1758 - French offensive in Westphalia

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The campaign lasted from August to November 1758

Introduction

This article deals with Contades' campaign in Hanover in 1758 after the Allied campaign on the west bank of the Rhine. Another article deals with the simultaneous French invasion of Hesse by an army under the command of Soubise.

Description

On May 9, Ferdinand of Brunswick detached Lieutenant-General Prince von Ysenburg to Marburg, to organise the defence of Hesse against Soubise's Army. Ysenburg left Westphalia with a force of 2 battalions, 2 squadrons and 2 companies of light troops.

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

On May 31, Ferdinand of Brunswick crossed the Rhine at the head of the Allied main army to operate on the west bank of the Rhine against Clermont's Army.

On July 23, while Ferdinand still operated on the west bank of the Rhine, the Duc de Broglie defeated Ysenburg in the Combat of Sandershausen. By this single action, Soubise became master of Hesse. He was now free to push farther in Hanover and Westphalia. This manoeuvre became dangerous to Ferdinand.

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.

On August 3, a British contingent of 12,000 men, under the command of the Duke of Marlborough, disembarked at Emden. 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 reinforcements.

On August 9 and 10, fearing an attack on the British contingent troops recently landed and anxious about his bridge on the Rhine, Ferdinand army recrossed to the right bank of the Rhine with his army and then burnt his bridges. Meanwhile, General Hardenberg evacuated Düsseldorf and retired to Lippstadt.

On August 10, Contades encamped at Alpen while his vanguard under the Duc d'Armentières reached Kleve. Düsseldorf was occupied shortly after the departure of Hardenberg.

On August 11, Contade's Army crossed to the right bank of the Rhine near Wesel to follow Ferdinand's Army It then encamped on the banks of the Lippe. Meanwhile, to prepare the junction with the British contingent, Ferdinand sent General Imhof to Bocholt, General Oberg to Praest near Emmerich and General Urff with a brigade at Werth to support Imhof. The Allied main army encamped at Millingen

On August 12, a storm broke the bridges that the French had erected over the Rhine, delaying Contades.

In the following days, the corps of the Duc d'Armentières crossed the Rhine at Wesel and made a junction with the French main army.

On August 17, the British contingent reached Coesfeld after marching through a very heavy rain.

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

Order of Battle
Detailed order of battle of Contades' Army on August 20 near Wesel.

On August 21, Ferdinand's troops finally made a junction with the British contingent at Coesfeld. The same day, Contades marched to Schermbeck where he established his headquarters.

On August 22, Contades remained at Schermbeck.

On August 23, Contades proceeded to Dorsten where his army passed the Lippe on 3 bridges.

On August 25, the French Army of the Lower Rhine, under Contades, left its camp and moved eastward to Recklinghausen where it encamped (Contades would remain in this camp for most of the summer). Meanwhile Saint-Pern's Corps was posted at Lünen to cover Contades' right flank and the corps of the Duc de Chevreuse encamped in front of Haltern to cover his left wing. Furthermore, Contades ordered Soubise, who was operating in Hesse, to leave his camp of Schweeren and to move towards Lippstadt. Since both French armies were now converging on Lippstadt, Ferdinand immediately detached General Oberg with 7 battalions and 10 squadrons to cover this place and to stop the French advance in this quarter. General Zastrow was ordered to support Oberg while covering the Allied magazines at Warendorf. These measures taken by Ferdinand effectively put a halt to the advance of Soubise.

Order of Battle
Detailed order of battle of Chevert's Corps at the end of August near Soest.

On August 29, the Saxon contingent led by Prince Xavier effected a junction with a French corps under the command of Lieutenant-General Chevert at Soest. Prince Xavier was promoted as French lieutenant-general. In the French army, he was often designated as "Comte de Lusace". He had a difficult time conciliating the diverging interests of the courts of Vienna, Warsaw and Paris.

On August 31, a skirmish took place near Dorsten between Hanoverian jägers and French hussars. The hussars were routed but both parties suffered heavy loss. The same day, the 2nd North British Dragoons (Scot Greys) finally joined the British contingent at Coesfeld. It had been detained some considerable time at sea by contrary winds and could not join the British contingent before its departure from Emden on August 5.

On September 3, Prince Xavier (aka comte de Lusace) at the head of the Saxon contingent (12 regiments totalling some 9,000 men) encamped at Castrop, 15 km from Recklinghausen, on his way to make a junction with Contades. Prince Xavier used the following weeks to train his corps, especially the coordination with the French cavalry newly allocated to him.

On September 4, the Allied army (including the British contingent) marched to Dülmen while Ferdinand's vanguard was at Haltern on the Lippe.

On September 5, 50 Hanoverian jägers led by Captain Scheiter passed the Lippe upstream of Gahlen and defeated a party of 100 French horse, making several prisoners. They then proceeded towards Wesel where they destroyed a convoy of 30 supply wagons, took 60 oxen and captured 3 couriers.

By the end of the summer, Contades was elaborately manoeuvring to capture Lippstadt or some fortress in the Rhine-Weser countries. However, as long as he could not cross the Lippe, it was impossible to Soubise's Army to advance in Hanover beyond the Werra River. Therefore, Soubise waited at Kassel for almost a month for Contades to advance close enough to allow for mutual support.

On September 12, the Grenadiers de France advanced towards Hamm while 2,000 French foot took post at Alten (unidentified location) on the road to Lippstadt. Ferdinand advanced a corps up to Callenberg (unidentified location).

On September 15, the Duc de Fitzjames and the Comte de Saint-Germain were detached from the French main army with 4 brigades and marched to Castrop. For his part, Ferdinand sent Holstein to Werne on the Lippe with a considerable detachment. Both main armies remained in their former headquarters.

On September 16, General Zastrow marched from Warendorf towards Hameln to join prince Ysenburg. The same day, the Duc de Loval was sent to Lünen with a large detachment.

On September 17, after having made several demonstration like if he intended to cross the Weser, Oberg suddenly moved to Paderborn with 14,000 men, on his way to Kassel where he intended to make a junction with Ysenburg to oppose Soubise in Hesse.

On September 24, the Belzunce Brigade along with a brigade of cuirassiers were detached from the main French army towards Hamm.

On September 25, Lieutenant-General Chevert with M. de Voyer and M. de Grollier joined the French troops already stationed at Hamm.

On September 28, Soubise asked Contades for reinforcement to fight the combined corps of Oberg and Ysenburg near Kassel. During all the manoeuvres of the Allies against Kassel, Contades had remained idle in his camp at Recklinghausen where he was since August 19. Contades sent two detachments (31 battalions and 34 squadrons) respectively under Chevert and Fitzjames towards Kassel to support Soubise. These detachments immediately departed from Soest and Werl. Chevert's Corps included the Saxon infantry contingent.

During the night of September 28 to 29, as a diversion, Contades ordered Saint-Pern with his Reserve (8,000 men) to make a surprise attack on the isolated force of the Prince of Holstein (3 bns and 2 dragoon rgts). Saint-Pern left Lünen, made himself master of 2 bridges over the Lippe at Lünen and Beedeburg (unidentified location). His corps then marched during the night to approach Holstein's positions, arriving at its destination at daybreak. An Allied post on the road of Lünen temporarily delayed its advance before retiring in good order. Saint-Pern finally launched an assault on Bork where Holstein occupied advanced positions. The timidity of the French assault allowed Holstein to escape unmolested with his entire force.

At the end of September, Contades was instructed by Belleisle to consume or destroy all subsistence on the Upper-Lippe, in the neighbourhood of Paderborn and in the country lying between the Lippe, Paderborn and Warburg. These instructions were given to prevent a march of Ferdinand on the Rhine or on the Ruhr.

Allied and French manoeuvres in Westphalia from August to November 1758.
 
Source: Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen, volume III by the German Grosser Generalstab
 
Courtesy: Tony Flores

On October 5, Contades finally marched from Recklinghausen to Lichnen (unidentified location).

On October 6, Contades marched to Hamm. The Duc de Chevreuse left Dorsten and took post at Recklinghausen to support de Lorges' Corps at Hamke (unidentified location).

On October 7, Contades sent a strong detachment under the command of the Duc de Chevreuse to take position at Soest. From his new positions, Contades was now threatening Lippstadt.

On October 8, Ferdinand marched in 3 columns to Nottuln with the Allied main army. General Imhoff and Wutginau joined him there with their own corps.

On October 9, Ferdinand sent the Hereditary Prince of Brunswick and the Duke of Holstein to Telgte.

On October 10, the Hereditary Prince and the Duke of Holstein marched to Warendorf. The same day, in Hesse, Soubise defeated Oberg at Lutterberg near Kassel. When Contades was informed of Soubise's victory, he thought that he now had his chance against Ferdinand. Meanwhile Ferdinand's Army marched to Appelhülsen.

On October 11, Ferdinand arrived at Münster with his main army.

When Ferdinand heard of Oberg's defeat at Lutterberg, he decided to manoeuvre in order to prevent the junction of Contades and Soubise and to stop Soubise from advancing into the Electorate of Hanover.

On October 14, Ferdinand marched his army from Münster to Telgte, about 10 km eastward, leaving a garrison in Münster. Meanwhile the Hereditary Prince advanced to Rheda.

On October 15, Ferdinand left Telgte and marched to Warendorf.

On October 16, Ferdinand was at Rheda.

On October 17, Ferdinand arrived near Lippstadt.

Copper engraving depicting the action near Soest on October 17
Source: Leonard Dorn's Collection
Legend
1- Soest
2- Retiring French troops
3- Werl which the French reoccupied


During the night of October 17 to 18, Ferdinand's vanguard (10 Prussian dragoon sqns, 14 Allied sqns and 14 Allied bns) under the command of the Hereditary Prince, threw bridges over the Lippe at Benninghausen, passed the river and encamped near this village. Meanwhile, Ferdinand's main force stopped at Cappel without passing the Lippe.

On October 18 at 7:00 a.m., Ferdinand's vanguard marched on Soest in two columns. However, Chevreuse informed of its advance had enough time to retire to Werl. The Allies captured only 260 prisoners. The same day Ferdinand's main army passed the Lippe on the bridges at Cappel and encamped at Benninghausen.

On October 19, Ferdinand vanguard marched westward to Werl, pushing back the French once more and forcing them to retire to Unna. Meanwhile Ferdinand's main army arrived at Soest. The same day, fearing for the isolated corps of Chevert which had previously left Soubise and was on its way to rejoin him, Contades left his camp at Hamm and marched south-eastward to Wambeln while the Duc d'Armentières marched on Werl, forcing the Hereditary Prince to retire on Paradiese, 5 km west of Soest.

On October 20, Contades marched to Werl where he established his headquarters. He was soon joined by the Saxons and by the detachments under Fitzjames and Chevert which he had previously sent as reinforcements to Soubise in Hesse. The same day, the Duke of Marlborough died of a fever at Münster and was succeeded by Lord George Sackville as commander of the British troops.

On October 21, Ferdinand left Soest and encamped in the excellent position of Hoffstadt (unidentified location).

On October 22, General Oberg's corps made a junction with the Allied main army at Hoffstadt and took position to cover the Allied right flank. Contades could not hope to take his winter quarters on the right bank of the Rhine as long as Ferdinand occupied these positions. He resolved to make an attempt on Münster in the rear of the Allied positions. He charged d'Armentières of this mission. Accordingly, d'Armentières crossed the Lippe at Lünen with 17 battalions and 26 squadrons. This manoeuvre of Contades forced the Allies to interrupt their pursuit and to repass the Lippe.

On October 23, Contades returned to Hamm with the main part of his army. The same day, the Allied army marched to Lippstadt.

On October 24, the Allied army reached Rheda.

On October 25, d'Armentières approached Steinfurt where Lieutenant-General Kielmannsegg was posted with 3 bns and 4 sqns. Kielmannsegg retired into Münster. The same day, Ferdinand when he heard of the French enterprise, detached Imhof to Warendorf to cover his magazines.

On October 26, Ferdinand marched with the Allied main army and crossed the Lippe. Meanwhile generals Holstein and Wangenheim followed General Imhof and marched to Rheda.

On October 27, informed of Ferdinand's approach, d'Armentières, who was besieging Münster, retired to Hamm, followed up by Scheiter's corps. The Allied army reached Telgte.

On October 28, Ferdinand arrived at Münster with his army.

Maréchal Contades made a junction with Chevert.

At the beginning of November, Belleisle, the French minister of war, realising that any advance into Germany was now almost impossible during this campaign, reinstated his instructions to Contades to consume or destroy all subsistence, especially forage, between the Weser and the Rhine as well as between the Lippe, Paderborn, the Diemel and the Fulda.

On November 13, Contades began his march to Wesel to take his winter-quarters on the left bank of the Rhine.

On November 16, the French main army separated in 3 columns at Bochum. These columns marched off respectively to Wesel, Düsseldorf and Cologne.

On November 17, the 3 French columns crossed the Rhine to go into winter-quarters, leaving 40 bns and 3,000 horse in these 3 places and the Légion Royale under the command of M. de Chabot on the right bank of the Rhine at Hattingen. The quarters of the French army extended along the Rhine from Kleve to Coblence. Contades headquarters were established at Krefeld. Six bridges had been thrown over the Rhine.

Order of Battle
Detailed breakdown of the Allied troops in their winter quarters in December 1758 in Hesse and Westphalia.

The Allies then took their winter-quarters too, Ysenburg taking his winter-quarters in Hesse and Ferdinand in Westphalia, establishing his headquarters at Münster.

References

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. 306-309, 331
  • Archenholz, J. W.: The History of the Seven Years War in Germany, translated by F. A. Catty, Francfort, 1843, pp. 230-232
  • Bourcet, M. de: Principes de la guerre de montagnes Ministère de la guerre, Paris, 1775, pp. 193-200
  • Carlyle, T.: History of Friedrich II of Prussia vol. 18
  • 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. 51-70
  • Jomini, Henri: Traité des grandes opérations militaires, 2ème édition, 2ème partie, Magimel, Paris: 1811, pp. 45-46, 56-60, 61-65
  • 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. 3-5

Other sources

Evrard, P.: Praetiriti Fides

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

Service historique de l'armée de terre, A4, 27, pièce 58

Vial J. L., Nec Pluribus Impar

Acknowledgement

Harald Skala for information on the Saxon Army during this period