1757 - Austrian invasion of Silesia

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Hierarchical Path: Seven Years War (Main Page) >> Campaigns >> 1757 - Austrian invasion of Silesia

The campaign lasted from June to December 1757


Initial preparations

After Daun's victory at Kolin on June 18 1757, Daun and Prince Charles did not make their junction at Sworez (present-day Skvorec) near Prague before Sunday June 26. Furthermore, they made no attempt against the retreating Prussian armies, excepted sending out Loudon with Grenzer light troops on the Paskopol Highway.

On June 24, Prince Moritz parted with Frederick in Alt-Lissa (present-day Lysá nad Labem) and marched northward some marches.

On June 28, Prince Moritz reached Jungbunzlau (present-day Mladá Boleslav), some 50 km north of Alt-Lissa, at the confluence of the Iser and Elbe rivers. Grenzer light troops started to harass his positions and he inquired to Frederick to know if he should retreat to Zittau in southern Saxony. However, Frederick preferred to "eat the country" first and to lie outside of Silesia and Lusatia, as well as of Saxony. Upon receipt of this request, Frederick immediately recalled Moritz and appointed the Prince of Prussia to go and take command.

On June 30, the Prince of Prussia arrived at Jungbunzlau where he took command of an army in good strength (about 30,000 men) with every equipment complete, in discipline, in health and in morale. Meanwhile, the combined Austrian armies had been slowly advancing northwards to the Elbe through Podschernitz (present-day Dolni Pocernice). However, the two Prussian armies could make their junction in three or even in two marches. From June 30 to July 3, the prince was at Jungbunzlau. Besides Winterfeldt, the generals under him were Ziethen, Schmettau, Fouquet, Retzow, Goltz, and two others.

At the end of June, Loudon took a Prussian detachment of 160 men prisoners and captured a bridge-train near Welwarn (present-day Velvary).

On July 1, Prince Charles and Daun crossed the Elbe upon five bridges at Czelakowitz (present-day Celakovice) south-east of Altbunzlau (also known as Brandeis, present-day Brandýs nad Labem-Stará Boleslav) with an army of some 70,000 men. The Austrian Army then encamped at Alt-Lissa. General of Cavalry Nádasdy, covered by light troops (hussars, Grenzers and a few grenadier coys), was now within an hour's march of Jungbunzlau. To Frederick's surprise, the Austrians had finally chosen to move upon the Prince of Prussia.

Nádasdy soon left his light troops vanguard to give chase to the retreating Prussians and concentrated his attention on the movements of Frederick's Corps. This vanguard, under the command of Colonel Loudon, consisted of 4 grenadier coys, 2,000 men of the Karlstädter-Lykaner Grenzer and 600 men of the Nádasdy Hussars, later joined by 200 men of the Hadik Hussars.

On July 2, to add to Frederick's sorrow, the news of his mother's death reached him. Queen Sophie Dorothée had died at Berlin on June 28, in her 71st year.

Meanwhile, Frederick continued four weeks at Leitmeritz (present-day Litoměřice) with his army parted this way, waiting to disclose which theatre of operation would first require his intervention.

Prince of Prussia retreats in front of superior forces

On July 3, the Prince of Prussia and his generals, considering that they could not hold the position of Jungbunzlau, shifted their army to Neuschloß (probably present-day Nové Hrady), 50 km westward. The position was considered strong enough and nearer Frederick's army. They remained there until July 7. The same day, Loudon attacked a Prussian convoy between Lobositz and Welmina (present-day Velemín), capturing 100 provision wagons and taking 11 officers and 146 men prisoners.

On July 7, the Prince of Prussia continued his slow retreat towards Böhmisch Leipa (present-day Česká Lípa) which was but a march from Zittau where the magazines were. The Prince of Prussia staid at Böhmisch Leipa for nine days. The position was not more than 50 km north-eastward from the king and was about the same distance south-westward from Zittau. From Zittau as far as the little town of Deutsch Gabel (present-day Jablonné v Podještědí), half way of Böhmisch Leipa, there was a broad highway: the Great Kaiser-Strasse. However, from Gabel to Böhmisch Leipa there were only country roads. The prince had secured the small towns, especially Gabel, on these country roads with proper garrison parties. The pressure of the Austrian army on the prince's position steadily increased. In fact several corps of light troops (Morocz's, Hadik's, Beck's, Maquire's and Arenberg's) closely followed his retreat.

The same day (July 7) Prince Charles and Daun went through Jungbunzlau. They then continued to Münchengrätz (present-day Mnichovo Hradiště) and then to Liebenau (present-day Hodkovice nad Mohelkou).

On July 10, an Austrian Corps under Jahnus, which had been detached towards Silesia a few days earlier, occupied the town of Landshut (present-day Kamienna Gora) which had been abandoned the same day by a small Prussian Corps under Kreytzen, charged with the protection of the nearby mountain passes giving access to the vital Fortress of Schweidnitz (present-day Świdnica). Jahnus used Landshut as a base to launch raids into Silesia. Meanwhile, Loudon sent a detachment of Nádasdy Hussars under Captain Grafenstein against Tetschen (present-day Děčín). This detachment surprised four vessels loaded with provisions, escorted by 50 men, and sank them, killing or capturing the escort (some sources give 15 vessels, but this seems a little exaggerated).

On July 13, Frederick sent Lieutenant-General von Winterfeldt at the head of 7 bns and 5 hussar sqns to relieve Tetschen. However, Loudon's light troops had already retired and Winterfeldt returned to join the army of the Prince of Prussia.

On Thursday July 14, a couple of advanced parties under Beck and Maquire hovered on the Prince of Prussia's flank in the direction of Zittau, while Nádasdy was pushing on to rear.

On July 15, the Austrians attacked Gabel. Puttkammer, who was escorting the Prussian convoy returning to Zittau with his 4 battalions (3,000 men), vigorously defended, expecting relief within a few hours (see Siege of Gabel). The Prince of Prussia at Böhmisch Leipa summoned a council of war (Winterfeldt not attending) to determine if he should join the king at Leitmeritz or relieve Puttkammer at Gabel with his 25,000 men or retreat to Zittau leaving Puttkammer to his fate. The council decided for the latter alternative and, based on false intelligence, chose to avoid the Kaiser-Strasse which was presumably cut off by well positioned Austrian artillery. The same day, the Austrian Main Army reached Hühnewasser (present-day Kuřívody).

On July 16, Puttkammer at Gabel had to surrender with his wagons, ensigns, kettledrums. The high road to Zittau was now open to the Austrians. After the capture of Gabel, Maquire posted his corps at Eichgraben to the south of Zittau while Morocz occupied Krombach (present-day Krompach) and Kratzau (present-day Chrastava) and sent patrols forward up to Grottau (present-day Hrádek nad Nisou), Grafenstein (present-day Grabštejn) and Ullersdorf (present-day Oldřichov v Hájích).

On July 17, the Austrian Main Army, under Prince Charles and Daun, reached Niemes (present-day Mimoň), not above 6,5 km from the eastern outpost of the Prince of Prussia. In the evening, the latter started his retreat by a circuitous road. His rearguard consisted of five hussar squadrons under Warnery. Meanwhile, the Prussian main body was advancing in the hills with their jolts and precipitous windings, harassed by Grenzer light troops. It lost its pontoons, most of its baggage and ammunition, and was obliged to set fire to its own wagons.

The Prussians often had to change their itinerary. The Prince of Prussia's force encamped on bleak heights without food, not even water, lost in the hills. It marched by Ober Liebich (present-day Horní Libchava), Wolfersdorf (present-day Volfartice) and Gersdorf (present-day Kerhartice) to Böhmisch Kamnitz (present-day Česká Kamenice). From there, it continued its march through Hasel (present-day Líska), Kreibitz (present-day Chřibská) and Kaltenbach (present-day Studený) across the frontier towards Seifhennersdorf and Zittau. During his march, the Prince of Prussia sent several messages to Frederick, describing his situation. However, most of these messages were intercepted by Austrian hussars and the few who got through were not taken seriously by Frederick.

On July 18, FZM Kheul, commanding a corps of the Austrian right wing and Arenberg's vanguard posted at Gabel, received orders to march on Zittau. Major-General Lucchesi should follow with another corp. Zittau was a very important Prussian magazine which, including 900 four-horse wagons kept inside the town, could supply 40,000 men for a period of three weeks. The Austrians wanted to reach Zittau before the Prince of Prussia, but their reacted too slowly. Nevertheless, some Austrian troops had occupied the pass and defile near Böhmisch Kamnitz and awaited the approaching Prussians. Major-General Morocz marched to Zwickau (present-day Cvikov), his vanguard (500 men of the Baranyay Hussars, 600 Grenzers and 2 pieces) was led by Colonel Ferdinand Franz von Ujházy. This vanguard came to contact and engage a Prussian detachment (600 hussars, 1 grenadier battalion and 2 pieces). The Prussian hussars soon routed, leaving the grenadiers to their fate. However, these grenadiers bravely held their ground and drove back Ujházy. As Morocz's main body appeared, the Prussian grenadiers were forced to retire. In this action, they lost 26 men and their 2 pieces. In his report to the headquarters, Morocz praised his Grenzers whose courage had been at par with the Prussian grenadiers.

Memorial stone of the soldiers who fell in the combats near Kaltenberg, photo made by H. Skala

In the night of July 18 to 19, a Prussian column tried to break through at Ober Kamnitz and Hasel with its train and pontoons. However, it was opposed by 1,000 Warasdiner and Slavonische Grenzers and 300 hussars led by Colonel Emerich Count Esterházy. In the very dark night, the Prussians lit lanterns and torches, thus offering a good target to the Grenzers. FML Lewin Baron von Beck then launched an attack with his Grenzers on three sides of the Prussian column. Heavy fighting continued throughout the following day. Initially, the Slavonische Grenzers were stopped by the fire of the Prussian grenadiers who were supported by four guns. The Warasdiner Grenzers, supported by 180 dismounted hussars, then came to the rescue and drove back the Prussian grenadiers. The Grenzers then attacked the column of wagons, hamstringing some horses, destroying a few wagons and capturing 8 pieces (6 of which had been made unusable), several wagons and 500 horses. They then tried to bring back their booty to Falckenau (present-day Falknov) but bad roads and the arrival of Prussian reinforcements prevented them to do so. However, they managed to bring back the 500 captured horses to the Austrian camp. In this action, the Prussians lost all baggage, several wagons, ammunition and all their pontoons. They also lost 261 men taken prisoners and 43 deserters. The number of men killed or wounded is not known. For their part, the Austrians lost 72 men killed and 94 wounded. FML Beck's favourite horse was killed under him.

In the evening of July 19 near the Kaltenbach, the rearguard of the Prince of Prussia came to grip with FML Andreas von Hadik and colonels Ried and Kleefeld, at the head of 4 bns (among which elements of the Slavonisch-Gradiskaner Grenzer and Karlstädter-Szluiner Grenzer) and 8 pieces, who had taken positions on the heights of the Kaltenberg (present-day Studený). The Austrians attacked the Prussian column, capturing 46 wagons with baggage, ammunition and 184 horses. The Markgraf von Brandenburg Fusiliers came to the rescue of the Prussian column and launched a counter-attack. The Karlstädter-Szluiner Grenzer and Slavonisch-Gradiskaner Grenzer, led by Colonel Wenzel Baron Hnogek von Kleefeld, drove back the attack. In this action, the Prussians lost 486 men killed, 264 wounded, 135 taken prisoners and 423 deserters. For their part, the Austrians lost 164 men killed and 214 wounded (including Colonel Ried). During this time, Maquire had reached the height near Zittau which was already occupied by a Prussian garrison of some 10,000 men.

On July 21, the Prince of Prussia finally reached Seifhennersdorf. Major-General von Schmettau was already occupying Zittau with a small Prussian force. The same day, Kaiser Hussars and Dessewffy Hussars swam across the Elbe but they were soon forced to retire by Prussian cavalry regiments. Meanwhile, the Austrians did not follow the Prussians across the border but remained in the surroundings of Tannendorf (present-day Jedlová). Major-General Beck sent 100 Grenzers and 100 hussars to Georgenthal (present-day Jiřetín) while he marched to Tollenstein (present-day Rozhled) at the head of 2,000 Grenzers and 500 hussars. Only 200 men were left on the Kaltenberg to observe the movements of the Prussians. At Zittau, Colonel Walter von Waldenau of the Austrian artillery unsuccessfully summoned Lieutenant-General Schmettau, commanding the place, to capitulate.

On Friday July 22, the Prince of Prussia left Seifhennersdorf at 9:00 a.m.. At 11:00 a.m., Winterfeldt came into sight of Zittau with the advance guard. When they saw Winterfeldt's force appear on the plain of Herwigsdorf, the Austrians immediately took possession of the heights of the Eckartsberg commanding Zittau and blocking the prince line of supply from this place. Meanwhile, the Austrian Main Army led by Daun gradually arrived in the vicinity of Zittau and encamped impregnable behind the Neisse River with its left extending to Grottau (present-day Hrádek nad Nisou) and its right to the wood of Reichenau. The main body of the Prussian army arrived in the vicinity of Zittau at 2:00 p.m.. The Prince of Prussia then marched to Herwigsdorf, about 3 km northwest of Zittau, and encamped with his right at Unterherwigsdorf and his left anchored on the heights of Oberherwigsdorf. Winterfeldt then advanced towards the town with a few grenadier bns and successfully covered the retreat of part of the Prussian garrison (7 bns) under General Schmettau along with some supply and baggage wagons. The town was now occupied by only 5 depleted bns (including 2 bns of Kurssell Fusiliers, 2 bns of Sers Fusiliers and the grenadiers of Markgraf von Brandenburg Fusiliers) under Colonel von Diericke. Its artillery was left outside the town because it could not be effectively planted on the walls. The Austrian artillery, which was not yet fully deployed, opened a quite ineffective bombardment of the town. That night, the troops of the Prince of Prussia did not pitch tents but lay upon their arms.

The bombardment of Zittau on July 23, 1757 - Source: Supraport over a door inside the Castle of Betliar in Slovakia, photo made available by H. Skala

On Saturday July 23, it began to rain heavily and, at 9:00 a.m., the Prussians pitched their tents. Then at about 10:00 a.nm., from his fully established batteries on the Eckartsberg (mainly in the churchyard of the"Zur Lieben Frau"), Colonel Waldenau fired red-hot balls upon Zittau. By noon, half the town was in flames. The Prince of Prussia then sent a detachment (Major-General Rebentisch with 3 bns) to get some food from the magazine at Zittau, but it arrived too late and came back empty handed. Colonel von Diericke, commanding what was left of the garrison, was withdrawing to join the Prussian army when he was ordered to defend Zittau to the last man. Accordingly, he re-entered the town. Bombardment ceased around 5:00 p.m. But the town was now completely afire. It was impossible for the homeless inhabitants to remain in the streets, so they tried to take refuge in the already damaged Frauentor. Those who tried to flee from the burning town were intercepted by patrols of Austrian cuirassiers, dragoons and hussars who robbed them of their belongings. Prussian soldiers also started to desert. Major-General Ludwig Baron von Buttler at the head of 1,000 converged grenadiers was preparing to storm the town but this became unnecessary. Finally, late in the afternoon, Colonel Diericke hoisted the white flag and capitulated with his garrison. Colonel Diericke, Major-General Kleist, some elements of I./Markgraf von Brandenburg Fusiliers and part of a battalion of Sers Fusiliers, which lost five colours, became prisoners of war (several soldiers had however managed to escape before the capitulation). By sunset, Zittau was but a cinder-heap, its 10,000 inhabitants homeless. However, the magazines were not yet hurt. The Austrians then sent 2 infantry regiments to bring the blaze under control. Nevertheless, However, fire still raged all night and destroyed two third of the houses.

N.B.: According to an article published in the "Erlanger Zeitung" (August 13, 1757), on July 23 between 11:00 a.m. and 5 p.m., the Austrian artillery fired around 4,000 cannonballs or shells on the town. Overall , 547 small houses and 104 patrician houses burned down, both churches were destroyed as well as all towers. Furthermore, the town hall with its entire archives was razed. From the inhabitants, 90 died in the cellars, 50 more in the streets. After this disaster, people from all countries of the monarchy spent money to rebuild the town. Maria Theresa granted 30,000 fl. for the same purpose.

On Sunday July 24, the Prince of Prussia sent his baggage ahead to Löbau. His army had no more bread ration. The Austrians sent detachments from 15 regiments, (each of 1 officer and 40 men) into Zittau to extinguish fires and maintain order. The same day, a battalion of Karlstädter-Lykaner Grenzer, led by Loudon, attacked a Prussian convoy escorted by 200 recruits near Welmina (present-day Velemín). The wagons of the convoy were quickly formed in a wagenburg. One of these wagons transported General Mannstein who had been wounded at Kolin. Mannstein bravely defended himself, refusing to surrender, and was killed during the fight. The rest of the defenders finally surrendered as prisoners of war (Colonel Kleist and Marquise de Varenne, along with 8 other officers and 146 privates).

On July 25 at 2:00 a.m., the Prince of Prussia stroke his tents and set off unchased towards the nearest Prussian magazine at Bautzen. At noon, he reached Löbau.

On July 26 at noon, General Winterfeldt took possession of the heights of Hochkirch to cover the march of the Prussian army to Bautzen.

On July 27, the army of the Prince of Prussia finally encamped at Bautzen. On reaching this town, the prince was warned that his brother would be there in a day or two. During his retreat, the prince had lost more than 8,000 men, his entire train, all his pontoons and some artillery pieces. The regiments Prinz Moritz Infantry and Braunschweig-Bevern Infantry, who had suffered so much at Kolin, were detached under General Manteuffel to reinforce the Prussian forces defending Pomerania against the Swedes. The same day, General Drašković, received the order to take Burg Schreckenstein (present-day Střekov) then occupied by the Prussians. The castle was perched on a rock near Aussig (present-day Ústí nad Labem). Colonel Loudon sent part of his troops to reinforce Drašković who, at the head of 500 Banal-Grenzer and 200 hussars stormed the castle, taking the commander, 7 officers and 260 men prisoners. Loudon's troops then occupied the country between Kraupen (present-day Krupka) and Zinnwald (present-day Cinovec).

Frederick tries to stop the Austrians on the Silesian border

Meanwhile, upon hearing of the retreat of the Prince of Prussia, Frederick instantly left Leitmeritz on July 20 after burning the bridges over the Elbe, marched along the Pascopol Highway to Karbitz (present-day Chabařovice), crossed the Elbe and encamped at Lobositz (present-day Lovosice), on his way to Linai.

On July 24, Frederick took post at Nollendorf. He then left Prince Moritz with 10,000 men (15 bns, 20 sqns) at Cotta on the other side of the Elbe and Marshal Keith to come on with another corps (about 25,000 men) and the magazines to guard the passes that lead from Bohemia to Saxony. Throughout its retreat, the Prussian army was continuously harassed by Austrian light troops.

Frederick then hastened across for Bautzen. With Zittau gone, the doors of Saxony and Silesia were wide opened. Daun had only to choose.

On July 25, Frederick reached Gießhübel (present-day Kyselka).

On July 28, Frederick arrived in Bautzen with reinforcements (15 bns, 28 sqns). The Prince of Prussia and all his generals, except Goltz and Winterfeldt, were there at his arrival. Frederick did not greet the Prince of Prussia who had no choice but to follow the king. Frederick expressed to Winterfeld his dissatisfaction of the behaviour of the Prince of Prussia and of his generals, stating that they would all deserve to be court-martialed and executed but that he could not forget that the Prince of Prussia was his own brother. Winterfeldt then had to transmit this message to the Prince of Prussia and his generals. The Prince of Prussia immediately stepped out of the circle of his generals and, without exchanging a word with Frederick, rode to Bautzen. He then wrote a letter to the king in which he announced his decision to leave the army because he could not stay longer after losing his honour and reputation. The command of his corps was transferred to the Duke of Braunschweig-Bevern.

The combined Prussian corps now amounted to some 45,000 men. Meanwhile, Keith's corps (20 bns and 40 sqns ) was at Rothnausslitz, on his way to Bautzen, keeping up communication with Dresden. Prince Moritz commanded the Prussian force left at Pirna which consisted of 12 battalions and 10 squadrons. The same day (July 28), a Grenzer detachment (Karlstädter-Lykaner Grenzer under Loudon and Banal-Grenzinfanterieregiment nr. 2 under Major Poticky) attacked the baggage of Keith's Corps on its way from Linai to Nollendorf, capturing 1 gun, 6 ammunition carts and 40 baggage wagons.

After the junction with Keith, Frederick intended to advance against the Austrians and to lock the doors of Silesia and Saxony again. Meanwhile the Prince of Prussia took leave with Frederick permission, a Frederick very dissatisfied by his brother behaviour in this campaign.

On July 30, leaving the Prince of Bevern in command at Bautzen, Frederick marched with a strong corps to the heights of Weissenberg in the direction of Zittau and encamped there. That same night, Frederick drove back the Grenzer light troops on Zittau and the Eckartsberg, but the Austrians didn't come out. For three weeks, the Austrians sat inexpugnable upon the Eckartsberg.

On August 3, Kreytzen's Corps, which was covering Schweidnitz, attacked a Grenzer detachment (part of Warasdiner-Creutzer Grenzer under Major Bauer) occupying Striegau (present-day Strzegom). The grenzers resisted during six hours before capitulating under the condition of free withdrawal.

By early August, Kreytzen had gradually forced the Austrian parties raiding Silesia to retire to Landshut.

On August 8, the Duke of Bevern marched to Nechern with most of his corps, leaving only 10 battalions in Bautzen under General Rebentisch to protect the bakery. Bevern was now only a few km west of Frederick's position.

On August 13 and 14, Kreytzen's corps was ordered to attack the Austrians at Landshut but was repulsed. After this victory, the Austrians were free to continue their raids in Silesia almost unopposed.

On August 14, Keith finally arrived at Hochkirch with his corps and the magazines.

On August 15, Frederick suddenly left Weissenberg and advanced southward to Bernstadt while Bevern moved to Herwigsdorf where he was joined by Keith. Five grenadier battalions were thrown into Herwigsdorf to protect the camps of Bevern and Keith. Altogether, Frederick had now about 56,000 men. By this move Frederick re-established communication with Silesia. Prince Charles had not dared to advance from Zittau Country for fear of being cut off from Bohemia. Consequently, to counter the movements of the various Prussian Corps, he took up his position along the road from Löbau to Zittau, guessing that Frederick would advance through Hennersdorf.

On August 16, Keith moved from Herwigsdorf to Bernstadt. Meanwhile, Frederick detached five battalions to Görlitz. At about 4:00 p.m., once Keith had made his junction with him, Frederick himself marched to Hirschfelde with all the hussars and freikorps, 10 dragoon squadrons and 10 infantry battalions where he was soon joined by the main army. This move completely surprised the advanced elements of the Austrian Army. Beck was chased into Ostritz while General Nádasdy barely escaped. Reacting to Frederick's unexpected manoeuvre, Prince Charles redeployed his army in a very strong position in front of the Eckartsberg. His right wing extended up to the Neisse through Radgendorf while his left wing was anchored upon the high ground of Oberseifersdorf. His whole line, amply supported by artillery, presented a concave front to his Prussian opponents with the hollow of Wittgendorf completely covering it. Prince Charles also threw parties of Grenzer light troops and 400 infantry into the village of Wittgendorf. Other Grenzer light troops were scattered into the surrounding woods. The Austrian Reserve corps stood on the opposite bank of the Neisse along with Nádasdy's Corps. These two corps were deployed with their left to the Neisse and their right protected the thick woods of Reichenau (present-day Bogatynia). Frederick, now established at Dittelsdorf, reconnoitred the Austrian positions while his army advanced in three divisions. His right wing was in the Wittgendorf wood, his centre at Dittelsdorf and his left at Hirschfelde on the Neisse. The two armies only separated by the Wittgendorf hollow then cannonaded each other till sunset.

On August 17, after a night spent with his troops upon their arms, Frederick realised that the Austrian position was impregnable. He ordered to pitch tents and to build some bridges across the Neisse below Hirschfelde. He then detached Winterfeldt across the Neisse with a division (10 bns, 20 dragoon sqns, 15 hussars sqns) to attack Nádasdy. After the crossing, Winterfeldt encamped for the night upon the heights of Rona. A heavy cannonade ensued while the Austrians continually reinforced Nádasdy.

On August 18 and 19, the Austrian refused to be lured into an open battle with Frederick.

On August 19, the Austrian garrison of Görlitz withdrew. About this time Frederick, ignoring that Görlitz was now free of Austrian troops, detached General Grumbkow with 5 battalions and 10 hussar squadrons to cut off or drive out the Austrian garrison.

On August 20, Frederick, seeing that it was vain to attempt to bring Prince Charles to a battle retired to Bernstadt.

From August 20 to 24, realising that the Austrians would not move from their entrenched positions near Zittau, Frederick arranged his army to watch them and to guard Silesia. Bevern and Winterfeldt would take command in his absence.

Frederick leaves for Saxony giving command to Bevern

Frederick II bidding his farewell to Winterfeldt before leaving for Saxony - Source: Menzel

On August 25, Frederick left Bernstadt for Saxony with a sizable force (15 bns, 23 sqns). Bevern with 36,000 men (25,000 foot, 11,000 horse) remained in Lusatia, near Görlitz. Meanwhile, Prince Charles was still lying quiet near Zittau with an Austrian army estimated to about 95,000 men. Maria Theresa and the Hofkriegsrath at length despatched Chancellor Kaunitz to stir up Prince Charles to action.

Bevern lay with his main body in camps at Bernstadt and Schönau, near Görlitz, where it received its supplies from Dresden. Bevern had left a garrison of 10 battalions and some squadrons under Prince Francis of Brunswick at Bautzen to protect his bakery and his line of communication with Dresden. Bevern himself had to confront the Austrians in the Görlitz Country. Winterfeldt was still on the opposite side of the Neisse with his line extending from Radmeritz to Buhra.

On August 31, Bevern left his camp at Bernstadt and Schönau and moved to Landscrone. Meanwhile, Winterfeldt broke his camp at Radmeritz and moved beyond the Neisse to Moys where bridges were thrown across the river to keep up the communication between the two armies.

Görlitz is located on the left bank of the Neisse with fine hilly country all round. Bevern had a strong camp leaning on the heights with Görlitz in its lap. Winterfeldt with 10,000 men (15 bns, 45 sqns) was beyond Görlitz, on the right bank of the Neisse, united to Bevern by bridges. Winterfeldt line lay with his back to Görlitz with brooks and fencible places flanking him nearby the little hamlet of Moys. Some short distance beyond Moys, Winterfeld had 2,000 of his grenadiers planted on the top of a hill called the Moysberg, a fine outpost with proper batteries atop and with hussar squadrons and hussar pickets sprinkled about. It is this Moysberg that Prince Charles chose to attack.

On September 3, the expected Prussian convoy arrived at Bautzen from Dresden with the necessary supplies, especially much needed flour.

On September 5, Prince Francis of Brunswick left Bautzen and escorted the supply convoy to Görlitz. Meanwhile, Prince Charles sent a detachment towards Bautzen to intercept the convoy but this detachment lost its time in the attack of a castle defended by Frei-Infanterie de Chossignon. At lenght, this freikorps surrendered but the Austrians had lost any chance of capturing the Prussian convoy.

On Tuesday September 6, Prince Charles sent Nádasdy to the right bank of the Neisse, forward upon Moys. Nádasdy, with his 15,000 men, was ordered to seize the Moysberg, defended by only 2,000 Prussian grenadiers, at dawn on September 7. Meanwhile, Daun advanced with the main body on the left bank of the Neisse from Zittau towards Görlitz to be within reach.

Battle of Moys and Prussian retreat on Breslau

On September 7, Nádasdy won the Combat of Moys. Winterfeldt, probably the best Prussian general, was killed in the action.

From September 7 to 9, Bevern's bakery was busy baking bread. However, the quantity of flour received was insufficient and the Prussian army had to move closer to other magazines.

On September 10, Bevern left Görlitz for Silesia. He crossed the Neisse in presence of the enemy without loss. Meanwhile, Lieutenant-Colonel Mathesen at the head of a battalion of Slavonisch-Brooder Grenzer entered in the suburb of Görliz to harass Bevern's rearguard but was soon driven back by Frei-Infanterie von Kalben. Colonel Brentano immediately came to Mathesen's support with 500 men of the Warasdiner-Sankt Georger Grenzer. Together, they launched a new assault and manage to drive the Prussians out of Görlitz, capturing a 25-pdr piece, 3 ammunition wagons, some baggage wagons and 60 oxen. Prince Charles and Daun followed up leaving only a rearguard of some 12,000 men consisting of light troops under Hadik and Morocz between Stolpen and Dresden in Saxony and another force (6 infantry regts and 6 cavalry regts) under Marschall at Lauban (present-day Luban) to protect Lusatia. Prince Charles and Daun were constantly on the heels of Bevern, march after march.

On September 11, Bevern passed the Queiss.

On September 12, Bevern reached Bunzlau (present-day Boleslawiec) where he passed the Bober.

Map of the Prussian camp near Liegnitz, September 19-27 1757
Source: Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen, volume III by the German Grosser Generalstab

On September 19, Bevern reached Liegnitz (present-day Legnica) country. The same day, Prince Charles was at Jauer (present-day Jawor). Bevern remained a few days in Liegnitz to bake bread for the army and to consume the great magazines of forage. Meanwhile, he made detachments (some 15,000 men) to put Schweidnitz, Glogau (present-day Glogow), Breslau (present-day Wroclaw) and Glatz (present-day Klodzko) in the best state of defence. Two battalions were sent to Glogau and there were now in Schweidnitz 11 battalions and 10 hussar squadrons. However, only 2 weak battalions garrisoned Breslau.

Taking advantage of these delays, Prince Charles managed to bar Bevern from Schweidnitz, the chief stronghold of Silesia, and from Breslau, the chief city.

On September 26, the Austrians attacked Bevern's positions at Barschdorf, forcing him to retire. Bevern now made a beautiful manoeuvre, striking out leftwards and crossing the Oder. This gave the impression that he was making for Glogau. However, he turned to right, when across, and got to Breslau from the east side of the Oder. Nevertheless, this brilliant manoeuvre left Schweidnitz isolated behind the Austrian lines, allowing Prince Charles to besiege it.

On October 1, Bevern resolved to entrench his army (30,000 men) on the southern side of Breslau. He had the marshy Lohe in front and the broad Oder to rear, with Breslau and its supply to his right.

Siege of Schweidnitz

On October 26, Nádasdy with 20,000 men (including the Bavarian and Württemberger contingents) began the siege of the fortress of Schweidnitz which contained one of the most important Prussian magazine in Silesia. Meanwhile, Prince Charles covered the approach with 60,000 men to prevent any intervention by Bevern.

Even though Frederick was still very busy in Saxony, he made instant arrangement for Silesia. Prince Henri was ordered to maintain the Saale and guard Saxony. Similarly, Marshal Keith was ordered to cross the Erzgebirge through Marienberg and Passberg with a small corps and to advance into Bohemia to draw the attention of the Austrians to that side.

On November 12, a few days after his victory at Rossbach, Frederick took 13,600 men (19 bns, 28 sqns) of his own army and marched from Leipzig. He passed by Torgau, Muhlberg, Grossenhayn, Bautzen and Weissenberg. He then crossed the Queiss and the Bober as fast as he could to relieve Schweidnitz. Meanwhile, Keith got into Bohemia through the defiles of Passberg and marched towards Prague seizing an important magazine at Leitmeritz.

Austrian Generals Hadik and Marshall who were posted in Lusatia to hinder Frederick's advance retired before him.

On November 14, Seers, governor of Schweidnitz, capitulated.

On November 18 at Grossenhain, Frederick learned that Schweidnitz had capitulated on November 14.

On November 19 in the evening, Nádasdy joined Prince Charles bringing the united Austrian army to 80,000 men. Nádasdy's Corps deployed on the right wing between Bethlern and Oppenau. Prince Charles could now concentrate his attention on Bevern's force entrenched at Breslau.

To prevent the Austrians, who were now far superior in numbers, to take possession of the suburbs of Ohlau (present-day Olawa) near Breslau and to turn his left flank, Bevern planted several redoubts before these suburbs. Zieten's Corps (7 battalions, all the dragoons and 2 hussar regiments) then advanced between Grabitzen and Gabitz (present-day Gajowice), to oppose a front to Nádasdy.

On November 21 from Bautzen, Frederick sent a letter to Bevern instructing him to avoid battle with the Austrians.

Battle of Breslau

On November 22, the Austrian army attacked Bevern's entrenchments at Breslau. The Austrians won the Battle of Breslau after a whole day of heavy fighting. Bevern was obliged to abandon Breslau at its fate and he retreated under the cover of night, leaving General Lestwitz with 8 battalions to defend the city.

On November 24 at daybreak, while visiting the advanced posts of his army, Bevern was captured by a party of Grenzer light troops. Once Bevern captured, General Kyau took command of the Prussian army. Kyau left Breslau to its fate and made towards Glogau. In the evening, General Lestwitz, the Prussian commandant in Breslau, accepted the terms offered for the surrender of Breslau. The garrison was allowed free withdrawal but massively deserted. The same day, the Austrian Army received a reinforcement of 10,000 men.

Prince Charles advances against Frederick

On November 23, Frederick was at Görlitz, the tenth day of his march, when he heard of the battle at Breslau.

On November 24, at Naumburg on the Queiss (present-day Nowogrodziec), Frederick received full details of the battle of Breslau and learned that Bevern had been defeated. However, he still ignored that Bevern had been captured. Frederick then force marched towards Breslau with the firm intention of preventing the fall of Breslau, Prince Charles had thrown a garrison into Liegnitz on Friedrich's road while he himself lay encamped in front of Breslau. Prince Charles commanded a force of some 80,000 men.

On November 25, Frederik sent two letters destined to Bevern to stress the importance of holding at all cost in Breslau and forbidding to surrender the city...

On November 27, Kyau marched by Stroppen (present-day Stropina) and reached Hünern (present-day Psary) where he received Frederick's letter sent two days before.

On November 28, Kyau arrived at Guhrau (present-day Gora/PL) where he received Frederick's orders that he shall be put in arrest and that Zieten shall take command in his place. Frederick also ordered Zieten to bring his army round by Glogau and to rendezvous with him at Parchwitz (present-day Prochowice) on December 2. Frederick then passed north of Liegnitz, merely ignoring its Austrian garrison, and arrived at Parchwitz on November 28, taking an Austrian detachment by surprise, killing 50 of them and capturing 150 men. Frederick rested his weary troops there, waiting for Zieten to join him.

On December 2, as planned, Zieten after crossing the Oder at Glogau, arrived at Parchwitz with the remnants of Bevern's army (some 15,000 men). Frederick was now at the head of an army of about 28,600 men, a very small army in comparison with the Austrian army which counted more than 80,000 men...

On December 3, Prince Charles further reinforced the garrison of Liegnitz while Frederick rested his troops.

In the night of December 3, Frederick assembled his generals and addressed a memorable speech to them. Meanwhile, the Austrians had held a council of war and decided to come out of their defences and to meet Frederick in a pitched fight. Daun had objected to this aggressive stance but to no avail.

Sunday December 4 at 4:00 AM, Frederick marched from Parchwitz straight towards the Austrian camp. The vanguard consisted of ten battalions with 800 volunteers from the whole army at their head, all the foot jägers, all the freikorps, all the hussar regiments (to the exception of Werner Hussars), the dragoon regiments of Czettritz, Normann and Jung-Krockow, and a battery of 10 heavy 12-pdrs. The army followed in four columns by the right flank. The first column consisted of the cavalry of the right wing of the first and second line. The second column was composed of the infantry of the right wing of the first and second line. Their rearguard was formed of the three battalions (Grenadiers 29/31 Östenreich, VI. Standing Grenadier Battalion and I./Prinz Ferdinand Infantry) which covered the baggage. The third column consisted of the infantry of the left wing of the first and second line. The fourth column was formed of the cavalry of the left wing of the first and second line. Werner Hussars had the rearguard. The heavy artillery were divided into two brigades and moved behind the second and third columns. Frederick himself was in the vanguard, he planned to establish his quarters at Neumarkt (present-day Sroda Slaska), a little town about 22 km from Parchwitz.

Early in the afternoon, while Frederick was only a few km from Neumarkt, he learned that there were 1,000 grenzers and hussars in this town, with the Austrian bakery at work there and engineer people marking out an Austrian camp. Therefore, before entering Neumarkt, Frederick sent a regiment to ride quietly round it on both sides and to seize a height he knew of. Once this height had been seized by his troops, Frederick burst the barrier of Neumarkt with the hussars, volunteers and freikorps of the vanguard, and dashed in upon the 1,000 light troops, flinging them out in extreme hurry. The light troops then found the height occupied and their retreat cut off. Of the 1,000 light troops, 569 were taken prisoners and 120 slain. Better still, the Austrian bakery in Neumarkt delivered 80,000 bread-rations, Prince Charles had exposed his bakery too far ahead of his army.

Meanwhile, fearing that Frederick would move on Striegau (present-day Strzegom) to cut his line of communication with Bohemia, Prince Charles had come across the Weistritz River (more commonly called Schweidnitz Water), leaving all his heavy guns at Breslau, and lay encamped that night in a long line perpendicular to Frederick's march, some 16 km ahead of him. Prince Charles had now learned with surprise how his bakery had been snapped up by the Prussians.

Battle of Leuthen

On December 5, through wonderful manoeuvring, the small Prussian army (28,600 men) of Frederick managed to defeat the much larger Austrian army (70,000 men) during the famous battle of Leuthen.

On December 6, Frederick ordered a day of rest but advanced a few troops towards Pilsnitz (present-day Pilczyce), Neukirch (present-day Zerniki) and Gross-Mochbern (present-day Mochobor Wielki). The Austrians had fled across the Lohe River and were endeavouring to assemble in the neighbourhood of Breslau where Prince Charles and Daun had deployed in the Lohe entrenchments between Gräbschen and Schmiedefeld (present-day Kuzniki). However, most of their army was dispersed into woods, office-houses, farm-villages and over a wide space of country. As the day rose, troops began to dribble in. At 3:00 PM, Prince Charles marched with some 33,000 men in two columns towards Kothensirben, heading for Schweidnitz, with the vanguard under Nádasdy and the rearguard under Serbelloni. A garrison of some 17,000 men under Sprecher was left to defend Breslau.

On December 7, the Prussian army moved in two columns by their right and crossed the Weistritz River (Schweidnitz Water). General Buccow was posted with the Austrian rearguard between Klein-Mochbern (present-day Muchobor Maly ) and Höfchen (present-day Dworek). When the Prussian hussars approached, the Austrian rearguard retired. The same day, the Austrian Main Army under Prince Charles continued its retreat up to Mantre near Poehrau where it crossed the Lohe.

Siege of Breslau

On December 7, Frederick sent Zieten with three grenadier battalions, three musketeer battalions, four hussar squadrons, five dragoon squadrons and two freikorps battalions in pursuit of the Austrian army. Zieten pursued the Austrians until December 9, capturing more than 2,000 prisoners and 3,000 wagons. Meanwhile, Frederick laid siege to Breslau defended by Sprecher with 17,000 men. On December 21, the Austrian garrison deposited arms after a vigorous defence.

Austrian army leaves Silesia

As mentioned above, on December 6, Prince Charles and Daun, leaving a garrison in Breslau, had begun their retreat towards Schweidnitz with the rest of their army.

On December 8,Pprince Charles and Daun reached Langen-Seifersdorf.

On December 9, the Austrian Main Army marched to Bogendorf near Schweidnitz and encamped there. A detachment of 2,500 men was then sent to reinforce the garrison of Liegnitz (1,000 men). During the following days, Schweidntiz was garrisoned and supplied to sustain a siege. In the first days of their retreat, the Austrians had been chased by Zieten who took 2,000 prisoners and innumerable baggages and wagons. The retreat was conducted under adverse weather: heavy rains, deep mud, with cutting snow-blasts.

On December 14, Prince Charles and Daun took their quarters between Freiberg and Reichenau. They then continued to Landshut and down the mountains, home to Königgrätz (present-day Hradec Králové).

On December 16, a Prussian detachment under Deiesen appeared in the neighbourhood of Liegnitz.

On December 17, the Austrian reinforcements (2,500 men) sent to Liegnitz finally arrived at destination, bringing the garrison to a strength of 3,500 men. This garrison was under the command of Major Baron von Bülow.

On December 23, Frederick detached Prince Maurice of Anhalt-Dessau with a large corps (about 10,000 men) of infantry and cavalry, and a considerable train of artillery to dislodge the Austrian garrison of Liegnitz.

On December 24, Frederick accompanied by his brother, Prince Ferdinand, left for Schweidnitz.

At Christmas, the Austrian army had finally reached Königgrätz, it then counted only 37,000 rank and file (9,000 foot and 28,000 horse and grenzers), 22,000 of whom were gone to hospital. A large number of men had deserted during the retreat. The same day, Prince Moritz of Anhalt-Dessau arrived in front of Liegnitz. Including Driesen's detachment, he had about 16,000 men under his command. The Katz River was frozen, making it quite easy to launch an assault on the town. The prince summoned Bülow who refused to surrender unless he and his garrison were allowed to freely retire to Bohemia.

On December 26, the Austrian garrison of Liegnitz, seeing no hope, consented to withdraw.

On December 27 at noon, the Austrian garrison left the town with the honour of war, drum beating, colours flying and with 6 guns; and retired to Bohemia where it reached Königgrätz after a march of 9 days. Large supplies of provisions fell into the hands of the Prussians together with a number of guns and a great quantity of ammunition.

However, the Prussians could not besiege Schweidnitz till spring. Except Schweidnitz, Austria had now no foot of ground in Silesia.


This article incorporates 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. 223-226, 236-240
  • Archenholz, J. W., The History of the Seven Years War in Germany, translated by F. A. Catty, Francfort, 1843, pp. 70-71
  • Carlyle T., History of Friedrich II of Prussia vol. 18
  • Donnersmarck, Victor Amadaeus Henckel von, Militaerischer Nachlass, Karl Zabeler, 1858
  • Gorani, Joseph: Mémoires, Paris: Gallimard, 1944, pp. 64-82
    • Relation de la bataille de Leuthen, Vienna, January 1758, pp. 472-477
    • Relation de la bataille de Lissa, Berlin, January 1758, pp. 477-483
  • Kyaw, Rudolf v.: Chronik des adeligen und freiherrlichen Geschlechtes von Kyaw, Leipzig, 1870 pp. 385-399
  • Tempelhoff, Fr., History of the Seven Years' War Vol. I pp. 121-147 & 176-188 & 190-, as translated by Colin Lindsay, Cadell, London, 1793
  • Vanicek, Fr.: Specialgeschichte der Militärgrenze aus Originalquellen und Quellenwerken geschöpft, Vol. II, Vienna: Kaiserlich-Königlichen Hof- und Staatsdruckerei, 1875, pp. 427-433

Other sources:

Cogswell, Neil, Journal of Horace St. Paul 1757: The Advance to Nismes, Seven Years War Association Journal Vol. XI No. 3 and Vol. XII No. 2

Fuller J. F. C., The Decisive Battles of the Western World, Granada Publishing Ltd, 1970, pp. 571-576

Skala, Harald: Rückzug des preussischen Heeres nach der Schlacht bei Kolin 1757, der Fall von Gabel und Zittau