1761 - Allied campaign in Hesse – French counter-offensive

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Introduction

The general situation in West Germany at the beginning of the year and the Allied offensive who initially cleared Hessen from French troops are described in our article Winter-quarters and Allied surprise attack (January 1 to March 7, 1761).

Description

French reinforcements arrived

In the night of March 7 to 8, the Maréchal de Broglie sent M. de Clausen to reoccupy Wickstadt, assisted by an attack by M. de Vignolles.

In the morning of March 8, M. de Clausen reoccupied Wickstadt. The same day, de Muy's second division passed the Lahn and reached Nastätten while the first elements of the reinforcement sent from the Lower Rhine arrived at Höechst, linking their positions with those of Broglie at Vilbel. The latter was now daily receiving reinforcements from the Lower Rhine.

Ferdinand had not been able to capture any of the besieged towns and dared not linger to master these places one after another, for the whole country was laid waste, and the strain of hauling all supplies from the Weser was intolerable. The road from Beverungen to the central column of the army was paved with dead horses, the corpses tracing the whole line of the advance. Ferdinand was therefore obliged to hasten on to a district where supplies were still obtainable, trusting that good fortune would throw the strong places into his hands before it was too late.

On March 9, the Hereditary Prince retired northwards from Büdingen to Laubach. Luckner evacuated Gelnhausen, leaving only a rearguard in this town to complete the evacuation. Kielmansegg evacuated Staden and made a junction with the corps of the Hereditary Prince. Meanwhile, the Allied batteries opened on Ziegenhain. The same day, Broglie received a reinforcement of 15,000 men led by de Muy. This corps took position at Königstein.

Engagement of Grünberg

By March 10, the Count of Lippe-Bückeburg had completed his second parallel before Kassel. The same day, de Muy's reinforcements made a junction with the army of the Maréchal de Broglie. Then, the Maréchal gave orders to M. de Roquepine to march from Oberhadamar towards Königstein im Taunus while Fischer reached Usingen. Broglie's army started a general advance towards Friedberg. The same day, the Allies abandoned their positions at Staden, Reichelsheim, Bingenheim, Echzell, Ulphe (unidentified location) and Hungen. The Allied rearguards were closely followed by M. de Clausen with light troops, pushing patrols to Kloster Arnsburg, Lich and Langgöns. The Allies retired on Laubach, Grünberg and Lich. Kielmansegg for his part retired to Hungen.

In the night of March 10 to 11, the Count of Lippe-Bückeburg attacked Kassel and drove the French from the entrenchment made to contain his principal attack.

On March 11, the duc de Broglie marched with all his army to relieve Kassel. The main army moved forward to Vilbel. On the right Stainville moved to the banks of the Nidda from Assenheim to Staden with outposts at Ortenberg and Nidda; Rougé marched from Friedberg and took position near Butzbach between the Wetter and the Horloff; the Saxon contingent advanced to Ober-Wöllstadt, Nieder-Wöllstadt and Petterweil; and the Légion Royale occupied Aschaffenburg and Gelnhausen. On the left, de Muy took position at Homburg (today Bad Homburg); Roquepine at Niederroßbach; and Cursay at Oberursel. Fischer advanced to Grüningen (today Grüningen Pohlheim) to re-establish communication with Giessen; and the Chasseurs-à-pied d'Origny to Garbenheim on the Lahn. The same day, leaving behind the 4 bns who had taken possession of Marburg, Granby repassed the Lahn over a wooden bridge at Neumühl and marched to Lohra and Damm to cover the siege of Marburg. Meanwhile, the Hereditary Prince marched from Lauterbach to the neighbourhood of Grünberg, throwing an advanced post at Laubach. General Luckner fell back from Herbstein and joined the main army. On the Lower Rhine, a skirmish took place near Wesel between a French party marching from Wesel to Dülmen and an Allied detachment. The French were routed and took refuge in Wesel.

The Saxon Contingent then remained in the region of Aschaffenburg and Würzburg till end of May. The corps suffered from lack of money and its cavalry regiment was therefore used to collect contributions from the region. The Thuringian estates supported the corps with 150.000 Thalers.

Meanwhile, the French garrison of Göttingen continued its incursion into Hanover, levying contributions in the bailiwick of Westerhof and placing a detachment of cavalry at Seifen (probably Seesen).

On March 12, Clausen's light troops skirmished with Luckner's corps at Hungen and the Légion Royale reached Ortenberg.

On March 13, Stainville advanced on Hungen by the left bank of the Horloff while M. de Clausen did the same with his light troops on the right bank of the same river. The Allied retired from Hungen and Stainville passed the Horloff at Echzell, cantoning his troops around Butzbach. The Légion Royale occupied Nidda. The same day, the Hereditary Prince abandoned Lich with Clausen on his heels. To delay Clausen's advance, the rearguard of the Hereditary Prince left outposts at Ober-Bessingen and Villingen.

On March 14, Broglie's army marched on Butzbach and cantoned with its right near Hungen and its left between Giessen and Wetzlar. Meanwhile, MM. de Stainville and Rochambeau forced Scheiter to retire. The same day, General Hardenberg arrived at Kirchain from Stadtberg (present-day Marsberg on the Diemel river) with an Allied detachment while the Allied corps besieging Kassel managed to complete the second parallel and to establish a battery of 13 guns.

On March 16, Stainville, who had been ordered to engage the corps of the Hereditary Prince, marched on Grünberg. The Allies deployed in order of battle on the height of Stangenrod in a very advantageous position. Stainville cannonaded his positions. When the Hereditary Prince realised that the French were trying to turn his right flank, he retired precipitously on Homberg/Ohm. Stainville then took position at Grünberg, sending Clausen forward with his vanguard. Meanwhile, Rochambeau with the vanguard of the main French army occupied the abandoned towns of Grossen-Buseck and Alten-Buseck, covered by the Chasseurs de Fischer; Cursay passed the Lahn and advanced on Hohensolms, driving back Scheiter's corps, pursuing it up to Lollar.

On March 17, informed that the Allies had evacuated their outposts between the Lahn and Ohm, leaving only a detachment on the height of Amöneburg, and that Allied troops between the Lahn and Dyle were retiring on Marburg and Caldern, the maréchal de Broglie marched to Giessen. Rochambeau marched to Allendorf/Lumda, replaced at Buseck by Poyanne at the head of the Corps des carabiniers de Monsieur le Comte de Provence and of an additional brigade. Clausen reached Sassen with Stainville's vanguard and de Muy sent M. de Courcy across the Lahn to support Cursay. Granby repassed the Lahn and collected the 4 bns left at Marburg. The French immediately took possession of the abandoned town.

On March 18, the French continued their general advance: de Muy passed the Lahn and advanced on the stream of Salzbolz; Cursay reached Seelbach; Courcy, Hohensolms; d'Origny, Gladenbach; Wurmser, with the Royal-Nassau Hussards and a detachment of dragoons and infantry, reached Fronhausen; Rochambeau advanced up to Fortbach and Ilschhausen, pushing the Chasseurs de Fischer at Hachborn and Erbenhausen, on the Zwester Ohm a tributary of the Lahn; Poyanne marched to Treis an der Lumda and Allertshausen near Allendorf and was replaced in his former positions at Grossen-Buseck and Alten-Buseck by Boccard`s Swiss brigade; Clausen with Stainville's vanguard occupied the villages of Londorf, Odenhausen and Gontershausen; and Stainville occupied Reiskirchen. Broglie fearing for Ziegenhain and Kassel, was now accelerating his advance. At Fronhausen, Wurmser drove Allied patrols back to Niederweimar. The same day, Ferdinand gave orders to lift the siege of Marburg. Granby, Wangenheim and Scheiter repassed the Lahn and made a junction with the main Allied army which was cantoned from Wetter to Homberg/Ohm. During their retreat, Scheiter and Wangenheim were harassed by the Royal-Nassau Hussards and part of Turpin Hussards. At 8:00 PM, the 2 Allied battalions occupying Marburg evacuated the town. Ferdinand, considering that the French right flank was not very solidly anchored, resolved to attack it.

On March 18, the dispositions of the French army were as follow:

In the night of March 18 to 19, Rochambeau sent a detachment of the Chasseurs de Fischer to Neumühl (unidentified location) on the Lahn to establish communication with de Muy's corps and to reconnoitre the main passage on this river.

On March 19, de Muy marched towards Marburg by the left bank of the Lahn, reaching the Ohm; Wurmser reached the town; d'Origny occupied Wetter; Cursay reached the neighbouring of Marburg. Meanwhile, Broglie sent his aide de camp M. de Rosière to reconnoitre the height of Frauenberg from where he saw the Allies repass the Ohm at Kirchhain and Schweinsberg. The same day, the Hereditary Prince advanced on Stangenrod and Wirberg near Grünberg while Luckner drove the Légion Royale from Laubach back to Hungen. Stainville immediately sent 2 cavalry brigades at Hungen to support Diesbach's corps.

By March 20, the main Allied army was on the heights of Homberg/Ohm; Ferdinand’s headquarters at Schweinsberg; the Hereditary at Grünberg; Granby at Kirchhain; Hardenberg behind Rüdigheim, between Schweinsberg and Kirchhain. The French occupied all the country along the Lahn and Gladenbach, Allendorf, Lich, Hungen and Laubach.

On March 20, the duc de Broglie sent reinforments (3 cavalry brigades, among which the Dauphin-Étranger cavalry brigade, and the Grenadiers de France) to Lich to support Stainville who was charged to attack the Hereditary Prince and to drive him back beyond the Ohm. To fix the main Allied army during this attack, Broglie sent Cursay's brigade to Cosfeld on the Lahn (unidentified location) from where the chevalier d'Origny would launch an attack up to the Wetter and attack Scheiter's corps. He also sent Rosières to take position on the heights of Panenberg; Rochambeau at Ebsdorf with detachments at Schweinsberg; Clausen to Stangenrod to support Stainville's main attack on Grünberg and prevent any Allied counter-attack from Homberg/Ohm; Poyanne (Carabiniers and Auvergne brigade) to Londorf to support Clausen; Boccard's Swiss brigade to support Poyanne. The same day, the Allies reinforced their corps at Grünberg and advanced on French positions at Londorf and Geilshausen.

On March 21, the Hereditary Prince was attacked by Stainville's superior force in the engagement of Grünberg, suffering heavy losses (including 2,000 prisoners). The Hereditary Prince was then forced to retire on Burg-Gemünden and to repass the Ohm. This defeat neutralised all the advantages so far gained by the enterprise. After the engagement, the Maréchal de Broglie marched toward Giessen.

French relief of Kassel

On March 22, the Maréchal de Broglie reached Giessen, thus relieving Kassel. The same day in the evening, Ferdinand's army started its retreat, retiring its light troops behind the Ohm and marching to Ziegenhain at the head of the main Allied army. The French vanguards under Rochambeau and Montchenu followed it, supported by M. de Poyanne with the Carabiniers and 2 infantry brigades.

On March 23, the Allies lifted the siege of Ziegenhain.

On March 24, lacking provisions and forage, Ferdinand of Brunswick resolved to break up his camp at Homberg/Ohm, to repass the Eder and to retire to Neustadt and Fritzlar.

On March 25, the Maréchal de Broglie advanced to Schweinsberg and entered the town of Ziegenhain, the Allies having raised the siege of the place. Meanwhile, Rochambeau had reached Neustadt, forcing the few Allied units remaining in the town to retire on Treysa. The garrison of Ziegenhain, reinforced by some cavalry under Rochambeau who had been joined by Poyannes, then pursued the rear of the retreating Allied force. The French marched on Treysa and the Allies retired on nearby heights. The Volontaires de Saint-Victor skirmished with them till midnight. Meanwhile M. de Montchenu's at the head of a detachment of his vanguard (Orléans Dragons brigade and mounted companies of the Volontaires de Flandre, Volontaires du Hainaut, Volontaires Étrangers de Clermont Prince and Volontaires d'Austrasie) had driven the Allies out of the village of Mengsberg before catching up with Zastrow at Leimsfeld. Montchenu successfully engaged the Allied rearguard. M. de Vignolles repeatedly attacked a column of infantry who was retiring in good order between Frielendorffand Niedergrenzebach. Vignolles then charged a battalion forming the rearguard, capturing two flags. The column then fell in disorder and the French captured another flag, 2 guns, Majors-generals Zastrow and Schlüter, a dozen of officers and more than 300 prisoners. The Légion Royale took possession of Arolsen (today Bad Arolsen) where they found 300 sick in the British hospital. Fischer’s corps, having pushed forward to Korbach to intercept the Allied convoys, detached the Chevalier d’Origny at the head of 3,000 men towards Wolfhagen.

On March 26 at daybreak, a few Allied troops were guarding a bridge over the Schwalm at Dittershausen. When the Hereditary Prince started to evacuate his outposts, M. de Poyannes sent against them about 100 men of Royal-Nassau Hussards, led by M. Schwartz and supported by dragoons and the Volontaires de Saint-Victor. This force broke the Allied hussars and reached the infantry, capturing 4 guns, a British aide-de-camp of the Hereditary Prince, Lieutenant-colonel Jeanneret of the Malachowski Hussars, along with other prisoners. M. de la Borie, major of the Volontaires de Saint-Victor, closely followed the retiring Allied forces but the arrival of Allied cavalry forced him to retire. The Volontaires brought back only 1 of the 4 captured guns. When Broglie was informed of Poyannes' movement, he left Ziegenhain with Montchenu's detachment and marched towards Homberg (Etze). However, Luckner's corps, covering Zastrow's corps, had deployed in order of battle on a height near Zimmersrode. As Broglie approached, Luckner sent about 7 bns and 7 sqns to the village of Bischhausen located on a very advantageous height. However, seeing the French dragoons moving to turn his left, Luckner decided to retire, fording the Schwalm at Kleinenglis before Broglie's dragoons and light troops had time to catch up with him. Once on the opposite bank of the Schwalm, Luckner deployed his troops in order of battle on a nearby height to prevent the crossing of the French dragoons. While the French were waiting for their infantry to support the passage of the river, Luckner marched unmolested to Fritzlar. The same day, the chevalier d'Origny surprised a battalion of the Légion Britannique posted at Netze near Waldeck and made the greater part of them prisoners.

On March 27, the Allied army passed the Eder. The Hereditary Prince covered their passage. He attacked a French party near Kleinenglis, making 100 prisoners. He then retired by Braunau and then took position on a height near the Edder in front of Fritzlar. The same day, the maréchal de Broglie reached Treysa. and M. d'Origny was killed during an assault on Waldeck. The same day at Kassel, the Count of Lippe-Bückeburg took the dispositions for raising the siege. The French army had now reestablished its communications with Kassel through Melsungen.

On the night of March 27 to 28, the Count of Lippe-Bückeburg sent off his heavy artillery by Hohenkirchen. The Comte de Broglie sent M. de la Borde from Kassel with a battalion and some grenadiers to take position on the right bank of the Fulda with orders to get as close to Sandershausen as possible and to endeavour to cannonade the retreating Allied forces. The Comte de Broglie also sent some grenadiers and chasseurs to take possession of the third parallel, abandoned by the Allies.

On March 28, the Maréchal de Broglie moved part of his army closer to Ziegenhain. He hesitated to throw additional troops in Kassel because the city was poorly supplied. The same day in the morning, the Allies lifted the siege of Kassel and retired towards Warburg. The British took position at Stadtberg and Paderborn. Meanwhile, Ferdinand fell back with all speed by forced marches; for Broglie had now 80,000 troops against his own 20,000 men.

In the night of March 28 to 29, the Maréchal de Broglie was informed that the Allies were lifting the siege of Kassel.

On March 29, the Allied army assembled on the heights near Züschen and retreated towards Wolfhagen.

On March 30 before daybreak, the Allied corps of the Count of Lippe-Bückeburg marched from Obervellmar and encamped with its right in front of Hohenkirchen and its left towards Rothwesten, throwing detachments in Obervellmar, Niedervellmar and Ihringshausen. At 2:00 PM, the Comte de Broglie sent 7 bns, with the cavalry of the garrison of Kassel and with dragoons and hussars of the Légion Royale against these outposts. These troops easily forced the Allies to abandon their outposts. Then MM. de Caraman and de Jaucourt threatened the right flank of Lippe-Bückeburg who decamped. During his retreat, M. de Viomenil at the head of dragoons and hussars of the Légion Royale, capturing 4 pieces, some ammunition wagons and several prisoners. Lippe-Bückeburg's corps finally reached Martinhagen. In the evening, the maréchal de Broglie personally visited Kassel where he arrived at 9:00 PM. The same day, the main Allied army marched to Volkmarsen. Still the same day, the Allied battalions captured at the combat of Grünberg were exchanged.

In the night of March 30 to 31, the Count of Lippe-Bückeburg marched to Hofgeismar. An Allied column had already passed the Diemel at Warburg and the British were retiring by Stadtberg and Paderborn. The Allies had also abandoned the Werra and the area of Göttingen. A few of their jägers were still posted at Witzenhausen.

On March 31, Ferdinand continued to retire behind the Diemel at Warburg. During these successive retreats, several rearguard skirmishes took place where the French had the advantage, taking some 1,800 prisoners. The same day, the Maréchal de Broglie caused Te Deum to be sung in his camp to celebrate the evacuation of Hessen by the Allies. Feu de joye were also fired on the occasion.

By April 1, the entire Allied army had retired behind the Diemel. Ferdinand established his headquarters at Schloß Neuhaus near Paderborn and sent a corps on the Lippe to observe the motions of the French on the Lower Rhine. The rest of the Allied army returned to its former cantonments: the British were in the Bishopric of Osnabrück; another part of the Allied army wintered in the neighbourhood of Münster and on the Lippe and a cordon of light troops took position on the Diemel. For his part, Broglie sent back the reinforcements previously received from the Lower Rhine. He then threw large garrisons in Göttingen, Kassel and Ziegenhain and made large detachments to the country of Fulda. The rest of the Army of the Upper Rhine returned to its winter quarters between Kassel and Frankfurt and between the Rhine and the Mayn. Broglie also established quarters in Gemünden, Rothenburg, Hersfeld (present-day Bad Hersfeld), in Fulda Country; in Marburg, Giessen, Butzbach, Friedberg; between Hanau and Aschaffenburg; between Würzburg and Wertheim, in Bingen, Oppenheim and Alzey. Finally, Broglie established his headquarters in Frankfurt.

In the first days of April, an Allied corps of 25,000 men (the Hereditary Prince and the British contingent) were in Münster Country, on the Weser and in the Osnabrück Country.

Last operations

Voices from the Past
On April 5, 1761, Major Johann Daniel Stock of Wutginau Infantry died of fever at Deisel

On April 3, M. de Belzunce launched a raid on Osterode where he took about 100 soldiers, 1 captain and 1 lieutenant prisoners and captured 80 horses.

On April 7, M. de Montfort, who had been posted at Eschwege to protect the navigation on the Werra, received intelligence that a squadron of Prussian cuirassiers had taken position at Langensalza.

On April 8 at 4:15 AM, M. de Montfort, supported by M. de Monnet, launched an attack on Langensalza, forcing one of the gate and capturing most of the Prussian squadron (56 cuirassiers, Major Kours, Captains Kilzing and Biren and 82 horses).

Aftermath

Ferdinand's stroke had failed. Although he had driven the French before him from end to end of Hesse in a few weeks, he had been obliged to abandon the whole of it and to retreat because he had left Kassel uncaptured in his rear. Broglie had finally recovered all of Hessen but, during his initial retreat, he had lost all his magazines. These losses considerably delayed his campaign.

The Allies had suffered so terribly from hardship and exposure during this winter's expedition that it was 2 months before they were again fit to take the field (for example, 8 British battalions were by March reduced to a joint total of 700 effective men).

For months, both armies remained idle. During this period, the French strengthened their positions near Wesel and fortified the places of Hessen. Meanwhile, the Allies strengthened the fortifications of Hameln, Münster and Lippstadt.

N.B.: the rest of the campaign of 1761 in West Germany is described in our article 1761 - French campaign in West Germany.

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. 522-524
  • 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. 185-203
  • Jomini, Henri, Traité des grandes opérations militaires, 2ème édition, 4ème partie, Magimel, Paris: 1811, pp. 2-78
  • Pajol, Charles P. V., Les Guerres sous Louis XV, vol. V, Paris, 1891, pp. 125-175
  • Schuster, O. and F. Francke: Geschichte der Sächsischen Armee, 2. part, Leipzig 1885

Other sources

Salisch, M. von: Treue Deserteure – Das kursächsische Militär und der Siebenjährige Krieg, Munich, 2009

Acknowledgement

Harald Skala for information on the Saxon Army during this period