1757 - Austrian invasion of Silesia – The return of the King

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Hierarchical Path: Seven Years War (Main Page) >> Campaigns >> 1757 - Austrian invasion of Silesia >> The Return of the King

The campaign lasted from June to December 1757

Introduction

The manoeuvres of the Prussians in Northern Bohemia as they tried to hold their ground against the Austrians are described in our article The Prussians try to hold Northern Bohemia (June 24 to July 14, 1757).

The retreat of Prince Wilhelm's Army to Lusatia, the capture of Gabel by the Austrians, Frederick's retreat to Lusatia and the Battle of Landeshut are described in our article The Prussians retreat to Lusatia (July 15 to August 24, 1757).

Frederick's departure for Saxony and Bevern's gradual retreat in Silesia, including the Combat of Moys, the capture of the Fortress of Schweidnitz by the Austrians and the Battle of Breslau are described in our article The Austrians invade Silesia (August 25 to November 23, 1757).

Description

On November 24

  • Austrians
    • Prince Charles had thrown a garrison into Liegnitz (present-day Legnica/PL) on Frederick's road while he himself lay encamped in front of Breslau (present-day Wrocław/PL). Prince Charles commanded a force of some 80,000 men.
    • Kálnoky took position at Striegau (present-day Strzegom) with 2 hussar rgts and 2,000 Grenzer light troops.
  • Prussians
    • At 3:00 a.m., the Duke of Bevern ordered his army to march towards Trebnitz (present-day Trzebnica/PL) while he personally proceeded towards Glogau (present-day Glogow/PL) with a small escort.
    • In the evening, the Duke of Bevern was intercepted at an Austrian outpost and taken prisoner. He was sent to Kolonie Sandberg (present-day Nowa Karczma/PL) and then to Stabelwitz (present-day Stabłowice/PL) and finally to Brünn (present-day Brno/CZ).
    • In the evening, General Lestwitz, the Prussian commandant in Breslau, accepted the terms offered for the surrender of Breslau. The garrison was allowed free withdrawal but massively deserted.
    • Frederick received erroneous information mentioning that Bevern had defeated the Austrians in front of Breslau.

On November 25

  • Austrians
    • The Austrians garrisoned Breslau with 6,000 men under FML Baron Sprecher.
  • Prussians
    • At 3:00 a.m., Lestwitz surrendered the Schweidnitz Gate and the Oder Gate. Thus sealing the fate of the Fortress of Breslau.
    • At 9:00 a.m., G.d.C. von Zieten was informed at the camp of Protsch an der Weide (present-day Pracze Widawskie/PL) of the capture of Bevern. Nevertheless, he waited for his possible return until the afternoon. Lieutenant-General Friedrich Wilhelm Baron von Kyau opened a letter sent by Frederick on November 21 from Bautzen where he mentioned the importance to hold Breslau at all cost until his return.
    • At 1:30 p.m., Katte sent a message confirming that Bevern had been captured. Kyau then took command of the army. Considering that the departure for Glogau had already been decided by Bevern, Kyau left Breslau to its fate and made towards Glogau, setting off from Protsch in the afternoon.
    • At Naumburg am Queiss (present-day Nowogrodziec/PL), Frederick was finally informed of the true results of the Battle of Breslau. Still ignoring that Bevern had been captured, he immediately sent him instruction to personally assume the defence of Breslau with 10 to 12 bns and to send the rest of his army by Leubus (present-day Lubiąż/PL) and Parchwitz (present-day Prochowice/PL) to effect a junction with his own army. He stressed the importance of holding at all cost in Breslau and forbade to surrender the city. He intended to march from Parchwitz on December 2 at the latest towards Neumarkt (present-day Środa Śląska/PL). He would then attack the Austrians and Bevern should simultaneously make a sortie from Breslau.

On his way, Kyau informed Frederick of Bevern's orders. Frederick repeated his orders to hold Breslau at all cost. He also ordered Zieten to replace Kyau as commander of the army.

After the capture of Breslau, Prince Charles did not pursue Kyau's retreating Prussian army. He just sent Major-General von Beck with his corps to observe its movements.

On November 27

  • Prussians
    • As Frederick's Army was approaching, Prince Charles and Field Marshal Daun sent 1,000 men to reinforce the garrison of Liegnitz. However, they only reached Neumarkt. Kálnoky retired from Striegau to Jauer (present-day Jawor/PL). The main Austrian army rearranged its camp behind the Lohe to face west.
  • Prussians
    • Kyau marched by Stroppen (present-day Strupina) and reached Hünern (present-day Psary/PL) where he received Frederick's letter sent two days before.

On November 28

  • Prussians
    • Kyau arrived at Guhrau (present-day Góra) where he received Frederick's orders that he shall be put in arrest and that Zieten shall take command in his place. Frederick also ordered Zieten to bring his army round by Glogau and to rendezvous with him at Parchwitz on December 2.
    • Frederick passed north of Liegnitz, merely ignoring its Austrian garrison, and arrived at Parchwitz on November 28, taking an Austrian detachment by surprise, killing 50 of them and capturing 150 men. Frederick rested his weary troops there, waiting for Zieten to join him.

On November 29, Kyau's Army reached Brostau (unidentified location) south-west of Glogau after four consecutive marches.

On November 30, Zieten and Kyau set off from Brostau and marched by Polkwitz (present-day Polkowice/PL) and Lüben (present-day Lubin/PL) to effect a junction with Frederick's Army at Parchwitz on December 2.

On December 2, as planned, Zieten after crossing the Oder at Glogau, arrived at Parchwitz with the remnants of Bevern's army (some 15,000 men). Frederick was now at the head of an army of about 28,600 men, a very small army in comparison with the Austrian army which counted more than 80,000 men...

On December 3, Prince Charles further reinforced the garrison of Liegnitz while Frederick rested his troops.

In the night of December 3, Frederick assembled his generals and addressed a memorable speech to them. Meanwhile, the Austrians had held a council of war and decided to come out of their defences and to meet Frederick in a pitched fight. Daun had objected to this aggressive stance but to no avail.

Sunday December 4 at 4:00 a.m., Frederick marched from Parchwitz straight towards the Austrian camp. The vanguard consisted of 10 bns with 800 volunteers from the whole army at their head, all the Feldjäger zu Fuß, all the freikorps, all the hussar regiments (to the exception of Werner Hussars), the dragoon regiments of Czettritz, Normann and Jung-Krockow, and a battery of 10 heavy 12-pdrs. The army followed in four columns by the right flank. The first column consisted of the cavalry of the right wing of the first and second line. The second column was composed of the infantry of the right wing of the first and second line. Their rearguard was formed of the 3 bns (Grenadiers 29/31 Östenreich, VI. Standing Grenadier Battalion and I./Prinz Ferdinand Infantry) which covered the baggage. The third column consisted of the infantry of the left wing of the first and second line. The fourth column was formed of the cavalry of the left wing of the first and second line. Werner Hussars had the rearguard. The heavy artillery were divided into two brigades and moved behind the second and third columns. Frederick himself was in the vanguard, he planned to establish his quarters at Neumarkt, a little town about 22 km from Parchwitz.

Early in the afternoon, while Frederick was only a few km from Neumarkt, he learned that there were 1,000 grenzers and hussars in this town, with the Austrian bakery at work there and engineer people marking out an Austrian camp. Therefore, before entering Neumarkt, Frederick sent a regiment to ride quietly round it on both sides and to seize a height he knew of. Once this height had been seized by his troops, Frederick burst the barrier of Neumarkt with the hussars, volunteers and freikorps of the vanguard, and dashed in upon the 1,000 light troops, flinging them out in extreme hurry. The light troops then found the height occupied and their retreat cut off. Of the 1,000 light troops, 569 were taken prisoners and 120 slain. Better still, the Austrian bakery in Neumarkt delivered 80,000 bread-rations, Prince Charles had exposed his bakery too far ahead of his army.

Meanwhile, fearing that Frederick would move on Striegau to cut his line of communication with Bohemia, Prince Charles had come across the Weistritz River (more commonly called Schweidnitz Water), leaving all his heavy guns at Breslau, and lay encamped that night in a long line perpendicular to Frederick's march, some 16 km ahead of him. Prince Charles had now learned with surprise how his bakery had been snapped up by the Prussians.

Battle of Leuthen

On December 5, through wonderful manoeuvring, the small Prussian army (28,600 men) of Frederick managed to defeat the much larger Austrian army (70,000 men) during the famous Battle of Leuthen (present-day Lutynia/PL).

On December 6, Frederick ordered a day of rest but advanced a few troops towards Pilsnitz (present-day Pilczyce), Neukirch (present-day Zerniki) and Gross-Mochbern (present-day Mochobor Wielki). The Austrians had fled across the Lohe River and were endeavouring to assemble in the neighbourhood of Breslau where Prince Charles and Daun had deployed in the Lohe entrenchments between Gräbschen (present-day Grabiszyn/PL) and Schmiedefeld (present-day Kuzniki). However, most of their army was dispersed into woods, office-houses, farm-villages and over a wide space of country. As the day rose, troops began to dribble in. At 3:00 p.m., Prince Charles marched with some 33,000 men in two columns towards Kothensirben (unidentified location), heading for Schweidnitz (present-day Świdnica/PL), with the vanguard under Nádasdy and the rearguard under Serbelloni. A garrison of some 17,000 men under Sprecher was left to defend Breslau.

On December 7, the Prussian army moved in two columns by their right and crossed the Weistritz River (Schweidnitz Water). FML Buccow was posted with the Austrian rearguard between Klein-Mochbern (present-day Muchobor Maly ) and Höfchen (present-day Dworek). When the Prussian hussars approached, the Austrian rearguard retired. The same day, the Austrian main army under Prince Charles continued its retreat up to Mantre near Poehrau (unidentified location) where it crossed the Lohe.

Siege of Breslau

On December 7, Frederick sent Zieten with 3 grenadier bns, 3 musketeer bns, 4 hussar sqns, 5 dragoon sqns and 2 freikorps bns in pursuit of the Austrian army. Zieten pursued the Austrians until December 9, capturing more than 2,000 prisoners and 3,000 wagons. Meanwhile, Frederick laid siege to Breslau defended by Sprecher with 17,000 men. On December 21, the Austrian garrison deposited arms after a vigorous defence.

Austrian army leaves Silesia

As mentioned above, on December 6, Prince Charles and Daun, leaving a garrison in Breslau, had begun their retreat towards Schweidnitz with the rest of their army.

On December 8, Prince Charles and Daun reached Langen-Seifersdorf (unidentified location).

On December 9, the Austrian main army marched to Bogendorf (present-day Witoszówka/PL) near Schweidnitz and encamped there. A detachment of 2,500 men was then sent to reinforce the garrison of Liegnitz (1,000 men). During the following days, Schweidnitz was garrisoned and supplied to sustain a siege. In the first days of their retreat, the Austrians had been chased by Zieten who took 2,000 prisoners and innumerable baggage and wagons. The retreat was conducted under adverse weather: heavy rains, deep mud, with cutting snow-blasts.

On December 14, Prince Charles and Daun took their quarters between Freiburg (present-day Świebodzice/PL) and Reichenau (present-day Stare Bogaczowice/PL). They then continued to Landeshut (present-day Kamenia Gora/PL) and down the mountains, home to Königgrätz (present-day Hradec Králové/CZ).

On December 16, a Prussian detachment under Driesen appeared in the neighbourhood of Liegnitz.

On December 17, the Austrian reinforcements (2,500 men) sent to Liegnitz finally arrived at destination, bringing the garrison to a strength of 3,500 men. This garrison was under the command of Major Baron von Bülow.

On December 23, Frederick detached Prince Moritz of Anhalt-Dessau with a large corps (about 10,000 men) of infantry and cavalry, and a considerable train of artillery to dislodge the Austrian garrison of Liegnitz.

On December 24, Frederick accompanied by his brother, Prince Ferdinand, left for Schweidnitz.

At Christmas, the Austrian army had finally reached Königgrätz, it then counted only 37,000 rank and file (9,000 foot and 28,000 horse and grenzers), 22,000 of whom were gone to hospital. A large number of men had deserted during the retreat. The same day, Prince Moritz of Anhalt-Dessau arrived in front of Liegnitz. Including Driesen's detachment, he had about 16,000 men under his command. The Katz River was frozen, making it quite easy to launch an assault on the town. The prince summoned Bülow who refused to surrender unless he and his garrison were allowed to freely retire to Bohemia.

On December 26, the Austrian garrison of Liegnitz, seeing no hope, consented to withdraw.

On December 27 at noon, the Austrian garrison left the town with the honour of war, drum beating, colours flying and with 6 guns; and retired to Bohemia where it reached Königgrätz after a march of 9 days. Large supplies of provisions fell into the hands of the Prussians together with a number of guns and a great quantity of ammunition.

However, the Prussians could not besiege Schweidnitz till spring. Except Schweidnitz, Austria had now no foot of ground in Silesia.

References

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

  • Anonymous: A Complete History of the Present War, from its Commencement in 1756, to the End of the Campaign, 1760, London, 1761, pp. 223-226, 236-240
  • Archenholz, J. W.: The History of the Seven Years War in Germany, translated by F. A. Catty, Francfort, 1843, pp. 70-71
  • Carlyle, T.: History of Friedrich II of Prussia vol. 18
  • Donnersmarck, Victor Amadaeus Henckel von: Militaerischer Nachlass, Karl Zabeler, 1858
  • Gorani, Joseph: Mémoires, Paris: Gallimard, 1944, pp. 64-82
    • Relation de la bataille de Leuthen, Vienna, January 1758, pp. 472-477
    • Relation de la bataille de Lissa, Berlin, January 1758, pp. 477-483
  • Grosser Generalstab Kriegsgeschichtliche Abteilung II: Die Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen, Part 3 Der siebenjährige Krieg 1756-1763
    • Vol. 3 Kolin, Berlin, 1901, pp. 115-196, Anhang 30, 38, 39 43
    • Vol. 4 Groß-Jägersdorf und Breslau, Berlin, 1902, pp. 117-216
  • Kyaw, Rudolf v.: Chronik des adeligen und freiherrlichen Geschlechtes von Kyaw, Leipzig, 1870 pp. 385-399
  • Tempelhoff, Fr., History of the Seven Years' War Vol. I pp. 121-147 & 176-188 & 190-, as translated by Colin Lindsay, Cadell, London, 1793
  • Vanicek, Fr.: Specialgeschichte der Militärgrenze aus Originalquellen und Quellenwerken geschöpft, Vol. II, Vienna: Kaiserlich-Königlichen Hof- und Staatsdruckerei, 1875, pp. 427-433

Other sources:

Cogswell, Neil, Journal of Horace St. Paul 1757: The Advance to Nismes, Seven Years War Association Journal Vol. XI No. 3 and Vol. XII No. 2

Fuller J. F. C., The Decisive Battles of the Western World, Granada Publishing Ltd, 1970, pp. 571-576

Salisch, M. von: Treue Deserteure – Das kursächsische Militär und der Siebenjährige Krieg, Munich, 2009

Schuster, O. and F. Francke: Geschichte der Sächsischen Armee, 2. part, Leipzig 1885

Skala, Harald: Rückzug des preussischen Heeres nach der Schlacht bei Kolin 1757, der Fall von Gabel und Zittau

Acknowledgement

Harald Skala for information on the Saxon cavalry during this period