1759 - Russian campaign in Brandenburg

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The campaign lasted from April to September 1759

Description of Events

Preparations for the Campaign

The Russian army, estimated at about 65,000 men (including light troops), had remained in Poland after the campaign of 1758.

At the end of February 1759, Frederick II sent parties against the Russian magazines on the Warthe (actual Warta) and at Posen (actual Poznań). These parties successfully destroyed some magazines.

General Manteuffel had been posted at Grypswalden (unidentified location) in Pomerania with a small Prussian force and general Schlaberndorf at Königswalde (actual Lubniewice) with another one to oppose the Russian army.

At the beginning of May, the Russian army was still in its cantonments behind the Vistula. Urged into action by their French and Austrians allies, the Russians prepared their army for the summer campaign and slowly began to move from their winter quarters in Thorn (actual Toruń) in inner Poland towards the city of Posen on the river Warthe. In fact their final destination was the small town of Crossen (actual Krosno Odrzańskie) and its important bridge on the river Oder, where they hoped to join forces with field-marshal count Daun and the main Austrian army. The officer in command was lieutenant-general count Villim Vilimovich Fermor, but he was soon to be replaced by a new protégée of the Moscow court, lieutenant-general count Piotr Semionovich Saltykov.

On May 18, the Russian vanguard left Thorn.

On May 22, the corps of Frolof Bagrev was at Meiburg (actual Nowe).

Dohna Advance in Greater Poland

While the Russians were on their way to Posen, Frederick began to take some countermeasures. He sent orders to general Dohna whose 18,000 men (26 bns, 55 sqns) were the closest ones to the enemy to try and beat the Russians in their race towards Posen. Dohna also had orders to harass the enemy in any possible way, ambush single units on the march, loot or burn baggage trains and supplies depots, keep the Russian under constant threat and slow them down.

On May 26, Dohna marched to Stargard where he encamped.

Towards the end of May, the Russian vanguard of roughly 10,000 men covered by the usual screen of cossack sotnias reached Posen and started to mass supplies and ammunitions in the town. Meanwhile, judging Dohna’s army insufficiently strong for the task assigned to it, Frederick sent order to prince Henri to detach another 10,000 men under generals Hülsen and Wobersnow to join him. Dohna, already an old man, often in ill health, didn’t act with the required swiftness and he never had a chance to beat the Russians in the race for Posen. If he had acted with the necessary speed when he still outnumbered his foes, he might have taken Posen by storm capturing the Russian vanguard and the baggage train and delivering a mortal blow to the Russians forcing them to delay if not abandon altogether any war plans for the summer. However, he did not do anything of the kind, preferring to wait for Hülsen’s 10,000 men.

On June 3, the Russian corps of prince Galitsin marched to Posen while Villebois reached Nakel (actual Nakło nad Notecią).

On June 5, prince Henri, who was stationed at Zwickau in Saxony with his army, detached Hülsen with 10 bns and 20 cuirassier sqns to reinforce Dohna's army which was facing the Russians.

On June 9, Dohna reached Soldin (actual Myślibórz).

On June 11, Frolof Bagrev marched towards Uscie on the Netze (actual Noteć river).

On June 12, Dohna marched to Landsberg (actual Gorzów Wielkopolski) on the Warthe. His force totalled 20 bns and 30 sqns.

On June 19, the Prussian corps of Hülsen arrived from Saxony and made a junction with Dohna's army.

On June 22, the first Russian column, under the command of general Frolof Bagrev, was encamped near Uscie on the Netze.

On June 23, Dohna's army marched to Schwerin (actual Skwierzyna).

On June 26, Dohna's army marched to Birnbaum (actual Międzychód) while his vanguard reached Kamiona.

On June 27, Dohna's army marched to Sierakov, in an attempt to cut a Russian division (10,000 men) at Filehne (actual Wieleń).

On June 29, the entire Russian army was finally assembled at Posen.

On July 1, the rest of the Russian army, with Saltykov now in command, finally gathered around Posen, they were now 70,000. Dohna advanced to Obernigk (actual Oborniki) with his army, threatening the communications of the Russian army.

In the following days, Dohna made an unsuccessful attempt against Posen. However any hope to stop or even just delay the Russian army had to be abandoned.

On July 6, Dohna retired behind the Warthe and encamped at Oberzerze (unidentified location).

Russian Advance into Brandenburg

The Russians started to march out of Posen country in the direction of Crossen.

On July 9, Saltykov sent a detachment of cossacks to Samter (actual Szamotuly) on the Prussian right to cover his advance with the main army to Tornowa (probably Tarnowo Podgórne) to cut the Prussian line of communication with Silesia. However, Dohna prevented his manoeuvre by marching towards Casimirs (actual Kazmierz).

On July 10 at noon, Dohna arrived at Casimirs. The two armies now faced each other.

On July 11, the Russian army, marching through Bytin (unidentified location) to Wilzinna (actual Wilczyna), tried to gain the right flank of Dohna's army but the latter managed to escape.

On July 12, Daun was informed that Saltykov's army was still on the Warthe, awaiting reinforcements before operating against Dohna. Daun then resolved to merge Hadik's, Gemmingen's and Loudon's corps (about 35,000 men) and to send this new corps towards Brandenburg along the Spree and the Neiss. The same day, Saltykov pushed his vanguard to Pynme (unidentified location) to cut Dohna from Silesia. Dohna reacted by marching from Senkowa (probably Sekowo) to Polnisch-Neustadt (unidentified location) where he arrived on July 14.

On July 14, Saltykov marched towards Polnisch-Neustadt.

On July 15, Dohna marched to Brecz (maybe Brojce) while the Russian army remained in the area of Polnisch-Neustadt.

On July 16, Dohna marched to Meseritz (actual Miedzyrzecz) while Saltykov marched to Poberow (probably Pobierowo), trying to cut Dohna from Glogau and the Oder.

By July 17, the Russians were in sight of the town of Züllichau (actual Sulechów). They marched to Bentschen (actual Zbąszyń). They were only a few km from the Oder but Dohna’s small army was there too. Dohna was late as usual. He had failed to interpose himself between the Russians and the bridge at Crossen , but he could at least delay them.

On July 18, Dohna detached Wobersnow to Paradieskloster (actual Gościkowo) to prevent the Russians from turning his flank.

On July 19, Dohna's army joined Wobersnow at Paradieskloster. The same day, Saltykov's army marched to Bomst (Babimost) and detached Stoffel to Züllichau.

Map of the Russian manoeuvres from July 20 to 23 1759.
Source: Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen, volume III by the German Grosser Generalstab

On July 20, Wobersnow drove Stoffel's corps out of Züllichau. Dohna joined him shortly after the action. The same day, annoyed by Dohna’s unsatisfactory performance, king Frederick in his camp at Schmottseifen (actual Pławna Dolna) from where he was keeping an eye on Daun’s movements, wrote the fatal letter in which he informed Dohna that he had chosen lieutenant-general Kurt Heinrich von Wedel, one of the youngest generals of the Prussian army, to replace him at the head of the army and stressed the point that he had given him full powers. Wedel of course must have understood that to please the king he only had one type of conduct available: an aggressive one.

On July 21, Dohna's army encamped with its right at Züllichau and its left at Kalzig (probably actual Kalsk). The same day, the Russians encamped between Langmeil (unidentified location) and Schmollen (probably Smolno Wielkie) on the Faule-Obra.

In the evening of Sunday July 22, Wedel arrived at Dohna’s camp at Züllichau with the escort of a battalion of grenadiers, some cavalry and 150 Russian prisoners that he had captured on the way. His arrival, needless to say, was not welcomed by most of his colleagues, not only Dohna but many others thought that Wobersnow would have been a better choice.

Battle of Paltzig

On July 23, Saltykov manoeuvred to turn Wedel's left and to advance towards Crossen. The two armies clashed in the battle of Paltzig where the Prussians were totally defeated.

Frederick tries to intercept the Austrian Reinforcements

On July 24, Wedel retired behind the Oder, passing it at Tschicherzig (actual Cigacice) and encamped at Sawada (actual Zawada). The same day, Frederick received the news of the defeat at Paltzig. They were brought to him by general Wedel's aide-de-camp, general von Bonin. Frederick criticized Wedel for the manner in which he had conducted the battle, but he could not forget that his general had acted so foolishly because he had been following his instructions to the letter and, after all, he had replaced Dohna with him also because, if there was a quality that Wedel did have and Dohna didn’t, that was his boldness. The same day, several Austrian detachments were on the move: Loudon marched to Rothenburg (unidentified location), Macquire to Krewitz (unidentified location) and Haddick to Lauban (actual Lubań). The intentions of these Austrian detachments now became clearer to Frederick who saw that they were trying to make a junction with Saltykov's Russian army at Crossen. The main obstacle on their way was Wedel's army posted in front of Crossen.

On July 25, the Russian vanguard reached Crossen and occupied the town.

On July 26, the combined Austrian corps under Hadik reached Lehnau.

On July 27, Hadik left Lehnau and marched towards Priebus (actual Przewoz).

On July 28, the main Russian army arrived at Crossen and its bridge on the Oder where Saltykov hoped to join forces with the Austrians. But neither Hadik nor Loudon were there waiting for him. Saltykov then marched his troops towards Frankfurt some 70 km further down the Oder. Now, Frederick had no choice but to rush to Brandenburg to reinforce Wedel.

On July 29, the duke of Württemberg joined prince Henri and other minor Prussian detachments at Sagan (actual Żagań). Meanwhile, the Austrian corps of Hadik and Loudon made a junction at Priebus.

During the night of July 29 to 30, Frederick arrived at Sagan with his own corps.

On July 30, Hadick was at Triebel (actual Trzebiel) and Loudon near Sommerfeld (actual Lubsko).

On July 31, the Russian vanguard reached Frankfurt-an-der-Oder. Several Austrian corps were also on the move to join the Russian army: Hadik marched to Pforten (actual Gmina Brody) and Loudon to Sommerfeld. The same day Frederick left his quarters at Sagan. His objective was Saltykov's army but he first had to prevent Hadik and Loudon, who were leading two strong Austrian columns, from joining forces with the Russians. Therefore, the main Prussian army first marched on Naumburg on the Bober (actual Nowogrod Bobrzansky) before redirecting its steps towards Sommerfeld.

On August 1, the Russian army marched to Kurtschow (actual Korczycow). Meanwhile, Frederick had sent orders to Wedel and Finck to join him at Müllrose. The same day, Hadik and Loudon reached Guben (actual Gubin). From there, Loudon, leaving his heavy baggage and train to Hadik, forced marched to make a junction with the Russian army while Hadik, seeing Frederick moves closer, retired to Weissac (unidentified location), leaving a small detachment at Altwasser (unidentified location) which was driven back by the Prussian cavalry.

On August 2, Wedel marched towards Crossen and encamped at Logau (actual Łagów) where he received Frederick's orders. The same day, the Russian army reached Aurith. Still the same day, Frederick captured Hadik’s baggage train (1 bn, 2 guns and 300 wagons) at Markersdorf (actual Markosice) and went after him. However, he did not realize until it was too late that the cunning Hungarian, following Daun's instructions and realizing that he had no chance to reach Loudon before being overtaken by the enemy, simply abandoned the slow carriages in the hands of the Prussians to gain mobility. Hadik had already sent all his cavalry to join Loudon and, with all his infantry, he set out to do his best to draw the Prussians away from Loudon's column.

On August 3, the Austrian corps of Loudon (15,000 men) made a junction with the Russians at Frankfurt-an-der-Oder. The same day, Wedel marched towards Müllrose where he planned to make a junction with Frederick's army who marched to Groß-Briesen while the cavalry marched to Beeskow.

On August 4, the main Prussian army marched to Müllrose while the cavalry marched to Hohenwalde. Furthermore, Finck marched from Sagan to make a junction with the main Prussian army. The same day, Hadik retired to Spremberg and Daun was informed of the defeat of the Prussians at Palzig. He sent an officer to Saltykov to coordinate future movements.

On August 5, Loudon crossed the Oder and joined the Russians on the other bank with 14 infantry battalions, 38 squadrons of dragoons and hussars and 5,000 Croats, together the two armies could now muster 64,000 men.

On August 6, Wedel joined Frederick at Müllrose. Meanwhile, king Frederick had received the good news of Ferdinand's victory at Minden.

On August 7, the Prussian army, now consisting of the remnants of Wedel's corps and of prince Henri's corps, marched in 2 columns and encamped between Booßen and Wulkow. The Prussian vanguard under Seydlitz reached Lebus.

On August 8, the first elements of Finck's corps made their junction with the main Prussian army.

On August 9, the rest of Finck's corps made its junction with the main Prussian army. By now, Frederick's army had reached a total of 49,000 men. The same day, the Austro-Russian army encamped near Frankfurt. Frederick planned to repeat the Zorndorf campaign and therefore he decided to cross the Oder downstream at Reitwein between Küstrin (actual Kostrzyn nad Odrą) and Frankfurt, north of the Russian supposed position. On the same day, the Prussian advance guard crossed the Oder and established a beachhead at Goritz (actual Gorzyca) on the opposite bank.

On August 10, Hadik sent his cavalry from Guben forward to join Loudon and the Russian army. Haddick remained with his infantry at Guben.

On the night of August 10 to 11, Frederick threw 2 bridges on the Oder near Reitwein while the Prussian army marched in 2 columns towards these bridges.

On August 11at daybreak, Frederick's vanguard passed the Oder on the bridges near Reitwein and occupied the heights of Oetscher (actual Owczary). The two lines of infantry then passed the bridges while the cavalry crossed at Oetscher. Baggage were left behind at the bridges guarded by 9 bns and 7 sqns under Wunsch. Frederick marched to Leissow (actual Lisow) and Bischofsee (actual Stare Biskupice) where he took position with the rest of his army (53 weak bns, 95 sqns for a total of about 40,000 men). The vanguard was deployed in front of the left wing while Finck's corps took position on the Trettiner Spitzberg. Frederick personally went to these heights from where he reconnoitred the Russian positions around the village of Kunersdorf (actual Kunowice). The same day, Loudon moved his corps to his left and took position near the Judenberg.

Battle of Kunersdorf

On August 12, at the battle of Kunersdorf, Frederick suffered a crushing defeat. At 5:00 pm, while battle still raged at Kunersdorf, Wunsch appeared in front of Frankfurt and took position on the heights overlooking the suburb of Guben. He captured the garrison and guarded the bridges. However, when he learnt of Frederick's defeat, he returned to his initial position.

On August 13 at noon, Frederick had completed the reorganisation of his army. In the evening, the remnants of the Prussian army repassed the Oder to Reitwein and broke the bridges. By the end of the day some 23,000 fugitives had joined Frederick on the left bank of the Oder.

On August 14, Daun marched to Triebel closer to his Russian allies.

On August 16, the Prussian army marched to Malvitz ('maybe Madlitz) while Saltykov passed the Oder and encamped with his right at Tzetschenow (unidentified location), his left at Lossow, Loudon's corps to his right and Hadick's corps (about 14,000 men) at Hohenwalde.

On August 18, the Prussian army under the command of Frederick marched to Fürstenwalde where it guarded the passages on the Spree and covered Berlin. Frederick had recalled Kleist who previously operated in Pomerania against the Swedes with 6 bns and 7 sqns (about 5,000 men). He also reconstituted his artillery park and was able to re-assemble an army of about 29,000 men. The Russians were still at Lossow.

When Saltykov realised that the Austrians were letting his army do all the fighting, he informed Daun that his troops had now done enough and that the Austrians should pursue Frederick's army to finish what he had begun. Meanwhile, Saltykov intended to march to Guben, closer to the Oder and to his magazine at Posen.

Daun had a meeting with Saltykov at Guben where it was resolved that, would the Austrians supply proper supplies, the Russian army would remain on the left bank of the Oder until the capture of Dresden. After the capture of this city, both armies would then march into Silesia and would winter there if the Austrians were able to capture Neisse (actual Nysa).

On August 21, Frederick sent a Prussian detachment under Wunsch (his own regiment) from Fürstenwalde to come to the help of Dresden which was threatened by the Austro-Imperial invasion of Saxony.

On August 28, Zieten arrived at Sagan with the Prussian vanguard. The same day, the main Russian army finally quitted Lossow and marched towards Saxony.

On August 30, the Russian army encamped at Lieberose while Hadick's Austrian corps reached Lamsfeld. The same day, Frederick left his camp at Fürstenwalde.

On August 31, Frederick reached the camp of Woldau (unidentified location) on the road from Lieberose to Lübben, thus covering Lübben and Luckau and his lines of communication with Berlin, Saxony and Lusatia. He sent a party forward on Lübben and Vetschau to clear the region from Austrian light troops.

From this point, the Austro-Imperial operations in Saxony and the Russian operations in Lower Silesia became the two main theatres of operation.

References

This article incorporates 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. 368-379
  • Carlyle, T., History of Friedrich II of Prussia vol. 19
  • Jomini, baron de, Traité des grandes opérations militaires, Vol. 3, 2nd ed., Magimel, Paris, 1811, pp. 66-67, 69, 76, 92-108, 116, 150-154

Acknowledgements

Alessandro Colaiacomo for the entire initial version of this article