1762 - Prussian campaign in Silesia

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The campaign lasted from July to October 1762

Description

Prelude to the Campaign

At the end of the campaign of 1761, Frederick II was in an even more critical situation than the previous year. The capture of Colberg (present-day Kołobrzeg) by the Russians had established them at the hearth of Prussian territories. It also allowed the Russians to open the campaign much earlier than usual. Furthermore, the capture of Schweidnitz (present-day Swidnica) and the occupation of Upper Silesia by Loudon; the occupation of Saxony by Daun and the Reichsarmee; and the occupation of Pomerania by the Russians had left Prussia with very limited recruitment capacities. Austria was so sure of the result of the campaign of 1762 that it had already disbanded 20,000 men of its best light troops and 500 officers. Furthermore, Great Britain had decided to retain the annual subsidies that it used to give to Prussia.

During the winter of 1761-62, Loudon had taken his winter quarters to the south-west of Schweidnitz.

On January 2, Beck's Corps marched by Görlitz towards Bautzen.

On January 6, 1762, Elizabeth Petrovna, Empress of Russia, died at the age of 51. She had previously designated Charles-Pierre-Ulrich of Holstein-Gottorp to succeed her under the name of Peter III.

On January 8, Beck's Corps arrived at Bautzen in Upper Lusatia.

On January 20, FML Beck got ill and was replaced by Major-General Baron Zigan at the head of his corps.

On February 23, the new Russian tsar acceeded to the throne and announced to the belligerents his intention to conclude peace with Prussia even if that signified the abandon of the recent Russian conquests. He also sent orders to Tchernichev, who was wintering with his 20,000 men in Glatz (present-day Kłodzko), to march towards Poland with the Russian field army previously assisting the Austrians in Silesia.

On March 14, Zigan's Corps left its winter-quarters in the region of Bautzen.

On March 16, the Prussians concluded an armistice with the Russians at Stargard (present-day Starogard Gdanski).

On March 24, the Russian corps of Tchernichev, encamped at Glatz in Silesia, abandoned its Austrian allies. Tchernichev passed the Oder at Leubus (present-day Lubiąż) to make a junction with the Russian main army on the Vistule and march towards Poland.

On April 7, the Prussians and Russians reached an agreement at Ribnitz by which they suspended hostilities. The same day, Loudon returned to his headquarters at Waldenburg (present-day Wałbrzych) but was not to command in chief that year. Daun was to command in Silesia; Loudon, under him. Daun led an army of 80,000 men.

In mid-April, FML Baron Beck returned to assume command of his corps.

On May 5, a peace treaty between Prussia and Russia was signed at St. Petersburg. By this treaty, Peter III gave up East Prussia and all Russian conquests made during the war. With Russia and Sweden now out of the war, Austria had to revise its plans.

On May 9, Daun arrived at Waldenburg near Schweidnitz to take command of the Great Army of Silesia (106 bns, 149 sqns). Serbelloni commanded the Austrian army operating in Saxony in conjunction with the Reichsarmee. The Austrians decided to stay on the defensive in order to keep the territories gained in the previous campaigns.

On May 11, Beck's Corps was transferred from Lusatia to Upper Silesia.

In May and June, the Prussians contented themselves to reinforce their posts and remained cantoned around Strehlen (present-day Strzelin) on both banks of the Loh (present-day Oława River), a chain of posts 16 km long with the Schweidnitzwasser on his right flank and the Oder on his left. Frederick planned to begin his operations by the siege of Schweidnitz. However, to do so, he had to force Daun to abandon his current positions. Accordingly, Frederick instructed General Werner to assemble a strong corps at Cosel (present-day Kędzierzyn-Koźle) to threaten Moravia.

On May 13, Werner's corps marched to Ratibor (present-day Raciborz), hoping to draw Daun from his positions. However, the latter just detached 9,000 men to reinforce Beck's Corps already covering Moravia.

On May 15, the Great Army of Silesia debouched in 6 columns from the defiles and encamped crescent-wise to the north-east of the fortress in the plain of Kratzkau (present-day Krasków), between the Zobtenberg (present-day Mount Ślęża), where Daun established his headquarters, and the Scheidnitzwasser: its right at Kaltenbrunn (present-day Mysłaków), its left at Stephanshain (present-day Szczepanów). General Brentano guarded the foot of the Zobtenberg with 8 bns and 4 cavalry rgts; the grenadier corps encamped between Qualkau (present-day Chwałków) and Kratzkau to cover the headquarters; the carabiniers occupied the heights of Domanze (present-day Domanice); 2 brigades guarded the heights of Klotschen (probably Kiełczyn), the Geyersberg and the defiles of Langseifersdorf (present-day Jaźwina). This way Daun protected Schweidnitz. Furthermore, Drašković's cavalry was posted at Wartha (present-day Bardo Śląskie) to cover the entrance in the County of Glatz. Beck's corps covered Upper Silesia and Moravia.

On May 20, Frederick was informed of the conclusion of an alliance between Prussia and Russia. This implied that Tchernichev's Army would join the Prussian army as auxiliaries. Frederick decided to wait for the arrival of this corps in Silesia before taking any initiative against Daun.

On May 21, Prince Frederick-Wilhelm, Frederick's nephew, arrived with reinforcements from Pomerania and made a junction with Frederick's main army at Bettlern near Breslau.

On May 22, the Treaty of Hamburg was signed between Prussia and Sweden, ending the war in Pomerania.

All these events allowed Frederick to finance the incoming campaign with the resources of the recovered territories of East Prussia and Pomerania. He replenished the ranks of his regiments with an additional 60,000 men and redirected the corps previously defending Pomerania and the Mark to Saxony and Silesia. He thus had 70,000 men for himself to recover Schweidnitz and reconquer Silesia.

For the campaign of 1762, Frederick II planned to recapture the important Fortress of Schweidnitz which was essential to the control of Silesia. The possession of Schweidnitz would be an essential asset for the potential peace negotiations which would soon open.

On June 1, Prince Eugene of Württemberg appeared at Frankfurt-an-der-Oder at the head of about 11,000 Prussians.

On June 2, Tchernichev with his 20,000 men was ordered to stop short at Thorn (present-day Toruń), to turn back, and join himself to the Prussians who were waiting for their arrival to initiate an offensive in Silesia. At that time, the Fortress of Schweidnitz had a picked garrison of 12,000 Austrians.

On June 5 and 6, Frederick advanced 50 sqns and some artillery against Daun's left wing, driving back his outposts.

On June 24, the Duke of Bevern arrived with reinforcements at Werner's camp at Eichlau (unidentified location) and assumed command of this corps (now totaling 21 bns and 36 sqns).

On June 25, Tchernichev's Cossacks crossed the Oder at Auras (present-day Uraz).

On June 27, Frederick's headquarters were at Tinz (present-day Tyniec nad Ślęzą), closer to Breslau (present-day Wrocław).

On June 29, Tchernichev arrived at Kanth (present-day Katy Wroclawskie).

On June 30, Tchernichev army encamped at Lissa (present-day Wrocław-Leśnica).

Frederick tries to isolate Schweidnitz

On July 1, the Russian corps (23 bns, 16 sqns) under Tchernichev made a junction with Frederick's army, bringing their combined forces (excluding Bevern's Corps) to 82 bns and 135 sqns with 316 pieces. Frederick reviewed the army of his new Russian ally at Lissa.

In the night of July 1 to 2, Frederick detached General Neuwied with 25 bns and 26 sqns to cut Daun from the defiles by turning the Austrian positions. If successful, this operation would force Daun to give battle. Neuwied initially marched to Kostenblut (present-day Kostomłoty) with the intention of marching by Weicherau (present-day Wichrów) and Barzdorf (present-day Bartoszówek) the following night, passing between Humelwalde (unidentified location) and Striegau (present-day Strzegom) and seizing the heights of Ziskenberg behind Freiburg (present-day Świebodzice). Meanwhile, Frederick's army had encamped in the greatest silence on the heights of Sachwitz (probably Zachowice). However, Daun, informed by a deserter of Neuwied's manoeuvre, retired to the defiles where he encamped: his right at Oberbogendorf (present-day Witoszów Górny), his left at Polsnitz (present-day Pelcznica) and his centre behind Freiburg. While Frederick was manoeuvring against Daun, he also sent the Duke of Bevern to turn the right flank of Beck's Corps and to threaten Moravia by the road to Troppau (present-day Opava). Bevern subdivided his corps into two divisions: a first division of 10 bns and 15 sqns under General Werner; a second of 11 bns and 21 sqns under his personal command. Werner's Division was always one march ahead of Bevern's.

In the morning of July 2, Frederick was informed of Daun's manoeuvres and immediately sent his light troops to pursue the retiring Austrians. In the evening, Frederick marched with his vanguard to the heights of Würben (present-day Pszenno) near Schweidnitz. The same day, Neuwied's Corps reached Striegau and Werner's Division reached Grätz (present-day Hradec nad Moravicí) while Bevern's Division encamped at Troppau. The same day, Beck's Corps was at Freudenthal (present-day Bruntál).

In the morning of July 3, Frederick's army joined him at Würben, taking its old camp at Bunzelwitz (present-day Bolesławice). Frederick knew that Daun's camp was unassailable frontally but he also knew that he could turn his left by Hohenfriedeberg (present-day Dobromierz), thus threatening Braunau (present-day Broumov) where the Austrians had large magazines. However, Daun read Frederick's plan and moved Brentano's Corps from Burkersdorf (present-day Burkatow) to Adelsbach (present-day Struga) where it took position on heights covering the road from Friedland to Braunau.

In the night of July 3 to 4, Neuwied's Corps along with a corps (22 bns, 33 sqns) under the command of Tchernichev left the Prussian camp.

On July 4, Frederick was sick and the manoeuvres against Daun were interrupted. Daun elaborately posted and entrenched himself behind the mountains with Schweidnitz still well in sight and Braunau and the roads to it well capable of being guarded. Daun's headquarters were at Tannhausen (unidentified location), Burkersdorf and Ludwigsdorf (present-day Bojanice). Daun sat there waiting events.

In the night of July 5 to 6, Neuwied's corps marched towards Hohenfriedeberg. When he saw that the position had been abandoned, Neuwied continued his advance towards Reichenau (probably Bogaczów) where he came to contact with Brentano's first outposts, driving them back. At midnight, Frederick marched from the camp of Bunzelwitz with Tchenichev's Corps. When he heard a cannonade in the general direction of Neuwied's Corps, Frederick hastened to join him with his cavalry. On his arrival, he ordered to dislodge the Austrians from the heights between Reichenau and Adelsbach.

On July 6, during the ensuing Combat of Adelsbach, the Austrians repulsed the Prussian attack and held to their positions. The failure of the Prussian attack delayed Neuwied's advance for one day, giving enough time to Daun to support his magazines at Braunau. Nevertheless, Frederick resolved to continue his attempt against Brentano's flanks to reach Friedland. Accordingly, Neuwied's Corps resumed its advance, reaching Wittgendorf (present-day Witków). When he heard of Neuwied's march, Daun immediately redirected Brentano's Corps on Friedland while his own army reversed its front. Daun then repassed the ravine of Weistritz (present-day Bystrzyca Dolna) and encamped with his right at Breitenhain (present-day Lubachów), his left on the heights of Charlottenbrunn (present-day Jedlina-Zdrój). A corps under the command of O'Kelly was posted on the heights of Burkersdorf, an excellent position linking his right with Schweidnitz while covering Braunau.

On July 7, Zieten, who was still at the camp of Bunzelwitz with half of Frederick's Army, was informed of the departure of the Austrian army. He then advanced to occupy the positions recently abandoned by the Austrians, encamping with his right at Fürstenstein (present-day Książ) and his left at Bogendorf (present-day Witoszów). Meanwhile, Frederick marched through Adelsbach and encamped between Altwasser (present-day Stary Zdrój) and Seifersdorf (present-day Pogorzała). As instructed, Neuwied continued his advance towards Friedland and was quite surprised to discover Brentano's corps facing him while he believed this corps was still posted on the heights of Adelsbach. Neuwied called a council of war and, taking advantage of these deliberations, Brentano retired to take position in the old entrenched camp of Dittersbach (present-day Jetřichov u Meziměstí) where he could easily be supported by Daun's Army. Furthermore, Hadik's Corps who had been posted at Wartha made a junction with Brentano. In this new situation, Frederick abandoned the planned attack on Brentano's Corps. The same day, Werner marched to Fulneck (present-day Fulnek). Beck reacted by marching to Bärn (present-day Moravský Beroun), spreading the news of the imminent arrival of Loudon with a corps of 50,000 men.

Frederick then changed his plan and decided to launch Neuwied's Corps in a diversionary incursion towards Braunau in Bohemia, hoping to draw Daun out of his strong positions. Neuwied's Corps marched to the heights of Trautenbach (unidentified location), pushing back Austrian partisans on Königgrätz (present-day Hradec Králové). Neuwied could not seize Braunau but he managed to push past it deeper into Bohemia. But this did not entice Daun to move, he just threw some troops into the forest of Königsilva (unidentified location) and sent Brentano to Politz (present-day Police nad Metují) and Ellrichshausen to Steingrund (unidentified location) but remained in his positions with the main army. Nevertheless, Daun transferred his magazines from Braunau to Scharfeneck (unidentified location) in Glatz County. Neuwied's light troops went scouring almost as far as Prague, especially 500 Cossacks that were with him.

Frederick realised that, with these manoeuvres, Daun had weakened his right on the heights of Hohgiersdorf (present-day Modliszów) and Burkersdorf. He then resolved to make himself master of these heights to cut the Austrian army from Schweidnitz. It was a delicate operation since it implied to take position between a fortress and an army larger than his own.

On July 9, Werner marched to Misteck (present-day Frýdek-Místek) from where he detached parties who raised important contributions. The same day, Catherine II conducted a coup d'état in Russia, dethroning Peter III.

By July 12, Werner, fearing Loudon's arrival, had retired to Matzinnau (unidentified location). The same day, Beck marched to Bautsch (present-day Budišov nad Budišovkou) and Schwansdorf (present-day Svatoňovice), threatening to take a position between the two Prussian divisions and thus isolate Werner's Division. Werner was immediately ordered to return to Grätz. Beck then returned to Güntersdorf (present-day Huntířov u Dvoravé).

On July 13, Zieten marched in 2 columns: the first encamped between Hohgiersdorf and the wood of Ameisenwalde (unidentified location); the second between Hohgiersdorf and the road leading to Schweidnitz.

On July 15, Neuwied retired on Rosenau (unidentified location).

On July 16, the Prussian army remained in its positions. Frederick sent a column to Kunzendorf (present-day Mokrzeszów) and Neuwied's Corps to Gablau (probably Jabłów) and Altreichenau (present-day Stare Bogaczowice) while doing demonstrations to keep Daun busy.

On July 17, Neuwied's Corps marched by Hohenfriedeberg to Buntzelwitz. Frederick was on the verge of launching an attack on Daun's position when Tchernichev informed him of the fall of Peter III. The Russian contingent was ordered by the new Empress Catherine II to return to Poland with the Russian contingent. After negotiation, Frederick obtained from Tchernichev that his corps would remain in its current position for three more days, thus fixing Daun's Army, while respecting strict neutrality. Tchernichev, besides supplying 500 cossacks to Wied, had not taken active part in the operations in Silesia. Frederick then took advantage of this delay to prepare an attack of the heights of Leutmannsdorf (present-day Lutomia) and Burkersdorf overlooking Daun's positions. Frederick also recalled Neuwied.

On July 18, Neuwied was back in Kunzendorf Country. Frederick then turned his attention to Daun's right flank and decided to storm the Burkersdorf Heights.

On the morning of July 19, Frederick moved his headquarters to Bogendorf. At nightfall, Neuwied marched at the head of Mollendorf's Brigade.

Battle of Burkersdorf

By the morning of July 20, all Prussian units had reached their assigned positions. They passed the Weistritz over trestle bridges and encamped with their right towards Bogendorf and their left at Esdorf (present-day Opoczka), facing Schweidnitz. Frederick then reconnoitred the Austrian positions. The heights of Leutmannsdorf and Burkersdorf were very steep with dense woods and several ravines. Their approach was very difficult. Furthermore, they were covered with strong redoubts erected on both banks of the ravine formed by the Weistritz and with palisades and huge abatis. General O'Kelly occupied the position of Burkersdorf with 9 bns while 4 other bns occupied the height of Leutmannsdorf. At noon, Daun despatched Brentano's Corps to reinforce these heights as well as those of Michelsdorf (present-day Michałkowa) and Ludwigsdorf. On the approach of Prussian troops, Austrian outposts retired on their lines, to the exception of the outposts guarding the Castle of Burkersdorf. A Prussian force stormed this outpost.

On the night of July 20 to 21, a great Prussian battery of 45 howitzers and 12 x 12-pdr guns was established near the Castle of Burkersdorf.

On July 21, the Prussians won the Battle of Burkersdorf and occupied the heights commanding the right flank of Daun's position. At 10:00 p.m., Daun evacuated his camp and retired at Giersdorf (present-day Gluszyca) behind Tannhausen (present-day Jedlinka) on the Bohemian border. He left a force of 12,000 men under General Count Guasco to defend Schweidnitz. This garrison had no more communication with Daun's Great Army and Frederick was now free to begin the siege of the fortress.

Early in the morning of July 22, Tchernichev marched away towards Poland with his 20,000 Russians.

Siege of Schweidnitz

Frederick instantly proceeded upon Schweidnitz. The necessary siege materials was ordered from Neisse. The Prussian army was posted between Daun and the fortress in a fine large crescent-shape, to south-west of Schweidnitz some 16 km. Frederick's headquarters were at Dittmannsdorf (present-day Dziećmorowice). Frederick also ordered home to him his Upper-Silesia Detachments. He blockaded Schweidnitz and named Tauentzien as siege-captain to take command of 10 to 12,000 men to undertake the siege of Schweidnitz.

On July 25, Bevern's Corps marched to Cosel, closer to Frederick's main army.

On July 28, Werner's Division took position towards Neisse (present-day Nysa). Beck then returned to Zuckmantel (present-day Zlaté Hory).

On August 2, Tauentzien arrived from Breslau and assumed direction of the siege of Schweidnitz.

By August 5, the last communications of the Austrian army with Schweidnitz were cut.

On August 7, the first parallel opened at Schweidnitz.

On August 15, FM Daun received orders to try to relieve Schweidnitz. He advanced with his army in three columns to the south of Reichenbach (present-day Dzierzoniów/PL). He then ordered Lacy to break the siege by turning the Prussian position.

On August 16, Lacy's attempt was repulsed at the Battle of Reichenbach. In the evening, Daun gave orders to retire to his former positions near Habendorf (present-day Owiesno/PL).

On August 18, Daun marched to Wartha, at 12 km from Frankenstein (present-day Ząbkowice Śląskie), retiring towards Glatz.

On August 19, Daun marched to Mittelsteine (unidentified location).

On August 20, Daun marched to Shulzenberg (unidentified location), between Silberberg (present-day Srebrna Gora) and Braunau. For seven weeks Daun sat idle there, without the least farther attempt at relief of Schweidnitz. Nevertheless, Guasco, the Austrian commander of the place, resisted till October.

On August 23, Frederick moved his headquarters from Peterswaldau to Bogendorf (present-day Witoszów) to speed up the capture of Schweidnitz.

On October 9, Schweidnitz finally surrendered.

Daun had, for some time past, 12,000 labourers palisading and fortifying at the Passes of Bohemia. He proposed a truce for the winter but Frederick refused unless Daun retired wholly within Bohemia and Glatz Country.

Theater of Operation moves to Saxony

On October 15, Frederick detached General Neuwied with 20 bns, 55 sqns and 60 pieces to reinforce Prince Henri in Saxony and to allow him to occupy the excellent province of Voigtland. Meanwhile, the rest of Frederick's army cantoned in Schweidnitz and the surrounding hills.

After three weeks, realizing that in Silesia he should not expect any danger coming from Daun, Frederick made for Saxony. He left Bevern in command in Silesia. He now planned to recapture Dresden before winter. Daun, also with reinforcements, followed him to Saxony.

On November 24, a convention was signed and the Prussian and Austrian armies took their winter-quarters.

References

This article contains texts from the following book which is now in the public domain:

  • Carlyle T., History of Friedrich II of Prussia vol. 20
  • Jomini, Henri; Traité des grandes opérations militaires, 2ème édition, 4ème partie, Magimel, Paris: 1811, pp. 200-225
  • Pajol, Charles P. V., Les Guerres sous Louis XV, vol. V, Paris, 1891, pp. 296-306
  • Wengen, F. von: Geschichte des k. k. österreichischen 13. Dragoner-Regimentes Prinz Eugen von Savoyen, Brandeis 1879

Other sources

Archenholz, J. W. von, Geschichte des Siebenjahrigen Krieges in Deutschland, Berlin: 1828

Duffy, Christopher, Fire and Stone: The Science of Fortress Warfare (1660-1860), David & Charles, London: 1975

Fiedler, Geschichte des grenadieres Friedrichs des grossen

Grosser Generalstab, Die Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen, Hiller, Berlin, 1830-1913