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. Ferdinand sent forward a corps (6 bns and 6 sqns) under Lieutenant-General Oheimb to reinforce the Hereditady Prince before the combat.
The Hereditary Prince at the head of the vanguard of the Allied Army had made a junction with Kielmansegg's Corps. He arrived at Corbach while the Allied main army was still passing the defile of Sachsenhausen.
Believing that he was facing only Saint-Germain's Corps, the Hereditary Prince resolved to attack immediately without waiting for the main army.
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.
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.
A skirmish took place between French hussars and Allied light troops and the hussars discovered a column of Allied infantry.
At this moment, Saint-Germain appeared on the field with only 2 infantry brigades (La Tour-du-Pin and La Couronne) and part of his light troops (Volontaires de Flandre), without his cavalry and artillery who could not arrive during the day. Broglie instructed Saint-Germain to support the Volontaires de Flandres with his 2 infantry brigades. Soon afterward, the Royal-Suédois and Castellas infantry brigades arrived with a few pieces.
As not more than 10,000 foot and 17 sqns of the French were yet deployed, the Hereditary Prince personally led the Bock and Malsburg brigades to the attack of the woods and dislodged the enemy while the French du Roi and Navarre infantry brigades appeared on the field.
Broglie was surprised by this bold action and first believed that he was facing the entire Allied Army. However, when he saw the size of the two columns following the initial attack, he ordered Saint-Germain to enter into the wood while he supported him with the Castellas and Royal-Suédois Brigades. Clausen took possession of a knoll where he planted 24 pieces.
About 2:00 p.m., the engagement became extremely hot. The Navarre Brigade, under the command of Lieutenant-Golonel de Saint-Victor distinguished itself by capturing a battery.
As these additional units came up, the Hereditary Prince was soon driven back by superior numbers. Part of his infantry retired disorderly on his cavalry deployed in line of battle. The presence of the Allied cavalry prevented the French infantry to follow up the Allied infantry.
Ferdinand who had now reached Saschsenhausen ordered the Hereditary Prince to retire and to make a junction with the main army.
Oheimb's Corps arrived on the field towards the end of the combat.
It fell to the British infantry (5th Foot, 24th Foot, 50th Foot and 51st Foot) to cover the retreat. The leftmost units fell on Navarre Infanterie. Broglie sent the newly arrived infantry brigades Auvergne and Orléans to its support. Furthermore, Prince Camille de Lorraine, galloping ahead of his cavalry corps took command of Beaufremont Dragons and Turpin Hussards and charged on retiring troops near watchtower hill. So hard were Allied units pressed that the Hereditary Prince only extricated them by putting himself at the head of two squadrons of the 1st Dragoon Guards and 3rd Dragoon Guards and leading them to a desperate charge against the French hussars and the Beaufremont Dragons. The British squadrons responded superbly (the 1st Dragoon Guards had gone into this charge with 90 men and returned with 24), and so the rear-guard was saved.
Then, 24 additional French squadrons, from the corps of Prince Camille, started to appear on the battlefield.
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 about 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 Kilmannsegg 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