1760-07-31 - Battle of Warburg

From Project Seven Years War
Jump to navigationJump to search

Hierarchical Path: Seven Years War (Main Page) >> Battles and Encounters >> 1760-07-31 - Battle of Warburg

Allied Victory

Prelude to the Battle

At the end of June 1760, the French Grande Armée, under the command of the Duc de Broglie, proceeded to the invasion of Hesse, seizing Marburg. On July 10, at the Combat of Corbach, the Hereditary Prince of Brunswick failed to prevent the junction of the Army of the Lower Rhine, under Saint-Germain, with the Grande Armée. On July 15, Dillenburg surrendered to the French. On July 16, the Hereditary Prince surprised and captured a French corps at the engagement of Emsdorf but was unable to capture the magazines and the bakery established at Marburg which were timely rescued by M. de Stainville. From July 24, Broglie successfully manoeuvred to force Ferdinand of Brunswick out of his advantageous positions. On July 27, Broglie's main army marched to Volkmarsen while the reserve under Prince Xavier marched to Naumburg; and the Chevalier de Muy marched downstream along the Diemel on Warburg. Meanwhile, Stainville's Corps besieged the fort of Ziegenhain. Broglie's manoeuvres aimed at cutting the Allies from Paderborn and Lippstadt. Reacting to these moves, Ferdinand sent the Hereditary Prince with 10 grenadier battalions and 8 squadrons and General Spörcken's Corps to Körbecke to secure the passage of the Diemel. Together, the two joint forces amounted to 23 battalions, 22 squadrons, and 26 heavy guns totalling some 14,578 men on the day of battle, not including Spörcken's detached command under Major von Bülow, one of Ferdinand's most trusted general-adjutant, consisting of the "Légion Britannique", the Bückeburg Carabiniers, and Captain von Linsingen's Brigade of Hanoverian chasseurs already posted at the Diemel passage at Liebenau. On July 29, Spörcken's reinforced corps passed the river.

On July 30, moving towards Kassel, Broglie marched to Zierenberg with his main army, leaving de Muy's Corps dangerously isolated at Warburg. The Hereditary Prince reconnoitred de Muy's position and recommended that their own corps should turn its left flank, while Ferdinand with the main army advanced against its front. The Hereditary Prince was not officially put in command of the attacking force, because Spörcken was senior in command, in fact, he was second in command of the Allied army at that time, but the idea for an attack stemmed from the Hereditary Prince's driving initiative, which effectively put him at the head of the operation. As soon as Ferdinand was informed of the situation, he agreed and prepared his army. His general plan of attack was that Spörcken's Corps and the Hereditary Prince should advance westward in two columns from Körbecke and form up in three lines between the tower and Papenheim, so as to fall on de Muy's left flank and rear, while Ferdinand crossing the Diemel at Liebenau should attack his centre and right. As the Allied camp between Liebenau and Körbecke lay about 13 km from de Muy's, and as Ferdinand's camp lay between Imminghausen and Calden, some 24 km to the south of the Diemel from Liebenau, the operation called for extreme nicety in the execution. At 9:00 p.m., Ferdinand's Army marched from its camp.

Description of Events

Initial Manoeuvres

At 6:00 a.m. on the morning of July 31, the heads Ferdinand's columns passed the Diemel They then debouched on the heights of Körbecke. They arrived, however, later than the appointed hour. The passage of the Diemel had caused much delay; and not all the haste of officers nor the eagerness of men could bring the army forward the quicker. Ferdinand then bent southward, at his best speed, to support the Hereditary Prince.

At 7:00 a.m., Spörcken and the Hereditary Prince, after much anxious waiting, decided to march from Körbecke in two columns before more time should be lost. A mist fell and hung on the higher ground, covering the Hereditary Prince's march for more than an hour. Just before the mist began, the Hereditary Prince saw the first troops of Ferdinand appear on a knoll-top on the right.

The Hereditary Prince's first column (which included the right wing of all three arms), under General Spörcken, made a long detour, passed by Eissen and Großeneder, marched across the woods near Nörde and formed in 3 lines towards the heights at the rear of the French positions. The second column, under the command of Lieutenant-General Zastrow, marched by Körbecke, Kleineneder (probably Lütgeneder) and Menne; and formed in 3 lines with its left at Menne and its right at Ossendorf. Both columns were led by British troops – Spörcken's columns by the 1st Royal Dragoons, whose place was on the extreme right of the first line, while the British grenadiers, massed in two battalions under Colonels Maxwell and Daulhatt marched at the head of the infantry. Zastrow's column was headed by the 7th Queen's Own Dragoons, with the 87th Foot Keith's Highlanders and 88th Foot Campbell's Highlanders following them to cover the grenadiers in second line.

With these dispositions, the Hereditary Prince was outflanking the French on their left and threatening their rear.

At about 8:00 a.m., the Hereditary Prince launched the Légion Britannique upon Warburg on de Muy's right wing.

De Muy was informed of the approach of the Allies. He gave orders to the Marquis de Castries to reconnoitre the Allied positions with the grenadiers and chasseurs coys of all regiment of de Muy's corps, 2 dragoon rgts and the Chasseurs de Fischer. However the thick fog rendered his reconnaissance useless.

At 9:30 a.m., when the fog lifted, Castries found himself facing the Légion Britannique. He engaged it and momentarily drove it back, seizing a hill in front of the French positions from where he could see that a large Allied corps had passed the Diemel and was marching by the right. The Chevalier de Muy personally joined Castries on the hill. When he saw the Allied corps preparing to launch an attack on his left, he quickly rode back to deploy his corps in order of battle.

For his part, Castries retired with his detachment to move closer to the French camp, leaving only his rearguard to occupy the hill.

Map and initial deployment

Map of the battle of Warburg on July 31 1760.
Source: Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen, volume 12 by the German Grosser Generalstab
Copyright Tony Flores

The Chevalier de Muy, with Broglie's rearguard of 20,000 foot and horse, occupied a high ridge across a bend of the Diemel, facing north-east, with his back to the river with two bridges across it. De Muy's right flank leaned on Warburg and his left flank on the village of Ossendorf, some 3 km to northwest. Warburg was a pleasant little Hessian town, about 40 km west of Kassel, on the north bank of the Diemel, among knolls and hollows. To the left of the French rear rose a circular hill crowned by a tower while the village of Papenheim lay in front of its left wing.

In fact, de Muy's Corps occupied a pretty bad position with woods to its front, screening the Allied position; a tower looming into its camp from which all moves could be observed; its right anchored on a weakly fortified town; its left dominated by heights; to its rear, a river with steep banks and only two bridges which where half blocked by its baggage and mobile hospital; and for its retreat nothing but the mountain-passes from where it had debouched.

De Muy placed 4 brigades of foot (Bourbonnais, La Couronne, Jenner and Planta) under Major-Generals d'Amenzaga and de Travers on the Heights of Menne. The La Tour-du-Pin and Touraine brigades, under Lieutenant-General de Maupéou and Major-General de Roquepin were disposed on the right close to Warburg. The Lieutenant-Generals de Lutzelberg and d'Auvet, with Major-Generals de Lugeac, de Soupire and de Maugiron occupied the centre with the cavalry facing a very extensive plain. The dragoons under the Duc de Fronsac were placed between the right of the foot and the left of the horse. The Rouergue Brigade formed a reserve on a small knoll behind the left of the cavalry. The artillery was disposed in front of the line and the Chasseurs de Fischer occupied the town of Warburg.

Assault on the French left

At 1:30 p.m., the Hereditary Prince, having posted his artillery on the outskirts of Ossendorf and Papenheim, opened fire as the signal for attack; and at the same time the British grenadiers began to file through Ossendorf. The Bourbonnais Brigade, which de Muy had thrown back en potence to protect his left flank, thereupon retired without firing. The success of the Allied attack depended on the capture of the heights in front of Ossendorf and in rear of the French position. When it was perceived that the Allies were making for the steep hill, one battalion of Bourbonnais Infanterie deliberately faced about and marched off to occupy the hill. To permit such a thing would have been to derange the whole of the plans of the Allies, so it was necessary to prevent it at any cost. Colonel Beckwith with 10 grenadiers ran forward, keeping out of sight of the French, to reach the hill before them; the Hereditary Prince himself with 30 more hurried after him; and with this handful of men, all panting and breathless, they crowned the crest of the height. Bourbonnais Infanterie arriving on the scene a little later found itself greeted by a sharp fire, and, being unable to see the numbers opposed to it, halted for 10 minutes to allow its second battalion to come up. The delay gave time for Daulhatt's entire battalion of grenadiers to join Beckwith's little party; and then the two battalions of Bourbonnais Infanterie attacked in earnest, and the combat between French and British, at odds of two against one, became most fierce and stubborn. The disparity of numbers however, was too great; and Daulhatt's men after a gallant struggle were beginning to give way, when Maxwell's battalion came up in the nick of time to support them. This reinforcement redressed the balance of the fight; Daulhatt's then speedily rallied, and the contest for the hill was renewed.

At 2:00 p.m., seeing the attack on the French left flank, Castries retired, throwing the Chasseurs de Fischer into Warburg to occupy the town. He then marched with the rest of his detachment to support the French left. After his departure, the Légion Britannique threw the French out of Warburg and plundered the town.

De Muy then sent the brigades of La Couronne, Jenner and Planta, supported by the Rouergue Brigade, to the help of the Bourbonnais Brigade.

De Muy then ordered his left wing brigades to form in 2 lines and the engagement began. The brigades of Bourbonnais, La Couronne and Rouergue; led by Messrs. de Ségur and Travers. They were soon joined by Castries. Meanwhile Jenner Brigade under M. d'Amengaza dealt with the second Allied column.

The situation of the Allies became critical; for a battery of artillery, which was on its way to the hill to support them, got into difficulties in a defile near Ossendorf and blocked the advance of the rest of the northern column. Fortunately it was extricated, though none too soon, and being brought up to the hill was speedily in action. Castries and Ségur launched 5 successive attacks on the Allied positions with the greatest courage and, notwithstanding their superiority, forced them to give way several times. The timely support of Allied artillery and of some Hessian grenadier battalions put a stop to the progress of the French.

At this moment, Zastrow's column debouched on the right flank of the Bourbonnais Brigade. Zastrow immediately sent all the units he could spare to the assault of these strategic heights. The French brigades were driven back. The 1st Royal Dragoons and the 7th Queen's Own Dragoons were then let loose upon the broken French battalions, completing their discomfiture and taking many prisoners.

Ferdinand sends his cavalry forward

After desperate but fruitless efforts it had been found that the infantry of Ferdinand's Army could not hope to arrive in time to take part in the action. The British battalions, urged by General Waldegrave, struggled manfully to get forward, but the day was hot, and the ground was difficult and in many places marshy: the men would not fall out, but they dropped down insensible from fatigue in spite of themselves. Ferdinand therefore ordered Lord Granby, who had succeeded Sackville, to advance with the 22 squadrons of British cavalry and the British artillery alone. Away therefore they started at the trot, the guns accompanying them at a speed which amazed all beholders. They advanced towards the battlefield at the top of their speed for above 8 km.

Charge of the British cavalry

So far the turning movement had succeeded; but its success was not yet assured, for only a portion of Zastrow's column was yet formed for action, and the troops on the field were becoming exhausted. De Muy might yet have hoped to turn the scale in his left, when his attention was suddenly called to the advance of troops upon his front. It was Granby's cavalry which after two hours of trotting were finally within sight of the French positions. Granby at once turned them upon the cavalry of de Muy's right wing. The pace was checked for a brief moment as the squadrons formed in two lines for the attack. In the first line from right to left were the 1st King's Dragoon Guards, 3rd Dragoon Guards and 2nd (The Queen's) Dragoon Guards, in one brigade, the Royal Horse Guards, 4th Horse, and 3rd Horse Carabiniers in another; in the second line were the 2nd Royal North British Dragoons, 10th Mordaunt's Dragoons, 6th Inniskilling Dragoons, and 11th Dragoons. Then the advance was resumed, Granby riding at the head of the Royal Horse Guards, his own regiment, and well in front of all. His hat flew from his head, revealing a bald head which shone conspicuous in the sun, as the trot grew into gallop and the lines came thundering on. De Muy sent forward the Bourbon Cavalry Brigade supported by the Royal-Piémont Cavalry Brigade to protect the right flank of his infantry. The French squadrons wavered for a moment, and then, with the exception of the Bourbon Brigade under the command of the Marquis de Lugeac, turned and fled without awaiting the shock. The scarlet ranks promptly wheeled round upon the flank and rear of the French infantry; whereupon the six squadrons of the Bourbon Cavalry Brigade plunged gallantly down on the flank of the 1st King's Dragoon Guards, and overthrew them. But the Royal Horse Guards quickly came up to liberate their comrades. Lugeac's Brigade was beaten in two minutes and forced to withdraw in the greatest disorder. The French infantry, finding itself now attacked on both flanks by Zastrow's column and by Granby's cavalry, retired towards the Diemel, its retreat covered by the Swiss Planta Brigade.

After 4 hours of combat, some of the Allied battalions filed off towards the French bridges on the Diemel. De Muy marched with Touraine Brigade (under the command of M. de Roquepin) to defend his bridges and sent orders to La Tour-du-Pin Brigade to join him as soon as possible. The French cavalry, dragoons and the left wing infantry began to withdraw over the bridges. The two bridges being half blocked by baggage, the rest of the retreating troops were forced to pass the river at fords or to swim across it. The Touraine and La Tour-du-Pin brigades formed on the heights in front of the bridges to cover the retreat.

A party of French irregulars in Warburg tried likewise to escape, but was caught by the cavalry and well-nigh annihilated.

De Muy feigned to defend the line of the Diemel but the British batteries under Captain Phillips came down to the river at a gallop, unlimbered on the bank, and played on the fugitives so destructively as wholly to prevent them from reforming. Furthermore, the Hereditary Prince sent 12 bns along with Granby's 10 sqns across the river, forcing de Muy to retire unmolested to Volkmarsen, 10 km south of Warburg.

Broglie, at the head of the main army, had been delayed by the thick fog and took full responsibility for this defeat.


During this action the French lost 1,600 men killed and wounded, 2,000 taken prisoners, most of their baggage and 12 guns. The brigades of Bourbonnais, La Couronne, Rochefort and Planta (particularly Lochmann Infanterie) were the greatest sufferers. Colonel Chevalier de Valence of Bourbonnais Infanterie, the Prince de Rochefort and the Chevalier de la Tour-du-Pin were wounded. M. Lochmann was killed.

The Allies lost 1,200 men out of which 800 were British, including 590 men from the British cavalry, 240 men from Maxwell's grenadiers. Colonel Beckwith was wounded in the head. For the British this battle redeemed the character of the cavalry which had been so shamefully sacrificed by Sackville at Minden; since it was evidently the recollection of that disgrace which spurred Granby on to so rapid an advance and so headlong an attack.

For Ferdinand the victory effectually opened the way into Westphalia.

Order of Battle

Allied Order of Battle

Commander-in-chief: Karl Wilhelm Ferdinand Hereditary Prince of Brunswick

Extreme right wing

  • British converged grenadier battalion Maxwell, lieut.col. (of Kingsley's 20th regt)
  • British converged grenadier battalion Daulhat, major (of Griffin's 50th regt)

Right wing

Center between Ossendorf and Menne

Left wing isolated facing Warburg

Lord Granby British Cavalry Brigade detached from Ferdinand's Main Army

French Order of Battle

Commander-in-chief: Chevalier de Muy

Corps of the Chevalier de Muy (about 18,000 men in 28 battalions and 32 squadrons with 24 heavy guns)

First Line Second Line Reserve
Right Wing under Lieutenant-General de Maupéou and Mestre-de-Camp de Roquepin
Chasseurs de Fischer (2,000 men) in front of the town of Warburg

La Tour-du-Pin Brigade (4 bns)

Touraine Brigade

Centre under Lieutenant-Generals de Lutzelberg and d'Auvet and the Mestres-de-Camp de Lugeac, de Soupire and de Maugiron
Royal-Étranger Cavalry Brigade

Bourbon Cavalry Brigade

Thianges Dragons (4 sqns)

Royal Dragons (4 sqns)

La Reine Cavalry Brigade

Royal-Piémont Cavalry Brigade

Rouergue Brigade
Left Wing under Lieutenant-Generals Marquis de Ségur and the Mestres-de-Camp d'Amenzaga and de Travers
Planta Brigade

Jenner Brigade

La Couronne Brigade

Bourbonnais Brigade (4 bns) en potence on the left flank


Corps Royal de l'Artillerie: 24 pieces

Corps of Maréchal-de-Camp M. de la Morlière in support of de Muy, at Welda 6 km to the south of Warburg


This article is essentially a compilation of texts from the following books which are now in the public domain:

  • Jomini, baron de: Traité des grandes opérations militaires, Vol. 3, 2nd ed., Magimel, Paris, 1811, pp. 230
  • Carlyle, T.: History of Friedrich II of Prussia, Vol. 20
  • Dumouriez, Charles-François (attributed): in Galerie des Aristocrates militaires et Mémoires secrets, London, 1791 (translated by Christian Rogge)
  • Fortescue, J. W.: A History of the British Army Vol. II, MacMillan, London, 1899, pp. 508-512
  • Hotham (probably): The operations of the Allied Amy under the command of his Serene Highness Prince Ferdinand Duke of Brunswic and Luneberg beginning in the year 1757 and ending in the year 1762, London: T. Jefferies, 1764, pp. 160-164
  • Pajol, Charles P. V.: Les Guerres sous Louis XV, vol. V, Paris, 1891, pp. 67-69

Other sources

For the allied order of battle: Service Historique de l'Armée de Terre, Château de Vincennes/Paris original allied staff document entitled Disposition des corps détachés de l'armée du camp de Calle [sic.] au 29 juillet 1760 and Ordre de bataille au camp de Calle [sic.] le 29 juillet 1760

Castries, Duc de: Le Maréchal de Castries (1727-1800), Flammarion, 1956, pp. 40-41

Grosser Generalstab: Die Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen - Part 3 Der Siebenjährige Krieg 1756-1763, vol. 12, Berlin, 1913