1758 - Allied winter offensive in Western Germany

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Hierarchical Path: Seven Years War (Main Page) >> Campaigns >> 1758 - Allied winter offensive in Western Germany

The campaign lasted from February to April 1758


Preparations for the Campaign

On December 24 1757, Ferdinand of Brunswick put a stop to the Allied counter-offensive in Hanover and gave orders to Allied units to withdraw.

Order of Battle
Detailed OOB of Richelieu's army in its winter quarters in January 1758.

At the end of December 1757, Richelieu's army had taken its winter-quarters in Westphalia, Hanover and Hesse. Its left wing was covered by the Weser and Aller rivers while its centre extended from Celle to Braunschweig, Wolfenbüttel, Hannover and Hildesheim. Its right extended up to the Main through Cassel and Fulda. To consolidate his left wing, Richelieu resolved to occupy Bremen. He also asked to be relieved of his command.

On January 1 1758, all Allied troops were back between Ülzen and Lüneburg, roughly north south. Furthermore, Oberg's detachment was posted at Soltau. Oberg sent colonel Dreves forward with 400 foot, 100 horse and some light horse to dislodge a French body at Visselhövede. Dreves completely surprised the French, capturing 5 officers and 114 privates, killing or wounding about 30 and putting the rest to flight. The Allied troops previously assigned to the siege of Harburg were sent to Bremervörde and Buxtehude on the Lower Aller to defend the passage of the river and to cover Bremen. On their march, they surprised a party of 400 French at Teffehoefde (unidentified location), capturing 108 men. Advanced Allied parties then took possession of Vegesack and Ritterhude where they found a considerable magazine. Richelieu ordered Broglie to advance on the Lower Wümme to dislodge the Allies from these quarters and to preserve communications with French troops at Rotenburg and Ottersberg. Prussia and Great Britain were sending pontoons, guns, men and material to support the forthcoming campaign.

About January 3, Broglie entered the suburbs of Bremen.

On January ???, Broglie proceeded to Burg (unidentified location maybe Burglesum) where he crossed the Wümme.

On January ???, Broglie advanced by Vegesack, forcing the Allies to abandon this place. On his way, Broglie was reinforced by 11 bns. When Oberg was informed of Broglie's advance, he immediately gave orders for some troops from Bremervörde and Buxtehude to join him. Oberg then force marched to engage Broglie who retired precipitously.

On January 12, the Allied advanced guard came up with the rear of Broglie's corps near Ritterhude and forced it to recross the Wumme at Burg. The French broke down the bridge behind them.

On January 14, the bridge of Burg was repaired and Oberg passed the river and took possession of the fort of Burg while the French retired towards Bremen.

On January 15, Broglie arrived at Bremen where he deployed his force on the edge of the ditch, requiring immediate admittance into the city. His request was granted and, at midnight, his troops took possession of a gate.

On January 16, the duc de Broglie seized the free town of Bremen and several French parties entered the town.

On January 18, George II the king of Great Britain informed the Commons that he had ordered the army formed in 1757 in Hanover to be put again in motion.

On January 23, the House of Commons voted 100,000 pounds to finance the Allied army being reassembled in Hanover.

By the end of January, the Allied army was rested, well fed and equipped. It was ready to begin the campaign. Meanwhile, the French were deployed in four lines in their winter-quarters and another French army amounting to 28 battalions and 42 squadrons was stationed in Hesse.

On February 1, the Prussian detachment occupying Halberstadt pushed a party to Hornburg, capturing 500 men.

On February 2, another Prussian detachment (cavalry and hussars) from Halberstadt attacked the town of Steinfeld by surprise, capturing 600 men of Turpin Hussars. The rest of the French garrison fled towards Schladen. However, they were reinforced and caught up with the Prussian detachment as it returned to Halberstadt.

Richelieu set off around February 7 before his replacement could arrive.

Prince Henri with his small Prussian army then invested the fortress of Regenstein located to the south-west of Halberstadt. The fortress surrendered on February 12. French forces assembled at Wolfenbüttel and additional reinforcements were sent from Braunschweig to counter prince Henri.

On February 14, Louis de Bourbon-Condé, Comte de Clermont arrived at Hannover to supersede Richelieu as commander of the French army. Richelieu was gone since a week and Clermont had to command with no help from the man he was relieving... Everything was in such a bad condition that Clermont supposedly wrote to Louis XV:

"I found your Majesty's army divided into 3 parts. The part which is above the ground is composed of pillagers and marauders, the second part is underground, and the third is in hospital. Should I retire with the first or wait until I join one of the others?"

By mid February, a small Allied force consisting of 3 regiments of dragoons and the Hanoverian Foot Guards (2 bns) had already advanced through Lüneburg to Amelinghausen. Meanwhile, Duke Ferdinand of Brunswick had been reinforced by 15 Prussian squadrons (7,000 men) from Pomerania under the command of Duke George of Holstein-Gottorp.

On February 15, the Comte de Saint-Germain arrived at Bremen to replace Broglie as commander in these quarters. M. de Beauffremont commanded at Verden and Rotenburg. Périgord Infanterie and Cambrésis Infanterie were posted at Langwedel to support him.

The Allies launch their offensive

On February 17, Ferdinand left Lüneburg with his entire army and established his headquarters at Amelinghausen. Meanwhile, the Allied troops assigned to the duchy of Bremen formed 2 divisions under the command of Generals Wangenheim and Diepenbroick. For his part, Prince Henri detached 10 battalions and 15 squadrons from the Prussian army under his command in Saxony to assist the Allies. Ferdinand planned to capture Bremen and to cut the communications between the French units cantoned in Westphalia and the French Main Army. Indeed, to the exception of Bremen, the left bank of the Weser and Aller rivers were guarded only by weak French detachments with advanced posts at Rotenburg (M. Gaultier de la Motte with 150 Volontaires Royaux) and Ottersberg.

On February 18, Ferdinand left Amelinghausen and took the road to Verden. He personally led the vanguard and established his headquarters at Schneverdingen. The Allied Main Army followed in two columns under the command of General Zastrow. The Duke of Holstein covered the left flank at Soltau with 4 bns, 10 dragoon sqns, and all jäger and hussar units. General Wangenheim marched invested Rotenburg in the afternoon while General Diepenbroick marched directly on Bremen.

On February 19, the Allied Main Army was at Neuenkirchen. The same day, Saint-Germain assumed effective command at Bremen and Broglie left the town. Meanwhile, Beauffremont marched from Verden, retiring towards Bremen.

On February 20, the Allied Main Army reached Visselhövede while Wangenheim captured Rotenburg, taking 150 French prisoners. The French had also retired from their advanced post at Ottersberg, abandoning their artillery and ammunition, and retired to Bremen. Beauffremont passed by Bremen with his detachment. Saint-Germain sent M. de Chabo to Hoya to organise the defence of the place. He also instructed Périgord Infanterie and Cambrésis Infanterie to take position at Süstedt to support Chabo.

During the night of February 20 to 21, Ferdinand detached the Hereditary Prince with 3 regiments to reinforce Wangenheim and to storm Verden.

On February 21 at 6:00 p.m., as ordered by Clermont, the Marquis de Saint-Chamond had already evacuated the town. Indeed, when Clermont was informed that the Allies were assembling at Lüneburg and that Prince Henri was at Halberstadt with a division, he ordered the French regiments in Westphalia and in the County of Eichfeld to move forward and support the garrison of Bremen and the string of posts on the Aller. By the same token, he had ordered Saint-Chamond to evacuate Verden. Although Clermont had ordered the bridge at Verden destroyed, it had not been. Ferdinand intended to cross the Aller at Verden but snow thawing had been so important that the Aller was flooded up to Celle and that the bridge at Verden was almost impassable. For his main army, Ferdinand had to look for another crossing place which he found between Hudemuhl and Riedhagen across from Ahlden.

On February 22, Ferdinand's vanguard reinforced by all jägers and hussars crossed the Aller aboard small craft and occupied the castle of Ahlden to cover the building of bridges and the crossing of the army.

Action of Hoya

On February 23, at 7:00 AM, the Hereditary Prince of Brunswick was detached to Hoya at the head of 2 Hanoverian bns (Hauss and Oberg), the 2 bns of Brunswick Guards, 1 dragoon sqn and a body of light horse. Hoya was defended by the Comte of Chabot with the Gardes Lorraines (2 bns), 2 grenadier coys and 100 fusiliers of Bretagne Infanterie and a detachment of Mestre de Camp Dragons. The Hereditary Prince crossed the Aller aboard small craft at Verden. He crossed the Weser near Barme aboard some floats of timber with part of his troops. He then launched an attack on Hoya. After a stubborn resistance, the French retired into the castle. Since Bretagne Infanterie with some dragoon sqns were on the march to relieve Hoya, the French were allowed to retire with the honours of war. The same day, the Prussian Black Hussars caught the Polleresky Hussards by surprise in their cantonment near Stöcken-Drebber. The French hussars lost 3 officers and 50 men killed; their colonel, 4 officers and 130 privates taken prisoners; 10 standards, 1 pair of kettle-drums and 300 horses captured. Meanwhile, Meinicke Dragoons of Prince Henri's Corps made a surprise attack on the Chasseurs de Fischer. Prince Henri with his detachment then advanced to the Ocker.

The French progressively retire on the Rhine

On February 24 in the morning, Saint-Germain was informed of the fall of Hoya and of the advance of Ferdinand on Bremen. Fearing to be cut off from the French Main Army, he gave orders to all troops to evacuate Bremen and to assemble at Bassum where they spent the night under arms. About an hour after the French had quitted Bremen, a party of about 50 Hanoverian jägers appeared at the Doven gate. At about 9:00 p.m., Major-general Diepenbrock demanded admittance with an Allied detachment.

On February 25 at 2:00 a.m., a body of 150 Allied light troops was finally authorised to enter into Bremen. About noon, Bremen capitulated to the Allies and a body of 5 Hanoverian bns, 2 sqns and 2 foot jägers coys entered the town. The same day, Saint-Germain's corps (22 bns, 21 sqns) marched from Bassum, passed the Hunte and proceeded to Wildeshausen. Still the same day, Ferdinand crossed the Aller with his main army at Riedhagen and sent forward a body of light troops to harass the French during their retreat.

On February 26, Saint-Germain's corps got to Vechta. Meanwhile, Ferdinand was at Rodewald, proceeding towards Hanover; and prince Henri advanced from the country of Halberstadt towards Wolfenbüttel and Goslar. The same day, after these successful Allied manoeuvres, Clermont ordered the French army to evacuate Celle, Braunschweig and Wolfenbüttel; to retire by Hannover and to concentrate under the guns of Minden and Hameln. Clermont also gave orders to send his heavy artillery to Hameln and Einbeck. During this hasty retreat the French army lost all its magazines, along with several thousands prisoners of war and baggage. It also suffered from general desertion.

On February 27, Saint-Germain's corps remained at Vechta. The same day, the Allies invested Nienburg and Ferdinand advanced to Drakenburg to cover the siege. Meanwhile, prince Henri crossed the Ocker at the head of his Prussian corps.

On February 28 at 5:00 a.m., the French evacuated the city of Hannover, leaving 1,500 sick behind, and Clermont retired towards Hameln. The same day, Saint-Germain, having received intelligence that Hanoverian troops had crossed the Hunte, retired to Vörden with his corps. Still the same day, Nienburg capitulated and the French garrison was allowed to retire with the honours of war.

On March 1, Saint-Germain arrived at Osnabrück. His troops had lost most of their tents and baggage. The remaining heavy baggage was then sent forward to Wesel and to the duchy of Kleve. The same day, as negotiated, the French garrison quitted Nienburg. Still the same day, a party of Prussian hussars passed through the city of Hannover while pursuing the French.

On March 2, Ferdinand entered the city of Hannover. His army, in 2 bodies, immediately moved forward in pursuit of the French. Ferdinand advanced with one corps along the left bank of the Weser with the prince of Holstein one day's march before him with his advanced guard. The other corps was placed under the command of Oberg whose advanced guard was led by the Hereditary Prince. This second corps marched along the right bank of the Weser parallel to Ferdinand's corps. The same day, a party of prince Henri's hussars passed through Hildesheim.

On March 3, prince Henri occupied the towns of Goslar, Braunschweig, Wolfenbüttel and Hildesheim and established his headquarters at Heffen (unidentified location) where some Allied jägers formed a junction with his corps. Major Borke with a detachment of 600 Prussian dragoons (Meinicke Dragoons) and hussars engaged 600 cavalry and 300 infantry from the French rearguard, killing 300 and taking 176 prisoners. The same day, Ferdinand's advanced guard was at Sachsenhagen. Still the same day, Clermont, who was supporting Minden with the main French army, continued to withdraw precipitously in front of the advancing Allies, crossed the Weser and retired to Hameln, abandoning the French garrison of Minden (3,700 men under the command of lieutenant-general marquis de Morangiers) to its fate. During this retreat, the French army abandoned most of their tents and baggage. Upon their arrival at Hameln, the French forwarded their heavy baggage towards the Rhine.

The Allies besiege Minden

On March 5, prince Henri established his headquarters at Liebenburg. The same day, the Hereditary Prince appeared before the town of Minden and summoned it. Morangiers, rejected the summon and decided to defend the town with the garrison (8 bns, 8 sqns, a detachment of Hainaut Infanterie). Oberg soon joined the Hereditary Prince with his corps and a bridge was thrown over the Weser to open communication with Ferdinand.

On March 6, Ferdinand established his headquarters at Stadthagen.

On March 7, Ferdinand moved his headquarters at Frille near Minden. Clermont remained in his camp near Hameln while Saint-Germain quitted Osnabrück and moved towards Melle and Herford in an attempt to form a junction with Clermont who had sent a detachment in his direction to favour this junction.

During the night of March 7 to 8, the French garrison of Minden made a sally but was repulsed.

On March 8, Ferdinand moved closer to Minden, establishing his headquarters at Hartum. Minden was then properly besieged by the Allies from both banks of the Weser. This Allied corps was under the command of general Kilmansegg. Meanwhile, prince Henri was encamped at Hildesheim and general Wangenheim was posted at Bückeburg with 8 bns and 8 sqns. When Ferdinand heard of the attempt of Saint-Germain to form a junction with Clermont, he sent detachment across the Weser to prevent this design. Brunck's brigade reconnoitred the left bank of the Weser and the passages of Wedigenstein and Bergkirchen. To Brunck's right stood the detachment of the duke of Holstein (4 bns and 10 sqns) posted at Lübbecke to cover the right flank of the Allied army and to observe Saint-Germain's corps (12 bns and 12 sqns). Due to these manoeuvres, d'Armentières was forced to interrupt his movement at Dissen and Enger. Meanwhile, Clermont with his 80 bns and 75 sqns remained idle at Hameln throughout the siege of Minden.

On March 9, the Allied heavy artillery opened on Minden.

On March 15, the French garrison of Minden (3,516 men) surrendered as prisoners of war without opposing any serious resistance. General Kilmansegg took possession of Minden with 1 bn. A large magazine fell into the hands of the Allies along with 57 guns. Ferdinand's headquarters were at Hille. The garrison consisted of:

  • Staff:
    • Lieutenant-général marquis de Morangiers
    • Maréchal de camp Comte de Guiche
    • 4 brigadiers generals
    • 20 staff officers
  • Infantry:
  • Cavalry:
    • Prince de Clermont (2 sqns)
    • Conti (2 sqns)
    • Mestre de Camp (2 sqns)
    • Harcourt (2 sqns) or maybe Volontaires Liégeois
  • Artillery:
    • 2 mortars
    • 17 field guns
    • 42 fortress guns

The French retreat continues

After the fall of Minden, Saint-Germain abandoned Osnabrück and called for the garrison of Münster to join his force. He then made a junction with the main army. Furthermore, Ostfriesland was completely evacuated by the French. Their regular infantry regiments were so severely depleted that the militia regiments serving in Germany were disbanded and their troopers incorporated into the undermanned regular regiments.

On March 17, commodore Holmes; after cruising off the north coast of Holland with a small British squadron of ships of the line, the frigate Seahorse (24) and the fireship Strombolo (8); came to an anchor in the straight between Delfzijl and Knock less than 10 km west of Emden.

On March 18, when the Allied army approached Hameln, the French evacuated the town and their strong camp in that neighbourhood, retiring towards Paderborn where Clermont established his headquarters. Before leaving, the French had sent off all the heavy artillery and baggage, blown up the bridges and destroyed the arsenal. Four coys of Scheither Infantry immediately took possession of Hameln. The same day, Holmes' squadron came to a station between Knock and Emden.

On March 19, Ferdinand moved his headquarters to Melle near Osnabrück while Holstein took position at Herford, Bielefeld and Rinteln. The French retreated once more towards the Rhine. On their march, they were joined by the detachments previously stationed at Emden and Cassel. French troops who previously occupied Herford and Bielefeld had already retired towards Münster. Major Estorf was sent forward with an Allied detachment to take possession of Osnabrück where the French had left a large magazine intact. Meanwhile, prince Henri advanced towards Duderstadt with his Prussian army. The same day in the morning, fearing the arrival of a large British fleet, the French garrison (2,500 men) marched out of Emden, leaving the small Austrian force behind, abandoning its hostages and forgetting to inform the neighbouring garrisons of its departure.

During the night of March 19 to 20, the 70 Austrians occupying Duderstadt retired, pursued by 100 men belonging to Wunsch's corps. The hussars captured 50 Austrians.

On March 20, 1,220 Austrians marched out of Emden. At noon, Holmes received intelligence that the Austrians had been transporting their baggage and guns upstream the previous night. He sent an armed cutter and 2 boats to pursue the transport vessels. The British vessels captured 2 of these transports despite artillery fire from the river banks. The same day, Clermont sent order to general Pisa to evacuate East Friesland before the occupation of his lines of communication. Clermont's troops also abandoned Münden. Meanwhile, the Allied army halted.

On March 21, the duc de Broglie who had been ordered to leave Hesse and to make his junction with Clermont's main army, evacuated Cassel and the greatest part of Hesse. His hospitals, artillery and baggage having first been removed to Hanau and Mainz. Broglie, arriving from Bremen to take command of this corps came to Mainz and then marched to join Clermont with his 27 bns and 22 sqns. Meanwhile, the Allied army remained in its positions.

On March ???, Pisa marched upstream along the right bank of the Ems towards Bentheim, destroying the bridges at Rhede, Meppen and Lingen and sinking all the boats found on the river. A party of 500 Hanoverian hussars arrived at Lingen soon after Pisa's departure and seized a large magazine. The bridge was soon repaired.

On March ??? (the after the arrival of the Hanoverian hussars at Lingen), the Hanoverian hussars set forward in pursuit of Pisa's force. They came to contact with 1,500 men between Githuysen (unidentified location) and Bentheim and defeated them. The hussars then resumed their advance up to Nordhom where they captured an Austrian major and 14 baggage wagons.

On March 22, a party of Prussians took possession of Mainz. Count de Lorges received orders to defend Hanau to the last extremity. Accordingly, he repaired the fortifications and built new works and entrenchments. The same day, the Allied army resumed its march and the headquarters were established at Borgholzhausen.

On March 23, the Allied army marched from Borgholzhausen to Versmold.

On March 24, the Allied army continued its march and encamped near Sassenberg.

On March 25, 15 additional militia battalions were mobilized in France and sent to Germany to reinforce Clermont's army.

On March 26, a battalion of Royal Artillerie who had already crossed the Rhine received orders to return to Hanau and to entrench Aschaffenburg. A French body of 14 bns and 18 sqns was left between the Rhine and the Main rivers.

During the same period, Clermont's army retired from Paderborn to Neuhaus. It then resumed its withdrawal, marching on the banks of the Lippe towards Wesel and passing by Lippstadt, Soest. Allied hussars fought an engagement with the rear of the French main body near Soest, capturing 10 24-pdrs and 5 6-pdrs. Meanwhile Saint-Germain retired to Haltern where his heavy baggage had already preceded him.

On March 27, Ferdinand decamped from Sassenberg and marched to Freckenhorst, sending Holstein with a large body of troops in pursuit of the French.

On March 28, the French division coming from East Friesland arrived at Emmerich where it passed the Rhine and took cantonments in Kleve and its surroundings.

Order of Battle
Detailed OOB of Clermont's army in its camp near Wesel between March 30 and April 4 1758.

From April 1 to 3, the 2 French columns coming from Münster and Paderborn gradually assembled in a camp near Wesel. Clermont's army, not counting the troops occupying Hesse in May and June, amounted to no more than some 50,000 men. The French units who had suffered most had been sent back to France, they totalled some 12 battalions and 30 squadrons. The corps of the duc de Broglie was the only French force left on the right bank of the Rhine. However, this corps was also forced to retire in front of the advancing Allied columns. It retreated eastward and occupied Frankfurt, Hanau and Lahn where it was later joined by the prince de Soubise.

On April 2, Ferdinand moved his headquarters to Halteren.

On April 3, the French army crossed to the left bank of the Rhine near Düsseldorf. Meanwhile, Broglie coming from Hesse passed the Rhine at Cologne and took up his quarters between Cologne and Neuss. The entire French army was now deployed in 3 lines with its right at Cologne and its left at Kleve. The first line was deployed along the Rhine, the second between the Rhine and Meuse rivers, and the third along the Meuse and Rur rivers. Clermont's headquarters were at Wesel which was garrisoned by 9 bns and 4 sqns. The duc de Chevreuse occupied Roermond with 6 bns and 4 sqns. Furthermore, 10 Palatine bns occupied Düsseldorf, 4 other bns and 1 bn were at Kleve, 6 bns at Cologne, and 1 bn was at Kaiserwerth. The entire French army consisted of 105 bns and 104 sqns.

Allied preparations for the Crossing of the Rhine

When the French army took its quarters, the Allies did the same to recover from their winter campaign.

At the beginning of April, general Hardenberg received orders to join the main Allied army with the garrisons of Bremen and Harburg. He marched by Vechte whose castle capitulated, its garrison (7 coys) becoming prisoners of war. More than 100 pieces of artillery were also captured. Meanwhile, Holstein sent a detachment to occupy East Friesland. This detachment was also instructed to dislodge the troops from Münster garrisoning Bentheim.

From April 6 to May 29, the Allied troops took cantonments. These cantonments extended from Münster to Dülmen and Dorsten with detachments along the Lippe and the Ruhr. Meanwhile, prince Henri returned to Saxony with his division.

During this period, Allied light troops made frequent excursions up to the Rhine and even under the walls of Wesel. While they were cantoned, the French army fortified Wesel, Düsseldorf, Geldern and Kaiserwerth. New units arrived from Flanders while militia were incorporated into Clermont's depleted units. 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.

Ferdinand now prepared his next move: the crossing of the Rhine and the campaign on the west bank of the Rhine.

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 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.


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
  • Jomini, Henri, Traité des grandes opérations militaires, 2ème édition, 2ème partie, Magimel, Paris: 1811, pp. 8-29, 39-45
  • 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. 20-35
  • V., General: L'infanterie lorraine sous Louis XV - I. - Régiment des Gardes Lorraines, in Les Carnets de la Sabretache, Vol. 2, 1894, pp. 530-534

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

Vial J. L., Nec Pluribus Impar