1761-07-16 - Battle of Vellinghausen

From Project Seven Years War
Jump to: navigation, search

Hierarchical Path: Seven Years War (Main Page) >> Battles >> 1761-07-16 - Battle of Vellinghausen

Allied victory

Prelude to the Battle

On July 8, during the campaign of 1761 in West Germany, the French Army of the Upper Rhine, under the Duc de Broglie, and the larger Army of the Lower Rhine, under the Prince de Soubise, made a junction at Soest. The joint strength of the two French armies, after deducting the detachments made from both of them, was just about 100,000 men. The Allied army under the command of Ferdinand of Brunswick, after the arrival of Spörcken, who had made his way to him from the Diemel with all haste, amounted to no more than 60,000 men. However, even with such odds against him, Ferdinand stood firm, refusing to cross to the north bank of the Lippe and abandon Lippstadt, as the French commanders had hoped. He was determined that they should fight him for Lippstadt; and they, knowing their adversary, were not too eager to hazard the venture.

On July 10, Ferdinand reorganised his camp:

  • his right at Hilbeck
  • his centre at Illingen
  • Granby at Vellinghausen
  • Spörcken (8,000 men) at Herzfeld on the left bank of the Lippe to watch Prince Xavier of Saxony, who lay with a corps in the vicinity of Paderborn.

From July 11 to 14, the Allied and French armies faced each other without attempting any attack. Indeed, Broglie and Soubise first planned to attack on Sunday July 13. Then, Broglie postponed the attack to July 15 to make further reconnaissance.

On July 14, after several days of deliberations, Broglie and Soubise finally agreed on a plan of attack. Broglie would march by Oestinghausen to take position near Hultrop. The French plan called for Broglie's vanguard to launch 2 divisions against the posts of Nateln and Vellinghausen, defended by the corps of Wutginau and Granby, but particularly that of Granby between the Lippe and the Ahse. Broglie's army should be reinforced by Condé's corps. Simultaneously, Soubise would advance from Erwitte on the Salzbach and keep the rest of the Allies distracted by an attack on Scheidingen, at the same time sending a cloud of light troops round the right flank of the Allies to Hamm, 9 km in their rear, so as to create confusion and embarrass their retreat. This plan had the default to announce the intentions of the French general much in advance.

Map

Vellinghausen was a poor little hamlet in a moory difficult ground in Paderborn Country, near the south or left bank of the Lippe River. It lay to the north of Soest. Ferdinand's positions extended about 13 km, looking eastward. General von Spörcken with about 8,000 men was left on the north bank of the Lippe at Herzfeld, to watch Prince Xavier of Saxony, who lay with a corps in the vicinity of Paderborn. The Allied Main Army was encamped on the south bank of the Lippe, with its left resting on the river; from whence the left wing extended to the village of Kirch-Dinker on the Ahse, a branch of the Lippe impassable except by bridges. Vellinghausen, Ferdinand's headquarters, lay midway between the Ahse and the Lippe at the foot of a declivity called the Dinkerberg. From the Lippe to Vellinghausen the ground was occupied by Wutginau's corps, of 7 battalions and 5 squadrons, all of them German troops. From Vellinghausen to Kirch-Dinker the heights were held by Granby's corps, consisting of 2 battalions of British grenadiers, the 5th Foot, the 12th Foot, the 24th Foot and the 37th Foot under Brigadier Sandford, 87th Keith's Highlanders and 88th Campbell's Highlanders, 6 Allied battalions, the Scot Greys Dragoons, the 7th Dragoons and the 11th Dragoons in one brigade under General Harvey, and 8 Allied squadrons, together with a regiment of Hanoverian artillery. From the Ahse the position was prolonged to the right along a similar line of heights by the villages of Süddinker and Wambeln to the rear of Werl at Budberg, the whole of the front being covered by a marshy brook called the Salzbach. From the Ahse to Wambeln the ground was occupied by Anhalt's corps of 10 German battalions and the British 1st Dragoons, 6th (Inniskilling) Draggons and 10th Dragoons; to the right of Anhalt stood Conway's corps, of 3 battalions of British Guards with their grenadiers massed into a fourth battalion, Townsend's brigade of the 8th Foot, 20th Foot, 25th Foot and 50th Foot, and the 1st (The King's) Regiment of Dragoon Guards, 3rd Regiment of Dragoon Guards and 4th Regiment of Horse, or The Black Horse; to the right of Conway stood Howard's corps, consisting of Cavendish's brigade of the 11th Foot, 33rd Foot, 23rd Foot and 51st Foot, 2 German battalions, the British light batteries and 2 brigades of Hessian artillery; and finally the extreme right from Wambeln to Hillbeck was held by the Hereditary Prince's corps of 25 battalions and 24 squadrons of Germans.

The centre of the Allied positions was astride of the Ahse and the right wing stood to the south side of the Ahse. In front of these positions, Ferdinand had various little hamlets: Kirch-Dinker, Scheidingen, Wambeln and others. Ferdinand has thrown up earthworks in most of these villages, taking advantage of bogs, rough places and woods. The Salzbach was an obstacle well-nigh insuperable, the only passage by which the French could cross it being by the village of Scheidingen, opposite to Conway's corps, where an old redoubt, dating from the days of Turenne, still remained to bar the way. The weak point of the position was its right flank which, though more or less protected by a quaggy brook which ran into the Ahse and the marshy ground bordering it, lay practically in the air, and could have been turned with little difficulty.

Map of the battle of Vellinghausen fought on July 15 and 16, 1761 - Source: Fortescue J. W., "A History of the British Army Vol. II, MacMillan, London, 1899"
Sketch of the battle of Vellinghausen illustrating the positions and movements of the various corps.

Courtesy: Harald Howe

Legend:

Blue = Allied Corps
SP = Spörcken
GR = Granby
WU = Wutginau
AN = Anhalt
HO = Howard
CO = Conway
ER = Hereditary Prince

Red = French corps
Broglie
CL = Closen
BE = Belzunce
CO = Condé
Soubise

Ferdinand position was strong but dangerous since he had no retreat, should he be tumbled back into the angle where Ahse and Lippe meet, and into the little town of Hamm where his magazine was.

Description of Events

Tuesday July 15, Broglie reconnoitred all day and drove in all Ferdinand's outposts.

For some reason Wutginau's corps had been encamped one km in rear of its position in the line of battle.

At noon, Wutginau received orders, in consequence of suspicious movements by the French, to strike tents and march forward. However, this order was later cancelled.

At 5:00 PM, Broglie set out from the camp of Erwitte, marched in 3 columns and encamped his army at Oestinghausen. These 3 columns consisted of:

  • the rightmost column consisting of the vanguard division under M. de Closen, was to march by Hultrop and attack Vellinghausen
  • the centre consisting of the main body of the army under the duc de Broglie, charged to support the attacks of the 2 other columns
  • the leftmost column consisting of the vanguard division under M. de Belzunce with the Grenadiers de France and the Grenadiers Royaux under the command of the Comte de Stainville, were to proceed along the Ahse and attack the Castle of Nateln

At about 6:00 PM, Broglie suddenly burst into onslaught on Ferdinand's position. His attack came upon it as a complete surprise. Belzunce occupied the Castle of Nateln where he took about 100 prisoners. Closen's column attacked the wood of Vellinghausen with the light infantry of the Volontaires de Saint-Victor, supported by Nassau Prince Louis Infanterie and Royal Deux-Ponts Infanterie, and by the 2 elite battalions (grenadiers and chasseurs) of Auvergne Infanterie and Poitou Infanterie, dislodging one of Granby's outposts at Hause Nehle. Granby's corps (10 bns, 6 sqns, 10 x 6-pdrs), which was in camp about Vellinghausen, had only just time to seize its arms and turn out, leaving the tents standing; the Highlanders indeed hardly emerging from their tents before the French guns opened fire on them. The British first opposed a vigorous resistance to Closen's assault but were finally pushed back into the village of Vellinghausen where they were charged anew.

When Ferdinand was informed of the French manoeuvres who threatened the road to Hamm. He immediately gave orders to Granby to hold his positions at all cost. Wutginau with his corps (7 bns, 5 sqns) was instructed to march to the left to Bloch (unidentified location) upon the high road from Lippstadt to Hamm to cover the line of retreat and then to support Granby. Ferdinand also sent order to Anhalt (10 bns, 6 sqns) to pass the Ahse with his division to replace Wutginau and to link with the right of Wutginau's division. Lieutenant-general Conway (9 bns, 7 sqns, some British artillery) was ordered to replace the Prince of Anhalt between Illingen and Hohenover. Finally, Spörcken, who was encamped at Hertzfeld on the right bank of the Lippe, received orders to send 6 bns and 6 sqns under General Wolff to reinforce Granby. Ferdinand then went to Granby's camp.

Closen drove the Allies back beyond Vellinghausen and even captured the barricade protecting Granby's camp. However, Granby managed to contain the French attack until the arrival of Wutginau's division, who attacked the French right flank. The French were then forced to take refuge into the wood.

M. de Closen then asked Broglie for reinforcements. Broglie sent the Comte de Guerchy who commanded the rightmost division to support the Volontaires de Saint-Victor. Guerchy advanced with the battalion of grenadiers and chasseurs of the Dauphin Brigade. The latter brigade led by the Marquis de Maupéou and the Marquis de Rochechouart supported Closen. Guerchy followed personally at the head of Du Roi Infanterie and 15 field-pieces. Closen then renewed his attack on Vellinghausen, repeatedly taking and losing the village. Granby's and Wutginau's corps made a fine defence.

Broglie called off the assault at 10:00 PM. His troops were masters of the villages of Vellinghausen and Nateln. Broglie then sent forward the Duc d'Havré with the Aquitaine and Rougé's brigades to occupy the village, relieving the troops engaged during the day. He also sent the Duc de Duras and the Comte de Vaux at the head of the Champagne, Auvergne and Poitou brigades to support the troops defending Vellinghausen.

During the attack on Vellinghausen, Broglie received a letter from Soubise, announcing his march on Einecke and informing Broglie of his intention to retain Condé's corps because he felt that the Allies were reinforcing their right. Broglie knowing that, on the contrary, Ferdinand was reinforcing his left, directly invited Condé to join him with his corps and suggested to Soubise to replace Condé's corps with another one in his present position.

During the whole day, Soubise had not moved forward against Scheidingen. In fact, the time fixed by the French marshals for their decisive attack had been the early hours of July 16, so that Broglie's advance had been premature. He excused himself by saying that he had intended only to drive in the outposts of the Allies but that he had been encouraged by his unexpected success to bring forward more troops to hold the ground that he had gained, and that he had accordingly appealed to Soubise to hasten his movements likewise. Had Broglie really pushed his attack home he would probably have succeeded, for the Allies were too weak to stop him and were, moreover, short of ammunition. But Broglie was too timid a man to take responsibility on his own shoulders; so instead of making a bold attempt to carry the Dinkerberg, which if successful must have forced Ferdinand to retreat, he stopped short at Vellinghausen, leaving the Allies in their position unmoved.

The night passed uneasily in the Allied camp. Between the Lippe and the Ahse skirmishing never ceased. The road to Hamm was full of wagons going and returning with loads of ammunition; Anhalt's corps, together with all the British of Howard's corps, was streaming across the Ahse to reinforce Granby; and Conway's and the Hereditary Prince's were extending themselves leftward to cover the ground thus left vacant. For Ferdinand knew Broglie to be his most dangerous antagonist and was determined to stop him at all costs by fresh troops. Broglie, on his side, was equally busy replacing the battalions that had already been engaged. Colonel Grevendorff took position in the village of Krich-Dinker with 2 Allied battalions

Next morning, July 16, at about 4:00 AM, Broglie, having warned Soubise overnight, deployed his columns and launched a new assault in earnest on Ferdinand's left wing which had been considerably strengthened overnight. The ground was so much broken up by hedges and ditches that in many places the troops engaged, though no more than 150 m. apart, were unable to see each other and fired furiously, not without destructive effect, at every puff of smoke that betrayed an enemy's presence.

The Allied artillery opened on the village of Vellinghausen. Broglie, considering that he was not strong enough to sustain the Allied attack alone, informed Soubise that he intended to retire to his initial positions at Oestingshausen. However, Broglie's army, being engaged, could not retire. Furthermore, Condé, who had received no troops to replace his force at Nateln, could not come to Broglie's support.

At 7:00 AM, Soubise received Broglie's message announcing his intention to retire. Soubise had just began to move to force the passage of the Salzbach towards Scheidingen, faintly attacking Allied piquets in three different places, making himself master of the bridge and village of Scheidingen, repeatedly attacking a redoubt commanding the débouché of that village, and launching his Irish Brigade against 3 Allied battalions. Soubise now feared to engage the Allies alone, he immediately recalled his columns and retired to his former camp at Kloster-Paradies despite the fact that he benefited from an overwhelming superiority over Allied forces facing him. Indeed, a column (16 bns, 30 sqns) under the command of Lieutenant-general Marquis de Dumesnil had taken post near Werl and another column (12 bns, 14 sqns) had marched to Unna. These two columns were ready to turn the positions of the Hereditary Prince.

Until 8:00 AM, this fusillade continued, neither side gaining or losing ground, till at last it slackened from the sheer exhaustion of the men, after more than 12 hours of intermittent action.

Meanwhile Broglie was looking anxiously for Soubise's demonstration against the Allied centre and right, but he looked in vain. Soubise had already decided to retire.

At about 8:30 AM, after a brief respite, the fire opened again on the Allied left. Spörcken had detached 6 battalions from Herzfeld to reinforce Wutginau and the arrival of fresh Allied troops infused new life into the engagement. Broglie too showed symptoms of reviving energy, for 2 French batteries were observed in motion towards a height opposite the Dinkerberg, from which they might have made havoc of Granby's corps.

Ferdinand ordered that Vellinghausen and the height should be carried at all costs and Maxwell's grenadiers, the 87th Keith's Highlanders, the 88th Campbell's Highlanders, Imhoff Infantry (2 bns), and the Hanoverian Foot Guards (2 bns) advanced forthwith to storm it. The French were so much exhausted that they appear hardly to have awaited the attack. They broke and fled precipitately, abandoning their dead, their wounded, and several guns. Maxwell’s grenadiers alone made the 4 battalions of Rougé Infanterie prisoners.

At 10:00 AM, disheartened by his failure and by the apathy of Soubise, Broglie stopped the attack and gave the word to retreat.

Allied light troops followed the retreating French as far as Hultrop. Broglie covered his movements with the Grenadiers de France and the Grenadiers Royaux. The retreat was made in good order in a difficult terrain which prevented any attack of the Allied cavalry. Broglie was able to draw off his troops with little loss indeed.

Outcome

In this action, the Allies lost from 290 killed, 927 wounded, 183 taken prisoners and 3 cannon in the area of Vellinghausen while the Hereditary Prince had lost 21 killed, 84 wounded and 9 taken prisoners. Total Allied losses thus amounted to 311 killed, 1,011 wounded and 192 prisoners.

Broglie's loss was 5,500 men, 2,000 of them prisoners, 6 colours and 19 guns. The Duc d'Havré, the Marquis de Cirrae, the Lieutenant-general Marquis de Rougé and his son Colonel Rougé were killed during the battle. Soubise had 24 men killed...

Dumouriez who was present at this battle said:

“This battle was lost by the ambitious rashness of the maréchal de Broglie, who attacked one day too early to win it all by himself, and by the reprehensible envy of the Prince de Soubise, who sacrificed the honour of France to the criminal pleasure of mortifying his rival.”

The Allied victory was in fact trifling except for its moral effects. The French were humbled at the failure of a 100,000 men against 60,000. Furthermore, Broglie and Soubise, who had left the camp with embraces, returned to it sworn enemies, each bitterly reproaching the other for the loss of the battle. Lastly, Broglie, who possessed some military talent and had hitherto been anxious to bring his enemy to action, came to the conclusion that a general engagement with Ferdinand was a thing henceforth not to be courted but to be shunned.

Order of Battle

Allied Order of Battle

Commander-in-Chief: Ferdinand of Brunswick

Right wing under the Hereditary Prince of Brunswick

Centre

Left wing

Lieutenant-General Wutginau's Corps supporting the left wing

Wolff's Corps detached by Spörcken from Herzfeld to reinforce Wutginau

Rest of Spörcken which remained at Herzfeld on the left bank of the Lippe and did not take part in the battle

French Order of Battle

The French order of battle is very preliminary. We have not yet found a comprehensive source listing all units involved.

Armée du Haut Rhin

Commander-in-Chief: Maréchal Duc de Broglie

To do: complete Broglie's OOB

Armée du Bas Rhin

Commander-in-Chief: Maréchal Prince de Soubise

This order of battle is based on an order of battle of Soubise's army in June 1761. Soubise had surely done some detachments and his entire army was probably not present at Vellinghausen.

Order of Battle

First Line Second Line
  Right Flank
Right Wing Cavalry under Lieutenant-General du Mesnil assisted by Maréchaux de camp de Thiars and de Cursay Second line under the Prince de Croy assisted by Maréchaux de camp de Melfort and Comte de Bissy
Infantry Centre under Lieutenant-General de Chevert  
Left Wing Cavalry under M. de Luzenne assisted by the Maréchaux de camp d'Aubigné and Turpin M. de Brancas assisted by the Maréchaux de camp de Lugeac and de Périgord
  Right Flank

Corps of the Prince de Condé

Dragons under the Maréchaux de camp de Thianges and d'Apchon and Brigadiers La Potterie and La Badie

Maison du Roy under M. de Fougères

Brigades des Gardes

Other Units

Troops attached to the Etat-Major

  • Damas Cavalerie (2 sqns)
  • Royal Cantabres Infanterie (1 bn)
  • Paris Militia (1 bn)
  • Montargis Militia (1 bn)
  • Valenciennes Militia (1 bn)
  • Soisson Militia (1 bn)
  • Sarreguemines Militia (1 bn)
  • Colmar Militia (1 bn)
  • Lons-le-Saulnier Militia (1 bn)
  • Alençon Militia (1 bn)
  • Guides (1 coy of 40 men)

Artillery

Light Troops under Brigadier Fischer

Corps du Génie under M. de Bourcet

  • Ingénieurs (5 brigades)
  • Miners (1 coy of 60 men)

References

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

  • Carlyle T., History of Friedrich II of Prussia vol. 20
  • Fortescue, J. W.; A History of the British Army Vol. II, MacMillan, London, 1899, pp. 527-531
  • 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. 212-220
  • Jomini, Henri, Traité des grandes opérations militaires, 2ème édition, 4ème partie, Magimel, Paris: 1811, p. 20-23
  • Pajol, Charles P. V., Les Guerres sous Louis XV, vol. V, Paris, 1891, pp. 183-186
  • Sichart, L. v.; Geschichte der Königlich Hannoverschen Armee, Hannover, 1870 (order of battle 761GAC of the Nafziger Collection)