1762 - Siege of Schweidnitz – Second phase of mining operations

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The siege lasted from August to October 1762

Introduction

The state of the fortrees and the arrival of the Prussian army and its initial deployment are described in our article 1762 - Siege of Schweidnitz – Preparations.

The initial siege operations and the battle of Reichenbach are described in our article 1762 - Siege of Schweidnitz – Siege till the Battle of Reichenbach.

The continuation of the siege after the Prussian victory at Reichenbach, the Prussian unsuccessful attempts to storm the place and the decision to rely on mining operations to conquer the fortress are described in our article 1762 - Siege of Schweidnitz – Siege till mining operations.

The initial mining operations till the direct intervention of Frederick II are described in our article 1762 - Siege of Schweidnitz – First phase of mining operations.

Map

Plate V - Map of the fortress of Schweidnitz in 1762.
Source: Tielke, J.G.: Beytrage zur Kriegs-Kunst und Heschichte des Krieges von 1756 bis 1763, Vol. 4, Freyberg, 1781

Description of Events

Frederick's personal Intervention

Advance on Jauernick Fort - Source: Tielke – Copyright: MZK Brno

On September 23, the new Battery No. 20 opened against the Austrian defensive works. While repairing and extending their rightmost gallery, Prussian miners reached a partly destroyed Austrian tunnel. They immediately started to clear out this tunnel to attract the attention of the defenders. Meanwhile, Prussian artillery kept such a lively fire that it became quite difficult for the Austrians to maintain their positions in Enveloppe No. II and IX. The same day, Frederick II moved his headquarters from Peterswaldau to Bögendorf. In the afternoon, he studied the fortifications before issuing his orders to Dieskau, Lefebvre and Beauvrye. The Prussian covering force (9 bns) was placed under command of Major-general von Thadden while 270 men were assigned to artillery work and 130 men to engineering work.

In the night of September 23 to 24, the Prussian rightmost gallery was extended by 4 m. while the artillery maintained a lively fire. During this night, the Prussians lost 4 men killed; 2 officers, and 15 men wounded.

On September 24, Frederick inspected the first parallel and examined all works previously done, particularly the emplacements of the batteries. He then intructed Ingenieur-lieutenant Kleist to extend the left wing of the second parallel by 300 paces and to establish two new batteries: Battery No. 21 with 2 6-pdrs and 2 howitzers to the left of Fort No. II; and Battery No. 22 with 2 mortars taken from Battery No. 19. He also ordered to seize work on the new gallery who had by then reached a length of 6.3 m., and to dig a 1.25 m. long bend where a huge charge would be placed. Prussian Battery No. 20 opened against the Austrian defences. The Prussian covering force (9 bns) was placed under command of Major-general von Gablenz while 350 men were assigned to artillery work and 350 men to engineering work.

In the night of September 24 to 25 at 10:00 p.m., the Prussians exploded their mine, killing 2 Austian miners and workers. King Frederick assisted to the explosion which opened a crater some 3 m. from the palisade of the covered way. Frederick was furious and ordered every general to take his place in the third parallel, at the head of his covering-party, the most exposed place of all, and to stay 24 hours there. The weather was becoming wet, whole weeks of rain ensued. During this night, the Prussians lost 1 NCO and 6 privates killed; 3 officers, 2 NCO, 5 gunners and 1 jäger wounded. Difficulties were now greater since the gallery was very near of the intricate network of counter mines. The possibility of meeting a counter mine was almost a certainty.

On September 25, Prussian miners started two new galleries from the third trenches towards the corner of the envelope of Fort No. II. Lefebvre had decided to dig deeper galleries from the bottom of the crater of the mine which had previously exploded on September 16. This new approach allowed to advance the gallery under the counter mine galleries. Meanwhile Batteries No. 20 and 21 inflicted much damage to the Austrian defensive works. The Prussian covering force (9 bns) was placed under command of Major-general Prince von Bernburg while 250 men were assigned to artillery work and 50 men to engineering work.

In the night of September 25 to 26, Austrian artillery kept a lively fire against the Prussian trenches. The Austrian made an opening in the covert way to assault the third trenches, posting 1 sergeant and 15 grenadiers on the spot. However, the endaevour seemed too dangerous and blocked the opening in the covert and cancelled the attack. During this night, the Prussians lost 3 privates and 1 gunner killed; 2 officers, 1 NCO and 12 privates wounded.

On September 26, the two Prussian gallery respectively progressed by 2.2 m. and 2.5 m. Guasco sent a messenger to Tauentzien to ask why he was not allowed to send a messenger to Daun. Tauentzien answered that he did not want to allow such contact, that there would not be any negotiations and that the Austrian garrison should surrender. An intense artillery duel lasted the entire day. From this day, the covering force (9 bns) arrived at 2:00 p.m. On this day, it was placed under command of Major-general von Thadden while 250 men were assigned to artillery work and 50 men to engineering work.

In the night of September 26 to 27, the Prussian galleries respectively reached lengths of 4.7 and 3.5 m. Around 9:00 p.m., an Austrian counter-mine destroyed the shortest one. Around midnight, another Austrian counter-mine damaged the the communication trench between the second and third trenches, half burying a few grenadiers. Immediately after, an Austrian detachment of 32 volunteers, under Lieutenant Waldhüter of Erzherzog Ferdinand Infantry supported by 4 grenadier companies (Platz, Königsegg, Starhemberg and Arberg), launched a successful assault on the third and second trenches through an opening in the covert way, making themselves master of them. Ignoring the strength of the attacking forces, the Prussians postponed their counter-attack to the following morning. This left enough time to the Austrians to make much damage to the third trenches and to the galleries. During this night, the Prussians lost 21 privates and 2 miners killed; 5 officers, 7 NCO and 95 men and 7 gunners wounded. The Austrians, 1 engineer and 22 men killed; and 2 engineers, Lieutenant Waldhüter (promoted captain for his conduct) and 51 men wounded.

On September 27, there were still 200 Austrians occupying the third and second trenches. The Prussians gradually forced them out of the second and third trenches. The Prussian covering force (10 bns) was placed under command of Major-general von Gablenz while 250 men were assigned to artillery work and 130 men to engineering work.

In the night of September 27 to 28, the Prussians extended the crochet of the left trench by at least 50 paces which was occupied by a platoon to protect the mine work. During this night, the Prussians lost 8 privates killed; 7 NCO and 48 privates, 2 gunners and 1 jäger wounded.

On September 28 in the morning, the Prussian artillery fired intensively from the right and left of their first and second parallel. Prussian Ingenieur-captain Guion was killed in action. The Prussian covering force (10 bns) was placed under command of Major-general Prince von Bernburg while 340 men were assigned to artillery work and 80 men to engineering work.

In the night of September 28 to 29, the Prussians improved their communication trenches and added four 24-pdrs to Battery No. 22 to play against the envelope of Fort No. II. Meanwhile Battery No. 20 bombarded work No. IV. During this night, the Prussians lost 12 privates killed; 3 officers, 47 men and 2 gunners wounded.

On September 29, Prussian miners extended their gallery to a length of 4.4 m. The Prussians also reinforce the lodgement near the Jauernicker Flèche. The Prussian covering force (10 bns) was placed under command of Major-general von Thadden while 230 men were assigned to artillery work and 70 men to engineering work.

In the night of September 29 to 30, a bomb fell on the communication trench leading to the first trench but it was quickly repaired. Meanwhile, the Austrians established a second palisade to replace the almost entirely destroyed breastwork defending the place of arms near the Jauernicker Flèche. During this night, the Prussians lost 6 privates and 2 gunners killed; 1 NCO, 19 men, 1 bombardier and 3 gunners wounded.

On September 30, the Prussian gallery reached a length of 7.2 m. Other Prussian workers improved the lodgement at the foot of the glacis of Fort No. II. The Prussian artillery kept a lively fire which their opponents were in no condition to return anymore. Meanwhile, the Austrians completed the communication between the town and Fort No. IV. The Prussian covering force (10 bns) was placed under command of Major-general von Gablenz while 250 men were assigned to artillery work and 70 men to engineering work.

During the night of September 30 to October 1, the Prussians lost 7 men and 1 gunner killed; 2 officers, 2 NCO, 16 men, 1 jäger, 1 bombardier and 2 gunners wounded.

On October 1, the Prussian gallery reached a length of 11 m. The Austrian artillery managed to keep a lively fire. The Prussian covering force (10 bns) was placed under command of Major-general Prince von Bernburg while 230 men were assigned to artillery work and 70 men to engineering work.

In the night of October 1 to 2, the Prussian gallery reached a length of 11.6 m. The new Prussian batteries made the passage in the new communication trench between No. XIV and the envelope of Fort No. II very dangerous. During this night, the Prussians lost 1 NCO, 4 privates and 1 gunner killed; 2 officers, 1 NCO, 13 privates, 1 bombardier and 6 gunners wounded.

On October 2, the Prussians planted one 3-pdr in the crochet of the outer zizzag near the left wing of the third parallel to prevent any attack against this thrench. Their gallery had now reached a length of 14.1 m. Austrian artillery began to lack ammunition and the breastwork of the envelope and covert way almost destroyed. The Prussian covering force (10 bns) was placed under command of Major-general von Thadden while 270 men were assigned to artillery work and 70 men to engineering work.

In the night of October 2 to 3, Frederick ordered to establish a new battery (No. 23) equipped with 3 mortars to the right of the Jauernicker Flèche. During this night, the Prussians lost 1 officer, 1 NCO, and 2 privates killed; 1 NCO, 20 privates and 5 gunners wounded.

On October 3, the Prussian gallery reached a length of 18.8 m. The Prussian covering force (10 bns) was placed under command of Major-general von Gablenz while 230 men were assigned to artillery work and 70 men to engineering work.

In the night of October 3 to 4, the Prussians lost 4 privates killed; 22 privates, 1 bombardier and 1 gunner wounded.

On October 4, the Prussian gallery reached a length of 20.3 m. Around 6:00 p.m., the Austrian exploded a counter-mine which did not cause damage to the gallery. The Prussian covering force (10 bns) was placed under command of Major-general Prince von Bernburg while 230 men were assigned to artillery work and 70 men to engineering work.

In the night of October 4 to 5, the Prussians lost 2 privates killed; 2 NCO, 9 privates and 4 gunners wounded.

On October 5, the Prussians continued to work on their lodgement at the foot of the glacis. The Prussian covering force (10 bns) was placed under command of Major-general von Thadden while 220 men were assigned to artillery work and 70 men to engineering work.

In the night of October 5 to 6, the Prussians lost 3 men killed; 12 privates, 1 bombardier and 1 gunner wounded.

On October 6, the very deep Prussian gallery reached a length of 27.3 m. Continuous rain filled trenches with water, making work very difficult. The Prussian covering force (10 bns) was placed under command of Major-general von Gablenz while 220 men were assigned to artillery work and 50 men to engineering work.

In the night of October 6 to 7, the Prussians lots 4 privates killed and 15 privates wounded.

On October 7, 200 Prussian volunteers coming from Schönbrunn and Tunkendorf, with 2 captains and 6 or 10 NCO occupied the new trenches. At 3:00 p.m., the Austrian exploded a counter-mine which did not cause any damage to the very deep Prussian gallery. Rain continued pouring with any sign that it would slacken. The Prussian covering force (10 bns) was placed under command of Major-general Prince von Bernburg while 210 men were assigned to artillery work and 50 men to engineering work.

In the night of October 7 to 8 around midnight, the Austrians exploded another counter-mine which did not cause any serious damage. During this night, the Prussians lost 4 men and 1 gunner killed; 17 men and 2 gunners wounded.

On October 8 at 1:00 p.m., a lucky howitzer shot hit the powder magazine of the Jauernick Fort. The magazine exploded killing about 200 Austrian grenadiers from Moltke Infantry and Sachsen-Gotha Infantry and opening a wide breach which, according to eyewitnesses, was "large enough to allow a battalion deployed in line." The Prussian gallery reached a length of 30 m. At 2:00 p.m., the Austrians exploded another counter-mine which failed to cause any damage to this gallery who finally reached the ditch. Artillery on both sides was nit very active due to the unceasing rain. The Prussian covering force (10 bns) was placed under command of Major-general von Thadden while 200 men were assigned to artillery work and 80 men to engineering work while 170 men were assigned to transport black powder (some 2,300 kg) in the chamber at the end of the gallery.

In the night of October 8 to 9 around midnight, the latest Prussian mine was exploded. Immediately after the explosion, the Prussians launched an attack against the corner of the envelope in an attempt to reach the covert way. An Austrain grenadier company under Captain d'Aublur repulsed the attacks. They were soon reinforced while Major Czeckerini moved part of his force from the Garten Fort to the Jauernicker Fort and Ingenieur-colonel von Steinmetz immediately began to install a new palisade. During this night, the Prussians lost 1 officer, 2 NCO and 22 men killed; 9 officers, 4 NCO, 68 privates and 1 gunner wounded.

On October 9 at daybreak, the Prussian engineers finally contemplated the scene that they had dreamed of since the beginning of the siege. A deep crater had appeared exactly in the centre of the ditch, the adjacent covered way had been demolished and earth and rubble projected by the explosion had filled the ditch, creating an access ramp to the curtain walls of the bastion. The greandiers of Arberg Infantry were replaced by those of Los Rios Infantry and Starhemberg Infantry in the advanced positions. Guasco then sent an officer to General Tauentzien to offer to capitulate. The same day, after a siege of 63 days, the fortress surrendered and its garrison (218 officers, 8,784 men) along with its commander became prisoners of war. The Prussian covering force (10 bns) was placed under command of Major-general von Gablenz.

On October 10 at daybreak, the II./Prinz Heinrich von Preußen Fusiliers occupied the Jauernicker Fort, the Striegauer Flèche and the barrier. Major Holzendorf of the Prussian artillery took possession of the arsenal. And of the Austrian artillery pieces (171 guns, 2 howitzers, 46 mortars and 134 hand-mortars. The Prussian covering force (5 bns) was placed under command of Major-general Prince von Bernburg.

On October 11 at 7:00 a.m., Lieutenant-general Tauentzien at the head of the Grenadier Battalion 29/31 Falkenhayn, Grenadier Battalion 35/36 Schwartz, I./Bülow, I./Rebentisch, I./Itzenplitz and Knobloch occupied the fortress. At 8:00 a.m., Major-general Prince von Bernburg occupied the Köppen Barrier with 2 bns of Prinz Ferdinand Infantry and 3 bns of Anhalt-Bernburg Infantry.

References

The article is mainly a condensed translation of:

  • Tielke, J.G.: Beytrage zur Kriegs-Kunst und Heschichte des Krieges von 1756 bis 1763, Vol. 4, Freyberg, 1781, pp. 151-359

A few paragraphs are excerpts from the following books which are 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. 215-224
  • Pajol, Charles P. V.: Les Guerres sous Louis XV, vol. V, Paris, 1891, pp. 301-304

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, Siegfried, Geschichte der Grenadiere Friedrichs des Grossen, München 1981

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

Jany, K., Geschichte des Koniglische Preussische Armee, t. 2, Berlin 18??

Plan der Festung Schweidnitz nebst der Kayserl. Konigl. Attaque A(nn)o 1757 - Collection of Krzysztof Czarnecki

Tempelhoff, G. F., Geschichte des Siebenjahrige Krieges in Deutschland, t. VI, Berlin 1801, pp. 140-155

Acknowledgments

Carlo Bessolo for the initial version of this article