1757 - Siege of Prague

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The siege lasted from May to June 1757

Description

On May 6 1757, during the Prussian invasion of Bohemia, on the very night of the Battle of Prague, the Austrian Army, 50,337 men strong (including 5,792 grenzers), took refuge in the City.

On May 6 and during the following day, the Prussians had rapidly surrounded Prague, established their control on all roads leaving the town and positioned batteries.

Map of the siege of Prague from May 6 to June 20, 1757.
Source: Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen, volume III by the German Grosser Generalstab
Courtesy: Tony Flores
 
Legend
 
A - Lieutenant-General Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick (24 bns, including units posted along the Moldau)
B - Lieutenant-General von Lestwitz (18 bns, 13 sqns)
C - Lieutenant-General Prince Heinrich of Prussia (17 bns, 30 sqns and the Jäger zu Fuss)
D - General of Infantry Fürst Moritz von Anhalt-Dessau (11 bns, 16 sqns)
E - Field Marshal Keith (16 bns, 22 sqns)
1 - 9 x 12-pdrs and 6 mortars
2 - 8 x 12-pdrs and 8 mortars
3 - 10 x 24 pdrs
4 - 8 x 12-pdrs and 6 mortars
5 - 3 x 12-pdrs and 2 mortars
6 - 4 x 24-pdrs

The line of siege-works, or intermittent series of batteries, was some 20 km long: from Branik southward to beyond the Belvedere northward, on both sides of the Moldau. Frederick's Camp was on the Ziskaberg while Keith's camp was on the Lorenzberg, embracing and commanding the Weissenberg. There were two bridges for communication at Branik and Podoli.

On May 9, cannonading began. Proper siege artillery gradually arrived from Dresden until May 19. The place was then industriously battered and bombarded with red-hot ball.

Detail of a contemporary view of Prague, from the collection of Obristjs

Note: we have added some text to identify the various parts of the city and the location of the battlefield

In the night of May 23-24, between 1:00 and 2:00 a.m., a picked force of 10,000 Austrians (4,600 regular foot, grenadiers, a converged detachment of Grenzers and 2 Hungarian battalions) tried a sally against Keith's quarter. Just before daybreak, they sallied from the Reich and Karl Gates and attacked Prussian positions in the Mannsfeld Garden. However, they were soon stopped by the walls of this garden, having neglected to provide themselves with ladders. Similarly they had no carpenter or axman to break the gate of the garden. Meanwhile, the whole Austrian Army, stood ranked on the walls and would have followed if things had gone well and storm itself through, across the Moldau River by Podoli Bridge. Some grenzers led by Loudon finally managed to escalate the wall of the Mannsfeld Garden and plunged boldly in the midst of Prussian troops occupying it. However, the latter were already alerted and ready to receive them. Furthermore, the leader of the Austrian grenadiers still immobilized outside the garden gave orders to launch a hail of grenades into it, killing by mistake a great number of grenzers. The grenzers were driven out of the garden and ran in the utmost confusion towards the Austrian grenadiers who mistakenly identified the blue clad Banal-Grenzinfanterieregiment nr. 1 as Prussian and opened fire on them. After six hours, the sally was finally repulsed. The Austrian lost 656 men (including 4 officers killed and 17 wounded), mostly grenzers, in this action.

Bombardment of Prague - Copyright: Ing. Jiří Sissak Ph.D, reproduced with the kind authorisation of the Monastery Ordo Sancti Benedicti, Broumov, Czech Republic

On May 29, about sunset there came a furious burst rain mixed with hail. It lasted hour on hour and the Moldau flooded breaking half of the bridge at Branik. The low parts of Prague were all under water, unfortunate individuals getting drowned in the cellars. A great deal of Austrian meal was also spoiled. To prevent an Austrian sally, a deluge of bombs and red hot balls was hurled on the city as soon as rain ceased. The city was set fire to in various parts. The fire lasted for six hours.

On June 5, 12,000 poor people of Prague were pushed out. But, after haggling about all day, they had to be admitted in again, under penalty of being shot.

On June 8, the city looked black and ruinous, whole of the Neustadt in ashes, few houses left in the Jew Town while the fire raged on in the Altstadt.

On and after June 9, the bombardment at Prague abated and never rose to briskness again. About that time, Bevern reported that Daun was actually coming on, far too strong for his resisting.

On June 10, a red hot cannon ball set the city on fire near the Moldau. Fire raged for five hours.

On Monday June 13, hearing that an Austrian relief force under Daun was on its way to Prague, King Frederick set forth in all speed to reinforce Bevern. He left only a small force of 10,000 men to resume the siege and 4,000 more that would follow in two days under Prince Moritz.

On June 15, a few bombs kindled the city in three places.

On June 18, the encounter against Daun's relief force took place at Kolin. After a long struggle, the Prussians were finally defeated.

On Sunday June 19 at 2:00 a.m.., Major Grant arrived at Prague and went to Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick, interim Prussian Commander on the Ziskaberg, with order to raise siege. On both hills, the cannons were removed (across Moldau the Ziskaberg ones), batteries destroyed, siege-gear neatly gathered up, to go in wagons to Leitmeritz (present-day Litoměřice), then by boat to Dresden. All this was already done when Frederick arrived at Prague in the evening.

On Monday June 20, the Prussians undertook their retreat with due rapidity.

For the description of the Prussian retreat, see 1757 - Prussian invasion of Bohemia.

References

This article incorporates texts from the following books which are now in the public domain:

  • Anonymous: A Complete History of the Present War, from its Commencement in 1756, to the End of the Campaign, 1760, London, 1761, pp. 205-216
  • Carlyle, Thomas: History of Friedrich II of Prussia vol. 18.
  • Vanicek, Fr.: Specialgeschichte der Militärgrenze aus Originalquellen und Quellenwerken geschöpft, Vol. II, Vienna: Kaiserlich-Königlichen Hof- und Staatsdruckerei, 1875, pp. 418