1758 - Allied campaign on the west bank of the Rhine

From Project Seven Years War
Jump to: navigation, search

Hierarchical Path: Seven Years War (Main Page) >> Campaigns >> 1758 - Allied campaign on the west bank of the Rhine

The campaign lasted from June to August 1758


After his successful winter offensive in Western Germany where he drove back the French armies to the Rhine, Ferdinand of Brunswick now considered bringing the war to the west bank of the Rhine.

Preparations for the Crossing of the Rhine

From April 6 to May 29, the Allied troops took cantonments to recover from their winter campaign. Ferdinand used this period to resupply his troops, form magazines, obtain pontoons and assemble an artillery train at Hameln. Meanwhile, the fortifications of Lippstadt were repaired and 6 bridges re-established on the Lippe. Furthermore, Prince Henri returned to Saxony with his division. During the same period, the French army fortified Wesel, Düsseldorf, Geldern and Kaiserwerth. New units arrived from Flanders while militia were incorporated into Clermont's depleted units. Clermont intended to form 5 camps along the Rhine by mid June: at Neuss, Moers, Büderich (facing Wesel), between Xanten and Kleve, and finally Emmerich. French troops in Hanau remained idle. The Hessians assembled their militia who, along with Hanoverian jägers, guarded the roads in this area. The Allies had 3 bns, 1 dragoon rgt along with some militia and hussars in Marburg.

On April 11, a second convention was signed between Great Britain and Prussia by which it was agreed that the British would pay 670,000 pounds to Frederick II to augment his forces. Both countries also agreed not to conclude any treaty of peace, truce or neutrality unless they came to mutual agreement.

On April 20, the British Commons voted the 670,000 pounds destined to Prussia.

By May, the Saxon contingent destined to join the French armies had completed its equipment in Vienna and then moved to Linz. Saxon regiments swore allegiance to Maria Theresa and Louis XV.

On May 6, the Landgrave of Hesse returned to Cassel.

On May 9, Ferdinand detached Lieutenant-General Prince von Ysenburg to Marburg, to organize the defence of Hesse against Soubise's army. Ysenburg's force consisted of two battalions, two squadrons and two companies of Hanoverian Jägers. Once in Hesse, he was reinforced by additional units.

Mid May, Baron Dombast left the Austrian Netherlands for Bohemia with 6 battalions (from regiments Prinz von Lothringen, Ligne, Los Rios, Platz, Sachsen-Gotha and Arberg), six hussar squadrons and with 4,000 recruits. He planned to pass the Moselle at Alken and the Rhine at Mainz. These Austrian units were now badly needed in Bohemia.

On May 16, the main Allied army left its cantonments and prepared to follow the French across the Rhine. By this time, Clermont had some 50,000 infantrymen in 123 battalions and 12,000 horse in 113 squadrons to oppose to the Allied army.

On May 20, the Allied troops were on the move on all sides.

On May 21, Prince Xavier arrived in Linz to take command of the Saxon contingent. He then reviewed six of his regiments.

Towards the end of May, the French still occupied the Duchy of Jülich and Kleve, Austrian Guelders and the Electorate of Cologne. Soubise's corps was deployed behind the Lahn and Clermont had his headquarters at Wesel. Finally, they had reinforced the works of the places of Düsseldorf and Kaiserwerth.

On May 26, the Allied vanguard under the command of the Duke of Holstein occupied Coesfeld while most of the army encamped at Nottuln. A corps (several bns, Scheiter's light troops and Luckner's hussars) under the command of Major-General Wangenheim took position at Dorsten. The Allied army was now deployed in several camps close to the east bank of the Rhine. For his operations on the Lower Rhine, Ferdinand had thus assembled an army of about 40,000 men (42 bns, 59 sqns and some light troops).

Order of Battle
Detailed OOB of Ferdinand's army in the Lower Rhine country on May 26 (as per C. Rogge).

During the night of May 26 to 27, Ferdinand left his camp at Nottuln, advancing on Dülmen with a part of his force while, with the other part, the Hereditary Prince marched to Coesfeld where it formed a junction with Allied troops already stationed there.

On May 27, the Allied headquarters were established at Dülmen.

On May 29, all Allied corps were simultaneously on the march:

  • the Hereditary Prince marched to Bocholt;
  • the main army marched to Lembeck (during the march Ferdinand left the command of this corps to general Spörcken and personally joined the corps of the Hereditary Prince);
  • Major-General Wangenheim to Duisburg.

During the night of May 29 to 30, Wangenheim sent a small detachment under the command of Scheiter from Duisburg across the Rhine. Scheiter attacked the quarters of a battalion of Cambrésis Infanterie at Homberg and Essenberg and put them to flight. Scheiter's corps also repulsed 2 bns of Navarre Infanterie. During this raid, they captured 5 x 6-pdrs guns and the new clothings of Navarre. Scheiter then repassed the Rhine.

On May 30. the Allies were on the move again:

  • Ferdinand advanced from Bocholt to Emmerich with the vanguard;
  • the Hereditary Prince encamped at Vrasselt with the rest of his corps;
  • general Spörcken detached Wutginau with a body of infantry and cavalry from Lembeck towards Wesel, this body encamped at Raesfeld;
  • Major-General Wangenheim marched to Ratingen about 4 km from Düsseldorf;
  • the main army remained in Lembeck under Spörcken.

During all these manoeuvres, Clermont remained idle once more, feeling safe behind the natural barrier formed by the Rhine. When he heard of the arrival of Ferdinand at Emmerich, he sent only 2,000 men (infantry and artillery) to reinforce the divisions of Randan and Villemure guarding the Rhine from Xanten, through Kalkar and Kleve up to the Dutch border, a distance of about 40 km.

During the night of May 30 to 31, Wangenheim's corps attacked and captured Kaiserwerth, taking the greatest part of the garrison prisoners. Wangenheim garrisoned the town with light troops, some foot and Bock Dragoons, placing this garrison under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Walthausen. Wangenheim then advanced up to Düsseldorf.

On May 31, after noon, Ferdinand's vanguard left Emmerich and marched to Lobith and Tholhuis. At 5:00 PM, the various Hanoverian corps moved closer to the Rhine. Since the boats planned to cross the Rhine were not yet to the rendezvous, the crossing of the Rhine had to be postponed. Ferdinand marched the vanguard to a concealed camp on the heights of Nieder-Elten. The same day, Wutginau reached Ringenberg.

On June 1, the Allied prepared the passage of the Rhine.

The Allies cross the Rhine

During the night of June 1 to 2, at 2:00 AM the Allied vanguard (7 bns and 15 sqns) crossed the Rhine at Tholhuis in flat-bottomed boats. The Hereditary Prince first crossed with a few hundreds volunteers formed in two battalions and with 4 field guns to protect the crossing. He was soon supported by 300 volunteers taken from the Prussian units of hussars and dragoons. This cavalry had barely landed on the left bank that it hurled itself against the French cantonments. By 4:00 AM, the Allies had speedily completed a bridge at Herven. The remainder of the Allied army then crossed the bridge and marched towards Kleve. The Allied hussars, along with some volunteers, captured some patrols and defeated a detachment of cavalry (Bellefond Cavalerie loosing a pair of kettle-drums and a standard). A detachment of about 750 French foot was then sent against the head of the Allied vanguard to slow its progress. However, a detachment of 20 Allied troops turned their position and all French posts soon retired to Kleve which was the rallying point of Villemure's division.

By June 2 at noon, the entire Allied vanguard was assembled on the left bank of the Rhine. Holstein rapidly came to support of the volunteers at Kleve with his hussars and dragoons. Meanwhile, the Hereditary Prince advanced with the infantry on the dyke of the Rhine up to the lock at Spoy. General Villemure had assembled La Marine Infanterie and some other troops on this point but the Hereditary Prince moved on Kleve by Rindem, thus threatening Villemure's flank. Villemure gave the order to evacuate Kleve and to retire on Kalkar. The same day, Clermont assembled his army (86 bns and 109 sqns) in camp in front of Rheinberg.

During the night of June 2 to 3, the rest of the Hereditary Prince's corps crossed the bridge of Herven with all its artillery and baggage. It concentrated in the neighbourhood of Dusselwerth.

On June 3, the corps of the Hereditary Prince marched to Kleve and encamped between this town and Griethausen. At 8:00 AM, the Duke of Holstein moved to Goch with the vanguard, forcing Villemure to retire from Kalkar to Xanten. By now, the French had abandoned Kleve, Kranenburg, Gennep, Kalkar and Xanten; and were concentrating at Rheinberg, sending off their baggage to Roermond.

On June 6, the bridge was moved from Herven to Rees to speed up the arrival of additional troops. While a corps under Druchtleben crossed the river in boats. As soon as the bridge was finished, the detachment under Wutginau also passed the Rhine. The same day, the main Allied army left its encampment at Kleve and moved to Goch while the vanguard sent detachments up to Wesel, Geldern and Venlo. Clermont sent orders after orders to the French troops stationed between the Meuse and the Rhine to concentrate at Rheinberg where he had established his new headquarters.

On June 7, Spörcken crossed the Rhine at Rees while the main Allied army marched from Goch and encamped at Weeze.

The corps of Generals Spörcken and Wutginau finally made a junction with Ferdinand's force. Ferdinand then made several small detachments to secure his positions:

On June 8, now that he had successfully crossed the Rhine, Ferdinand tried to trap the French army against the river. For this purpose, he proceeded to Uedem and marched to attack the French army. Clermont, even though he commanded superior forces, was concerned with this menace on his line of communications. Daily, the Allied hussars and jägers conducted raids against the French positions.

On June 10, Ferdinand marched to Sonsbeck. The French army was encamped with its right to the Rhine and its left to the Geldern canal. It also occupied the heights of Clostercamp. Ferdinand reconnoitred the French positions but could not make a clear opinion due to the wooded nature of the terrain.

On June 11, the Allied army encamped with its right at Issum and its left towards Krägeren. General Spörcken occupied the heights of Alpen and the duke of Holstein covered the right flank between Issum and Hetgem by seizing the bridge on the Swaath. Clermont retired his left wing on the heights in front of Rheinberg, extended his right beyond Millingen and transferred Voyer's corps to Clostercamp.

Map of the action at Rheinberg on June 12 1758
Source: Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen, volume III by the German Grosser Generalstab
Courtesy: Tony Flores
Order of Battle
Detailed OOB of the French Army in Germany in June (as per C. Rogge).

Detailed OOb of the Allied Army near Rheinberg on June 12 (as per C. Rogge).

During the night of June 11 to 12, Ferdinand made a first attempt against the French camp of Rheinberg. The Allies arrived from the west and the French army had his back to the Rhine. The main Allied army advanced in columns by battalion to form a line with Spörcken's corps while Holstein marched on Kampen (probably Rheinkamp). At 6:00 AM, the Allied army was on the heights between Alpen and Saalhoff, formed on four lines: the infantry forming the two first line and the cavalry the two others. Spörcken seized the débouché leading to the plain of Eil, chased the enemy from the bushes, planted a battery on the heights of Alpen to keep the French cavalry at bay. Ferdinand then detached the Hereditary Prince with 5 battalions to seize the defile of Saalhoff and to fall on the French flank at Kampen while Holstein would attack the monastery of Clostercamp. The Allied left wing cavalry was deployed behind the battery at Alpen. Voyer stubbornly defended his position but had to abandon the heights at noon. An Allied victory would have thus been a decisive one. However, the general assault did not take place because of the delays incurred by the duke of Holstein's division. The Allies bivouacked in front of the French army for the night. Spörcken's left wing was only a half hour march from the French right.

During the night of June 12 to 13, realising the danger of his position, Clermont hastily retired on Moers and Uerdingen, escaping from the trap. Ferdinand immediately sent several detachments in pursuit of the French.

On June 13 and 14, the Allies occupied the heights of Sankt-Tönis, 10 km from Moers, with their right towards the village of Tönisberg in which 300 grenadiers were posted as an advanced guard with 12 heavy guns. Clermont then continued his retreat up to Neuss through Krefeld. Meanwhile, the Allies captured Rheinberg and all the country up to Geldern with all the magazines located in this area.

After a few days, Clermont finally decided to attack Ferdinand and to march against the Allied army. He sent Saint-Germain to Krefeld with a division of 10,000 men.

On June 15 at 5:00 AM, Ferdinand was informed that the French army was advancing in four columns on his right. He immediately drew up the army in order of battle. Ferdinand then reconnoitred the French army and saw that a considerable body was coming over the plain of Hüls and marching towards Krefeld. Ignoring if he was facing the entire French army, Ferdinand waited till the evening when he received certain information that the French army had marched towards Neuss and that the troops which he saw was a detachment under the command of Lieutenant-General Comte de Saint-Germain sent to take possession of the post of Krefeld. Ferdinand then sent his light troops and hussars to Kempen and Wachtendonk and ordered his army into camp.

On June 16, Ferdinand rearranged his positions, sending his right wing to the village of Altenkirchen (probably Aldekerk) while his left remained on the heights of Sankt-Tönis.

On June 17, Ferdinand reconnoitred Saint-Germain's positions around Krefeld. He then gave his orders for the following days:

  • Holstein was to advance towards Hüls with 10 Prussian sqns, 5 hussar sqns and 3 bns (Spörcken, Hessian Garde and Prinz Karl)
  • Wangenheim was to pass the Rhine at Duisburg with 4 bns (Scheiter, Halberstadt, Bückeburg and Hanau), 4 sqns (Bock Dragoons) and Scheiter's light troops and to advance towards Moers
  • Spörcken, still posted at Rheinberg, was to join the army with 5 bns and 6 sqns and to leave general Hardenberg at Büderich with 2 bns (Gotha and Stolzenberg) and Diepenbroick Infantry (1 bn) at Orfoy (unidentified location)
  • the Hereditary Prince with 12 bns and 12 sqns was to march towards Kempen

Early in the morning of June 18, according to his plan, Ferdinand sent the prince of Holstein ahead towards Hüls, and Major-General Wangenheim to cross the Rhine at Duisburg and to advance on Moers.

On June 19, to fulfil his plan, Ferdinand detached the Hereditary prince of Brunswick towards Kempen. Accordingly, the Hereditary Prince left his camp with 12 bns (Block, Spörcken, Hardenberg, Wangenheim, Post, Dreves, Bock, 2 bns of the Brunswick Leib-Regiment, Hessian Garde, Hessian Leib-Regiment and Prinz Karl), 12 Hessian sqns (4 of Leib Dragoons, 2 of [[Hessian Leib Cavalry|Leibgarde], 2 Prinz Wilhelm, 2 Miltitz), 3 mortars, 4 x 12-pdrs guns and 4 x 6-pdrs guns. He marched directly to Kempen. The same day at 6:00 AM, Ferdinand in person followed the Hereditary Prince to Kempen. Soon after, Ferdinand was informed that the main French army had left Neuss and was advancing on Krefeld. Clermont encamped between Anrath and Fischeln. Meanwhile Holstein was encamped at Hüls. Ferdinand gave his orders for the following day:

  • Wangenheim was to advance with his corps towards Hüls
  • Spörcken was to march at night with the army and to take position between Hüls and Kempen

On June 20, Ferdinand had assembled all his troops in his camp between Kempen and Hüls, in sight of the French positions. The Allies were formed as follows:

  • the Hereditary Prince's corps (12 bns, 12 sqns) formed the right wing
  • Wangenheim's corps (4 bns, 4 sqns) formed the centre
  • Spörcken's corps (35 bns, 52 horse sqns, 6 hussar sqns) formed the left wing

However, at the last minute, an order from Paris made Clermont change his mind and he stayed on the defensive.

On June 21at 10:00 AM, Saint-Germain’s corps decamped from Krefeld and marched towards Anrath where it made a junction with Clermont’s army. Ferdinand immediately sent Allied jägers to occupy Krefeld but they soon abandoned the village and some French troops reoccupied it.

On June 22, Ferdinand reconnoitred the French positions in the neighbourhood of Sankt-Tönis and resolved to march the next day to attack them in their camp. The Allied army was ordered to be under arms shortly by 1:00 AM the next morning and to leave its baggage in camp. His dispositions were as follows:

  • right wing (16 bns, 24 cavalry sqns (14 Allied sqns, 10 Prussian dragoon sqns (Holstein 5 sqns and Finckenstein 5 sqns) and 2 sqns of Prussian Malachowski Yellow Hussars) under the command of the Hereditary prince seconded by Major-General Wangenheim, the cavalry of this wing was under the command of the prince of Holstein
  • left wing (18 bns, 28 cavalry sqns, 3 sqns of Prussian Ruesch Black Hussars) under Lieutenant-General Spörcken
  • behing the left wing in the village of Hüls (Brunswick Zastrow Infantry 1 bn)
  • extreme left wing in the village of Papendeic (unidentified location) on the flank of the French right wing Luckner's Hussars (1 sqn) and Scheiter's corps

The commanders of each wing were required to form 3 converged battalions of grenadiers: 2 (500 men under Lieutenant-Colonel Schulenberg and 500 men under Lieutenant-Colonel Schack) on the right wing, 1 on the left (600 men under Major Cram).

Battle of Krefeld

On June 23, Duke Ferdinand, now some 70 km west of the Rhine found the French army deployed in lines at Krefeld. Ferdinand manoeuvred expertly and defeated the French in this battle of Krefeld. In a few months a very important but dispersed French army had lost immense territory from the gates of Magdeburg to Jülich and had been half destroyed.

Allies advance towards the Meuse

Detail of a map illustrating movements of the Allies and French in on the West bank of the Rhine from 26 June to 25 August 1758
Source: Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen by the German Grosser Generalstab, Tome 3 Vol. 8
Courtesy: Tony Flores

On June 24, Clermont halted at Neuss for one day before retiring along the left bank of the Rhine to Worringen where he encamped. Scheiter's corps and the hussars pursued the retiring French army along the Rhine and seized the great magazines at Neuss soon after Clermont's departure. The same day, Ferdinand encamped near Krefeld while Major-General Wangenheim was advanced with 4 bns and 4 sqns to Osterath to support the Allied light troops pursuing the French.

On June 25, the Allies sang a Te Deum on the battlefield and made a bonfire. Ferdinand gave a pair of French kettle-drums to the Hanoverian artillery for its gallant behaviour.

After his defeat at Krefeld, Clermont was immediately dismissed and replaced by Contades. The French army being near its own frontier was soon strongly reinforced. It was soon able to oppose the Allied army defensively. Furthermore, Soubise, with his 24,000 men, was recalled from the Hanau-Frankfurt country and received instructions to invade Hanover. The French hoped that this offensive would induce Ferdinand to recross the Rhine. Contades soon reorganised his army which counted some 80,000 men.

On June 26, Wangenheim's detachment advanced to Neuss while the Allied army advanced to Osterath. The Hereditary Prince was left behind at Krefeld wit 6 bns and 10 sqns. The French magazine at Neuss had been partly destroyed but considerable quantity of flour and oats were captured. The comte de Gisors died from his wounds at Neuss. The same day, Scheiter's corps recrossed the Rhine to blockade Düsseldorf.

On June 27, the Allied headquarters were established at Neuss to cover the siege of Osterath. The same day, the Hereditary Prince was detached with 6 bns and 6 sqns to secure the Meuse by capturing Roermond. Furthermore, Holstein marched to Gladbach with 13 squadrons, advancing against the Duchy of Jülich and putting the surrounding country to contribution. Wangenheim's corps recrossed the Rhine to reinforce the blockade of Düsseldorf.

On June 28, four Allied batteries opened on Düsseldorf. The French evacuated their sick and wounded in boats up the Rhine to Andernach. The French were also busy building bridges on the Rhine between Deutz and Mülheim a few kilometers upstream of Cologne. They also seized the guns in the arsenal of Cologne. The same day, the Hereditary Prince took possession of Roermond which was occupied by 1 batallion of La Marche Infanterie, 2 militia batallions and some Volontaires de Hainaut under the command of M. de Boccard. The garrison obtained the honours of war and retired to Liège.

After the capture of Roermond, the Hereditary Prince advanced up to Wassenberg where he made a junction with Holstein. They had to oppose to any French enterprise against the Meuse and to cover the Allies right flank.

On July 2, Ferdinand encamped on the heights of St. Nicholas/Hausdik (unidentified location) to threaten the French left flank and to seize Jülich. The same day, the French advanced to the river Erft, establishing their headquarters at Kaster.

On July 7, Osterath surrendered to the Allies. The same day, the Hereditary Prince and Holstein's corps were posted at Titz about 5 km from Jülich. Still the same day, after sustaining a very severe bombardment, Düsseldorf surrendered. Its French garrison took the engagement not to serve against the Allies for one year.

On July 8, the French garrison of Düsseldorf (2,000 men) marched out on honourable terms. A large quantity of supply was captured in that town. Ferdinand placed an Allied garrison (3 batallions) in the city and threw a bridge of boats across the Rhine.

On July 9, the main Allied army advanced to Grevenbroich. Meanwhile, another Allied corps blockaded Wesel garrisoned by 4,500 French. The French still occupied Geldern, hindering the movements of the Allied army.

On July 13, Contades' army left its camp at Cologne and encamped at Bedburg. The same day, the corps of the Hereditary Prince and Holstein crossed the Erft river.

On July 14, Ferdinand also crossed the Erft, intending to surprise Contades on the march. The roads were almost impracticable because of the heavy rain of the last days. The two armies drew their lines. However, the French army was too well encamped and Ferdinand did not engage it.

On July 15, Ferdinand repassed the Ersst and marched towards Neuss. The corps of the Duc d'Armentières pursued the retiring Allies but was repulsed.

On July 16, Ferdinand encamped at Neuss. He then extended his right wing to prevent any enterprise against the Meuse.

On July 18 around 3:00 PM, the Allies evacuated Roermond and marched towards Dülken.

On July 19, a British contingent destined to reinforce the Allied army embarked at Gravesend. This British contingent consisted of:

Indeed, the successes of Frederick II at Rossbach during the previous year and those of Ferdinand in Hanover since January had enticed the British government to send these reinforcements.

On July 19, Ferdinand moved his headquarters to Bedburdyck on the left bank of the Erft while the French remained in their old camp at Frauenweiler (unidentified location) on the other bank of the river. The advanced guard led by the Hereditary Prince engaged a large French detachment. The Allies finally forced this detachment to retired, capturing 5 guns, 4 standards and several prisoners. Ferdinand then resolved to move closer to the Meuse to ease the supply of his army. Before doing so, he sent a reinforcement of with 2,000 men (regulars and light troops) to the garrison of Düsseldorf which would be quite isolated, and detached colonel Linstow with 8 companies of grenadiers to recapture Roermond.

In the night of July 24 to 25, the main Allied army force marched towards Wassenberg.

On July 26, the main Allied army reached Wassenberg and encamped there less than 20 km to the south-east of Roermond. The same day, the main French army marched to Garzweiler near Titz.

On July 27, the main French army marched to Keyenberg at the source of the Niers.

During this period, Contades resolved to attack Imhoff's division which from Mehr was guarding the bridge at Rees. The task was assigned to Lieutenant-General Chevert.

On July 28, the main French army encamped near Erkelenz. The Comte de Saint-Germain was detached with 30 grenadier coys and some cavalry to observe Ferdinand's movements. The French reserve under the command of the duc de Chevreuse marched to Neuss. Meanwhile, Ferdinand moved from Wassenberg closer to the Meuse and encamped between Roermond and Schwalm where he was informed of the defeat of Prince Ysenburg at Sandershausen. Ferdinand immediately ordered the Hereditary Prince to dislodge the French from Brüggen.

On July 29, Ferdinand sent his baggage forward towards Roermond. The same day, the Hereditary Prince took possession of Bruggen.

On July 30, Chevert left Cologne, crossed the Rhine with 12 batallions and 4 dragoon squadrons near Düsseldorf and simulated preparations for the siege of this town.

On July 31, Contades established his headquarters at Dalheim. The lines of communication of the Allied army were now threatened. Ferdinand also feared for the isolated British contingent. Therefore, he resolved to march back to the Rhine.

By the end of July, Prince Xavier's Saxon contingent arrived at Strasbourg after marching from Linz by Braunau and Freising. This corps then proceeded to Andernach. Princess Maria Josepha of France, who had taken patronage of the contingent, sent 24 French guns as a gift to "her" corps.

The French Counter-Offensive

On August 1, Chevert left Düsseldorf. The same day, the British contingent arrived in Oldersum Bay 10 km above Emden.

During the night of August 1 to 2, Ferdinand marched towards Dülken and discovered that the French where advancing towards the same destination from Dalheim. However, Contades decided to retrace his steps to Dalheim rather than to risk a confrontation.

On August 2, Chevert was at Duisburg. He then turned right and crossed the Ruhr at Mülheim.

While Chevert was getting nearer his objective, Contades made an attempt to force Ferdinand to recross the Meuse. Accordingly, Contades left his camp at Erkelenz and moved to Dulmen. However, Ferdinand reacted swiftly and prevented the French from occupying Dulmen. Contades stopped at Gladbach.

On August 3 early in the morning, the Allied were under arms but when Ferdinand realised that Contades would not engage into a battle, resolved to move closer to the Rhine. His vanguard under the command of the Hereditary Prince left at noon and marched to Wachtendonk which was occupied by some 500 French. Wachtendonk was an unfortified town located on an island surrounded by the Niers. The Hereditary Prince entered the river and passed it with some companies of grenadiers who drove the French away with their bayonets. At sunset, the Allied army passed the bridge on the Niers at Wachtendonk. Holstein's corps formed the rearguard of the Allied army. The same day, the British contingent, under the command of the duke of Marlborough, completed its disembarkation near Emden (to the exception of the Royal North British Dragoons who were detained at sea by contrary winds) and went into cantonments.

On August 4, the main Allied army reached Rheinberg. The rearguard led by the Duke of Holstein was at Clostercamp. The same day, Chevert reached Wesel where he was reinforced with part of the garrison. At 6:00 PM, Imhoff, who had only 4 bns and 4 sqns, was informed that a French force reinforced by the garrison of Wesel was to pass the Lippe over 3 bridges and marched during the night with much artillery towards Rees to seize this place and burn the bridge. Imhoff decamped with all his force to cover Rees. During the evening, Ferdinand was informed of the threat on his bridge at Rees. Due to the extraordinary overflowing of the Rhine, the bridge at Rees was by now impassable and Ferdinand could barely reinforce Imhoff with 2 batallions (Stolzenberg and Hessian Erbprinz) who were marching from Spyck, where they had passed the Rhine in boats, under the command of General Zastrow.

On August 5, Zastrow made a junction with Imhoff's corps. Imhoff did not spot any French troops near Rees and resolved to move back to his camp at Mehr. At 6:00 PM, he began his march and reached Mehr. His advanced guards were no sooner posted that they they were engaged by an important French force (10,000 men) advancing from Wesel under the command of Lieutenant-General Chevert assisted by MM. de Voyer and de Chavigny. Imhoff decided to attack the French with his 3,000 men despite their superior forces. During the combat of Mehr, Chevert was repulsed, loosing some 408 men captured, 400 killed or wounded and 11 guns. The bridge at Rees had been saved. The same day, the British contingent marched from Emden to Loro (probably Leer in Ostfriesland) where it encamped. Brudenell's regiment (51st Foot), which had been on garrison duty in Emden for 16 weeks, joined the British contingent. Garrison duty in Emden was assumed by 400 Invalids arrived from Great Britain.

On August 6, when Ferdinand heard of the attempt against his bridge at Rees, he detached Major-General Wangenheim across the Rhine to support Imhoff. Ferdinand initially intended to cross the Rhine at Rheinberg but the prodigious flood of the river made it impossible. Furthermore, the bridges at Rees were still impassable. Ferdinand now feared that Soubise's corps (27,000 men) could attack the recently landed British contingent (12,000 men). He also realised that the capture of his bridge at Rees would have blocked him on the left bank of the Rhine. Accordingly, he marched with the main Allied army from Rheinberg to Xanten while the rearguard under Holstein occupied Sonsbeck.

On August 7, the main Allied army resumed its march by Kalkar on Griethausen. The same day, the British contingent marched from Leer to Meppax (probably Meppen).

On August 8, the main Allied army arrived at Griethausen while the rearguard reached Kleve. Flooding had made the bridge at Rees impassable. Accordingly, this bridge was broken and it was decided to build two new bridges. The same day, Contades left his camp at Erkelenz. Still the same day, the contingent of Württemberg (about 6,300 men) formed a junction with Soubise's army at Cassel. Still the same day, the British contingent marched from Meppen to Lingen.

During the night of August 8 to 9, the Allies laid two new bridges over the Rhine: one of 100 boats upstream of Emmerich and a second of 28 boats in front of Griethausen.

On August 9 at daybreak, the Allied army began to pass the Rhine on the newly built bridges in the following order:

  • Dragoons (4 sqns)
  • Baggage of the headquarters
  • Sick of the army
  • Heavy artillery
  • Army in 4 divisions
  • Baggage of the army
  • Rearguard

In the morning (August 9), the French made an attempt to destroy these bridges with 4 specially designed boats launched downriver from Wesel. However, all these boats were destroyed or taken by armed barks before they could put their design to execution.

On August 10, the Allied army completed the crossing of the Rhine and then burnt the bridges. Meanwhile, General Hardenberg evacuated Düsseldorf and retired to Lippstadt. The same day, Contades encamped at Alpen while his vanguard under the Duc d'Armentières reached Kleve. Düsseldorf was occupied shortly after the departure of Hardenberg. The same day, the British contingent marched from Lingen to Bentheim.

On August 11, the French army started to cross the Rhine and encamped on the banks of the Lippe. Meanwhile, to prepare the junction with the British contingent, Ferdinand sent General Imhoff (11 bns and 10 sqns) to Bocholt, General Oberg to Praest near Emmerich and General Urff with a brigade at Werth to support Imhoff. The main Allied army encamped at Millingen

On August 12, a storm broke the bridges that the French had erected over the Rhine, delaying Contades. The same day, the British contingent marched to Ahaus. Heavy rain then delayed the advance of this corps for several days.

In the following days, the corps of the Duke d'Armentières crossed the Rhine at Wesel and made a junction with the main French army. Ferdinand now occupied all posts on the opposite bank of the Lippe.

On August 17, after marching through a very heavy rain, the British contingent reached Coesfeld where it joined Imhoff's corps.

By August 18, the French army was encamped on the heath near Wesel. Ferdinand marching by Brocken (unidentified location) and Gemen arrived at Coesfeld where he established his headquarters, sending his advanced guard to Dülmen.

On August 19, Contades finally completed the crossing of the Rhine.

On August 20, the British contingent was reviewed by Ferdinand of Brunswick.

On August 21, Ferdinand's troops finally made a junction with the British contingent at Coesfeld. He was now on the defensive, trying to stop a new French offensive in Westphalia.


This article is essentially a compilation of 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. 247, 256-260, 296-306
  • Archenholz, J. W.: The History of the Seven Years War in Germany, translated by F. A. Catty, Francfort, 1843, pp. 209-229
  • Carlyle, T.: History of Friedrich II of Prussia, vol. 18
  • Clowes, Wm. Laird: The Royal Navy – A History from the Earliest Time to the Present, Vol. III, Sampson Low, Marston and Company, London: 1898, pp. 173, 190
  • Hotham (probably): The operations of the Allied Amy under the command of his Serene Highness Prince Ferdinand Duke of Brunswic and Luneberg beginning in the year 1757 and ending in the year 1762, London: T. Jefferies, 1764, pp. 35-60
  • Jomini, Henri: Traité des grandes opérations militaires, 2ème édition, 2ème partie, Magimel, Paris: 1811, pp. 8-29, 39-45
  • Schuster, O. and F. Francke: Geschichte der Sächsischen Armee, 2. part, Leipzig 1885
  • Tory, J.: A Journal of the Allied army's marches from the first arrival of the British troops in Germany to the present time, J. W. Kisling, Osnabruck, 1762, pp. 1-5

Other sources:

Barnes, David, Ferdinand, Duke of Brunswick and Luneburg - Seven Years War General, XVIIIth Century Military Notes and Queries, No. 10

Horse and Musket Users Group

Rogge, Christian, The French & Allied Armies in Germany during the Seven Years War, Frankfurt, 2006

Salisch, M. von: Treue Deserteure – Das kursächsische Militär und der Siebenjährige Krieg, Munich, 2009

Vial J. L., Nec Pluribus Impar


Harald Skala for information on the Saxon Army during this period