1757-04-21 - Combat of Reichenberg

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Hierarchical Path: Seven Years War (Main Page) >> Battles >> 1757-04-21 - Combat of Reichenberg

Prussian Victory

Prelude to the Battle

In the Spring of 1757, during the general advance of the Prussian columns on Prague, General Königsegg attempted to defeat Bevern's column at it crossed the Neisse (present-day Noteć River). On Wednesday April 20, Königsegg chose an excellent position at or round Reichenberg, one march from Zittau and one from Liebenau (present-day Hodkovice nad Mohelkou). Reichenberg (present-day Liberec) was nestled among hills in the Neisse Valley and offered fine capabilities. There was especially an excellent hollow on the left or western bank of Neisse River, across from Reichenberg. This hollow was backed by woody hills, with brooks and woods all around. Königsegg posted his army in this hollow, planting batteries and falling abatis.

Bevern's column came upon General Königsegg who was manoeuvring ahead in superior force (26,000 men). Königsegg had with him Macquire who came from the right to cut off a large Prussian convoy on its way to join Bevern at Zittau. Königsegg had not completed concentration of his corps at Reichenberg and could field some 16,000 men. Bevern for his part had to send a strong detachment against Macquire, retaining only 15 battalions and 20 squadrons with him. Bevern approached Reichenberg in the evening of April 20 and found his way barred and had to take camp with the Neisse in front of him.

Map

Map of the battle of Reichenberg on April 21 1757.
 
Source: Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen, volume III by the German Grosser Generalstab

The Austrians were deployed along a ridgeline dropping away to the Neisse Valley. They had reinforced their positions with 3 batteries of artillery and redoubts. The redoubts were further covered by abatis, palisades and wolf-pits. The woods were dense to the exception of the "Franzensthaler Grund" which can be considered as light wood. The stream along the "Partzdorffer Grund" had marshy banks.

Description of Events

Did you know that...
In 2012, during the reconstruction of Neruda Place (Nerudovo náměstí) in Liberec, graves of some 900 Prussian and Austrian soldiers have been found. These soldiers died (maybe of typhoid fever) after the combat of 1757 in a hospital near Reichenberg. The City of Liberec plans to erect a memorial for these soldiers on Neruda Place.

Anecdote contributed by Harald Skala

On April 21, Bevern passed the Neisse at break of day. During the passage of the river, he reconnoitred the Austrian positions. Meanwhile, Lacy, another Königsegg's subordinate, came from the left with Königsegg, intending to offer battle. Bevern soon realized that some Austrian infantry was most probably hidden in the woods at the foot of the mountain of Jesken and that he was about to be attacked on his left. Accordingly, Bevern ordered the I. "Standing" Grenadier Battalion (Kahlden) and Grenadier Battalion 8/46 Alt-Billerbeck to attack the Austrian behind their abatis. He also ordered Prinz von Preußen Infantry to stand in support of this assault. The Prussian grenadiers advanced with such intrepidity that the Austrians, after a general discharge, drew back behind their second line of abatis.

With the assault on the Austrian abatis well under way, Bevern ordered 15 dragoon squadrons to attack the Austrian cavalry, which they completely routed. During the ensuing pursuit, the Prussian dragoons exposed their right flank to the fire of the Austrian infantry which had retired behind the second abatis. The Prussian dragoons suffered considerable loss and were thrown into disorder. The Austrian cavalry took advantage of this to set itself in order and to attack the Prussian cavalry, throwing it back.

The Prussian hussars, concealed in a hollow up to this moment, suddenly came upon the Austrian flank. This allowed the Prussian dragoons to rally and to attack the Austrian cavalry once more, putting it totally to flight. The Austrian commander, seeing his cavalry beaten, feared that the victorious Prussian cavalry might charge his left or rear while the Prussian infantry would attack him frontally. Therefore, after a fight of 5 hours, he decided to abandon his entrenchments. His troops retired quite disorderly to the exception of Lacy's Corps who had not been engaged.

The Austrians left 25 officers and 849 privates killed or wounded on the field (FML August Count Porporati, Colonel Otto Ferdinand von Hohenfeld, Colonel Karl von Sinewald of Pálffy Cuirassiers were killed in action), about 500 prisoners and one or two guns. The Prussians lost 30 officers and 625 privates killed or wounded.

Order of Battle

Austrian Order of Battle

Commander-in-chief: Christian Moritz Count Königsegg und Rothenfels

Total force: 16,700 men (13,200 foot and 3,500 horse (?)) with 26 field guns.

Vanguard

Main Corps

Right wing under Major-General von Lacy

(west of the Neisse in the entrenchments in front of Reichenberg)

(behind the entrenchements between Rosenthal and Franzesdorf)

Centre under Count von Königsegg

Left Wing

Prussian Order of Battle

Commander-in-chief: Duke of Brunswick-Bevern

Total force: 14,500 men (11,500 foot and 3,000 horse) and 12 field guns

Vanguard

First Line Second Line
Infantry under Lieutenant-General von Lestwitz
from right to left
Cavalry under Major-General Eugen von Württemberg
 

Artillery

Detachment made before the battle (no participation to the battle)

References

Archenholz, J. W., The History of the Seven Years War in Germany, translated by F. A. Catty, Francfort, 1843, pp. 46-47

Carlyle T., History of Friedrich II of Prussia vol. 18

Großer Generalstab, Die Kriege Friedrichs des Großen. Dritter Teil: Der Siebenjährige Krieg 1756–1763, Vol. 2, Kriegsgeschichtliche Abteilung II, Berlin, 1903

Geschichte des Siebenjahrigen Krieges in einer Reihe von Vorlesungen, bearbeitet von den Offizieren des großen Generalstabs. Erster Teil: Die Feldzuge von 1756 und 1757. Berlin 1824.

Rogge, Christian, Ordre de Bataille zum Treffen bey Reichenberg - den 21ten April 1757 (V&B~Scenario)

Tempelhoff, Fr., History of the Seven Years' War Vol. I Section 4, as translated by Colin Lindsay, Cadell, London, 1793

Thürheim, Andreas; Die Reiter-Regiment der k. k. österreichischen Armee, vol. 1 - Die Cürassiere und Dragoner, F.B. Geitler, Wien: 1862, p. 240

1757, Reichenbeg and Malleschitz. The Journal of HORACE ST.PAUL from 10th April to 6th May. Translated and Edited with additional material by Neil Cogswell. Graelene Books, 1997.

Vanicek, Fr.: Specialgeschichte der Militärgrenze aus Originalquellen und Quellenwerken geschöpft, Vol. II, Vienna: Kaiserlich-Königlichen Hof- und Staatsdruckerei, 1875, pp. 412-413

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