1756-10-01 - Battle of Lobositz
When Frederick II of Prussia suddenly launched the invasion of Saxony at the end of August 1756, Austria was totally unprepared to oppose him. While the remaining troops of the Saxon Army were blockaded in the Pirna Country, Field-Marshal Browne hurriedly assembled a relief army at Prague. By the end of September, he had begun his advance upon Saxony with an army of some 60,000 men.
Meanwhile Frederick, leaving sufficient troops to blockade Pirna, hastily reinforced Keith's Corps on the Bohemian frontier and actively sought battle against the Austrian relief army. On September 30, Frederick spotted Browne's camp down by Lobositz (present-day Lovosice) some 16 km away. The Prussian army immediately advanced towards Lobositz. It progressively reached Lobositz, several battalions arriving late at night and bivouacking as they could in the pass between the Lobosch and Homolka Hills. Cavalry horses remained saddled, ready for action. Frederick had assembled an army of 28,500 men:
- 22 infantry bns (including 1 guarding the wagons)
- 4¼ grenadier bns
- 41 cuirassier sqns
- 20 dragoon sqns (including 2 guarding the wagons)
- some 300 hussars
- artillery (98 pieces)
- 8 x 24-pdr guns
- 28 x 12-pdr guns
- 10 x 10-pdr howitzers
- 52 x battalion guns (3-pdrs and 6-pdrs)
The same day (September 30), Browne marched from his camp at Budin and joined Major-General Count Guasco in his camp at Lobositz around noon. Browne was at the head of an army of some 35,500 men:
- 30 infantry bns
- 4 Grenzer bns
- 35 grenadier coys
- 48 cuirassier sqns
- 8 carabinier coys
- 12 dragoon sqns
- 4 horse grenadier coys (including 2 coys from regiments who were not accompanying the army)
- 9 hussar sqns
- artillery (94 pieces)
- 6 12-pdr guns
- 12 x 6-pdr guns
- 70 x 3-pdr guns
- 6 howitzers
The village of Lobositz lies in a fertile valley along the south bank of the Elbe. The Lobosch, a big hill (420 m.) with three peaks with its southern slopes covered with vineyards and orchards, rises northwest of Lobositz while another smaller hill, the Homolka, rises to the west of the village. Stonewalls and ditches criss-crossed the southern slope of the Lobosch Hill. The 200 m wide gap between the Lobosch and Homolka formed a pass. The main road from Welmina to Lobositz ran through this pass along the southern shoulder of the Lobosch, with branches towards many other villages. The plain to the southwest of Lobosotz was suitable for cavalry movements.
The Austrian camp lay along the Elbe River to the east of Lobositz and extended from the river to Schelchowitz. The centre and the left wing of this camp were covered by the Morellen Stream. Pickets were posted across this stream at Sullowitz, Tschischkowitz and Schelchowitz. Browne had established his headquarters in the Castle of Lobositz. The Austrian vanguard, reinforced by 6 grenadier coys, some Grenzer troops and later by Hadik Hussars, was encamped to the west of Lobositz. Grenzer advanced parties were at Klein Czernosek to watch the road to Aussig; in the vineyards on Lobosch Hill; and (accompanied by hussars) in the sand pits to the north of Wchinitz and in Wchinitz proper.
Description of Events
During the night of September 30 to October 1, the Prussian Alt-Braunschweig Infantry realised that the village of Wchinitz was occupied by Austrian troops.
Browne's vanguard consisted of:
- Converged grenadiers (6 coys) under Lieutenant-Colonel von Baumbach of Harrach Infantry
- Grenzers (about 2,000 men) under Major-General Count Draskowitz
- Converged carabiniers (8 coys) and converged horse grenadiers (4 coys) all under Major-General Count O'Donnel
- Hussars under Major-General Count Hadik
Shortly before daybreak, Jung-Wolfenbüttel Infantry, Joseph Esterházy Infantry and Hildburghausen Infantry along with 11 grenadier coys and Erzherzog Joseph Dragoons set off to reinforce the vanguard on the Austrian right wing.
Around 5:30 a.m., Frederick, accompanied by the Prince of Prussia, Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick, the Duke of Bevern, Field-Marshal Keith and the lieutenants-generals of the army went to meet Schmettau.
At 6:00 a.m., the Prussian infantry set off from its camp in two columns.
Around 7:00 a.m. as day broke, a thick mist lay over the plain, extending up to the hill-tops and reducing the field of vision to a mere 100 m. On the Prussian left wing, Grenzers light troops (1 bn of Karlstädter-Lykaner Grenzer under Loudon and 1 bn of Karlstädter-Oguliner Grenzer) could be noticed in the vineyards. They were solidly positioned behind the low stone walls (some 1 m high) separating these vineyards. Austrian horse squadrons could also be seen near Lobositz. That was about all the information that Frederick could glimpse.
In fact, Browne had deployed his left wing behind the Morellenbach, a small brook dammed up to form a series of fish ponds, reservoirs, and morasses. Two narrow bridges, both well defended with guns, crossed this brook. Browne's centre extended along a sunken road running from the Morellenbach to the village of Lobositz and defended by Grenzers light troops with large redoubts and batteries. The heavy artillery was placed immediately to the right of the centre. The Austrian cavalry that should have formed the right wing deployed instead in the centre in front of this sunken road, with Cordova Cuirassiers and Stampach Cuirassiers kept in reserve behind the road. The Austrian right wing consisted mainly of infantry and extended from Lobositz to Welhotta (present-day Lhotka nad Labem, part of the city of Lovosice) on the bank of the Elbe.
From what he could see through the heavy mist, Frederick initially thought that Grenzer troops on the Lobosch and the cavalry in the plain were the rearguard of the Austrian army. Fearing that Browne might recross the Elbe and then march on Pirna through Schandau, Frederick ordered an immediate attack. To prevent any surprise attack on his advancing columns, Frederick instructed Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick to occupy the heights to the left and right with the 6 bns of Schmettau's detachment (2 bns each of Alt-Braunschweig, Quadt and Blanckensee).
Around 7:30 a.m., the Prussian vanguard nearly filled the 200 m space between the Lobosch and Homolka. Meanwhile, the infantry of the right wing arrayed in two lines supported by Lieutenant-Colonel Moller's battery (5 x 12-pdrs, 4 x 24-pdrs and 1 x howitzer), took position atop the Homolka. The two lines of infantry of the left wing, under the Duke of Bevern, advanced on the slopes of the Lobosch to chase the Grenzers from the vineyards. The Prussian cavalry initially deployed in three lines on the plain in the centre of the line of battle.
The battle opened with an intense artillery duel, with the Prussian battery on the Homolka firing at some 10 Austrian cavalry squadrons (around 1,500 men) deployed in the plain in the centre. The Austrian artillery answered by opening fire on the advancing Prussian columns as they debouched between the Lobosch and the Homolka. During this artillery duel, Lieutenant-General Franz Ulrich von Kleist and Major-General Baron von Quadt were mortally wounded and the Austrian General Radicati, commanding the right wing cavalry, was killed by a cannonball. General O'Donnell then assumed command of the Austrian right wing cavalry.
By 8:00 a.m., the Austrians were deployed as follows:
- a Grenzer detachment at Klein Czernosek to observe the road to Aussig
- 1,000 Grenzers, 1 grenadier coy of Kaiser Infantry, 1 grenadier coy of Joseph Esterházy Infantry and 100 volunteers of the same regiment in the vineyards on the slope of the Lobosch
- the reinforced vanguard between Welhotta and Sullowitz
- the infantry (15 grenadier coys on both wings, 5 rgts, 32 guns and 2 howitzers) under Major-General Count Wied from the Elbe to the sunken road between Wchinitz and Lobisitz
- the cavalry (12 elite coys on the right, Erzherzog Joseph Dragoons on the left, Baranyay Hussars and Hadik Hussars in the second line) from the sunken road to Sullowitz
- the cuirassier rgts (Cordova Cuirassiers and Stampach Cuirassiers) to the south-east of Lobositz
- entrenched Grenzers between Lobositz and the Morellenbach
Browne moved his command post to the right leaving command of the left wing to General Kolowrat. Meanwhile, Frederick established his own headquarters on the Homolka.
Three Prussian regiments (Manteuffel, Braunschweig-Bevern and Kleist (?)) from Bevern's left wing made slow but steady progress on the slopes of the Lobosch. Lacy reinforced the Austrian right wing under his command with Browne Infantry and Alt-Colloredo Infantry.
Around 11:00 a.m., the mist persisting, Frederick ordered Lieutenant-General Baron von Kyau, positioned in the centre of his lines, to make a reconnaissance in force of the Austrian line. Kyau, with 3 cuirassier regiments (Garde du Corps, Gens d'Armes and 2 sqns of Prinz von Preußen) advanced through the mist towards the centre supported by the Bayreuth Dragoons. Kyau's cuirassiers were soon enfiladed on their right by the fire of the Austrian grenadiers occupying Sullowitz (present-day Sulejovice). The Austrian Erzherzog Joseph Dragoons then charged in the flank of Kyau's cuirassiers who were rescued by the supporting Bayreuth Dragoons. With the help of these dragoons, Kyau pushed back the Austrian cavalry up to the sunken road. The Prussian cavalry was then fired upon with case shot by the Austrian batteries from Lobositz and with musketry by the Grenzers entrenched in the sunken road. A counter-attack by the Austrian Stampach Cuirassiers and Cordova Cuirassiers finally drove back the Prussian cavalry up to the foot of the Homolka. After this first cavalry engagement, both armies' cavalry took refuge under their guns.
Around 11:30 a.m., the mist finally cleared off and Frederick got his first opportunity to study the Austrian lines. He immediately sent new orders to the Prussian cavalry to stop its assault. However, these orders arrived too late and his cavalry, which had been reinforced with 13 additional cuirassier squadrons (3 sqns of Prinz von Preußen, Leib-Carabiniers and von Rochow), launched a second charge against the Austrian position. Nothing could stop the 59 Prussian squadrons (some 10,000 cavalrymen) in their charge until they came upon the Morellenbach. Austrian batteries entrenched on the opposite side of the brook then opened fire on the Prussian cavalry who were forced to recoil out of range with a loss of several men. Frederick then ordered his shaken cavalry up the Homolka and posted it to the rear where it stood for the rest of the battle.
Meanwhile, Bevern had difficulty taking control of the Lobosch and was obliged to gradually increase his commitment in this quarter, sending 4 additional battalions (Itzenplitz, Grenadier Battalion 3/6 Kleist and I./Münchow) to reinforced the 7 battalions already engaged. Nevertheless, the Grenzers continued to put up stubborn resistance.
When Browne realised that he was slowly losing control of the Lobosch, he ordered 6 grenadier companies and 3 battalions (2 from Nikolaus Esterházy Infantry and 1 from Jung-Wolfenbüttel Infantry) from his left wing to join Lacy, who sent them to reinforce the Grenzers on the Lobosch. Several Austrian infantry regiments (Kaiser, Kolowrat and Joseph Esterházy) were also concentrated near Lobositz. Browne also tried to advance his left wing to Sullowitz but the intense fire of the Prussian artillery from the Homolka soon brought this attempt to a stop and set several houses afire inside Lobositz.
Around 1:00 p.m., Frederick had doubts about the issue of the battle. He decided to personally quit the battlefield, leaving overall command to Keith. Before his departure, he ordered Bevern to renew his assault on the Lobosch and Keith to support this assault as much as he could. Bevern finally managed to take control of the Lobosch.
Keith then organised the decisive attack on Lobositz. To do so, he ordered the second line of his left wing to march up and join with the first. Meanwhile his right wing redeployed itself into a single line and extended north to cover the Lobosch as well.
Once master of the Lobosch, the Prussian left wing, led by Bevern, moved out of the vineyards and took position some 600 m from Lobositz. Browne's battalions soon came to close grips with it.
After three more hours of fighting, the Austrians were finally driven into Lobositz. Firing had been so intense that most Prussian infantrymen had exhausted their 90 cartridges and had to continue fighting with bayonets and butt-ends. The Grenadier Battalion 5/20 Jung-Billerbeck was the first Prussian unit to force its way into Lobositz, soon followed by Braunschweig-Bevern Infantry and Grenadier Battalion 3/6 Kleist. The streets of the town were too narrow to accommodate any new battalions sent as reinforcements by Browne. The Prussian grenadiers set the village afire, forcing Austrians troops to evacuate it. The whole Austrian right wing was now rapidly disintegrating, most troops retired upon Welhotta, some even plunged into the Elbe, a good few of them drowning.
Browne quickly reacted by pushing forward his centre and left wing, which still had numerous fresh battalions, to interpose between the advancing Prussians and the Austrian fugitives. The Prussian infantry alone could not continue pursuit on such terms and the Prussian cavalry was far to the rear on the Homolka.
At 5:00 p.m., Browne fired his retreat-cannon and retired to Budin (present-day Budyně nad Ohří).
The battle had lasted 7 hours, the last 4 of it very intense. Frederick had lost 3,308 killed and wounded. The Prussian Major-General Baron von Quadt died of his wounds on October 3 while Lieutenant-General Franz Ulrich von Kleist died of his wounds in Dresden on January 14 1757. Among the Prussian units, the following suffered particularly:
- Itzenplitz Infantry who lost (all included) 65 men killed, 281 wounded and 65 missing from a total of 1,481 men
- Manteuffel Infantry who lost (all included) 65 men killed, 249 wounded and 65 missing from a total of 1,436 men
- Hülsen Infantry who lost (all included) 60 men killed, 217 wounded and 60 missing from a total of 1,450 men
- Blanckensee Infantry who lost (all included) 70 men killed, 135 wounded and 70 missing from a total of 1,441 men
For his part, Browne lost 2,863 killed and wounded, 418 men taken prisoners, three 3-pdr guns and two standards. This was far from a decisive victory for Frederick.
Order of Battle
Austrian Order of Battle
Commander-in-Chief: Fieldmarshal Maximilian Ulysses von Browne
Summary: 34 battalions, 35 grenadier companies, 69 squadrons, 12 combined elite squadrons for a total of approx. 35,125 men
- a line infantry regiment (2 field battalions), including lower-staff and grenadiers = 1,860 men
- a garrison battalion, including lower-staff = 550 men
- a Grenz-Battalion, including staff and grenadiers = 1,080 men
- a cuirassier regiment, including staff = 1,015 men
- a dragoon regiment, including staff = 1,014 men
- a hussar regiment, including staff = 800 men
|Advance Guard||First Line
under GdC Lucchesi assisted
by FZM Kollowrat
|In front of Lobositz under GFWM Hadik||Right Wing Cavalry (deployed in the centre) under Lieutenant-General Radicati assisted by Major-General O'Donnell||Right Wing Cavalry (deployed in the centre) under Major-General Lobkowitz|
|Centre Infantry under FZM C. Kollowrat assisted by Lieutenant-General W. Starhemberg|
|Left Wing Cavalry under Major-General Löwenstein||Left Wing Cavalry under Major-General Hedwiger|
Detachment near Leitmeritz and along the Elbe up to Schreckstein under Count Lacy
- Converged Horse Grenadier
- Karlstädter-Lykaner Grenzer (400 men)
- Browne (2 bns)
- Alt-Colloredo (Anton) (2 bns)
Corps de réserve under Major-General Drašković
- Banal-Grenzinfanterieregiment nr. 2 (2 bns)
- Karlstädter-Lykaner Grenzer (1 bn) the rest of the battalion after the various detachments
- Karlstädter-Ottochaner (1 bn)
Artillery under General Feuerstein (deployed in several locations on the battlefield)
- Deutsche Feldartillerie
- 70 x 3-pdrs guns
- 12 x 6-pdrs guns
- 6 x 12-pdrs guns
- 6 x howitzers
- pontoon train
- the 35th grenadier company came from Marschall Infantry, the rest of this regiment had previously been detached to Piccolomini's army.
Prussian Order of Battle
Summary: 22 infantry bns, 4¼ grenadier bns, 61 sqns, and 98 artillery pieces (52 battalion guns and 46 heavy guns) for a total of approx. 28,475 men
|Infantry Division under General Prince of Prussia|
|Infantry Brigade under Lieutenant-General Prince von Bevern assisted by Major-General Quadt||Infantry Brigade under Lieutenant-General Ferdinand Prince von Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel assisted by Major-General Hülsen|
|Infantry Division under Lieutenant-General Kleist|
|Major-General Zastrow's Infantry Brigade||Major-General Itzenplitz's Infantry Brigade|
|Cavalry under Field-Marshal Gessler|
|Lieutenant-General Katzler||Lieutenant-General Kyau|
|Lieutenant-General Schwerin||Lieutenant-General Katte assisted by Major-General Truchsess
Székely "Green Hussars" (3 sqns = 300 men)
- Field Artillery Regiment (detachments)
- Homolka battery under Lieutenant-Colonel Moller
- 5 x 12-pdrs
- 4 x 24-pdrs
- 1 x 10 pdrs howitzer
- Other batteries
- 25 x 12-pdrs guns
- 4 x 24-pdrs guns
- 7 x 10 pdrs howitzers
- 4 x 50 pdrs mortars
Carlyle T.: History of Friedrich II of Prussia, Vol. 17 chapter 6
Grosser Generalstab Kriegsgeschichtliche Abteilung II: Die Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen, Part 3 Der siebenjährige Krieg 1756-1763, Vol. 1 Pirna und LobositzBerlin, 1901, pp. 259-285, footnotes 35-54 and appendixes 12-14
Mitchell, James J.: Lobositz: Frederick's First Battle of the Seven Years War, Seven Years War Association Journal Vol. XI No. 1
Nelke, R.: Preussen
Vanicek, Fr.: Specialgeschichte der Militärgrenze aus Originalquellen und Quellenwerken geschöpft, Vol. II, Vienna: Kaiserlich-Königlichen Hof- und Staatsdruckerei, 1875, pp. 404-406
Harald Skala for information on this battle and for his photos and an old illustration