1760-07-10 - Combat of Corbach
Prelude to the Battle
On June 16, 1760, the French Army of the Lower Rhine, under the command of the Comte de Saint-Germain, had passed the Rhine to support the main army of the Duc de Broglie in its offensive in Western Germany. By the end of June, Broglie had already seized Marburg. On July 4, he instructed Saint-Germain to quit Dortmund and to march towards Corbach to make a junction with the French main army.
On July 8, when Ferdinand of Brunswick was informed of Broglie's manoeuvres, he detached the Hereditary Prince of Brunswick with the vanguard and ordered Major-General von Luckner to occupy the heights of Sachsenhausen and Corbach. At 3:00 p.m., Ferdinand followed them with his main army.
On July 9 in the morning, Ferdinand encamped near Wildungen, sending Kielmansegg on Frankenberg. The same day, the French main army passed the Eder at Frankenberg and Clausen's Brigade marched on Corbach to observe the movements of the Allies. Clausen came to contact with Luckner's Corps. Broglie ordered to immediately dislodge them and sent the Comte de Rooth with an infantry brigade and the Marquis de Poyanne with the Corps des carabiniers de Monsieur le Comte de Provence to support Clausen and to guard the defiles debouching on the plain of Corbach. However, the French could not mount an attack before nightfall. Meanwhile, part of the Army of the Lower Rhine under Saint-Germain had reached Fritzlar Abbey. Broglie ordered Saint-Germain to quicken pace. Clausen's Brigade took position in the wood to the left of Corbach and Broglie personally led 6 brigades towards Corbach to support Saint-Germain's attack.
Description of Events
At 2:00 a.m. on July 10, the corps of Ferdinand of Brunswick and of the Hereditary Prince resumed their march. The Hereditary Prince at the head of the vanguard of the Allied army had already made a junction with Kielmansegg's Corps. Ferdinand sent forward 6 sqns (3rd Howard's Dragoon Guards (2 sqns) and the Hessian Leib Dragoons (4 sqns)) and the British Light Artillery brigade of Captain Charlton (9 pieces) under Lieutenant-General Oheimb to reinforce the Hereditady Prince before the combat. Furthermore, a detachment of 6 bns (British 5th Hodgson's Foot (1 bn), 24th Cornwallis' Foot (1 bn), Hanoverian Jung Zastrow (1 bn), Dreves (1 bn) and Brunswicker Zastrow (2 bns)) was closely following behind Oheimb's force.
During the night, the corps of the Hereditary Prince advanced from Sachsenhausen in two columns. The right column, consisting of 7 bns and 7 sqns under Lieutenant-General Count Kielmansegg, marched on the road leading to Corbach by way of Höringhausen and reached the forest east of Corbach. The left column, consisting of 7 bns and 4 sqns, advanced by way of Meineringhausen and occupied the heights south of that forest up to the watchtower, where Luckner's detachment was already posted. The artillery (12 field artillery pieces) took position near the watchtower. Overall, the Hereditary Prince commanded 17 bns and 13 sqns, excluding hussars and jägers, who were deployed in front of the new positions.
The Hereditary Prince reached the heights near Corbach.
Map and initial deployment
The town of Corbach is located on heights rising to some 400 meters above the surrounding plain and extending about 1.8 km east of Corbach to the woods of Berndorf.
The front of the positions of the Hereditary Prince was quite strong. However, there were forests on both flanks, blocking the line of sight. Furthermore, since they were by no means impassable, these forests did not offer any suitable protection. In addition, from the Galgenberg, east of Corbach, a ridge stretched north-eastwards, hiding from view any movement from Corbach against the right wing of the Allies.
On July 10 at daybreak, the Allied hussars and jägers engaged in skirmishes with French hussars near Corbach. The French hussars discovered a column of Allied infantry.
Around 9:00 a.m., the Hereditary Prince received a message from Duke Ferdinand, informing him that he had set off from his camp near Wildungen with the main army at 2:00 a.m., and was marching towards Sachsenhausen. Ferdinand instructed the Hereditary Prince to hold the heights near Corbach to cover the deployment of the main army at Sachsenhausen. Ferdinand also informed the Hereditary Prince that he had sent Lieutenant-General von Oheimb forward with 6 sqns and the British Light Artillery Brigade of Captain Charlton (9 pieces) and that 6 bns were following close behind.
Initially, the Hereditary Prince had only a vague idea of the real size of the force opposing him. So far, only outposts had been reported to him, but they seemed to be constantly reinforced.
When the French began to extend northwards by way of Corbach, the Hereditary Prince ordered Count Kielmansegg to occupy the western edge of the forest, east of Corbach with 8 bns (British 50th Carr's Foot and 51st Brudenell's Foot on the right flank; and Hanoverian Converged Grenadier Battalion Geyso, Wangenheim, Bock, Reden, Laffert and Plessen in front) whose right wing was bent back northward.
At 10:00 a.m., M. de Clausen reported that a considerable Allied force could be seen on the heights near Corbach. Broglie went to the law court of Corbach to observe the Allied dispositions and saw them debouching from a wood. At about the same time, Saint-Germain personally reached the Galgenberg and informed Broglie that only 2 of his brigades (La Tour-du-Pin and La Couronne) and part of his light troops (Volontaires de Flandre) were already in position. His cavalry could not join before 3:00 p.m., and the rest of his troops could not arrive before the next day. Broglie instructed Saint-Germain to support the Volontaires de Flandre with his 2 infantry brigades. Soon afterward, the Royal-Suédois and Castellas infantry brigades arrived with a few pieces.
Kielmansegg's wing soon came under heavy fire from French light troops, which had appeared in the woods on the other side of a small forest valley, Laffert Infantry entered that part of the forest. It managed to drive back the Volontaires de Flandre.
The Maréchal de Broglie could now see the corps of the Hereditary Prince deployed on the heights of Corbach, from his observation post on the Galgenberg, east of Corbach. He immediately ordered the 10 sqns of the Corps des carabiniers de Monsieur le Comte de Provence as well as the Royal-Suédois and Castellas infantry brigades with 8 heavy artillery pieces to advance towards Corbach. From what he could see, Broglie considered that the Allied corps deployed on the heights was not particularly strong and he decided to attack its right wing. To carry out this attack, further forces were now sent out from the Broglie's main army to Corbach.
La Couronne and La Tour-du-Pin infantry brigades then entered the forest and advanced against the right wing of the Allies.
In the forest, the advance of Laffert Infantry stalled as Saint-Germain's 2 infantry brigades reinforced the retreating light troops. Meanwhile, to the left of these 2 brigades, the Royal-Suédois and Castellas infantry brigades swung even further north and advanced against Kielmansegg's bns. A forest battle ensued where the French engaged with superior forces.
When Oheimb's detachment, marching from Sachsenhausen, approached the battlefield, the French attack faltered. Inaccurate reports on the strength of the Allied troops arriving from Sachsenhausen led Broglie to believe that the entire Allied army was nearby. Under these circumstances, carrying out the attack seemed hopeless to him, and he decided to disengage.
Most of the French brigades already engaged had received orders to retreat when Broglie realised that Oheimb's force was really only a small detachment. He immediately ordered the resume the attack. Saint-Germain advanced once more into the woods with the Royal-Suédois Brigade, The Swiss Castellas Brigade, which had not received the initial orders to retreat, advanced against the flank and rear of the Allies.
Clausen took possession of a knoll where he planted 24 pieces. Meanwhile, Guerchy launched a frontal attack on Kielmansegg's positions at the western edge of the forest with the recently arrived Navarre and Du Roi brigades. The French brigades were supported by 24 artillery pieces while the right wing of the Allies could oppose them only 14 field pieces (5 six-pdrs already established on the Wartberg at the beginning of the combat and 9 pieces belonging to the British Light Artillery Brigade accompanying Oheimb's detachment).
Kielmansegg's troops were unable to sustain the enveloping attack against their right wing. The completely exhausted Laffert Infantry was relieved by Plessen Infantry and Reden Infantry, which were soon followed by Schulenburg Infantry, Prinz Carl Infantry and Malsburg Infantry brought up from the left wing.
Around 2:30 p.m., the Allied units thrown into the woods, being surrounded on their right wing and pushed back in the forest, began to give way in disorder. Similarly, the Converged Grenadier Battalion Geyso, Wangenheim Infantry and Bock Infantry, which were deployed along the western edge of the forest, could no longer resist the forces hurled at them and retreated, abandoning the artillery of the right wing, whose carriages and limbers had been shot to pieces and most of its horses killed. The French Navarre Brigade under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel de Saint-Victor distinguished itself by capturing 13 field artillery pieces and 3 regimental pieces.
It fell to the British infantry (5th Foot, 24th Foot, 50th Foot and 51st Foot) of the Allied left wing to cover the retreat. The leftmost units fell the right flank of Navarre Infanterie. Broglie sent the newly arrived infantry brigades Auvergne and Orléans to its support.
A strong corps of French cavalry (24 sqns) from the corps of Prince Camille then started to appear on the battlefield.
The position of the Allies had now become untenable, and Duke Ferdinand, who had personally reached the battlefield, ordered to retire towards the main body of the army, which was deployed near Sachsenhausen.
Prince Camille de Lorraine, galloping ahead of his cavalry corps took command of Beaufremont Dragons and Turpin Hussards and charged on retiring troops near the Wartberg (watchtower hill). The retreat threatened to turn into rout and the 7 field pieces planted near the Wartturm were in danger of being lost.
So hard were Allied units pressed that the Hereditary Prince only extricated them by putting himself at the head of 3 British sqns (3rd Howard's Dragoon Guards (2 sqns) and 1st Bland's Dragoon Guards (1 sqn)) and led them to a desperate charge against the Turpin Hussards and the Beaufremont Dragons. This cavalry combat bought time for the Allied infantry to rally and to resume its retreat in two groups by way of Höringhausen and Meineringhausen towards Sachsenhausen. The 1st Dragoon Guards, which had gone into this charge with 90 men, returned with only 24.
The combat had lasted from 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
The Hereditary Prince lost 824 men killed, wounded and missing (7 officers, 8 sergeants and 163 rank and file killed; 18 officers, 21 sergeants and 428 rank and files wounded; 2 officers, 2 sergeants and 175 rank and file missing) and 12 guns, 7 of which were British, 4 howitzers and 30 ammunition wagons. The Hereditary Prince received a slight wound in the shoulder. The French lost between 650 and 750 men.
The Hereditary Prince had received an unpleasant reverse and the French had secured their first object, the junction of the armies of Saint-Germain and Broglie, with signal success.
Order of Battle
Allied Order of Battle
Commander-in-chief: Hereditary Prince of Brunswick
Summary: 12,000 men
- right column under Lieutenant-General Count von Kielmansegg seconded by Major-Generals Howard and Grothaus
- British 50th Carr's Foot (1 bn)
- British 51st Brudenell's Foot (1 bn)
- Hanoverian Wangenheim Infantry (1 bn)
- Hanoverian Bock Infantry (1 bn)
- Hanoverian Reden Infantry (1 bn)
- Hanoverian Laffert Infantry (1 bn)
- Hanoverian Plessen Infantry (1 bn)
- British 1st Bland's Dragoon Guards (3 sqns)
- Hanoverian Leib-Regiment Reuter (2 sqns)
- Hanoverian Hodenberg Cavalry (2 sqns)
- left column under Lieutenant-General Griffin
- Hanoverian Schulenburg Infantry (1 bn)
- Hessian Prinz Karl Infantry (2 bns)
- Hessian Füsilier-Regiment von Gilsa (2 bns)
- Hessian Malsburg Infantry (2 bns)
- Hanoverian Artillery under Captain Eitel (mixed Hanoverian and Hessian crews)
- 4 x heavy 3-pdr guns
- 6 x 6-pdr guns
- 2 x 12-pdr guns
- 1 howitzer
- Hanoverian Grothaus Cavalry (2 sqns)
- Hanoverian Heise Cavalry (2 sqns)
- Major-General Luckner's detachment
- Hanoverian Wersabé Converged Grenadier Battalion (1 bn)
- Hanoverian Bock Converged Grenadier Battalion (1 bn)
- Hanoverian Geyso Converged Grenadier Battalion (1 bn)
- Hanoverian Walthausen Cavalry (2 sqns)
- Hanoverian Luckner's Hussars (4 sqns)
- Brunswicker Foot Jäger (3 coys or about 300 men)
- Brunswicker Mounted Jäger (1 sqn)
- approaching column (at Meineringhausen at 9:00 a.m.) under Lieutenant-General von Oheimb seconded by Major-General von Dreves
- detachment under Major-General Webb (at Meineringhausen at noon)
Reserve (did not take part in the combat) under Lieutenant-General von Gilsa assisted by Major-General Bischhausen
- infantry (11 bns)
- Hessian Schlottheim Converged Grenadier Battalion (1 bn)
- Hessian Stirn Converged Grenadier Battalion (1 bn)
- Hessian Balcke Converged Grenadier Battalion (1 bn)
- Hanoverian Alt Zastrow (1 bn)
- Hanoverian Chevallerie (1 bn)
- Hessian 2. Garde (2 bns)
- Hessian Mansbach Infantry (2 bns)
- Hessian Bischhausen (2 bns)
- cavalry (10 sqns)
- light troops
- 16 guns (including 6 guns attached to the grenadier battalions)
Reserve (did not take part in the combat) under the Prince von Anhalt assisted by Hanoverian Major-General Behr
- infantry (6 bns)
Reserve (did not take part to the combat) under Lieutenant-General Waldegrave assisted by Major-General Mansberg
- infantry (7 bns)
- British Maxwell Converged Grenadier Battalion (1 bn)
- British Daulhat Converged Grenadier Battalion (1 bn)
- Brunswicker Stammer Converged Grenadier Battalion (1 bn)
- Brunswicker Redecken Converged Grenadier Battalion (1 bn)
- Brunswicker Wittdorf Converged Grenadier Battalion (1 bn)
- British 88th Campbell's Highlanders (1 bn)
- British 87th Keith's Highlanders (1 bn)
- cavalry (4 sqns)
French Order of Battle
Commander-in-chief: Maréchal Victor François Duc de Broglie
N.B.: the French detachments at Corbach were under the overall command of Lieutenant-General Comte de Saint-Germain
Part of Broglie's vanguard under the Baron de Clausen (in the wood to the left of Corbach at the beginning of the action)
- Converged grenadiers (2 bns) drawn from Royal-Suédois and Castellas brigades
- Converged chasseurs (2 bns) drawn from Royal-Suédois and Castellas brigades
- Brigade wallonaise de Bouillon (Bouillon Infanterie was not present because it garrisoned Marburg)
- Light troops from Chabot's Corps
Part of Broglie's vanguard under the Marquis de Poyanne, sent as reinforcements on July 9:
Army of the Lower Rhine under the command of Lieutenant-General Comte de Saint-Germain was still on its way. Saint-Germain, probably seconded by the Marquis d'Amenzaga, force marched with 2 brigades and some light troops to take part in the action:
- Volontaires de Flandre (8 mounted coys or approx. 350 men)
- Volontaires de Flandre (8 foot coys or approx. 580 men)
- La Tour-du-Pin Brigade (4 bns)
- La Couronne Brigade under M. de Montbarrey
N.B.: the rest of Saint-Germain's Army arrived gradually during the following days, too late to take part in the action.
Reinforcements personally led by Broglie (6 brigades) (arriving piecemeal on the scene on July 10)
- leading brigades
- left wing of the Grande Armée arriving at noon under the direct command of Broglie (listed in order of march)
- Lieutenant-General Comte de Guerchy's Division
- Navarre Brigade commanded by the Maréchal-de-camp Comte de Waldner, and the Brigadier Comte du Châtelet
- Du Roi Brigade (4 bns)
- Orléans Brigade under M. de Blôt
- Auvergne Brigade (4 bns) under M. de Rochambeau
- Artillery: 24 pieces
- cavalry of Prince Camille's Corps (24 sqns)
- Royal-Cravate Brigade
- Orléans Brigade
- Royal Brigade under M. de Moustiers
- Bourgogne Brigade under M. du Ploury
- Lieutenant-General Comte de Guerchy's Division
N.B.: there are many contradictory accounts of the exact breakdown of Prince Camille's Cavalry Division. We tried to reconcile them as well as we could. This cavalry division arrived in the afternoon, too late to take part in the action. Nevertheless, Prince Camille put himself at the head of Beaufremont Dragons and Turpin Hussards, that were formed up forward to screen the approach of the main army.
Anonymous officer: Journal de la Campagne de M.DCC.LX. (1760). Entre l’Armée du Roi aux ordres de Monseigneur le Maréchal Duc de Broglie; Et celle des Alliés, commandée par S.A.S. Mgr. le Prince Ferdinand de Brunswich, où l’on a joint les Opérations des deux Armées aux mois de Février & Mars M.DCC.LXI, par M* L* R* D* B*, Officier de Dragons & Aide-de-Camp de M. le Marquis de B* (Béthune, lieutenant-général, commandant la cavalerie en 1760), Frankfurt, 1761 (from Google Books) – pp. 10 ff.
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Wikipedia: Battle of Corbach