1757 - French invasion of Hanover – Preparations and initial moves

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Hierarchical Path: Seven Years War (Main Page) >> Campaigns >> 1757 - French invasion of Hanover >> Preparations and initial moves

The campaign lasted from March to November 1757. This article describes the first phase of the campaign from January 1 to May 17, 1757.

Description

Preparations

In November 1756, King George II resolved to send the Hanoverian contingent stationed in Great Britain back to the continent.

On December 5 1756, the first 4 bns of the Hanoverian contingent re-embarked at Chatham to return to Germany. However, the rest of the Hanoverian contingent and the Hessian contingent were kept in Great Britain and ordered into winter-quarters.

In January 1757, negotiations took place between the courts of Versailles and Vienna.

On February 1, Louis XV dismissed Machault as Secretary at the Navy, and d'Argenson as Secretary to War. He then entrusted the Navy to M. de Moras.

On February 2, Louis XV sent the Comte d'Estrées to Vienna to offer to Empress Maria Theresa the support of an army of 105,000 men on the Lower Rhine in addition to a corps of 6,000 Württembergers and 4,000 Bavarians, under French subsidies, who would join her own army.

Furthermore, Louis XV concluded an accord with the Elector of Palatinate for a corps of 6,000 Palatines who would serve with the French Army. Meanwhile, M. de Ryhiner raised a corps of 1,800 men in the Electorate of Cologne to serve with the Reichsarmee.

On February 15, the first French troops departed for the Lower Rhine and the Lower Meuse and marched towards Neuss and Linnich (12 bns, 4 sqns)

On February 17 1757, William Pitt asked the House of Commons to assist the King of Great Britain in the constitution of an Army of Observation in Hanover and in the financing of his Prussian ally.

On February 18, Lieutenant-General Comte d'Estrées pledged to the Court of Vienna to engage a French army of 105,000 men on the Lower Rhine.

The Army of Brunswick mobilised in February. Each battalion was brought to full strength through contributions from garrison units. The contingent who joined the Allied army consisted of 7 bns with 14 pieces and the necessary train, for a total of about 8,600 men.

On February 21, the British House of Commons granted 200,000 £ to the king. The Duke of Cumberland was then appointed by the king for the command of the Army of Observation.

On February 21 and 22, Belle-Isle held a conference to make preparations for the assembly of a French Army on the Lower Rhine.

On February 24, Louis XV promoted the Comte d'Estrées to the dignity of maréchal, assigning him Maillebois as maréchal général des logis and M. de Lucé as intendant.

Bad weather postponed the departure of the rest of the Hanoverian contingents who had wintered in England till the end of February.

On February 28, Maria Theresa informed the Comte d'Estrées of her decision to launch an offensive in Lusatia during a final conference before his departure.

On March 1, d'Estrées was placed at the head of the French Army of the Lower Rhine. The Duc d'Orléans would replace him in case of sickness. Till the arrival of d'Estrées, the Prince de Soubise assumed command on the Lower Rhine. He was later destined to take command of a relief corps who would act in conjunction with the Reichsarmee.

Initial moves

On March 2, British transports disembarked the last part of the Hanoverian contingent at Cuxhaven on the Lower Elbe. These regiments then returned to their respective garrison places.

From March 3 to 5, French troops departed from Lille, Valenciennes and Maubeuge to invest Wesel. Thus, France was first in the field on the western front, its army assembling in two camps on the frontiers of Flanders.

On March 15, the Prussian garrison of Wesel (about 5,000 men in 6 bns) brought off the artillery and stores, blew up any suitable works and started to evacuate the fortress to join the "Britannic Army of Observation" (called "Allied Army” in this article) which was assembling in this region.

On March 24

On March 25

  • French
    • Soubise arrived at Bruxelles.
    • Allies
    • The Allied Army assembled between Verden and Nienburg, and from Boderwerder to Hameln. This army under British pay consisted of Hanoverians, Brunswickers, Bückeburgers and Sachsen-Gothaers. In addition, there were the Hanoverian contingents previously stationed in England and amounting to 9,000 men. The Army of Observation numbered 49,000 men on paper and probably more than 40,000 effective men. Its headquarters were at Bielefeld on the Weser.

On March 26

  • French
    • The French Army crossed the German border into the countries of Kleve and Cologne.
    • Soubise reached Tongres where he learned of the evacuation of Wesel. The French plan had now to be changed. Soubise sent instructions to M. de Dombasle, commanding the 4 Austrian bns (one battalion of each of the following regiments: Los Rios, Sachsen-Gotha, Ligne, Arberg) who would join his army, to send a detachment, supported by the Chasseurs de Fischer, from Roermond to Kleve, Rees and Büderich to stop the last laden boats on the Rhine.

On March 27

  • French
    • D'Estrées assumed command of the French Army. D'Estrées' army actually numbered more than 100,000 men (110,405 men as per the army lists). Its primary objective was Prussia. Maréchal d'Estrées, crossing at Cologne, asked to Great Britain to yield him a road through Hanover in exchange for neutrality. D'Estrées had under him the Marquis de Contades, Lieutenant-General Chevert and the Comte de Saint-Germain.
    • Soubise took command of the Reserve who, despite its name, assumed the role of vanguard.

On April 1

  • French
    • A second Treaty of Versailles was signed between France and Austria, specifying how Prussian territories would be distributed among its enemies at the end of the war. By this treaty, Austria would recover Silesia, the County of Glatz and the Duchy of Crossen; Saxony would recover Magdeburg and Halberstadt; Sweden would receive Pomerania; Prussian possessions on the Rhine would be distributed among various princes; Austria would cede to France the cities of Ostende, Nieuport, Furnes, the Fort of Knock, Ypres, Mons, Chimay and Beaumont while the Fortress of Luxembourg would be razed; the rest of the Austrian Netherlands would become the property of the Infant of Parma. France could immediately occupy Ostende and Nieuport as a guarantee.
    • The Austrian contingent occupied Kleve, soon reinforced by the first French regiments gradually arriving on the theatre of operation at Stokkem, Linnich and Neuss.
    • Saint-Germain and Maillebois, who were recently arrived at Maaseick to throw a now useless bridge on the Meuse at Stokkem, worked in collaboration with Soubise at the establishment of a cantonment for the 24 bns and 4 sqns then under Soubise's orders.
  • Allies
    • The Prussian garrison of Wesel, under the command of Lieutenant-General La Motte, arrived at Lippstadt.

On April 2, Soubise arrived at Roermond.

On April 3

  • French
    • Soubise moved his headquarters from Roermond to Neuss, leaving to Comte de Lorges the command of the camps of his left in the Kleve Country and to M. de Saint-Chamond, maréchal-de-camp, the command of the troops blockading Geldern. The six battalions blockading Geldern were:
    • Belzunce Infanterie (4 bns) arrived at Neuss, the other troops would successively arrive and encamp at their prescribed locations.
  • Allies
    • The Prussians had left 720 men (Garrison Battalion La Motte and a garrison coy transferred from Mörs in October 1756) under Colonel von Salmuth in Geldern and had flooded, although quite imperfectly, the approaches of the place.

On April 4, the French commanders heard of the continuation of the retreat of the enemy from Wesel to Lippstadt.

On April 5

  • French
    • M. de Chabot left for Büderich with a detachment of Volontaires Royaux and of Chasseurs de Fischer. His objective was to seize ammunition left behind by the Prussians in Wesel and to prepare this place for the arriving French and Austrian garrison. A detachment of Volontaires Royaux and of Chasseurs de Fischer was also sent on the Lippe to prohibit the population from supplying grain and paying taxes to the King of Prussia.
    • The French commanders received intelligence that the Allied Army was moving from Lippstadt to Rittberg, an imperial possession belonging to the Count of Cauwitz.
    • Soubise was at Düsseldorf with his corps.

On April 6

  • French
    • Chabot entered into Wesel.
    • Count Dombasle entered into Kleve with 3 Austrian battalions (Sachsen-Gotha, Ligne, Arberg). This town had sent deputies to submit to the domination of the King of France.

On April 7, the French commanders learned that the Prussians, after living on the County of Rittberg, had taken possession of the castle and had marched on the County of Ravensberg.

On April 8

  • French
    • The Comte de Saint-Germain entered into Wesel with French and Austrian troops (2 Austrian battalions and 2 bns of Belzunce Infanterie). The French commanders learned that the Allied Army had asked for passage in the Bishopric of Hildesheim to take their quarters along the Rezer.
    • Chabot's detachment, removed Sieur Cappel from his office in Lussen in the County of the Marck on the Lippe on the request of the Imperial Commissioner. Sieur Cappel was corresponding with Rausfeldt, president of the regency in Kleve, and was charged to collect the remaining funds due to the King of Prussia.
  • Allies
    • A corps of 3,000 Prussians was still in Ravensberg.

On April 9, the Duke of Cumberland embarked at Harwich to join his command in Hanover.

On April 10

  • French
    • The Prince de Soubise sent a detachment of 2,500 men under Lieutenant-General Comte de Maillebois and Maréchal de camp Marquis de Crillon, to march to the Lippe and to approach the town of Münster, intimidated by the proximity of the Prussians. The detachment reached Dorsten the same day.
  • The garrison of Wesel was reinforced by the two other battalions of Belzunce Infanterie.

On April 11

  • French
    • The garrison of Wesel was further reinforced by Reding Infanterie (2 bns).
    • Maillebois' detachment reached Haltern.

On April 12

  • French
    • Maillebois' detachment reached Dülmen. He left most of his troops there and advanced, with 200 Volontaires Royaux and 100 Chasseurs de Fischer, up to Buldern, at 15 km from Münster. At Buldern, he discussed of the state of the town of Münster with the main members of the regency and with M. Rihinier, aide-maréchal-général-des-logis of the French army, who resided in this town. Maillebois had previously written a request to the regency asking for free entrance of French troops into Münster Country and for contribution to the supply of these troops throughout the bishopric. Commissioners of the regency were sent to Rezel for this purpose.
  • Allies
    • The Allied Army began to assemble in the camps of Nienburg and Hameln on the Weser. It consisted of 46 bns and 46 sqns for a total of approx. 47,000 men with 22 heavy pieces. More precisely:
    • Hanover (26 bns, 34 sqns for a total of approx. 27,000 men) under G.d.I. Von Zastrow
    • Hessen-Kassel (12 bns, 12 sqns for a total of approx. 12,000 men) under Lieutenant-General Wutginau
    • Brunswick (7 bns for a total of approx. 6,000 men) under Lieutenant-General von Imhoff
    • Schaunburg-Lippe (1 bn, 1 light cavalry corps)

On April 13, Maillebois personally went back to Haltern after distributing his troops on the Lippe under the command of the Marquis de Crillon.

On April 14

  • French
    • Maillebois returned to Wesel.
    • Soubise went from Neuss to Wesel where he established his headquarters.
    • French hussars reached Hamm.
    • French troops invested Geldern and maintained a blockade until August 23 when the place surrendered.

Meanwhile, the French commanders learned that the Allies appeared to be taking position at Lippstadt and that the Allies were on the move to assemble on the Weser. During the previous winter, Frederick II had tried to convince the Hanoverians that the Weser could not be defended. However, British instructions were to defend this river.

On April 15

  • French
    • 2 Austrian bns marched from Wesel to Schermbeck. The country around Geldern was now completely flooded. Soubise was determined to advance a corps of 10 bns and 4 sqns under the Comte de Saint-Germain assisted by Crillon and Rouillé, both maréchal de camp.
  • Allies
    • The Prussians continued their movement on the Upper Lippe and the Allies on the Weser.

On April 16

  • French
  • Allies
    • The Duke of Cumberland arrived in Hanover to take command of the Allied army.

On April 17

  • French
    • Saint-Germain (12 bns, 4 sqns) advanced on Lippstadt by Haltern and Lünen.
  • Allies
    • The Allies assembled at Nienburg and Hameln while the Duke of Cumberland arrived at Stade.

On April 19, Cumberland arrived in the city of Hanover.

On April 20

  • French
    • The French commanders learned that the Allies were still holding Lippstadt and that the movement on the Weser continued. Consequently, Soubise resolved to advance another corps to threaten the enemy at Münster. The Prince de Beauveau left with 6 bns, 40 dragoons and 50 Chasseurs de Fischer and 100 men of the Corps Royal de l'Artillerie. This detachment was ordered to enter into Münster on April 24. It would be supported by Saint-Germain's Corps already positioned on the Lippe with advanced posts at Lünen.

On April 21, Saint-Germain reached Hamm.

By April 22

  • French
    • Saint-Germain's detachments occupied various posts on both banks of the Lippe.
    • Soubise decided to reinforce Saint-Germain's Corps, sending 8 bns and 2 sqns between the Lippe and the Ruhr.
  • Allies
    • The Allies were still holding Lippstadt.

From April 23 to 27, the Hessian contingent, previously stationed in England, embarked aboard 43 British transports at Chatham to return to Germany.

On April 24

  • French
    • Soubise sent a detachment of the Corps Royal de l'Artillerie with six 12-pdrs to Saint-Germain.
    • The Prince de Beauvau entered into Münster with 6 bns, some artillery, 1 dragoon sqn and 1 hussar sqn.*Allies
    • The Prussians under the Hereditary Prince of Hessen-Kassel evacuated Lippstadt, retiring through the County of Rietberg to Bielefeld.

On April 25

  • French
    • At 4:00 p.m., the French commanders learned that the Allies had evacuated Lippstadt.
    • The Comte de Saint-Germain reached Soest.
  • Allies
    • The Prussians retreated from the County of Rietberg after destroying the castle.

On April 26

  • French
    • Saint-Germain occupied Lippstadt without combat with Belzunce Infanterie (4 bns), placing the remainder of his detachment at Hamm, Lünen, Dortmund and Werl along the Lippe.
  • Allies
    • 3 bns sent by Cumberland to reinforce Lippstadt stopped at Bielefeld when they were informed that the French already occupied the town.

On April 27 at 4:00 p.m., d’Estrées arrived at the headquarters of his army at Wesel. Upon his arrival, he received a report on the disposition of his army:

  • Beauvau's Corps (8 bns) at Münster and along the Lippe
  • Saint-Germain's Corps
    • a division (10 bns, 4 sqns) on the Upper Lippe
    • a division (8 bns, 2 sqns) between the Lippe and the Ruhr at Unna, Lünen, Dortmund, Schwerte and Herdecke
    • a division (8 bns, 10 sqns) in the Duchy of Bergh
    • a division (50 bns, 20 sqns) between the Rhine and Meuse

Furthermore, additional units were planned to arrive to bring the army to a total strength of 110 bns and 127 sqns. After inspecting the state of his army, d'Estrées estimated that it would be impossible to advance from the Rhine before May 25.

On April 28, d'Estrées sent reconnoitring parties to make sure that the flooding around Geldern still allowed for the blockade and siege of the place.

On April 29

  • French
    • D’Estrées decided to besiege Geldern as soon as possible. He assigned 17 bns to this task under the command of the Marquis d’Armentières assisted by the Comte d'Orlick, the Marquis de Dreux, the Comte de Spar, the Chevalier de Maupeou, M. de Leyde and the Duc d’Antin, all maréchaux de camp.
    • The cavalry regiments leaving Maubeuge, Valenciennes and Sedan were directed on Roermond where they would form a camp of 34 sqns. The staff commanding this camp consisted of the Lieutenant-General Duc de Chaunes assisted by MM. de Barbanson, de la Guiche, de Merceil and de Lastic, all maréchaux de camp.

On April 30

  • Allies
    • Cumberland, informed of the loss of Lippstadt, led his army to the left bank of the Weser. The main body passed the Weser at Hameln and encamped near Bielefeld and Herford where a junction was effected with the Prussians.

In April, some 1,000 French marauders had hung to keep discipline. At the end of the month, the French Army, notwithstanding detachments, still counted some 95,000 men in 100 battalions and 130 squadrons with a field artillery of 90 pieces, excluding regimental artillery. The French occupied Lippstadt and Münster.

In April, Colonel von Kalckreuth, the Prussian commandant of the Fortress of Emden had transferred the artillery pieces of the fortress by ship to Amsterdam. When Frederick had been informed, he had immediately ordered Kalckreuth to bring back the artillery pieces to Emden and, if it became necessary, to defend the place to the last man.

At the beginning of May, French detachments advanced up to Meppen and Rheine

In May

  • French
    • The Palatine Contingent assembled at Düsseldorf.
  • Allies
    • A Jägerkorps and a Husarenkorps were raised in Hanover.

On May 1

  • French
    • The Comte Beausobre blockaded the Fortress of Geldern which was the only Prussian possession left in these quarters.
    • D'Armentières' Corps left the French main army and marched towards Geldern.
  • Allies
    • The British convoy transporting the Hessian contingent sailed from Chatham.
    • The Allied army (25 bns, 34 sqns) was on the Weser, from Nienburg to Hameln, with additional detachments sent to Bielefeld.

On May 3

  • French
    • The French commanders learned that there was a body of 300 Hanoverian horse near Warendorf in the Bishopric of Münster.
  • Allies
    • Cumberland personally went to Bielefeld where 27 bns and 20 sqns were already encamped. However, Cumberland did not dare to attack Saint-Germain in the area of Lippstadt even though the Allies could field a far superior force.
    • An Allied detachment (about 4,500 men) occupied Rietberg.

On May 4

  • French
    • D'Estrées advanced on Warendorf
    • Soubise left Wesel to take command of a corps near Hamm on the Upper Lippe.
    • D'Armentières was organising the blockade of Geldern which would be delegated to M. de Beausobre
    • Saint-Germain moved closer to Lippstadt; 6 bns were detached to Dorsten and Haltern to support Münster.
    • De Muy (6 bns) occupied Lünen, Dortmund and Schwerte.

On May 5

  • French
    • A detachment of the Corps Royal de l'Artillerie with 10 guns was sent to Hamm.
    • D’Armentières, who had come to Wesel to discuss with d'Estrées, returned to Geldern to take the last measures to blockade the place. Command of the siege would then be left to Maréchal de camp de Beausobre who had with him 4 battalions:
    • Saint-Germain was still occupying the same posts on the Lippe.
    • Having heard of enemy movements, the Maréchal d’Estrées advanced new troops on the Lippe. He then took measures to advance as soon as circumstances would require it and as supply would allow.
    • A detachment of 25 horse and 25 foot of the Chasseurs de Fischer respectively under Lieutenant de Marsin and Captain de Cléry was sent to reconnoitre the Hanoverian horse near Warendorf. At Gussen, at 8 km from Warendorf, they learned that the enemy was just leaving the place after creating lot of disorder. The detachment followed the Hanoverians and Marsin finally reached them with his chasseurs à cheval at Harwimkel. There, 120 Hanoverian horse were taking measures to attack him. As Marsin was now supported by Cléry, he was able to chase them away from the village. Around 1,000 paces beyond the village, the Hanoverians took a formation of attack. Marsin and Clery did the same. They both attacked the Hanoverians so vigorously that they routed them. The Hanoverians lost from 35 to 40 men killed, including an officer and the French captured 10 men, including an officer. Marsin was wounded, only one French was killed and several horses were wounded.

On May 6

  • French
    • Soubise marched from Hamm to Lippstadt. He visited the place and the works undertaken by Saint-Germain, now under his command. The troops of the garrison successfully carried on these works with all their goodwill. There were 10 bns in the place or close enough to enter it if ordered to do so.
    • The first French cavalry regiments who had left Maubeuge, Valenciennes and Sedan started to arrived at the camp at Roermond.
  • Allies
    • The Allies were still encamped near Bielefeld or cantoned to the west of the Weser. A few Allied detachments were cantoned in Rittberg.
Order of Battle
Detailed order of battle of the French main army between May 8 and 20 1757

On May 8

  • French
    • The 6 bns sent to Dorsten and Haltern reinforced Soubise's Corps.The camp at Haltern was placed under the command of M. de Laval.
    • French troops began to pass the Rhine and encamped near Wesel.
  • Allies
    • The Allies sent several regiment to the Weser.

On May 9

  • French
    • The French commanders learned that the Duke of Cumberland, with around 10,000 men, had advanced up to Bielefeld and that his corps could be reinforced by several Hanoverian regiments who had encamped to the west of the Weser. On hearing these news, d'Estrées moved 6 bns from Dorsten and Haltern to support the posts occupied by Soubise. He also ordered part of the army to cross the Rhine and to encamp near Haltern, Dorsten and Wesel.
    • The camp of Dorsten contained 11 bns while the camp of Wesel had 13 bns and 12 sqns. Additional regiments continued to arrive, increasing the strength of these camps.

On May 10

  • Allies
    • Cumberland, still at Bielefeld with 22,000 men, sent detachments to Rietberg, Osnabrück, Versmold and Rheda.

On May 11

  • French
    • The French commanders learned that the Allies had advanced on Versmold, a village of the County of Ravensberg, and that some of their detachments had reached Rheda. With this new position, the Allies were closer to Münster.
    • D'Estrées advanced Villemeur's Corps, encamped at Dorsten to join the troops of the camp of Haltern. D'Estrées intended to advance on Dülmen with the troops of the camp of Wesel if the Allies made more determined moves.

From May 11 to 16, the British convoy transporting the Hessian contingent gradually reached Stade after having suffered a severe tempest.

On May 12, M. de Villemeur marched from Dorsten to Dülmen. On his way, he picked up 5 bns of Laval's detachment at Haltern, leaving only a 5 bns to Laval.

On May 13, Broglie sent MM. de Vault and de Greaulme, each escorted by 25 dragoons of the Volontaires Royaux, from Erwitte to reconnoitre the country around Geseke, Büren and Warburg.


On May 16, the Grenadiers de France, half of whom formed part of the garrison of Wesel, were transferred to the second line along with the Grenadiers Royaux d'Aulans.

By May 17, 26 bns and 16 sqns were assembled at the camp of Wesel. The same day, the II./ Corps Royal de l'Artillerie La Motte joined them in this camp. The artillery train had also been established.

Continuation

The other phases of the campaign are described in the following articles:

  • French advance in Westphalia (May 18 to July 26, 1757) describing the French advance in Westphalia, their occupation of Hesse and the Battle of Hastenbeck.
  • French army invades Hanover (July 27 to September 14, 1757) describing the French offensive in Hanover, the retreat of the Allied army towards the sea and its capitulation at Kloster-Zeven.
  • Richelieu marches towards Saxony (September 15 to November 26 1757) describing the French operations after the capitulation of the Allied army: their advance on Halberstadt, their move to support the Franco-Imperial army operating in Saxony, the revocation of the Convention of Kloster-Zeven by the Allies and the precipitous return of the French Army into Hanover.

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. 201-206, 217-221, 242-244
  • 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
  • Carlyle, T.: History of Friedrich II of Prussia, vol. 18
  • Du Bois: Camps topographiques de la Campagne de 1757 en Westphalie etc., Le Hague, 1760
  • Grosser Generalstab Kriegsgeschichtliche Abteilung II: Die Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen, Part 3 Der siebenjährige Krieg 1756-1763
  • Vol. 2 Prag, Berlin, 1901, pp. 16, 23, 33
  • Vol. 5 Hastenbeck und Roßbach, Berlin, 1903, pp. 74-83
  • Jomini, Henri: Traité des grandes opérations militaires, 2ème édition, 2ème partie, Magimel, Paris: 1811, pp. 1-5
  • Pajol, Charles P. V.: Les Guerres sous Louis XV, vol. IV, Paris, 1891, pp. 43-82, 91-110, 115-118
  • Sichart, L. von: Geschichte Der Koniglich-hannoverschen Armee, Vol. 3 - Part 1, Hannover, 1870, pp. 231-234

Other sources

Évrard, P.: Praetiriti Fides

Ortenburg, Georg von: Braunschweigisches Militär, Elm Verlag, Cremlingen, 1987

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

Service historique de l'armée de terre

  • Archives du génie, article 15, section 1, §5, pièce 23
  • A1 3536 – 111
  • A4 29