1758-09-29 - Assault on Bork
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Prelude to the Battle
In September 1758, during the French offensive in Westphalia, Contades wanted to restore the compromised reputation of the French army. He charged Saint-Pern, who was stationed with his corps near Lünen for the control of the bridges across the Lippe, to attack the isolated Allied observation corps under the Duke of Holstein near Bork. Indeed, Holstein was posted in an advanced position some 20 km in front of Ferdinand's army.
During the night of September 28 to 29, the French made themselves master of two bridges over the Lippe at Lünen and Beedeburg (unidentified location). They then crossed the Lippe and marched during the night to approach Holstein's positions. At daybreak, favoured by the wooded nature of the terrain, the French managed to get close to the Allied camp unnoticed.
Description of Events
Saint-Pern was within gun range when Allied grenadiers posted as pickets in the woods gave the alarm. The Allies were taken completely by surprise, the troops still being in their tents.
The French advanced their infantry through thickets while their cavalry kept the high road. The Allies had time to throw Drachtleben Infantry and 2 guns into Bork. The French planted 4 batteries on an eminence. Inexplicably, Saint-Pern then ordered to cannonade the Allied camp rather that to storm it. This strange decision gave the Allies time to load up and to retire in good order towards Olfen before the French uselessly charged the abandoned Allied positions.
The French, advancing in the woods, pursued cautiously Holstein's Corps for a distance. The Allied rearguard deployed on the plain to oppose them. The French did not attack but retreated to Lünen where they recrossed the Lippe.
In this action, the French only seized a few tents and cooking pots. They also captured 31 prisoners from among the outposts that had been caught as they lost direction within the woods. Besides these prisoners, the Allies lost 6 killed, 12 wounded.
Well planned but poorly executed, this surprise attack on Holstein's camp gave no tangible results.
Order of Battle
Allied Order of Battle
Commander-in-chief: Lieutenant-General Duke of Holstein
Summary: 7 battalions, 10 squadrons and some light troops
- Infantry (7 bns)
- Major-General von Fürstenberg Hessian Brigade (unidentified units)
- Major-General Post Hanoverian Brigade (mostly unidentified units)
- Drachtleben Infantry (1 bn)
- Prussian Cavalry (10 sqns)
- Holstein-Gottorp Dragoons (5 sqns)
- Finckenstein Dragoons (5 sqns)
- Hanoverian Light Troops
- Jägers (detachment of unspecified strength)
French Order of Battle
Commander-in-chief: M. de Saint-Pern
- Grenadiers de France Brigade (4 bns)
- Grenadiers Royaux de Modène Brigade
- Grenadiers Royaux de Modène (2 bns)
- Grenadiers Royaux d'Aulans (2 bns)
- Grenadiers Royaux de Bergeret Brigade
- Grenadiers Royaux de Bergeret (2 bns)
- Grenadiers Royaux de Chantilly (2 bns)
- Converged Grenadiers
- Navarre (6 coys)
- Palatine Grenadiers (4 coys) from the 2nd Brigade (unspecified units)
- Carabiniers (10 sqns)
- 2 brigades of cavalry (12 sqns) (mostly unidentified units)
- Du Roy Cavalerie (2 sqns)
- unidentified cavalry regiments (10 sqns)
- 4 x 8 pdrs.
Hotham, 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. 61-62
Rogge, Christian, The French & Allied Armies in Germany during the Seven Years War, Frankfurt, 2006
Dinos Antoniadis for the research and the tentative reconstruction of the map of this engagement