1757 - Russian campaign in East Prussia
The campaign lasted from August to September 1757
Evolution of the situation in 1756
Indeed, since 1755, a Russian Expedition Corps of 40,000 was stationed in Livonia. The rest of the field troops was distributed among the various governments of the Russian Empire while almost all the available cavalry was in Ukraine.
In April, Russia and Austria agreed for a common offensive against Prussia. However, Austria soon postponed the offensive to the Spring of 1757.
On June 23, when King Frederick II of Prussia heard of the accession of Empress Elizabeth Petrovna to the Treaty of Versailles and was informed that a Russian force was marching from Narva towards Riga and Mitau (present-day Jelgava), he appointed Field-Marshall von Lehwaldt as commander-in-chief in East Prussia. A force of 11 bns and 10 sqns was mobilized and sent to Pomerania to reinforce Lehwaldt's Army. Frederick still hoped that the British Navy would send a squadron in the Baltic Sea to prevent any Russo-Swedish amphibious operations.
Frederick vainly requested the Republic of Poland to supply 4,000 men guaranteed by the Treaty of Wehlau for the protection of Brandenburg and not to allow Russian troops to march through Poland.
At the end of September, a Prussian force of 8,000 men assembled in Pomerania under the Hereditary Prince of Hessen-Darmstadt.
In the Autumn, Field-Marshall Apraxin was appointed commander-in-chief of the Russian army who would invade Prussia.
Russia resolved to field a large army (83,000 foot, 14,000 horse, 3,000 artillerymen, 200 miners, 4,000 hussars, 19,500 irregulars) ready to operate in the Spring of 1757. It would consist of:
- 3 new grenadier rgts (each of 2 bns and 4 regimental pieces and 1 Shuvalov secret howitzer)
- 32 musketeer rgts (each of 3 bns, 2 grenadier coy and 5 regimental pieces)
- 2 old cuirassier rgts (each of 5 sqns)
- 3 new cuirassier rgts (each of 5 sqns and 2 regimental pieces)
- 5 new horse grenadier rgts (each of 5 sqns and 2 regimental pieces)
- 4 dragoon rgts (each of 6 sqns and 2 regimental pieces)
- 2 artillery rgts and 1 howitzer corps with 79 field pieces (including a battery of 11 Shuvalov unicorns who reached the army only in July)
- 1 detachment of siege artillery with 24 siege pieces
- 1 miner coy (200 men) and engineers
- 1 pontonier detachment with 30 pontoons
- 4 hussar rgts (each of 5 sqns) a fifth rgt (Horvath Hussars) joined the army during the Summer
- Chuguevski Cossacks (1 rgt of 5 sotnias)
- 8 Don Cossacks rgts of the “Old Command” (each of 5 sotnias)
- 10 Don Cossacks rgts of the “New Command” (each of 5 sotnias)
- 8 Slobodan Cossacks rgts (each of 20 half-sotnias and 2 regimental guns)
- Companeiskiy Cossacks (10 sotnias)
- Asiatic Cavalry
- Stavropol Kalmyks (500 men)
- Bashkirs (500 men)
- Meschtscheraken (probably Meskhetian Turks) (500 men)
- Tatars from Kazan (500 men)
- Kalmyks of the Volga (2 units of 2,000 men each)
Note: the Shuvalov secret howitzers reached the army only in May 1757.
Frederick sent Seydlitz Hussars to Sagan (present-day Zagan/PL).
On October 20, Lehwaldt gave orders to send 3 grenadier bns to East Prussia.
Several Russian depots were established in the Baltic provinces and along the Düna (present-day Daugava) and the Dniepr. The ships of the Baltic Fleet were ready at Kronstadt and Reval (present-day Tallinn/Estonia).
From October, several Russian units we posted along the frontier with Poland, from Riga to Smolensk, to prevent smuggling and desertion. They consisted of:
- Smolensk Garrison Infantry
- Dorogobusch Garrison Infantry
- Welikoluki Garrison Battalion
- Ingermlandskiy Dragoons
- Voronej Garrison Dragoons
- Rosslavl Garrison Squadron
- Smolensk Gentry (?)
Furthermore, the following units were posted south of Smolensk:
- Astrakhanskiy Horse Grenadiers
- Viatskiy Dragoons
- Sibyrskiy Dragoons
- Vladimirskiy Dragoons
- Novgorodskiy Dragoons
- Yamburgskiy Dragoons
- Pskovskiy Dragoons
- Permskiy Dragoons
On November 10, Apraxin set off from St. Petersburg to join the field army in Latvia.
On November 21, Apraxin arrived at Riga. Meanwhile, Poland had authorised Russian troops to march through its territory and to establish depots. Apraxin ordered to establish a dozen magazines (Skoruli, Keidany, Wilkomir, Orscha, Tcherikov, Tschetscherst, Retschiza, Oschmiany, Minsk, Sluzk, Kovno, Wilan, Troki and Stolbzy) on the Middle Niemen with supplies for two or three months. These magazines could be supplied by vessels.
On November 29, the Prussian corps under the Hereditary Prince of Hessen-Darmstadt was ordered to march towards Silesia.
In December, 2,000 Don Cossacks were posted on the Prussian border to the north of Memel (present-day Klaipeda/Lithuania).
Preparations for the campaign of 1757
In the Winter of 1756-57, the Russian infantry, 1 cavalry rgt and 1 hussar rgt assembled in Livonia, Estonia and the Province of Pskov. The main body was in the region of Riga. A corps (11 infantry rgts, 1 cavalry rgt, Chuguevski Cossacks and 4 Don Cossacks rgts) advanced to Mitau in Courland. Meanwhile, part of the cavalry, 3 hussar rgts and 4 Don Cossacks rgts assembled between Smolensk and Pskov.
In January 1757, Major-General Count Rumyantsev took command of the troops assembled near Pskov. The rest of the cavalry was stationed between Smolensk and Chernigov under Lieutenant-General Matthäus Lieven. The Stavropol Kalmyks (500 men), the Bashkirs (500 men), the Meschtscheraken (500 men) and the Tatars from Kazan (500 men) joined Lieven's Corps during Winter.
By January 8, each musketeer and grenadier coy of Lehwaldt's Army had been reinforced by 30 men.
Towards the end of January, Lehwaldt took dispositions to secure his magazines. He considered that he could not prevent plundering north of the Memel River (a branch of the Neman River).
On January 26, Lehwaldt charged Major-General von Kanitz to cover the country south of the Memel River with 4 grenadier bns (Gohr, Manstein, Lossow and Polentz) and 10 sqns (Plettenberg Dragoons and 5 sqns of I./Ruesch Hussars).
On February 2, the formal alliance between Russia and Austria was concluded. It was agreed that Apraxin would launch an offensive against Prussia with 80,000 men.
On February 3, Apraxin held a war council, where he proposed to advance with the main body along the south bank of the Niemen (present-day Neman River) against Königsberg (present-day Kaliningrad/Russia), covered by a corps who would capture Memel before joining the main body. The council did not approve the plan but Apraxin later decided to carry it out.
On February 5, from Dresden, Frederick ordered the mobilisation of a Prussian army to defend East Prussia.
On February 11, Lehwaldt ordered to recall all men on leave and to reinforce, before the beginning of March, each dragoon sqn with 1 ensign, 2 NCOs and 12 troopers; and each hussar sqns with 6 troopers.
On February 13, Kanitz's detachment reached the neighbourhood of Tilsit (present-day Sovetsk/Russia). I./Ruesch Hussars established an outpost on the north bank of the Memel. Furthermore, 30 hussars of this battalion, under Second Lieutenant Göll, were posted on the frontier to the north of Memel.
On February 21, as thawing began, I./Ruesch Hussars retired behind the Memel.
On February 26, Göll's detachment rejoined I./Ruesch Hussars.
At the end of February, Lieutenant-General Lieven set off from his quarters along the Dniepr between Smolensk and Chernigov with the best elements of his cavalry and marched towards Slutsk and Wilna (present-day Vilnius/Lithuania). Troopers who had unsatisfactory mounts assembled at Smolensk and waited for the arrival of new horses. The mass of the Russian infantry was still stationed in Courland, Livonia and Estonia.
At the beginning of March, a Prussian corps (Holstein-Gottorp Dragoons, Finckenstein Dragoons, Malachowski Hussars and Kanitz Infantry) assembled at Angerburg (present-day Węgorzewo/PL) under Lieutenant-General Prince von Holstein to follow any Russian corps who would advance leftwards through Poland. Furthermore, II./Ruesch Hussars was sent to the frontier, so that the entire regiment now constituted the foremost defence from Tilsit to the south of Goldap (present-day Gołdap/PL).
The fortified places of East Prussia were all in very poor conditions. Königsberg with the Citadel of Friedrichsburg were in relatively good conditions and work was underway to repair damages: palisades and abattis were erected where the walls were in the worst conditions; magazines were built in front of the Friedland Gate. Thus the capital of the province could at least withstand a “coup-de-main”. The place was under the command of Colonel von Puttkamer and defended by 2 bns of Garrison Regiment I Puttkamer. The defensive works of Pillau (present-day Baltiysk/Russia) were not very strong: the ditches were almost filled with sand and 1 bn of Garrison Regiment I Puttkamer defended the place. In Memel, the defensive works were in such a bad condition that it seemed impossible to defend the place. Its garrison (4 coys of Land Regiment 2 Polentz) could only hope to hold a few days in the citadel. Finally, the defensive works of Marienwerder (present-day Kwidzyn/PL), an important place to hold East Prussia, had been neglected. The commander of the bn of Garrison Regiment I Puttkamer, charged with the defence of the place, had the works repaired and established an outpost to guard the bridges at Kurzebrack (present-day Korzeniewo/PL) to the west of Marienwerder.
In mid-March, the Russian troops were distributed for a potential rendezvous at Kovno (present-day Kaunas/Lithuania) at the end of May. However, Field-Marshall Apraxin hesitated to execute the order given to him by Empress Elizabeth to invade East Prussia. An Austrian envoy, FML von St. André, joined Apraxin at his headquarters in Riga while another Austrian representative, FML Baron von Buccow, was sent to St. Petersburg to try to induce the Russians to act. The fluctuating health of Empress Elizabeth combined with the known Prussian sympathy of her potential successor paralysed Apraxin. He argued that his army was not yet ready to undertake an expedition so far from its bases because he did not have sufficient provisions and the siege corps destined for Memel was not ready.
Initially, Lehwaldt considered to deploy troops on a front of some 60 km to prevent Russian incursions in East Prussia.
On March 28, Lehwaldt ordered to establish the East Prussia Land Militia Battalion to defend the frontier, cover the coast and protect the province against raids of the Russian irregular cavalry.
In the Spring, the other Russian irregulars units, who had reached the Dniepr on the previous Autumn, joined the Russian army.
At the beginning of April, Lehwaldt undertook a general inspection of the Province of East Prussia. He found troops in good condition but considered that garrison regiments lacked experienced officers. The fortresses were ready for defence and the East Prussia Land Militia Battalion had started to assemble.
On April 10, Lehwaldt wrote to Frederick that he was under the impression that the Russians would not be ready to march before mid-May. He estimated their strength between 80,000 and 120,000 men.
On April 24, Forester von Schlieben was ordered to recruit volunteers for the East Prussia Land Militia Battalion. Furthermore, according to an order issued by the administration at Königsberg, additional levies were made for the defence of the towns and villages of East Prussia. Small mounted units were charged to carry messages. As in the other towns, some 3,000 burghers of Königsberg were organised in armed coys while 6,000 others formed a reserve. Finally, the butchers' guild, according to ancient tradition, formed a squadron of 150 men.
On April 28, the Russian commanders were informed of the intended march towards Kovno. Meanwhile, troops stationed in Courland were ordered to march towards Riga which they should reach by May 11.
Learning that the Russian army had brought no forage and intended to resupply in its march through Poland, Frederick bought up all corn and forage in the regions through which the Russians would march. In fact, the poor harvest of the previous year in East Prussia forced him to bring supplies from other provinces or to buy them in Poland.
From the end of April to May 5, Prussian troops gradually took position between Insterburg (present-day Chernyakhovsk/Russia) and Tilsit. Lehwaldt established his headquarters at Insterburg.
At the beginning of May, the 6 coys of the East Prussia Land Militia Battalion, totalling 2,200 men, had been assembled. Lehwaldt appointed an officer to command each of these companies. Captain von Katrczinsky of the Goldap coy, was designated as commander of the battalion. The battalion joined Ruesch Hussars along the border between the Memel River and Goldap. Major-General von Ruesch took command of this detachment.
A strong Russian fleet (20 ships of the line, 6 frigates, 4 bombs, 2 gunboats and a large number of transport vessels) had been equipped in the Baltic to cooperate with the army. Empress Elizabeth ordered to blockade Prussian harbours. The squadron based at Kronstadt sent 6 bombs under Captain Walrund towards Memel.
|Russian Fleet of the Baltic in May|
|In Windau (present-day Ventspils/Latvia): Reval Squadron under Counter-Admiral Lewes, an Englishman in the Russian service.
On its way from Kronstadt towards Memel: bomb squadron of Captain Walrund from the Kronstadt Squadron
In Riga: transport galleys of Lieutenant S. Vishniakov to transport the siege artillery to Libau (present-day Liepāja/Latvia)
In Reval: transport galleys fleet of Counter-Admiral Kashkin
In Kronstadt: Admiral Mishukov's Squadron
The main Prussian magazine in East Prussia was located in Königsberg but there were also large magazines in Tilsit and Ragnit (present-day Neman/Russia) and smaller ones were established at Gumbinnen (present-day Gusev), Angerburg, Insterburg and Wehlau (present-day Znamensk).
The Russians advance towards East Prussia
On May 7, a Russian squadron (6 ships of the line, 3 frigates) under Counter-Admiral Lewes sailed from Reval towards the Prussian coasts.
On May 10 and 11, Lieutenant-General Lieven occupied Kovno with 2 horse grenadier rgts.
On May 13, Lewes' Squadron arrived at Windau. Lewes sent cruisers to reconnoitre the harbours of Pillau and Memel.
|Order of Battle|
|Order of battle of Lehwaldt's Prussian Army on May 13|
By May 13, the Russian army (some 88,400 men including the troops already at Kovno) was deployed as follows:
- the avant-garde under General in Chief Browne in and around Mitau
- the main body under General in Chief Lopukhin mostly at Riga with part still on the march towards Riga
- Major-General Rumyantsev's Cavalry on the march towards Wilkomir (present-day Ukmergė/Lithuania)
- Saltykov's Brigade at Reval
- small columns on the march towards Kovno
- Lieutenant-General Lieven's Cavalry on the march towards Kovno and Grodno (Hrodna/Belarussia)
- the irregular cavalry on the march from the Dniepr to the Niemen
On May 13, Apraxin ordered his army to march on Kovno in two divisions, each forming a column. The fact that most forage along the way had already been bought by the Prussians considerably hindered and delayed the advance of the Russian army.
On May 14, the main Russian army passed the Düna (present-day Daugava River).
On May 23, the right column of the Russian army reached Mitau; and the left column, Bauske (present-day Bauska/Latvia). Another column, commanded by General Fermor advanced through Samogitia, a province of Lithuania, heading for Memel to lay siege to the place.
On May 26, the Kronstadt Squadron under Admiral Mishukov sailed for Pillau.
By the end of May, 4 Russian infantry rgts and 2 Don Cossacks rgts had also reached Kovno.
Around the end of May, a few Russian warships appeared in front of Brüsterort (present-day Majak) and Pillau, preventing commercial activities. However, after strong representations from Denmark and Great Britain, only Prussian vessels were intercepted.
Two high roads led from Poland and Lithuania to the Prussian border: one from Kovno by Balwerschischki (present-day Balbieriškis/Lithuania), Ludwinow (present-day Liudvinavas/Lithuania) and Wirballen (present-day Virbalis/Lithuania) to Königsberg; the other from Grodno by Augustow to Lyck (present-day Ełk/PL). The Memel flows in the northern part of East Prussia where it has an average width of 300 m. On the Ruß, the northern branch of the Memel, there were wide swamps extending as far as the town of Memel. There were no bridges but some ferries and fords near Tilsit. In the country between the Memel and the Ruß on one side and the Pissa and the Pregel (present-day Pregolya/Russia) on the other, the flat plain east of the Juster was covered by extensive marshes and groves which, especially near the Memel, made movements of ordered troops impossible. To the west of the Juster there was a hilly country which, near Ragnit, sloped down steeply towards the Memel. However, terrain sloped down more gently towards the Juster and gradually flattened towards the Pregel and the Ruß. In its eastern part, between Insterburg and Tilsit, this hilly country was more open and passable while its western part, between Tilsit and Tapiau (present-day Gvardeysk/Russia), was covered by large swampy forest with dense undergrowth. A large road led through these forests and swamps from Tilsit by Mehlauken (present-day Zalesye/Russia) and Labiau (present-day Polessk) to Königsberg. Otherwise, another road usable only when frozen, led by Heydekrug (present-day Šilutė/Lithuania), Ruß (unidentified location), Rautenburg (unidentified location) to Labiau. Therefore, an offensive coming from east and north-east against Labiau would have been very difficult. To the south of the Pregel, there were extensive swampy forests: the Astrawischkener Forest and the Frisching.
The Pregel, formed from the Pissa and Angerapp, flows between Insterburg and Königsberg with moderate current in a 1 to 2 km wide valley covered by wet meadows (slightly drier upstream of Tapiau). This valley was usually flooded each spring and fall. There were bridges at Insterburg, Taplacken (present-day Talpaki), Wehlau and Königsberg; and several fords between Insterburg and Tapiau. Up to Insterburg, the Pregel was navigable for small boats; and its tributary, the Alle, up to Friedland (present-day Pravdinsk/Russia). The lower end of the Alle valley was bordered by 40 to 50 m. high hills which often ran so close to the river as to make any troop movement impossible in the valley. The Deime, a branch of the Pregel, flowed into the Curonian Lagoon near Tapiau. It was impassable except at Tapiau and Labiau.
A bridge on the Weichsel (present-day Vistula) led to the Polish Fortress of Thorn (present-day Toruń). Component of a boat-bridge were ready near Kurzebrack, some 3 km west of Marienwerder. There were also ferries at Dirschau (present-day Tczew/PL) and other locations.
To the exception of the Samland Peninsula, the coasts of the Baltic Sea offered few suitable landings. The east coast of the Curonian Lagoon was covered by large moorlands; its south coast, by swampy meadows and shrubbery. So there too, landing would prove to be difficult. The stormy lagoon could only be used by flat-bottomed vessels but a narrow road led from Memel by Schwarzort (present-day Juodkrantė/Lithuania) to Rinderort (present-day Salivino/Russia). Furthermore, the Friedrichsgraben Canal made it possible to avoid a large part of the dangerous journey across the lagoon. From Memel, boats could reach Kovno by the Ruß, the Memel and the Niemen.
The most important road to invade East Prussia led from Kovno to Eydtkuhnen (present-day Chernyshevskoye) on the border. It then followed the northern bank of the Pissa and Pregel down to Königsberg. Since the road ran through swampy groves, it was difficult to deploy troops and defenders were at an advantage. Another road of a lesser quality led from Gumbinnen along the south bank of the Pregel down to Königsberg.
By June 6, Fermor's Corps was at Wilna, on its way to Kovno the general rendezvous. The same day, Lehwaldt, now informed of the advance of the Russian army, established his camp at Insterburg. He still hoped that the Russians would abandon their project when they learn about Frederick's victory at Prague.
A magazine was established at Insterburg and provisioned from Königsberg, using the waterways. Another magazine was established midway at Wehlau.
With Russian troops advancing from north and east, Lehwaldt hesitated and could not come to any decision. However, in almost each of his letter, Frederick was urging him to take advantage of his interior lines of communication and to attack each Russian column one after the other. Despite these advices, Lehwaldt remained idle at Insterburg for five weeks. He still hoped for an intervention of the British Navy to prevent the capture of the Prussian harbours on the Baltic Sea.
During his march, seeing that Lehwaldt was sitting idle at Insterburg, Apraxin instructed Browne, who was replacing Fermor during his illness, to advance on Memel.
On June 10, the two columns of the main Russian army effected a junction at Keidany (unidentified location) on the right bank of the Viliya River opposite Kovno. These columns were gradually ferried to Kovno by two boats. By that time, Lieven's Corps had already reached Kovno.
On June 11, Apraxin repeated his orders to Fermor to advance on Memel when the latter arrived at Libau.
On June 15, the main Russian army reached Kovno. Poor provisions, unfavourable weather and bad roads had increased the difficulties of the advance which had already been hampered by the large baggage train. Nevertheless, the army managed to travel the 240 km separating Mitau from Kovno in 20 days. Troops were exhausted by ceaseless marches and constant encampments and a large number fell ill and had to be sent back.
Then 7 infantry rgts marched from Mitau by Doblen (present-day Dobele/Latvia) to Libau where 1 hussar rgt and 2 Cossack rgts were also sent. Meanwhile, Saltykov's Brigade was transported by sea from Reval to Libau. However, its horses and train had to march to destination. All these troops were destined to the siege of Memel under the command of General in Chief Fermor.
At Kovno, the main Russian army was once more subdivided in two divisions under Lopukhin and Browne. Preparations for the long march to Balwerschischki took a long time. To prepare the advance of the main Russian army from Kovno to the Prussian border, General-Quartermaster Stoffeln was charged to establish magazines and to repair roads. His corps (1 hussar rgt, 2 horse grenadier sqns, a detachment of pioneers) was sent to the left bank of the left bank of the Niemen.
After the defeat of the Austrians at Prague in Bohemia, their allies felt the urge to assist them. Accordingly, Chancellor Bestuzhev asked for speedy action.
In mid-June, as the Russian fleet cruising in front of Pillau threatened to effect a landing on the Samland Peninsula, Lehwaldt detached Colonel von Froideville at the head of 3 dragoon sqns and 3 hussar sqns to Petersdorf (present-day Kuibyshevskoje/Russia) near Wehlau, where this detachment was still 90 km from the peninsula!
On June 21, despite his orders to advance on Memel, Fermor was still near Grobin (present-day Grobiņa/Latvia) to the east of Libau when the fleet transporting Saltykov's Brigade and the artillery park arrived in front of Memel. As his advance on Memel should be timed with the advance of the main Russian army into East Prussia, Fermor asked Apraxin for further instructions. He nevertheless set off from Grobin towards Memel. On his way, Fermor received Apraxin's new orders, specifying that Memel should be taken as soon as possible.
On June 23, Fermor's cavalry vanguard was at Budendingshof (present-day Būtingė/Lithuania). His entire corps counted some 18,000 men with 24 siege pieces. To regulate supply, it was ordered that it would be forwarded from Libau, partly by the waterways and partly by a constantly travelling convoy of wagons.
On June 26, Lehwaldt, still encamped at Insterburg, was informed of Frederick's defeat at Kolin.
On June 27, as Stoffeln reported that roads were now repaired, the main Russian army began to cross the Niemen at Poniemon (probably Panemunė/Lithuania). Part of the Chevaux de frise were left behind to allow wagons and carts to carry provisions for 18 instead of 14 days.
The Russians enter into East Prussia
On June 28, the Russian vanguard under Major-General Prince Lubomirski set off towards Balwerschischki. The same day, Captain Walrund arrived in front of Memel with 6 Russian bomb ketches.
On June 29, the main Russian army marched towards Balwerschischki by division. The irregulars plundered fortified farmhouses and perpetrated atrocities in the village of Prökuls (present-day Priekulė). That was the beginning of a chain of violent attacks who laid waste in the territories traversed by the Russian army. Irregulars belonging to Fermor's Corps were better controlled than those attached to the main army.
On June 30, Fermor's Corps marched by Budendingshof and Polangen (present-day Palanga/Lithuania) and passed the Dange to the north-east of Memel.
At the end of June, the Russian naval and land forces arrived before Memel which was defended by only 700 men. The fleet transported about 9,000 men who would land and attack Memel on the sea side while Fermor would do the same on the land side. The Siege of Memel lasted from June 28 to July 5.
On July 1, Lubomirski's vanguard reached Balwerschischki by Gogi (unidentified location) and Preny (present-day Prienai/Lithuania).
On July 4, Lehwaldt held a council of war. With the inevitable surrender of Memel, generals considered their positions at Insterburg much compromised and proposed to retire westwards to Wehlau. Only Ruesch advocated an offensive against Apraxin's Army but his proposal did not prevail.
On July 5, Lehwald sent First Lieutenant von Humboldt with a letter to Frederick in Bohemia to inform him of the general situation and of the decision of the war council. Lehwaldt also sent Major-General von Kanitz with 4 bns (Grenadier Battalion Lossow, Grenadier Battalion Gohr, 2 bns of Garrison Regiment XI Manteuffel), 5 sqns (one sqn of each dragoon rgt of the army), 300 hussars and 4 coys of the East Prussia Land Militia Battalion to Wehlau. Kanitz was charged to prevent any landing at Königsberg. At Wehlau, Kanitz's Corps effected a junction with Froideville's detachment (3 dragoon sqns, 3 hussar sqns) which was posted there since mid-June. Kanitz then established outposts on the coasts of the Curonian Lagoon and of the Baltic Sea up to Fischhausen (present-day Primorsk/Russia). He also had some boats cruising on the lagoon. The same day, Memel capitulated. The capture of this town allowed the Russians to transform it into a convenient place of arms well supplied by their fleet. Permskiy Infantry remained in Memel as garrison while Kegsgolmskiy Infantry was charged to assist in landing operations.
In growing concern about his lines of communication with Königsberg, Lehwaldt transferred supplies from the magazines of Königsberg to Insterburg and those located along the Pregel to Wehlau. He also moved the rest of the East Prussia Land Militia Battalion and the hussars closer to Insterburg.
On July 6, the last elements of the main Russian army finally reached Balwerschischki where a few days rest became necessary. It was found that the magazines established on the Niemen to support the offensive in East Prussia had been insufficiently supplied. Thus, it became very difficult to appropriately supply the smaller march-magazines established along the highway between Balwerschischki and Wirballen. Lack of vessels had previously hindered transport on the Niemen in the hinterland. With water level falling, it now became simply impossible.
On July 8, the Russian rearguard reached Balwerschischki. With great difficulties, provisions were transported by land and assembled at Balwerschischki and Ludwinow in preparation for the next marches. Apraxin resolved to put more emphasis on sea transportation and on the use of the waterways of East Prussia to supply his army. After the capture of Memel, Fermor should transfer supplies from Libau to Memel and redirect the transports arriving from St. Petersburg to Memel. The capture of Labiau was also considered to allow the army advancing on Königsberg to be supplied by boats on the Deime.
On July 10, Stoffeln reached Wirballen on the Prussian border.
On July 11, before the arrival of Frederick's answer, Lehwaldt retired westwards by Saalau (present-day Kamenskoye/Russia) in the direction of Wehlau to cover Königsberg, leaving Malachowsky at Insterburg with 600 men from Malachowsky Hussars and Ruesch Hussars. The same day, at Balwerschischki, Apraxin was informed that Memel had fallen and that Lehwaldt was retiring westwards. Apraxin resolved to advance with his main army by Wirballen to Gumbinnen. Furthermore, a fleet of 30 galleys should set off from Memel and make itself master of Labiau. For his part, Lieven's Cavalry Corps was ordered to set off from Olita (present-day Alytus/Lithuania) a few days before the left wing of the army. He would be supported by an infantry brigade with some field artillery. The cavalry of the left wing (some 6,500 men mostly irregulars with a few regimental guns) under the command of the newly appointed Saxon General Sibilski would march by Oletzko (present-day Olecko/PL), Goldap, Darkehmen (present-day Ozyorsk/Russia) and Friedland, spreading terror and confusion on its way. If the Prussians retreated, Sibilski was instructed to stop and await the arrival of the main Russian army. To prevent Lehwaldt from crossing the Weichsel, Sibilski was also instructed to burn the bridges and vessels at Thorn and Marienwerder.
On July 13, Apraxin ordered Fermor to make himself master of Tilsit as soon as possible but at least before July 26.
On July 14, Lehwaldt's Army reached Petersdorf near Wehlau. He established his camp with his right wing on the Pregel. He sent his hussars to Taplacken. Kanitz's main body marched from Wehlau to Kaymen (unidentified location) on the road leading from Labiau to Königsberg.
By mid-July, Stoffeln had some 4,000 horse and a number of pioneers at his disposal at Wirballen.
On July 17, the Russian army set off from Balwerschischki by divisions. The 1st Division and the headquarters marched to Daukschi (present-day Daukšiai/Lithuania).
On July 18, the 1st Division reached Ludwinow where, after its junction with the 2nd Division, it rested for four days. There, Apraxin received the order of the Conference, issued after the fall of Memel, to engage Lehwaldt's Army to prevent its junction with Frederick's Army. The same day, the Prussian First Lieutenant von Humboldt returned with Frederick's answer who advised Lehwaldt to march against a Russian Corps and engage it.
On July 21, now that the road had been repaired, Fermor's vanguard set off from the area of Memel for Tilsit.
On July 22, Saltykov's Brigade, belonging to Fermor's Corps set off for Tilsit.
On July 23, the main Russian Army set off from Ludwinow.
On July 24, Colonel von Malachowsky at the head of most of Malachowsky Hussars and Ruesch Hussars marched from Insterburg to the neighbourhoods of Gumbinnen. He wanted to drive back some Russian irregular cavalry which had been reported in the area of Niebudszen (present-day Krasnogorskoye/Russia).
On July 25, the main Russian army finally reached Wirballen after three marches. It then rested there for a week awaiting the arrival of the other columns.
On July 26, the rest of Fermor's Corps marched for Tilsit. Heat made the march very straining, the corps marched by Heydekrug and Winge (unidentified location) to Baubeln (present-day Bubliške/Lithuania). By then, Lieven's Cavalry Corps was at Karklupiany (present-day Karklupėnai/Lithuania).
On July 27, Rumyantsev arrived at Wirballen with 3 cuirassier rgts (each 400 men strong).
On July 28, Sibilski marched from Grodno.
On July 29, Fermor's Corps assembled at Baubeln.
On July 31, Tilsit opened its gates to Fermor. The same day, the Russian cavalry who had been left behind on the Dniepr arrived at Stallupönen (present-day Nesterow/Russia) under the command of Chomutov. It was still in very bad conditions. The vanguard of the main Russian army was on the frontier. Light troops roamed the East Prussian countryside since the beginning of July.
On August 1, the Russian vanguard entered into East Prussia. The same day, 200 hussars of Malachowsky's detachment engaged part of Chuguevski Cossacks near Kummeln (unidentified location), driving them, as well as a detachment of horse grenadier resting in Kummeln, back to Kattenau (present-day Savety/Russia). However, Malachowsky was forced to retire when Russian reinforcements arrived. His hussars brought back 25 prisoners. He asked Lehwaldt for reinforcements. Many inhabitants of East Prussia sought refuge in Danzig (present-day Gdańsk).
On August 2, the main Russian army resumed its march in three columns to the heights of Stallupönen.
On August 3, the columns of the main Russian army effected a junction.
On August 4, the main Russian army marched to Budupönen (unidentified location).
On August 5, some Russian cavalry reached Gumbinnen.
On August 6, the main Russian army arrived at Gumbinnen and established a camp to the east of the town. The same day, Lehwaldt detached Major-General von Platen with Grenadier Battalion Polentz and 4 sqns of Platen Dragoons along the south bank of the Pregel to Insterburg.
On August 7, Apraxin held a council of war at Gumbinnen where it was decided to effect a junction with Fermor's Corps near Insterburg and to attack Lehwaldt's Army. However, magazines established along the line of march were insufficiently stocked and time was necessary to replenish them. Nizovskiy Infantry was left as garrison in Gumbinnen. In the evening, Stoffeln was sent forward with 700 Cossacks and 300 hussars, closely followed by 6 cuirassier sqns under Brigadier Demiku, to reconnoitre the road.
Combat of Pötschkehmen
On August 7, Lehwaldt sent Lieutenant-General Prince of Holstein with 5 sqns to reinforce Platen at Insterburg. Lehwaldt then decided to advance towards Georgenburg (present-day Mayovka/Russia) with his army to offer battle. Meanwhile, during his march, Platen rested his troops at Bubainen (probably Berezhkovskoye/Russia) for a few hours. There he received a message from Malachowsky at Insterburg informing him that the Russians (Stoffeln's detachment) had already reached Gerwischkehmen (present-day Priozernoye) while he still thought that they were near Gumbinnen. In the evening, Platen hastened towards Insterburg with the cavalry of his detachment.
In the night of August 7 to 8, Malachowsky tried to reconnoitre Stoffeln's camp at Gerwischkehmen but fog and darkness made it impossible to estimate the size of the Russian corps.
On August 8
- Lieven's vanguard advanced towards Insterburg.
- Fermor completed two bridges on the Memel and his corps passed the river and encamped at Kallkappen (present-day Barsukovka). A garrison of 500 foot had been left at Tilsit to protect the magazines.
- In the morning, Malachowsky returned to Pötschkehmen (present-day Krasnopolye/Russia) just as Stoffeln set off from his camp. Malachowsky was pushed back to a forest occupied by troops of the East Prussia Land Militia Battalion, attacked by superior forces and, after a firefight of several hours, he was forced to retire to Insterburg where Platen was arrived. Stoffeln followed him but when he saw that the requested support had not kept pace, he established himself at Pieragienen (unidentified location) not far from Insterburg.
- Lehwaldt sent Lieutenant-General Count zu Dohna by Saalau to Georgenburg on the north bank of the Pregel with a vanguard of 8 bns, 4 dragoon sqns and the rest of his hussars. The bridge of Taplacken and a bridge of boats near Bubainen allowed Dohna's vanguard and Platen's and Holstein's to support each others. Furthermore, Kanitz was recalled from Kaymen and Froideville from the neighbourhood of Wehlau. Only the East Prussia Land Militia Battalion and 100 hussars were left behind to defend the coast.
- Platen informed Lehwaldt and Dohna that he thought that Stoffeln was trying to locate a proper camp for the main army. Dohna, who was at Saalau, abandoned his project of an advance on Georgenburg.
On August 9
- The main army reached Stannaitschen (present-day FurmanovoéRussia) where it rested for a few hours. Indeed, the combat at Pötschkehmen had convinced Apraxin that his army should get out this difficult country as soon as possible.
- Lieven's vanguard reached Tammowischken (present-day Timofeyevka/Russia), 6 km east of Insterburg where it remained for two days.
- Sibilski's Cavalry Corps was very rapidly turning the Prussian right wing and had reached Goldap.
- The tireless Malachowsky followed unnoticed the left bank of the Pissa with 200 hussars and reached the proximity of a Russian camp. However, he was forced to fight his way back when detachments of Cossacks and hussars crossed the river and tried to cut his line of retreat at Stannaitschen.
- Platen confirmed to Dohna and Lehwaldt that the main Russian army was marching towards Insterburg.
In the night of August 9 to 10, the Russians drove back Platen's detachment who rejoined Holstein's detachment. Dohna finally assembled these detachments at Plibischken (present-day Glushkovo). Lehwaldt authorised them to retire between Stobingen (present-day Livny) and Wilkendorf (unidentified location) where they encamped. Taplacken was occupied to secure its bridge.
On August 10, the main Russia army marched to Trakehnen (present-day Yasnaya Polyana/Russia) .
On August 11, the main Russian army encamped at Insterburg.
On August 13
- Sibilski's Cavalry Corps, who had been recalled, rejoined the main Russian army at Insterburg.
- Fermor's Corps set off from Kallkappen to effect a junction with the main army. It marched by Szillen (present-day Zhilino/Russia) and Kraupischken (present-day Ulyanovo/Russia).
On August 14, the main Russian army advanced to Georgenburg.
On August 17, the main Russian army marched to Sterkeningken (present-day Sovkhoznoye/Russia).
On August 18
- Fermor's Corps finally effected its junction with the main army at Sterkeningken. After the junction, Apraxin reorganised his army: Sibilski was put at the head of the vanguard; Fermor assumed command of the 1st Division; Lopukhin, of the 2nd Division; and Browne, of the 3rd Division. Since May, the army had been reduced from 88,000 men to 55,000 men.
- A war council of the Russian commanders resolved to harass all Prussian detachment on both banks of the Pregel.
- Colonel du Moulin was assigned to Krasnoshtshokov's Corps of 5,200 cavalrymen (irregular cavalry, 4 hussar rgts and 1 Cossack rgt). He realised that the territory to the north of the Pregel offered very strong positions to the Prussians and that the Russians had little chance to launch any successful attacks. Du Moulin then decided to operate on the left bank of the Pregel.
- Major von Jeanneret with 200 Malachowsky Hussars marched from Puschdorf (present-day Pushkarevo/Russia) towards Norkitten (present-day Meschduretschje/Russia) at the request of the plundered inhabitants. He drove back Cossacks, but saw himself suddenly attacked from all sides by far superior forces. He lost more than 100 men, including 30 men killed and 8 taken prisoners.
On August 19, a corps of 4,000 irregular Russian cavalry was assembled at Norkitten under Major-General Kastiurin. His advance having been detected, the latter failed to burn down the hay magazines near Wehlau. He then rode southwards by Muldszen (present-day Perevalovo/Russia) to Allenburg (present-day Druzhba/Russia). However, du Moulin was unable to persuade Kastiurin to resume his advance on Wehlau and Königsberg and the detachment marched back by Todlauken (unidentified location) to rejoin the main army. Du Moulin was convinced that the army would find provisions for one month to the south of the Pregel.
On August 19 and 20, the Russian fleet sailed from the mouth of the Weichsel and cruised along the Prussian coasts for a few days before heading for the Russian harbours.
On August 20
- The main Russian army encamped at Saalau.
- Brigadier Krasnoshtshokov at the head of his cavalry detachment advanced along the north bank of the Pregel to reconnoitre the Prussian camp.
On August 21
- Krasnoshtshokov's forces drove a Prussian detachment out of Kallehnen (probably Ryabinovoye/Russia). The village was then plundered and burnt down in the usual way.
- In Flischken (unidentified location), the Russians attacked 2 coys of the East Prussia Land Militia Battalion who, led by Lieutenant von Losch, managed to retire in the forest, losing 10 men killed and 2 wounded in the engagement. The village of Flischken was then burnt down.
- Mainly for sanitary reasons, Lehwaldt transferred his camp from Petersdorf to Dohna's advanced positions at Wilkendorf.
On August 23, Apraxin held a council of war where it was decided that an attack on the Prussian camp at Petersdorf was futile and that the army would rather resume its advance by Allenburg towards Königsberg on the south bank of the Pregel while living of the country. Apraxin hoped that his advance on Königsberg would force Lehwaldt to abandon his advantageous positions and to offer battle.
On August 24
- The main Russian army advanced to Siemohnen (present-day Sirenevka/Russia) where the Prussians had broken the bridge down.
- Nizovskiy Infantry was sent back towards Tilsit because too many men were ill.
On August 25, the Russian vanguard started to cross the Pregel at Siemohnen.
On August 26
- The Russian 2nd Division passed the Pregel.
- Major-General von Ruesch and Major-General von Kanitz advanced on Plibischken with I./Kanitz Infantry, 1,000 commandeered foot and 1,200 hussars. Cossacks outposts retired on supporting troops after setting fire to the village Russian regulars were posted with some artillery on the heights to the west of the Auer Canal. The hussars launched a successful attack and drove back the Russians. They then discovered a large Russian camp near Saalau and several bridges thrown across the canal. Lehwaldt concluded that the Russians intended to attack him soon.
On August 27, the rest of the Russian army passed the Pregel. Bridges were then broken down. Apraxin intended to move around the Astrawischken Forest on his way to Todlauken but Fermor convinced him to take the shorter, but more difficult, road through the marshy area north of the forest. The Russians encamped on the plateau near Norkitten. In front, their camp was covered by the Norkitten Forest; on the right flank, by the Kuthkehm Wood; and on the left flank by the steep valley of the Aurinne. Cossacks and part of the infantry of the vanguard occupied the heights of Sittenfelde (unidentified location) in front of the left wing. Apraxin had encamped his army in a position from which it would be difficult to disentangle from and, by removing his bridges on the Pregel, deprived himself of a good line of retreat.
In the morning of August 28, the Prussians passed the Pregel in two columns and encamped at Puschdorf behind the dense Puschdorf Forest. Lehwaldt sent parties who vainly tried to reconnoitre the Russian positions. His manoeuvre had completely surprised Apraxin. The Russian army remained under arms till late in the evening. Furthermore, Apraxin ordered to burn down the village of Groß-Jägersdorf (present-day Motornoye/Russia) located in front of his position.
Battle of Gross-Jägersdorf
On August 29
- In the morning, Lieutenant-General von Schorlemmer was sent forward through the Puschdorf Forest with 40 sqns to reconnoitre the Russian positions. Lehwaldt also sent Grenadier Battalion Gohr and Grenadier Battalion Lossow forward to support Schorlemmer. As the Russian light troops retired in front of Schorlemmer's cavalry, Lehwaldt could have a look at the positions of the main army. However, he could not see the troops posted near Sittenfelde.
- The main Prussian army, led by Dohna, marched across the clearing east of Puschdorf, through the forest and deployed in order of battle. Lehwaldt decided to attack the Russian left wing which was apparently unsupported. He postponed the operations to the next morning, hoping to silently approach the Russian camp undetected. Lehwaldt's Army thus retraced its steps to the camp of Puschdorf. Schorlemmer's cavalry was closely followed by Cossacks during its retreat.
- Lehwaldt tried to reconnoitre the Russian positions but obtained flawed intelligence which would lead him to attack the Russian centre when he thought that he was advancing against their left wing.
- As Schorlemmer approached the Russian camp with his cavalry, Apraxin deployed his army in order of battle from the Pregel along the western edge of the Kuthkehm Forest by Metschullen and the ridge north of Daupelken up to this village. Light troops were deployed on both wings, along the Pregel and near Sittenfelde, part of the infantry of the vanguard was also posted near Sittenfelde. The gap between the Pregel and the Kuthkehm Forest, where Apraxin feared an attack, was occupied by infantry and cavalry.
- After Schorlemmer's retreat, the Russians too returned to their camp but Apraxin posted the 1st Field-Artillery Brigade of the 1st Division, Leontiev's Infantry Brigade of the 3rd Division and hussars at the north-west corner of the Norkitten Woods to prevent any surprise attack. He also posted the 2nd Moscowskiy Infantry with 2 field pieces of the vanguard at the south-east corner. The infantry detachment of the vanguard previously posted near Sittenfelde returned to the Russian camp for the night. Only cavalry guarded the road leading to Muldszen.
- In the evening, a Prussian deserter arrived at the Russian camp, pretending that Lehwaldt intended to attack at dawn. Apraxin assembled a war council where Fermor managed to convince him that there was no serious threat of an attack and that Lehwaldt just hoped to immobilize the Russian army in a poor region where provisions were difficult to obtain. It was thus decided to march the next day by Eschenbruch (unidentified location) to Allenburg.
On August 30, Lehwaldt boldly attacked the Russians in the Battle of Gross-Jägersdorf but was defeated and forced to retreat to his camp at Wehlau.
A few days later, Lehwaldt lifted camp and moved to Paterswalde (present-day Bolshaya Polyana/Russia).
After his victory at Gross-Jägersdorf, Apraxin advanced to Allenburg. East Prussia now lay wide open to a Russian invasion. Inexplicably, Apraxin did not take advantage of this opportunity and did not advance on Königsberg. (Archenholz pretends that Apraxin had been ordered to fall back by Chancellor Bestuzhev-Ryumin who had been bought by British gold)
On September 13, the Russians, who had remained idle for a while, began their retreat from East Prussia heading for Russia through Lithuania. However, a garrison of 10,000 Russian troops was left to occupy Memel. The small Prussian army under Lehwaldt prudently followed the retreating Russians from a distance until they returned to Poland. During their withdrawal, the Russians left 15,000 wounded and sick and 80 guns behind. The Russian army marched in 2 columns and burned the villages through which they passed. Apraxin's retreat allowed Lehwaldt to turn his attention to the Pomeranian theatre of operation where the Swedes were making steady progress.
Indeed, on October 6, Lehwaldt was ordered by Frederick II to redirect his efforts against the Swedes in Pomerania.
On October 28, Apraxin was removed from command. He died shortly afterwards during his trial in front of a military tribunal.
The Russian army took its winter-quarters in Courland and Samogitia.
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. 206, 221, 224
- Archenholz, J. W.: The History of the Seven Years War in Germany, translated by F. A. Catty, Francfort, 1843, pp. 42, 91-95
- 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. 2 Prag, Berlin, 1901, pp. 18-19
- Vol. 4 Groß-Jägersdorf und Breslau, Berlin, 1902, pp. 13-84, Anhang 15, 16
- Tempelhoff, Fr.: History of the Seven Years' War Vol. I pp. 206-214, as translated by Colin Lindsay, Cadell, London, 1793
Dorn and Engelmann: Die Schlacten Friedrichs des Grossen, Podzun Pallas, Hanau, 1986
Duffy, Christopher: Introduction to Battle of Gross Jagersdorf - August 30, 1757, Seven Years War Association Journal,Vol. X No. 2
Konstam A. & B. Younghusband: Russian Army of the Seven Years War, Osprey, London, 1996
Meuser, Denise: Battle of Gross Jagersdorf - Battle Description - August 30, 1757, Seven Years War Association Journal,Vol. X No. 2