1758 - Allied winter offensive in Western Germany
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The campaign lasted from February to April 1758
Preparations for the Campaign
On December 24, 1757, Ferdinand of Brunswick put a stop to the Allied counter-offensive in Hanover and gave orders to Allied units to withdraw.
|Order of Battle|
|Detailed OOB of Richelieu's army in its winter quarters in January 1758.|
At the end of December 1757, Richelieu's French army had taken up its winter-quarters in Westphalia, Hanover and Hesse. Its left wing was covered by the Weser and Aller rivers while its centre extended from Celle to Braunschweig, Wolfenbüttel, Hannover and Hildesheim. Its right extended up to the Main through Cassel and Fulda. To consolidate his left wing, Richelieu resolved to occupy Bremen. All these prosperous regions could have been very efficiently used to restore the French army but contributions were shamelessly appropriated by dishonest officials and officers. Several officers departed for Paris for the winter and regiments heavily suffered from desertions.
Richelieu then asked to be relieved of his command.
On January 1, 1758
- All Allied troops were back between Uelzen and Lüneburg, roughly north south.
- Oberg's detachment was posted at Soltau. Oberg sent colonel Dreves forward with 400 foot, 100 horse and some light horse to dislodge a French body at Visselhövede. Dreves completely surprised the French, capturing 5 officers and 114 privates, killing or wounding about 30 and putting the rest to flight.
- The Allied troops previously assigned to the siege of Harburg were sent to Bremervörde and Buxtehude on the Lower Aller to defend the passage of the river and to cover Bremen. On their march, they surprised a party of 400 French at Teffehoefde (unidentified location), capturing 108 men. Advanced Allied parties then took possession of Vegesack and Ritterhude where they found a considerable magazine.
- Richelieu ordered Broglie to advance on the Lower Wümme to dislodge the Allies from these quarters and to preserve communications with French troops at Rotenburg on the Wümme and Ottersberg.
From January 1 to 6, the Allies took up quarters on the left bank of the Elbe between Luhe and Jeetze on both sides of the Ilmenau Valley on the left bank of the Elbe. Ferdinand considered that his army needed better armament, clothing and supply before undertaking any serious campaign.
Ferdinand gradually filled his magazines and obtained armament and clothing sent from Prussia. He also completed the equipment of his artillery with 31 pontoons sent from Prussia and Great Britain and 25 iron ovens for his bakery which had been sent from Berlin.
About January 3, Broglie entered the suburbs of Bremen.
On January 10
- The headquarters were transferred from Uelzen to Lüneburg.
- Diepenbroick reached the vicinities of Osterholz with 3 bns and 1 sqn, thus allowing Müller to advance to Blumenthal.
- Hardenberg remained at Bremervörde with the rest of his troops.
On January ??, Broglie proceeded to Burg (unidentified location maybe Burglesum) where he crossed the Wümme.
On January ???
- Broglie advanced by Vegesack, forcing the Allies to abandon this place. On his way, Broglie was reinforced by 11 bns.
- When Oberg was informed of Broglie's advance, he immediately gave orders for some troops from Bremervörde and Buxtehude to join him. Oberg then force marched to engage Broglie who retired precipitously.
In the night of January 11 to 12
- The French retired to Bremen.
- Müller prudently followed the French but remained behind the Wümme.
On January 12, the Allied advanced guard came up with the rear of Broglie's Corps near Ritterhude and forced it to recross the Wümme at Burg. The French broke down the bridge behind them.
On January 13, Broglie asked the city of Bremen to open its gates. The Senate refused to comply, arguing that Bremen was neutral.
On January 14, the bridge of Burg was repaired and Oberg passed the river and took possession of the fort of Burg while the French retired towards Bremen.
The detachments of Oberg, Diepenbroick, Hardenberg and Müller were finally able to retire on the Wümme, Hamme and Upper Oste separated from the main army.
On January 15, Broglie arrived at Bremen where he deployed his force on the edge of the ditch, requiring immediate admittance into the city. His request was granted and, at midnight, his troops took possession of a gate.
On January 16, the Duc de Broglie seized the free town of Bremen and several French parties entered the town.
On January 18, George II the King of Great Britain informed the Commons that he had ordered the army formed in 1757 in Hanover to be put again in motion.
On January 23, the British House of Commons voted 100,000 pounds to finance the Allied army being reassembled in Hanover.
By the end of January, the Allied army was rested, well fed and equipped. It was ready to begin the campaign. Meanwhile, the French were deployed in four lines in their winter-quarters and another French army amounting to 28 battalions and 42 squadrons was stationed in Hesse.
In the first days of February
- The Prince de Soubise left the army to spend the winter in Paris, confiding his corps to the Duc de Broglie, formerly commanding in Bremen where he was replaced by the Lieutenant-General Comte de Saint-Germain.
- Prince Heinrich started to assemble 9 bns (Jungkenn Müntzer Fusiliers (2 bns), Hessen-Kassel Fusiliers (2 bns), Salmuth Fusiliers (2 bns), II./Kahlden Infantry, III./Kahlden Infantry, Freibataillon Wunsch) and approx. 1,200 horse (Leibregiment zu Pferde, 300 men of Meinicke Dragoons, 200 men of Seydlitz Hussars and Szekely Hussars) in and around Halberstadt while I./Kahlden Infantry remained in Halle.
On February 1, a Prussian detachment occupying Halberstadt pushed a party to Hornburg, capturing 500 men.
On February 2, another Prussian detachment (cavalry and hussars) from Halberstadt attacked the town of Steinfeld by surprise, capturing 600 men of Turpin Hussards. The rest of the French garrison fled towards Schladen. However, they were reinforced and caught up with the Prussian detachment as it returned to Halberstadt.
On February 9
- Considering the impending dangers and the charges laid out against him, Richelieu left the army to return to Paris before his replacement could arrive. He had prepared no plan for the coming campaign besides general considerations about a possible junction with the Swedes in Pomerania and the siege of Magdeburg.
- Prince Heinrich set off from Halberstadt and slowly advanced in the direction of Hornburg.
Prince Heinrich with his small Prussian army then invested the fortress of Regenstein located to the south-west of Halberstadt.
On February 12
- By that date, Ferdinand was at the head of approx. 30,500 men (23,000 infantrymen, 5,060 cavalrymen, 1,000 artillerymen, in 46 bns, 46 sqns and 1 artillery rgt (4 brigades with 46 heavy pieces), Scheither's Corps (439 men), Schulenburg Jäger Corps (800 men) and 2 troops of Luckner's Hussars (177 men).
- The small Fortress of Regenstein surrendered to Count Henckel, the adjutant of Prince Heinrich, on his first summon.
- French forces assembled at Wolfenbüttel and additional reinforcements were sent from Braunschweig to counter Prince Heinrich.
On February 13
- Lieutenant-General Prince Georg Ludwig zu Holstein-Gottorp reinforced the Allies with 15 Prussian sqns (5 sqns of Holstein-Gottorp Dragoons, 5 sqns of Finckenstein Dragoons, 2 sqns of Malachowski Hussars and 3 sqns of Ruesch Hussars), transferred from Lehwaldt’s Army, bringing Ferdinand’s cavalry force to 61 sqns. The Allied army now totalled 46 bns (each of approx. 500 men), 61 sqns (each of approx. 100 men), 4 artillery brigades for a total of 32,276 men.
On February 14
- The French army in Germany counted 194 bns (including 6 Austrian bns and 10 Palatine bns), 185 sqns (including 18 hussar sqns) and approx. 75 heavy artillery pieces. On average, each bn could field only 300 men with 1 regimental gun; and each cavalry sqn, 100 men for a grand total of approx. 76,000 men. Part of the French army (39,000 men) was deployed as follows:
- main body (99 bns, 58 sqns) between the Aller and the Weser
- in and around Bremen: 9 bns and 12 sqns
- Other French troops were with Soubise’s Corps between Cassel, Frankfurt and Hanau; while other detachments were quartered in the area of Münster, on the Rhine and in and around Emden.
- Even though the army was totally unprepared for the next campaign, the Court at Versailles was considering to detach part of it (33 bns, 10 sqns) under Soubise to reinforce the Austrian army in Bohemia. Furthermore, 12 bns and 30 sqns, who had been too seriously depleted, were to return to France. The Austrian Court urged Louis XV to send forward the promised contingent on March 1.
- Louis de Bourbon-Condé, Comte de Clermont arrived at Hannover to supersede Richelieu as commander of the French army. Richelieu was gone since a week and Clermont had to command with no help from the man he was relieving... Everything was in such a bad condition that Clermont supposedly wrote to Louis XV: "I found your Majesty's army divided into 3 parts. The part which is above the ground is composed of pillagers and marauders, the second part is underground, and the third is in hospital. Should I retire with the first or wait until I join one of the others?"
- The French army was facing an Allied army and had a Prussian army on its right flank and the untrustworthy Dutch Republic to its rear, and was exposed to the landing of British troops on its left flank. Considering the state of the army, many generals were proposing a rapid withdrawal to the Rhine.
- The French army in Germany counted 194 bns (including 6 Austrian bns and 10 Palatine bns), 185 sqns (including 18 hussar sqns) and approx. 75 heavy artillery pieces. On average, each bn could field only 300 men with 1 regimental gun; and each cavalry sqn, 100 men for a grand total of approx. 76,000 men. Part of the French army (39,000 men) was deployed as follows:
Ferdinand planned to launch a winter offensive against the left flank of the French army near Verden. Meanwhile, Prince Heinrich would with his small Prussian army, make a strong demonstration against the French right flank in the area of Halberstadt, north of the Harz Mountains and establish communication with Hildesheim. Meanwhile, generals Diepenbroick and Wangenheim would advance from Vegesack and Stade against the isolated French detachments at Bremen and on the right bank of the Weser on the Wümme. After passing the Weser at Verden, Ferdinand intended to advance on Nienburg to threaten the lines of communication of the French army and thus force it to retreat or to offer battle. Ferdinand initially kept his plan confidential, only consulting his secretary Westphalen and his general-adjutant, Lieutenant-Colonel von Reden, and exchanging letters with Frederick II and George II. The beginning of the campaign was fixed on February 18.
By mid February, a small Allied force consisting of 3 regiments of dragoons and the Hanoverian Foot Guards (2 bns) had already advanced through Lüneburg to Amelinghausen.
On February 15
- The Comte de Saint-Germain arrived at Bremen to replace Broglie as commander in these quarters.
- M. de Beauffremont commanded at Verden and Rotenburg on the Wümme. Périgord Infanterie and Cambrésis Infanterie were posted at Langwedel to support him.
The Allies launch their offensive
On February 18
- Ferdinand assembled his generals at Lüneburg and informed them of his plan.
- The main Allied army (33 bns, 52 sqns) then marched in two columns from Lüneburg and Bienenbüttel towards Verden and Rethem. Ferdinand personally led the vanguard and established his headquarters at Schneverdingen. The main army followed in two columns under the command of General Zastrow. The Prince of Holstein-Gottorp covered the left flank at Soltau with 4 bns, 10 dragoon sqns, and all jäger and hussar units.
- On the right wing, Diepenbrock advanced with 8 bns and 4 sqns from Vegesack directly on Bremen.
- Wangenheim with 6 bns, 6 sqns and 1 artillery brigade advanced from Bremervörde against Rotenburg on the Wümme which he invested in the afternoon
- On the left wing, Major von Freytag with the Jägerkorps advanced from Uelzen on Gifhorn to establish contact with the Prussian corps of Prince Heinrich.
- Prince Heinrich detached 10 bns and 15 sqns from the Prussian army under his command in Saxony to assist the Allies.
- To the exception of Bremen, the left bank of the Weser and Aller rivers were guarded only by weak French detachments with advanced posts at Rotenburg on the Wümme (M. Gaultier de la Motte with 150 Volontaires Royaux) and Ottersberg.
A sudden thaw had melted the heavy snow cover and flooded the heathland. Men, horses and vehicles painfully progressed on muddy roads. Allied troops often had to find alternative ways to resume their advance. They had no tents and villages were sparse in the area.
The French had been completely taken by surprise by the offensive of the Allies. Furthermore, their generals disagreed over their mutual prerogatives.
On February 19
- The main army was at Neuenkirchen.
- The weakly fortified town of Rotenburg on the Wümme surrendered to Wangenheim’s detachment.
- Saint-Germain assumed effective command at Bremen and Broglie left the town.
- Beauffremont marched from Verden, retiring towards Bremen.
On February 20
- The main army reached Visselhövede, only a strong day's march from Verden. In the afternoon, a rumor spread that Verden had been evacuated.
- Wangenheim entered into Rotenburg on the Wümme, taking 150 French prisoners.
- The Prussian detachment of Prince Heinrich reached Osterwieck while small detachments roamed the country to raise contributions and gather supply.
- When Clermont heard of the presence of Prussian troops on the Upper-Oker, he detached 24 bns and 22 sqns to contain them. He then assembled the main body of his army around Hildesheim and Hannover. Clermont intended to establish his main force in a line extending through Hildesheim, Hannover, Neustadt am Rübenberge and Nienburg.
- At 6:00 p.m., as ordered by Clermont, the Marquis de Saint-Chamond evacuated Verden. Although Clermont had ordered the bridge at Verden destroyed, it was left intact.
- Count Saint-Germain was charged to defend Bremen and the Lower-Weser with 23 bns and 22 sqns.
- The French had also retired from their advanced post at Ottersberg, abandoning their artillery and ammunition, and retired to Bremen.
- Saint-Germain sent M. de Chabot to Hoya to organise the defence of the place. He also instructed Périgord Infanterie and Cambrésis Infanterie to take position at Süstedt to support Chabot.
- Beauffremont passed by Bremen with his detachment.
During the night of February 20 to 21, Ferdinand sent the Hereditary Prince of Brunswick with a small detachment (3 rgts) to check the real situation in Verden. The latter confirmed that the French had withdrawn a few hours ago towards Bremen, without destroying the bridge over the Aller. However, the bridge proved to be unusable for large bodies of troops as a result of the overflowing of the Aller by the sudden thaw.
On February 21, the main body of the Allies cantoned in and around Verden. Ferdinand intended to cross the Aller at Verden but snow thawing had been so important that the Aller was flooded up to Celle and that the bridge at Verden was almost impassable. For his main army, Ferdinand had to look for another crossing place. The Prince of Holstein-Gottorp finally located a practicable passage over the Aller between Hudemuhl and Riedhagen across from Ahlden, some 30 km upstream from Verden.
On February 22, Ferdinand's vanguard reinforced by all jägers and hussars crossed the Aller aboard small craft and occupied the Castle of Ahlden to cover the building of bridges and the crossing of the army.
Action of Hoya
On February 23
- The main body of the army started to cross the Aller at Ahlden with great difficulties. Around 4:30 p.m., the Prussian Ruesch Hussars (3 sqns under Major Beust) and Malachowski Hussars (2 sqns under Major von Jeanneret) were among the first Allied troops to cross the Aller at Ahlden. The crossing of the entire Allied army was not completed before February 26.
- At 7:00 a.m., the Hereditary Prince of Brunswick was detached to Hoya at the head of 2 Hanoverian bns (Hauss and Oberg), the 2 bns of Brunswick Guards, 1 dragoon sqn, 6 light horse sqns and 9 guns. Hoya was defended by the Comte of Chabot with the Gardes Lorraines (2 bns), 2 grenadier coys and 100 fusiliers of Bretagne Infanterie and a detachment of Mestre de Camp Général Dragons. The Hereditary Prince crossed the Aller aboard small craft at Verden. He crossed the Weser near Barme aboard some floats of timber with part of his troops. He then launched an attack on Hoya. After a stubborn resistance, the French retired into the castle. Since Bretagne Infanterie with some dragoon sqns were on the march to relieve Hoya, the French were allowed to retire with the honours of war. In this action, the Allies lost 13 men killed and 73 wounded while the French lost 300 men killed or wounded and 200 men taken prisoners. Furthermore, there were 270 sick in the hospital.
- The Meinicke Dragoons of Prince Heinrich's Corps made a surprise attack on the Chasseurs de Fischer. Prince Heinrich with his detachment then advanced to the Oker.
- The Polleresky Hussards, who were posted in Celle, decided to send back their baggage and their sick. The escort also carried the eight guidons and the pair of kettle-drums of the regiment. The convoy reached Nord-Drebber and Stöcken-Drebber on the left bank of the Leine to take the road running along the Aller and leading to the bridge on the Weser at Nienburg.
In the night of February 23 to 24, the Ruesch Hussars and Malachowski Hussars, informed of the proximity of the French Polleresky Hussards, attacked them by surprise in their camp near Stöcken-Drebber. The French hussars lost 3 officers and 50 men killed; their colonel, 4 officers and 130 privates taken prisoners; 10 standards, 1 pair of kettle-drums and 300 horses captured. The Prussians only lost 4 men wounded. For their conduct, Frederick allowed the Malachowski Hussars to carry the captured kettle-drums and four guidons; and the Ruesch Hussars, the four other guidons.
The French progressively retire on the Rhine
On February 24
- The Prussian light troops of Prince Heinrich made themselves master of a bridge on the Oker at Schladen.
- In the morning, Saint-Germain was informed of the fall of Hoya and of the advance of Ferdinand on Bremen. Fearing to be cut off from the French main army, he gave orders to all troops to evacuate Bremen and to assemble at Bassum where they spent the night under arms.
- About an hour after the French had quitted Bremen, a party of about 50 Hanoverian Jägers appeared at the Doven Gate. At about 9:00 p.m., Major-general Diepenbrock demanded admittance with an Allied detachment.
On February 25
- At 2:00 a.m., a body of 150 Allied light troops was finally authorised to enter into Bremen. About noon, Bremen capitulated to the Allies and a body of 5 Hanoverian bns, 2 sqns and 2 coys of Hanoverian Jägers entered the town.
- Ferdinand crossed the Aller with his main army at Riedhagen and sent forward a body of light troops to harass the French during their retreat.
- Saint-Germain's Corps (22 bns, 21 sqns) marched from Bassum, passed the Hunte and proceeded to Wildeshausen.
On February 26
- Ferdinand was at Rodewald, proceeding towards Hanover.
- 4 British ships appeared at the mouth of the Weser. They were joined by 4 additional ships in the following days. Together, they guarded the mouths of the Ems, Weser and Elbe. The French feared that a landing was being prepared.
- Prince Heinrich advanced from the country of Halberstadt towards Wolfenbüttel and Goslar.
- Saint-Germain's corps got to Vechta.
- After these successful Allied manoeuvres, Clermont ordered the French army to evacuate Celle, Braunschweig and Wolfenbüttel; to retire by Hannover and to concentrate under the guns of Minden and Hameln. Clermont also gave orders to send his heavy artillery to Hameln and Einbeck. During this hasty retreat the French army lost all its magazines, along with several thousands prisoners of war and baggage. It also suffered from general desertion.
On February 27
- The Allies found that the French had already evacuated Neustadt am Rübenberge. The Prince of Holstein-Gottorp marched with the vanguard against the Fortress of Nienburg, defended by 1,400 men. Holstein-Gottorp vainly summoned the commander of the place to surrender and immediately opened the trenches.
- Ferdinand advanced to Drakenburg to cover the siege.
- Prince Heinrich crossed the Ocker at the head of his Prussian corps.
- Saint-Germain's corps remained at Vechta.
- Clermont assembled with great difficulties the main body (66 bns and 32 sqns totalling only 23,000 men) of his army around Hildesheim and Hannover. Most guns and wagons had been abandoned on the muddy roads; field hospitals and magazines had been left in the hands of the Allies. With the loss of Hoya, it was now impossible to consider a junction with the French troops posted on the Lower-Weser.
On February 28
- Nienburg capitulated and the French garrison was allowed to retire with the honours of war.
- After the fall of Nienburg, Ferdinand assembled his army between that town and Neustadt.
- At 5:00 a.m., the French evacuated the city of Hannover, leaving 1,500 sick behind, and Clermont retired towards Hameln.
- Saint-Germain, having received intelligence that Hanoverian troops had crossed the Hunte, took the direction of Osnabrück, fearing an attack launched from Hoya and retired to Vörden with his corps.
Clermont feared that, behind the Hanoverian Jägers at Celle and Gifhorn on the Aller, and the corps of Prince Heinrich advancing on the Upper-Oker; Frederick was marching with his entire army. Furthermore, Clermont considered the troops which he had assembled at Hildesheim and Hannover as totally unprepared for combat. He saw retreat as the only solution. Since the Allies had already penetrated between the Leine and the Weser, only the line of retreat in the direction of Hameln remained open to the French main army.
On March 1
- The advanced elements of Ferdinand’s Army marched across the hills of Bücken and discovered that the French were precipitously retiring towards Hameln. Ferdinand’s advanced corps reached Lake Steinhude.
- Major von Borcke at the head of Freibataillon Wunsch, hussars and dragoons of Prince Heinrich’s Corps caught up with the French rearguard near Hildeshiem, taking 200 prisoners and a large quantity of military equipment.
- The main French army briefly sojourned at Springe and Münder (present-day Bad Münder) to allow the last detachments to join the main body.
- Saint-Germain arrived at Osnabrück. General von Diepenbroick followed the retreating French. On their way they were harassed by Major Luckner at the head of light troops. Saint-Germain’s troops had lost most of their tents and baggage. The remaining heavy baggage was then sent forward to Wesel and to the Duchy of Kleve. During his retreat, he had lost 2,500 men, 8 guns, 2 standards and a large quantity of baggage to his pursuers.
- As negotiated, the French garrison quitted Nienburg and retired to Minden.
On March 2
- Ferdinand entered into the city of Hannover. His army, in two bodies, immediately moved forward in pursuit of the French. Ferdinand advanced with one corps along the left bank of the Weser with the Prince of Holstein-Gottorp one day's march before him with his advanced guard. The other corps was placed under the command of Oberg whose advanced guard was led by the Hereditary Prince. This second corps marched along the right bank of the Weser parallel to Ferdinand's Corps.
- Ferdinand sent orders to Admiral Holmes, commanding the British squadron, to sail for Emden.
- Borcke’s detachment passed through Hildesheim and effected a junction with 50 hussars and 400 jägers belonging to Freytag’s Corps.
On March 3
- Ferdinand's advanced guard was at Sachsenhagen.
- Prince Heinrich occupied the towns of Goslar, Braunschweig, Wolfenbüttel and Hildesheim and established his headquarters at Heffen (unidentified location).
- Borcke’s detachment (600 Prussian dragoons (Meinicke Dragoons) and hussars) and Freytag’s detachments passed the Leine near Elze on a rapidly repaired bridge and attacked Bercheny Hussards (600 men) and 300 foot near Eldagsen, killing 300 and taking 176 prisoners.
- Clermont, who was supporting Minden with the main French army, continued to withdraw precipitously in front of the advancing Allies, crossed the Weser and retired to Hameln, abandoning the French garrison of Minden (3,700 men under the command of the Lieutenant-General Marquis de Morangies) to its fate. During this retreat, the French army abandoned most of their tents and baggage. Upon their arrival at Hameln, the French forwarded their heavy baggage towards the Rhine.
- Clermont reached the hills near Latferde, south of Hastenbeck.
On March 4, the Finckenstein Dragoons of Holstein-Gottorp’s Corps engaged a stronger French detachment of foot and horse near the villages of Hülsede and Beber, 15 km north of Hameln, capturing 10 officers and 168 men while losing only 1 officer and 26 men killed or wounded.
The Allies besiege Minden
|Order of Battle|
|The French garrison consisted of:
As long as the strongly garrisoned Fortress of Minden was occupied by the French, threatening the right flank of the Allies, Ferdinand could not attack the French main army. The capture of this fortress thus became his next objective.
The fortifications of Minden were not in the best conditions but it was well supplied in artillery and ammunition. Lieutenant-General Morangies commanded a garrison of more than 3,700 men. The proximity of the main French army, which was posted near Hameln only 40 km away; and the presence of Saint-Germain’s Corps on the left bank of the Weser near Osnabrück made the investment and siege of Minden difficult and required prudent measures to prevent the relief of the place, considering that Ferdinand’s main army was still on the opposite bank of the Weser.
On March 5
- The Hereditary Prince appeared before the town of Minden and summoned it. Morangies, rejected the summon and decided to defend the town with the garrison (8 bns, 8 sqns, a detachment of Hainaut Infanterie). Oberg soon joined the Hereditary Prince with his corps and a bridge was thrown over the Weser to open communication with Ferdinand.
- Leaving 3 ships to guard the mouths of the Elbe and Weser, Holmes sailed with 5 ships for Emden.
- Considering that his mission was now accomplished, Prince Heinrich let his corps rest in the region of Hildesheim, Goslar and Wolfenbüttel, raising a contribution of 150,000 Thalers in Hildesheim. Prince Heinrich established his headquarters at Liebenburg.
On March 6
- Ferdinand established his headquarters at Stadthagen.
- Clermont crossed to the left bank of the Weser at Hameln with the main body of his army and sent approx. 8,000 men to Vlotho. This relief corps was supposed to effect a junction with Saint-Germain’s Corps arriving from Osnabrück by Herford and then advanced across the Wiehen Hills while another strong detachment would cross to the right bank of the Weser at Rinteln and cross the Weser Hills.
On March 7
- Ferdinand crossed to the left bank of the Weser with most of his troops and occupied the passes of the Wiehen Hills, thus preventing the advance of the French relief forces. He established his headquarters at Frille near Minden.
- The Allies had completed the encirclement of Minden. Lieutenant-General von Oberg led the siege operations which concentrated on the north-west side of the fortress. His siege corps consisted of 15 bns. Ferdinand covered the siege with the rest of his army from Frille to the north-east of Minden.
- Clermont remained in his camp near Hameln.
- Saint-Germain quitted Osnabrück and moved towards Melle and Herford in an attempt to form a junction with Clermont who had sent a detachment in his direction to favor this junction.
- Broglie assembled 35 bns and 30 sqns at Cassel.
During the night of March 7 to 8, the French garrison of Minden made a sally but was repulsed.
On March 8
- Ferdinand moved closer to Minden, establishing his headquarters at Hartum. Minden was then properly besieged by the Allies from both banks of the Weser. This Allied corps was under the command of General Kilmansegg.
- General Wangenheim was posted at Bückeburg with 8 bns and 8 sqns.
- When Ferdinand heard of the attempt of Saint-Germain to form a junction with Clermont, he sent detachment across the Weser to prevent this design. Brunck's brigade reconnoitred the left bank of the Weser and the passages of Wedigenstein and Bergkirchen. To Brunck's right stood the detachment of the Prince of Holstein-Gottorp (4 bns and 10 sqns) posted at Lübbecke to cover the right flank of the Allied army and to observe Saint-Germain's Corps (12 bns and 12 sqns).
- Prince Heinrich was encamped at Hildesheim.
- Due to the manoeuvres of the Allies, d'Armentières was forced to interrupt his movement at Dissen and Enger.
- Clermont with his 80 bns and 75 sqns remained idle at Hameln throughout the siege of Minden.
On the night of March 8 to 9, the Hereditary Prince of Brunswick opened the trenches in front of Minden.
On the night of March 9 to 10, the Allies worked at their first parallel in front of Minden.
On March 11, Prince Heinrich sent Major von Bierdersee with 200 men of the Leibregiment zu Pferde, 100 fusiliers and Freibataillon Wunsch to raise contributions in Eichsfeld and Duderstadt in the Electorate of Mainz. Biedersee returned to Merseburg after a few days.
On March 12, the Allies worked at their second parallel in front of Minden without meeting much opposition from the defenders.
On March 13, Count Wilhelm von Bückeburg opened on the Fortress of Minden with 3 batteries.
On March 14, Lieutenant-General Morangies capitulated at Minden without having opposed any serious resistance. The garrison (3,516 men) became prisoners of war. Only a detachment of a few hundreds men managed to escape and to rejoin Clermont’s Army.
On March 15
- General Kilmansegg took possession of Minden with 1 bn. A large magazine fell into the hands of the Allies along with 57 guns, 19 colours, 8 standards and 2 pairs of kettle-drums.
- Ferdinand's headquarters were at Hille.
The French retreat continues
After the fall of Minden
- Nothing prevented the Allies from crossing the Weser. Ferdinand was still determined to attack and, when the French retreated, he tried to pursue them vigorously to harm them as much as possible.
- The French were in no conditions to oppose any serious resistance (Clermont had already given orders to retire).
- Saint-Germain abandoned Osnabrück and called for the garrison of Münster to join his force.
- East Frisia was completely evacuated by the French. Their regular infantry regiments were so severely depleted that the militia regiments serving in Germany were disbanded and their troopers incorporated into the undermanned regular regiments.
On March 15 and 16, Ferdinand assembled his army and took dispositions to escort the prisoners of war.
On March 16
- Prince Heinrich retired towards Halberstadt with his small Prussian corps. At Ferdinand’s request, Prince Heinrich sent Colonel von Braun at the head of 3 bns and a few hundreds dragoons towards Göttingen.
- Saint-Germain’s Corps evacuated Herford, crossed the Werre and marched by Rietberg, Wiedenbrück and Münster towards Wesel.
On March 17
- Ferdinand sent the Prince of Holstein-Gottorp with 6 bns, 19 sqns and 4 six-pdrs to pursue the retreating French army. Holstein-Gottorp caught up with a detachment of Saint-Germain’s Corps near Bielefeld and put it to flight.
- Ferdinand advanced from Minden with the main body of his army southwestwards on Lübbecke and Borgholzhausen, to attack the flank of the French columns.
- Commodore Holmes; after cruising off the north coast of Holland with a small British squadron of 8 ships of the line, the frigate Seahorse (24) and the fireship Strombolo (8); came to an anchor in the straight between Delfzijl and Knock less than 10 km west of Emden.
- Clermont with the main body of his army retired from Rinteln and Hameln and marched by Steinheim and Paderborn along the south bank of the Lippe towards Wesel.
On March 18
- When the Allied army approached Hameln, the French evacuated the town and their strong camp in that neighbourhood, retiring towards Paderborn where Clermont established his headquarters. Before leaving, the French had sent off all the heavy artillery and baggage, blown up the bridges and destroyed the arsenal.
- The main body of the Allies reached Lübbecke.
- Four coys of Scheither Infantry immediately took possession of Hameln.
- Holmes' squadron came to a station between Knock and Emden.
On March 19
- Ferdinand moved his headquarters to Melle near Osnabrück.
- Holstein-Gottorp took position at Herford, Bielefeld and Rinteln.
- Major Estorf was sent forward with an Allied detachment to take possession of Osnabrück where the French had left a large magazine intact.
- Prince Heinrich advanced towards Duderstadt with his Prussian army.
- In the morning, fearing the arrival of a large British fleet, the French garrison (2,500 men) marched out of Emden, leaving the small Austrian force behind, abandoning its hostages and forgetting to inform the neighbouring garrisons of its departure. The French garrison marched towards Emmerich.
- The French retreated once more towards the Rhine. On their march, they were joined by Saint-Germain’s Corps previously stationed at Emden. French troops who previously occupied Herford and Bielefeld had already retired towards Münster.
During the night of March 19 to 20, the 70 Austrians occupying Duderstadt retired, pursued by 100 men belonging to Wunsch's Corps. The hussars captured 50 Austrians.
On March 20
- 1,220 Austrians marched out of Emden.
- Clermont sent order to general Pisa to evacuate East Frisia before the occupation of his lines of communication. Clermont's troops also abandoned Münden.
- At noon, Holmes received intelligence that the Austrians had been transporting their baggage and guns upstream the previous night. He sent an armed cutter and 2 boats to pursue the transport vessels. The British vessels captured 2 of these transports despite artillery fire from the river banks.
- The Allied army halted.
|Order of Battle|
|The Saxon Contingent under French subsidies consisted of:
On March 21
- The main body of the Allies reached Borgholzhausen.
- The British 51st Foot (1 bn) was landed near Emden and immediately occupied the place.
- Colonel von Braun reached Göttingen with his small Prussian detachment.
- The Duc de Broglie, who had been ordered to abandon Hesse and to make his junction with Clermont's main army, evacuated Cassel and the greatest part of Hesse. His hospitals, artillery and baggage having first been removed to Hanau and Mainz. Broglie, arriving from Bremen to take command of this corps came to Mainz and then marched to join Clermont with his 27 bns and 22 sqns.
- With the authorisation of Empress Maria Theresa, Elector Friedrich August II signed an agreement negotiated for him by Count Flemming with Etienne-Francois Comte Stainville, representing the French Court. By this agreement France granted a subsidy to maintain a Saxon Contingent of 8,000 (a number which would later be increased to 10,000) for a year. The French emphasized the fact that Major-General Rochow's ranks was insufficient to assume command of this contingent. Friedrich August II then replaced him by Lieutenant-General Baron Dyherrn, seconded by Major-General Klingenberg and Major-General de Galbert. Thus, 16 months after the capitulation of the Saxon Army at Pirna, a Saxon Contingent of 9,879 men, organised in 12 infantry regiments, entered in the French service. Prince Xaver was appointed commander of this auxiliary corps. The Saxons set off from Györ in Hungary and marched towards Vienna where they intended to complete their equipment.
On March ???, Pisa marched upstream along the right bank of the Ems towards Bentheim, destroying the bridges at Rhede, Meppen and Lingen and sinking all the boats found on the river. A party of 500 Hanoverian hussars arrived at Lingen soon after Pisa's departure and seized a large magazine. The bridge was soon repaired.
On March ??? (after the arrival of the Hanoverian hussars at Lingen), the Hanoverian hussars set forward in pursuit of Pisa's force. They came to contact with 1,500 men between Githuysen (unidentified location) and Bentheim and defeated them. The hussars then resumed their advance up to Nordhom where they captured an Austrian major and 14 baggage wagons.
On March 22
- The Allied army resumed its march and the headquarters were established at Borgholzhausen.
- Prince Heinrich’s small Prussian corps reached Halberstadt.
- Broglie marched by Erwitte towards Soest.
- Lieutenant-General Comte de Lorges, who had been left behind by Broglie at Hanau with 9 bns and 18 sqns, received orders to defend the place to the last extremity. Accordingly, he repaired the fortifications and built new works and entrenchments.
On March 23
- The Allied army marched from Borgholzhausen to Versmold.
- Prince Heinrich’s Corps set off from Halberstadt and marched in the direction of Leipzig.
- Colonel von Braun, informed that the French had evacuated Münden, returned to Merseburg, marching by Duderstadt, Nordhausen and Querfurt.
On March 24, the Allied army continued its march and encamped near Sassenberg and Warendorf.
On March 25
- Frederick promoted Ferdinand of Brunswick to general of infantry in recognition for his outstanding campaign.
- 15 additional militia battalions were mobilized in France and sent to Germany to reinforce Clermont's Army.
On March 26
- At 10:00 a.m., Broglie’s Army set off from Soest, marching by Unna towards Düsseldorf and Deutz.. Part of his rearguard (10 bns, 4 sqns) had already passed through the narrow streets of Soest while the other part was still inside. Around noon, the Prussian Ruesch Hussars under Major von Beust attacked the Austrian Szechényi Hussars and drove them out of Soest, capturing ten 24-pdrs and five 6-pdrs. and several prisoners.
- A battalion of the Corps Royal de l'Artillerie, who had already crossed the Rhine, received orders to return to Hanau and to entrench at Aschaffenburg.
- A French body of 14 bns and 18 sqns was left between the Rhine and the Main rivers.
During the same period, Clermont's army retired from Paderborn to Neuhaus. It then resumed its withdrawal, marching on the banks of the Lippe towards Wesel and passing by Lippstadt, Soest. Meanwhile Saint-Germain retired to Haltern where his heavy baggage had already preceded him.
On March 27
- Ferdinand decamped from Sassenberg and marched to Freckenhorst, sending Holstein-Gottorp with a large body of troops in pursuit of the French.
On March 28
- Colonel von Braun reached Merseburg with his small detachment.
- The division coming from East Frisia arrived at Emmerich.
On March 30, division coming from East Frisia passed the Rhine and took cantonments in Kleve and its surroundings.
On March 31, Clermont’s Army effected a junction with Saint-Germain’s Corps at Wesel.
|Order of Battle|
|Detailed OOB of Clermont's army in its camp near Wesel between March 30 and April 4 1758.|
From April 1 to 3, the 2 French columns coming from Münster and Paderborn gradually assembled in a camp near Wesel. Clermont's army, not counting the troops occupying Hesse in May and June, amounted to no more than some 50,000 men. The French units who had suffered most had been sent back to France, they totalled some 12 bns and 30 sqns. The corps of the Duc de Broglie was the only French force left on the right bank of the Rhine. However, this corps was also forced to retire in front of the advancing Allied columns. It retreated eastward and occupied Frankfurt, Hanau and Lahn where it was later joined by the Prince de Soubise.
On April 2, Ferdinand moved his headquarters to Halteren.
On April 3
- The French army crossed to the left bank of the Rhine near Düsseldorf.
- Broglie coming from Hesse passed the Rhine at Cologne and took up his quarters between Cologne and Neuss.
The entire French army was now deployed in 3 lines with its right at Cologne and its left at Kleve. The first line was deployed along the Rhine, the second between the Rhine and Meuse rivers, and the third along the Meuse and Rur rivers. Clermont's headquarters were at Wesel which was garrisoned by 9 bns and 4 sqns. The Duc de Chevreuse occupied Roermond with 6 bns and 4 sqns. Furthermore, 10 Palatine bns occupied Düsseldorf, 4 other bns and 1 bn were at Kleve, 6 bns at Cologne, and 1 bn was at Kaiserwerth. The entire French army consisted of 105 bns and 104 sqns.
Within six weeks, Ferdinand had driven the French from the Aller back to the Rhine.
Allied preparations for the Crossing of the Rhine
When the French army took its quarters, the Allies did the same to recover from their winter campaign. The cavalry under the Prince of Holstein-Gottorp took position on the right bank of the Lippe from Dülmen to Hamm; the main body was cantoned in villages and towns between Koesfeld and Warendorf; and Ferdinand personally went to Münster.
At the beginning of April
- General Hardenberg received orders to join the main army with the garrisons of Bremen and Harburg. He marched by Vechte whose castle capitulated, its garrison (7 coys) becoming prisoners of war. More than 100 pieces of artillery were also captured.
- The Prince of Holstein-Gottorp sent a detachment to occupy East Frisia. This detachment was also instructed to dislodge the troops from Münster garrisoning Bentheim.
From April 6 to May 29, the Allied troops took cantonments. Meanwhile, Prince Heinrich returned to Saxony with his Prussian division.
During this period, Allied light troops made frequent excursions up to the Rhine and even under the walls of Wesel. While they were cantoned, the French army fortified Wesel, Düsseldorf, Geldern and Kaiserwerth. New units arrived from Flanders while militia were incorporated into Clermont's depleted units. French troops in Hanau remained idle. The Hessians assembled their militia who, along with Hanoverian jägers, guarded the roads in this area. The Allies had 3 bns, 1 dragoon rgt along with some militia and hussars in Marburg.
Ferdinand now prepared his next move: the crossing of the Rhine and the campaign on the west bank of the Rhine.
On April 11, a second convention was signed between Great Britain and Prussia by which it was agreed that the British would pay 670,000 pounds to Frederick to augment his forces. Both countries also agreed not to conclude any treaty of peace, truce or neutrality unless they came to mutual agreement.
On April 20, the British Commons voted the 670,000 pounds destined to Prussia.
This article is essentially a compilation of 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, pp. 247, 256-260, 296-306
- Archenholz, J. W.: The History of the Seven Years War in Germany, translated by F. A. Catty, Francfort, 1843, pp. 209-229
- Carlyle, T.: History of Friedrich II of Prussia, vol. 18
- Clowes, Wm. Laird: The Royal Navy – A History from the Earliest Time to the Present, Vol. III, Sampson Low, Marston and Company, London: 1898, pp. 173, 190
- Grosser Generalstab Kriegsgeschichtliche Abteilung II: Die Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen, Part 3 Der siebenjährige Krieg 1756-1763
- Vol. 6 Leuthen, Berlin, 1904, p. 86
- Vol. 7 Olmütz und Crefeld, Berlin, 1909, pp. 133-149 and Anhang 33, 35, 38, 40
- Jomini, Henri: Traité des grandes opérations militaires, 2ème édition, 2ème partie, Magimel, Paris: 1811, pp. 8-29, 39-45
- 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. 20-35
- Schuster, O. and F. Francke: Geschichte der Sächsischen Armee, 2. part, Leipzig 1885
- V., General: L'infanterie lorraine sous Louis XV - I. - Régiment des Gardes Lorraines, in Les Carnets de la Sabretache, Vol. 2, 1894, pp. 530-534
Barnes, David: Ferdinand, Duke of Brunswick and Luneburg - Seven Years War General, XVIIIth Century Military Notes and Queries, No. 10
Rogge, Christian: The French & Allied Armies in Germany during the Seven Years War, Frankfurt, 2006
Salisch, M. von: Treue Deserteure – Das kursächsische Militär und der Siebenjährige Krieg, Munich, 2009
Vial, J. L., Nec Pluribus Impar
Harald Skala for information on the Saxon Army during this period