1756 - Prussian invasion of Saxony – Winter-quarters
The campaign lasted from August to October 1756
The advance of the Prussian columns into Saxony and the capture of Dresden are described in our article Prussian invasion of Saxony (August 26 to September 9, 1756).
The Prussian manoeuvres to surround and blockade the Saxon entrenched camp of Pirna and the detachment of a Prussian corps towards the border with Western Bohemia to prevent any relief by the Austrians are described in our article Blockade of the Saxon entrenched camp of Pirna (September 10 to September 27, 1756).
Browne first attempt to advance with the Austrian main army to relieve the Saxon army blockaded in Pirna, his second attempt with a picked force, the crossing of the Elbe by the Saxon Army and its surrender at Ebenheit are described in our article Two relief attempts by the Austrian army (September 28 to October 17, 1756).
The Prussian army retires from Western Bohemia
On Monday October 18, Frederick II returned from Pirna to his camp at Lobositz (present-day Lovosice) where Keith was still lying with his victorious army. He met Schwerin there for a conference. Schwerin's force had lived on the Königsgratz Country throughout the season without any reaction from Piccolomini but had now retired to Silesia again to take its winter-quarters with Schwerin's headquarters at Schweidnitz (present-day Swidnica). It was too late in the season to consider an offensive in Bohemia and Frederick had resolved to bring back Keith's Army in the area of Pirna in Saxony to take its winter-quarters. The same day, Browne's relief corps reached Gastorf (present-day Hoštka).
Meanwhile, Prince Moritz von Anhalt-Dessau took very harsh measures against the Saxon units who had refused to swear allegiance, using violence and hunger to persuade them. When this became known, 858 men of Wietersheim Fusiliers deserted while the regiment was still encamped at Struppen.
On Tuesday October 19, Zieten marched with 8 sqns towards Linai. II./Blankensee was ordered to escort the Prussian bakery to Linai. The same day, Browne finally reached the Austrian camp at Budin (present-day Budyně nad Ohří).
On Wednesday October 20, Frederick sent the heavy baggage to Welmina (present-day Velemín) under the escort of the Leibregiment zu Pferde. He then left Struppen with 5 battalions (Grenadier Battalion Bülow, Grenadier Battalion Finck, Grenadier Battalion Kanitz, Grenadier Battalion Lengefeld, Grenadier Battalion Bandemer) to cover Keith's retreat from the region of Lobositz, encamping at Peterswalde (present-day Petrovice) that night. Prince Ferdinand closely followed him at the head of 5 other battalions (Markgraf Carl Infantry, Knobloch Infantry, Grenadier Battalion Schenckendorff). The same day, the Elector of Saxony set out from Königstein for Warsaw while his queen remained in Dresden. Meanwhile, reinforcements (Marschall Infantry, Bethlen Infantry, 1 bn and 2 grenadier coys of Macquire Infantry and Lucchesi Cuirassiers) arrived at the Austrian camp of Budin.
|Order of Battle|
|Detailed order of battle of Frederick's Army on October 21 1756|
By October 21, Keith's Army was still in its camp at Lobositz with outposts in the park of the Castle of Lobositz (30 men in daytime and 100 men at nighttime with one 12-pdr), in Klein-Czernosek (200 men), in Praskowitz (200 men), near Salesl (200 men and one piece), in Aussig (II./Zastrow, III. "Standing" Grenadier Battalion Gemmingen and Grenadier-Battalion Lengefeld), and Tetschen (200 men of Szekely Hussars and one coy of Zastrow Infantry). The same day, Keith was ordered to send off the baggage of his corps and part of his field artillery under the escort of the Leibregiment zu Pferde, Gens d'Armes and Garde du Corps. Meanwhile, Frederick reached Linai and Zieten arrived in Dux (present-day Duchcov) to organize the retreat.
In the night of October 21 to 22, a party of 700 Grenzer light troops crossed the Elbe and attacked from two sides the Prussian outpost of Salesl defended by Major von Syburg with 200 men from Itzenplitz Infantry. The Grenzers launched two attacks, both of which were repulsed and lost 31 men killed or wounded. The Prussians lost 11 men killed and 23 men wounded.
On October 22, Frederick arrived at Lobositz. Shortly after noon, he left at the head of 10 battalions for Linai: Markgraf Carl (2 bns), Knobloch (2 bns), Grenadier Battalion Bülow (1 bn), Grenadier Battalion Finck (1 bn), Grenadier Battalion Lengefeld (1 bn), Grenadier Battalion Kanitz (1 bn), Grenadier Battalion Bandemer (1 bn), Grenadier Battalion Schenckendorff (1 bn) and returned to Linai that night. Meanwhile, Keith sent ahead his cavalry and the rest of his field artillery and Zieten retired from Dux to Postelberg. Lestwitz was dispatched to Zittau to cover the banks of the Elbe along the Bohemian border. The same day, Browne was informed of the preparations of Manstein's retreat from Dux. He immediately sent a detachment (1 bn of Marschall Infantry, 1 bn of Bethlen Infantry, 2 grenadier coys, 200 men Grenzers of the Karlstadt Generalate, 600 cuirassiers and 150 men of Baranyay Hussars) under the command of Major-General Count Althann from Budin to Postelberg (present-day Postoloprty).
On October 23, Keith's Army broke up camp at Lobositz and marched in two columns to Linai, Katte Dragoons forming the rearguard. The right columns consisted of Kleist (2 bns), Münchow Fusiliers (2 bns), Anhalt-Dessau (2 bns), Braunschweig (2 bns) and Grenadier Battalion 3/6 Kleist (1 bn). The left column consisted of Braunschweig-Bevern (2 bns), von Manteuffel (2 bns), Hülsen (2 bns) and von Itzenplitz (2 bns). Keith detached four battalions by the banks of the Elbe to guard the right flank of the army and to pick up detachments previously made along the river. The Prince of Bevern commanded the rearguard consisting of 8 battalions, 5 squadrons of dragoons and 5 squadrons of hussars. Part of the Zieten Hussars was posted on the left of the rear at some distance, protecting the Prussian army against any initiative of the Austrian light troops. Indeed, Browne had sent General Hadik at the head of a detachment of 3,000 men to harass the rear of the Prussian Army. During the march of the Prussian Army, Grenadier Battalion Jung-Billerbeck who was encamped on the neighbouring heights joined the rearguard. The same day, Frederick left Linai with his 10 battalions and moved ahead of Keith's Army as a covering force. When Keith's Army reached Linai, it made its junction with the cavalry (Prinz von Preußen Cuirassiers, Leib-Carabiniers, Rochow Cuirassiers, Driesen Cuirassiers, Baron von Schönaich Cuirassiers, Katte Dragoons, Leibregiment zu Pferde, Markgraf Friedrich von Brandenburg Cuirassiers and Gens d'Armes).
Zieten Hussars remained at Linai from October 23 at night till October 25 to cover the Prussian Army.
On October 24, Grenadier Battalion Schenckendorff was sent ahead to Nollendorf (present-day Nakléřov) to cover the baggage train. Meanwhile, at Dux, Manstein received instructions to start his retreat. He immediately marched from Dux with I./Alt-Braunschweig and Grenadier Battalion Grumbkow. Similarly, Major-General von Zastrow assembled his detachment (Zastrow Infantry, Grenadier-Battalion Lengefeld, III. "Standing" Grenadier Battalion Gemmingen) at Aussig (present-day Ústí nad Labem), in preparation for withdrawal. The same day, the Saxon infantry regiments forcibly incorporated into the Prussian army were sent to their assigned quarters (five out of eleven being located in Saxony) and received their new blue uniforms. Still the same day, Browne sent further reinforcements (1 bn of Marschall Infantry, 1 bn of Bethlen Infantry, 2 grenadier coys, 400 German Horse) to Count Althann.
During the march of the former Saxon regiments to their respective quarters, an additional 486 men of the Wietersheim Fusiliers deserted. Most of these regiments were at half strength when they finally reached their quarters. The proximity of the Bohemian border during their march, combined with their good knowledge of the neighbouring country encouraged desertion. Furthermore, many Saxon officers who had returned to their estates were living in the country along their itinerary and tried to contact their “old comrades” and to persuade them to desert.
On October 25, the Prussian Army marched to Nollendorf. During the march, I./Münchow Fusiliers occupied the village of Luschitz while II./Münchow Fusiliers occupied Schönefeld to secure the flanks of the columns advancing between these two villages. The same day, hoping to stop desertion among the former Saxon regiments, Frederick declared an amnesty for all deserters who would return to their regiments before December 1 (the deadline was postponed twice without much success).
On October 26, the Prussian Army reached Deutsch-Neudörfel (present-day Podhoří). Meanwhile, Zastrow's detachment broke the bridge at Aussig and retired to Nollendorf where it waited for Frederick's main army.
On October 27, Manstein (I./Alt-Braunschweig and Grenadier Battalion Grumbkow) made his junction with Frederick's main army at Schönwald. Some 800 Austrian hussars and 2,000 Grenzers observed the manoeuvres of the Prussian army but did not try to interfere. The same day, the Elector of Saxony arrived in Warsaw.
The Prussian army takes its winter-quarters
On October 28, the Prussian Army finally reached Gross-Sedlitz where it joined the detachment left behind which consisted of Grenadier Battalion Möllendorff (1 bn), Prinz von Preußen (2 bns), von Kalckstein (2 bns), Prinz Moritz von Anhalt (2 bns), Retzow (1 bn), II. and III. Garde Bataillon (2 bns), Winterfeldt (2 bns), Prinz Heinrich von Preußen Fusiliers (2 bns), Prinz Ferdinand von Preußen (2 bns) and von Forcade de Biaix (2 bns). The Prussian army took its cantonment around Pirna: its cavalry in a camp near Zehista. Major-General von Zastrow with a small corps (Zastrow Infantry, Grenadier-Battalion Lengefeld, III. "Standing" Grenadier Battalion Gemmingen, Grenadier Battalion Jung-Billerbeck, Grenadier Battalion Ramin, Feldjäger zu Fuß and 5 sqns of Szekely Hussars) was posted in a line Oelsen-Markersbach-Leupoldshain.
On October 29, Zastrow was attacked at Oelsen and Hellendorf by a strong party of Austrian Grenzers. At the beginning of the afternoon, III. "Standing" Grenadier Battalion Gemmingen had been attacked from all sides at Oelsen and forced to retire to Gottleuba, being soon joined by I./Zastrow and part of Grenadier Battalion Ramin. The Grenzers continued their advance towards Hellendorf where Grenadier Battalion Jung-Billerbeck occupied the heights to the north of the village which was soon reinforced by Grenadier-Battalion Lengefeld arriving from Markersbach and II./Szekely Hussars and 50 Feldjäger zu Fuß. The Grenzers tried to surround the Prussian positions on these heights. Meanwhile, the Prussians managed to retire towards Gottleuba under the protection of their battalion guns. They finally reached Gottleuba with the loss of 3 men killed and 10 wounded. With most Prussian battalions now assembled at Gottleuba, the Grenzers retired to Hellendorf. The same day, Winterfeldt took position between Hirschberg and Landeshut to cover the flank of Frederick's army.
On October 30, Frederick ordered his troops to recapture their lost positions. They managed to do so, with the exception of Oelsen which remained in the hands of the Austrians.
In the Autumn of 1756, 12 Austrian garrison battalions posted at Olmütz and Brünn were prepared to join the Austrian field army. In October, Hungarian units received instructions to raise 5,400 recruits to bring themselves to full strength. Meanwhile Austrian cavalry regiments were ordered to bring their effective strength to 1,000 men; the hussar regiments, to 800 men.
In November, a few days after his arrival in Warsaw, the Elector of Saxony opened negotiations with the Court of Vienna about the use of his 6 remaining cavalry regiments stationed around Krakau (present-day Kraków) in Poland in conjunction with the Austrian army. He soon reached an agreement with Maria Theresa.
From November 8 to 17, Prince Moritz of Anhalt-Dessau made an inspection of the surroundings of the northern slopes of the Erzgebirge from Dresden by Dippoldiswalde, Marienberg, Annaberg, Eibenstock, Plauen, Reichenbach, Zwickau, Chemnitz and Freiberg to locate good positions for winter-quarters.
In mid-November, Frederick personally led his army to winter-quarters, distributing it throughout Saxony: in Zwickau, Freyberg, Chemnitz, Leipzig, Torgau, Zittau, Gorlitz, and Bautzen. He detached Winterfeldt on the Bober River to watch the Austrians.
On November 14, Frederick left Gross-Sedlitz and installed himself at Dresden for the winter. He entered Dresden on November 21 and took his residence at Count Brühl's palace. Some 10,000 Prussian troops were quartered into the city and the neighbouring villages. Frederick took advantage of winter to improve the fortifications of Dresden. Some 6,000 Prussian foot and one regiment of horse were also quartered in Leipzig. Furthermore, some 9,000 men were conscripted in Saxony during winter to bring the former Saxon regiments back to their original strength. Furthermore, to suppress the bad influence that Saxon officers still had on their former troops, Frederick ordered that these officers be assembled in Eisleben, Wittenberg, Guben and Lübben where they would be supplied by the Prussians. Some 500 Saxon officers obeyed these orders.
Frederick then left for Berlin.
On November 15, the 6 remaining Saxon cavalry regiments set off from from Krakau for Hungary. They took their winter-quarters in the Comitates of Neutra (present-day Nitra/SK) and Trentschin (present-day Trenčín/SK).
From November 23 to 25, fearing an attack from the West by a French army during the next campaign, Frederick visited the regions of Leipzig, Weissenfels, Borna and Grimma before returning to Dresden. He then let Prince Moritz of Anhalt-Dessau make a more thorough inspection of this area.
At the end of November, Prince Moritz of Anhalt-Dessau visited the areas of the Mulde, Pleisse and Elster, and inspected the road leading to the Saale by Borna and Altenburg. He also evaluated the condition of the roads between Zwickau, Reichenbach and Plauen. By that time, continuous desertion among the former Saxon regiments had reduced them to only 5,190 men. Most deserters had escaped with their arms and other equipment. By the end of the year, 2,370 muskets, 4,493 sabres and 155 tents were reported as missing in these regiments.
During the winter, Browne sent all his troops into winter-quarters in Bohemia and fixed his headquarters at Prague. He deployed a cordon of outposts between Hohenelbe (present-day Vrchlabí) and Troppau (present-day Opava) under Piccolomini and Marschall and a cordon of Grenzer troops along the Saxon and Lusatian borders.
In Bohemia and Moravia, the Austrians were deployed as follows:
- A force of 1 bn, 1 grenadier coy, 10 sqns and the 2 pulks of Saxon Uhlans under FML Morocz was posted along the frontier, covering a larger force of 4 bns, 4 grenadier coys and 28 sqns (including elite coys) quartered between Prerau (present-day Přerov), Olmütz (present-day Olomouc) and Brünn (present-day Brno) in Moravia.
- Piccolomini's Corps consisted of 14 bns, 14 grenadier coys and 56 sqns quartered on both banks of the Elbe from Leutomischl (present-day Litomyšl), by Königgrätz (present-day Hradec Králové) and Turnau (present-day Turnov) up to Nimburg (present-day Nymburk). It was covered by a force of 11 bns, 11 grenadier coys, 13½ sqns and 600 picked German horse under FML Thürheim deployed along the frontier.
- The Austrian Main Army under Field-Marshal Count Browne was covered by an advanced detachment (4 bns, 1 grenadier coy, 2 sqns and 100 German horse under Major-General Lacy) on the right bank of the Elbe around Zittau in Lusatia at the entrance of Bohemia while another detachment (7 bns, 8 grenadier coys, 19 sqns under FML Count Maquire) secured the area between Lacy's detachment and the Elbe. Furthermore, FML Count Hadik with 9 bns, 9 grenadier coys, 15 sqns and 600 German horse was posted on the left bank of the Elbe near the Erzgebirge. Browne's army (33 bns, 44 grenadier coys, 70 sqns) protected by this curtain of advanced posts, occupied quarters on the right bank of the Moldau up to Tabor, Deutschbrod (present-day Havlíčkův Brod), Böhmischbrod (present-day Český Brod); and on the left bank of the Moldau and of the Elbe up to Karlsbad (present-day Karlovy Vary), Mies (present-day Stříbro) and Bischofteinitz (present-day Horšovský Týn).
Frederick recalled the Hereditary Prince of Darmstadt with his 11 bns (Grenadier-Battalion Alt-Billerbeck, Grenadier-Battalion Waldau, Grenadier-Battalion Kahlden, Alt-Württemberg Infantry, Amstell Infantry, Jung Braunschweig Fusiliers, Darmstadt Infantry) from Pomerania where he acted as a reserve for Lehwaldt's Army.
At the beginning of December, Frederick was informed of the concentration of Russian troops in Lithuania. But this threat was still the most remote compared to the relative proximity of the French and Austrian armies. Indeed, Knyphausen informed Frederick from Paris that Versailles planned to send an army of 60,000 men to the Lower Rhine and a relief army of 24,000 men to make a junction with the Austrians.
On December 7, the Hereditary Prince of Darmstadt set off from Pomerania with his corps, heading for Lusatia.
On December 9, Lestwitz informed Frederick of the presence of a large Austrian force between Reichenberg and Gabel and urged him to send more troops to secure Lusatia. The Duke of Bevern gathered 5 bns (Grenadier Battalion Bülow, Manteuffel Infantry, Pritz Infantry) and 10 sqns (Rochow Cuirassiers, Katte Dragoons) in Dresden, Torgau, Grossenhain, Meissen and Radeberg; and led them to Löbau.
On December 12, after the junction of his corps with Lestwitz's, Bevern assumed command of the entire force.
On December 20, 300 men of Splényi Hussars broke through the Prussian outposts to the west of Zittau. They were driven back with losses by the Leib sqn of Normann Dragoons at Herwigsdorf. General Normann was wounded during the engagement.
From December 22 to 24, the troops of the Hereditary Prince of Darmstadt gradually arrived at Görlitz and Lauban.
Around Christmas, Frederick learned that the Russian would join the Austro-French alliance and put 80,000 troops in the field (excluding Cossacks).
By the end of December, Lusatia seemed to be secure. Bevern redistributed the troops (17 sqns and 22 bns including 2 bns of Prinz von Preußen Infantry and 2 bns of Forcade Infantry in Bautzen) posted in Lusatia and along the frontier. He then ceded back command to Lestwitz and returned to Dresden. Lestwitz reinforced his positions along the Neisse and secured transportation on this river with bridgeheads.
Already, some 400 Saxon soldiers, who had deserted from the Prussian Army, had taken refuge in Prague.
For more info on the ensuing winter operations, see our article 1757 - Prussian invasion of Bohemia – Preparations.
This article incorporates texts from the following books which are now in the public domain:
- Anonymous: A Complete History of the Present War, from its Commencement in 1756, to the End of the Campaign, 1760, London, 1761
- Archenholz, J. W.: The History of the Seven Years War in Germany, translated by F. A. Catty, Francfort, 1843, pp. 10-30
- Carlyle, T.: History of Friedrich II of Prussia, vol. 17 chapters IV, V
- Donnersmarck, Victor Amadaeus Henckel von: Militaerischer Nachlass, Karl Zabeler, 1858
- Tagesbuch des Feldzuges von 1756, pp. 18-130
- Grosser Generalstab Kriegsgeschichtliche Abteilung II: Die Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen, Part 3 Der siebenjährige Krieg 1756-1763
- Vol. 1 Pirna und LobositzBerlin, 1901, pp. 62-104, 142, 150-151, 174-241, 251-260, 286-316
- Vol. 2 Prag, Berlin, 1901, pp. 1-4, 7-8, 10, 24
- Schuster, O. and F. Francke: Geschichte der Sächsischen Armee, 2. part, Leipzig 1885
- Tempelhoff, Fr.: History of the Seven Years' War Vol. I Section 4, as translated by Colin Lindsay, Cadell, London, 1793
- Vanicek, Fr.: Specialgeschichte der Militärgrenze aus Originalquellen und Quellenwerken geschöpft, Vol. II, Vienna: Kaiserlich-Königlichen Hof- und Staatsdruckerei, 1875, pp. 403-408
Grossenhain, Geschichte des koeniglische Saechs, Koenigs-Husaren-Regiments No 18, Leipzig, 1901
Salisch, M. von: Treue Deserteure – Das kursächsische Militär und der Siebenjährige Krieg, Munich, 2009
Harald Skala for information on the Saxon Army during this period