1757-09-07 - Combat of Moys

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Hierarchical Path: Seven Years War (Main Page) >> Battles >> 1757-09-07 - Combat of Moys

Austrian Victory

Prelude to the Battle

In September 1757, an Austrian army, under Prince Charles de Lorraine, followed the Duke of Bevern's Prussian army in its retreat towards Silesia.

On Tuesday September 6, Prince Charles de Lorraine finally decided to attack Lieutenant-General Winterfeldt's Corps at Moys, since it was almost isolated from Bevern's Army, on the right bank of the Neisse River. The attack was confided to General of Cavalry Nádasdy.

Nádasdy planned the attack with the assistance of the Brigadier Montazet, the Count Colloredo and the Duke of Arenberg. For this attack, in addition to his own corps, Nádasdy was reinforced with the Reserve Corps under the Duke of Arenberg (replacing Count Colloredo who had been slightly injured).

In the evening of September 6, Nádasdy's Corps took position at Schönbrunn.

The attack should start at daybreak and the Reserve Corps along with Nádasdy's regular infantry should take position to the south of Hermsdorf.

Map

Map of the combat of Moys on September 7 1757
Source: Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen, volume III by the German Grosser Generalstab

The battlefield of Moys was delimited on its western side by the Neisse and, on its eastern side, by a brook flowing through Hermsdorf and Leopoldshayn. The Rothwasser River divided the battlefield in two parts. The slightly undulating terrain north of the Rothwasser consisted of farmland and dry heath. North of the village of Posen, the Neisse fed a canal known as the “Görlitzer Stadt Graben” with water. This canal ran through the battle field from north to south. It was bordered on both sides by high levee walls forming a sizeable 12 to 15 m. wide obstacle. However, these levee walls had decayed from the north-east of the Lange Berg to the road leading from Hermsdorf to Moys.

The Jäckelsberg, aka Holzberg or Steinberg, raised quite abruptly from the Valley of the Rothwasser. The top of the hill was rather flat and was some 500 m. long and 100 m. wide. The northern and eastern slopes of this bald hill were quite gentle but the other slopes were steep. The hill offered a good field of fire eastwards and south-eastwards. The steeper chasms to the south and south-west offered dead ground where attackers could advance under cover. From the hill, the line of sight southwards and south-eastwards was partially blocked by the heights north of Thielitz, the Pfaffenberg, the Birkenbusch and the Galgenberg. Thielitz and Schönbrunn could not be seen and any movements in these directions could be easily concealed.

The part of the battlefield between the Rothwasswer and the Neisse was mostly undulating open terrain and could easily be observed from the top of the Jäckelsberg. The villages of Ober-Moys and Nieder-Moys were located too low to offer any view southwards. The marshy Rothwasser was passable only at certain points. Its banks were covered with willows and other shrubs who hindered the line of sight south-westwards. Overall, that part of the battlefield was very well suited for light troops.

Winterfeldt had deployed his force with his right forming an angle from the Neisse towards the Jäckelsberg and his left extending from Leopoldshayn to the Neisse. The Jäckelsberg was at the apex of the angle formed by the right wing. Artillery had been planted on this hill which was also covered by fieldworks occupied by 2 grenadier bns.

Description of Events

Concealed advance of the Austrians

Before daybreak, the Duke of Bevern rode to the top of the Landeskrone to observe the positions of the Austrian main army. He could deduct the locations of the various camps thanks to the still burning campfires. He located outposts at Hermsdorf, Schönbrunn and up to Kuhna and got the conviction that a strong corps now faced Winterfeldt's position.

Towards 6:00 a.m., Nádasdy's force deployed in two lines preceded by a screen of light troops. The right wing was anchored on the village of Hermsdorf while the left extended up to the mill of Moys on the Rothwasser. The Grenzer light troops were subdivided into three corps:

  1. on the right wing, occupying the villages of Hermsdorf and Leopoldshayn;
  2. on the left wing, in front of the assigned position of Arenberg's grenadiers;
  3. on the extreme left wing, beyond the Rothwasser, supported by two hussar regiments and several grenadier companies.

At sunrise, Prince Charles set off from his camp with an escort along the right bank of the Neisse, leaving command of the main Austrian army, encamped between Tauchritz and Friedersdorf, to FM Daun. Meanwhile, despite the fog, Bevern, from his observation post on the Landeskrone, could have an idea of troop movements on the right bank of the Neisse as gun barrels began to glitter in the sun. However, he saw no activity in the main Austrian camp on the left bank of the Neisse. Bevern sent an adjutant to inform Winterfeldt of his observations and to instruct his own troops on the left bank of the Neisse to prepare for battle. Heavy baggage were sent under escort north of Görlitz.

At daybreak, to draw the attention of the Prussians, parties of hussars and Grenzer light troops advanced on Leopoldshayn under Kálnoky, and from the south on Ober-Moys under Pálffy and Drašković.

Around the same time, Pállfy's Grenzer light troops began to skirmish against Grenadier Battalion 37/40 Manteuffel posted at Ober-Moys. The accompanying cannonade could be heard from the Jäckelsberg, drawing the attention of the defenders. The Austrian light troops stopped their advance when a few cannon shots were fired from the Jäckelsberg.

To the exception of the troops posted on the Jäckelsberg on the extreme right, General Winterfeldt had no advanced posts in front of Moys. Indeed, all Prussian troops were kept close to the camp for fear of desertion. Therefore, when Nádasdy's force started its advance on their positions, the Prussians initially saw nothing but parties of Grenzers and hussars on their extreme right towards the Neisse. They mistakenly considered them as mere foragers belonging to Nádasdy's Corps. Accordingly, they only fired a few guns at them and ordered the grenadiers occupying the Jäckelsberg to take up their arms. Meanwhile, Nádasdy's columns were continuing their advance unnoticed along sunken roads through a countryside covered by woods and ravines and concealed by the rising autumn fog.

According to the Austrian plan, the first attack against the Jäckelsberg would be launched by a corps of 42 grenadier coys advancing from the south-east of the Galgenberg. These grenadiers were organised in 7 bns, each of 6 coys. One of these bns with 2 guns formed the vanguard, followed by the 6 other bns deployed in three lines under the command of the Duke of Arenberg. Furthermore, 10 heavy guns were attached to this corps.

Behind this grenadier corps, marched the 21 bns of the Reserve Corps in three divisions (the right division with 9 bns, the two other ones with 6 bns each). Each division was deployed in three lines. The leftmost division should support the grenadiers and, if possible, move to their left. Furthermore, 6 heavy guns were attached to this corps.

The 5 regular bns of Nádasdy's Corps followed the Reserve Corps at a distance of 1,000 pace, acting as reserve.

Nádasdy's Cavalry covered the right wing.

A Prussian officer arrived on the Landeskrone to inform Bevern that Winterfeldt was on his way to join him on that hill. To save time, Bevern immediately rode to meet Winterfeldt and joined him in the southern suburb of Görlitz. He then informed him that he expected an attack on the right bank of the Neisse. Winterfeldt rather believed that the Austrians were planning an attack on Bevern's positions on the following night. He considered the movements of the Austrians on the right bank as a mere diversion. However, he planned to rearrange his positions and to occupy Leopoldshayn to cover his left flank. He called a council of his generals and staff officers in his quarters to prepare these changes. Awaiting the opening of the council, Winterfeldt remained on the left bank.

At about 7:30 a.m., the Duke of Arenberg, who had left the camp of the main army at Görlitz at 8:00 p.m. the previous day, finally arrived at Schönbrunn where he made his junction with Nádasdy's force which could now begin its advance on Moys. In the centre, the three columns of infantry were under the command of Lieutenant-Generals Clerici (left), Esterházy (centre) and Wied (right). Meanwhile, the Sachsen-Gotha Dragoons, along with the Jung-Modena Dragoons and the Saxon chevaux-légers were ordered to cover the right flank of the advancing infantry columns.

At about 9:00 a.m., the Prussians began to see regular Austrian units advancing on Kuhna and Hermsdorf. Meanwhile, the Saxon cavalry along with hussar and Grenzer regiments deployed between Leopoldshayn and Hermsdorf to fix the Prussian left.

At 10:00 a.m., the Austrian regulars, who had been delayed marching through Schönbrunn finally reached the vicinities of the Galgengerg.

The heavy batteries (10 pieces) attached to the grenadier vanguard were planted on the Galgengerg.

In preparation for the attack, the 10 heavy pieces on the Galgenberg and the 6 heavy pieces attached to the main body, planted on the heights between Hermsdorf and Thielitz opened a lively fire on the Jäckelsberg.

Storming of the Jäckelsberg

At 11:00 a.m., the Austrian infantry finally deployed in the plain. The Austrian artillery then opened fire and Nádasdy ordered the Grenzers of the left wing supported by Arenberg's grenadiers to storm the Jäckelsberg defended by 2 Prussian battalions.

The Austrian grenadiers launched an attack against the Jäckelsberg from the east. They were followed by the Reserve Corps and by Nádasdy's 5 regular battalions. At the same time, Drašković attacked from the south with Grenzer light troops.

The Prussian Grenadier Battalion 41/44 Beneckendorff and Grenadier Battalion 21/27 Dieringshofen were surprised while preparing their breakfast. However, they quickly took arms and occupied their assigned positions but had no time to strike their tents. They opened fire on the advancing grenadiers and light troops who had already reached mid-slope and managed to drive them back to the foot of the hill.

Meanwhile, the 6 Prussian guns in the redoubt began an artillery duel with the Austrian batteries.

Winterfeldt was still discussing with his generals and staff officers on the left bank of the Neisse when he was informed of the attack against the Jäckelsberg and of Kálnoky's manoeuvre against the Prussian left flank near Leopoldshayn. Prince Karl von Bevern, the general on duty that day, immediately rejoined the camp on the right bank. With artillery fire increasing against his right wing, he sounded the alarm and then set off for the Jäckelsberg.

Finally realizing that it was a serious attack, Winterfeldt cancelled the conference. All generals joined their brigades and set their troops in marching order.

Shortly afterwards, Winterfeldt arrived at his camp and ordered his entire line to advance south-eastwards. He then ordered Major-General von Kannacher with the 4 nearest battalions (Manteuffel Infantry and Tresckow Infantry) to follow him at double-quick pace, marching by their right in columns in the direction of the Jäckelsberg. Winterfeldt then personally rode towards the Jäckelsberg.

Meanwhile, the Zieten Hussars had been detached from Winterfeldt's main camp where Lieutenant-General von Zieten was left in command.

During this time, the Austrian grenadiers and light troops had renewed their attack against the Jäckelsberg, this time with more vigour, and successfully turned the entrenchment from both sides. Prince Karl von Bevern was in the thickest of the melee. The commanders of Grenadier Battalion 41/44 Beneckendorff and Grenadier Battalion 21/27 Dieringshofen were both wounded and the 2 battalions finally gave way. They became more and more disorganised as they retreated through the camp of burning tents.

Meanwhile, the Grenzers positioned on the extreme left wing assaulted and captured the village of Moys.

Then the Nádasdy Hussars, which were posted near the Kaltwasser brook to cover the left flank of the infantry columns, fell on the Prussian troops retiring from the Jäckelsberg, capturing 3 colours. Meanwhile, the pursuing Austrian grenadiers even reached the camp of the Prussian hussars to the rear of the Jäckelsberg.

Grenadier Battalion 24/34 Anhalt who had been sent to support these 2 grenadier battalions, was carried away with them as they flee. The Austrian captured the camp on the Jäckelsberg, 3 pieces and 1 colour.

Prussian counter-attack

At this moment, Winterfeldt arrived at the former camp of the Zieten Hussars at the head of Kannacher's Brigade. Winterfeldt found his grenadiers and their insufficient reinforcements rolling back, the Jäckelsberg lost. He did not want to reconquer the Jäckelsberg at all cost but rather wanted to rally the 3 routed grenadier battalions and to join them to Kannacher's Brigade to launch a counter-attack.

As the 3 Prussian grenadier battalions saw the advancing reinforcements, they turned against their pursuers.

For a time, the combat was indecisive. The Austrians were initially driven back. But Winterfeldt was hit, while discussing measures to be taken with Prince Karl von Bevern, and fell from his horse, mortally wounded. The Prince assumed command and advanced to the support of the 3 grenadier battalions with the Manteuffel Infantry and Tresckow Infantry regiments against the Austrian Grenzers and grenadiers now occupying the contested hill.

The Austrians could not hold their ground and retreated to the entrenchments at the top of the Jäckelsberg.

The troops of the first line of the Austrian centre (the de Ligne, d'Arberg, Platz, Sprecher and Sachsen-Gotha infantry regiments) had now deployed in line and launched a second assault on the Jäckelsberg.

A bitter melee ensued. Visibility was reduced by the smoke of the burning tents and both forces became disorganised. In the confusion, the Platz Infantry fired in the rear of the de Ligne Infantry. Prince Karl von Bevern had a horse killed under him; Count Anhalt-Dessau, commanding one of the Prussian grenadier battalion, was taken prisoner.

During this time, an adjutant who had previously been sent by Winterfeldt to give orders to the Manteuffel Infantry regiment, mistakenly transmitted these orders to Grenadier Battalion 37/40 Manteuffel, posted at Ober-Moys as flank guard. According to these orders, the grenadiers abandoned their post to march towards the Jäckelsberg. Hussars and Grenzer light troops immediately seized the opportunity and advanced against the south-west flank of the Prussian positions.

The Duke of Bevern, now convinced that Winterfeldt's corps was the target of a serious attack, sent Grenadier Battalion 35/36 Schenckendorff and Grenadier Battalion G-NG/G-III/G-IV Kahlden, initially posted in Görlitz, to its support. Some time later, he also sent 1 battalion of the Schultze Infantry across the Neisse to support Winterfeldt. The Duke then rode once more to the plateau of the Landeskrone to observe the Austrian positions. Before leaving, he ordered Generals von Schultze and von Ingersleben to send additional battalions from his left wing across the Neisse if Winterfeldt was pushed back.

Meanwhile in the area of the Jäckelsberg, the Austrians managed to establish a few artillery pieces to the north-east of the hill. The small Prussian force was now threatened on both flanks.

New Austrian battalions kept arriving on the plateau of the Jäckelsberg and finally the 7 Prussian battalions slowly retreated after a fierce fight that lasted about an hour.

The 3 Prussian grenadier battalions were now totally exhausted while the ranks of the Manteuffel Infantry kept thinning under the fire of the Austrians. The Tresckow Infantry, composed of Catholics from Upper Silesia, suffered heavy desertion. Major-General von Kannacher fell wounded and was taken prisoner.

Prussian retreat

Around 1:00 p.m., Prince Karl von Bevern retired with the remnants of his 7 battalions, pursued by the exhausted and disorganised Austrian battalions. After the capture of this hill, Nádasdy reinforced it, deploying his grenadiers in several lines and planting some guns on the heights.

Around 2:00 p.m., the fire of the Prussian artillery stopped the pursuers. All units sent by the Duke of Bevern arrived once Prince Karl von Bevern was in full retreat with his 7 battalions. When the 7 Prussian battalions retiring from the Jäckelsberg met these reinforcements, they halted and reoccupied their initial positions on the right bank of the Neisse.

Meanwhile, at about 1:00 p.m., Zieten had deployed his 35 squadrons in two lines in front of the left wing of the Prussian infantry. Grenzer light troops had established their battalion guns in Leopoldshayn and were firing on his cavalry. Zieten ordered Grenadier Battalion 45/G-XIII/G-IX Unruh to make itself master of Leopoldshayn defended by Colonel Vela with Grenzer troops from the Karlstädter-Lykaner and Banal-Grenzinfanterieregiment nr. 1. The Grenzers were also supported by Lieutenant-General Kálnoky at the head of 15 hussar squadrons (Kaiser Franz, Kálnoky and Dessewffy).

Grenadier Battalion 45/G-XIII/G-IX Unruh advanced on Leopoldshayn, followed by Grenadier Battalion 3/6 Hacke in support. However, their attack, which had been carried out with insufficient forces and without any artillery preparations, failed after a fight that lasted about an hour. The two Prussian battalions were obliged to retire to the heights alongside the Neisse in front of the town of Görlitz where they rallied under the cover of the Prussian artillery deployed on the opposite bank of the river. Zieten did not make another attempt to dislodge the Austrians from Leopoldshayn. He rather directed his artillery against the village.

The Austrian Reserve Corps had now advanced to Ober-Moys. By doing so, a gap had gradually been created between its right wing and the village of Hermsdorf. Field Marshall Count Wied was worried that the Prussian cavalry could charge his right flank. Accordingly, he posted 1 battalion and 2 pieces in the northern part of Hermsdorf.

Zieten's cavalry effectively advanced against the right flank of the Reserve Corps, supported by Zieten's heavy artillery but the attack through difficult terrain interspersed with ditches was driven back by the Austrian artillery posted at Leopoldshayn and Hermsdorf.

During this time on the left bank of the Neisse, Bevern's army stood in combat readiness. The detachment (3 battalions) of Prince Franz von Braunschweig, who had escorted a convoy, arrived at Bevern's camp.

To prevent the Duke of Bevern from sending additional reinforcements to Winterfeldt, the Austrian corps of Major-General Baron Beck, posted at Deutsch-Ossig on the left bank of the Neisse, attacked the Prussian outpost at Leschwitz, defended by piquets of Frei-Infanterie le Noble, drove the defenders back and occupied the village. Beck then established the rest of his corps to the west of Leschwitz on the road to Zittau. The batteries of the Prussian left wing opened on Beck's new positions without much effect. Near Leschwitz, Beck repaired a broken bridge across the Neisse.

At 4:00 p.m., using the bridge near Leschwitz, Prince Charles of Lorraine then transferred the Grenadier Corps of Field Marshall Baron Sprecher (22 grenadier companies) and 8 horse grenadier companies to the right bank of the Neisse to reinforce Nádasdy and prevent a Prussian counter-attack.

Until 5:00 p.m., both forces cannonaded each other without engaging in any significant action.

Sprecher's Grenadier Corps occupied the Jäckelsberg. The 42 grenadier companies who had formed the vanguard of Arenberg's columns returned to their respective regiments. The Reserve Corps and Nádasdy's Corps encamped in two lines between Schönbrunn and Kuhna.

Zieten replaced Winterfeldt as commander of the Prussian corps posted on the right bank of the Neisse. He decided not to make another attempt against the Jäckelsberg and moved his left wing, which was threatened by the Austrians posted at Leopoldshayn, closer to Görlitz.

In the afternoon, the Duke of Bevern sent Lieutenant-General Fouqué to take command of the corps posted on the right bank of the Neisse who spent the night under arms, harassed by Grenzer light troops.

Around midnight, Prince Charles de Lorraine ordered the Reserve Corps, Nádasdy's Corps and the Grenadier Corps to return to their former encampment. Drašković was left behind to occupy the Jäckelsberg with his Grenzer light troops.

Outcome

In this combat, the Prussians lost 51 officers and 1,814 men (including 333 prisoners), 7 colours and 5 guns (2 x 12-pdrs, 1 x 6-pdrs and 2 x 3-pdrs). In addition, 392 others deserted during the following days.

Lieutenant-General von Winterfeldt, who had been mortally wounded, was brought back to Görlitz where he died on September 8 around 3:00 a.m.

The Austrians lost 79 officers, 1,498 men (including 1,311 wounded and 87 missing) while General Count Nádasdy, the Marquis de Clerici and Count Nicolaus Esterházy were wounded.

This combat had no major consequences on the events. The Prussians set fire to their camp at Moys and retired from the battlefield with a loss of about 800 killed and wounded. The Austrians captured 5 guns (2 x 12-pdrs, 1 x 6-pdrs, 2 x 3-pdrs) and 7 colours. They lost about 3,000 men in this action.

On September 10, a few days later, Bevern finally retreated to Silesia but this was mainly due to a lack of supplies.

Order of Battle

Austrian Order of Battle

Commander-in-chief: General of Cavalry Nádasdy.

Summary: 8 grenzer bns, 42 grenadier companies, 26 infantry bns, 26 cavalry sqns and 25 hussar sqns (14,267 foot, 7295 horse, 2,987 hussars and 8,000 grenzers for a total of 32,549 men)

N.B.: the above figures exclude the reinforcements, the grenadier reserve under Sprecher and troops operating on the other bank of the Neisse.

Vanguard First Line Second Line
Right Wing
Grenz Infanterie under Lieutenant-General Petazzi and Major-General Schröger

supported by light cavalry under Lieutenant-General Kálnoky and Major-General Luzinsky

  Lieutenant-General Nostitz's Cavalry Division
Centre
  Right Division under Lieutenant-General Wied assisted by Major-Generals Kinsky and Butler (deployed on three lines)

Centre Division under Lieutenant-General Nicolaus Esterházy assisted by Major-Generals Gemmingen and O'Kelly (deployed on three lines)

Left Division under Lieutenant-General Clerici assisted by Major-generals Batthyányi and Würben (deployed on three lines)

Lieutenant-General Forgách's Division (assisted by Major-General Preysach)
Left Wing
Light troops under Lieutenant-General Pálffy

supported by light cavalry:

Lieutenant-General Arenberg's Division (assisted by Major-General Preysach and Major-General Stolberg)
  • Converged grenadiers from the Reserve corps and from Nádasdy's Corps (42 coys)
 

Artillery

  • Deutsche Feldartillerie
    • 1st Battery (10 heavy guns) (probably posted on the Galgenberg)
    • 2nd Battery (6 heavy guns) (probably posted on the Buschberg)

Reserve under Lieutenant-General Sprecher (did not take part in the battle)

  • Converged Grenadiers from the Main Army (22 coys)

N.B.: Two more cavalry brigades are reported by Horace St-Paul as part of Nádasdy's Corps but do not seem to be present at the combat. We have not found information about their location during the engagement. These are:

Reinforcement sent at 4:00 p.m. from the main army at Görlitz

  • Converged Grenadiers (31 coys)
  • Converged Horse Grenadiers (8 coys)

Prussian Order of Battle

Commander-in-chief: Lieutenant-General von Winterfeldt assisted by Lieutenant-General von Zieten

In command at the moment of the attack: Major-General Prince Carl von Bevern (not to be confused with the Duke of Bevern who was commander-in-chief of the entire Prussian army posted at Görlitz)

Summary: 15 bns, 25 cavalry sqns, 20 hussars sqns for a total of approx. 13,300 men

Advanced Posts First Line Second Line
Right Wing
Kursell Grenadier Brigade Light Cavalry

Grenadiers

 
Centre
  under Major-Generals Wied and Kannacher  
Left Wing
Light Cavalry Grenadiers under Major-General von Kleist (*)

Cavalry under Major-General von Meyer (*)

under Major-General von Normann (*)

(*) the identity of these generals is deducted from the Prussian Ordre de Bataille Générale of August 15 for the army in Saxony. Most generals of Winterfeldt’s Corps where absent when the army was alarmed.

Artillery

Reinforcements sent from Görlitz

References

This article incorporates texts from the following books which are now in the public domain:

  • Carlyle T.: History of Friedrich II of Prussia, vol. 18
  • Donnersmarck, Victor Amadaeus Henckel von: Militaerischer Nachlass, Karl Zabeler, 1858, pp. 365-367, 445-450
    • "Relation de l'affaire du lieutenant-général Winterfeldt près de Görlitz le 7 sept. 1757, par le comte d'Anhalt commandeur d'un bataillon de grenadiers à cette affaire"
    • "Relation de l'action de Görlitz", Vienna: October 1757
    • "Action de Goerlitz", Berlin: October 1757
  • Grosser Generalstab Kriegsgeschichtliche Abteilung II: Die Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen, Part 3 Der siebenjährige Krieg 1756-1763, Vol. 4 Groß-Jägersdorf und Breslau, Berlin, 1902, pp. 134-143
  • Vanicek, Fr.: Specialgeschichte der Militärgrenze aus Originalquellen und Quellenwerken geschöpft, Vol. II, Vienna: Kaiserlich-Königlichen Hof- und Staatsdruckerei, 1875, pp. 428-429

Other sources:

Grosser Gerneralstab: Die Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen III. 1756-1763, vol. IV, Berlin: 1902

Rogge, Christian: Ordre de Bataille at Moys (Jaeckelsberg), Frankfurt: 2003

St. Paul, Horace: Journal of Horace St. Paul 1757, as translated by Neil Cogswell in Seven Years War Association Journal, Vol. XII No. 1 and 2

Tempelhof, G. F. von: Geschichte des Siebenjährigen Krieges in Deutschland, vol. I-IV, Berlin: 1783-1801