1757 - Siege of Breslau
The siege took place in December 1757
Description of Events
Prelude to the Siege
On December 7, after his decisive victory at Leuthen which put an end to the Austrian invasion of Silesia, Frederick II sent Zieten with three grenadier battalions, three musketeer battalions, four hussar squadrons, five dragoon squadrons and two freikorps battalions in pursuit of the Austrian army. Meanwhile, Frederick immediately laid siege to Breslau (actual Wrocław) defended by General Sprecher with 17,000 men.
Frederick pushed with all his strength in spite of bad weather and of Sprecher's industrious defence. Sprecher had posted placards on the gallows and up and down, terrifically proclaiming that any man convicted of mentioning surrender should be instantly hanged. But Frederick's bombardment was strong, his assaults continual and the ditches were threatening to freeze.
On December 14, seventh day of the siege, a laboratory blew up.
The night of December 14 to 15 was employed by the Prussians to repair their great battery which had been badly damaged by the Austrian heavy guns mounted on the walls of Breslau.
On December 16 at 9:00 AM, the Prussian great battery opened fire. Around 4:40 PM, a bomb fell on a powder-magazine near the bastion attacked by the Prussians. The magazine blew up, carrying a lump of the rampart away with it. More than 800 Austrians were killed or wounded by the explosion.
During the night of December 16 to 17, about 1,200 Prussians dug a long parallel at 250 paces of the attacked bastion.
On December 17 at 11:00 PM, the Austrian attempted a sortie in the Polish suburb but they were repulsed.
During the night of December 17 to 18, the Prussians began to erect a new battery containing 6 guns and 6 mortars. At 2:00, the Austrians made another unsuccessful sortie.
On December 18 at 2:00 PM, the Prussians continued digging towards the bastion while improving the newly built battery.
On December 19 at 10:00 PM, Sprecher had to capitulate.
On December 20, the posts and the city gates were occupied by Prussian troops.
On December 21, the Austrian garrison deposited arms and its 17,635 men became prisoners of war (among which 4 lieutenant-generals, 9 major-generals, 17 colonels, 22 lieutenant-colonels, 24 majors, 190 captains, 346 lieutenants and 36 ensigns). The Prussians also seized 81 guns, 1,024 horses, ample ammunitions and 220 wagons.
With Breslau retaken, the Prussians were master of most of Silesia. Only Schweidnitz (actual Świdnica) was still occupied by Austrian troops. However, it was too late in the campaigning season to consider besieging this strong fortress.
Order of Battle
Austrian Order of Battle
Commander-in-chief: General Sprecher
Summary: about 17,000 men
Prussian Order of Battle
Commander-in-chief: king Frederick II
This article incorporates texts from the following books which are now in the public domain:
- Anonymous, A Complete History of the Present War, from its Commencement in 1756, to the End of the Campaign, 1760, London, 1761, pp. 223-226, 236-240
- Carlyle T., History of Friedrich II of Prussia vol. 18
- Donnersmarck, Victor Amadaeus Henckel von, Militaerischer Nachlass, Karl Zabeler, 1858
Tomasz Karpiński (student at the Institute of History, University of Adam Mickiewicz in Poznań, Poland) for the map