1758 - Siege of Colberg

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Hierarchical Path: Seven Years War (Main Page) >> Sieges >> 1758 - Siege of Colberg

The siege lasted from October 3 to 29 1758

Description of Events

Prelude to the Siege

In 1758, a large Russian army had proceeded to the invasion of East Prussia and then to the invasion of Brandenburg. After the indecisive battle of Zorndorf at the end of August, the Russian army remained idle in Brandenburg during the whole month of September. Due to lack of supplies, it then slowly retired towards East Prussia. However, at the beginning of October, general Fermor detached Palmbach with a corps to lay siege to Colberg. Indeed, the capture of this fortress and of its harbour would give the Russians an easily supplied place to sustain an army wintering in Pomerania. Furthermore, this would open a much shorter line of communication to supply an army campaigning in Brandenburg or Silesia.

From March to August, the Prussians had already reinforced the defences of the fortress by building a wooden palisade along the covert way. Furthermore, they prepared all batteries, made sally ports and threw temporary bridges over the ditches.

When a Russian corps appeared in front of Colberg at the beginning of October, work was still under way to properly defend the “New Town” whose curtain walls and ravelins were not quite completed

Map

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The fortress of Colberg (actual Kołobrzeg) is located on the coast of Pomerania, at the mouth of the Persante river (actual Parsęta). The place was strongly fortified with 3 m. thick earth curtain walls and 4 m. thick earth bastions. These earth walls were covered with brick. The whole work was surrounded by large ditches which could be easily flooded. The walls were defended by 130 guns (from 4-pdrs to 24-pdrs) and 14 mortars.

The neighbouring ground consisted of marshes intersected by canals. These marshes could be easily inundated in the area between the Muhlen Gate and the Lauenburg Gate.

Not far from Colberg, the Persante river is bordered by small ridges which could easily be used as an advanced defence line.

The Siege

On September 28, a Russian corps under the command of major-general Palmbach marched towards Colberg from its camp near Stargard. It consisted of 4 infantry rgts (about 3,000 men), 2 sqns of horse grenadiers, some hussars and cossacks and artillery. The Prussians at Stettin (actual Szczecin) were informed of the Russian advance on Colberg. They immediately detached 2 bns to reinforce the garrison.

On the night of October 2, the Prussian reinforcement cantoned in and around Greifenberg (actual Gryfice).

On October 3, the Prussian reinforcements sent a few men towards Colberg but they were attacked by Palmbach's light troops. The Prussians lost 3 men killed and 47 taken prisoners. The 2 Prussian bns then retreated to Camin. At about 11:00 AM, Palmbach's corps arrived by the road of Schiefelbein on the heights of Sellnow. Palmbach immediately sent a trumpeter to Colberg with a written summon which major Heyden rejected. The Russians then laid siege to Colberg which was defended by a small garrison of 2 militia bns (some 700 men). The Russian artillery immediately fired some shells on the “New Town”. Palmbach encamped his corps between Sellnow and Werder. Major Heyden took immediate measures to prepare for the siege. Nine guns were brought back from a battery near the harbour to the town, the ditches were inundated and dispositions were taken to fight any fire.

On October 4, the Russians planted 3 unicorns in the Maykuhle wood. They bombarded the fortress from 10:00 AM till noon. Palmbach summoned Heyden a second time but the latter refused to surrender once more. In the evening the Russians bombarded Colberg during one hour. Meanwhile, Heyden sent 400 militia ahead to occupy the covert way while townspeople organised in companies lined the walls. There were only 14 artillerymen in the town but lieutenant Scheel soon trained 120 militia. Throughout the siege, the Prussian artillery maintained an overwhelming superiority.

On October 5, from 8:00 AM till noon, a Russian battery fired into Colberg from the Maykuhle wood. The Prussians answered with a very lively fire. The bombardments resumed from 4:00 PM. The same day, brigadier Berg advanced against the harbour with 4 grenadier coys, 6 x 12-pdrs and 6 unicorns. The Prussians had already abandoned the redoubt in the harbour and the Russians built a bridge across the Perante river with 3 of the vessels captured in the harbours. Berg detachment then crossed this bridge and occupied the suburbs of Munde and Pfannschmiede. The same day, engineer Oettingen opened the trenches at Pfannschmiede and began work on a battery.

On October 6, a Russian battery of 3 unicorns bombarded the fortress from the Maykuhle wood while work on the trenches went on. During the night the remaining Russian artillery was transferred from the Maykuhle wood to Pfannschmiede.

On October 7, 2 unicorns and 3 x 12-pdrs were planted in the first Russian battery and opened against Colberg till 11:00 AM. In the afternoon, the Russian was damaged by a 200 lbs shell.

On Sunday October 8, the Russian trenches were extended. The bombardment seized till 3:00 PM to allow the population to attend religious service. However, being uninformed of these dispositions, the inhabitants did not take advantage of this measure. The Russians resumed bombardment from 3:00 PM to 5:00 PM. The same day, Palmbach was instructed to abandon the siege of Colberg. He summoned the besieged a last time but his offer was rejected once more.

During the night of October 8 to 9, the Russians bombarded the town till 5:00 AM. In the morning, Palmbach raised the siege and started his march to join the main Russian army. He had barely reached Grossgestin when he met colonel Jakoblev who was bringing him 2 infantry rgts (some 1,200 men) and 2 howitzers as reinforcements. Jakoblev also carried new orders specifying that the siege must be vigorously carried on.

On October 10, Palmbach returned to Colberg where his siege works had been left intact. He detached Jakoblev with the new units to Lauenburg. A bridge was thrown over the Persante at Rosentin to link the two corps. Berg reintegrated his previous positions. After the refusal of another summon by the Prussian commander of the fortress, the bombardment restarted. During the night, the trenches at the mouth of the Persante were advanced towards St. Nicholas church.

On October 11, the trenches in front of St. Nicholas were completed and the construction of a new battery began. Bombardment continued for the whole day, setting fire to part of the town. Meanwhile a party of cossacks and horse grenadiers under major Vermeulen surrounded the suburbs of Muhlen. During the evening Jakoblev encamped near Neckniehn and started the construction of a new battery.

On October 12, the new battery in front of St. Nicholas was completed. It consisted of 1 unicorn, 3 x 12-pdrs and 1 x 3-pdrs. The new battery of Neckniehn also opened fire. The same day, quartermaster Stoffeln arrived from the main Russian army, reconnoitred the siege works and then took charge of the trenches around Pfannschmiede while engineer Oettingen was sent to assist Jakoblev. During a council of war, it was resolved to assault the covert way.

During the night of October 12 to 13, about midnight, there was a false alarm in Colberg.

In the morning of October 13, the battery in front of St. Nicholas opened fire for the first time. Trenches were advanced further and the construction of a new battery undertaken. Heyden ordered all his troops to abandon the covert way and to retire into Colberg. The drawbridge was destroyed and bridges over the ditches removed.

On October 14, under a heavy rain, the Russians prepared for an assault in front of their third battery. For this purpose, they made a lodgement in the covert way. Spotting all these preparations, the Prussians opened a very lively fire against these positions, killing major Lauterbach and spreading panic among the troops gathered for the assault which retired to the suburb. A further attempt against the bastions of the “New Town” was cancelled when the officers leading this operations realised that the Prussian troops in this area were in full readiness.

On October 15, the Russian troops were master of the covert ways of Colberg. However, ammunition for the Russian artillery were scarce and the intensity of fire diminished. The Prussians vainly tried to destroy the Russian battery facing St. Nicolas church.

On October 16, the Russians built a new battery where the unicorns were planted. The engineers reconnoitred the town while Palmbach gathered 23 boats. The same day, Fermor departed from Stargrad with the main Russian army.

On October 17, the Russian lieutenant Inglestrom discovered a sally port gate from which the Prussians received supplies and intelligence. A party of cossacks was immediately posted in this area to prevent any further communication. The Russian artillery aimed its guns on the powder magazines without much success. A heavy storm caused the loss of 22 Russian transports between Stolpe (actual Slupsk) and Rügenwalde (actual Darlowo) on the Baltic coast. These transports were on their way to Colberg with supplies and ammunition.

On October 18, the Russians completed a fifth battery. They also dug a gallery towards the counterscarp of the town while the troops prepared rafts to cross the ditch and ladders to climb the walls. It was also determined to carry a sap through the covert way on the Lauenburg side. During the evening, a strong Russian detachment forced the gate at the entrance of the Lauenburg suburb and took possession of this suburb. Palmbach then sent a new summon to the Prussian commander of the place who refused to surrender. The same day, Fermor marched to Reetz (actual Recz) with the main Russian army. During the night, the Prussian garrison kept up a heavy fire on the Russian positions at Lauenburg. Nevertheless, the Russians managed to open trench at 300 paces from the counterscarp.

On October 19, the Prussian garrison took dispositions to resist the expected Russian assault on the Lauenburg side. Colonel Schmeling commanded the Prussian force on this side of the town. The Russians received a supply of ammunition and intensified their bombardment. During the night, the started the building of a new battery in the Lauenburg suburb.

On October 20, the artillery duel continued.

On October 21, the straw magazines in Colberg caught fire. However, the strong wind which had blown earlier almost immediately ceased and rain began, preventing fire to propagate to other buildings. During the night the Russian approaches on the Lauenburg side advanced 100 paces towards the covert way.

On October 22, under the heavy artillery fire from Colberg, the Russians did not make any significant progress. The Russian artillery, now short on ammunition, began to play only at 4:00 PM. The same day, Dohna's corps advanced up to Stargard and the main Russian army retired to Dramburg (actual Drawsko Pomorskie). Dohna then resolved to make an attempt to relieve Colberg.

On October 23, the Russian artillery fired only sporadically to preserve the remaining ammunition. The battery on the Lauenburg side was completed and 2 howitzers mounted in it.

On October 25, Dohna detached Wobersnow with 5 bns (Moritz 2 bns, Kanitz 2 bns and Grenadier Battalion 2/Gar.2 Nesse 1 bn) and 9 sqns (Alt-Platen Dragoons 5 sqns and 400 hussars) towards Colberg.

On October 26, Wobersnow marched from Massow to Naugarten (unidentified location) where he was informed that Greifenberg was occupied by 300 cossacks and horse grenadiers. During the evening Wobersnow detached colonel Schlaberndorf with a battalion of Kanitz Infantry, 3 sqns of Alt-Platen Dragoons and 300 hussars to Plathe on the river Rega.

On October 27 at 2:00 AM, Platen marched with the remaining 2 sqns of Alt-Platen Dragoons and 100 hussars, supported by Nesse Grenadiers. At 3:00 AM, Platen marched with the rest of his corps. These two corps advanced directly on the road. Less than 1 km from Greifenberg, the Prussians encountered the first Russian outposts and fired some cannonshots on them, alerting the Russian troops in Greifenberg who immediately retired. Schlabendorf had not yet reached his assigned position to cut off the Russians from their line of retreat. The Russians managed to escape the trap. The same day, the Russian artillery which, for lack of ammunition, had been almost inactive since a couple of days, received ample supply of ammunition. Still the same day, Wedell and Dohna received orders from Frederick to come to the rescue of Saxony, leaving only 8 bns under the command of Manteuffel to contain the Swedes. During the night, thinking that he was now facing Dohna's entire corps, Palmbach made a last desperate attempt to storm Colberg.

On October 28, the Russian artillery began a heavy fire from all its batteries. In the morning, the 2nd battalion of Kanitz Infantry joined Wobersnow's corps at Greifenberg. Then, Wobersnow moved towards Gulzloffshagen (unidentified location) where he made a demonstration, hoping to induce Plambach to abandon the siege of Colberg. His cavalry skirmished till nightfall with Russian outposts near the village of Spie. Meanwhile, Wobersnow's infantry retreated on Treptan during the evening. The Prussian cavalry joined them during the night. The same day, Wedell's corps left Suckow according to Frederick's orders.

On October 29, several fires broke out in Colberg but they were soon extinguished. The Russian sap on the Lauenburg side had now gone through the covert way. During the night, deceived by the Prussian feint, Palmbach lifted the siege of Colberg. The same day, Fermor, ignoring the exact situation at Colberg, sent Martuinov with a reinforcement of 5 infantry regiments.

On October 30, the commander of Colberg was informed of the retreat of the Russians. At 8:00 AM, he opened the Lauenburg gate. Strong parties were then sent to fill up the trenches and destroy the approaches while gabions and fascines were transported into the town. A party of cossacks surprised some burghers in the abandoned Russian camp and took some prisoners. Afterwards, the bridge of boat at the mouth of the Persante was dismantled. At sunset, the gates were closed and the ramparts manned as usual. During the night, realising that he had been misled by Wobersnow's feint, Palmbach sent a strong detachment towards Colberg to surprise the town from the Lauenburg side at daybreak. This detachment consisted of all grenadiers of his force along with some hundreds hussars and horse grenadiers.

On October 31, the Russian grenadiers were discovered before they could make any attempt against the town. The Prussian garrison had time to assemble and from. Major Kleist then advanced against them with 50 militia while lieutenant-colonel Schmeling moved on their left flank with another 100 militia. At 50 paces Kleist fired on the Russian grenadiers who gave way and were pursued to St. George churchyard. The two Prussian parties then fell back to the glacis in good order. The same day, Wedell arrived at Berlin where he waited for Dohna's corps. Then, their combined corps, consisting of 23 bns and 32 sqns, marched towards Torgau.

On November 1, Palmbach's corps began its march to join the main Russian army.

On November 6, Palmbach made a junction with the main Russian army.

Outcome

The small Prussian garrison had victoriously resisted.

Order of Battle

Prussian Order of Battle

Commander-in-chief: major Heyden

Summary: 2 Militisa bns (some 700 men including some invalids sent from Draheim) and 14 artillerymen

  • Colonel Schmeling Militia (1 bn)
  • Major Kleist Militia (1 bn)

Russian Order of Battle

Commander-in-chief: major-general Palmbach assisted by brigadier Berg and colonel Oetingen as engineer.

Summary: about 15,000 men

  • Light cavalry
    • Gruzinskiy Hussars (2 sqns)
    • Cossacks (a few hundreds)
  • Sankt-Peterburgskiy Horse Grenadiers and Kievskiy Cuirassiers (3 sqns)
  • Infantry (4 rgts totaling 3,000 men)
    • Azovskiy (???Niesen???) (1248 men including 200 grenadiers in 2 coys)
    • Viatskiy (1029 men probably no grenadiers)
    • Vyborgskiy (1260 men including about 200 grenadiers in 2 coys)
    • 2nd Moscowskiy (1688 men including about 200 grenadiers in 2 coys)
    • Regimental artillery (255 men and 8 x 3-pdrs guns)
  • Field artillery under colonel Volkersaamen
    • 6 x 12-pdrs guns
    • 1 x 80-pdrs unicorn
    • 1 x 40-pdrs unicorn
    • 4 x 20-pdrs unicorns

References

This article incorporates texts 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. 239-258, p. 268-361
  2. Jomini, Henri, Traité des grandes opérations militaires, 2ème édition, 2ème partie, Magimel, Paris: 1811, pp. 252-253, 262-264
  3. Carlyle, T., History of Friedrich II of Prussia, vol. 18
  4. 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

Maslowski D., Russkaja armia w siedmioletnoj wojnu, vol. 2, Moscow, 1892,


Acknowledgments

Tomasz Karpiński (student at the Institute of History, University of Adam Mickiewicz in Poznań, Poland) for the detailed Russian order of battle.