1757 - Allied counter-offensive in Hanover

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The campaign lasted from November to December 1757

Description

Situation after the Convention of Kloster Zeven

By September 1757, the French had completed the invasion of Hanover. On September 9, under the mediation of the King of Denmark, the Duke of Cumberland capitulated at the Abbey near Zeven to the north-east of Bremen, signing the "Convention of Kloster-Zeven" which allowed the French to occupy Hanover and stipulated that:

  • hostilities had to cease within 24 hours;
  • Hanoverian troops should retire to Stade and beyond the Elbe River in the Duchy of Lüneburg;
  • Brunswicker, Sachsen-Gothaer, Bückeburger and Hessian troops could return to their respective homelands without being considered prisoners of war;
  • Allied troops would not take part in the conflict until the end of the war.

The Allied army remained hutted in the neighbourhood of Stade while the French army was distributed into 5 camps: Bremen, Verden, Rethem, Bothmer and Celle. Other French corps were stationed in Hanover, Brunswick and Wolfenbüttel. Voyer at the head of a detachment (3 bns, 4 sqns and Chasseurs de Fischer) was then sent into the Country of Halberstadt as far as Osterwieck. The Maréchal de Richelieu never seriously considered besieging Magdeburg in Prussia even though it was supposedly his next objective. He rather thoroughly plundered the region of Hanover.

Arrival of Prussian troops in the area of Halberstadt

While Frederick II operated with a Prussian army against the Franco-Imperial army, Ferdinand of Brunswick was detached with 7 bns, 10 sqns and some artillery into the Country of Magdeburg to cover that province and alarm the French in those quarters. Ferdinand advanced up to Halberstadt and detached Colonel Horn with 600 men towards Egeln where he surprised a French party, capturing most of them. The French troops occupying the principality retired beyond Hornburg, leaving intact a large magazine at Osterwieck. Now that a force of 3,000 Prussians was in the region, the City of Halberstadt refused to pay contributions to the French.

On September 26, Richelieu collected all his troops at Rehen (unidentified location) near Wolfenbüttel.

At the end of September, the Allied army was still in the neighbourhood of Stade. Some of its corps had advanced as far as Bardowick on their way to take up winter quarters in the Country of Lauenburg. The Hessian and Brunswicker contingents had also began their march to repair to their respective countries. They all received orders to halt.

On October 5, Cumberland embarked for Great Britain, leaving command of the Allied army at Stade to General Zastrow. The Allied army remained in these positions till November while London and Versailles exchanged arguments about the convention of Kloster-Zeven.

On October 7, a French force (20 bns, 18 sqns) under Lieutenant-général de Broglie was detached from the Lower Rhine Army to reinforce the French Army of Saxony commanded by the Prince de Soubise. With the rest of his army, Richelieu marched against Ferdinand's positions at Zellengen (unidentified location) and Dardesheim. Ferdinand gradually retired to Halberstadt, then to Wanzleben near Magdeburg. Richelieu's Army encamped near Halberstadt, committing several excesses and devastations in the region.

Arrival of Ferdinand of Brunswick in Hanover

At the end of October, King George II of Great Britain despatched the Count von Schulenburg, a Hanoverian, to Frederick II at Leipzig. The count requested King Frederick to grant them Duke Ferdinand of Brunswick to be general of the Anglo-Hanoverian army at Stade. Frederick gave his cheerful consent.

On November 6, Richelieu heard of the defeat of Rossbach the previous day. He immediately evacuated the Country of Halberstadt and retired towards Brunswick, leaving garrisons at Regenstein, Osterwieck and Hornburg. Richelieu also sent Soubise a considerable reinforcement. When the French evacuated Halberstadt, the Prussian governor of Magdeburg detached General Juncheim with a part of his garrison (2 bns and 1,100 horse) to protect Halberstadt from French incursions. Jucheim proceeded to Aschersleben where he was joined by another battalion. He then entered into Halberstadt with 2 battalions and sent the third to Quedlinburg.

In November, after the crushing defeat of the French at Rossbach at the hands of Frederick II, the British government repudiated the "Convention of Kloster-Zeven". Shortly afterwards, the Allies began to assemble their contingents.

On November 9, at Merseburg, Duke Ferdinand got his British commission. He staid six more days in Magdeburg.

On November 23, fearing the breaking off of the convention, Richelieu assembled the corps of the Marquis de Villemure at Soltau to the north of the City of Hanover and sent it to Harburg a few km from Hamburg. Furthermore, Richelieu personally led a division (32 bns and 38 sqns) through Gifhorn to Lüneburg, having issued orders for all his army to rapidly assemble near Celle. Richelieu also ordered 6,000 Palatines, quartered at Hamm and Lippstadt, and some cavalry stationed in the Duchy of Kleve to join him. The Allied army which had corps near Harburg, Buxtehude and Bremervörde fell back on the approach of Richelieu.

On Thursday November 24, Richelieu established his headquarters at Lüneburg. The same day, Duke Ferdinand finally appeared in Stade, on horseback at morning parade. He announced that he was come to take command, that King George II had declined to ratify the “Convention of Kloster-Zeven” and that this convention was abolished. When Richelieu was informed that Ferdinand had taken command of the reunited Allied army, he threatened to burn the country if the convention was not abided by.

The Duke of Brunswick was considering to revert his alliance and to withdraw his troops from the Allied army. By Ferdinand's orders, Imhoff and Behr, who commanded the Bunswick contingent, were placed under arrest to prevent them marching back with their troops. However, the Hereditary Prince of Brunswick remained with Ferdinand of his own accord.

Ferdinand pushes the French back to the Aller

On November 26, taking advantage of the dispersion of French troops in various cantonments, Ferdinand marched from Stade, leaving Lieutenant-General Hardenberg with 2,500 men to besiege Harburg. Ferdinand detached General Diepenbroick on Bremen and Verden on the Aller while he himself marched towards Richelieu at the head of 25,000 men. Richelieu had now his headquarters at Winsen an der Luhe. He was astonished by Ferdinand's initiative but quickly collected troops at Celle on the Aller despite the fact that most of them were scattered all over Western Germany. Most of Richelieu's troops occupied the town while 15,000 men encamped with their right at Westercelle and their left at La Bergerie (unidentified location).

On November 28, after a short siege, Hardenberg became master of the town of Harburg, the nearest French fortress to Stade. However, on his approach, M. de Pereuse, the French governor, retired into the castle with the garrison (1,500 men), bringing some hostages with him. Hardenberg summoned the Castle of Harburg to surrender. Ferdinand also sent a letter to Richelieu to inform him that he had assumed command of the Allied army to reinitiate hostilities and that the Covention of Kloster-Zeven was rejected. All the benefits of the victory of Hastenbeck and of the Allied capitulation at Kloster-Zeven were now lost for France.

On November 29 before daylight, Hardenberg's batteries began playing upon the Castle of Harburg. The same day, Louis XV instructed Richelieu to merge Soubise's Army into his own, Soubise retaining command of a corps under the command of Richelieu.

On November 30, Allied jägers entered Harburg while Hardenberg invested the castle with 3 bns and 2 sqns. The Allied main army, leaving Hardenberg behind with 4,500 men to take the Castle of Harburg, advanced towards Lüneburg.

On December 2, Richelieu retired from Lüneburg.

On December 3, Major Freytag with some light troops took possession of Lüneburg, capturing a considerable quantity of forage and provisions. The French garrison of Harburg made a sally but was repulsed. The same day, Richelieu reached Celle where M. de Caraman successfully engaged the Hanoverian Jägers. French troops along with the 6,000 Palatines, the cavalry stationed at Kleve and the heavy artillery stationed at Hanover all fell back towards Celle. Meanwhile M. de Villemeur with the rearguard reached the Aller; Noailles was at Pattensen with the other rearguard. The Castle of Harburg was now cut from any French support. Richelieu sent Du Roi Regiment to Kassel while the Gendarmerie, Carabiniers and several other units occupied Hessen-Kassel.

On December 4, Ferdinand encamped at Amelinghausen.

On December 5, Ferdinand rested his army at Amelinghausen. General Schulenberg had previously been sent to secure the communications of the Allied army with the Elbe. He overtook a detachment of Chasseurs de Fischer supported by Caraman Dragons near Ebstorf. He attacked them with the Breidenbach Dragoons along with some jägers and hussars. At last the French were entirely routed, loosing 11 officers and 400 privates killed and wounded. Schulenberg was slightly wounded in the affair. An Allied reinforcement was immediately sent to Schulenberg.

On December 6, the Allied army crossed the Lopau River in 4 columns and encamped near Melfing (unidentified location). The headquarters were at Ebstorf. Schulenberg's corps made a junction with the Allied main army. Major Luckner was detached towards Hermannsburg where he seized 24 laden wagons. Major Essdorff took possession of Medingen, capturing a large quantity of forage. Other abandoned magazines were captured at Bienenbüttel, Bevensen and Uelzen. The same day, Broglie and Noailles reached Celle.

During the night of December 6 to 7, a magazine in the Castle of Harburg was set on fire by a bomb and entirely consumed.

On December 7 and 8, the Allied army halted. During these days, Richelieu recalled French troops operating in Hesse. D'Armentières retired on Halberstadt and Osterwieck.

On December 8, the garrison of the Castle of Harburg made another sally, capturing some live cattle. An armed vessel was posted on the Riegerflieg, a branch of the Elbe, to contain the French garrison on this side.

On December 9, the Allied army passed the Gartau River, encamping around Suderburg. Major Luckner dislodged a French party at Hermannsburg.

On December 10, the Allied army halted while Lieutenant-General Spörcken was detached towards Gifhorn with 8 bns and 8 sqns. Richelieu determined to punish Halberstadt for its refusal to pay contribution. The Marquis de Voyer was ordered to re-enter the Country of Halberstadt with 12,000 men (11 bns , 36 piquets, 2 cavalry rgts, 1 hussar rgt and 400 other horse). Voyer divided his force in 3 columns to surprise Juncheim in Halberstadt.

During the night of December 10 to 11, Voyer's rightmost column set out from Schladen following the Holtheim rivulet. The centre column set out from Hornburg and marched by Osterwieck and Zillingen (unidentified location). Finally, the left column marched from Achim towards Halberstadt. At 3:00 a.m., a Prussian patrol met the right column and immediately informed Juncheim.

On December 11 at daybreak, Juncheim retired to a small eminence near Halberstadt where he waited for his battalion coming from Quedlinburg. With his reunited force, he then retired to Oschersleben. Voyer then entered in Halbersatdt and exacted heavy contributions. The same day, the Allied main army advanced to Weyhausen.

On December 12 at daybreak, General Oberg moved forward on Rebberlah, where a large French body had been spotted, with an advanced corps of 6 bns and 9 sqns supported by the whole Allied army in 4 columns. However, the French had already retired. The Allied then encamped near Rebberlah while Luckner advanced towards Garssen with 3 grenadier coys, 4 sqns and some irregulars. At Garssen, Luckner skirmished the whole day with the Volontaires du Hainaut and Danfret (???). Richelieu immediately sent Polleresky Hussards, Mestre de Camp Général Dragons and grenadiers to support them. Richelieu ordered to all available troops to concentrate on the Aller, to the right of Celle. At night Spörcken rejoined the Allied main army.

On December 13, the Allied army marched in 4 columns towards Celle. When Oberg's advanced corps moved briskly on Celle, Richelieu's army retired on the left bank of the Aller and burned their magazines in the Lüneburger suburb. During the night, the French set fire to the bridge and suburb. The Allies then encamped on a height near this suburb. The French army now consisted of 44 bns and 42 sqns.

On December 14, M. de Roquepine (6 bns) made a junction with Richelieu's Army. The French army deployed along the Aller from Celle to Schafferey (unidentified location) while the Allied army remained in its positions.

On December 15, Spörcken was ordered to march towards the right to Boye with 8 bns, 8 sqns and some irregulars. The same night, pontoons were conducted at the same location to construct 2 bridges.

On December 16 at 5:00 a.m., the Allied army was under arms awaiting notification from Spörcken that the bridges were ready. Meanwhile, Oberg was detached towards the right to Hehlen with 2 bns and 8 sqns and Ysenburg marched towards the left to Lachtehausen with 3 bns and 2 sqns. Oberg and Ysenburg were to make a feint of passing the river. Kielmannsegg with 2 bns was placed in front of Celle with instruction to penetrate in the city as soon as the French would abandon it. However, the pontoons did not reach their destination in time and the whole scheme had to be abandoned. Spörcken returned to the camp while Ysenburg and Oberg encamped near their assigned posts.

On December 16 and 17, Richelieu was reinforced by a body of troops coming from Brunswick. His army now consisted of 74 bns and 70 sqns. However, the French army, for lack of tents, had to bivouac while its stores had no more forage. The Allied headquarters were at Altenhagen.

On December 19, Spörcken's Corps fell into the line while 2 bns and 2 sqns of Ysenburg's Corps returned and did the same. The rest of Ysenburg's Corps remained at Lachtehausen while Oberg's Corps rejoined the advanced guard of the Allied army. The same day, Richelieu started to take dispositions to pass the Aller: Broglie was sent to the Duchy of Bremen to assume command of a French Corps consisting of 12 bns and 8 sqns. He was instructed to advance by the Wümme, to turn the Allies' right and then, if feasible, to proceed beyond Wolthausen.

On December 20, Ferdinand retired by his right, taking position with his left on the Lachte River and his right on the Klein-Hehlen stream and maintaining his headquarters at Altenhagen. Richelieu's Army was encamped in two lines, its right anchored on the village of Westercelle with the Grenadiers de France and Grenadiers Royaux deployed en potence on this flank and its left extending up to the bridge of Schafferey near Celle.

On December 21, Broglie took command of his detachment (12 bns, 8 sqns) assembled in the Duchy of Bremen for an advance on Böhme.

On December 22 and 23, the French army made several movements against the left and rear of the Allied army.

On December 23, Spörcken was detached to the right of the Allied Army with 5 bns and 5 sqns to observe the movements of Broglie.

On December 24 in the morning, Broglie having advanced as far as Fallingbostel (present-day Bad Fallingbostel), the Prince of Brunswick was sent to Hermannsburg to reinforce Spörcken with 4 bns and 4 sqns. The same day, the Marquis de Villemeur's Corps (10 bns, 14 sqns, Polleresky Hussards, the Volontaires de Flandre and 8 artillery pieces) prepared to pass the Aller at Müden to cover the construction of 2 bridges at Offensen and Schwachhausen. Furthermore, Villemeur would then send M. de Laval forward with an advanced guard of 1,500 men to dislodge the Allies from the villages of Ahnsbeck, Gamsen and Lachendorf. A detachment of 400 horse of the Volontaires du Hainaut would also advance towards Uelzen to burn magazines and intercept a convoy.

In the night of December 24 to 25, MM. de Villemeur, de Laval, de Grandmaison, d'Auvet and d'Ayen threw bridges over the Aller and successfully passed the river. M. de Lillebonne with his regiment (Harcourt Dragons) and Bercheny Hussards marched to Lachendorf. M. de Caraman with his regiment (Caraman Dragons), Dauphin Infanterie, a group of volunteers designated as Volontaires de Richelieu and the Chasseurs de Fischer passed the bridge of Schafferey to make a demonstration against the bridges of Klein Hehlen and Gross Hehlen. Another demonstration was made by M. d'Auvet (7 bns, 4 dragoon sqns, Volontaires du Hainaut, some hussars and 6 pieces) from the Lüneburger suburb. The Duc d'Ayen (La Marine, Vaubécourt and Orléans infantry brigades; Royal-Cravate cavalry brigade 4 Gendarmes sqns and 8 pieces) debouched by the bridge of Altencelle and detached M. de Maupeou with Orléans Brigade towards Lachtenhausen.

On December 25 at 8:00 am, the French main army debouched from its cantonments. It formed in two lines at Schwachhausen and Offensen, as follows:

  • first line:
    • infantry: Picardie, Navarre, Auvergne, Belsunce, La Tour-du-Pin and Lyonnais brigades
    • cavalry: Cuirassiers, Commissaire-Général, Royal-Allemand and Royal-Roussillon brigades
    • artillery: 24 pieces
  • second line under MM. de Noailles and de Monti:
    • infantry: Champagne, Dauphin and Aquitaine brigades
    • cavalry: Carabiniers, Harcourt Cavalerie
    • artillery: 14 pieces

The second line was charged to thrown the bridges under Villemeur's protection while the first line remained in battle formation along the Aller. The Allies decamped and retired on Winsen and Lüneburg leaving 500 prisoners in the hands of the French advanced parties. Ferdinand was at Uelzen. In the evening, Richelieu returned to Celle where he established his headquarters, his army encamping on the same spot as the Allied army the previous day.

Order of Battle
French cantonments by December 29 1757

Ferdinand sent his troops in cantonment in the areas of Uelzen and Lüneburg. Meanwhile, the French were also sent in cantonments in the areas of Verden, Celle, Brunswick and Hanover.

On December 29, the Castle of Harburg finally capitulated. The garrison (1,700 men) was allowed the honours of war on the condition of not serving against the Allies for the rest of the war.

On December 30, Richelieu established his headquarters at Hanover. Armentières commanded a large body in Celle. Broglie retired between Verden and Bremen.

On December 31, the French garrison evacuated the Castle of Harburg and the Allies took possession of it. The same day, Luckner and his hussars dispersed a body of 200 hussars and 60 dismounted troopers, capturing 66 of them. Still the same day, a Prussian detachment re-entered Halberstadt. It was the advanced guard of Prince Henri's Corps (18,000 men).

References

This article is essentially a compilation of texts from the following books which are now in the public domain:

  1. Hotham (probably): The operations of the Allied Amy under the command of his Serene Highness Prince Ferdinand Duke of Brunswic and Luneberg beginning in the year 1757 and ending in the year 1762, London: T. Jefferies, 1764, pp. 2-17, 21
  2. Jomini, Henri: Traité des grandes opérations militaires, 2ème édition, 2ème partie, Magimel, Paris: 1811, pp. 1-5
  3. Anonymous: A Complete History of the Present War, from its Commencement in 1756, to the End of the Campaign, 1760, London, 1761, pp. 201-206, 217-221, 242-244
  4. Pajol, Charles P. V.: Les Guerres sous Louis XV, vol. IV, Paris, 1891, pp. 118-127
  5. Carlyle, T.: History of Friedrich II of Prussia, vol. 18
  6. Archenholz, J. W.: The History of the Seven Years War in Germany, translated by F. A. Catty, Francfort, 1843, pp. 79-85, 103, 124, 209

Other sources

Rogge, Christian: The French & Allied Armies in Germany during the Seven Years War, Frankfurt, 2006

Rohan Chabot, Alix de: Le Maréchal de Belle Isle ou la revanche de Foucquet, Perrin, Paris, 2005