1757 - Siege of Memel

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The siege lasted from June 28 to July 5 1757

Description of Events

Prelude to the Siege

In 1757, a large Russian army had proceeded to the invasion of East Prussia.

On June 1, the Russian army reached Pianica (unidentified location).

On June 13, Saltykov's corps was in Durbin country (unidentified location).

On June 20, the Russian army was at Oberartou and Ruzau (two unidentified locations).

On June 21, the Russian siege park had reached Grobin (actual Grobiņa) country.

On June 23, the Russian vanguard had Budendingshof (actual Budendyctia).

Map

Map of the siege of Memel in 1757 - Source: unknown
Fortress of Memel in 1740 - Source: Mariusz Wojciechowski

The town of Memel was surrounded by a ditch with 5 bastions. Three of these bastions were not completely enclosed. The square shaped citadel was located to the west along the Kurisches Haff (actual Curonian Lagoon), its four corers were defended by bastions. The curtain walls had a 25 m. wide moat. The fortifications were in very poor conditions. Furthermore, the suburbs consisting of wooden buildings, it was difficult to observe or to fire on the enemy.

The Siege

On June 28, the Russian fleet (6 ships under the command of Valrunt) appeared in front of the fortress of Memel (actual Klaipėda) located a the mouth of the Kurisches Haff (actuel Curonain Lagoon). Meanwhile, Fermor's corps had reached Budenigshof and, after a short rest. Advanced on Memel. The 1st and 2nd brigades crossed the Dange river while the 3rd brigade remained on its right bank. Krasnoczekov sent small detachment (500 cossacks and 200 hussars) under Romanius to Polagen (unidentified location) across the Niemen, to protect the left flank of the troops besieging Memel.

On June 30 at 6:00 AM, the Russian fleet opened fire on the fortifications and a regular siege was undertaken. These were the first shots exchanged between the Russians and Prussians during this war. The same day, the Prussians burned the suburb. After sunset, 1,000 Russian soldiers covered by grenadiers opened the first parallel some 800 paces from the walls of Memel.

By July 1, the Russians had planted 3 x 5-prdrs mortars and 4 howitzers in the first parallel and opened fire. By the evening, 136 bombs had already fallen on Memel. On 8:00 PM, several Russian ships (Jelefant, Dondier, Dziki Byk, Jupiter) opened fire from a distance on the town. Some 144 bombs fell on the town proper and 140 others on the fortress.

On July 2, the Russians opened the second parallel. By the end of the day, the Russian land and naval artillery had fired 982 bombs on the fortress.

From July 3 to 4, the 1st brigade under Saltykov, deployed on the left bank of the Dange river near Remelshof, was reinforced with 2 regiments from the 2nd brigade. The Russian right wing stood opposite to the fortress.

On July 4, the Russian troops made preparations to storm the fortifications of Memel. Rummel asked Fermor to send a courier to Lehwaldt. Meanwhile, the Russian artillery intensified the bombardment. By 4:00 PM about 2,405 bombs had fallen on Memel since the beginning of the siege.

On July 5 at 2:00 AM, the Russian artillery intensified the bombardment. At 4:00 AM, the Prussian garrison surrendered. It was allowed to leave the town with provisions for 5 days but had to deposit arms.

Outcome

During the siege, the Russians lost 25 men killed or wounded. Prussian losses are not known.

The Prussian army was not prepared to defend Memel. There was not enough men and supplies to sustain any fight. The Russians concentrated large forces to take this fortress. However, Fermor operated very carefull and progressed slowly.

With the capture of Memel, the Russians now had a strong fortress which they could transform into a convenient place of arms well supplied by their fleet.

On July 22, Fermor quitted Memel and marched towards Tilsit (actual Sovetsk in the Kaliningrad Oblast), leaving 3 rgts from Rezanov's brigade at Memel to occupy the town.

On July 29, Fermor arrived at Tilsit.

Order of Battle

Prussian Order of Battle

Commander-in-chief: Hans Albrecht von Polenz (replaced during the siege by major Rummel)

  • Königsberg (Neues) Garnison (Land Regiment Nr 2 (about 800 men and 9 officers in 4 coys)
  • 80 guns of various caliber

Russian Order of Battle

Commander-in-chief: count Villim Vilimovich Fermor

Summary: some 16,000 men, excluding marines and artillery troops

  • 1st brigade under lieutenant-general Ivan Salytkov
    • 4 infantry regiments (8 bns)
      • Uglitskiy
      • Suzdalskiy
      • Viatskiy
      • Chernigovskiy
    • Don Cossacks (500 men)
  • 2nd brigade under major-general Zoege Manteuffel
    • 3 infantry regiments (6 bns)
    • Moldavskiy Hussars
  • 3rd brigade under brigadier Treyden
    • 4 infantry regiments (8 bns for a total of some 5,500 men)
      • Nizegorodskiy
      • 2nd Moscowskiy
      • Troitskiy
      • Permskiy
  • Cavalry under Krasnoczkov
    • 2,000 cossacks with 3765 horses
    • 1 hussar regiment
  • Siege artilery under Notgeifler
    • 22 guns
    • 3 x 5-pdrs mortars
    • 4 x howitzers
  • Regimental artillery (40 battalion guns)
  • Ingenieur: colonel Demolin

N.B.: the 7 regiments of the 1st and 2nd brigades totaled some 8,281 men and 32 officers

all infantry regiments counted only 2 battalions, the third battalion having been disbanded to reinforce the two remaining battalions.

Russian Fleet taking part to the siege under Valrunt

  • Frigates
    • Wachmajster
    • Sielefail
  • Proms
    • Jelefant (Elephant)
    • Dziki Byk (Wild Bull)
  • Bomb-ketches
    • Donder
    • Jupiter
    • Rak

Russian Fleet blockading Memel under admiral Miszykov

  • Ships of the line
    • Revel (66)
    • Schlusselburg (54)
    • Moskva (66)
    • Varachail (54)
    • Polnocny Orzel ??? (North Eagle)
    • Nataliya (66)
  • Frigates
    • Archangel Michal
    • Rosjia
    • Korsarz

References

Wojciech, Stanisław Mikuła, Rola fortyfikacji Prus Wschodnich w wojnie siedmioletniej [w:] Komunikaty Mazursko-Warmińskie 1997, nr.2

Masslowski, D. F., Des Siebenjährige Krieges nach Russischer Darstellung, T. 1, trans by A. Drygalski, Berlin 1888.

Gieraths, Die Kampfhandlungen der Brandenburgische-preussischen Armee, Berlin 1964.

Jany, K., Geschichte der Königlisch Preussischen Armee bis zum Jahre 1807, t. 2, Berlin 1929.

Wrzosek, M., Kampania 1757 roku w Prusach Wschodnich [w:] Studia i Materiały do Historii Wojskowości, t. V 1960.

Tempelhof, G. F., Geschichte des siebenjahrige Krieges in Deutschland, Berlin 1783

Geschichte des siebenjahrige Krieges in einer Reihe von Vorlesungen, Preussiche grossen Generlastbs, t. 1, Berlin 1824.

Acknowledgments

Tomasz Karpiński (student at the Institute of History, University of Adam Mickiewicz in Poznań, Poland) for the initial version of this article