfurt in the afternoon; he attacked and seized the town bridges. Then the understanding man blew them up.

The firing on the battlefield gradually died down and the tortured Battle of Kunersdorf ended. Thus was the curtain brought down upon the drama of the worst defeat that Frederick would ever suffer on a field of battle. His men, during the course of the night, were slowly reassembled. Wunsch was summoned by the victors to surrender; the request was refused, of course, though on the morning of August 13 Wunsch withdrew, destroying the crossing points behind him, with no interference. The night before the king had written a letter to his old tutor, von Finckenstein, in Berlin, explaining the defeat: “I attacked the enemy today at 11. Pushed them back to the Jewish churchyard near Frankfort. All the troops were engaged, and did wonders, but the cemetery cost us a prodigious number. Our troops were thrown into confusion, I rallied them thrice; at length I thought myself about to be taken captive, and had to abandon the field of battle. My clothes were riddled by balls, I had two horses shot from under me; it is my misfortune that I am still alive. Our loss is very considerable; of an army of 48,000 men, I have not 3,000. At this moment, all are in flight and I am no longer master of my troops. You in Berlin will do well to think of your safety.” As a postscript, he added, “I have no more resources left, and I will tell you no lies: I think that we are lost! I shall not survive the downfall of my country, Farewell, Frederic.”

There, sitting in a peasant hut amidst the wounded and the dying, the melancholic Frederick decided to turn over the command of his army, or what remained of it, to Finck. He told the latter this was only because of illness, when he had recovered he would resume command. Reluctantly, the king wrote out the order:

“The General [Finck] gets a hard commission. The luckless army such as this I hand him is no longer in a condition to fight the Russians, Hadek [Hadik] will probably press on to Berlin, Laudon perhaps, too, if the general [Finck] goes after they both, Soltikov [read the Russians] will take him in the rear, if he stops on the Oder, he will get Hadek this side. But I think that if Laudon tri for Berlin he could attack and beat him on the way, this iffit go well, would put a good face on misfortune and hold things. Time gained is very much in these desperate circumstances. The news from Torgau and Dresden, Coller my secretary will send him; he must keep my brother, Prince Henry, whom I appoint Generalissimo, informed of everything; to make good the misfortune completely is impossible, but my brother’s orders must be obeyed; the army must swear allegiance to my nephew [Prince Frederick Wilhelm]. This is all the advice, in these unhappy circumstances, I am in a condition to give. Had I still had resources left, I would have stayed by them. Frederic.”

Next day, August 13, the king felt a little cheerier, now that the army had some 23,000 men, but Finck was in “active” command of this force (a duty it appears he never actually assumed). Frederick sent off a letter to the commandant in Dresden, our old friend Schmettau, to surrender if good terms were offered to him were he to be besieged by the enemy. After a few days’ further rest, August 15, Frederick departed from Reitwein, hearing the encouraging news that the Russians were encamping to the south of Kunersdorf. Not a single one of Soltikov’s men had dared to recross the Oder to the western bank after the battle. The king had again taken heart, resuming command of the reorganizing army (August 16). He promptly sent for Kleist and his hussars to join him from Pomerania. This move left the Swedes free to march into Prussian Pomerania, which they did in a rather lethargic manner.

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The Battle of Zorndorf I

Cossacks burn Zorndorf

On August 20, the king’s Prussians arrived at the gates of Frankfurt-on-Oder; Fermor was out by Cüstrin with his army. The bluecoats initially moved to Tschicherzig. Frederick reached it on August 16, but Dohna was still out of the vicinity busy in his dealings with the Russians. The grueling pace under the hot summer sun had cost the army many heat-stricken deaths, and the rest of the troops were worn out from the fast pace. They needed a little rest and the king received intelligence that there were no Russians south of the Warta. There was no way to link up with Dohna at Tschicherzig, so the royal force sent intelligence that the junction could be made at Gorgast. Dohna had marched from Frankfurt-on-Oder in August 13. A timely force of four battalions, along with 16 squadrons of cavalry, all under General Schorlemer, bound for Cüstrin. It was considered essential for the new troops to get there as soon as possible.

Frederick lodged for the night of August 20–21 in a suburb house—in Lebus—close to the Russian array across the river. Dohna had kept to the western bank of the Oder (at Gorgast, where he arrived on August 16). Until the coming of the king, Dohna, plus of course the garrison of Cüstrin (under Commandant Colonel Christoph Ernst Schack von Wittenau), plus the dark, murky waters of the wide Oder River had been the only cover for the Prussian capital against the Russians. The danger to Berlin now seemed to lessen.

On August 21, Frederick rode out to Gorgast so as to discern what the enemy were up to. The king made off early (about 0200 hours) with only a few staff officers and escorts in attendance, leaving his army to follow at slower step. Had the Prussian waited a while, there might not have been need for a battle.

The threat of action should have been enough, but that required time. And time was really the one commodity in the shortest supply. Every day counted. Besides, Frederick’s opinion of the fighting skills of the Russians was low, and he must have expected a rather easy time of the whole matter. Frederick was determined to do battle with Fermor to get the threat to Brandenburg neutralized from the direction of the east for that year. August 21 was spent in bringing the army up towards Gorgast, so that by the early morning on August 22 about 36,000 Prussians were encamped in and about Manschnow.

Frederick commented on the neat condition of the latter’s men (who had been largely dormant for a while) in comparing them to his own troops, ragged and dusty from very recent adventures, who were shabby by comparison. The Prussians who had been concentrated there were the sum total of nearly every available fighting man between Berlin and the Oder. The composition of that force was the following: 38 battalions of infantry (25,000 men); 83 squadrons of cavalry (10,500 men); and 194 artillery pieces, of which a high percentage (117) were classified as heavy ordnance. To head his horsemen, the king again had the services of Seydlitz, who had returned at the start of the campaign recovered from his wound sustained at Rossbach. But Frederick’s favored cavalry leader had been whoring with loose women and had contracted syphilis, which made his wounds heal slowly.

At Frederick’s command (and with urgency) a particular Russian redoubt—at the village of Schaumberg, a couple of miles downstream—was shelled so ferociously as to destroy it. Simultaneously, he ordered that boats be collected above Cüstrin so that the army might cross the Oder there. The king had already ordered Lt-General Kanitz with two regiments of infantry and the pontoon train forward there to construct a pontoon bridge there. Kanitz received some greatly appreciated assistance from local peasants.

The bombardment of Fermor’s works was meant to give him the impression that it was at Schaumberg where Frederick intended to cross the river. It was at the village of Alt-Güstibiese where the king really planned to break the barrier of the Oder. The marked redoubt was accordingly plastered, and Fermor at once concentrated his army close-by, while the Prussians, under cover of darkness (night of August 22–23) rose and moved on Alt-Güstibiese, where Kanitz had been busy. The march of not quite 20 miles was accomplished without a hitch, and about 1230 hours on August 23, as the Russians stood waiting near Schaumberg, the Prussian van—with the king himself at the head—crossed the Oder by pontoons and filed through the streets of Alt-Güstibiese, followed quickly by the remainder of the army. All except for the Prussian baggage train, which was left on the eastern bank, to be placed under Hordt and his Free Battalion #9.

Frederick, directly upon crossing the Oder, made for the knoll of Alt-Güstibiese and was there greeted by the poor populace of the place, who kissed his hands and even the lining of his coat. He was so moved when he perceived the pitiful sight he wept. After the Prussians marched from Alt-Güstibiese, they moved some ten miles to the east on Gross-Kammin. At the hamlet of Klossow, halt to rest and set up an encampment was called, and Frederick’s army paused there. The troops were spread out in their tents towards Neu-Damm, where they were to make for on the morrow. Once there, the king intended to send his army across the bridge there over the Mutzel and prepare to sweep the enemy’s army into the very water barrier it counted upon for its defense.

Fermor was unaware of any of these proceedings. At the very time that Frederick’s men began crossing the Oder, Fermor was waiting near Cüstrin, expecting the appearance of the Prussians near there.

Meanwhile, the Siege of Cüstrin had been brief. About 0200 hours on August 15, Stoffelne’s detachment, some 5,000 strong, moved forward upon the fortress; from Gross-Kammin, the Russians reached the walls of Cüstrin through the thick woods intersecting the Landsberg road. There was no hint of resistance until the village of Tamsel. As the green-clad Russians neared the latter, Prussian outposts under General Ruesch (which had been put out to probe for the enemy) opened fire upon the advancing Russians, believing them apparently to be nothing more than Cossacks. The Cossacks were sneaking around to outflank the defenders. The Prussians were speedily disillusioned by these measures.

Stoffelne easily overwhelmed the outposts almost before they knew what hit them. The main Prussian line was anchored on two local cemeteries; reasonably strong obstacles. Stoffelne silenced a Prussian battery in front and drove the bluecoats back from the cemeteries. He then veered his advance towards the right, and very shortly reached the Oder at the northern side of Cüstrin. Here batteries (made up of his 20 guns), were set to prepare to bombard the fortress, while the garrison made ready to defend it. At about 2100 hours on August 15, the shelling of Cüstrin commenced, Stoffelne’s artillery started belching exploding howitzer shells and incendiary bombs towards both the fortress and the town. After three well-placed incendiary rounds, one shot landed in a magazine with straw surrounding it and caught fire. The garrison made a useless attempt to save the place, handicapped by a lack of skilled firefighters not to mention the Russians to worry about, but soon the town was blazing out of control. Even some of the garrison, many of whom were deserters or prisoners-of-war, took the opportunity to break into the town and loot. The whole incident was most unfortunate for all concerned, and especially so for the poor souls who had sought their refuge and stored their worldly goods in Cüstrin “when the Russians entered the Prussian territories and … [were thus] reduced from opulent fortunes, to beggary.” Stored powder in the magazines exploded with a violent fury, burying many who had sought refuge in the numerous caverns under the town.

Cüstrin was ruined, “excepting the school, the garrison, church, and the main guardhouse.” In the pre-dawn hours of June 16, the garrison of the fortress of Cüstrin hastily constructed two redoubts to help bolster the barrier to the Russians. Nevertheless, Manteuffel took up a position near Neu-Damm, which prevented the enemy from crossing the Oder. Early on the morning of August 16, Cüstrin’s guns opened upon the besiegers. The Russian response was really only half-hearted. August 17, Stoffelne summoned the fortress to surrender. The garrison commander replied he would defend Cüstrin “to the last man.”

The Russians were hampered by their lack of siege guns, and Shuvalov’s unicorns proved really ineffective against the walls of the fortress. Worse, the solid shells of the field guns were in short supply. They would be needed for battle, and could be used only sparingly against Cüstrin. Nevertheless, Stoffelne’s move caused Dohna to move to Reitwein to join up with Manteuffel. On August 20, Cüstrin’s garrison, which realized the little suburb was actually shielding the enemy’s siege lines, took the disturbing decision to burn down this suburb, called the Kutze Vorstadt.

The populace fled across the Oder to Gorgast, leaving the town a burning wreck. Much material was lost and a small baby was killed. The bridge over the river caught on fire and burned up. Indeed, Fermor was not even aware of where the Prussians had vanished to, although the Cossacks were out trying to find out. Late on August 23, the Russian commander got the first real intelligence of where the enemy were. The irregulars brought in word the king and his men had already breached the Oder and were racing towards the Mutzel. It was plain Frederick was advancing straight on the Russian army to force a battle. Fermor, as soon as he realized what was afoot, took immediate measures to prepare his army for the trial that was coming. Stoffelne had returned to the main army, abandoning the Siege of Cüstrin.

The Russian army was pushed into bivouac posture in the thick woods near the Mutzel (the Drewitz Woods of the Zaberngrund); this being the most readily defensible spot in the region now occupied by the Russians. The army completed this maneuver late on August 24. Beyond precautions like these, Fermor, unsure of just what the Prussian strength he was opposing, remained almost in a self-induced “fog.” “The generals were left in ignorance of his intentions.” The heavy baggage had already been put out of harm’s way, as we have seen. Fermor had brought the kitchen paraphernalia and the army paymaster part of the train to be with his main force.

At the same time, Frederick was busy himself. His army was on the road towards the Mutzel, specifically, the hamlets of Quartzchen and Darmutzel. He did not intend to make passage at the places ahead, but to merely destroy the wooden bridges thereabouts so Fermor would not be able to escape across them. The work was quickly accomplished. The sun was stifling and wearing on the Prussians. Having rendered the lower Mutzel bridgeless, the king turned his marching troops towards Neu-Damm, the real crossing point, and the one infantry bridge in the region. Evening of August 24, the bluecoats reached their destination, and the bridge at the mill there. They were five good miles from Fermor’s Russians.

A prompt advance was made by the advanced guard to prevent the enemy from taking effective countermeasures. The army, once the initial crossing was secured, would make transit throughout the night. The Prussians now took a brief pause, lasting only until 0300 hours on August 25. Frederick took the opportunity to grab some sleep. He napped in a little room at the Neu-Damm, and was awakened about midnight on August 24–25 by his faithful attendants. When the over optimistic king saw his generals that fateful morning, he is reputed to have said, “My congratulations, [Gentlemen!] We have won the battle!”10 About 0300, the crossing commenced. The infantry, artillery teams and cavalry were able to pass the Mutzel without difficulty. With the crossing wrapped up, the bridge was torn down behind them. The king was guided through the thick woods by a local forestry official named Zollnar. He then donned his sword and made ready for what would be a long day for himself and his army. Fermor’s scouts had finally informed him that Frederick’s army had seized the Neu-Damm Bridge and were rolling across the last water barrier between it and the Russians. He knew that Frederick could be looked for on the morrow and the Russian army was shifted into a new position to compensate as much as possible for the changed situation. A deserter from the Prussian army told Fermor the king intended to attack from the direction of Batzlow and Wilkersdorf. Fermor, unfortunately, did not heed the information. He still seemed to expect a Prussian attack from the north, and, to compound the error, Fermor dispatched forces to make sure the Mutzel was bridgeless.

The Prussians had been astride Fermor’s lines-of-communication ever since they had penetrated the Oder and there was really little choice left to the foe but to fight it out. Fermor’s men were short of provisions, Frederick holding the Oder meant no supplies could be expected from that direction and no hope of reinforcements was on the horizon. At Fermor’s back, loomed the vast expanses of Poland, much of it barren.

Fermor, minus the detachment in Pomerania, had an army of about 52,000 men with him. The composition of this force was the following: 55 battalions of infantry (approximately 36,308 men); 21 squadrons of cavalry (3,382 men); the irregulars and an artillery train of 136 guns. The numerical superiority of Fermor’s army to Frederick’s was about as pronounced as, say Prince Charles’ superior numbers over the Prussians at Leuthen. Frederick had the considerable advantage of well-trained and prepared troops well suited for the heavy fighting that was about to occur. In contrast, the Russians, despite their dogged determination and a stubborn, unbending will, simply were not skilled enough to hope to overcome the finest soldiers in the world at the time and led by the arguably greatest tactician of modern history.

The battle was more than half-won by the bluecoats before the first shots were ever fired. But if Frederick found this enemy to be less capable in genuine military skill, the Russians were by far the most determined foes that the king would ever meet on a field of battle. As for Fermor, once he perceived the Prussians had outflanked the position, he realized there were two alternatives: (1) Either march out and fight it out with Frederick in the open; (2) Stay put in the back country where he was and be forced out by starvation to either surrender or else flee like whipped pups towards Poland, if the Prussians allowed that.

Some explanation of the country there in which the battle was about to be fought is needed at this point. Zorndorf was the most important village in the vicinity; the place from which the battle received its name was about four miles on the northward side of Cüstrin, some 30 miles from Landsberg and about nine from Klein-Kammin. Zorndorf lay about the center of the tract of ground between the Warta River and the Mutzel, the nature of the countryside there being covered in some spots with thick woods and morasses but was elsewhere sufficiently fertile to grow crops on. The scene was a clearing near-by, perhaps three miles long by five miles wide. About Tamsel, the woods became thicker, specifically between Drewitz-Heath and Klein-Kammin. Zorndorf sat on a knoll perhaps 100 feet above the Oder; from there to all directions, the ground fell away to lower reaches near the swamps. There was no other significant higher ground in the region, and here Fermor finally chose to put his army on.

Away to the western end of the region, the nature of the country changed from wet swamps and great woods to three stagnant, murky pools, each branching towards the Mutzel. The ground inside of each pool rose a large hollow of ground, well-worn by the waters. That closest to the river was known as the Zaberngrund, the second as the Galgen Hollow; both would play important roles in the battle.

Generally, the lower, more western, ground consisted largely of swamps, the eastern country was of a drier nature, more suited to human habitation. The battle, almost naturally, would be fought in the latter tracts. Fermor decided that it would be better to fight it out with Frederick in the open. So he marched from the thick woods into the cleared country near Zorndorf, where he intended to draw out his men for battle. This was against the advice of Prince Charles of Saxony, who rather wisely suggested that the army should post itself in the elevated country near Gross-Kammin. Fermor seems to have been receptive to the idea of putting his post thereabouts, however in the event, he “merely deposited the main baggage [close-by] … [putting] the army into a potentially disastrous position.” This was a major mistake. A post on higher ground would have raised the already difficult task confronting Frederick to almost superhuman proportions. Fortunately, for the Prussians, there was no attempt to do so.

The Russians were arranged in three great—but irregular—squares which, because of the generally broken condition and uneven ground, were really out of range and almost incapable of rendering support to each other. Fermor’s western (right) flank was deployed on the Zaberngrund, the center lay about Quartzchen, with the narrow left anchored about the hamlet of Zicher. His whole army, except as usual for the Cossacks, thus was drawn out on the squares. Rumyantsev, still blissfully unaware of what had been transpiring, was now cut off from the main body of the army.

Frederick’s men had succeeded in capturing a few Cossacks, just before crossing the Mutzel, which made him even more confident of success in battle with the Russians. He was convinced that these eastern peoples lacked the ingredients to be good soldiers, an opinion not shared by Marshal Keith, who did his best to convince the king Fermor’s army would give a good account of itself.

The Prussian infantry had crossed the Mutzel near Damschue Mühle, the cavalry passing by a log bridge at Kersten in the vicinity of Neu Damm. From there, the range to the nearest hostile troops was about three miles near Zicher. But the king had no intention of striking Fermor on that side in any case, and his actual plan was to attack and roll up the enemy’s right on Zaberngrund, applying the entire effort on that point. Once an assault was opened upon the opposite side of their lines, the enemy, if defeated, would be forced back upon the nearly impassable Mutzel. This would trap him between that river and Frederick’s army; Fermor must then have surrendered or else faced annihilation. On the other side of the coin, if Frederick’s men were beaten, they could easily retreat to Cüstrin fortress, just a short distance to the south. As one author observed about the Russians, they had to have their baggage/supply train as they consumed “far more provisions than one [fighting army] more than twice as strong.”

No battle was required, for the Russian baggage at Klein-Kammin was vulnerable. A Prussian stroke upon that train would have compelled Fermor to retreat without battle. Inexplicably, the king did nothing about the enemy’s baggage, and the guard force was left undisturbed. Surprisingly enough, Frederick disdained a thorough reconnaissance by cavalry just before his troops moved out. A recon was considered a given before a major battle. By a military leader of the caliber of Frederick the Great it might be a gross mistake not to do one. On the other hand, the king argues in his History of the Seven Years’ War he had no other choice than to seek a battle as soon as possible as he had other irons in the fire.

The Battle of Zorndorf II

Hemmed in by the Meitzel River at its back, the Russian Army had no way to retreat if the battle went badly. Meanwhile, the Prussians mounted an attack on the Russian right.

At about 0300 hours, the Prussians rose and pressed off moving westward—the cavalry closest to the enemy array, while the infantry followed in parallel marching lines. The direction of this maneuver made it appear as if Frederick was heading for Tamsel, but, just short of that place, the troops turned and headed directly towards the enemy. No doubt it was a beautiful formation.

Fermor had been busy observing the bluecoats since they had emerged from the woods, needless to say with intense interest. The Russian commander until then had been unaware of where his foe intended for. The Russian front originally had been facing north, as the Prussian stroke was expected from that direction. By then it was approximately 0600 hours, long past dawn. But seeing the Prussians sweeping on by without motion that might indicate an assault, Fermor finally discerned his enemy’s aim. He made measures to accommodate the changed circumstances, and swung round to face the south. This took a while to accomplish, while the Prussians continued to prepare. Time by that point was about 0730 hours.

Fermor had spun round and was in the process of deploying his men into the great squares. His whole force was in this gigantic posture; the army stretched from one end to the other some two miles in length, by about one mile in width. This would be the Russians’ first test with Frederick himself, although Gross-Jägersdorf had been fought with the Prussians the previous year.

The Prussians approached behind the hamlets thereabouts: by Wilkersdorf, Zorndorf, and Gross-Kammin. About 0800 hours Frederick’s army was standing in the clearing in front of Fermor’s men. Hussar parties, peeling off from the main body, rode out to deal with any units of Cossacks on the loose; this group headed towards the right of the Prussian army to hold a position from that end. In spite of the Prussian measures, the Cossacks were indeed active. Brave individual Cossacks even dared to ride up and taunt the Prussian soldiers with carbine fire, then made off. But there was to be no firing from the Prussians anyway; Frederick had ordered the soldiers to withhold their fire so as to not alert the Russians to their position.

This was a bleak period in the history of mankind. The Russian irregulars, on the approach of the king’s army, committed a number of atrocities, which have really blackened the history of this war. At Gross Kammin and at Blumberg, wayward irregulars sacked and burned the towns, and killed a great number of civilians. The victims included women with children, and the nefarious deeds were not confined to the living. Graves were violated, and the vagabonds “stript [sic] the bodies of General Schladerndorf [sic] and General Ruitz.”

The hussar screen, some 15 squadrons strong, was making things difficult for the Cossacks. The latter made no appreciable progress against the foe, and they quickly lost heart and decided to get away while the getting was good. As a send-off, they set fire to Zorndorf before they made off. Ironically, the smoke from that burning village (the wind, although blowing only slightly, carried right into Fermor’s face) served to conceal the mobile Prussians from the sight of the enemy. It was said Zorndorf was burned so the Prussian king “might not cover his motions.” However, Frederick’s men held off on driving the Prussian ammunition carts through the streets of Zorndorf. This was obviously for the possible detrimental effects. Still, this no doubt upset Fermor’s thinking, and contributed to the outcome of the battle.

Frederick at the same time rode forward from the main army, to see what state the Zaberngrund was in. Accompanied by staff officers, the king only got as far as Batzlow—at the edge of the woods. A plethora of Cossack activity precluded his further journey, and Frederick returned to the army for the critical maneuvers. He found the ravine too deep, rendering it impractical to attack the western square of Fermor’s army over this ground. The muddy and marshy condition of the terrain precluded passage of any body of organized troops but cavalry. Finally, at about Wilkersdorf, the king found his vantage point. At this spot, not quite a mile from the Russian mass, he studied the enemy and the ground thoroughly to see how to bring about its ruin.

After a brief investigation of the ground forward of the Russians, the king finally chose the enemy’s right as the most favorable of the great squares to strike, on the southwest end of the position. The monarch then passed back to the army and ordered the men to form rank for battle. He anchored (for the moment) his left behind the still burning village of Zorndorf. On this flank, his troops were to commence the battle with an infantry assault upon Fermor’s right. For this task, the infantry was halted and formed into attack order, while Seydlitz galloped off to the left rear to take up behind the foot soldiers with his squadrons. General Dohna had charge of the Prussian right; between the Stein-Busch and the far end of Zorndorf, he deployed Infantry Regiments 14th, 27th, 18th, 25th, 23rd, 40th, and 49th. The left, under General Kanitz, consisted of Infantry 11th, 7th, 22nd, 46th, 16th, 37th, one battalion each of 2nd/4th, supported by Dragoon regiments 6th, 7th, and 8th. This wing was placed to the left of Zorndorf, and at the end of the Zaberngrund; in the second line stood the center—which was to act in concert with the left by attacking the Russian positions facing Landsberg—while the right held a front at Wilkersdorf.

After his regrouping and countermarching, Fermor placed his troops as follows: the main army was newly designated as the Russian right, made up most of the strength of the Russian army; Browne’s Observation Corps became the Russian left, reaching to Zicher. Towards the Zicherer Heide beyond Zicher, General Demikow led a group of horsemen, including the Horvat Hussars, and the Cossacks, that would eventually take a prominent role in the proceedings.

The Prussian plan of attack was to hammer the Russian right square with heavy artillery fire to soften up the resistance, and then launch a sudden blow against it. This stroke was to be carried out by Manteuffel (at the head of the advanced guard) using the best troops of the Prussian army. The right was to do nothing during this assault, merely stand and draw the enemy’s attention, as well as feed in more troops as they were required further down the line. Colonel Moller’s heavy Prussian artillery (of 18- and 24-pounders) was pushed to high ground just north of Zorndorf (20 pieces northwest of Zorndorf, another battery of 40 just north of the ruined place). About 0900 hours, the batteries opened. Initial range was too far. The shot could not inflict much damage, so the guns were moved 600 paces closer. The batteries then started to belch grapeshot at close range into close packed Russian formations. The results were devastating.

A. T. Bolotov related that one particular cannon shot killed or wounded 48 Russian grenadiers. This pummeling inflicted major casualties before the actual man-to-man fighting started, but the Russian nerve kept men in the open formation when dispersal to cover, such as it was, would have been better. Russian artillery response was less effective, in part because of the greater dispersal of the Prussian army. For two hours, the exchange continued. The less trained Russian gun crews also had to fire uphill, against an enemy who certainly knew how to wage a successful artillery duel. The Russians had much less success in this respect than on the day of Gross-Jägersdorf in 1757.

Some of the Russians really had a desire to “see the show.” “The cannon shot were screaming ceaselessly through the air … [and] many of our soldiers climbed the trees to get a better view of the action.” Seydlitz, for his part, had 36 squadrons of cavalry in position at the end of the left, on the west end of the Zaberngrund, while Colonel Wackenitz was holding a second group of 20 squadrons as a reserve behind Kanitz.

After the initial deployment had ended, the Prussians (eight battalions, six of them grenadier units) of Manteuffel at the left of the front started forward just past the western end of Zorndorf (at about 1100 hours) towards the Russians, each battalion following the first marched forward a little to their right rear in the oblique order. They passed the still smoldering village on the opposite— right—side. Eyewitness accounts of the Prussian advance give keen insight into the fact that war, is, indeed, waged by men of flesh and blood on both sides. Pastor Täge, a recent arrival in Fermor’s ranks, described the imminent attack of the Prussians “their weapons flashed in the sun, and the spectacle was frightening. Never since in the course of my long life have I heard that tune (Ich bin ja, Heer, in deiner Macht!; [“Now Lord, I am in thy keeping!”] without [recourse to] … the utmost emotion.” When the Prussians made their appearance, one of the regimental bands was marching right along, playing that hymnal with all the enthusiasm of a parade ground. Frederick himself seemed momentarily enthralled by the music and audibly repeated it to those nearby and to himself. It is a pity that such a tranquil tune and mood would be forever associated with one of the most bitterly contested battles of the 18th century.

In the event, the thick smoke from the bombardments and the fire at Zorndorf hung thickly about the ground. The front separated, and a gap was created in the Prussian front as it drew upon Fermor’s square. This would have proven disastrous for Frederick had it not been for Seydlitz. The Russians seeing (or, more likely, hearing) the progress of the enemy’s advance, opened up a terrific fire upon them at the distance of some 40 paces. The Battle of Zorndorf had commenced. Now, as a backdrop of battle, some of the Russian supply wagons, their supply of powder responding to intense heat, were blowing up, adding further noise to a roar that reverberated in the windows of buildings all over the area.

The mobile horse-artillery and guns were rushed forward, and two, which had taken up position at opposite ends of the Zaberngrund beforehand, opened a heavy fire. This was pointed to strike the extreme southwest corner of Fermor’s lines, the target of the infantry assault. The Russian batteries, it just so happened, had been massed at this spot, but their operators did not reply with like determination. They lacked the accuracy and skill of their opponents. The Prussian batteries quickly gained the upper hand.

In the meanwhile, the advancing troops had drawn within range, and a most sanguinary struggle was at once taken up. Prussian losses were immediately telling, at least one in three were killed or wounded in this early going. Unfortunately for the king’s men, the attack was in danger of being turned back due to the ever widening rift developing among the bluecoats.

The interior of the Russian army was already a whirl of confusion: the thickly packed ranks of infantry were being swathed by the accurate Prussian cannister fire—casualties were particularly heavy among the Russian 1st and 3rd Grenadiers—but the soldiers still offered a strong front to the attackers. The horses of the supply wagons and lighter baggage, tied up on the outmost edge of the square, had been frightened by the increasingly noisier sounds of battle and were threatening to bolt, while from the outside of the formations, Prussian infantry poured steady, swift and deliberate volleys of musketry fire right into the ranks of the Russians at closer range. Had Fermor’s men been Austrians, Frederick might reasonably have expected preparations to retire from the enemy. But the dogged determination of the Russians, in spite of their shortcomings as military material, more than provided capable resistance to the best army in the world at the time. Not to suggest the Russian soldiers were less than brave. But the soldiers could only be as proficient as their officers, very few of whom during this period were capable. Frederick was certainly impressed and realized that Keith’s analysis of Russian determination was indeed correct.

Manteuffel went marching at the enemy unsupported, for the troops following his, Kanitz’s left, had lost sight of the advanced guard in the prevailing clouds of smoke and dust. They had instead entered a struggle farther down the line; Kanitz’s men, crashing through the Stein Busch, had been become disordered in passing it. By 1115 hours, Kanitz was already out of direct support of Manteuffel. Moreover, as his men had stretched out to cover as much front as possible, this meant no troops were available to support Manteuffel’s effort.

Not all the blame for this incident can be put on Kanitz’s shoulders. The king’s directives to him appear to have been vague, as suggested by the fact that he allowed the forces of Manteuffel to get so far ahead. Kanitz himself was apparently more concerned with keeping touch with Dohna than in following Manteuffel. The carpeting of the Russian lines by Prussian artillery had unaccountably ignored the forces in front of Kanitz. These forces, Butyrskii’s, Suzdalskii’s, and Kegsggolmskii Infantry units, quickly made their presence known. Manteuffel was having a hard way to go from a bitter bayonet charge at close range from the 3rd and 1st Russian Grenadiers. It was about this point when Frederick apparently ordered Seydlitz to charge the Russians to break their momentum. Seydlitz ignored the order, forestalling until he felt the moment was right. When another order arrived from an exasperated Frederick telling Seydlitz to charge or it would be his head, the indomitable cavalryman replied through an ADC, “Tell the king that my head shall be at his service after the action, if he will only allow me to make use of it meantime in his interest.”

The gap was yawning ever wider. Worse still, Kanitz’s 2nd Infantry failed to keep abreast of the Zaberngrund and gave the Russian horse the opportunity to form a charge front. Being without reinforcements, Manteuffel, after a heavy fight with the far more numerous Russians, pulled back “hastily” from before Fermor’s men, his forward line wavering in the midst of the battle under a counterattack from 14 squadrons of Russian horse. Tobolskii’s Dragoons, supported by Novotroitskii’s Cuirassiers, plus Kargopolskii’s Mounted Grenadiers, led the blow on horseback. The 2nd Prussian Infantry of Kanitz was savaged; it lost some 844 men and 20 officers during the course of the battle. The Russians continued to pour it on until the charge of Seydlitz shortly afterwards. Manteuffel’s “withdrawal” soon became a hasty retreat and threatened to become a rout.

While this was taking place, the Prussian left was in the fire along most of the front. It looked like a repeat of the attack at Kolin. The horrified sight of his shattered left wing streaming past him awakened in the king a sense of urgency. He jumped from his horse and, grabbing the colors of the 46th Infantry, tried to rally it. But the panic was too great and the king was finally left with just one battalion (1150 hours) between him and the surging Russian horse. Frederick was probably saved by the timely arrival of Marschall’s horsemen, three full Dragoon regiments, led by the myopic-sighted Prince Moritz of Anhalt-Dessau.

The Prussian horse rode through the ranks of their fleeing comrades and crashed straight into the advancing enemy. The Russian horse, stunned by this new development, reeled back upon their supporting cast of infantry. Thus was thwarted an attack that could have been devastating to the Prussians. Moreover, the stroke by Anhalt-Dessau made the Russians insensible to Seydlitz’s nearby cavalry, which was still uncommitted.

Fermor’s commanders, the smoke having largely dissipated, sighted the hole in the Prussian front, and came barreling out in great strength, plunging into the rift using both cavalry, which we have already looked at, and the infantry. This attack seems to have taken place more or less spontaneously. On the Russian right the men of the Shlyushelburgskii, Chernigovskii, and Rostovskii Infantry regiments suddenly erupted on the faltering Prussians before them (1145 hours). With no military order to attack (apparently), the rear line of Fermor’s right unaccountably took the forces in attack formation as hostile and opened fire right into their backs. Even worse, the hasty advance had gone no more than 300 paces when the Prussian horse countercharged. Already unsteady from having their own comrades shoot at them, the Russian foot soldiers now had to face the vaunted Prussian cavalry.

Along other parts of the front local Russian counterattacks drove towards the Prussian formations. The forces which had driven into and broken through the gap turned and outflanked the Prussians, forcing them to fall back. As they surged forward, Fermor’s men overran a Prussian battery at the Fuchsberg, capturing 26 guns. In the meantime, the quick-witted Seydlitz, seeing the debâcle taking place, took matters to his own—with the echoes of repeated orders—and, decided that he had to do something to remedy the crisis facing the Prussian infantry. He took his entire cavalry, some 5,000 horsemen, and threaded his way over the Zaberngrund towards the Russian right flank.

Frederick, seeing Manteuffel falling back and the attack line being hard-pressed, sent instructions to Seydlitz to charge Fermor’s advancing troops on his right. The Prussian cavalry charge, with Seydlitz leading the first wave and Wackenitz the second, went crashing head-on into the surging enemy mass and threw the greencoated Russians back into their square, the Prussians following hot on their heels (1155 hours).

A confused fight proceeded on that side of Fermor’s front; the Prussian horsemen hacking up the Russians without mercy. (Quarter was neither given nor asked for in this particular fight.) Johann Archenholtz, among others, said the king, in his thirst for revenge “gave orders for no quarter.” This does not seem likely. Frederick was an eighteenth-century “humanist” at heart; to give such deliberate instructions just does not fit the image. Ziethen’s 2nd Hussars particularly distinguished themselves here; they smashed through Gaugraven’s faltering horse. Any cohesion the Russians on this side had left immediately dissolved, as Seydlitz’s full weight made itself felt.

The valiant Prussian horse did not break off pursuit until they reached fresh enemy formations at the Galgen-Grund. As one source offered, “The enemy being much more numerous, it [i.e., the Russian horse] was obliged to give way.” That was putting it lightly! To make matters worse, some of the panicked Russians fled to the safety of the Zicher Woods, while still others took full advantage of the overall confusion to break into liquor cases from the supply train. The Russian army always seemed to keep plenty of spirits on hand, even during campaign. With a desperate battle in full engagement, almost whole units proceeded to drink themselves into a drunken stupor. Officers who thought they could rally such troops were speedily disillusioned. Some of the unfortunates who had the temerity to order their men to do their duty were instead shot dead by the swine. While this was taking place, the Prussian infantry took the opportunity to reform and reorganize. Shortly, scattered infantry units pushed back into the action. The Russian right was in ruins, Fermor had been wounded and was taken from the field, either before or just after this charge. At this stage, the remnants of the army’s cavalry were sheltered at Kutzdorf, where the horsemen attempted to ford the Mutzel. They could not get across as the river’s current was far too swift and no bridge was to be had near at hand. Meanwhile, the slaughter on the right continued unabated.

The Battle of Zorndorf III

Clutching the colors of the 46th Infantry Regiment, Frederick rallies his men in a last-ditch stand on the Prussian left. Seydlitz’s cavalry would save the day.

The Russian right was no longer capable of organized resistance, but an incredibly bloody and desperate struggle was kept up there until about 1300 hours when the Prussians finally became exhausted. Kanitz’ attack had smashed through three solid lines of Fermor’s deep front and the momentum there was definitely in Prussian hands. Seydlitz drew back his cavalry to reform them in case of additional need. The Russian line there having been driven in, the center and left were reformed, taking up a second line in front and to side of the Galgen Grund. Browne’s observation corps, the largest remaining intact Russian formation, swung itself in to become the new Russian left, while the rest of the survivors of the morning debâcle became the new Russian right wing. What part Fermor had to play in any of these proceedings is unclear, before his wound. Russian generals would later complain of the lack of orders they received during the battle from their “commander.” They could not move well or dexterously in their thickly crowded formations. But neither could their foes of the Prussian left, who had been heavily involved in the battle and were tiring by then. Frederick, seeing Kanitz’s men faltering, ordered the right wing, which was still relatively fresh, into action.

Earlier the king had ridden across to the latter command to see why Dohna was making no attempt to aid Kanitz, even when it became apparent he was in dire need of reinforcements. In point of fact, the right had been withdrawing slowly further and further from the scene of action, just when its support was most needed. Responding to orders, Dohna shoved his men into an assault on the southern side of the great enemy center square. The latter was to use his anchor on the Langen-Grund to prop up his men, while units of Schorlemer’s and Marschall’s cavalry would keep the enemy horse at bay. In the meanwhile, the remaining units of the Prussian center and right, those formations still capable of fighting, were shifted eastwards to the ground in front of the Russian center. By mid-afternoon, Frederick’s main attack pressure was facing north. The bluecoats deployed into battle lines again, while the big 40-gun battery was moved—about 1300 hours—from the Zaberngrund to the Galgen Grund, under the escort of the 40th Infantry. It then opened a steady and deliberate fire against the massed Russian army. About 1330 hours, the firing again became general, as the reformed Prussian infantry, this time from the left, prepared to advance against the new enemy position.

General Browne’s men were taking a horrific punishment from the Prussian battery. For two full hours, the shelling and sparring continued. Then, about 1500 hours, the Russians struck. Browne’s sole aim was to silence that infernal battery. His Horvat Hussars galloped over the intervening country and quickly took the Prussian guns, and simultaneously nabbed Kreutz’s infantry battalion. This was the signal for a general attack by the whole of Demikow’s cavalry. Their stroke was initially successful, but the iron discipline of the bluecoats as their infantry formed to repulse the intruders was in the end decisive—1515 hours. Then Schorlemer’s surging horsemen rode them down and drove the Russian riders into the near-by Zicher Woods for shelter.

This effort raised manifold clouds of smoke. The Prussians of Manteuffel’s still unsteady command momentarily panicked in the mistaken belief the intruders were enemy cavalry. They insensibly tended towards Wilkersdorf before the error could be discovered. Demikow’s effort had one other result. Dohna’s men were still cognizant of the Russian horse, but the retreat of the Horvat Hussars allowed the freed battery to resume pounding Browne’s men. Browne had been reinforced by four battalions from the Russian Major-General Manteuffel. Browne launched a renewed counterattack, at about the same time as Demikow’s effort. This was one determined stroke.

Just past the batteries (which were by then blasting away far out in front of the main army) the Russian cavalry surged forward to come to grips with Frederick’s foot soldiers out beyond the confines of their lines. Simultaneously or nearly so, the long lines of Russian infantry ran out to support their comrades on horseback. The main rush of Fermor’s troops was straight into the battalions in position at the Prussian center, rather than against the flank forces, which were nevertheless driven in against the center. The Russians came on like men possessed, capturing another battery and an entire Prussian battalion. So from about 1430 hours, the battle here largely degenerated into a confused slaughter.

The Prussian center, hit by the enemy in this fierce assault, rolled back, the units showing an unsteadiness unusual for Prussian troops. They fell back forthwith and not until they reached Wilkersdorf, more than a mile from the scene, were they finally rallied by their officers. Their brethren on the flanks, fortunately for the Prussian cause, were better able to withstand the enemy’s stroke. For the most part, the latter managed to hold their ground against Fermor’s strong counterattack. Seydlitz, in the midst of this mess, came on once more (about 1530 hours): he had rested and reassembled his troopers, bringing up the reserves (giving him a grand total of 61 squadrons ready for orders), now once again the indomitable cavalry leader prepared again to take matters to his own. Seydlitz swept forward into the milling Russian mass from front and rear, rode down the enemy and drove them back upon the Mutzel and Quartzchen beyond.

Now, once again, Dohna was making his presence felt. His troops, plus the survivors of Kanitz, some 900 strong, reinvigorated by the sight of Seydlitz’s magnificent cavalry assault, surged forward (about 1530 hours) with bayonets at the ready into the tumbling, utterly decimated enemy lines. But Dohna’s first stroke hit the packed Russian line a glancing blow, and his men momentarily wavered. This was a period of vulnerability. Fortunately, Schorlemer’s horsemen were able to keep rank for the more than 3/4 of an hour necessary to recover. Precious time to get matters straight. Prussian guns, brought forward on the run, opened a savage fire and, at approximately 1635 hours, the bluecoats went back to the attack. This stroke, better supported and prepared, proved the finish. Browne’s men held rank for a time, and then lost all cohesion. By 1715 hours, the Russian guns were silenced as they were overrun, their operators killed or captured in the process. Now was the time Dohna looked for, the Prussian cavalry “should” have launched a decisive attack. But Seydlitz’s men were done in, and Schorlemer’s horse was shaken by its previous efforts. No cavalry stroke came. The situation was still bad enough for the Russians. Georg Browne fell severely wounded in this final showdown; he and “Colonel Soltikow [Soltikov] were taken prisoners by some hussars.”

The Russians were slaughtered like pigs in a pen, but they did not run. They stood to their duty, and were often cut down where they were. By a little past 1600 hours, organized resistance virtually ceased, as the slow destruction of the Russian army started. I will spare the reader the details; suffice it to say that more blood was spilled that day than on any European battlefield in half a century. At Zorndorf, the Prussians discovered the Russian pay chest, valued by Lloyd at £160,000 in 1780 money.

After the battle, and with a misguided sense of justice, St. Petersburg blamed their own army for the sacking of the pay chest, when this nefarious deed was committed by Prussian cavalry alone. The details of this whole business are very disturbing. Russian soldiers were even individually frisked for the missing coins, and a communiqué from home accused the whole army of drinking on the job, even of “wanton cowardice” in the face of the dreaded Prussian king and his legions.

At the event, the Russians could not flee. Indeed, how could they have gotten away? Many of them “attempted” to cross the flowing waters of the Mutzel, by now running red with blood, but could not make it and were swallowed, man and beast alike, in the oozy marshes near the river. Meanwhile, the Prussians were drawing back again and again to rest, while their foes, packed often like sardines in a can, had not even the luxury of freeness of movement. A lone body of Fermor’s men, gathered up from among the remnants of the units, were put under Demikow. This force managed to move back into the hollows where their army had stood. Fermor, apparently patched up, was back by then. He assembled what formations could still offer an organized front—on the Galgen Grund. These hardy units included the famous Smolensk and Kazan Musketeers. There, surrounded by a dreadful number of dead and wounded countrymen and Prussians, Demikow made preparations to defend the withdrawal of the army, as soon as it was possible. He reached his destination just as dusk was falling, the main knoll now the key to the battlefield. Nearby, the broken remains of the badly used Russian formations could offer little tangible support to Demikow.

As for the Cossacks, organized they could have proven invaluable at this stage of the battle. Instead, they were busy rummaging through the paraphernalia they found on the battlefield, from both friend and foe. Lost in the joy of plunder, the Cossacks were useless for salvaging the lost battle.

Frederick, noticing the small organized enemy force forming up in its hollow just when Russian resistance was supposed to be largely at an end, instantly—about 1900 hours—ordered Forcade with the 23rd Infantry, which had performed commendably during the battle, to march to attack Demikow’s force from the front. General Samuel Carl von Rautter’s 4th Infantry and the rest of the Prussian center (shaken though it was), was to move round and encircle the flanks. The Russians with Demikow responded to the Prussian advance with some artillery shelling, which threw panic into Rautter’s men, who flew wildly to the rear and were not rallied again that day. In fairness, it must be admitted the 4th Infantry suffered heavily at Zorndorf. The tally was 28 killed, 206 wounded, and 176 “missing or captured.” The 11th Infantry of Lt.-Gen. Below was another of those battered units. Its tally at Zorndorf was 707 men and 19 officers. Forcade, from the distance, opened up with his guns in reply (perhaps it had been one of his salvoes that had panicked Rautter’s troops in the first place), but did not attack, as he now had no support. The enemy replied with their guns, but Demikow did not withdraw.

Forcade kept his cool; he ordered his troops to deploy while the gunners kept up the involved work of hammering the Russian lines. However, there was to be no further developing of the attack, as the king soon sent a courier to Forcade to leave Demikow alone. The Prussians withdrew towards the main army. For the shameful conduct of his men, Rautter was relieved of his command after the battle and replaced by General Georg Friedrich von Kleist. The main mass of the Russians fell back but slowly, Fermor finally regained control of his army, but far too late. He could now do nothing to reform it and even some of the battlefield was fully in the hands of the Prussians. Frederick’s men dealt with the roving bands of the Cossacks in a heartless—but effective—way, getting in a bit of revenge for the atrocities of the Russians. In one incident, the hussars surrounded one barn near Zichar and burned it down, killing 420 Cossacks that were trapped inside. Archenholtz mentions the deed, and even says the number “was near a thousand.”

In the meantime, the coming of night and the end of the battle (which was effectively over by about 1700 hours) brought about preparations for encampment. Frederick ordered his men to pitch their tents and put into bivouac for the night in two lines of rank. This was north to south, with his tent placed in the first row, while guards were posted and parties pushed out to probe the woods and scout out Fermor’s new position, now beyond the roads off in the distance. The sheer exhaustion of the Prussians had allowed Fermor to disengage his army from the battle. The latter, during the course of the night of August 25–26, gradually reassembled his army in some order. The men, now ranked in a loose marching order, then moved towards the southwest far to the west of the Zaberngrund into the Drewitz Heath (still on that side of the Oder); there, hidden among the dense patches of forests, which offered cover from the preying eyes of the enemy’s hussars and providing protection from a surprise Prussian attack, Fermor’s thoroughly worn out troops finally found time for sleep.

Within the gloomy, dejected atmosphere of defeat prevailing in the Russian camp that night, there were fewer than 29,000 fit men after the bloody battle. These men were scattered around the countryside in the thick woods of the region. This was not exactly the way Fermor anticipated his invasion of Brandenburg would turn out. His men had been weakened by the many hours of heavy fighting, some units had been almost totally wiped out, others were scattered and often their very own officers, if they were still in a position to care, did not know where they were. Frederick, who had brought a somewhat smaller force to the battle, had about 18,000 fit men in the ranks that night.

He had attacked, and with great effort, overcome the very formidable Russian army, but he had had to pay a big price for that “privilege.” Reports that the enemy had marched off were received throughout the night by the Prussians. They, too, however, were waiting for the dawn. General Peter Ivanovitch Panin was bold enough to say, although the Russian array had indeed retained largely the field of battle, “it was either dead, wounded or drunk.”

Early the following morning, August 26, Fermor rose from his encampment and marched back beyond the Zaberngrund, where he halted and formed his men into line-of-battle. The Russian commander sent a request to the Prussian commander opposite to him (Dohna) for a three-day truce. He wanted to utilize the time to bury the dead and help the wounded. Among the latter was General Browne, who was in desperate need of medical attention. But Dohna rejected the request on the premise that it was customary in military history for the victor of a battle to ask for a truce and he certainly did not want to give Fermor the impression Zorndorf was a Russian victory.

Dohna was quick to mention the misdeeds committed against innocents. Nevertheless, he did acknowledge Browne’s need for assistance and offered an accommodation. It was all academic, though, for before a reply could be definitely received (raising the possibility this was a mere ruse), Fermor drew out his front with his army facing the battlefield to the east. Unlimbering his guns, the Russian commander commenced a cannonade across the field upon the Prussians. The range was too great to accomplish anything direct except to show the foe the Russian army still had fight left in it. As proof, the king rode out early that morning to scout Fermor’s latest movements. The trip was uneventful until he reached the village of Zorndorf. Then an enemy of unknown strength fired at him, nearly taking out Frederick. Both sides opened up with their guns, possibly leading to the renewal of the fighting.

The Prussian response was swift, the king’s men drew out in front of their bivouac and forming into battle order replied with their big guns, giving an appropriate answer. Men on both sides urged attack on their leaders, but exhaustion from the heavy fighting of the previous day as well as a critical shortage of ammunition stifled any chance of attack by either side. At about 1130 hours, the Prussians, seeing nothing coming from Fermor’s quarter, marched back to their tents, leaving the artillery to keep up the exchange with the enemy.

Late the previous night, Prussian hussars had ridden straight into Fermor’s heavy baggage train at Klein-Kammin. The hussars took their time and plundered the train. Now, in the daylight, with Frederick at Zorndorf and thus between Fermor and his train, it would have been advisable for the king to march and stomp this train before Fermor could lift a finger to rescue it. This would have been decisive, for with his baggage gone, the Russian commander would have been in a big hurry to return to Poland. Inexplicably, nothing of the kind was forthcoming. Perhaps Frederick did not consider it important enough. He may have felt that Fermor was already beaten, so the thing was not worth the effort. Whatever the cause, the Russian baggage was left without further disturbance.

Back at the field, the Russian bombardment gradually calmed down, and darkness fell upon the tortured field. About 2300 hours, the Russian army started to move through the woods leading to Tamsel and the road to Klein-Kammin. As he drew away, Fermor ordered a renewed shelling laid down to conceal his retreat. One of these latter rounds blew up a carriage parked outside the king’s tent. The smoke of the cannonading combined with a thick fog arising from the Oder served to conceal the Russian withdrawal.

The Prussians were unaware of what was happening until the enemy had already gotten clean away to Klein-Kammin and were preparing for breakfast. Finally Frederick’s reconnaissance parties detected the Russian maneuver, and he at once set off in pursuit. When the king’s men reached the vicinity of the enemy’s encampment, Fermor was already secure behind his redoubts and had his artillery train parked with unlit fuses set. Frederick chose not to attack the Russian position, which was probably a very wise move, and settled for a peaceful withdrawal back to his own camp. So confident was Fermor in the capabilities of his post that, beaten at Zorndorf though he may have been, it was not until August 31 that he abandoned Klein-Kammin and started back towards Landsberg.

Frederick, one among many on the Prussian side, was glad to see the Russians go, and did not consider a long-range pursuit using the main Prussian army. The Russians had proven themselves to be worthy opponents. Worthy opponents indeed. In fact, “[The Russians] sustained a slaughter that would have confounded and dispersed the compleatest [sic] veterans.” Three days after Fermor’s final retreat (September 2) the Prussian king gathered his troops and marched towards Saxony to see to the situation in that province. He did see good to detach Dohna with a large detachment—21 battalions and 35 squadrons, some 17,000 men—to go into Fermor’s rear and help see him go. Dohna at once took up his job.

Thus closed the story of the Battle of Zorndorf, the hardest fought battle of the Seven Years’ War, and one of the worst of the entire eighteenth century. The casualties reflected that singular fact: Fermor lost 7,990 killed/13,539 wounded and missing; a total of 21,529, nearly half of the army he had dragged to Zorndorf. The beaten side also lost 103 guns and 27 standards, meaningless compared to the human suffering. Frederick’s army suffered as well, although not as severely. Prussian losses were 3,680 killed, above a thousand men missing from the ranks (presumed dead /deserted/captured); along with the wounded, approximately 11,390 men from all causes. Thus nearly four in ten of the Prussians present at Zorndorf were casualties.

The Prussian Campaign of 1762 in Saxony I

In the middle of January 1762, Prince Henry experienced a bout of illness, which caused him to enquire whether he could be replaced, at least temporarily, by another officer, preferably Seydlitz or General Forcade, but the king advised that his brother should be able to recover in time to assume field command in the spring, thus rendering a successor in that event unnecessary. In the end, Henry was confined to his bed at his headquarters for more than a month’s time, but when the new campaign opened, he was indeed able to exercise field command in Saxony. The fact was, the ailing prince had been given charge in Saxony, more or less to hold it, while his royal brother sought to conclude the war in Silesia all while recovering a secure hold on the province. Prince Henry was quick to chastise his sibling for Frederick’s plan to take away Platen’s corps for his own use at the start of the new campaign, although the king had promised him he would have control of Eugene of Württemberg’s men as a consolation.

Prince Henry had just cause for his complaint. The enemy opposed to him and his men (some 25,000 strong) consisted of some 19,000 Imperialist troops, along with about 44,500 Austrians, all under the overall command of Serbelloni, from March 29, 1762. Daun’s appointment of command of the Austrian forces in Silesia, and the retention of both Laudon and Lacy for the movements of the army in the province of Silesia, had left a vacuum for Saxony. It was clear as it could be in 1762 that the war would be finally won or irrevocably lost in Silesia. Saxony was very much of a side theater by this point. Moreover, both sides knew it. The upshot was, Daun was not going to send one of his “good” commanders to Saxony, feuding with each other or not. Vis-a-vis, Laudon and Lacy. As a result, Serbelloni it would be. Serbelloni’s men were deployed over the winter of 1761–1762 entirely within the province of Saxony, but Prince Henry’s goal from the beginning of the campaign was to try to reclaim the territory around Döebeln, the very same position that Daun had been able to wrestle from him late in the campaign of 1761. General Luzinsky was occupying Pegau, while other Allied forces of General Kleefeld were deployed all the way to Zeitz.

Over on the Prussian side, the overall situation was hardly better. One of Prince Henry’s pet peeves involved the treatment of the Saxons and of their homeland. He wanted this to be as humane as was possible under the circumstances. More gifted with a sense of fair play than his older brother, probably because the latter wore the crown and thus had to be less egalitarian, the prince would much rather work in conjunction with the Saxons than against them. In effect, Henry had rather more sympathy with the occupied province than his sibling, not the least because the king’s last appreciable memory of Saxony was in the wake of the terrible Battle of Torgau in 1760. Not that Prince Henry was entirely free of difficulties in this respect either.

Among the seemingly myriads of difficulties for Prince Henry, one involved the “Free Corps.” These often despised units had really been formed to extract as much gain as they could from their environment. They existed much more for themselves, in the narrow sense, than for any measure of military gain or renown they could achieve in the broader sense. Prince Henry made no secret of the fact he did not like these units, and had scant use for them as a general rule. In a similar situation, the prince also had scant use for Frederick’s new favorite, the thoroughly odious Major von Anhalt. This was in spite of his reluctance to admit open resentment over the new aide’s rise. Still, Henry seems to have made a concerted effort to restrict his dealings with this particular individual to as few as possible, and, in fact, during the 1762 campaign, Henry had arranged for the major to be whisked away to Leipzig as soon as was possible in one of their few dealings.

The occasion of this particular exchange was in Anhalt being dispatched by the king as a sort of ad hoc administrator of the territory occupied by the prince’s army in Saxony.

This latest development had been prompted by the rather usual desire of the Prussian monarch to pick Saxony as clean as was possible of its resources, financial and otherwise. It was patently obvious by this stage of the war that Prince Henry had neither the desire, nor the actual intention, of doing so. Frederick had to be cognizant of that fact. Thus the sending forth of the detested Anhalt to do what Prince Henry would not. Interestingly, one of the many men who would run afoul of Anhalt in his duties was the famous Baron Friedrich von Steuben. Steuben had been a staff officer previous to this and had spent some time earlier in the war with the Free Battalion Mayr. Later, after the end of the war, Steuben would make his way, by and by, to America, where he was recommended, through the auspices of the American patriot Benjamin Franklin no less, as a Prussian Lt-General under Frederick the Great, which, of course, he had never been. It was a lie that Steuben himself actively promoted. Still, ‘General’ Steuben would be instrumental, as it worked out, in helping reform the American Continental Army under George Washington in the American Revolution, utilizing the Prussian close order drill, among other things, along the way. This effort would play no small rôle in the ultimate American victory in the war over the British George III. The very same George III who had taken the throne in the twilight of the Seven Years’ War.

Meanwhile, back to the events in Saxony in 1762. It was an Austrian move opposite to him that first caused 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.8 General Kanitz and his men pushed on to Gadewitz, while 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 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.

Meanwhile, this stroke allowed Prince Henry to separate the Austrians and Imperialists, and prevented their reuniting for a time. But Henry did not stop there. Not satisfied with the status quo, Prince Henry now strove to eliminate the Austrian left flank forces altogether. On May 15, Freiberg fell to him, and two days later, Prussian troopers seized the rises near Pretzschendorf (giving Prussian artillery enough range to hammer the enemy’s post at Dippoldiswalde). From Freiberg, Henry sent off a light detachment of 500 hard-riding cavalry under Lt. Friedrich Wilhelm von Roeder through Öderan to check out the Imperialists.

Henry began to run short of men for this new offensive, as he had been forced to make heavy detachments to contain the Imperialists of Prince Stolberg to the west of Chemnitz in order to protect his rear while the whitecoats were being squeezed out of Freiberg. All Stolberg wanted at this stage was to fall back on Zwickau. By now Serbelloni (in charge of the disunited armies) was pleading for reinforcements from Daun over in Silesia, all in vain. The reverse was occurring.

Reports had been filtering in to Prussian headquarters for some time now that the Austrians were either in the process of, or were about to, transfer some of their formations from the Saxon theater of war to boost their troop total in Silesia in order to fulfill their campaign requirements thererabouts. The consequences for the Allies could have been severe. But Prince Henry’s request for new troops also fell on deaf ears, snubbed by the king outright; the latter taking a hard line here because he felt the decisive actions were yet to be in Silesia (which, of course, they were). Now Prince Henry, for his part, did feel that he could hold his present line, while slowly building up strength for yet another offensive. At this stage, though, one of Henry’s officers, Colonel Christian Friedrich von Bandemer, tried to get hold of Chemnitz. Stolberg was not inclined to leave, and his force on the spot, led by General Luzinsky, drove the surprised bluecoats back all the way to Öderan with heavy losses in men and ordnance (including some 500 men and 15 officers), all of this due to a roving Imperialist force (May 21).

The particulars follow. Bandemer had pressed towards the vicinity of Chemnitz on May 19. Luzinsky’s vanguard, led by General Kleefeld, rolled through Lichtenstein, while Vecsey moved with a couple of Austrian hussar regiments through Glauchau. The bluecoats thereabouts were obviously overextended, and were thus at the disadvantage in any contest of arms, even with the generally inferior Imperialists as foes. About 0300 hours, on May 21, Luzinsky struck, with Kleefeld and Vecsey alike providing the impetus to push the foe back. Bandemer had 300 men (from Lehwaldt’s 14th Infantry) with one cannon placed in Chemnitz to provide a buffer against the Imperials. Luzinsky’s charge against Chemnitz was developed at this point in three distinct columns, with the Austrian hussar regiments overthrowing Major-General Johann Ernst von Schmettau’s 4th Prussian Cuirassier Regiment, losing “ten officers and 317 men in its advance post at Chemnitz.” The Prussians were forced, after a brief tussle, to recoil, leaving behind some 800 men and seven guns (four 12-pounders, two light 6-pounders, and one 7-pounder howitzer) in the hands of the Imperialists. Imperial losses amounted to one officer and 35 men.

This was both one of the best (and, sadly for them, the very last) largely Imperialist successes of the whole war, and the benefit of laudatory congratulations were promptly bestowed upon Serbelloni by Vienna, although the commander had been no where near the field of action. It is worth noting, for much of the campaign, Serbelloni did his best to run his command almost by proxy from Dresden, an unworkable situation any way one looked at it. The biggest problem was in the strung out amount of time that Serbelloni required to get things done. What with messages coming and going from Dresden and all. There was a nearly fatal flaw. Unfortunately, with an enemy of the caliber of Prince Henry, the Allies needed to strike while the iron was hot. Additionally, Stolberg, lacking direct instructions, unaccountably failed to follow up his success, and Henry, taking advantage of the enemy’s reluctance to deploy troops, simply sent new troops under “Green” Kleist and Seydlitz to the scene. It was likely that at least part of the Allied reasons for not promptly following up their victory had to do with the Imperialist lack of reliable light forces, while the Austrians had just culled their light troops due to the aforementioned budget cuts. The effort to regain light formations in the Austrian service was underway, of course, but would not bear fruit for a while yet. The upshot was, Stolberg was left in an exposed, very vulnerable condition. Even worse, there was very little he could do about it.

Under the circumstances, it was Stolberg’s turn to retreat; he abandoned Chemnitz and fell back forthwith on Baireuth. The incident had produced reprecussions over in the Prussian camp. Bandemer had been relieved and Kanitz sent to take his place. Coming along for the journey, so to speak, was Major von Anhalt, sent forth to join Kanitz’ command under the guise of an adviser. The situation was apparently under control, although Henry wrote to Frederick (from Pretzchendorf) on May 20 that he had less than 30,000 men with him now. Moreover, the enemy were not going into hibernation. Colonel Török rudely beat up a Prussian force, including three full squadrons of Prussian cavalry and some 300 infantry, over by Freiberg (May 26). The bluecoats fled, leaving a large baggage train and 80 prisoners in Török’s hands. After a week or so of general inactivity, Austrian troops, under General Kleefeld, counterattacked under cover of night (May 31–June 1), crashing into Colonel Dingelstedt’s command, forcing the outnumbered bluecoats back from Dippoldiswalde’s outskirts on to Waldheim, even taking some 189 prisoners in the process. Kleefeld had 46 casaulties. However, the effort had only limited success elsewhere. Prince Henry was thus enabled to hold up his foe’s designs.

He now received reinforcements, although not from Silesia at all. The withdrawal of the Swedes from the north had released troops for use elsewhere; part of this force—Colonel Belling’s cadre of excellent troops—had made its way, by and by, down to strengthen Prince Henry’s forces in Saxony. Unfortunately, Austrian reinforcements also began to arrive, but Daun had no intention of diverting large numbers of troops to the Saxon theater at this stage when Cherneyshev’s Russian force was known to be nearing Silesia. Henry did maintain heavy cavalry patrols operating around his right to keep the enemy on that side at bay, and to prevent the Austrians and Imperialists from linking up. Kleist’s and Seydlitz’ troopers often ranged into northwest Bohemia in isolated raiding parties to keep the enemy as much off balance as possible. This strategy, although effective, wore heavily on the cavalry horses (to complicate matters in this respect, Frederick refused to supply Henry with additional mounts, as the king wished to husband them for the high-priority Silesian campaign). Because of this factor, as well as the increasing numbers of troops opposed to him under Marshal Daun, Prince Henry became reluctant to press the cavalry horses more than necessary.

Moreover, requests from the prince directed to the person of the king were met by equally terse replies from Frederick to the effect he was already deeply indebted to some horse dealers in Berlin and vicinity and that Henry and his men, after all, must learn to subsist on less. Over on the Allied side, meanwhile, Stampatch came forward in late June with 15,000 more men to stiffen Serbelloni, giving him more than 60,000 troops. As a result of this new strength of the foe, Prince Henry was unable to mount a major offensive for much of this period.

That soon changed. In the end of June, Seydlitz and Belling were dispatched to shove the Imperialists further westward. Stolberg then fell back before them, and Seydlitz obviously lacked the speed, due to his composite cavalry-infantry force, to catch up. The bluecoats reached Zwickau, and there Stolberg tried to turn the tables upon his tormentors. Prince Henry discerned at once what he was up to, and Kleist’s hussars drove off the enemy. Stolberg was thereby foiled.

But Stolberg was not the only Allied commander in motion. Serbelloni had tried to take advantage of the absence of Seydlitz and Kleist by attacking the Prussian lines at his front in two geographic places: Wilsdruf and Frauenstein. General Hülsen held the latter, while Wilsdruf’s defenders were bolstered by Henry himself. Defenders at both spots, under these circumstances, repelled Serbelloni’s blows. Nothing much further happened until mid–July, when Stolberg made an attempt to link up with Serbelloni just south of Dresden, but Seydlitz and Belling smashed his left and rear. Almost as a postscript, “Green” Kleist, who was returning from Bohemia after a raid, rolled up the right.

This was enough! Stolberg withdrew, his army now in pieces. He made his way to Nuremberg and did not bother Henry again for quite a while. Prince Henry was interested in retaking Dresden, which might have been feasible with more men, but more sensible aspirations prevailed. Under the radar, operations instead assumed a static pose for a time. Again, in late July, Seydlitz and Kleist moved into Bohemia, going after the vital enemy bases at Lobositz and Leitmeritz. Seydlitz was leading a cavalry force of 18 full squadrons, endeavoring all the while to link up with “Green” Kleist. The two bodies of men successfully rendezvoused at Johnsdorf (August 1). The total force the duo could muster was 36 squadrons of horse and six battalions, approximately 8,500 men in all. The mission of this combined force was to go range into Bohemia, creating confusion for the Austrians in their own backyard. There was more to the tale than that.

The Prussian Campaign of 1762 in Saxony II

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 over night, 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.

Hadik rolled into Dresden on September 7, and almost immediately discovered that he would be sharing the command of the Imperialists with Stolberg. Worse, Serbelloni did not exactly appreciate being relieved of his command in the midst of a campaign. He harranged Hadik for the latter’s “lack of respect” regarding the transfer of power. Then, after venting against Hadik for what he perceived to be an unjustice committed against him personally, Serbelloni abruptly took his leave of the theater of war. Serbelloni was obviously resentful over being replaced. Nor was that all. He also failed to inform Hadik where the forces under his new command were, what their strength was, or even where the enemy were located in the country thereabouts.

But Hadik, one of the better of the Allied “minor” generals of the war, resolved to do his best under the troubling circumstances he had been dealt. He galloped out with a small entourage to determine for himself, in person, where his forces were and just where the enemy were to be found. On September 21, accordingly, Hadik duly sent a communication to Vienna about his future intentions (something which Serbelloni had been noticeably neglectful in doing throughout his tenure as commander). In short, Hadik was planning to take advantage of the Prussian concentration on the campaign in Silesia by launching an involved offensive along the whole front of the places where he was in charge. Hadik’s first move had been to call up the entire force to his aid, concentrating his troops south of Dresden, and simultaneously requesting reinforcements from Marshal Daun over in Silesia. Hadik took part of his force, concentrating on the Allied right wing, led by Generals Ried and Wied, which sought to keep the attention of Prince Henry and of his army fixed to enemy movements through Eastern Saxony, in the Tharandter Wald region.

The main impetus of the offensive was directly north across the Bohemian border, consisting of forces led by Count Löwenstein and Campitelli. The bluecoats opposite to this encroachment, under the charge of “Green” Kleist, were deployed at Kortenstein. The latter hitched backwards at once, with little contact to be had with the intruders from Bohemia. Kleist got to Seyde, although the main force, led by both Seydlitz and “Green” Kleist, was, in fact, at Dittersbach. On September 29, the main Austro-Imperialist force, of Löwenstein and Campitelli, went back to the attack. Allied artillery, set up and sited in to inflict maximum punishment upon the enemy forces opposite, commenced belching fire. In sharp fighting, Löwenstein led the Allied left to the Freiberger Walde, and even encroached briefly upon the town of Freiberg. Meanwhile, the forces of Campitelli, pressing the Allied right, proceeded over by the Burkersdorf area (located some 21⁄2 miles northwest of Frauenstein; not to be confused with the more famous Burkersdorf in Silesia). The Allies converged on the positions held by Prince Henry’s Prussian forces. The latter were outnumbered, and, meanwhile to the northeast, the diversionary attacks of the small Allied forces had continued on September 29.

Ried’s force stormed forward and turned the enemy opposite to him (over by Wilsdruf) out of the lines of abatis thereabouts. Prince Henry’s forces were outnumbered all right, and if Ried & Company should happen to be successful on the eastern side of Saxony, the entire Prussian position in Saxony would be in grave danger of being compromised. Other Allied forces erupted over by Weisteritz, under General Buttlar. The Allied advance of Hadik’s forces in that area were met head-on by a powerful Prussian counterattack directed at the Allied position at Ober-Cunnersdorf. Next morning, September 30, Hadik was fully prepared to renew his offensive effort. But, during the night of September 29–30, Prince Henry had withdrawn from his forward posts. In short, Prince Henry disengaged and withdrew to a line Meissen-Freiberg-Brand; here he was able to hold his own, although the enemy considerably outnumbered him. Thus, although he had been compelled to withdraw from a position he had held all summer, Henry was actually in a better position than before. As for Hadik, he appears to have been rattled by the proceedings. He was as confused by victory as by defeat on this occasion. In short, the Prussians had been pressed back a way all right, but Freiberg remained in Prince Henry’s hands for the moment.

In contrast to the hectic pace of military operations in the end of September, there were few operations in the first part of October, although some movements were being planned. Prince Henry made what preparations he could to face the offensive he knew was coming. As for Hadik, he was resolved to take another crack at pressing the bluecoats out of their lines over by Freiberg. On October 14, the enemy again struck the Prussian right flank, here led by General Syburg. The bulk of Hadik’s attack force was sent this way, while General Hülsen—leading the Prussian left—was distracted by an outright enemy diversion. The latter was mounted courtesy of Ried, and was primarily designed to keep the general pinned more or less behind the Triebisch. Now Buttlar, joined by reinforcements under the charge of General MacQuire, pressed from Conradesdorf, trying to break in upon Freiberg.

Stolberg brought his Imperialist brood over towards Freiberg as well. His advanced guard, under the command of General Kleefeld, pushed forward against the bluecoats, here led locally by Colonel Belling, striking them hard about Mönchenfrei. Belling hitched backwards a short distance to Erbischof, but his Prussians still had fight left in them. Their resistance stiffened, abruptly forcing Kleefeld to go back the way he had come, with the bluecoats following on his heels. It certainly appeared that Prince Henry had no intention of “going gentle into that good night.”

In the event, the Allies settled down facing the Prussian posts over by Tuttendorf, which the bluecoats were holding on to overnight close by Freiberg. Henry’s positions astride the Mulde were further pressed by General Luzinsky, who had in the interim set up his ordnance and commenced blasting away at Prussian positions on the Weissenborn Heights. This action naturally kept the majority of the enemy’s attention fixed to that locale over by Freiberg, especially as to what might be transpiring. October 14, General Kleefeld struck the opponent, directly opposite to him, in a virtual repeat of his previous effort, which, this time, turned out to a better conclusion for him than before. Prussian defenses, ground down in the previous few weeks, now fragmented in short order, and Henry’s men fell back, leaving Freiberg to finally fall into the unsteady hands of the now encouraged foe. The bluecoats reigned in by Gross-Voigtsberg, taking a very short breather.

Prince Henry was also pinned by Austro-Imperialist’s efforts to keep him from sending any help to Syburg. However, the Allied effort quickly ran out of steam as well. Hadik’s advance stalled out, and Henry again held the foe, inflicting heavier losses than he had sustained in the crisis. During the night of October 14–15, troops were transferred to the Prussian right, which aided Syburg when Hadik renewed his offensive early the next day. Holding attacks on the Prussian left and center helped to fix Henry, and the weight of superior numbers gradually pressed the Prussian right back. Prince Henry himself barely managed to escape capture from a group of marauding allied troopers. His lines, now stretched almost to the point of breaking, were collapsing; before dark he issued an order to hitch backwards upon Reichenbach. His army had been badly battered; nearly 2,000 men were killed, wounded, or captured and the old Prussian line had been destroyed. This was along with ten pieces of artillery.

Prince Henry conducted the retreat of his battered right, while General Hülsen drove the Prussian left/center by the Schlettau-Kätzenhäuser road, taking up post near the latter on October 16. Early the following morning, a Prussian counterattack enabled Henry to regain some of the lost ground. Frederick (from whom the joyous news that Schweidnitz had fallen was now in the camp) was sending 20,000 men under Wied to Saxony. The advance soon reached the scene—Major Henckel von Donnersmarck and his men—shortly. The king himself was now firmly resolved to go to Leipzig to winter with his men, leaving Prince Henry to wrap up the campaign (and likely the war) in Saxony.

But Hadik was also being reinforced, Prince Albert of Saxony had started for the Saxon theater with a force, albeit one weaker in numbers than the one Wied was bringing. Albert’s force had originally been about 13,000 strong, assembled in good detail at Trautenau, but the generally bad trend of the war in Silesia kept drawing off men from this total. In short order, Prince Albert was left with barely half of the force under his charge. October 18, the prince shoved off to reinforce the body of troops left over in Saxony, probably under some compulsion that the journey had better occur now or it never would, as the constraints of the campaign in Silesia would beckon. In short, this latter scene of operations would serve like a vacuum to inevitably draw the rest of Albert’s force off and leave nothing at all to reinforce the Saxon theater. However, with the advantage of interior lines, Albert could, at least, be expected days before the enemy could ever show with their force.

Besides, a communiqué sent by Hadik to the aforementioned Stolberg betrayed his belief that the foe could no longer mount a serious effort of any kind. As for Stolberg, he was busy concentrating on trying to prop up the Allied position at and about Freiberg. Despite Stolberg’s “brave front,” though, the prince was more than half anticipating that Prince Henry would come back, once bolstered with the forces on their way from Silesia, and reclaim Freiberg. (Obviously Stolberg did not share Hadik’s optimism about the actions of Prince Henry). Not only that, but Stolberg was equally nervous that Hadik himself had every intention of leaving the Imperialists out to dry, as the Austrian contingent was in desperate need of rest and refit. Next, word arrived, in the form of very reliable intelligence, that the Prussian king was indeed sending forth General Wied, from Görlitz and vicinity, with some 20,000 men, fresh off the capture of Schweidnitz and the virtual wrap-up of the war in Silesia. As for the allied reinforcements, Albert got into Weissig (night of October 27–28). He and his Allied contingent were too late to take part in the last major battle of the war, the Battle of Freiberg.

Henry wanted to launch a counterattack upon Hadik, ideally with as strong a force as possible, but it quickly became obvious that if he waited upon Wied, Hadik would already be strengthened by Albert’s men. The double danger, however, was that if Henry allowed Albert to join his comrade, then the reinforced Allies could continue with the advance. The enemy did not prove cooperative, and by the time Prince Henry decided to try on Hadik at Freiberg, his troops were already fortifying the position there to the hilt as well as daily looking for the expected reinforcements. October 22, renewed attacks were launched against the whole Prussian front. Prince Henry’s men held fast, although he worried about the attack plan. Henry knew it had to be implemented soon to have any effect.

He had about 28,000 men with him, opposed to 30,000 with Hadik. For a week, Prince Henry’s preparations went forward; as evening of October 28 drew to a close, he explained his plan to his subordinate officers.

Prince Henry had determined to throw down on the foe even before his own reinforcements could reach the scene of the action. In part, this was because the Allies felt the very conservative prince would want to wait until his army had been stiffened with new troops before he undertook his new enterprise. Thus they would be expecting no offensive action from him before then.

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.