1757 - Prussian invasion of Bohemia – Preparations
The campaign lasted from April to June 1757
The previous year (1756), the Prussians had launched a successful preventive invasion of Saxony and had made themselves master of the electorate.
For the incoming campaign, a formidable alliance (France, Austria, Russia and Sweden) was threatening Prussia from all sides. King Frederick II of Prussia had once more to decide whether he would remain on the defensive or try to strike a decisive blow against one of his enemies before all armies could take the field.
During the Winter of 1756-57, the movement and preparations of the armies of Frederick II led the Austrians to believe that the Prussians wanted to stand on the defensive. This belief was reinforced by the fact that Frederick had to send Field-Marshal Lehwaldt with a large detachment to East Prussia and the Baltic region to guard against a potential Russian invasion. After assembling the West-Prussian militias and merging them with his regulars, Lehwaldt had some 30,000 men for the task. Frederick also formed 7 battalions of light troops to make for his deficiency in this arm and increased his army by 40,000 men. Thus, at the opening of the campaign of 1757, the Prussian Army counted 147,600 men in 132 battalions and 213 squadrons.
Field-Marshal Daun stressed the importance to assemble an Austrian corps of 40,000 men in Moravia and of another corps of 80,000 men in Bohemia to secure communications with the Archduchy of Austria. For his part Field-Marshal Browne advocated an offensive in Silesia. If Saxony was preferred, he proposed to take the direction from Eger (present-day Cheb) through Voigtland. Finally, Field-Marshal Count Neipperg, vice-president of the War Council, considered that a force of 30,000 men was sufficient for Moravia and advised to assemble an army of some 95,000 men in Bohemia in preparation for an offensive towards Lusatia or Saxony. He was against an attack in Silesia unless Frederick would decide to assemble his main army there. For the moment, the Prussians had some 75,000 men in Saxony and only some 35,000 men in Silesia. Neipperg's final advice was to make a feint attack in Voigtland towards Magdeburg while the main offensive would take place in Lusatia with a secondary demonstration in Silesia. The emperor was confident that Austria could then fix Frederick's army with 40,000 men while another army would launch a strong offensive against the Prussian heartlands. Prince Charles de Lorraine was rather of the opinion that, surrounded by enemies, Frederick had no other choice than to launch a Spring offensive from Silesia or Lusatia against Austria. Therefore, he suggested to deploy an army of 60,000 men North of Prague and another of similar size on the Upper Elbe.
Austrians Grenzer light troops and some advanced brigades harassed Prussian camps in Lusatia. Maria Theresa raised 2 new hussar regiments and 1 new infantry regiment. The Elector of Mainz and the Bishop of Würzburg contributed 2 infantry regiments; and Saxony, 3 regiments of chevau-legers who had been stationed in Poland during the invasion of Saxony. These new units joined the Austrian Army wintering in Bohemia and now placed under the command of Prince Charles de Lorraine. Finally, reinforcements started their march from Hungary, Italy and Flanders towards Bohemia. The Great Army was assembling at Prague while Field-Marshal Browne was securing posts and gathering magazines in the Erzgebirge (Ore Mountains) to support the advance of this army into Saxony. The larger Austrian magazines were at Jungbunzlau (present-day Mladá Boleslav) and Budin (present-day Budyně nad Ohří) and some smaller magazines had also been assembled at Töplitz (present-day Teplice), Chomottau (present-day Chomoutov), Welwarn (present-day Velvary), Aussig (present-day Ústí nad Labem) and Reichenberg (present-day Liberec).
In the area of Reichenberg, GFWM Lacy, who commanded the Austrian outposts extending from Friedland (present-day Frýdlant v Čechách) to Grottau (present-day Hrádek nad Nisou), had daily skirmishes with Prussian troops. Lieutenant-Colonel Loudon, who was serving under his command, did not want to remain idle throughout the winter and asked Lacy’s authorisation to launch a raid on Prussian posts in the towns along the Neisse. At the end of December 1756, Lacy instructed Loudon to launch an attack on Ostritz and the Marienthal Abbey.
Raid on Ostritz
On December 31 at 6:00 p.m., Lacy assembled six combined coys (approx. 1,500 men) of Karlstädter-Szluiner Grenzer and Karlstädter-Lykaner Grenzer under the command of Colonel Wenzel Matthias Hnogek von Kleefeld seconded by Lieutenant-Colonel Herberstein and Lieutenant-Colonel Loudon along with 200 Karlstädter Grenz-Hussars under Colonel Count Mitrovsky and Lieutenant-Colonel Knezevic at Friedland to attack the isolated town of Ostritz. This town was occupied by 200 men of Prinz Heinrich von Preußen Fusiliers and Jung-Kleist Infantry under the command of Major Karl Sigismund von Blumenthal. Half of the garrison was on guard duty at all time. Furthermore, 1 officer and 43 men occupied an entrenched position near the bridge of the Marienthal Monastery. Blumenthal had neglected to erect barricades at the entries of the town and the garrison was too small to effectively guard each of these entries. To the East, in a narrowing of the Neisse Valley, a cannon was placed in a flèche covered by 1 officer and 30 men. The closest Prussian garrisons was II./Münchow Fusiliers under Major Asseburg, posted at Hirschfelde and another 90 men with a few Puttkamer Hussars at Leuba and Radmeritz (present-day Radomierzyce). Blumenthal had heard rumours of an impending attack. He kept all men who were not on guard duty in alert in their quarters around the market and instructed the nearby hussar patrol to reconnoitre along the Neisse. Nevertheless, Kleefeld and Loudon, guided by Prussian deserters, passed the half frozen Neisse between Ostritz and Leuba with their material drawn on sleighs. The Grenzers wore white peasant shirts over their uniforms.
Kleefeld and Loudon divided their troops in four columns and advanced simultaneously against Marienthal, Ostritz, Leuba and Radmeritz.
On January 1 1757 at 3:00 a.m., Kleefeld’s column arrived to the west of Ostritz and opened fire on the quarters of the Prussian garrison. Blumenthal immediately assembled the 70 men, who were on guard duty, in the entrenchments. A prolonged firefight ensued where Blumenthal was killed. Captain von Knobelsdorff from Prinz Heinrich von Preußen Fusiliers then led his men around the northern edge of the town towards the Chapel Hill where the rest of the garrison gradually joined him. The Grenzers then plundered the town and retired at dawn by Friedland towards Reichenberg. Meanwhile, Lieutenant-Colonel Loudon with 100 men of the Karlstädter-Lykaner Grenzer had made an attempt against Marienthal Monastery but had been repulsed by the garrison under Ensign von Loeben. In this action, the Prussians lost 7 men dead (including Major Blumenthal), 14 wounded (including Ensign Loeben who had been mortally wounded) and 10 missing. The Austrian lost 2 men killed but brought back their wounded (1 officer and 9 men) on sleighs. Kleefeld and Loudon accelerated the retreat of their troops when they was informed that II./Amstell Infantry was marching from Bernstadt/Eigen and that troops had been seen from Görlitz to replace the garrison of Ostritz. The two other columns and the Karlstädter Grenz-Hussars attacked Prussian outposts at Leuba and Radmeritz.
The news of the attack on Ostritz prompted Frederick to instruct Lestwitz to relocate an entire battalion from Görlitz to Ostritz and to replace this battalion by a new one each eight days. Troops in Bernstadt/Eigen and Görlitz as well as Normann Dragoons were ordered to be in constant readiness. Frederick, tired of the ceaseless skirmishes, which usually turned to the disadvantage of his troops, ordered to avoid such useless engagements.
In January, disturbing rumours of Austrian plans to make incursions in Lusatia prompted Frederick to send the Duke of Bevern back to this region.
On January 10, after inspecting all posts in Lusatia, Bevern returned to Dresden.
Frederick was convinced that the Austrians could not be ready before Spring for major operations against Saxony or Silesia. Accordingly, he sent the Pomeranian regiments encamped in Lusatia to reinforce the Army of Saxony and the Army of Silesia.
On January 24, G.d.C. Serbelloni replaced Piccolomini as commander of the Austrian army posted around Königgrätz (present-day Hradec Králové).
At the end of January, 4 Netherlander bns were ordered to join the Austrian troops posted on the Upper Moldau (present-day Vltava River) and Sazawa in Bohemia. A large Austrian force of 14,000 men (18 bns, 20 grenadier coys, 14 sqns, 5 artillery coys and 64 pieces) left the Austrian Netherlands and marched towards Bohemia. These regiments were:
- Carl Lothringen Infantry (2 bns of 6 coys and 2 grenadier coys)
- Salm Infantry (2 bns of 6 coys and 2 grenadier coys)
- Platz Infantry (2 bns of 6 coys and 2 grenadier coys)
- Wied Infantry (2 bns of 6 coys and 2 grenadier coys)
- Jung-Colloredo Infantry (2 bns of 6 coys and 2 grenadier coys)
- Bayreuth Infantry (2 bns of 6 coys and 2 grenadier coys)
- Los Rios Infantry (2 bns of 4 coys and 2 grenadier coys)
- Arberg Infantry (2 bns of 4 coys and 2 grenadier coys)
- de Ligne Infantry (1 bn of 4 coys and 2 grenadier coys)
- Sachsen-Gotha Infantry (1 bn of 4 coys and 2 grenadier coys)
- Anhalt-Zerbst Cuirassiers
- de Ligne Dragoons
- Niederländ Feldartillerie (5 coys with 64 pieces)
These regiments would be reinforced by 2,400 recruits from Austria but they suffered from desertion on their way.
Furthermore, 4 bns and 4 newly formed grenadier coys were ordered to join the French Army preparing the invasion of Hanover. After these detachments, the Austrians had only 16 bns, 3 free coys and 7 invalid coys left to defend the Austrian Netherlands.
On February 2, Austria and Russia signed treaty of alliance in St. Petersburg. By this treaty, Russia pledged to involve an army of at least 80,000 men in the conflict as well as 15 to 20 ships and 40 galleys. In exchange, Austria would pay 1million rubles annually to Russia. Furthermore, Russia would obtain Polish Courland and Semigallia. Poland would be compensated with Prussian territories.
On February 7, Prince Charles arrived in Vienna from Bruxelles to assume command of the Austrian Great Army. He presented a new memorandum to the empress about future operations. By then, he had abandoned the opinion that Frederick would launch an offensive towards Austria. He now only discussed of an Austrian offensive towards Silesia or Lusatia with a preference for the latter with the goal of capturing the City of Zittau. Maria Theresa finally opted for an offensive in Lusatia.
Raid on Hirschfelde
FML Johann Sigismund Count Maquire had recently taken command of the Austrian forces in Northern Bohemia. He decided to launch a raid against the Prussian garrisons in Upper-Lusatia. He assembled an Austrian force of approx. 4,000 men in the region of Zittau. After many reconnaissances, he decided that his main attack would be directed against Hirschfelde.
By February 19, Maquire intended to personally lead an attack on Hirschfelde from Weigsdorf (present-day Wigancice Žytawskie/PL) at the head of some 2,500 men while a smaller attack would be launched from Grottau towards Zittau. This second attack would be supported from Rumburg (present-day Rumburk). The garrison of Hirschfelde then consisted of the I./Prinz Heinrich von Preußen Fusiliers (21 officers, 623 men) under the command of Major von Götze. The latter made preparations for the defence of his positions: a gate was added to the bridge across the Neisse; two “flèches” were erected on its flanks both occupied by infantry; all entries into the city were protected by “flèches”; and a redoubt containing the two battalion guns was erected to the south of the city. Furthermore, the bridge at the Hirschfelde Mill was occupied by hussars and a hussar detachment (1 officer and 13 men) and a squadron of Puttkamer Hussars (posted at Wittgendorf) patrolled along the Neisse at night. Throughout the night, men posted at Hirschfelde were kept ready to intervene.
In the night of February 19 to 20, Maquire gave orders to 1,200 foot (mostly Karlstädter-Szluiner Grenzer and Karlstädter-Lykaner Grenzer) and 2,300 horse (mostly Hungarian hussars and Grenz-hussars) to attack Prussian positions on the left bank of the Neisse (present-day Lausitzer Neiße River). Colonel Vela, Colonel Kleefeld and Lieutenant-Colonel Loudon.
On February 21 at 4:00 a.m., Hirschfelde was attacked from three directions:
- 200 men of the Liechtenstein Dragoons, 3 grenadier coys (probably of the Karlstädter-Szluiner Grenzer and Karlstädter-Lykaner Grenzer) and 300 men of the Karlstädter-Szluiner Grenzer under Colonel Prince Liechtenstein and Colonel von Kleefeld passed the bridge of a mill and attacked the northern entry of the town
- 200 men of the Sprecher Infantry and 100 Grenzer light troops under Lieutenant-Colonel Count Pappenheim and Grenadier Captain O’Neillan advanced against the fortified bridge across the Neisse.
- 1 grenadier coy of the Karlstädter-Lykaner Grenzer 200 men of the same regiment, 300 men of the Gyulay Infantry and Forgách Infantry, and 200 Splényi Hussars under Colonel Loudon passed the frozen Neisse River on a gangway and advanced against the redoubt at the southern entry of the town where the Prussian had planted their two battalion guns supported by 70 men. Loudon’s forces were supported by the Karlstädter Grenz-Hussars under under Maximilian Joseph Baron von Mitrovsky.
Liechstenstein’s column engaged the Prussian regular infantry covering the bridge in front of Hirschfelde. However, the garrison (some 800 men) was fully prepared to meet these assaults. Major von Götze sent detachments to the northern, eastern and southern entries and to the redoubt, keeping a reserve of 80 men in the marketplace.
Liechstenstein’s and Pappenheim’s columns were repulsed but, after several unsuccessful assaults, Loudon, supported by artillery planted on the right bank of the Neisse, stormed the redoubt and entered into the town of Hirschfelde.
Major von Götze had gradually committed his entire reserve. He tried to oppose Loudon's advance but fell with some of his men. The remaining officers and men were taken prisoners by Loudon's troops. Loudon, seeing that Austrian troops conducting the frontal attack had withdrawn and fearing a counter-attack, then evacuated the town, bringing with him the two captured battalion guns. In this engagement, the Prussians lost 1 major, 1 lieutenant and 80 men dead; 1 major, 5 officers and more than 100 men taken prisoners; and 3 officers and 40 men wounded. For their part, the Austrians lost 26 men dead, including a captain; and 60 men wounded, including a major.
The same day (February 21), a smaller detachment of Grenzer light troops advanced from Weigsdorf (?Grottau?)) on Herwigsdorf , Zittau and Ostritz, hoping to pin down its garrison by firing on the town from the right bank of the Neisse. The Prussian outposts easily repelled this attack. However, a detachment of Grenzer light troops and hussars under Major-General Fürst Löwenstein, advancing from Rumburg on Hainewalde, surrounded a patrol of II./Münchow Fusiliers near the mill of Herwigsdorf and took them prisoners. Meanwhile, a Prussian detachment (50 men of Normann Dragoons and 50 men of Puttkamer Hussars) posted at Herwigsdorf managed to escape and to take refuge in Zittau. In this action, the Prussians lost 2 officers and 23 men killed, 1 officer and 39 men wounded, and 7 officers and 113 men taken prisoners while the Austrians declared losses of 6 officers and 80 men.
Fearing a more serious attack in these quarters, Frederick sent orders to Bevern to assume once more command in Lusatia and to launch an attack against the Austrian winter-quarters. Winterfeldt had to supply some troops for this offensive.
On February 23, Bevern assembled infantry between Löbau, Herrnhut, Ostritz, Lauban (present-day Luban/PL) and Görlitz. I./Wied Fusiliers and a detachment of Szekely Hussars moved from Torgau to Bischofswerda to replace Grenadier Battalion Bülow while a battalion of Garnison Regiment Grape marched from Magdeburg to Torgau to replace I./Wied.
On February 28 in Vienna, Maria Theresa informed the French envoy, the Comte d'Estrées, of her final decision (offensive in Lusatia) during a final conference before his departure for France. Prince Charles de Lorraine, Chancellor Kaunitz, Vice-President Neipperg and Field Marshal Browne were also present at this conference.
At the end of February, the Prussians began to build entrenchments around the suburb of Dresden.
By the end of February, all Austrian regiments were at full strength. A new infantry regiment (Johann Pálffy) and a new hussar regiment (Kaiser Franz) had been raised in Hungary. Another hussar regiment (Jazygier-Kumanier Hussars) had been raised in the Jazygier and Kumanier Districts as well as in the Hayduck States. All hussar regiments had received a sixth squadron bringing the total strength of a typical regiment to 1,335 men. Each Grenzer regiment sent reinforcements of 500 men to their field battalion. Troops posted in Transylvania and Banat were mobilised and sent to the theatres of operation. The units of the Duke of Modena had been taken in Austrian pay, allowing to free 4 additional Austrian battalions (1 field and 1 garrison bn of Mercy-Argenteau Infantry and 1 field and 1 garrison bn of Pallavicini Infantry) previously stationed in Lombardy and to transfer them to Bohemia. Furthermore, Roth Würzburg Infantry from Würzburg and Mainz Infantry from Kur Mainz had joined the Austrians in Bohemia. Finally, the remaining Saxon uhlans (Graf Renard Uhlanen and Graf Rudnicki Uhlanen) and cavalry Karabiniergarde, Prinz Karl Chevauxlegers, Prinz Albrecht Chevauxlegers and Graf Brühl Chevauxlegers) were taken in Austrian pay.
Through recruitment in Italy and the Austrian Netherlands the total number of artillery coys operating in Bohemia was brought up to 27. A strong reserve of artillery and siege material was assembled in Vienna. Artillery was also provided for Eger, Brünn (present-day Brno) and Olmütz (present-day Olomouc).
The Austrian supply train was increased to 2,000 vehicles and the army provided with a six-days provision of bread and oat.
In March 1,000 additional Grenzer hussars were sent to the field.
In the night of March 9 to 10, the Duke of Bevern with 17 bns and 23 sqns (14,000 men and 24 guns) launched simultaneous attacks on Grottau, Grafenstein (present-day Grabštejn), Friedland and Neustadt/Tafelfichte (present-day Nové Mesto pod Smrkem) while 2 bns remained in Zittau and another 2 bns in Tauchritz (present-day part of Görlitz). For this attack, Bevern's force was subdivided into 7 columns. The three first columns advanced against Grottau and easily made themselves master of the place before making a junction with the fourth and fifth columns at Reichenau (present-day Bogatynia). Bevern had by then 13 bns, 15 sqns and 8 heavy pieces gathered at Reichenau. He then marched on Neustadt/Tafelfichte. However, Colonel Kleefeldt commanding a detachment of Grenzer light troops (Karlstädter-Lykaner Grenzer and Karlstädter-Szluiner Grenzer) posted at Friedland had been forewarned and retired unmolested on supporting troops at Reichenberg. Bevern's sixth column (2 bns of Prinz Franz von Braunschweig) was thus able to advance from Seidenberg (present-day Zawidów). Meanwhile, the seventh column (1 bn. 8 sqns), led by Prince Friedrich Eugen von Württemberg, who was advancing on Friedland from the east did not meet any opposition. Bevern was surprised with the ease he had chasing the Austrians from Grottau as well as from Friedland. FML Maquire and GFWM Lacy assembled their troops at Gabel (present-day Jablonne v Podještědi) and Reichenberg. Bevern destroyed the small magazine in Neustadt/Tafelfichte and raised contributions during a few days.
On March 12, in a wood between Raspenau (present-day Raspenava) and Busch-Ullersdorf (present-day Oldřichov v Hájích), Colonel von Puttkamer at the head of 300 hussars of his own regiment, 100 dragoons and Grenadier Battalion Kahlden fell on an outpost defended by 100 hussars, 100 dragoons and 200 grenadiers of the Karlstädter-Szluiner Grenzer. Puttkamer drove back the Austrian hussars and dragoons. Unsupported, the Grenzer grenadiers took flight and followed their mounted troops back to Busch-Ullersdorf. In this action, the Austrians lost 33 men and the Prussian hussars lost 3 men dead and 10 wounded.
Until March 13, Bevern remained in Bohemia. The Austrian advanced troops had retired on Kratzau (present-day Chrastava) and Busch-Ullersdorf.
On March 13, Bevern started to retire from Bohemia.
On March 14, the Austrian Grenzer light troops immediately reoccupied their former outposts along the border.
By March 15, Bevern's forces were back to their quarters in Lusatia where they remained till March 21.
On March 20, Browne returned to Prague.
Preparations for the campaign
On March 21, Prussian troops in Lusatia were regrouped in closer quarters. This concentration later caused great inconveniences even if Frederick considered it necessary.
On March 24, Frederick left Dresden where he had spent winter and moved to the Pirna Country. He established his headquarters at Lockwitz. For a month, he prepared his army for the next campaign. In fact, he planned to invade Bohemia with four columns converging from the north-east, north-west, south-east and south-west.
During this campaign, Frederick used three line of operations:
- from Dresden his main magazine to Prague through Budin and Welwarn
- from Zittau in Lusatia to Prague through Gabel, Jungbunzlau and Altbunzlau (also known as Brandeis, present-day Brandýs nad Labem-Stará Boleslav)
- from Schweidnitz (present-day Swidnica) and Glatz (present-day Kłodzko) in Silesia through Landeshut (present-day Kamienna Góra), Königinhof (present-day Dvůr Králové nad Labem), Gitschin (present-day Jičín), Jungbunzlau and Altbunzlau
At the end of March, the Austrians had some 118,000 men (100 bns, 111 grenadier coys, 198 sqns, 4,500 artillerymen and 72 heavy artillery pieces) in Bohemia organised in 4 distinct corps.
- along the Upper Elbe on both sides of Königgrätz under GdC Serbelloni (20,600 foot, 6,600 horse): 21 bns, 21 grenadier coys, 48 sqns, including among others:
- Slavonisch-Brooder Grenzer (1 bn of approx. 900 men)
- Slavonisch-Gradiskaner Grenzer (1 bn of approx. 900 men)
- Warasdiner-Creutzer Grenzer (1 bn of approx. 900 men)
- Slavonisch-Peterwardeiner Grenzer (1 bn of approx. 900 men) on their march to join
- Grenz-Hussars (15 ½ sqns totalling 1,300 men)
- in the area of Reichenberg, Gabel and Niemes (present-day Mimoň) under FZM Count Königsegg (18,000 foot, 4,900 horse): 19 bns, 23 grenadier coys, 34 sqns
- between Budin and Prague under Browne (main army of 30,400 foot, 8,700 horse): 38 bns, 45 grenadier coys, 77 sqns
- in the area of Plan (present-day Planá near Mariánské Lázně) under FML Duke von Arenberg (20,400 foot, 3,800 horse): 22 bns, 22 grenadier coys, 39 sqns
Furthermore, GdC Nádasdy was posted at Olmütz in Moravia with 7,700 foot and 7,300 horse (8 bns, 8 grenadier coys, 57 sqns).
N.B.: if the troops posted in Moravia were included, the Austrian Army counted 108 bns, 119 grenadier coys, 255 sqns for a total of approx. 133,000 men.
|Order of Battle|
|Order of battle of the Prussian Army of Saxony at the end of March:
Order of battle of the Prussian Army of Silesia (Schwerin) at the end of March
Prussian garrisons in Saxony and Silesia at the end of March
At the end of March, Prussian forces in Saxony and Lusatia were deployed as follows:
- between Zwickau and Chemnitz under Prince Moritz von Anhalt (14,100 foot, 5,200 horse): 17 bns, 30 sqns, 8 pieces of heavy artillery
- on the left bank of the Elbe between Dippoldiswalde, Pirna and Dresden under King Frederick II (main army of 30,500 foot, 9,100 horse): 36 bns, 48 sqns, 2 foot jäger coys, 2 horse jäger sqns, 80 pieces of heavy artillery
- in and to the north of Zittau under the Duke of Bevern (16,000 foot, 4,300 horse): 20 bns, 25 sqns, 12 pieces of heavy artillery
Furthermore, Schwerin (34,300 men) was posted on the Silesian border with 35 bns and 60 sqns.
With growing desertions among Saxon troops forcibly incorporated into the Prussian Army, Elector Friedrich August II of Saxony, then established at Warsaw with his court, seized this opportunity and started to reinstate these troops in Saxon service. The 400 men of Prinz Xaver Infantry and the 550 men of Prinz Friedrich August Infantry who had been among the first to desert Prussian service saw their regiments re-established. 19 privates were promoted to corporals and 11 corporals to sergeants for their courage. To avoid marauding by Saxon deserters (later called Revertenten), the Saxon court initiated negotiations with FM Browne and Austrian and French diplomats to determine how to organize these deserters in the future. It was soon agreed that deserters should keep the status of Saxon forces. “Collecting points” were established at Saaz (present-day Žatec), Komotau (present-day Chomutov), Eger (present-day Cheb), Brüx (present-day Most) and Budin (present-day Budín) where two or three Saxon officers welcomed the deserters. A similar collecting points was also established at Erfurt in Thuringia. Later on, soldiers assembled at these collecting points were sent to various places in Austria (Krems, Ybbs, Stein, Mautern Langenlois and Pressburg). The overall organisation of these measures was confided to Major-General Louis de Galbert, recently arrived in Bohemai after serving for France. He was supported by Major-General d'Elbee and Klingenberg. Since several Revertenten had no weapon, the Saxon court obtained muskets which were delivered from Suhl through Lübeck and Danzig. By March, some 80 Saxon officers were active at the various collecting points where they had already assembled 180 officers and 2,426 men.
At the beginning of April, Field-Marshal Browne was at Gabel and a concentration of Austrian troops along the Lusatian border in the area of Zittau was once more reported. Indeed, Browne visited the Austrian positions on the Lusatian border to observe the movements of Prussian forces. Winterfeldt held his corps posted on the Bober (present-day Bóbr River) ready to retire on the Queiss (present-day Kwisa River) and Frederick instructed Bevern, in case of an Austrian offensive, to retire from Zittau to Bautzen while he would himself try to turn the positions of the Austrians once they would have reached Görlitz and Schwerin would threaten Austrian magazines in Bohemia or attack their right flank.
Prussian troops stationed in Lusatia had suffered from ceaseless manoeuvring and counter-manoeuvring on snowy roads in the midst of a hard winter. In these circumstances the training of their new recruits was understandably very difficult.
On April 3, after an exchange of letters with Schwerin, Bevern and Winterfeldt, Frederick decided to launch an offensive in Bohemia.
On April 5, as it seemed that the Austrians would undertake a new enterprise against Zittau, Frederick let a force under Major-General von Manstein advance against Neustadt in Bohemia to divert the attention of the Austrians from Zittau. This force consisted of
- Markgraf Carl Infantry (2 bns)
- Zastrow Infantry (2 bns)
- Meinicke Dragoons (400 men)
- Szekely Hussars (500 men)
Manstein marched by Schluckenau (present-day Šluknov) and his vanguard reached Hainspach (present-day Lipová near Šluknov). The Austrians evacuated the area around Rumburg without opposing any resistance.
On April 6, Browne returned to Prague after inspecting the Lusatian border. With frequent snowfalls in the mountains, he was under the impression that the Prussians were not considering any major enterprise. With his small reserve in Prague (4 infantry rgts, 4 cavalry rgts), he felt confident that he could rapidly reinforce any threatened area. The same day, Frederick met with Prince Moritz of Anhalt at Freiberg and informed him of his intention to launch an offensive in Bohemia. He also gave instructions to Prince Moritz to set off from Chemnitz and to launch a diversionary attack against Eger where the Duke d'Arenberg, Browne's subordinate, was stationed with 20,000 men. The attack was planned for April 11. Prince Moritz would then join the general offensive.
On April 7, Manstein put an end to his brief incursion into Bohemia and returned to Saxony.
On April 9, Browne received information from Vienna (obtained by Kaunitz from a member of the Court of the Queen of Poland in Dresden) that Frederick would be on the verge of entering into Bohemia with 160,000 men in 5 columns by Eger, Peterswaldau (present-day Gryfów Śląski), Gabel and Friedland, Greiffenberg and the County of Glatz. Kaunitz suggested to prepare a strong defence in order to exhaust the Prussians. Browne replied that he had already heard of these rumours since 8 days from the Prince Elector of Saxony who was not always well informed and had often transmitted him false information.
On April 11, according to instructions, Prince Moritz assembled 14 bns and 20 sqns at Neumarkt and set off for Bohemia. He left part of his corps behind in Saxony, the units left behind were:
- I./Knobloch (1 bn)
- II./Anhalt-Dessau (1 bn)
- I./Prinz Ferdinand (1 bn)
- Leib-Carabiniers (5 sqns)
- Baron von Schönaich Cuirassiers (5 sqns)
On April 13, Prince Moritz reached Schöneck after marching by Plauen and Oelsnitz. From Schöneck, he sent forward a detachment (300 dragoons, 4 sqns of Zieten Hussars, 400 men of Frei-Infanterie le Noble and Frei-Infanterie von Kalben, 160 Foot Jägers) under Lieutenant-General von Zieten up to Wildstein (present-day Skalná).
On April 14, Zieten advanced up to Graslitz (present-day Kraslice).
On April 15, outposts manned by Banalisten Grenzers detected Prince Moritz's Corps advancing on Eger. D'Arenberg remained in his positions but sent light troops to harass the Prussian detachment.
By mid-April, Austrian troops in Bohemia were organised in four groups, each with its infantry and cavalry camps:
- in Ples (present-day Josefov) and Königgrätz (30,000 men)
- in Gitschin and Smidar (present-day Smidary) (30,000 men)
- in Niemes and Weisswasser (present-day Bělá pod Bezdězem) (30,000 men)
- in Lobositz (present-day Lovosice) and Budin (50,000 men)
From these four groups, two field armies were formed:
- a main army of 83,000 men (64 bns, 68 grenadier coys, 148 sqns) for operations in Saxony and Lusatia under Prince Charles de Lorraine which would later be reinforced by the 6,000 men strong Württemberg Contingent in French pay
- an army of 54,000 men (40 bns, 47 grenadier coys, 108½ sqns) on the border between Bohemia and Silesia under Serbelloni which would later be reinforced by the 4,000 men strong Bavarian Contingent in French pay
Large magazines were organised in Königgrätz, Nimburg (present-day Nymburk), Jungbunzlau, Budin, Aussig and other smaller towns to supply the various camps. Furthermore, a smaller corps of 11,000 men (8 bns, 8 grenadier coys, 57 sqns) under Nádasdy was stationed on the border between Moravia and Silesia.
On April 16 and 17, the Prussian Army of Silesia under Schwerin assembled in Schmiedeberg (present-day Kowary), Landeshut, Friedland (present-day Mieroszów), Tannhausen (present-day Jedlinka) and Wünschelburg (present-day Radków). It counted 25,000 foot and 9,300 horse in 35 bns and 60 sqns with 20 pieces of heavy artillery. To induce the Austrians to think that he would remain on the defensive, Frederick gave order to build an additional redoubt at Landeshut.
All Prussian forces destined to take part in the invasion of Bohemia totalled 87,600 foot (including 2,000 artillerymen), 27,900 horse in 108 bns and 163 sqns. They were almost as numerous as the Austrian troops posted in Bohemia. Some Prussian units we left behind to guard:
- Saxony and Lusatia (21 bns for a total of 15,200 men)
- Silesia (24 bns, 2 miner coys and 5 garrison artillery coys for a total of 17,300 men)
- unidentified field infantry units (6 bns) including 3 former Saxon bns
- unidentified garrison infantry units (18 bns)
- Miners (2 coys)
- Garrison Artillery (5 coys)
The other phases of the campaign are described in the following articles:
- Prussian invasion of Bohemia till the Battle of Prague (April 17 to May 6, 1757) describing the advance of the Prussian columns into Bohemia and their manoeuvres around Prague
- Siege of Prague till the Battle of Kolin (May 7 to June 29, 1757) describing the siege of Prague, the Austrian relief attempt and the Battle of Kolin
- Retreat (May 7 to June 29, 1757) describing the retreat of the Prussian armies
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. 205-216
- Archenholz, J. W.: The History of the Seven Years War in Germany, translated by F. A. Catty, Francfort, 1843, pp. 32-64, 88-89
- 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. 1 Pirna und Lobositz, Berlin, 1901, p. 127
- Vol. 2 Prag, Berlin, 1901, pp. 4-120, App. 3
- Schuster, O. and F. Francke: Geschichte der Sächsischen Armee, 2. part, Leipzig 1885
- Tempelhoff, Fr.: History of the Seven Years' War Vol. I pp. 18-120, 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. 409-426
Pajol, Charles P. V.: Les Guerres sous Louis XV, vol. IV, Paris, 1891, pp. 40-42
Salisch, M. von: Treue Deserteure – Das kursächsische Militär und der Siebenjährige Krieg, Munich, 2009
Skala, Harald: Rückzug des preussischen Heeres nach der Schlacht bei Kolin 1757, der Fall von Gabel und Zittau
Skala, Harald: Österreichische Militärgeschichte
Harald Skala for information on the Saxon Army during this period
Harald Skala for additionnal information on the raids on Ostritz and Hirschfelde