1757-11-05 - Battle of Rossbach

From Project Seven Years War
Jump to navigationJump to search

Hierarchical Path: Seven Years War (Main Page) >> Battles >> 1757-11-05 - Battle of Rossbach

Prussian Victory

Prelude to the Battle

At the end of October 1757, after the initial invasion of Saxony the Franco-Imperial army which had previously retreated into the Eisenach Hills finally came out in the open. Frederick II who was waiting for such an opportunity since mid-September quickly concentrated his army at Leipzig.

By October 31, Frederick was at Weissenfels. He crossed the Saale River the following day. From November 2 to 5, both armies manoeuvred and counter-manoeuvred trying to get an advantageous position from where a successful attack could be launched upon the enemy.


As it passes Weissenfels, the Saale turns from eastward (his course for the 19 previous km) to north-eastward, then to northward at Merseburg. Right across from Weissenfels, lapped in this crook of the Saale which bordered it on south and east side, rises lazily a dull circular lump of country. It is about 11 km in diameter with Rossbach and half a dozen other hamlets scattered on it. The two topmost points were Janus Hill and Pölzen Hill, rather flat hillocks indeed. Saale River was some 7 km distant. Westward and northward, two brooks springing about Mücheln ran towards the Saale. This whole flat country had no vestige of hedge, shrub or bush. The two roads coming respectively from Freyburg and Naumburg and heading towards Merseburg, crossed this height straight like the string.

Map of the battle of Rossbach.
Source: Die Werke Friedrichs des Grossen in deutscher Übersetzun, Vol 4, by Gustav Berthold Volz and Friedrich von Oppeln-Bronikowski
Copyright Tony Flores

The battlefield was bordered to the north by the Leiha brook; to the east, by the Pölzen Hill and the hamlets of Reichardtswerben and Tagewerben; to the south by the road leading from Tagewerben to Zeuchfeld; and to the west, by the Galgenberg (to the south of Gröst). The terrain consisted mainly of gentle hills getting higher to the west and south. A chain of hillocks taking shape east of Schortau and extending from west to east reached its highest point at the dome-shaped Janus Hill and connected with the Pölzen Hill. Movements along the northern slope of these hillocks were not visible from Pettstädt and from west of Reichardtswerben. The large flat hollow between this chain of hillocks and the Lohhügel north of Obschütz formed the actual battlefield. From Luftschiff, to the south of Pettstädt, the terrain sloped more abruptly. Reichardtswerben, Lunstädt and Rossbach were all located on low ground. However, the view from the attic of the Herrenhaus at the south end of Rossbach extended to the south and west, only Zeuchfeld was not visible from there.

Description of Events

Preliminary Manoeuvres

Did you know that...
In 1757 after this defeat, a French anonymous author published a song entitled "Comprenez-vous" or "Les reproches de la Tulipe à Mme de Pompadour".

Early in the morning of Saturday November 5, an Austrian party had broken the bridge on the Saale at Herren-Mühle cutting off Frederick from Weissenfels.

Hildburghausen sent a message to the Prince de Soubise stating that they should not loose a moment and attack Frederick immediately. Hildburghausen thought that Frederick would not attack them but would rather try to cut their communications with Freyburg. He concluded with the suggestion that the Franco-Imperial army should gain the heights near Pettstädt and attack him from that side.

At daybreak, Prussian hussar patrols engaged Franco-Imperial outposts. The hussars informed Frederick that there were much activities in the camp of the enemy. Indeed, the Lieutenant-General Comte de Saint-Germain (8 bns, 12 sqns) was taking position on the heights of Schortau. This corps having driven back the Prussian outposts, the generals came to inspect the Prussian camp.

Frederick sent Major-General Seydlitz with the hussars and Freibataillon von Mayr to reconnoitre the Schortau Heights but Seydlitz found these heights already occupied by Saint-Germain's Corps.

After inspecting the Prussian camp, the generals of the Franco-Imperial army, held a brief council of war where Hildburghausen's proposal was finally accepted and an immediate advance decided.

At 8:00 a.m., the Franco-Imperial army prepared to march by its right. Saint-Germain remained on the Heights of Schortau to cover its march while Colonel Loudon took position on the Galgenberg.

Around 8:00 a.m., Frederick, who had his quarters in the Herrenhaus of Rossbach, went up to the attic and had a few bricks removed on the west side to allow him to observe the movements of Franco-Imperial army. He carefully studied their manoeuvres for almost an hour. After a while, he asked Adjutant von Gaudi to replace him and to continue to observe the movements of the enemy.

The departure of the Franco-Imperial army was delayed for several hours. Indeed, Soubise wanted to establish a new order of battle because Saint-Germain would be left behind. Furthermore, it took some time to recall all French foragers roaming the neighbourhoods.

At the end of the morning, Hildburghausen repeatedly urged Soubise to set off from the camp. To exert pressure on him, Hildburghausen let his German cavalry advance alone.

At about 11:00 a.m., Soubise struck his camp.

Around 11:30 p.m., the French finally marched out of their camp without waiting for the return of their foragers. The vanguard consisted of 6 sqns of Szechényi Hussars, followed by the army in three columns. The left flank of the columns was covered by Apchon Dragons and the Volontaires de Nassau-Saarbruck.

Advance of the Franco-Imperial Army

The Franco-Imperial army marched by its right so that its left columns was formed by the 16 German sqns followed by 16 French bns and 12 French sqns of the first line. The central column consisted of 17 German sqns followed by 16 French bns. The right column included the French Reserve and the infantry of the Reichsarmee. The artillery reserve of the Reichsarmee followed. The French reserve of artillery was supposed to take position between the central and rightmost columns. Indeed, the French reserve artillery had been ordered to march on the road between Mücheln and Zeuchfeld but since the central and rightmost columns were already on the march on both side of this road, it was impossible for the artillery to reach it.

At about noon, the right wing of the Franco-Imperial army had gone through Gröst.

As the army reached Zeuchfeld, the general went to the Steinberg to reconnoitre the Prussian camp. Soubise proposed to encamp in such a position that would threaten Frederick's left flank. However, Hildburghausen was still of the opinion that they should immediately attack.

Frederick had repeatedly been informed of the southwards march of the Franco-Imperial army. This comforted him in his opinion that it was simply moving closer to its supplies at Freyburg or, at best, marching towards Weissenfels or Merseburg to cut him from the Saale. In both cases, he could wait quietly until the intentions of his opponents became clearer.

In case that the Franco-Imperial army was making its way towards Freyburg, Frederick ordered that 10 bns of his right wing along with all hussars and dragoons should be held in combat readiness to eventually attack the rearguard of the enemy (Saint-Germain's and Loudon's corps).

Gaudi, who was observing the situation from the attic of a Herrenhaus in Rossbach, was under the impression that the Franco-Imperials had halted at Zeuchfeld. He also saw that the generals had gone to the Steinberg to inspect the Prussian camp. Finally, he saw that the Franco-Imperial army was heading towards Pettstädt instead of Freyburg as expected.

Indeed, the Franco-Imperial army had slowly turned eastwards, there was very few space between the columns. After this change of direction near Zeuchfeld, Broglie's Reserve Corps took position between the French Reserve Artillery and the central column, thus the entire army now formed five columns.

Frederick was dining when Gaudi informed him that the Franco-Imperial army was apparently heading towards the Prussian left wing. Shortly afterwards, he received a similar message from Lieutenant-Colonel von Mayr. Despite these messages, Frederick held firm in his opinion that the enemy was retiring towards Freyburg.

A little after 1:00 p.m., accompanied by Keith, Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick, Prince Heinrich, Major-General von Geist and Major-General von Seydlitz, Frederick climbed to the attic of the Herrenhaus again. He saw the heads of the enemy cavalry advancing towards Pettstädt but thought that these were only a few sqns sent to reconnoitre in this direction. However, the infantry columns appeared soon afterwards and Frederick finally realised that the enemy was advancing against his left wing. He ordered his infantry to strike tents and to retire towards Gross-Kayna covered by the heights north of Lunstädt. He also gave command of his cavalry (38 sqns) to Major-General Seydlitz even though he was junior to Major-General von Meinicke and to Baron Schönaich.

Meanwhile, Saint-Germain's Corps had deployed between Schortau and Almsdorf as if intending to attack about Rossbach where the Prussian left wing was.

Shortly after 2:00 p.m., the Franco-Imperial army halted at Luftschiff. The heads of the columns had reached the Loh hill, the middle was at Luftschiff and the tail near the Steiberg, between Zeuchfeld and Pettstädt. The generals rode in the direction of the Nahlendorfer road to once more reconnoitre the Prussian positions. The infantry of the Reichsarmee took advantage of this halt to align with the heads of the other columns.

At 2:30 p.m., the Prussian army set off from its camp, leaving Winterfeldt Infantry to guard the baggage. Frederick also ordered Seydlitz to hinder the advance of the Franco-Imperial army towards Merseburg. The cavalry were saddled and in motion in a moment. Frederick kept another 7 hussar sqns (5 sqns of Szekely Hussars and 2 sqns of Seydlitz Hussars) and Freibataillon Mayr between Schortau and Leiha to observe Saint-Germain's and Loudon's corps and to defend the passage of the Leiha.

At that time, the Franco-Imperial army was still at Luftschiff while the heads of its cavalry columns had reached Obschütz. Saint-Germain's artillery opened on the retiring Prussians, causing no damage.

While their army was still at Luftschiff, Soubise and Hildburghausen could see the Prussian army retreating. They once more consulted their generals to determine the proper measures to take. On Broglie's advice, Soubise once more proposed to postpone the battle to the next day and to encamp between Obschütz and Reichardtswerben.

At 3:00 p.m., the Prussian army (22,000 men) was on the road. Seydlitz, with all his cavalry, vanished round the corner of the Janus Hill invisible to the enemy. In fact, he was heading for the Janus and Pölzen hills. Seydlitz formed all his regiments two-ranks deep to extend their frontage. He then march by the left by squadrons in the direction of Klein-Kayna, leaving a good interval between his regiments to allow them to wheel easily. During, his advance, 5 sqns of Szekely Hussars covered his right flank. The infantry followed at double-quick pace. The Prussian heavy artillery under Colonel von Moller marched to the right of the head of the first line of infantry.

The sudden departure of the Prussian army convinced Soubise and Hildburghausen that Frederick was speedily retiring towards Merseburg to recross the Saale. Lieutenant-General Count Revel, who was commanding a French cavalry detachment posted north-east of Lundstädt, soon confirmed that the Prussians were retiring towards Merseburg and that only a few Prussian hussar detachments covering the retreat could still be seen on the neighbouring heights. In fact Szekely Hussars had prevented the advanced elements of the French cavalry from reaching the top of these heights and the latter had not been able to observe the manoeuvres of the main body of the Prussian army. Furthermore, Szechényi Hussars, who had been sent forward by Hildburghausen to the heights north-east of Lundstädt had not yet reported back. All French generals, Broglie among them, now supported Hildburghausen's views and urged to speed up march to attack the retiring Prussians.

Soubise rode forward and confirmed to Hildburghausen Revel's report even though the latter did not get any opportunity to directly observe Frederick's movements hidden by the heights north-east of Lunstädt. Accordingly, the Franco-Imperial army resumed its march from Luftschiff at double-quick pace too, hoping to catch the Prussians during their attempt to cross the Saale..

Soon afterwards, Hildburghausen received Szechény's report indicating that a Prussian cavalry corps was marching just behind these heights. Soubise and Hildburghausen considered that this cavalry corps had been posted there only to hinder their advance and to prevent a direct attack on Frederick's retreating army. Accordingly, Soubise gave orders to Broglie to advance with the cavalry of the Reserve and placed himself at its head.

Shortly afterwards, Soubise instructed Lieutenant-General Mailly, who was posted behind the first line of infantry, to bring forward 4 cavalry rgts. Soubise also assigned La Reine Cavalerie and Bourbon-Busset Cavalerie to secure his left flank.

During this time, the German cavalry had advanced rapidly north-eastwards, creating a gap of some 2,000 paces between them and the infantry. This cavalry had no vanguard to reconnoitre forward, assuming that Frederick was in full retreat. Since their return from reconnaissance Szechényi Hussars had rejoined the first line of German cavalry; Apchon Dragons had rejoined Broglie and the Volontaires de Nassau-Saarbruck had taken position at the head of Mailly's 4 cavalry rgts.

As the Prussian infantry got within a few hundreds paces from the sunken road near of Gross-Kayna, Frederick sent orders to Colonel von Moller to establish 18 heavy pieces on the Janus Hill.

Around 3:15 p.m., as the head of the Franco-Imperial cavalry was to the north of Reichardtswerben, the Prussian battery posted on the Janus opened on them. Hildburghausen's cavalry resumed its advance under this artillery fire.

Soon a French battery of eight heavy pieces was established west of the road leading from Reichardtswerben to Gross-Kayna. However, because it was positioned on low ground, this battery could do little against the Prussian artillery.

Frederick let his infantry advance to Grosskayna and then wheeled it into position. Meanwhile, Seydlitz's 38 squadrons (about 4,000 horse) had reached their assigned position behind the Pölzen and Janus hills. They then wheeled about, front to southward, forming the new left wing.

Seydlitz's Charge

For his part, Seydlitz had remained on the heights with Szekely Hussars to observe the movements of the Franco-Imperial army. He then deployed his cavalry in two lines (15 sqns in the first, 18 sqns in the second) behind the Pölzen Hill, forming the new left wing. The 5 sqns of Szekely Hussars, who had initially covered the Prussian battery, took position on the left wing of Seydlitz's cavalry. Seydlitz had hussar pickets on top of the hills to keep him informed of the enemy movement.

Seydlitz signalling to charge by throwing his clay pipe in the air - Source: Richard Knötel, 1895

Around 3:30 p.m., as the heads of the Franco-Imperial cavalry columns, which were now advancing at a sharp trot, crossed the road leading from Grosskayna to Reichardtswerben. However, the Franco-Imperial infantry was unable to keep up with his own cavalry. These cavalry columns soon got within 1,000 paces of the Janus and Pölzen hills which were hiding Seydlitz's cavalry,

As the Franco-Imperial cavalry columns began to climb the southern slopes of these hills, Seydlitz plunged on the advancing Franco-Imperial cavalry. He directed his charge against the front and right flank of the Franco-Imperial cavalry columns who were completely taken by surprise. Only the Austrian Bretlach Cuirassiers and Trautmansdorf Cuirassiers, leading the German cavalry column, managed to change formation. Bretlach Cuirassiers deployed in line while Trauttmansdorff Cuirassiers drew up in echelon of squadrons. Led by Hildburghausen and Major-General Baron Bretlach, they then counter-charged the first line of Seydlitz's cavalry.

Behind these 2 Austrian rgts came the Kurpfalz von Hatzfeld Carabiniers, the Württemberg Dragoons and the Brandenburg-Ansbach Dragoons. All of them were still in march formation but, along with Szechényi Hussars, they tried to take part in the counter-attack. The 2 remaining cavalry rgts of the Reichsarmee did not have the necessary manoeuverability and fell into disorder and spread confusion in the ranks of the other rgts.

As soon as the Prussian cavalry rgts had appeared, the French battery had opened on them, thus preventing their first line to break through the German cavalry. The Prussian first line then engaged in melee with the two Austrian cuirassier rgts.

During this time, Seydlitz had brought forward his second line and manoeuvred to outflank both wings of the enemy who finally gave way. Seydlitz first line then got the occasion for revenge. The Szekely Hussars hurled themselves against the right flank of the still disordered enemy sqns and broke them.

Then the French cavalry of the first line arrived. Broglie with his 14 sqns tried to turn the right of the Prussian cavalry. Behind him, Mailly deployed his 10 sqns “en équerre” (wedge formation) and tried to turn their left. However, the victorious Prussian sqns re-ordered their ranks and turned against the approaching French cavalry.

As Mailly attacked, there were already French and German rgts fleeing on his left wing, pursued by Prussian cavalrymen. During his advance, a cuirassier rgt passed him at a trot. Mailly realised too late that these were the Prussian Gens d'Armes. The latter had now wheeled and were charging his line in the rear. Mailly's cavalry was soon routed and the French battery fell in the hands of the Prussian cavalry.

At 4:00 p.m., the Franco-Imperial cavalry columns were in full rout. In a confused mass, they fled west of Reichardtswerben in the direction of Storkau and Obschütz, most rgts never returned to the battlefield. Part of them fell into the deep ravine north of Reichardtswerben and other fugitives plunged on their own infantry, carrying terror and confusion into their ranks.

Seydlitz pursued them up to this ravine. He then reformed his cavalry in the hollow north-east of Reichardtswerben between Tagewerben and Storkau.

Advance of the Prussian Infantry

At about the time when Seydlitz had been preparing his initial attack behind the Pölzen Hill, Frederick, then at Lunstädt, had given orders to his infantry to line up. Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick who commanded the right wing, directed his attention to Saint-Germain's and Loudon's corps and, in case they tried to cross the Leiha, posted a few bns there.

Frederick had placed his infantry right wing and centre "refused", invisible behind the hill. They advanced in echelon of bns each separated by an interval of 50 paces, the left wing leading. They then crossed the heights who were previously hiding them to the enemy. Each bn reformed its line and then advanced to the east of Lunstädt.

Meanwhile, 18 field guns and 4 heavy guns taken from the walls of Leipzig opened fire from Janus Hill on the Franco-Imperial infantry.

As the Prussian left wing reached the sunken road to the north of Reichardtswerben, The defeated Franco-Imperial cavalry could be seen retiring southwards. The halted Prussian right wing was posted approximately to the south-east of Lunstädt. Frederick ordered his bns to form a single line. Then 5 bns of the left wing, under Keith, advanced at fast pace, while the centre and right wing bns advanced at a slower pace. Thus forming the famous “oblique order”.

After the disastrous cavalry combat, confusion had begun to spread in the ranks of the Franco-Imperial infantry and only the leading rgts of each line managed to form in line. Hildburghausen, who had been wounded by the sabre blow of a trooper of Szekely Hussars, had joined the first line of infantry where Piémont Infanterie and La Viefville Saint-Chamond Infanterie had formed in columns of attack (probably in ordre profond). In the second line, Mailly Infanterie and La Marck Infanterie and, at the head of the Reserve, Poitou Infanterie and Provence Infanterie did the same. Meanwhile, in the column of infantry of the Reichsarmee, Prince Georg von Hessen-Darmstadt tried to deploy the 3 foremost rgts (Blau Würzburg, Hessen-Darmstadt, Kurtrier) in the first and the 3 remaining rgts in the second line and to wheel them towards the right flank. The 3 first rgts executed the order. However, the routing Franco-Imperial cavalry spread panic among the ranks of the 6 Franconian bns (Varell, Ferntheil and Cronegk) whose officers failed to control. They fled in complete disorder towards Storkau and Obschütz, some of them throwing out their muskets. The Artillery Reserve of the Reichsarmee, which was following this column was swept along in its rout, abandoning part of its pieces.

Frederick was accompanying Alt-Braunschweig Infantry when he saw the enemy infantry try to deploy to the right. He extended the left wing of his first line with 2 bns and with Grenadier Battalion Lubath and Grenadier Battalion Finck. His first line now numbered 8 bns which he slightly wheeled to the right. This manoeuvre created an obtuse angle on the right wing of Kleist Infantry . During the advance, a gap gradually appeared between Forcade Infantry and Kleist Infantry. Immediately, 3 bns of the second line (Grenadier Battalion Wedell and Winterfeldt Infantry or Goltz Infantry) were moved forward to plug this gap in the line.

Meanwhile, the Prussian artillery under Moller advanced from the Janus Hill and took position west of Reichardtswerben. Furthermore, Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick established a second battery, consisting of the rest of the heavy pieces, in front of the Prussian right wing to the south of Nahlendorf.

During this time, disorder had continued to spread among the French Infantry. The heavy artillery posted between the first line and the Reserve tried to deploy. A number of guns moved through the first line creating confusion. Finally, a few batteries were established on the northern slope of the Loh Hill and they managed to open against the Prussians. The rest of the artillery, the first line and the Rohan Brigade of the Reserve got entangled in a confused mass. Furthermore, the second line fell in disorder and, without orders, started to fire; panic broke out. To the exception of the Wittmer Swiss Brigade, they turned and fled.

Soubise hurled regiments in an attempt to form a line from his columns of march. But all regiments were jammed in an astonishing way. Piémont Infanterie, Mailly Infanterie, Poitou Infanterie and Provence Infanterie along with a few regiments deployed behind them, who had all managed to deploy in attack columns, resolutely marched against the advancing Prussians. Hildburghausen personally led Piémont Infanterie who, along with Mailly Infanterie, managed to get within 40 paces of the enemy. However, the cannonballs of Moller's battery tore terrible holes in their dense formation. A grenadier coy of Piémont Infanterie was almost totally annihilated. The attack columns were already wavering when the advancing Kleist Infantry and Alt-Braunschweig Infantry on the left wing delivered their first burst of platoon fire. They then continued steady at the rate of five volleys a minute. A few salvoes of were sufficient to completely stop their advance and to rout them.

The rest of the French first line and Reserve were no longer able to withstand the fire of the two Prussian batteries. They turned and fled, carrying the French artillerymen away with them.

Meanwhile, the 3 rgts of the Reichsarmee had waited the Prussian attack without firing a shot. The three leftmost bns of the Prussian line were threatening to turn their flank. As the French second line routed, the guns of Blau Würzburg Infantry started to fire grapeshots. Kurtrier Infantry was already shaken and routed after firing a single volley. Prince Georg von Hessen retired with Blau Würzburg and Hessen-Darmstadt Infantry.

Seydlitz, posted in a hollow to the south-west of Tagewerben with his cavalry, had attentively followed the progress of the attack of the Prussian infantry. As soon as he saw the general confusion which had spread in the ranks of the Franco-Imperial army, he deployed his cavalry in two lines for an attack.

By that time, Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick, seeing the success of the Prussian left wing, had advanced with the right wing. Thus, the entire line of the Prussian infantry was advancing.

The Franco-Imperial units, threatened by the Prussian infantry on one side and by Seydlitz's cavalry on the other, rushed to cross the Unstrut at Pettstädt, abandoning the largest part of their heavy artillery and ammunition wagons, along with several battalion guns. Only the Wittmer Swiss Brigade managed to retire from the battlefield in good order once Soubise had ordered it to retreat, bringing back the colours of another regiment in addition to their own colours and guns.

This second act of the battle had lasted a mere 25 minutes.

Retreat of the Franco-Imperial Army

The Wittmer Swiss Brigade, the 3 Imperial bns under Prince Georg von Hessen-Darmstadt, 3 French cavalry rgts (La Reine, Bourbon-Busset and Volontaires Liégeois) and a few other cavalry detachments who had managed to rally, covered the retreat of the Franco-Imperial army.

When Saint-Germain saw how the battle had turned to the advantage of the Prussians, he retired to Gröst with his corps, followed by Loudon's Corps. Condé Cavalry Brigade and Poly Cavalry Brigade took position to the north-east of Obschütz and tried to stop the pursuing Prussians while the infantry and Loudon's Grenzer light troops took position on the heights to the west of Pettstädt.

Even though the results of the battle were now clear, a few engagements still took place. Alt-Braunschweig Infantry had reached a sunken road south-west of Reichardtswerben but its ranks were slightly disorganised. A few enemy sqns advanced against it. Frederick, who was still with this regiment, ordered to close the gaps in its formation. However, there was not enough time to reorganise ranks. Nevertheless, the regiment fired a salvo on the charging cavalrymen as they got within 100 paces, killing the officer leading the attack and forcing them to turn back. As it resumed its advance, the Prussian infantry drove back other isolated cavalry detachments.

By 4:30 p.m., the battle was over. Frederick’s right was then at Lundstädt and his left at Reichartswerben.

Just before dusk, the Garde du Corps and the Gens d'armes attacked a few infantry detachments still trying to hold their position near the woods to the north-west of Obschütz. The Prussian cavalry defeated them and captured many. In this last engagement, Prince Heinrich was lightly wounded.

Around 5:30 p.m., the Prussians made themselves master of most of the baggage of the French army west of Pettstädt. The Czettritz Dragoons captured all of Soubise's personal baggage.

Frederick finally halted his infantry on the heights east of Obschütz. His exhausted cavalry, now west of Pettstädt, put a stop to the pursuit.

In the evening, Hildburghausen retired to Freyburg with a few sqns and Prince Georg von Hessen-Darmstadt followed with Blau Würzburg Infantry and Hessen-Darmstadt Infantry. Soubise too spent the night in Freyburg.

During the entire night a ceaseless flow of soldiers crossed the Unstrut at Freyburg, Laucha and Gross-Jena. Some even crossed the Saale at Naumburg.

The Prussian infantry encamped on the heights near Obschütz and Markwerben with these two villages in front of its camp. The cavalry took quarters in Reichardtswerben, Tagewerben and Storkau. Grenadier Battalion Lubath and Grenadier Battalion Jung-Billerbeck occupied the western suburbs of Weissenfels whose municipal authorities were ordered to re-establish the bridge destroyed by the Austrian hussars for the afternoon of November 6. Grenadier Battalion Finck occupied Burgwerben and Frederick established his headquarters in the castle of the village. Among the prisoners were Lieutenant-General de Mailly, the Duc de Beauvilliers, de Revel and Durfort.

The Reichsarmee lost 2 officers and 38 men killed; 10 officers and 221 men wounded; and 30 officers and 3,200 men missing or taken prisoners. For their part, the French lost 760 men killed, approx. 2,000 wounded, and approx. 1,800 taken prisoners.

The Franco-Imperials army also lost 72 guns (12 from the Reichsarmee and 60 from the French), many colours, 21 standards (including 2 from Fitz-James Cavalerie, 1 from Penthièvre Cavalerie, 1 from Saluces Cavalerie, 1 from Bussy-Lameth Cavalerie and 1 from Descars Cavalerie), 3 pairs of kettle-drums (from Fitz-James Cavalerie) and meaner baggages.

The Prussians lost 7 officers and 162 men killed; 23 officers and 356 men wounded. Besides Prince Heinrich and Seydlitz, Major-General von Itzenplitz and Major-General von Meinicke were also wounded.

Frederick decorated Seydlitz with the Order of the Black Eagle, promoted him to lieutenant-general and appointed him as Chef' of the former Rochow Cuirassiers.


The Franco-Imperials soon abandoned Saxony, leaving Frederick in control of this country and allowing him to focus on another theatre of operation, namely Silesia. Indeed, the Austrians had taken advantage of the fixation of the Prussian army on the western front since mid-September to proceed to the invasion of Silesia and to the capture of Breslau (present-day Wroclaw) its capital.

Order of Battle

Franco-Imperial Order of Battle

Commander-in-chief: Fieldmarshal Prince von Hildburghausen assisted by Lieutenant-General Prince de Soubise

Summary: 62 bns (48 French @ 530 men each, 14 Imperial), 82 sqns (40 French @ 120 men each, 42 Imperial), 45 field guns (33 French, 10 light Imperial pieces, 2 heavy Imperial pieces) for a total of approximately 41,100 men (30,200 French, 10,900 Imperials).

First Line Second Line Reserve under Broglie
Right Wing Austrian and Imperial Cavalry Right Wing Austrian and Imperial Cavalry Right Wing French Cavalry under the Marquis de Poulpry assisted by the Chevalier d'Ailly
Center French Infantry under Comte de Montboisier and Chevalier de Nicolaï Center French Infantry under Comte de Lorges assisted by Comte de Vaux and Marquis de Rougé Center French Infantry under Duc de Broglie
Left Wing French Cavalry under Lieutenant-general Comte de Mailly assisted by M. de Raugrave   Left Wing French Cavalry under Marquis de La Chétardie assisted by Marquis de Castries

Corps Saint-Germain

Lieutenant-General Comte de Saint-Germain

Corps Loudon

Colonel Baron Ernst Gideon Loudon

Some sources gives 3 weak Grenzer bns (approx. 2,000 men) and approx. 350 hussars. However Brabant gives the following:

Imperial Infantry under Prince von Hessen-Darmstadt assisted by Baron Drachsdorff

  • Holstein Infantry Brigade under Count Holstein assisted by von Rosenfeld
  • Varell Infantry Brigade under von Varell
  • Ferntheil Infantry Brigade under von Ferntheil

N.B.: several Imperial infantry rgts and grenadier coys were not present at the battle, having been detached to various posts:


Used in reconnaissance ahead of the marching columns

Prussian Order of Battle

Commander-in-chief: Frederick II King of Prussia assisted by Field-Marshal James Keith

Summary: 27 bns (each of approx. 600 men for a total of 16,600 men) with 56 battalion guns, 45 sqns (each of approx. 120 men for a total of 5,400 men), 25 heavy pieces, for a grand total of approximately 22,000 men.

First Line Second Line
Flank Guard  
Right Wing Cavalry under Major-general von Seydlitz
Infantry centre under Prince Heinrich
First Line under General of infantry Fürst von Anhalt-Dessau

Right Wing Infantry under Lieutenant-General Ferdinand Prince of Brunswick

Second Line under Lieutenant-General von Forcade
Left Wing Infantry under Lieutenant-General Heinrich Prince von Preussen  

Between Schortau and Leiha


This article incorporates texts from the following books which are now in the public domain:

  • Grosser Generalstab Kriegsgeschichtliche Abteilung II: Die Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen, Part 3 Der siebenjährige Krieg 1756-1763, Vol. 5 Hastenbeck und Roßbach, Berlin, 1903, pp. 206-223, Anhang 75-77, Appendix 16-17
  • Carlyle, T.: History of Friedrich II of Prussia vol. 18, chapter 8
  • Tempelhoff, Fr.: History of the Seven Years' War, Vol. I pp. 149-151, as translated by Colin Lindsay, Cadell, London, 1793

Other sources:

Brabant, Artur: Das Heilige Römische Reich teutscher Nation im Kampf mit Friedrich dem Grossen – vol. 1 – 1757, Berlin: Paetel, 1904 (from Google Books via Archive.org)

Evrard, Philippe: Praetiriti Fides

Fuller, J. F. C., The Decisive Battles of the Western World, Granada Publishing Ltd, 1970, pp. 565-570

Millar, Simon: Rossbach and Leuthen 1757 - Prussia’s Eagle resurgent, Osprey Campaign, Oxford UK: 2002

Möbius, Katrin and Sascha. Rossbach: el engaño perfecto, Desperta Ferro 24. (2016): 20-27.

Möbius, Sascha. "Haß gegen alles, was nur den Namen eines Franzosen führet"? Die Schlacht bei Rossbach und nationale Stereotype in der deutschsprachigen Militärliteratur der zweiten Hälfte des 18. Jahrhunderts. In Gallophobie im 18. Jahrhundert, edited by Jens Häsler and Albert Meier, 123-158. Berlin: Deutscher Wissenschaftsverlag, 2005.

Reuter, Claus: Die Schlacht bei Roßbach, die Reichsarmee, Thüringen und das Amt Rossla im Siebenjährigen Krieg, 2011

Rogge, Christian: The French & Allied Armies in Germany during the Seven Years War, Frankfurt, 2006

Soilleux-Cardwell, Martin: Order of Battle - Rossbach - 5th November 1757


Dr. Sascha Möbius for suggesting additional books to add to the present section