1760 - Siege of Dresden

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The siege lasted from July 12 to 29, 1760

Introduction

At the beginning of July, Frederick II had tried to march from Saxony to relieve Silesia. However, Field-Marshal Count Daun had thwarted his plan by moving to Görlitz, thus blocking his line of advance. However, Daun's manoeuvre had left the Reichsarmee and the small Austrian corps under the command of Field-Marshal Count Lacy isolated.

On July 8, Frederick turned his attention on Lacy's Corps and vainly tried to engage it. Lacy retired precipitously on Dresden.

On July 10, Frederick resolved to besiege the City of Dresden, judging that the main Austrian army would not have enough time to march back to relieve Dresden before he had captured the city.

Description of the area

Map of the city of Dresden.
Source: Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen, volume III by the German Grosser Generalstab

The walls of the "Altstadt" of Dresden had only a small wet ditch and no covert way. The ruined suburbs made their approach easier. The "Neustadt" had only earthworks.

Frederick estimated that Daun could not reach Dresden before four or five days, and he was already considering his next move after the capture of Dresden. He planned to enter Bohemia by way of Zittau to cut the Austrians from their magazines, thus forcing them to retire from Silesia.

However, the siege had been improvised and Frederick's Army had no heavy guns nor sufficient ammunition.

Description of events

On July 11, using a bridge of barges established near Meissen, Hülsen sent 48 pontoons escorted by Grenadier Battalion Lossau to Weinböhla.

On July 12

  • Prussians
    • The first line of the Prussian army Prussian reached the abandoned camp of Boxdorf near Dresden and destroyed the entrenched camp previously built by Daun. The second Prussian line, under the command of the Lieutenant-General Duke of Holstein-Gottorp, remained at Weißig about 12 km east of Dresden.
    • Hülsen's pontoons were transported from Weinböhla to Kaditz.
    • Hülsen's Corps set off from Meissen in two columns and took position between Rennersdorf and Mobschatz, on the left bank of the Elbe, to protect the troops erecting the pontoon bridge at Kaditz against any initiative from the Reichsarmee.
    • General of Cavalry Zieten set off from Marsdorf and marched by way of Reichenberg to Kaditz. After his arrival there, he began to erect a pontoon-bridge and a bridge of boats. By 4:00 p.m., the pontoon-bridge was completed.
    • Frederick planned to cross the Elbe and to march to Dippoldiswalde to force the Reichsarmee to fight or to abandon its camp at Plauen.
  • Austro-Imperials
    • When Field Marshal Zweibrücken was informed of Hülsen's advance, he recalled his outposts near Plauen to his main body. He then sent 10 Austrian bns, 6 Imperial bns (Kurmainz (4 bns), Kurtrier (2 bns)) 1,148 Grenzers and 120 hussars, a total of 13,900 men to reinforce the garrison of Dresden. Dresden was now defended by a force of 15,000 men under the command of FZM Count Maquire.
    • As Frederick's design against Dresden became obvious, Daun sent General of Cavalry von Buccow to Weissenberg with a strong vanguard.

In the night of July 12 to 13

  • Prussians
    • Zieten crossed the Elbe.
  • Austro-Imperials
    • Zweibrücken retired to Dohna, by way of Lockwitz, and made a junction with Lacy's corps.

On July 13

  • Prussians
    • Zieten also completed the bridge of boats at Kaditz.
    • In the morning, the Prussian troops encamped at Reichenberg followed Zieten across the Elbe River. The guns on the walls of Dresden fired at the bridge without any tangible result.
    • Frederick marched with 10 bns (III./Garde, Grenadier Garde, Forcade Infantry, Wedel Infantry, Alt-Braunschweig Infantry, Grenadier Battalion Nimschöfsky, Grenadier Battalion Rathenow) and the Normann Dragoons to Reichenberg.
    • 10 bns (II./Lestwitz, Wied Fusiliers, Gabelentz Fusiliers, Anhalt-Bernburg Infantry, Prinz Ferdinand Infantry) and 20 sqns (Seydlitz Cuirassiers, Markgraf Friedrich Cuirassiers, Leibregiment zu Pferde and 5 sqns of Zieten Hussars) under General Duke of Holstein and General von Bülow remained at Weißig.
    • Frederick established his headquarters in Wahnsdorf. He planned to leave 20 bns and 25 sqns under the Duke of Holstein in Hülsen's previous positions Mobschatz while he would advance with the rest of his army and Hülsen's Corps (a total of 35 bns and 77 sqns) by way of Braunsdorf and through the Tharandter forest against the left wing of the Reichsarmee, posted near Plauen. The Duke of Holstein was instructed to cross the Elbe at Kaditz on the same day, and to fix the enemy.
    • In the morning, Holstein's Corps marched from Weißig in two columns towards Kaditz, as instructed by Frederick.
    • As soon as the Frederick's Army had crossed the Elbe and with the arrival of Hülsen's Corps, Frederick reorganised his army in a vanguard and two lines. They marched in two columns by way of Kaufbach to Fördergersdorf. Major-General von Kleist was posted near Mobschatz with 6 bns (Markgraf Carl Infantry, Salmuth Fusiliers, Grant Fusiliers) and 300 hussars, while Goltz Infantry was sent back to the bridge. As Frederick reached Steinbach at the head of his vanguard, he was informed that the Reichsarmee had retired from the Vale of Plauen on the previous night and taken position on the heights of Burkhardswalde while Lacy was posted near Gross-Sedlitz. Frederick now turned his attention to Dresden and sent Holstein new orders countermanding the crossing of the Elbe near Kaditz, and instructing him to take position on the heights of Boxdorf.
    • Frederick's Army then marched by way of Pennrich, crossed the Weisseritz Rider near Plauen and headed in the direction of Leubnitz. When the vanguard came within cannon shot of the walled "Great Garden", Frederick brought up a battery of 12-pdr guns and, under its fire, the Feldjäger zu Fuß and Freibataillon Courbières entered the garden. The Grenzer light troops of Colonel von Zedtwitz stubbornly resisted; every hedge, every bush had to be cleared, but the Prussians managed to drive them back to the suburb of Pirna. In this action, the Prussians lost 15 men killed and 3 officers and 66 men wounded.
    • On his way to Kaditz, Holstein received Frederick's new orders and redirected his march towards Boxdorf, where he encamped at 10:00 a.m.
    • Holstein received new orders instructing him to complete the encirclement of Dresden from the right bank of the Elbe.
    • Frederick let his army encamp. Lieutenant-General von Wedel with the second line was entrusted with the siege of Dresden, while the first line would cover it against any attack coming from the Reichsarmee or Lacy's Corps. The brigade of Colonel von Linden formed the right wing of the siege corps. The Grenadier Battalion Jung-Billerbeck and I./Lestwitz Infantry were posted between Striesen and the "Great Garden" with the Normann Dragoons deployed behind them. Bevern Infantry took position in the "Great Garden" to support the Feldjäger zu Fuß and Freibataillon Courbières. Alt-Schenskendorff Infantry was posted to their left. The left wing extended up to the heights near Plauen and consisted of the Finckenstein Dragoons, Holstein-Gottorp Dragoons, Krockow Dragoons, the grenadier brigade of Colonel von Butzke (Lossau, Beyer, Nesse, Stechow, Falkenhayn) and the Czettritz Dragoons.
      • The first line encamped from the heights south of Leubnitz up to Blasewitz, facing southeast. The 7 grenadier bns of the vanguard, under Major-General von Schenckendorff were deployed on the right wing in two lines. To their left there were 4 cuirassier rgts and then the 15 bns of the first line deployed up to Blasewitz.
      • To secure the camp against any attack of the Reichsarmee, Kleist Hussars and Freidragoner Kleist were posted near Lockwitz and Nickern, and the Möhring Hussars near Leuben with the Schorlemmer Dragoons encamped north of Nickern to support this light cavalry. Frederick established his headquarters at the "Grünen Wiese" near Gruna.
    • In the evening, Holstein's Corps marched from Boxdorf and encamped in front of the "Neustadt" of Dresden, where he was joined by Kleist's detachment. The Freibataillon Quintus Icilius and 5 sqns of Zieten Hussars had been left at Boxdorf. The Salmuth Fusiliers advanced to Reichenberg and Freibataillon Quintus rejoined Holstein's Corps. I./Goltz Infantry guarded the bridge at Kaditz and II./Goltz Infantry guarded the bakery at Briessnitz.
  • Austro-Imperials
    • In the morning, Zweibrücken's Army encamped on the heights of Gross-Sedlitz and Burkhardswalde, behind the Müglitz stream. Lacy's Corps took position on its right wing. Light troops covered the front of the new positions while Kleefeld secured the left flank near Dittersdorf.
    • Daun was informed that Frederick had crossed the Elbe and was now advancing on Dresden, and that Lacy's Corps had withdrawn across the river.

On July 14

  • Austro-Imperials
    • At 2:00 a.m., Daun sent his Grenadier and Carabinier Corps under Major-General d'Ayasassa towards Dresden and instructed Buccow's corps to march to Dresden from Görlitz..
    • Major-General von Ried with his light corps began to harass Holstein's Corps, which was posted on the right bank of the Elbe, appearing near Weissen Hirsch and the Fischhaus.
    • By that date, Lacy's Corps consisted of 10,106 regular foot, 2,432 Grenzers and jägers, 4,930 regular horse and 2,841 hussars and uhlans, for a total of 19,700 men.
  • Prussians
    • Frederick summoned FZM Count Maquire to surrender the city of Dresden, offering him free withdrawal. Maquire rejected his summon.
    • Prussian 12-pdr guns and some howitzers bombarded the Pirnauer suburb from the "Great Garden". Then the Feldjäger zu Fuß and Freibataillon Courbières drove the Grenzer light troops out of the suburb. In this action, the Prussians lost 15 men killed, and 2 officers and 52 men wounded. The attackers took cover in the houses and the burnt-out walls between the Elbe and the "See Gate" along the city ditch and fired on the parapet of the rampart.

In the night of July 14 to 15, the Prussian under the supervision of Colonel von Dieskau began to work on a battery. By daybreak, they had completed a "ricochet battery" of 8 guns and 2 howitzers in front of the Moschinsky Garden of the Altstadt.

On July 15

  • Prussians
    • 5 fifty-pdr mortars and 10 twelve-pdr guns were sent from Torgau. However, most of siege artillery and ammunition had to be sent from Magdeburg.
  • Austro-Imperials
    • Daun set off from Naumburg/Queis and encamped near Görlitz with the main Austrian army, which he had strengthened with detachments drawn from Bohemia and Silesia.

During the night of July 15 to 16, the first parallel was established in front of the “Neustadt” on the right bank of the Elbe. A battery of 10 guns was erected on the right bank of the Elbe in front of the northwestern walls of the Neustadt. It fired at the Neustadt and at the bridge over the Elbe without much results. Fires broke out in some places in Dresden, but were extinguished with little effort.

In the next days, a breaching-battery was established on the counterscarp to fire against the Jupiter Bastion located at the southern corner of the Altstadt. A battery was also erected in front of the southeastern Pirna Gate.

Heavy artillery and ammunition finally arrived from Torgau, being transported on the Elbe.

On July 16, Maquire sent Colonel von Zedtwitz with Grenzer light troops and Major-General von Würzburg with 5 grenadier coys and 3 bns to attack Holstein's positions from the Neustadt, but the assault was repulsed by the Prussian artillery.

On July 17

  • Prussians
    • As Frederick attached a lot of importance to the position of Weissen Hirsch because it protected Holstein's Corps against a surprise attack and blocked the line of communication between the garrison of Dresden and Daun's Army, he let Holstein occupy and entrench this position with 2 free bns (II/Wunsch and Quintus Icilius). They were supported by 3 bns (II./Lestwitz Infantry, II./Gabelentz Fusiliers, I./Markgraf Carl) under Major-General von Tettenborn, who took position at the Fischhaus. To better protect his communication with Holstein's Corps and to cover the position at Weissen Hirsch from the left bank of the Elbe, Frederick transferred his pontoon-bridge from Kaditz to Blasewitz and sent Major-General von Zeuner to the right bank of the Elbe with Alt-Braunschweig Infantry and Forcade Infantry, which entrenched themselves on the height west of Loschwitz.
  • Austro-Imperials
    • The Grenadier and Carabinier Corps reached Bischofswerda, and Buccow's vanguard, Grossharthau. They then marched to the heights near Weißig.
    • Daun's Army reached Klein-Förstchen, west of Bautzen. Daun was then informed that Frederick had built a bridge downstream from Dresden and was trying to establish a second one upstream from the city near Loschwitz, After a short rest, Daun's Army resumed its advance and reached Weißig, where it arrived very tired during the evening. It encamped on the heights of Weißig and Gönnsdorf and Daun established his headquarters at Schönfeld.

By July 18, all Prussian batteries were ready.

The Ruins of the old Kreuzkirche in Dresden after the siege of 1760 - Source: Bernardo Bellotto, 1765 retrieved from Commons Wikimedia

On July 19

  • Prussians
    • Early in the morning, the bombardment of the Altstadt began. The Prussian artillerymen thought they had noticed that the enemy had placed four guns on the tower of the Kreuzkirche and as this tower also enabled the defenders to closely observe the siege batteries, they directed the fire of their mortars there, and soon the tower was in flames. After several bombs had pieced the vault, it collapsed and spread fire to the surrounding buildings. Since projectiles also set fire to other places, it was no longer possible to stop the spreading fire. Entire streets were reduced to ashes. Most of the inhabitants fled across the bridge to the Neustadt.
    • Frederick was informed that Daun had reached Weißig with 30,000 men on the previous night. Nevertheless Frederick was determined to continue the siege of Dresden.
    • As the Austrians started to make preparation to cross the Elbe near Pirna, Frederick recalled Alt-Braunschweig Infantry and Forcade Infantry to the left bank of the river. The pontoon-bridge at Blasewitz was dismantled. Now the only communication between Frederick's Army and Holstein's Corps was the bridge of boats linking Kaditz to Übigau.
    • Holstein sent the Finckenstein Dragoons and Holstein-Gottorp Dragoons to reinforce Frederick's Army.
  • Engagements of Weissen Hirsch and Fischhaus
    • In the afternoon, the II/Frei-Infanterie Wunsch and Freibataillon Quintus Icilius defending Weissen Hirsch were attacked by overwhelming forces and driven back to the Fischhaus, where they joined Tettenborn's 3 bns. Holstein speedily sent II./Grant Fusiliers to reinforce Tettenborn's detachment.
    • At this moment, Colonel von Zedtwitz came out of the Neustadt with his Grenzers, supported by 2 regular bns, and attacked Tettenborn's detachment in the rear.
    • Around 8:00 p.m., Tettenborn retired behind the Priessnitz after a combat of several hours. During his retreat, the Austrian Stabsdragoner and hussars attacked the 2 weakened free bns, taking many prisoners.
    • In this affair, the Prussians lost 7 officers and 724 men. They also lost 8 battalion guns (5 belonging to the free bns, 2 to I./Markgraf Carl Infantry and 1 to II./Gabelentz Fusiliers).
  • Prussians (after the engagement of Fischhaus)
    • Holstein, fearing a serious engagement of his isolated corps with the main Austrian army, decided to cross the Elbe and to make a junction with Frederick.
  • Austro-Imperials (after the engagement of Fischhaus)
    • Around 9:00 p.m., Maquire sent Colonel Amadei with 5 grenadier coys and 500 volunteers to attack and silence the Prussian batteries. They advanced through the deserted streets of the Wilsdruffer suburb against the ricochet-battery, which was defended by the II./Wedel Infantry. Rapidly, the Grenadier Battalion Nesse, Grenadier Battalion Falkenhayn, Alt-Schenckendorff Infantry, Freibataillon Courbières and the Feldjäger zu Fuß came to the support of the battery and the Austrians were driven back to the city. Amadei had been wounded during the attack. In this affair, the II./Wedel Infantry lost 1 officer and 22 men killed, and 82 men wounded.
    • After the capture of Weissen Hirsch by Grenzer light troops, Daun now had a direct line of communication with Dresden.

In the night of July 19 to 20, Holstein's Corps crossed to the left bank of the Elbe. He then broke down his bridge at Übigau.

The shelling of Dresden continued for the next few days.

On July 20

  • Austro-Imperials
    • Just before daybreak, General Brentano attacked an outpost of the Möhring Hussars near Leuben with the Paul Anton Esterházy Hussars and Rudnicki Uhlans and drove them back on Frederick's headquarter on the "Grünen Wiese". The wing company of the Leibgarde took arms and Frederick precipitously rode away.
    • Maquire effected a few sorties.
    • Daun's Army encamped between the road leading to Radeberg and Grossenhain and the edge of the Heath of Dresden, facing the Neustadt. A bridge of boats was established near Friedrichstadt, downstream from Dresden.
  • Prussians
    • Frederick was informed that the Reichsarmee and Lacy's Corps were on the move to gain the heights of Possendorf. Frederick marched with Major-General von Schenckendorff and 7 grenadier bns and the 18 sqns of his right wing towards Rippien, but he soon realised that the the information was false. Nevertheless, he let the 7 grenadier bns between Goppeln and Rippien to prevent an encirclement.

On July 21

  • Prussians
    • The breaching-battery had now opened a wide enough breach in the left face of the Jupiter Bastion to allow an assault.
    • The first line of Frederick's Army, which was covering the siege of Dresden, redeployed facing the Altstadt between the "Great Garden" and Plauen, while Holstein's Corps formed a second line behind it.
  • Austro-Imperials
    • Daun threw 16 bns into the City of Dresden.

On July 22

In the night of July 22 to 23

  • Prussians
    • The Prussian began to retire their heavy artillery pieces from their batteries.
    • Frederick interrupted the bombardment.
  • Engagement in the Pirnauer suburb
    • At nightfall, 5 bns and 5 grenadier coys under FML Angern crossed to the left bank of the river on the new bridge near the Pirnauer suburb. The construction of this bridge had gone unnoticed by the Prussians.
    • In these quarters, the trench guard of the Prussians consisted of 4 bns under Colonel von Linden. The I./Anhalt-Bernburg Infantry and II./Anhalt-Bernburg Infantry were posted in the Pirnauer suburb; the III./Anhalt-Bernburg Infantry and I./Prinz Ferdinand Infantry, near the ricochet-battery.
    • At 11:00 p.m., the Austrians launched their attack. The I./Anhalt-Bernburg Infantry was on the point of retiring from its post when it was suddenly attacked in the flank. It managed with great difficulty to retire to the "Great Garden". The II./Anhalt-Bernburg Infantry under Captain von Kauffberg, which had been instructed to guard the breaching-battery during the removal of the heavy artillery pieces, tried to contain the advance of the Austrians without any support.
    • Meanwhile, a second column of 4 bns and 5 grenadier coys, which had just crossed the Elbe at Friedrichstadt, attacked the ricochet-battery. Colonel von Linden hurried to the support of this battery with part of the II./Anhalt-Bernburg Infantry and drove back the attackers. However, Captain Kauffberg could not stop the advance of the Austrians and his detachment was virtually annihilated. He managed to reach the "Great Garden" with only a small part of his battalion.
    • Nevertheless, the Prussians had removed all the guns that had been used in the Pirnauer suburb, and had also saved the guns of the breaching-battery.
    • The Freibataillon Courbières and the Feldjäger zu Fuß occupied the walls of the "Great Garden".
    • In this affair, both sides suffered heavy losses. The Prussians lost 66 men killed; 5 officers and 108 men wounded; and 2 officers and 261 men taken prisoners. The Austrians lost 1 officer and 21 men killed; 26 officers and 348 men wounded; and 10 officers and 212 taken prisoners.
    • Frederick, dissatisfied by Anhalt-Bernburg Infantry, instructed to take away their sabres.

On July 25, realising that he had no chance to obtain the surrender of Dresden, Frederick decided to recross the Elbe.

On July 27

  • Austro-Imperials
    • Near Meissen and Riesa, Ried's light corps intercepted more than 30 ships loaded with grain and other provisions upstream destined to Frederick's Army.
  • Prussians

The news from Silesia were not good: the Austrians besieging Glatz (present-day Kłodzko/PL) had received heavy artillery pieces from Königgrätz; Loudon had reinforced the siege corps and stood in an entrenched camp between Parchwitz (present-day Prochowice/PL) and Liegnitz (present-day Legnica/PL). Frederick decided to march to the relief of Silesia. Hülsen would remain in Saxony and re-occupy his former camp near Schletta.

On July 29

  • Prussians
    • Frederick was informed of the fall of Glatz.
    • At 10:00 p.m., Frederick's army retired, leaving the guards of the trenches as a rearguard. Frederick transferred his headquarters from Gruna to Leubnitz.

References

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

  • Grosser Generalstab Kriegsgeschichtliche Abteilung II: Die Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen, Part 3 Der siebenjährige Krieg 1756-1763, Vol. 12 Landeshut und Liegnitz, Berlin, 1913, pp. 140-156
  • Anonymous, A Complete History of the Present War, from its Commencement in 1756, to the End of the Campaign, 1760, London, 1761, pp. 515-516
  • Jomini, baron de, Traité des grandes opérations militaires, Vol. 3, 2nd ed., Magimel, Paris, 1811, pp. 266-270