1758 - Allied campaign on the west bank of the Rhine

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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

During their successful winter offensive, the Allies had suffered important losses caused by its restless pursuit of the French army on muddy roads in inclement weather. The French army had suffered even more heavily. It had lost at least 16,000 men killed, wounded or missing and 10,000 men were in the field hospitals.

Most of the French army was quartered on the left bank of the Rhine from the Dutch border to Bonn. On the right bank of the Rhine, it still occupied only Düsseldorf (2 rgts), Kaiserwerth, Duisburg and Wesel (4 rgts). Furthermore, the Prince de Soubise was posted with a corps in the region of Hanau where he had been sent back.

At the beginning of April, the Allied army had little more than 15,000 men still under arms while some 6,000 men were hospitalised or sick. Furthermore, a number of troops had had to be left behind to protect the lines of communication. For the time being, the first priority was to bring the army back into fighting conditions. The use of the provisions previously assembled by the French in Westphalia could only be made with great difficulties due to the hostility of the population of the region of Münster.

The numerous small garrisons left behind at Bremen, Verden, Lüneburg, Stade and other towns were recalled to the main Allied army. The regiments were reinforced by recruits taken from the country.

In the first half of April, Maria Theresa recalled the 6 Austrian bns and the Szechényi Hussars which had previously campaigned with the French army.

From April 6

  • Allies
    • 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 six bridges re-established on the Lippe.
    • The Hessians assembled their militia who, along with Hanoverian jägers, guarded the roads in this area.
  • Prussians
  • French
    • The army fortified Wesel, Düsseldorf, Geldern and Kaiserwerth. New units arrived from Flanders while militia were incorporated into Clermont's depleted units.
    • Clermont initially considered to retreat behind the Meuse but the War Minister Belle-Isle managed to convince him to remain in his current positions on the Rhine. Clermont planned to form five 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.

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.

Initially, neither Ferdinand nor Frederick considered a campaign on the left bank of the Rhine. However, King George II wished to build on the previous successes and to launch an offensive in that region. Ferdinand advised him that he was in no position to fulfill his desire.

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

At the end of April, Ferdinand declared himself ready to cross the Rhine with a corps of approx. 6,500 men to attack the French quarters and to repass to the right bank after these strikes. If ever, the Dutch joined the alliance, Ferdinand considered to cross the Rhine with a stronger corps at Emmerich or Rees and to drive the French back to the Upper-Meuse. To support these plans, he asked for the intervention of a British fleet on the coasts of Flanders or on the coasts of Northern France.

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, Landgrave Wilhelm VIII of Hesse-Kassel set off from Hamburg, where he had taken refuge during the Summer of 1757, to return to Cassel. Upon arrival in his principality, he immediately started to assemble a corps for its defence, recalling a dragoon rgt and a detachment of Hessian Hussars previously stationed in the Fortress of Rheinfels on the Rhine. Great Britain contributed 80,000 £ for the creation of this Hessian Corps.

On May 9, as requested by the Landgrave of Hesse, Ferdinand sent him the Lieutenant-General Prince Ysenburg with 2 Hessian bns (Prinz Ysenburg and Canitz) along with the 2 sqns of Pruschenk Cavalry and some artillery to Marburg. Prince Ysenburg was charged to organize the defence of Hesse against Soubise's army.

Mid May

  • Allies
    • With the Dutch alliance more uncertain, King George II, King Frederick II and Duke Ferdinand started to work on a plan to cross on the left bank of the Rhine in June. This plan called for the concentration of the Allied army in two corps near Koesfeld and Dülmen on May 26; then on May 30 2,000 men would advanced from Dülmen, cross the Rhine near Duisburg and make a demonstration against Düsseldorf; in the following night, 2,000 men would advance from Koesfeld and cross the Rhine on boats near Emmerich; the rest of the army would follow on June 1. By capturing Kleve and threatening Düsseldorf, Ferdinand hoped to induce the French to evacuate Wesel.
    • The Scheither Light Troops were raised. They initially counted 400 men.
  • French
    • The French army had been reinforced by militia bns sent from France. Furthermore, 6,000 recruits had been assembled at Metz. Finally, 50 additional militia coys were promised for later. Clermont’s Army counted 123 bns and 113 sqns for a total of 50,000 foot and 12,000 horse. On average, each battalion had 430 men (a few had only 200 men) and each squadron, 114 men. However, when the various garrisons were deducted, the field army counted only 32,000 foot and 12,000 horse. Furthermore, troops were poorly clothed and armed, and supply was bad. Tents and cooking equipment were almost completely missing. Some 3,000 horses had no bridle and saddle. Clermont thought that the Allies would not be able to resume hostilities before the end of June. By that time, Belle-Isle had promised to bring back the French army in Germany to 80,000 men. Clermont planned to recross to the right bank of the Rhine in July and to advance between the Ruhr and the Lippe and thus live on the land in Prussian territory.
  • Austrians

On May 16, the main Allied army left its cantonments and prepared to follow the French across the Rhine.

From May 20, the Allies started to move towards Koesfeld and Dülmen for the planned crossing of the Rhine.

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.

By the end of May, the Allied army counted 40,000 men (an average of 20 officers and 560 men per battalion and 6 officers and 140 men per squadron). Ferdinand of Brunswick had made sure that his new troops were rapidly trained. He also used his new light troops in raids against French outposts left on the right bank of the Rhine.

On May 26, the Allied vanguard under the command of the Prince of Holstein-Gottorp occupied Coesfeld while most of the army encamped at Nottuln.

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 Allies

    • The Allies had 17 bns and 25 sqns assembled at Koesfeld under Lieutenant-General Oberg; and 21 bns and 30 sqns at Dülmen under Lieutenant-General von Spörcken. The headquarters were established at Dülmen
    • Major-General Wangenheim advanced to Dorsten on the Lippe with 4 bns, Scheiter's light troops and 4 sqns (including Luckner's Hussars). Wangenheim was responsible for the demonstration against Düsseldorf,
    • Oberg would march from Koesfeld to Emmerich where he would cross the Rhine. If Oberg was successful, Spörcken would then advance from Dülmen and cross to the left bank of the Rhine. Ferdinand intended to accompany Oberg’s Corps which also included Holstein-Gottorp’s cavalry.

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

  • Allies
    • Oberg’s vanguard reached Emmerich while the main body encamped at Anholt and Bocholt.
    • Spörcken’s Corps reached Lembeck (during the march Ferdinand left this corps and personally joined Oberg’s Corps).
    • Wangenheim’s detachment reached Duisburg.

During the night of May 29 to 30, Wangenheim sent a small detachment (50 men of Scheither Light Troops) under the command of Scheiter from Duisburg across the Rhine on boats. 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 five 6-pdr guns, the new uniforms of Navarre, a few prisoners and a number of horses and mules. Scheiter then repassed the Rhine.

On May 30

  • Allies
    • Ferdinand advanced from Bocholt to Emmerich with Oberg’s vanguard.
    • the Hereditary Prince encamped at Vrasselt with the rest of Oberg’s Corps.
    • Major-General Wangenheim marched to Ratingen about 4 km from Düsseldorf.
    • In the afternoon, Scheiter appeared in front of Kaiserswerth and summoned the place. The French commander immediately evacuated the place and crossed to the left bank of the Rhine with the small garrison. Luckner's Hussars then occupied Kaiserswerth.
    • the main army remained in Lembeck under Spörcken.
    • Spörcken detached Wutginau with a body of infantry and cavalry from Lembeck towards Wesel, this body encamped at Raesfeld.

For the passage of the army, Ferdinand chose a location near Lobith downstream from Emmerich. To avoid drawing the attention of the French, he had not reconnoitred the location but had simply identified it based on maps supplied to him by people at Kleve. Since he had not enough pontoons for a bridge across the Rhine, Ferdinand had leased, under all sorts of pretexts, a larger number of boats in the Dutch Republic. These boats had been assembled at Pannerden.

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 advanced to Kaiserwerth. 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

  • Allies
    • In the afternoon, Ferdinand's vanguard left Emmerich and marched to Lobith and Tholhuis. Ferdinand then marched the vanguard to a concealed camp on the heights of Nieder-Elten.
    • At 5:00 p.m., the various Allied corps moved closer to the Rhine. In the evening, of May 31, Allied troops stood ready near the crossing places but the boats expected from Pannerden did not show up. Indeed, the boatmen had learned the real purpose of their assignment and refused to hand their boats over for this dangerous business. The crossing of the Rhine had to be postponed. The Hereditary Prince of Brunswick finally managed to convince them to form a bridge but the boatmen insisted that it should be established on the nearby Dutch territory. Ferdinand had wanted to avoid entering into Dutch territory to avoid any diplomatic complications with the Dutch government with whom negotiations were still underway for a possible participation in the war. He settled the situation by making apologies to the Dutch governor, Princess Anna of Orange, a daughter of George II.
    • Wutginau reached Ringenberg with part of Spörcken’s Corps.

In the first days of June, the Hessian Corps of Prince Ysenburg assembled in the vicinity of Cassel.

On June 1

  • Allies
    • Spörcken detached troops against Wesel. They vainly summoned the place.
    • Oberg’s Corps prepared the passage of the Rhine. In the evening, work started on a boat bridge 800 m south of Herwen, in Dutch territory.

The Allies cross the Rhine

During the night of June 1 to 2

  • Allies
    • At 2:00 a.m., 400 Allied grenadiers with 4 field guns crossed the Rhine at Tholhuis in flat-bottomed boats about 1 km upstream of Herwen to cover the construction of the boat bridge and to protect the crossing. They were soon supported by by 200 men of the Ruesch Hussars under Major von Beust and 200 men of the Finckenstein Dragoons. The indefatigable Prince of Holstein-Gottorp took the lead of this vanguard. This cavalry had barely landed on the left bank that it hurled itself against the French cantonments. The detachment of Ruesch Hussars attacked the Royal-Cravate Cavalerie (or Bellefonds Cavalerie?) near Düffelward and captured one of its standard, which Frederick allowed them to carry, and a pair of kettle-drums which were given to Finckenstein Dragoons.
    • By 4:00 a.m., the Allies had speedily completed a bridge at Herwen. The remainder of Oberg’s Corps then started to cross the Rhine.
  • French
    • 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.

On June 2

  • Allies
    • By noon, the entire Allied vanguard was assembled on the left bank of the Rhine.
  • French
    • Clermont gave orders to assemble the main body (86 bns and 109 sqns) of army in camp in front of Rheinberg.

In the night of June 2 to 3

  • Allies
    • The boat bridge at Herwen was completed. The rest of Oberg's Corps crossed the bridge with all its artillery and baggage and concentrated in the neighbourhood of Dusselwerth.
    • Holstein-Gottorp advanced on Kleve while the Hereditary Prince advanced with the infantry on the dyke of the Rhine up to the lock at Spoy.
  • French
    • General Villemure had assembled La Marine Infanterie and some other troops near Spoy 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, pursued by Holstein-Gottorp’s cavalry.

On June 3

  • Allies
    • The detachment of the Hereditary Prince marched to Kleve and encamped between this town and Griethausen.
    • Ferdinand personally went to Kleve and assembled 17 bns and 27 sqns nearby.
    • At 8:00 a.m., Ferdinand sent the Prince of Holstein-Gottorp from Kleve to Goch with 1 bn and 21 bns to reconnoitre the left flank of the French army in the area of Kalkar.
  • French
    • Clermont personally went to Rheinberg. He thought that the Dutch had joined the Allies and he feared for his lines of communication. He had thus resolved to abandon his line of defence along the Rhine and to retreat to the left bank of the Meuse. Accordingly, he sent a strong detachments from Geldern northwards to reconnoitre the area between the Meuse and the Niers.
    • The French had concentrated 20 bns and 31 sqns on the heights south of Xanten.
    • French troops had now abandoned Kleve, Kranenburg and Gennep; and were concentrating at Rheinberg, sending off their baggage to Roermond.

On June 4

  • Allies
    • Ferdinand marched from Kleve to Goch with the main body of Oberg’s Corps. He also decided to have the rest of his army which was still on the right bank of the Rhine, to cross to the left bank.
  • French
    • The French evacuated Kalkar and retired to Xanten.

On June 5

  • Allies
    • The boat bridge at Herwen was disassembled and and started to build two new ones further upstream at Rees to speed up the arrival of additional troops.
    • Ferdinand marched with the main body to Uedem in the direction of Xanten and the French left flank.
    • In the afternoon, Lieutenant-General von Wutginau crossed the Rhine on boats near Rees with 7 bns and 8 sqns belonging to Spörcken’s Corps. As soon as the bridges were ready, 8 additional bns followed.

On June 6, the Allied vanguard sent detachments up to Wesel, Geldern and Venlo.

On June 7

  • Allies
    • Wutginau’s detachment effected a junction with Ferdinand’s main body at Uedem. Ferdinand was now at the head of 24 bns and 43 sqns. He encamped near Weeze.
    • Spörcken crossed the Rhine at Rees.

On June 8

  • Allies
    • Spörcken crossed the Rhine with another part of his corps (8 bns, 10 sqns) and advanced to Kalkar.
    • Spörcken had left 6 bns and 4 sqns on the right bank of the Rhine under the command of Lieutenant-General Imhoff.
    • Spörcken left another detachment of 4 bns and 4 sqns at Brünen to observe the Fortress of Wesel.
    • Spörcken left Major-General von Brunck at Rees with Brunck Infantry (1 bn) and Oberg Infantry (1 bn) to guard the bridge head.
    • Major-General von Wangenheim still occupied Kaiserwerth on the far side of the Rhine with a small force (4 sqns, 4 bns) to protect his line of communication
    • Mansbach (1 bn) garrisoned Kleve.
    • Ferdinand reconnoitred the French positions at Xanten and decided to attack them the following day.
    • Holstein-Gottorp’s cavalry drove 400 French hussars out of Sonsbeck.
    • In the evening, Ferdinand reached Sonsbeck on the left flank of the French positions.

On June 9

  • Allies
    • In the morning sent the Hereditary Prince with 8 bns and 8 sqns against the line of retreat of the French at Alpen. Ferdinand accompanied this detachment and soon realised that the French had already evacuated their positions to the south of Xanten and retired on Rheinberg. Near Alpen the Hereditary Prince engaged French troops, combat lasted till the evening. Meanwhile, Ferdinand reconnoitred the new French positions near Rheinberg. He got the impression that the French intended to make a stand there, but terrain prevented a more accurate reconnaissance. Ferdinand left 4 bns and 7 sqns near the French positions while, during the evening, he moved with the rest of his army in a camp at Sonsbeck.
  • French
    • At Rheinberg, Clermont had assembled some 87 bns and 111 sqns for a total of approx. 50,000 men. Clermont initially planned to send a strong detachment to the right bank of the Rhine which, covered by the Fortress of Wesel, would destroy the bridges of the Allies at Rees.

On June 10

  • Allies
    • Ferdinand established a camp halfway between Sonsbeck and Alpen, He also sent the Prince of Holstein-Gottorp with 3 bns and 15 sqns to Issum to secure his right flank.
    • Spörcken with 8 bns and 10 sqns effected a junction with Ferdinand’s Army at Alpen.
  • French
    • The French positions lay on a flat hill 2 km west of Rheinberg and had swampy ground and ditches overgrown with bushes covering its western front. Its right wing extended up to Millingen while its left wing leaned against the so-called “Fossa Eugeniana”, an unfinished canal to link the Meuse and the Rhine. At places this canal was 30 m. wide, at others only 3 m. It was only 1.5 m. deep. Strong detachments were posted 3 km to the west, on the heights of the Leucht, the hollow of Saalhoff and the heights of Clostercamp.
    • Changing his mind, Clermont reported to Paris that it would be impossible to simultaneously protect Cologne, the lines of communication and the borders of France.

On June 11

  • Allies
    • The Allied army was encamped with its right at Issum and its left towards Krägeren. General Spörcken occupied the heights of Alpen and the Prince of Holstein-Gottorp covered the right flank between Issum and Hetgem after seizing the bridge on the Swaath.
    • Ferdinand reconnoitred the French positions on the heights of the Leucht, finding that if he managed to turn the French left wing near Kamp, Clermont would be left only with the option of a dangerous retreat towards Wesel, caught between the Rhine and the Allies.
    • In the afternoon, Ferdinand sent his orders: Lieutenant-General von Spörcken (8 bns, 8 sqns, 7 pieces) would advance on the heights of the Leucht and, from there, cannonade the French right wing; Ferdinand (21 bns, 28 sqns) would attack Clermont’s left wing through the hollow of Saalhoff; and the Prince of Holstein-Gottorp (3 bns, 15 sqns) would advance from Issum to the Niersen Hills, east of Kamp, and support Ferdinand’s attack by turning the French left flank.
  • French
    • Clermont retired his left wing on the heights in front of Rheinberg, extended his right beyond Millingen and transferred Voyer's corps to Clostercamp.

Ferdinand tries to attack the French at Rheinberg

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).

On June 12 at 1:00 a.m., Allied troops marched out of their encampments. 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 Kamp.

At 6:00 a.m., the Allied army was on the heights between Alpen and Saalhoff, formed in four lines: the infantry forming the two first line and the cavalry the two others. Spörcken seized the débouché south of Alpen 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. A quite ineffective artillery duel ensued.

Ferdinand then detached the Hereditary Prince with a vanguard of 5 bns to seize the defile of Saalhoff and to fall on the French flank at Kamp while Holstein would attack the monastery of Clostercamp. The Hereditary Prince conquered the defile and then waited impatiently for the attack of the Prince of Holstein-Gottorp near Clostercamp because it was impossible to resume the attack against the French front and left wing if the heights of Niersen were not occupied by Allied troops.

It was 9:00 a.m. when the first detachments of Holstein-Gottorp’s Corps finally appeared. However, they were not on the height of Kamp as expected but behind Ferdinand’s troops in the hollow of Saalhoff. Holstein-Gottorp had lost his way in the dark. Ferdinand redirected some detachments southwards and they finally seized the heights near Kamp. But the Niersen Hill facing Kamp was still occupied by French troops. Furthermore, now that the French had been alarmed, it was too late to reorganise the attack and Ferdinand decided to postpone it to the next day.

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.

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. A few Allied detachments engaged the rearguard near the “Fossa Eugeniana”. Only the hussars of Holstein-Gottorp’s Corps followed the French.

Ferdinand had not obtained the open battle that he was looking for. He had now to decide if he would march further southwards, thus extending his line of communication to his bridges at Rees, a line of communication already threatened by two French occupied fortresses at Geldern and Wesel. Furthermore, he had no bridging material to establish a new communication further upstream on the Rhine between Wesel and Düsseldorf. Ferdinand also had to consider that Soubise’s Corps from his current positions near Hanau could advance towards Hesse or Westphalia. Despite these threats, Ferdinand decided to resume operations on the left bank of the Rhine, staying on the heels of Clermont’s Army and to force a battle as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, the Allies captured Rheinberg and all the country up to Geldern with all the magazines located in this area.

The Allies push southwards

On June 14, Ferdinand marched southwestwards from Rheinberg and encamped at Rheurdt. 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. Ferdinand intended to make another attempt from this new position against the French left wing at Moers.

On June 15

  • Allies
    • At 5:00 a.m., 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 the 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.
  • French
    • Clermont retreated to Neuss where he had important magazines.
    • Saint-Germain’s Corps (12,000 men) was left behind at Krefeld to observe the movements of the Allies.

On June 16

  • Allies
    • Ferninand’s Army advanced southwestwards to Aldekerk. A vanguard under the Prince of Holstein-Gottorp was sent to Hüls to observe the French at Krefeld. If the French resumed their retreat, Ferdinand intended to move closer to the Meuse and thus obtain an easier line of supply for his army.
  • French
    • After much hesitations, Clermont suddenly decided to march to the enemy and to offer battle. Belle-Isle had been urging him since many days to accept a battle. Clermont had just received a new letter from Belle-Isle, reiterating his request based on the numerical superiority of the French army, the perilous situation of the Allies, their lack of food, and the mediocre leadership qualities of Ferdinand. Clermont was also expecting the arrival of the Württemberger Contingent (6,000 men).
    • The departure of Soubise’s Corps (24,000 men) for Bohemia was postponed to June 25.

On June 17

  • Allies
    • Ferdinand personally reconnoitred Saint-Germain's positions around Krefeld. He then gave his orders for the following days:
      • Holstein-Gottorp was to advance towards Hüls with 10 Prussian sqns, 5 hussar sqns and 3 bns (Spörcken, Hessian Garde and Prinz Karl)
      • Wangenheim, who was still demonstrating against Düsseldorf, 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 to effect a junction with the main army.
      • 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 (1 bn) at Orsoy
      • the Hereditary Prince with 12 bns and 12 sqns was to march towards Kempen

Early in the morning of June 18

  • Allies
    • According to plan, Ferdinand sent the Prince of Holstein-Gottorp ahead towards Hüls Holstein-Gottorp with 3 bns and 15 sqns advanced to Hüls and once more reconnoitred the French positions at Krefeld.
  • French
    • Clermont started his advance from Neuss towards Krefeld.

On June 19

  • Allies
    • Ferdinand detached the Hereditary Prince of Brunswick by Kempen towards Roermond on the Meuse which Ferdinand wanted to capture. 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), 10 Hessian sqns (4 of Leib Dragoons, 2 of [[Hessian Leib Cavalry|Leibgarde], 2 of Prinz Wilhelm, 2 of Miltitz) and 11 pieces (3 mortars, 4 x 12-pdr guns and 4 x 6-pdr guns). He marched directly to Kempen.
    • At 6:00 a.m., Ferdinand, accompanied by Holstein-Gottorp’s light troops reconnoitred Krefeld. He was considering to launch an attack against Saint-Germain when he was informed that the main French army was marching from Neuss towards Krefeld. Immediately, Ferdinand instructed the Hereditary Prince to halt at Kempen and Holstein-Gottorp to remain at Hüls while he assembled his entire army near Kempen and Hüls.
    • Wangenheim crossed the Rhine at Ruhrort and reached Moers.
    • 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
  • French
    • Clermont’s Army reached Fischeln, only 5 km south of Krefeld. Clermont decided to stop his advance, as the strong wall and ditch of the Landwehr, south of Krefeld, seemed to offer an excellent defensive position, with both flanks well protected by the nature of the terrain. His army encamped between Anrath and Fischeln.
    • Prince Xavier of Saxony, the Dauphine’s brother, arrived at Clermont’s headquarters.
    • Clermont’s report (dated June 16) reached Paris where it was resolved to postpone Soubise’s departure for Bohemia until the outcome of Clermont’s planned offensive would be known.

On June 20

  • Allies
    • 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
    • Ferdinand reconnoitred the French positions.
  • French
    • Clermont recalled most of Saint-Germain’s Corps from Krefeld to take position behind the Landwehr Canal, leaving only a small detachment in Krefeld. Saint-Germain marched towards Anrath where it made a junction with Clermont’s army.

On June 21

  • French
    • At 10:00 a.m., the small French detachment left in Krefeld evacuated the town.
  • Allies
    • Ferdinand once more reconnoitred the French positions and noticed the evacuation of Krefeld. He then went to Krefeld accompanied by hussars and, from the church steeple, inspected at ease the French positions. In the evening, the Allied hussars retired from Krefeld.

On June 22

  • Allies
    • Ferdinand inspected the French positions from the steeple of the church of Sankt-Tönis. Ferdinand got more and more convinced that, this time, Clermont intended to hold his ground. That was the opportunity that Ferdinand was looking for. Indeed, it was increasingly difficult to properly supply his army. For these reasons, he immediately decided to offer battle. The Allied army was ordered to be under arms shortly by 1:00 a.m. 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-Gottorp Dragoons 5 sqns and Finckenstein Dragoons 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-Gottorp
      • left wing (18 bns, 28 cavalry sqns, 3 sqns of Prussian Ruesch Hussars) under Lieutenant-General Spörcken
      • behind the left wing in the village of Hüls (Brunswick Zastrow Infantry 1 bn)
      • extreme left wing in the village of Papendeich (probably Papendyk, now just a road name in the north of Krefeld) 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).
  • French
    • A small French detachment reoccupied Krefeld.

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.

Around midnight, Clermont arrived at Neuss where he established his headquarters. He immediately sent a report to Paris, announcing his defeat and informing that he intended to retire behind the Erft, specifying that he was not sure that he could hold this position.

During the night of June 23 to 24, most Clermont’s Army gradually reached Neuss where it encamped.

The 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

  • French
    • In the morning, Saint-Germain’s Division also reached Neuss.
    • Clermont halted at Neuss for one day before retiring along the left bank of the Rhine to Worringen where he encamped.
  • Allies
    • 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.
    • Ferdinand encamped near Krefeld. The tents, which had been left behind at Kempen, were transported to Krefeld.
    • 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

  • Allies
    • 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.
  • French
    • 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 rapidly 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

  • Allies
    • 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.
    • Scheiter's corps recrossed the Rhine to blockade Düsseldorf.
  • French
    • The Comte de Gisors, severely wounded at the Battle of Krefeld, died from his wounds at Neuss.

On June 27

  • Allies
    • The Allied headquarters were established at Neuss to cover the siege of Osterath.
    • The Hereditary Prince was detached with 6 bns and 6 sqns to secure the Meuse by capturing Roermond.
    • Holstein-Gottorp marched to Gladbach with 13 sqns, 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

  • Allies
    • Four Allied batteries opened on Düsseldorf.
    • The Hereditary Prince took possession of Roermond which was previously occupied by 1 bn of La Marche Infanterie, 2 militia bns and some Volontaires du Hainaut under the command of M. de Boccard. The garrison obtained the honours of war and retired to Liège.
  • French
    • The French evacuated their sick and wounded in boats up the Rhine to Andernach.
    • The French were 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.

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

On July 2

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

On July 7

  • Allies
    • Osterath surrendered to the Allies.
    • The Hereditary Prince and Holstein's corps were posted at Titz about 5 km from Jülich.
    • 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

  • Allies
    • A large quantity of supply was captured in Düsseldorf. Ferdinand placed an Allied garrison (3 bns) in the city and threw a bridge of boats across the Rhine.
  • French
    • The French garrison of Düsseldorf (2,000 men) marched out on honourable terms.

On July 9

  • Allies
    • The main Allied army advanced to Grevenbroich.
    • Another Allied corps blockaded Wesel garrisoned by 4,500 French.
  • French
    • The French still occupied Geldern, hindering the movements of the Allied army.

On July 13

  • Allies
    • The corps of the Hereditary Prince and Holstein-Gottorp crossed the Erft river.
  • French
    • Contades' Army left its camp at Cologne and encamped at Bedburg.

On July 14

  • Allies
    • 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

  • Allies
    • Ferdinand repassed the Erft and marched towards Neuss.
  • French

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 p.m., the Allies evacuated Roermond and marched towards Dülken.

On July 19

  • Allies
    • A British contingent destined to reinforce the Allied army embarked at Gravesend. 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. This British contingent consisted of:
    • Ferdinand moved his headquarters to Bedburdyck on the left bank of the Erft. 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 grenadier coys to recapture Roermond.
  • French
    • The French remained in their old camp at Frauweiler (a village which has disappeared in 1970 due to coal mining) on the other bank of the river.

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

On July 26

  • Allies
    • The main Allied army reached Wassenberg and encamped there less than 20 km to the south-east of Roermond.
  • French
    • 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

  • Allies
    • 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.
  • French
    • 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.

On July 29

  • Allies
    • Ferdinand sent his baggage forward towards Roermond.
    • The Hereditary Prince took possession of Brüggen.

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

On July 31

  • French
    • Contades established his headquarters at Dalheim.
  • Allies
    • 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

  • French
    • Chevert left Düsseldorf.
  • Allies
    • 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

  • French
    • 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 Dülmen. However, Ferdinand reacted swiftly and prevented the French from occupying Dulmen. Contades stopped at Gladbach.

On August 3

  • Allies
    • Early in the morning, the Allies 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 grenadier coys who drove the French away at the point of the bayonet.
    • At sunset, the Allied army passed the bridge on the Niers at Wachtendonk. Holstein-Gottorp's Corps formed the rearguard of the Allied army.
    • The British contingent, under the command of the Duke of Marlborough, completed its disembarkation near Emden (to the exception of the 2nd Royal North British Dragoons who were detained at sea by contrary winds) and went into cantonments.

On August 4

  • French
    • Chevert reached Wesel where he was reinforced with part of the garrison.
  • Allies
    • The main Allied army reached Rheinberg. The rearguard led by the Prince of Holstein-Gottorp was at Clostercamp.
    • At 6:00 p.m., 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

  • Engagement
    • 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 p.m., 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.
  • Allies
    • 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

  • Allies
    • 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-Gottorp occupied Sonsbeck.

On August 7

  • Allies
    • The main Allied army resumed its march by Kalkar on Griethausen.
    • The British contingent marched from Leer to Meppax (probably Meppen).

On August 8

  • French
    • Contades left his camp at Erkelenz.
    • The contingent of Württemberg (about 6,300 men) formed a junction with Soubise's Army at Cassel.
  • Allies
    • 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 down and it was decided to build two new bridges.
    • 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

  • French
    • In the morning, the French made an attempt to destroy Ferdinand’s 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.
  • Allies
    • 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

On August 10

  • French
    • Contades encamped at Alpen while his vanguard under Lieutenant-General d'Armentières reached Kleve.
    • Düsseldorf was occupied shortly after the departure of Hardenberg.
  • Allies
    • The Allied army completed the crossing of the Rhine and then burnt the bridges.
    • General Hardenberg evacuated Düsseldorf and retired to Lippstadt.
    • The British contingent marched from Lingen to Bentheim.

On August 11

  • French
    • The French army started to cross the Rhine and encamped on the banks of the Lippe.
  • Allies
    • 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

  • French
    • A storm broke the bridges that the French had erected over the Rhine, delaying Contades.
  • Allies
    • 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 Lieutenant-General 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 effected a junction with Imhoff's Corps.

By August 18

  • French
    • The French army was encamped on the heath near Wesel.
  • Allies
    • Ferdinand marching by Borcken (present-day Borken) 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 Army 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
  • Grosser Generalstab Kriegsgeschichtliche Abteilung II: Die Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen, Part 3 Der siebenjährige Krieg 1756-1763, Vol. 7 Olmütz und Crefeld, Berlin, 1909, pp. 151-168
  • 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