1758 - Russian invasion of East Prussia

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Hierarchical Path: Seven Years War (Main Page) >> Campaigns >> 1758 - Russian invasion of East Prussia

The campaign lasted from January to June 1758

Introduction

In September 1757, a few weeks after its victory at Gross Jägersdorf, the Russian army of field marshal Stepan Fiodorovitch Apraxin, despite lieutenant-general Sibilsky's advice, retired and went into winter quarters in Courland, Livonia and Poland. Only a small Russian corps of some 11,000 men was left behind in the area of Memel (actual Klaipėda). Sibilsky left the army and went to Warsaw from where he wrote to the empress of Russia.

Elizabeth Petrovna, the Russian empress, was extremely displeased at the retreat of her army from Prussia. She ordered an enquiry on Apraxin's conduct. The command of the Russian army was transferred to general Villim Vilimovich Fermor while Apraxin was cited before a court at Narva. The inquiry revealed that Apraxin had acted upon chancellor Bestuzhev's instruction. The chancellor was immediately disgraced.

In mid winter, Fermor was ordered to regain possession of East Prussia. The Prussians were immediately informed of this and 2 bns of the Garrison Regiment Nr. 1 Putkammer under lieutenant-colonels Unruh and Wutenau, respectively occupying Königsberg (actual Kaliningrad) and Pillau (actual Baltiysk), retired into Pomerania. They took with them the money, the greatest part of stores and the artillery.

Order of Battle
Detailed order of battle of the Russian Army in January 1758.

For the campaign of 1758, the Russians had assembled a very powerful army consisting of 20 cavalry regiments, 32 infantry regiments, 4 grenadier regiments, 16,000 Cossacks and 2,000 Kalmucks, 70 howitzers, 6 mortars and 166 guns of various calibres. Furthermore, empress Elizabeth Petrovna ordered the creation of an Observation Corps of 5 brigades of 4 battalions each. The effective strength of the Russian army was about 70,000 men.

Russian army enters into East Prussia

On January 16, the Russian army (about 30,000 men) marched from Memel. The same day, lieutenant-general Resanov was ordered to take possession of the island of Russ (actual Rusne). Meanwhile, lieutenant-general Rumyantsev was ordered to seize Tilsit (actual Sovetsk) with another detachment. The Prussian garrison of Tilsit retired in time to escape capture. The Russian army then advanced in 5 columns under Saltykov, Resanov, Lubomirsky, Parsin and Leontiev.

On January 19, the Russian army assembled at Rautenburg (unidentified location). From this town, it advanced to Labiau (actual Polessk).

On January 20, the Russian vanguard under the command of quartermaster-general Stoffeln arrived at Labiau. The same day, Fermor reached the town.

On January 21, Fermor returned to Kaimen (actuel Zarechye) where he had already detached brigadier Stojanov with 3 regiments of hussars and Chuguevski cossacks (*), colonel Jakoblev with 400 grenadiers and 8 pieces of artillery and brigadier Demiku with 9 squadrons of cavalry. The councillors of Königsberg sent a deputation to Fermor at Kaimen to implore the protection of the empress of Russia.

On January 22, quartermaster-general Stoffeln marched with the first line from Kaimen to Königsberg. The vanguard consisted of Chuguevski cossacks, 3 regiments of hussars under brigadier Stojanov, 9 sqns of dragoons under brigadier Demiku, and 8 coys of grenadiers with 8 pieces under colonel Jakoblev. General Braun was ordered to advance from Tilsit to Insterburg (actual Chernyakhovsk). The same day, colonel Jakoblev took possession of Königsberg. Fermor arrived in the city the same day with general Saltykov with the Russian and foreign volunteers.

On January 23, the 4th Grenadier along with Troitskiy Infantry under major-general Resanov garrisoned Königsberg.

On January 24, the citizens of Königsberg were obliged to swear allegiance to the empress of Russia and Resanov was appointed governor of the town. The same day, major Vigand, seconded by major Gerbel of the engineers and prince Repnin adjutant of the Preobrazenskiy Leib-Guard marched with 1 bn to take possession of Pillau. Still the same day, major-general Leontiev received orders to form the rearguard with his brigade along with Sibyrskiy and Novgorodskiy infantry and to take his quarters in Labiau. Brigadier Nummers marched to Labiau with Smolenskiy and Riazanskiy infantry.

On January 25, the Russian army went into cantonments.

On January 30, Braun's was on the march from Tilsit.

On January 31, being informed that Prussian troops were in the area of Elbing (actual Elbląg), Rumyantsev sent 400 hussars to cut off the Prussian detachment and to take possession of the country.

On February 1, the Russians required 2,000 horses to the council of Königsberg.

On February 2, Braun was ordered to march to Schippenbeil (actual Sępopol).

On February 3, Stoffeln marched to Marienburg (actual Malbork) and other places on the Vistula with 500 men from the Serbskiy Hussar under major Tockeli and the Chuguevski cossacks under major Bulazell. He was charged to reconnoitre the country, to procure provisions and to secure any pontoon that he might find on the Vistula.

On February 4, East Prussia delivered 500 horses to the Russian army.

On February 6, a further 500 horses were delivered to the Russian army.

On February 7, major-general Schilling marched with 3 rgts of cuirassiers to Schirul, Olita and, through Serey (three unidentified locations), to Oletzko (actual Olecko). Meanwhile, colonel Gaugrave marched to Kovno (actual Kaunas) with 2 rgts of cuirassiers and lieutenant-general prince Dolgorouki marched towards Grodno (actual Hrodna) with 3 rgts of infantry to join the Observation Corps. Prince Golitsyns with his corps followed the Observation Corps in Samogitia.

On February 12, the Russian heavy artillery (14 guns, 6 unicorns and 3 mortars) was transferred from Memel to Königsberg. Stoffeln reported that he was now master of Marienwerder (actual Kwidzyn).

The entire army was organized into divisions under the overall command of general Fermor:

  • 1st Division under general Braun assisted by lieutenant-general Rumyantsev
    • major-generals Baumann, Schilling, prince Lubomirsky and Manteufel
    • brigadiers Demiku, Dictz, Berg and Stojanov
    • troops
      • Cuirassiers (5 rgts)
      • Horse Grenadiers (5 rgts)
      • Hussars (4 rgts)
      • Dragoons (4 rgts)
      • Regular cossacks (1 rgt)
      • Infantry (16 rgts)
  • 2nd Division under lieutenant-general Saltykov
    • major-generals Panin and Leontiev
    • brigadiers Treyden and Uvarov
    • troops
      • Hussars (1 rgt)
      • Infantry (10 rgts)
  • 3rd Division under lieutenant-general prince Golitsyns
    • major-generals Palmbach and Manteufel
    • brigadier Plimenikov
    • troops
      • Hussars (1 rgt)
      • Infantry (10 rgts)
  • Observation Corps under lieutenant-general count Chernichev
  • Independent units
    • Irregular cossacks
    • Kalmucks

Some 2,000 carriages with horses were collected in East-Prussia to transport stores, provisions and forage. Using 1,500 of these carriages, the magazine of Grodno was transferred to Tilsit. General Braun with 2 brigades then advanced to Rastenburg (actual Ketrzyn).

On February 17, prince Dolgoruki reported from Mittau (actual Jelgava) that Butyrskiy and Pleskov (maybe Pskovskiy) regiments had begun their march and that he planned to reach Ianischky (unidentified location) on March 16.

On February 22, Rumyantsev and Saltykov left their cantonments and marched towards the Vistula. Rumyantsev and Treyden marched directly towards Elbing with 6 infantry rgts while Panin's brigade advanced on Marienburg and Pillau, and Leontiev to Riesenburg (actual Prabuty) and Gardensee (unidentified location). The control of the Vistula was necessary to supply Russian troops in Brandenburg.

On February 23, quartermaster-general Stoffeln was on the march from Marienwerder to Danzig (actual Gdańsk), after detaching Chuguevski cossacks under major Preradevilsch to Rastenburg and a party of hussars under major Tockeli across the Vistula. Resanov replaced Rumyantsev in the 1st Division, the latter being assigned a new mission. Saltykov was instructed to occupy Elbing. Treyden assumed command of the garrison of Elbing consisting of 4th Grenadier and Troitskiy Infantry. He was also responsible for Permskiy Infantry which garrisoned Pillau and Memel.

On February 26, Rumyantsev went to Stolpzi (unidentified location).

On March 2, the Russian heavy artillery marched from Königsberg to Marienwerder where it was joined by Fermor. Lieutenant-general Saltykov took possession of Elbing.

On March 4, Fermor arrived at Elbing.

On March 5, 500 cossacks joined the 3rd Division commanded by prince Golitsyns.

On March 8, Fermor went through Marienburg to Marienwerder.

On March 9, rear-admiral Kaschkin reported that he had found 29 vessels and 64 transports at Memel. These craft could be used to convey supplies. Tockeli, who was already at Mewe (actaul Gniew) and Neuburg across the Vistula with 235 hussars and cossacks, reported that his reconnaissance parties had not spotted any Prussian units as far as Butow (actual Bytow) in Pomerania and Komtsche (unidentified location) in Silesia. Meanwhile, the cavalry stationed at Marienwerder had to retire to Schippenbeil and Bartenstein (actual Bartoszyce) for lack of forage.

On March 12, the lack of forage became so acute that each division retained only the horses absolutely necessary for transporting the artillery and supplies. Braun had now formed a cordon along the Vistula and taken his quarters at Graudenz (actual Grudziadz).

On March 13, prince Golitsyns arrived before the gates of Thorn (actual Torun) with 2 rgts and colonel Derthen took possession of the town with 400 grenadiers. A redoubt was built to cover the bridge over the Vistula. Meanwhile, an envoy went to Danzig to obtain the possession of one gate of the place and of the outworks. His request was rejected.

On March 14, colonel Krasnotchokov and major Tockeli received orders to patrol the Pomeranian frontier and to establish a cordon of guarded beacon beyond the Vistula to signal any advance by the Prussians.

On March 16, prince Golitsyns was instructed to build a bridgehead on the other side of the Vistula at Thorn. The same day, the Russian first brigade of field artillery under the command of major-general Nothelfer arrived at Marienwerder.

On March 19, Fermor established his headquarters at Marienwerder on the Liva river. He then cantoned his troops behind the Vistula and extracted from Prussia all the necessary supplies for the incoming campaign. His army then remained in these positions until May 3. While the Russians had been invading East Prussia, a small Prussian army, now under the command of count Dohna who had replaced Lehwaldt, had been blockading the Swedes in Stralsund in Pomerania since winter and till mid June.

On April 11, Panin was ordered to cross the Vistula with 4 rgts. Braun and Saltykov exchanged their respective commands, Braun taking command of the Observation Corps and Saltykov of the 1st Division.

On April 12, Resanov took command of the 2nd Division. The same day, light troops under major Jucka were detached from Panin's corps at Dirschau (actual Tczew) to reconnoitre the Prussian positions.

On April 13, a deputation from Danzig arrived at Fermor's headquarters. They obtained assurance that no action would be undertaken against Danzig until formal answers would be made to their requests by the Russian and Polish courts.

On April 14, brigadier Stojanov approached Butow with a picked force of 300 men from the Serbskiy Hussars, Slaviano-Serbian Hussars and Chuguevski Cossacks. The Prussians immediately lighted their beacons and a detachment of dragoons and hussars was deployed in front of the town. An engagement took place where the Prussians were driven back into the town, 5 of them being taken prisoners during the action. Meanwhile, 4 rgts of infantry, 2 rgts of hussars and 1 rgt of cossacks crossed the Vistula and joined 2,000 Don cossacks already posted there.

On April 19, Fermor was informed that captain prince Dadian had arrived at Königsberg with the 2nd column of artillery. Count Chernichev reported that he had arrived at Grodno and was expecting the Grenadier Regiment and the 3rd Musketeer Regiment of the Observation Corps and that the other regiments would hasten their march.

On April 23, rear-admiral Kaschkin reported that his galleys and bomb ketch at Memel were in bad condition. The same day, 2 rgts of infantry reinforced Panin on the Vistula.

On April 24, Fermor went to Graudenz and was informed that the Prussian general Platen was now stationed at Butow with his corps. On returning from his reconnaissance in Pomerania, major Jucka reported that he had advanced almost to the sea without meeting any Prussian troops. However, he had learned that a Prussian rgt of dragoons was stationed at Stolp (actual Slupsk) and some hussars at Lauenburg (actual Lebork) and Butow. Stojanov was sent to reconnoitre the country.

On May 21, the Observation Corps marched from Grodno to Rynka (unidentified location).

On May 31, prince Golitsyns' division encamped at Bromberg (actual Bydgoszcz). Nothelfer reported that the Russian 4th artillery brigade, which was part of the 3rd Division, had crossed the Vistula. Meanwhile, Platen was busy entrenching his army of 16,000 Prussians near Butow.

On June 1, brigadier Demiku was promoted major-general and detached with 2,000 cossacks, 3,000 hussars and 2,000 horse grenadiers from Rumyantsev's corps towards the frontiers of Pomerania and Neumark (East Brandenburg) where he levied contributions.

On June 4, prince Golitsyns reported that Horvarth Hussars (about 1,000 men) had arrived at Bromberg.

On June 9, Panin was ordered to quit his camp at Dirschau with his division and to march through Stargard (actual Starogard Gdanski) to Konitz (actual Chojnice). Meanwhile, general Rumyantsev crossed the Vistula with a strong cavalry corps and encamped at Neuenburg (actual Nowe). The same day major Gerbel and 2 engineers were sent forward to reconnoitre the banks of the Netze river in the area of Konitz and Tuchel (actual Tuchola).

On June 10, the Russian army began to cross the Vistula. Indeed, the control of the Vistula was not sufficient to insure the steady arrival of supplies during a campaign in Brandenburg. The Russians first had to secure the Wartha river.

On June 16, the main Russian corps under Fermor arrived at Konitz. With Pomerania and Brandenburg both threatened by the advance of the Russians, Dohna was forced to abandon the blockade of Stralsund.

On June 18, the Prussian force under Dohna which was blockading the Swedes in Stralsund was recalled to oppose the Russian invasion.

On June 19, Dohna encamped at Treuen near Loitz.

On June 20, a skirmish took place at Ratzenbuhr (actual Okonek). A Prussian detachment of 90 hussars and 20 dragoons, under captain Zettmar, had been sent to reconnoitre the Russian positions near Neustettin (actual Szczecinek). Zettmar was informed that a party of 60 cossacks operated in the region. He determined to find them. However, general Demiku had already spotted the small Prussian detachment and sent brigadier Krasnotchokov and colonel Datschein with 500 cossacks to cut it off. Demiku also sent brigadier Stojanov, colonel Szoricz, lieutenant-colonel Tockeli and major Folkern with a body of troops to support Krasnotchokov. The Prussian detachment was soon surrounded in a wood but managed to force its way out, being pursued up to Neustettin. During this action, the Prussians lost 20 killed and 1 cornet and 31 men taken prisoners. The Russians had about 30 men killed and wounded. The Russians then plundered the town of Ratzenbuhr.

Demiku, after laying waste the neighbourhood of Neustettin, marched through Draheim (unidentified location), Dramburg (actual Drawsko Pomorskie) and Arnimswalde (actual Załom) countries towards Brandenburg.

At this time, major-general Platen's corps consisted of:

Platen detached colonel Hordt with his regiment and 40 hussars to reinforce Driesen (actual Drezdenko) which was defended by only 200 militia under major Schwerin. The rest of Platen's corps then made a junction Dohna's vanguard under the command of lieutenant-general Kanitz.

On June 26, count Dohna's army crossed the Peene, abandoning Pomerania to the mercy of the Swedes. Dohna was on the march towards Cüstrin (actual Kostrzyn nad Odrą). Meanwhile, the Russian vanguard had advanced to Meseritz (actual Miedzyrzecz). Dohna still believed that the Russian army was heading for Silesia to make a junction with the Austrian army. When he heard of the Russian advance, he ordered Kanitz's vanguard to retire from Landsberg (actual Gorzow Wielkopolski) across the Oder. Now only a small Prussian force under major-generals Below and Ruesch remained on the other side of the Oder in front of Cüstrin. It consisted of the Grenadier Battalion 2/G-II Nesse and 500 hussars.

On June 28, Fermor began his march with the 1st Division and the field artillery.

On June 29, Fermor's corps arrived at Langgoslin (actual Dluga Goslina). The same day Rumyantsev reported that one of his detachment had captured the castle of Draheim and taken 20 men prisoners.

On June 30, the Russian army received supplies and rested.

On July 1, Fermor with the 1st Division encamped near Posen (actual Poznań) with the Wartha river in his rear and the town behind his left flank. General Rumyantsev remained at Schneidemuhl (actual Pila) with his corps. The same day, some 250 cossacks scoured the country around Driesen and plundered the neighbouring villages. A detachment of the Prussian garrison (40 hussars under captain Knoblesdorf) made a sortie and killed 20 cossacks, loosing 10 men in the action.

On July 2, the Russian 2nd Division arrived at Posen with its artillery and baggage.

On July 3, a Russian force entered Posen to garrison the town and protect the magazine. Rumyantsev crossed the Wartha at Wronke (actual Wronki).

On July 5, major-general Jefremov and colonel Haakt were instructed to hasten their march with the Kalmucks and cossacks to join the army. Meanwhile, Resanov took position at Marienwerder to cover the magazines and to guard the passage of the Vistula.

With Posen, Fermor had a good place of arms and good locations for his magazines during his operations in Brandenburg and Silesia. He finally decided to proceed to the invasion of Brandenburg.

References

This article is mostly made of abridged and adapted excerpts from the following books which are now in the public domain:

  1. Tielke, J. G., An Account of some of the most Remarkable Events of the War between the Prussians, Austrians and Russians from 1756 to 1763, Vol. 2, Walter, London, 1788, pp. 1-67, 72-87
  2. Jomini, Henri, Traité des grandes opérations militaires, 2ème édition, 2ème partie, Magimel, Paris: 1811, pp. 140-167, 232, 252-253, 262-264
  3. Archenholz, J. W., The History of the Seven Years War in Germany, translated by F. A. Catty, Francfort, 1843, pp. 148, 156, 158
  4. Carlyle, T., History of Friedrich II of Prussia, vol. 18
  5. Anonymous, A Complete History of the Present War, from its Commencement in 1756, to the End of the Campaign, 1760, London, 1761, pp. 317-318

Other sources

Duffy, Christopher, various articles on the Russian army, Seven Years War Association Journal Vol. X No. 2