1757 - Austrian raid on Berlin

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The raid took place in October 1757

Introduction

Marschall's Corps at Lauban
Infantry

Cavalry (6 rgts)

On September 13 1757, when the main Austrian army passed the Queiss at Lauban (present-day Luban/PL) to advance further in Silesia, Prince Charles of Lorraine left a force of 15,000 men (11 bns and 6 cavalry rgts) under FZM Baron Marschall at Lauban to protect Lusatia.

On September 15, another Austrian corps of 7,000 men under FML Count Andreas Hadik was posted at Radeburg to cover Lusatia and Bohemia against a possible offensive of Frederick II. This corps was subordinated to Marschall. Prince Charles asked Hadik to inform him on the feasibility of an endeavour against Berlin.

Indeed, Frederick's advance towards the Franco-Imperial Army in Saxony and Bevern's slow retreat towards Breslau (present-day Wrocław) in Silesia had opened a wide gap in the Prussian lines. Furthermore, terror had already spread in the Mark, the Land Militia were not yet properly trained and Frederick still hesitated on his plan of action. Therefore, Hadik gave a positive advice.

The Austrian high command resolved to take advantage of the situation and to launch a raid on Berlin. The forces destined to this expedition were placed under the command of Hadik.

On September 18 at Wurzen, Prince Moritz of Anhalt was informed by Minister von Borcke that Hadik was marching with approx. 13,500 men by Radeburg and Grossenhain towards Kossdorf. Small Austrian parties were raiding up to Jüterbog so it was impossible to determine if Hadik's Corps was advancing on Torgau, Wittenberg or against the Mark.

Description

Preparation of the expedition

Marschall, who was still posted with his corps at Lauban to protect Lusatia, detached 1,200 foot and 800 horse (under Colonel Count Gourcy of Prinz Savoyen Dragoons) from his corps and from the garrison of Zittau to join Hadik's Corps.

On September 25, the first part of Marschall's detachment (600 foot and 800 horse) set off from Lauban and marched to the assigned rendezvous at Elsterwerda.

On September 30, FZM Marschall marched to Görlitz with his entire corps to cover Hadik's raid. However, Hadik fell ill and the operation was postponed to October.

Manoeuvres during the raid on Berlin in October 1757
Copyright: Harald Skala

On October 9, Count Andreas Hadik marched from Radeburg and Grossenhain towards Elsterwerda.

On October 10

  • Austrians
    • Hadik left 1,000 Grenzer light troops and 300 hussars on the Elbe between Schandau and Meissen and assembled the rest of his corps at Elsterwerda to the north of Dresden. He was seconded Baron von Babocsay, Count Mitrovsky and General von Kleefeld. This detachment assembled at Elsterwerda counted 5,100 men and consisted of:
  • Prussians
    • Moritz wrote to Frederick to inform him of the rumour that Marschall's Corps had already crossed the Elbe.

Hadik advances on Berlin

On October 11

  • Austrians
    • Hadik marched from Elsterwerda, leaving Kleefeld behind with 240 cuirassiers, 300 hussars, 1,000 Grenzer light troops and 2 guns to cover his advance. A unit of 100 picked hussars was also charged to protect the line of communication between Hadik's force and his base at Elsterwerda. With these detachments, Hadik had only 3,160 men with him for his raid. His vanguard consisted of 300 men of the Baranyay Hussars under Ujházy.
    • Marschall marched to Bautzen.
  • Prussians
    • Frederick received inaccurate intelligence from General Finck stating that 15,000 Austrians (mainly Grenzer light troops), which had been left as rearguard at Stolpen under General Hadik, were on march for Berlin. Frederick first thought that the Swedes and perhaps Richelieu's French Army would also advance on Berlin. In fact, just a detachment of about 3,000 Austrians was advancing on Berlin. However, there were no significant Prussian force between Hadik's detachment and Berlin. The road to Brandenburg was completely open. Berlin itself had nothing but palisades and a weak garrison of 4,000 men (2,000 militia, a few recruits and a few hundreds regulars) under General Rochow.
    • Frederick, informed of Hadik's advance, marched with his corps from Buttstädt in Thuringia to Eckartsberga and Lißdorf, sending his artillery forward at Naumburg.
    • Frederick also sent orders to Prince Moritz to immediately cross the Elbe near Torgau to forestall Hadik.

On October 12

  • Austrians
    • Hadik reached Luckau. He then detached Ujházy with hussars to cover his flank and to raise contributions in the Golssen and Baruth and Mittenwalde Countries.
  • Prussians
    • Frederick rose in haste from his camp, planning to leave the region of Thuringia in the Electorate of Saxony and to rescue Berlin.

On October 13, Hadik resumed his advance and reached Lübben.

On October 14

  • Austrians
    • Hadik arrived at Wendisch-Buchholz (present-day Märkisch Buchholz). He sent a detachment of hussars towards Beeskow on the banks of the Spree River with instructions to seize the bridge there. He also sent a detachment to Neu-Schadow to destroy the local ammunition foundry.
  • Prussians
    • Frederick, leaving Field Marshall Keith at Naumburg with 7 bns and 6 sqns, marched to Weissenfels and sent his artillery and bread-wagons to Leipzig.
    • From Weissenfels, Frederick personally went to Leipzig to make preparations for the march towards Berlin, leaving command to Prince Heinrich at Weissenfels.
    • Seydlitz at the head of Szekely Hussars joined Moritz's Corps in Eilenburg to transmit Frederick's orders to Moritz to send the vanguard (Grenadier Battalion Ramin, Grenadier Battalion Jung-Billerbeck, 5 sqns Rochow Cuirassiers and 10 sqns Szekely Hussars) under Seydlitz by Torgau towards Berlin. Seydlitz reached Torgau the same day.
    • Vague rumours spread in Berlin about the presence of Austrian troops in the district of Teltow, but they not taken seriously.

On October 15

  • Austrians
    • Hadik reached Königs-Wusterhausen. Once more, he sent Ujházy ahead towards Berlin. *Prussians
    • Frederick had reached Leipzig on his way to Torgau.
    • Prince Moritz reached Jessen with 6 bns and 5 sqns.
    • In Berlin, the approach of an Austrian force was confirmed and Minister Count Finckensten made preparations for the departure of the court and the ministry. However, Finckenstein and the governor of Berlin, Lieutenant-General von Rochow, both considered that there was no hurry. Nevertheless, the young princes Friedrich Wilhelm and Heinrich were both sent to the Fortress of Spandau and preparations made for the removal of the treasure and the archives to the same fortress.

During the night of October 15 to 16, Hadik made an indirect approach on Berlin, leaving the main road and marching through the "Royal Forest" by Schmöckwitz.

In these days, the City of Berlin included the inner quarters of Berlin, Kölln, Friedrichswerder, Dorotheenstadt (aka Neustadt) and Frierichstadt; and the suburbs of Kölln, Köpenick, Stralau and Spandau. The suburbs were surrounded by a 4.40 m. high wall.

The garrison consisted of 6 bns of poor value (the Saxon Loen Fusiliers, the Land Regiment Lüderitz and newly raised garrison bns) and a group of recruits, a total of 5,000 men. There were 2 artillery pieces served by 8 gunners. The recently raised Kurmark Land Militia Regiment von Borck (3 bns) was supposed to take up quarters in Berlin but were not yet arrived. Rochow unsuccessfully tried to equip some recruits destined to dragoon regiments with horses taken from breweries.

On October 16, Prince Moritz reached Jüterbogk and Prince Heinrich marched from Lützen with the troops to join. Frederick

Hadik captures Berlin

Engagement at the gates of Berlin on October 16 1757
Source: Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen, volume III by the German Grosser Generalstab
Courtesy: Tony Flores

On October 16, with no cavalry, Rochow was forced to send out 500 of Loen Fusiliers under Lieutenant-Colonel von Zitzewitz to locate the Austrians. As this small detachment came out of the city, it saw Austrian hussars deployed south of the Silesian Gate and Kottbus Gate. They took refuge in the forest before Zitzewitz could engage them. He returned to Berlin and reinforced the troops defending the gates.

At about 11:00 a.m., Hadik skilfully emerged at the Silesian Gate of Berlin with about 3,000 men and four guns and summoned the town to give a ransom of 300,000 thalers. The Prussian garrison refused to accede to his demand.

In Berlin, rumours spread that Hadik's Corps was just the vanguard of Marschall's Army estimated at 15,000 men.

Ujházy with his 300 hussars was supposed to make a diversionary attack on the Potsdam Gate but he remained in the woods near the Academy.

Hadik who had prepared for an assault on the town then launched four Grenzer companies under Colonel Ried against the Silesian Gate and the bridge on the Spree. Ried was supported by two 6-pdr guns in front of the Silesian Gate, between the walls and the wet ditch.

Hadik simultaneously sent two additional companies (1 grenadier coy of Slavonisch-Gradiskaner Grenzer and 1 grenadier coy of Karlstädter-Szluiner Grenzer) with two 3-pdr guns to attack the drawbridge protecting the Stralau Suburb. During the latter attack, a lucky cannon shot soon broke the chains of the drawbridge which fell open. The Austrians immediately stormed the drawbridge driving off the 300 Prussians defending the position.

Meanwhile, Hadik forced his way into Berlin through the Silesian Gate with 1,400 men (700 grenzers, 300 hussars and 400 horse), capturing approx. 200 men of Loen Fusiliers.

Six Prussian coys from IV./Garrison Regiment No. VII Lange and VI./Garrison Regiment No. VII Lange had taken position on the place between the Silesian Gate and the suburb of Köpenick. They immediately engaged the Austrians. They wheeled right to face north-eastwards and then wheeled again to fire in the left flank of the Austrians. Major-General Babocsay summoned the 6 coys to surrender but the defenders under Major von Tesmar replied with a salvo. Babocsay was mortally wounded during this engagement.

Hadik rapidly rode against the left flank of the Prussian infantry with his hussars and horse while Ried at the head of Grenzer light troops attacked the Prussian right flank at the point of the bayonet. The Prussians were soon defeated.

With the Silesian Gate lost, the detachment of Loen Fusiliers defending the Kottbus Gate retreated, closely followed by the Austrian cavalry who captured several of them.

Now the suburb of Köpenick was in Hadik's hands.

The Prussians defending the bridge giving access to the suburb of Stralau gave way at the first shots of the Austrian artillery. Hadik sent 3 Grenzer coys to occupy it. However, the draw-bridge had been lifted and they could not enter into Berlin.

For the defence of the city gates, the Prussians had lost 5 officers (including Lieutenant-Colonel von Lange and Major von Tesmar) and 93 men killed; 140 men wounded; and 12 officers; 427 men taken prisoners; and 200 men who deserted to the enemy.

Rochow, who was overestimating Hadik's force, marched off thereupon for Spandau with the royal family and effects.

By 6:00 p.m., there were no Prussian troops in Berlin and Hadik was master of the suburb. He encamped outside of the city walls.

Hadik remained in the suburb for about twelve hours and finally obtained a ransom of 235,000 thalers (among which 25,000 thalers paid directly to the troops to avoid plundering).

Lieutenant Count Olivieri of Prinz Savoyen Dragoons received the honour to bring the report about the occupation of the suburbs of Berlin to Field-Marshall Daun operating in Silesia.

Hadik retreats towards Lusatia

On October 17

  • Austrians
    • At about 5:00 a.m., Hadik left Berlin after hearing of Moritz's advance and reached Storkow.
    • Hadik sent a detachment against Frankfurt-an-Oder who had to pay a ransom of 30,000 thalers.
  • Prussians

On October 18

  • Austrians
    • Hadik reached Beeskow.
  • Prussians
    • The Prussian Court returned to Berlin.
    • Prince Heinrich arrived at Eilenburg with the rest of Frederick's Corps.
    • Frederick, who was now at Eilenburg, a march beyond Torgau; heard that Hadik had already left Berlin. Accordingly, Frederick called halt in the Torgau Country while he was deciding on his next move.
    • In the evening, Moritz finally arrived in Berlin but with his tired troops who had marched some 160 km, it was impossible to catch Hadik, now two marches ahead.

On October 19

  • Austrians
    • Early in the day, Hadik set off from Beeskow, after destroying the bridge and marched to Lieberose.
    • The detachment sent against Frankfurt am Oder rejoined Hadik's Corps.
  • Prussians
    • Prince Moritz sent Seydlitz to pursue Hadik's Corps.

On October 20

  • Austrians
    • Hadik reached Kottbus.
  • Prussians
    • Prince Moritz recalled Seydlitz's detachment to Berlin.

On October 21, Hadik arrived at Spremberg where he ordered a day rest.

On October 22, General Seydlitz's hussars made contact with Ujházy's detachment near Elsterwerda. The Austrians lost 20 men and 50 other were captured by the Prussians.

On October 23

  • Austrians
    • Hadik's force reached Hoyerswerda. He was now out of reach of his Prussian pursuers and in communication with Marschall's Corps.
    • Kleefeld's detachment retired from Elsterwerda to Senftenberg where he was joined by Ujházy's detachment.
  • Prussians
    • The court, the ministry and the treasure were removed to the Fortress of Magdeburg.

For this feat of arms, Hadik received the Great-Cross of the Maria-Theresien-Orden.

In Berlin, redoubts were built in front of the city gates and artillery brought from the arsenal to equip them.

References

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

  • Archenholz, J. W.: The History of the Seven Years War in Germany, translated by F. A. Catty, Francfort, 1843, pp. 89-91
  • Carlyle, T.: History of Friedrich II of Prussia vol. 18
    • Grosser Generalstab Kriegsgeschichtliche Abteilung II: Die Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen, Part 3 Der siebenjährige Krieg 1756-1763, Vol. 5 Hastenbeck und Roßbach, Berlin, 1903, pp. 143, 145-146, 173-184
  • Tempelhoff, Fr.: History of the Seven Years' War, Vol. I p. 147, 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. 429-432

Other sources:

Skala, Harald: Österreichische Militärgeschichte

Wengen, F. v.: Geschichte des k. k. österreichischen 13. Dragoner-Regimentes Prinz Eugen von Savoyen, Brandeis, 1879