1759-09-21 - Combat of Korbitz
Prelude to the Battle
At the beginning of September 1759, a Prussian relief corps under Major-General Wunsch had been sent out to counter the Austro-Imperial invasion of Saxony. Arriving too late to prevent the surrender of Dresden, it managed to recapture most of northern Saxony, repulsing an Austro-Imperial force at the Combat of Zinna on September 8. A few days later, on September 11, Wunsch was joined by reinforcements led by Lieutenant-General Finck. On September 13, Wunsch recaptured Leipzig. On September 19, the combined corps of Wunsch and Finck marched on Meissen.
As soon as Field-Marshal Prince Friedrich von Pflaz-Zweibrücken, the commander-in-chief of the Reichsarmee, heard of the movements of these Prussian corps, he threw 16 bns into Dresden and marched with his army to attack them.
Finck's Corps was encamping near Korbitz while Wunsch occupied the heights of Lerchenberg near Siebeneichen on the left.
Description of Events
On September 21 in the morning, the Prussian outposts first noticed the advance of the Austro-Imperials, as the thick fog lifted. Finck then deployed his corps to the southwest of Schletta and Korbitz.
During this time, the Prince of Zweibrücken planted several batteries on the heights of Reppnitz.
Around 10:00 a.m., a heavy cannonade began between Wunsch's detachment and the Reichsarmee. This cannonade would last until nightfall, without any tangible results for the numerically superior Reichsarmee, which just managed to drive back the Prussian outposts at Batzdorf and Riemsdorf. It also tried to turn the left flank of Wunsch’s detachment on the heights bordering the Elbe. The Prince of Zweibrücken did not launch any decisive attack. For this, he rather counted on Hadik’s Corps.
Seeing Wunsch under attack, Finck sent 3 bns to reinforce his detachment.
Meanwhile, General der Cavallerie Andreas Hadik passed the defiles of Munzig and Miltitzand.
Around noon, to the west of the Triebisch, Hadik formed his corps to the northeast of Krögis and the south of Stroischen. His three artillery batteries then opened on Finck’s positions, but the Prussian artillery answered with good effect. Hadik also advanced Brentano's Corps towards the Prussian right.
Finck feared that Brentano’s Grenzer light troops, which were deployed on Hadik’s left wing, would move further northeast towards the Elbe and thus cut his line of communication with Torgau. He decided, despite Hadik numerical superiority, to forestall this danger by attacking with his right wing.
Finck gave orders to Major-General von Rebentisch to attack the enemy left wing with 4 grenadier bns and 1 bn of Markgraf Carl Infantry. Rebentisch would be supported by the cavalry. To prepare this attack, Finck advanced his left wing up to the heights east of Löthain. From these heights, Finck wanted to use his heavy artillery to prevent the enemy from firing in the flank of Rebentisch's troops during their attack. He also managed to temporarily silence the Austrian batteries located west of Löthain.
Around 2:00 p.m., Rebentisch launched his attack. He came to contact with Brentano’s Grenzer light troops to the southeast of Stroischen. These light troops turned to flee from the Prussian line, which was advancing under the fire of its battalion guns. Brentano was driven back.
Hadik had sent Major-General von Lamberg at the head of 4 bns (Marschall Infantry, Gyulay Infantry) to support Brentano. These regiments counterattacked but fell into disorder after a sanguinary exchange of musketry and were driven back. Marschall Infantry suffered heavy losses (18 officers and 338 men, including 138 men taken prisoners). The Grenadier Battalion 19/25/13/26 Kreckwitz captured 11 artillery pieces and 1 colour.
General Hadik failed to make a timely use of the numerous fresh infantry bns at his disposal.
When 15 Prussian sqns (Markgraf Friedrich Cuirassiers, Krockow Dragoons, Plettenberg Dragoons) advanced to cut down the routing enemy infantry, they came under fire from both the Austrian artillery and the Grenzer light troops before their deployment was complete.
Hadik then launched a charge with all his cavalry to relieve the retreating troops. The Prussian sqns initially sustained the charge of the vastly superior Austrian cavalry, which finally broke them. Part of the Austrian cavalry pursued the Prussian sqns up to the south of Kaschka. It was the fire of the Prussian artillery and of the battalions east of Löthain, which stopped the Austrian pursuers and forced them to retreat. Major von Hundt's hussars brought back a number of prisoners.
Meanwhile, another part of the Austrian cuirassiers had attacked Rebentisch’s bns, which had halted during the cavalry combat, charging them 5 or 6 times.. They managed to cut down a platoon of Markgraf Carl Infantry, which had been sent to the vicinity of Löthain, killing 20 men, wounding 2 officers and 77 men and capturing 2 officers and 38 men. The rest of the bn managed to take refuge under the cover of the Prussian grenadiers. However, the rest of the Prussian infantry resisted and repulsed all these charges.
Meanwhile, the Prussian cavalry had rallied and now launched a second attack, which failed again and ended in a rout. Once more, the fire of the Prussian infantry stopped the pursuers but the Prussian infantry had to retire, abandoning the guns it had previously captured. The Austrians also captured 5 Prussian 12-pdrs and 2 howitzers, which were stuck in a sunken road. Finck himself was almost captured while trying to rally his cavalry.
Throughout this contest between Hadik’s left wing and the Prussian right wing, the Austrian right wing remained idle, contenting itself with artillery fire. When the Grenzer light troops of Hadik’s right wing tried to occupy the village of Löthain to fire from there on the flank of Rebentisch’s infantry, the Zastrow Fusiliers (1 bn) set fire to the village.
Combat ceased at nightfall. The Prussians still held the village of Löthain, but their right wing had retreated to form a continuous line with Finck’s left wing.
During the entire engagement, the Reichsarmee had cautiously held back.
In this affair, the Reichsarmee lost 473 prisoners (including 12 officers) and 1,145 killed or wounded (including 60 officers) along with 11 guns, captured by the Grenadier Battalion 19/25/13/26 Kreckwitz. Marschall Infantry alone lost 18 officers and 338 men.
The Prussians lost 43 officers (7 killed) and 1,300 men along with 5 twelve-pdr guns, two howitzers, 1 three-pdr gun and 1 six-pdr gun. Plettenberg Dragoons alone lost 3 officers and 30 men killed, and 5 officers (including Pogrell) and 100 men wounded. Krockow Dragoons lost 17 men killed, and 3 officers, 29 men wounded, and one of its standards.
Soon after this engagement, Empress Maria Theresa relieved Hadik of his command and recalled him from the army to investigate his conduct. For his part, Frederick II awarded the military Order of the Black Eagle to Finck for his conduct.
Order of Battle
Austro-Imperial Order of Battle
Commander-in-chief: General der Kavallerie Andreas Hadik and General-field-marshal Prince Friedrich von Pflaz-Zweibrücken
Summary: 38 bns, 27 grenadier coys for a total of 21,000 foot, 60 sqns (7,300 men), artillery for a grand total of about 28,500 men
- Hadik: 19 bns (more than 12,000 men including 3,000 grenzers), 33 sqns (about 4,200 men)
- Zweibrücken: 20 bns, 22 grenadier coys, for a total of 9,600 foot including 3,600 foot from Macquire's corps), 28 sqns (about 3,100 men)
N.B. This ODB is mostly reconstructed from Etats in the middle August of 1759 including moves and reinforcement during September.
- Right Wing
- Centre under Major-General Lamberg
- Left Wing
- Light infantry under Major-General Brentano
- Cavalry under Lieutenant-Field-Marshal Schallenberg
- Artillery (unknown strength)
Zweibrücken's Corps (exact deployment unknown)
- Lieutenant-Field-Marshal von Macquire's Brigade (6 bns for a total of about 3,600 men)
- Lieutenant-Field-Marshal Count Stolberg's Division
- Kreisinfanterieregiment Baden-Durlach (1 bn, 2 grenadier coys)
- Kreisinfanterieregiment Kurpfalz Effern (2 bns, 2 grenadier coys)
- Kreisinfanterieregiment Fürstenberg (2 bns, 2 grenadier coys)
- I./Hohenlohe (1 bn, 2 grenadier coys)
- Kreisinfanterieregiment Pfalz-Zweibrücken (2 bns, 2 grenadier coys)
- Kreisinfanterieregiment Varell (2 bns, 2 grenadier coys)
- Kreisinfanterieregiment Kurbayern (2 bns, 2 grenadier coys)
- Kreisinfanterieregiment Kurköln Wildenstein (1 bn, 1 grenadier coy)
- Kreisinfanterieregiment Mengersen (1 bn, 1 grenadier coy)
- Kreisinfanterieregiment Cronegk (2 grenadier coys)
- Major-General Kleefeld's Cavalry Division
- Artillery (unknown strength)
Prussian Order of Battle
|First Line||Second Line|
|Right Wing under the command of lieutenant-general Finck|
|Left Wing under the command of Major-General Wunsch|
N.B. : during the bloody campaign of 1759, some of the Prussian converged grenadier battalions suffered so many casualties that Prussian commanders had to combine two of them to get battalion strength units.
Plan des Gefechts bei Meißen zwischen der vereinigten Kaiserlichen und Reichs-Armee und der Preußischen Armee, 21. September 1759.
Gieraths, G., Die Kampfhandlungen der Brandenburgische-preussischen Armee, Berlin 1964
Grosser Generalstab Kriegsgeschichtliche Abteilung II: Die Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen, Part 3 Der siebenjährige Krieg 1756-1763, Vol. 11 Minden und Maxen, Berlin, 1912, pp. 129-134
Jomini, baron de, Traité des grandes opérations militaires, Vol. 3, 2nd ed., Magimel, Paris, 1811
Tempelhoff G. F., Geschichte des siebenjahrige Krieges in Deutschland, vol. 3
Tomasz Karpiński from Gniezno/Poznań for the initial version of this article