1762 - French campaign in West Germany – Preliminary operations

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Description

General situation at the beginning of the year

During the 1761-62 winter, the French army of the Rhine took its winter-quarters along the river from Kleve to Cologne. Meanwhile, the French army of the Main extended from Altenkirchen (unidentified location), a little to north of Trier, north-eastward to Kassel and from Kassel south-eastward to Langensalza (present-day Bad Langensalza). The Allies for their part, facing almost due south, stretched from Münster to Halberstadt.

For the oncoming campaign season, the French had resolved to throw their principal strength into the Army of the Upper Rhine which was accordingly raised to 80,000 men (114 bns, 110 sqns, 6,800 light troops). The Army of the Lower Rhine, also designated as “the Reserve”, was reduced proportionately to 30,000 men (52 bns, 40 sqns, 3,300 light troops). While French troops were less numerous than in the previous years, they still remained far superior to Ferdinand's army. However, French plans had been altered by the death of Tsarina Elizabeth and by the withdrawal of Russian troops from the coalition. The king resolved to conduct the campaign in an "active defence".

Order of Battle
Detailed order of battle of the French armies in March 1762.

The change of ministry in Great Britain and the reopening of negotiations by Bute had given the Court of Versailles hope for a satisfactory conclusion to this long and exhausting war. Louis XV was content to hold the ground already gained without attempt at further conquest. Provisions were very difficult to find on the first line of the French winter-quarters. This forced the French army to spread widely its cantonments and to move the cavalry far to the rear. The Army of the Upper Rhine was deployed from Würzburg on its right, through Kassel in its centre and Cologne and the Rhine on its left. For its part the Reserve was deployed with its right at Cologne; its centre along the right bank of the Rhine, Rees and the Moselle; and its left up to the Netherlands. The Volontaires de Muret occupied the Castle of Arnsberg in Westphalia which they fortified, bringing cannon from neighbouring castles. The Dragons Chasseurs de Conflans had been posted on the Rur and the Leine to reconnoitre the country of Bergh.

Ferdinand on his side, though still outmatched by the armies opposed to him, was relatively stronger in numbers than in any previous year, having a nominal total of more than 100,000 men ready for the field. Winter-quarters were little disturbed during the early months of 1762, the country having been so much devastated that neither side could move, from lack of forage, until the green corn was already grown high. The Allied Army had its left in the Bishopric of Hildesheim, these positions extended across Hanover up to the centre at Hameln, then in the Lippe Country. The British contingent had taken position in the Bishopric of Münster up to the Dutch border. As per the British documents prepared to vote subsidies, this army totalled 103,856 men and consisted of:

  • Hanover, Wolfenbüttel, Sachsen-Gotha and Lippe-Bückeburg contingents: 39, 773 men
  • Brunswick Army: 3,774 men (1,444 horse, 2,330 foot)
  • 1st Hessian Corps: 12,020 men (2,120 horse, 9,900 foot)
  • 2nd Hessian Corps: 10,384 men (1,576 horse, 8,808 foot)
  • Légion Britannique: 3,005 men (5 bns, each consisting of 1 sqn of 101 horse and 4 coys of 125 men)
  • British Contingent: 31,000 men (30 bns, each consisting of 900 foot, and 25 sqns

On March 1, King Louis XV declared that Maréchal d'Estrées and the Prince de Soubise would have equal powers in the command of the Army of the Upper Rhine (the Duc de Broglie and the Comte de Broglie having been recalled to France and sent back to their estates) while the Army of the Lower Rhine (the so called “Reserve”) would be placed under the command of the Prince de Condé. Soubise and d'Estrées were instructed to cling fast to Kassel and Göttingen, to spare the district between the Rhine and the Lahn with a view to winter-quarters and to destroy the forage between the Eder and the Diemel so as to prevent Ferdinand from manoeuvring on their flanks and rear.

Preliminay operations

On March 10, after careful reconnaissances of the roads leading to Lichtenstein and to Bodenfelde in Hanover where the Allied cavalry had its quarters, M. de Lostanges came out of Göttingen with 3,000 men and marched 34 km towards Bodenfelde.

On March 11 at daybreak, Lostanges launched a surprise attack on the Allied outpost at Gittelde and Kalefeld. Alerted by musketry fire, the main Allied cavalry corps stationed at Lichtenstein precipitously retired and Lostanges could only caught up with its rearguard. Meanwhile a second French detachment attacked Bodenfelde. The French were finally repulsed. During these engagements, the Brunswick Jäger Corps lost 30 men taken prisoners and the French lost 1 major dangerously wounded, 1 officer and 6 men taken prisoners.

In March and April, Lieutenant-general de Muy assumed interim command of the Army of the Upper Rhine while Lieutenant-general de Vogüé did the same for the Reserve.

On March 20, a body of 3,000 men arrived at Einbeck to reinforce the Allied positions in this area and to threaten Göttingen. The same day, M. de Muy received intelligence that the Allies had assembled important magazines at Beverungen, Höxter, Bielefeld and Lippstadt. De Muy's left wing extended up to Neuwied and Siegburg, his right up to the Upper-Main. Roads becoming rapidly practicable, de Muy resolved to move his quarters closer. At Göttingen M. de Vaux asked for reinforcements to compensate for desertions in his garrison. In answer, he received only 600 foot.

On March 25, Ferdinand of Brunswick moved his various quarters closer and established his headquarters in Einbeck.

By March 30, de Muy had moved his left and right wings closer. He moved the Carabiniers forward to Vacha.

On April 1, when he realized that the Allies would not launch a major attack on Göttingen, de Muy returned the dragoons and horse of the left wing to their cantonments and recalled the Carabiniers on the Main River.

On April 6, Lieutenant-general Luckner detached 500 hussars to Heilingstadt. The Marquis de Lostanges immediately marched out of Göttingen with 1,800 horse and 2,000 foot to intercept them. When Luckner was informed of Lostanges' reaction, he advanced against him with 1,600 horse. The French precipitously retired towards Göttingen but Luckner caught up their rearguard, killing 30 men and taking 80 prisoners besides 100 horses.

On April 12, a detachment of the Volontaires de Saint-Victor, who had advanced from Sachsenberg beyond the Diemel towards Haaren and Fürstenberg on the Karpke, observed a large Allied force marching on Stadtberg (present-day Marsberg). M. de Maupéou, commanding in Stadtberg, was immediately informed and he sent orders to Dauphin Dragons, Nicolaï Dragons, Auvergne Infanterie and Castellas Infanterie returning to their quarters to stop their march and to advance on Frankenberg.

On April 13, M. de Maupéou informed the French headquarters that the Allies had advanced up to Meerhof and Essentho and that 2 Allied bns had marched out of Lippstadt towards Hameln and Einbeck but had finally returned to Lippstadt.

French forces started to assemble at Mulhausen. Major Wintzengerode at the head of the Hesse-Kassel Hussars took 1 officer and 50 troopers of the French hussars prisoners near Eichsfeld.

On April 15 and 16, M. de Muret M. de Vogüé received intelligence that the Allies were preparing the siege of Arnsberg.

On April 16, the Hereditary Prince of Brunswick marched from Unna to Iserlohn.

On April 17, the Hereditary Prince marched to Arnsberg in the Duchy of Bergh, an important place guarding communications between Wesel and Düsseldorf. The place was defended by a garrison of 9 officers and 231 privates and 26 cannon under the command of M. de Muret.

By April 18 at 11:00 AM, Allied batteries were ready to open on the Castle of Arnsberg.

On April 19 at 6:00 AM, the Allied batteries opened on the Castle of Arnsberg. At 9:00 AM, the Hereditary Prince summoned Muret, offering him to leave the place with the honours of war and two cannons. Muret declined this offer and the bombardment resume. By noon, the town and castle were in all flames. Around 3:00 PM, the Allies finally captured the place. This attack greatly alarmed the French commanders on the Lower Rhine and soon, 400 men of each battalion and 100 men of each squadron stationed in Cologne and Düsseldorf (20 bns and 2 cavalry rgts) to relieve the castle. This corps passed the Rhine but it arrived too late to prevent its capitulation and took position at Elberfeld. The same day, Soubise arrived in Kassel to assume command of the French Army of the Upper Rhine in conjunction with Maréchal d'Estrées. Meanwhile, the French Reserve made the following movements in the Duchy of Bergh on the Lower Rhine

From April 19 to 22, the Hereditary Prince gradually retired towards Hamm and the Lippe.

On March 20, the French relief force sent from Cologne and Düsseldorf reached Langenberg.

On April 22, the French relief force marched to Hardenberg (unidentified location). Meanwhile M. d'Apchon had assembled another relief force of 10,000 men at Hattingen. However, when they learned that the Hereditary Prince had retired, these relief forces returned to their quarters. With the destruction of the Castle of Arnsberg, it became easier for the Allies to raise contributions in the Duchy of Bergh.

On the night of April 22 to 23, the Hereditary Prince repassed the Ruhr between Menden and Neheim, closely followed by the Dragons Chasseurs de Conflans. The Hereditary Prince burnt the Castle of Arnsberg before resuming his retreat.

On April 24, the Prince de Condé finally arrived at Düsseldorf where he assumed command of the French Reserve (61 bns, 48 sqns).

By April 27, the French Army of the Upper Rhine (104 bns, 106 sqns, 1,940 light cavalry and 2,938 light infantry) was stationed in its quarters as follows:

  • around Eisenach: Prince Xavier (15 bns, 4 sqns)
  • garrison of Mulhausen: M. de Chabo with 2,000 foot and 1,250 horse
  • garrison of Göttingen: M. de Vaux with 4750 foot and 1,700 horse
  • around Eschwege: M. de Roth with 17 bns
  • around Kassel: M. de Muy with 24 bns and 4 sqns
  • around Marburg: M. de Maupéou with 22 bns and 10 sqns
  • around Limburg: M. de Laguiche with 7 bns and 32 sqns
  • around Frankfurt: M. Dessalles with 15 bns and 14 sqns
  • around Fulda: M. de Soupire with 4 bns and 24 sqns
  • around Würzburg: M. de Poyannes with 18 sqns

At the beginning of May, the Allies began to move their various corps closer: Spörcken cantoned near Blomberg; Granby's British contingent cantoned near Bielefeld; and the rest of the Allied army between Holzminden and Einbeck. Meanwhile, Soubise inspected the quarters of his army.

On May 4, Ferdinand marched towards the Weser while the Hereditary Prince marched from Hildesheim to get closer to the Weser.

On May 5, Soubise returned to Kassel after his inspection.

On May 7, the Hereditary Prince marched from Unna and captured Elberfeld which had just been evacuated by the Dragons Chasseurs de Conflans. He wanted to take hostages to guarantee that the Duchy of Bergh would pay contributions. His troops also entered into Solingen where they took hostages as well. The Prince de Condé immediately sent the garrison of Düsseldorf (4 bns) to Mettmann, sending the grenadiers and chasseurs of Boisgelin Infanterie to cover the retreat of the Dragons Chasseurs de Conflans. Condé also gave orders to all troops located near the left bank of the Rhine to pass the river and to join him. Finally, he sent back the Dragons Chasseurs de Conflans towards Elberfeld. At 11:00 PM, the Hereditary Prince evacuated Elberfeld, closely followed by the Dragons Chasseurs de Conflans.

On May 8, the Hereditary Prince retired in front of the army of the Prince de Condé and repassed the Ruhr. The Prince de Condé returned to his quarters, leaving 4 bns at Mettmann and Hattingen to support the Dragons Chasseurs de Conflans and cover the Duchy of Bergh. The same day, Maréchal d'Estrées arrived in Kassel to assume joint command with the Prince de Soubise. He noted that the 4 regiments of Grenadiers Royaux were still missing 600 men to be at full strength.

On May 11, the Prince de Condé moved the infantry, previously cantoned on the Moselle, closer to the Rhine. Furthermore, 10 bns recently arrived from France were cantoned between the Moselle and the Rhine.

On May 13, the Hereditary Prince arrived at Münster.

From May 15 to 22, Luckner gradually advanced from Einbeck to Harste with an Allied Corps.

On May 15, the Allied corps previously cantoned between Holzminden and Einbeck passed the Weser and encamped between Reilkirchen (unidentified location) and Horn (present-day Horn-Bad Meinberg). Ferdinand of Brunswick established his headquarters at Pyrmont (present-day Bad Pyrmont).

By May 16, the Prince de Condé (61 bns, 40 sqns) was encamped with his right from Rees to the right bank of the Rhine and his left from Wesel to Cologne. The camp of Rees, under M. de Saint-Chamans, consisted of:

Meanwhile, the Volontaires du Dauphiné and the Volontaires Étrangers de Clermont Prince took position on the Issel.

On May 17, all Allied troops started to assemble in their respective cantonments. As the Allies seemed to threaten the Diemel, 6 French bns took position from the villages in front of Kassel to the Fulda, while the Volontaires de Saint-Victor, the Chasseurs de Monet and Chamborant Hussards were charged to reconnoitre the country between the Diemel and Kassel, passing the river and advancing up to Höxter where they made a few prisoners. The French Court still expected the Allies to remain on the defensive for this campaign.

Meanwhile the French right had lost contact with the Reichsarmee who had moved closer to Dresden to replace Austrian troops leaving for Silesia.

On May 18, Duke Ferdinand of Brunswick personally went from Hildesheim to Pyrmont, escorted by a battalion of the Hanoverian Foot Guards. General Luckner, for his part, took position on the Huve. The pontoon train was sent forward from Hanover to the Weser. Meanwhile, the Hereditary Prince marched out of Münster and established his headquarters at Buldern.

On May 19, General Freytag moved on the Diemel with an Allied corps. Meanwhile, the British contingent arrived between Herford and Bielefeld.

On May 20, the Saxon Contingent was assembled between Creutzburg and Wanfried on the left bank of the Werra. The Saxon grenadiers remained at Eisenach and the Volontaires du Hainaut and the Légion Royale covered these new positions. The same day, Soubise and d'Estrées received intelligence that Ferdinand of Brunswick had left Hildesheim to march towards the Weser and that all Allied troops were on the move: the main body assembling between Höxter and Brakel; Luckner (15,000 men) from Einbeck to the Hartz; the Hereditary Prince in Westphalia to face the French Army of the Lower-Rhine. D'Estrées immediately moved some of his regiments of cavalry closer.

Order of Battle
Detailed order of battle of the Allied Army on May 23 1762.

Towards the end of May 1762, Ferdinand, though much delayed by the negligence of the British Ministry in recruiting the British regiments to their right strength, determined to be first in the field.

On May 23 or 24, Luckner and Prince Frederick of Brunswick sent reconnoitring parties (including Riedesel Hussars and Frei Hussars von Bauer) towards Göttingen. These parties chased the French vanguard but Lieutenant-colonel Lahr of the Volontaires d'Austrasie sallied from Göttingen with dragoons and hussars to support the vanguard. Lahr was mortally wounded and his force driven back into Göttingen and the Allied parties captured 80 men and 100 horses before retiring once their reconnaissance completed. The prince then took position at Pyrmont.

On May 25, the Hereditary Prince cantoned near Nottuln and established his headquarters at Buldern near Dülmen with advanced posts at Coesfeld, Dülmen, Borken, Lünen occupied by the Légion Britannique, Ruesch Black Hussars, Malachowski Yellow Hussars, Freikorps Trümbach and Scheither Corps.

On May 26, 10 bns of the French Reserve, recently assigned to the Army of the Upper-Rhine, marched towards Marburg.

On May 27, Ferdinand was between Dörnberg and Hohenkirchen and the Hereditary Prince behind Horneburg.

Order of Battle
Detailed order of battle of the French Reserve on May 29 1762.

By May 29, the Prince de Condé had subdivided his Reserve into three distinct corps 3 reserves:

  • M. de Saint-Chamans assisted by MM. de Travers, de Waldner and Jenner at Rees, Kalkar
  • M. d'Auvet assisted by MM. de Lowenhaupt, d'Anhalt and d'Erlach at Wesel and Orsoy
  • M. de Lévis assisted by M. de Chantilly at Düsseldorf, Mettmann and Ratingen

On May 30, Riedesel Hussars and Hessian Jägers under MM. de Riedesel and Witzingerode, passed the Weser at Lippoldsberg to surprise the castle of Sababurg. Each cavalryman riding with a foot soldier pillion. They escorted a convoy of wagons transporting hay. On their approach, the French commander of the castle, thinking that it was the convoy he was waiting for, sent patrols to meet them. The infantry patrol was captured but the dragoon patrol managed to escape and alert the castle. Immediately, messengers were sent to Kassel with the news that the castle of Sababurg was attacked. After two assaults Riedesel abandoned his project and retired. The Volontaires de Saint-Victor and the Chasseurs de Monet who had been sent to the relief of Sababurg arrived after the retreat of the Allies.

On June 2, the Hereditary Prince returned to Nottuln where he encamped.

In the night of June 3 to 4, an Allied detachment (about 1,300 men) under Freytag passed the Diemel between Warburg and Liebenau.

From June 3 to 5, the 10 bns detached from the French Reserve made a junction with the Army of the Upper-Rhine at Marburg. Meanwhile, the other corps of this army assembled in cantonments between the Werra and the Fulda and on the Schwalm near Borken. All French manoeuvres aimed at the preservation of the magazines of Kassel who were vital to future operations.

On the morning of June 4, Freytag reached the heights of Grebenstein. The Volontaires de Saint-Victor and the Chasseurs de Monet, supported by the Volontaires Royaux de Nassau and the Volontaires de Soubise, drove Freytag from the height of Gerbenstein, following him beyond the heights of Liebenau. The French then linked the Castle of Arnstein with the neighbouring woods by a chain of entrenchments. The same day, the infantry of the British Contingent left its cantonments in Bielefeld and joined Spörcken's Corps at Blomberg. The Allied cavalry had not yet taken the field. Meanwhile, Kielmansegg's Corps was encamped near Brakel.

Continuation

The other phases of the campaign are described in the following articles:

  • Allied reconquest of Hesse (June 6 to July 15, 1762) describing the Allied approach on Kassel, the battle of Wilhelmsthal and the progressive retreat of the French Army of the Upper Rhine out of Hesse.
  • French manoeuvres to make a junction of their two armies (July 16 to August 31, 1762) describing the manoeuvres of the Army of the Upper Rhine and those of the Reserve arriving from the Lower Rhine till their junction after the combat of Nauheim.
  • French attempts to relieve Kassel (September 1 to November 2, 1762) describing the French manoeuvres to turn Allied lines and relieve Kassel, including the combat of Amöneburg.
  • French evacuation of Germany (November 3 to December 31, 1762) describing events during the peace negotiations in Fontainebleau.

References

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

  • Fortescue, J. W.; A History of the British Army Vol. II, MacMillan, London, 1899, pp. 547-557
  • 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. 243-246
  • Jomini, Henri; Traité des grandes opérations militaires, 2ème édition, 4ème partie, Magimel, Paris: 1811, pp. 160-187
  • Pajol, Charles P. V., Les Guerres sous Louis XV, vol. V, Paris, 1891, pp. 306-466