1757 - Austrian raid on Berlin
The raid took place in October 1757
In the beginning of October 1757, Frederick's advance towards the Franco-Imperial Army in Saxony and Bevern's slow retreat towards Breslau in Silesia had opened a wide gap in the Prussian lines. The Austrian high command resolved to take advantage of the situation and to launch a raid on Berlin.
On October 10, a small Austrian detachment assembled at Elsterwerda to the north of Dresden under Count Andreas Hadik assisted by Baron von Babocsay, Count Mitrovsky and General von Kleefeld. This detachment counted 5,100 men and consisted of:
- Unidentified Cuirassier units (1,000 men)
- Baranyay Hussars (1,100 men) under colonel Ferdinand Franz von Ujházy
- Unidentified Regular Infantry units (900 men)
- Grenzer Light Troops (2,100 men)
- Artillery (6 guns)
- 2 x 3-pdr guns
- 4 x 6-pdr guns
On October 11, Hadik marched from Elsterwerda, leaving Kleefeld behind with 240 cuirassiers, 300 hussars, 1,000 grenzer light troops and 2 guns to cover his advance. A unit of 100 picked hussars was also charged to protect the line of communication between Hadik's force and his base at Elsterwerda. With these detachments, Hadik had only 3,160 men with him for his raid. His vanguard consisted of 300 men of the Baranyay Hussars under Ujházy. The same day, Frederick received inaccurate intelligence from General Finck stating that 15,000 Austrians (mainly Grenzer light troops), which had been left as rearguard at Stolpen under General Hadik, were on march for Berlin. Frederick first thought that the Swedes and perhaps Richelieu's French army would also advance on Berlin. In fact, just a detachment of about 3,000 Austrians was advancing on Berlin. However, there were no significant Prussian force between Hadik's detachment and Berlin. The road to Brandenburg was completely open. Berlin itself had nothing but palisades and a weak garrison of 4,000 men (2,000 militia, a few recruits and a few hundreds regulars) under General Rochow.
On October 12, Hadik reached Luckau. He then detached Ujházy with hussars to raise contributions in the Golssen and Baruth Countries. Meanwhile Hadik resumed his advance, marching by Lübben. The same day, Frederick rose in haste from his camp, planning to leave Saxony and to rescue Berlin. He also ordered Prince Moritz to immediately cross the Elbe at Torgau while he would follow him with additional troops.
On October 14, Hadik arrived on the banks of the Spree River. He sent a detachment of hussars towards Beeskow with instructions to seize the bridge there.
On October 15, Hadik was at Königs-Wusterhausen. Once more, he sent Ujházy ahead towards Berlin. Meanwhile, Frederick had reached Leipzig on his way to Torgau.
During the night of October 15 to 16, Hadik made an indirect approach on Berlin, marching through the "Royal Forest".
On October 16, Hadik arrived in front of Berlin with about 3,000 men and four guns. At about 11:00 a.m., he skilfully emerged at the Silesian Gate of Berlin and summoned the town to give a ransom of 300,000 thalers. The Prussian garrison refused to accede to his demand. Hadik who had prepared for an assault on the town then launched four Grenzer companies under Colonel Ried against the Silesian Gate and the bridge on the Spree. Ried was supported by two 6-pdr guns. Hadik simultaneously sent two additional companies (including 1 grenadier coy of Slavonisch-Gradiskaner Grenzer and 1 grenadier coy of Karlstädter-Szluiner Grenzer) with two 3-pdr guns to attack the drawbridge protecting the Stralau Suburb. During the latter attack, a lucky cannon shot soon broke the chains of the drawbridge which fell open. The Austrians immediately stormed the drawbrige driving off the 300 Prussians defending the position. Meanwhile, Hadik entered into Berlin through the Silesian Gate with 1,400 men (700 grenzers, 300 hussars and 400 horse) and drove off two Prussian battalions. General Babocsay was deadly wounded during this engagement. Meanwhile, Rochow, who was overestimating Hadik's force, marched off thereupon for Spandau with the royal family and effects, leaving Hadik master of the suburb. Hadik remained in the suburb for about twelve hours and finally obtained a ransom of 235,000 thalers (among which 25,000 thalers paid directly to the troops to avoid plundering).
On October 17, at about 5:00 a.m., Hadik left Berlin after hearing of Moritz's advance. A few hours after Hadik's departure, Seydlitz entered Berlin at the head of 3,000 men.
After October 17, Frederick, who was now at Annaburg, a march beyond Torgau; heard that Hadik had already left Berlin. Accordingly, Frederick called halt in the Torgau Country while he was deciding on his next move.
In the evening of October 18, Moritz finally arrived in Berlin but with his tired troops who had marched some 160 km, it was impossible to catch Hadik, now two marches ahead.
Hadik retreated towards Saxony, marching by Storkow. On his way, he sent a detachment against Frankfurt-an-Oder who had to pay a ransom of 30,000 thalers. The detachment then rejoined Hadik at Lieberose.
On October 20, Hadik reached Cottbus.
On October 21, Hadik arrived at Spremberg where he ordered a day rest.
On October 22, General Seydlitz's hussars made contact with Ujházy's detachment near Elsterwerda. The Austrians lost 20 men and 50 other were captured by the Prussians.
On October 23, Hadik's force reached Hoyerswerda. He was now out of reach of his Prussian pursuers.
For this feat of arms, Hadik received the Great-Cross of the Maria-Theresien-Orden.
This article incorporates texts from the following books which are now in the public domain:
- Archenholz, J. W.: The History of the Seven Years War in Germany, translated by F. A. Catty, Francfort, 1843, pp. 89-91
- Carlyle T.: History of Friedrich II of Prussia vol. 18
- Tempelhoff, Fr.: History of the Seven Years' War, Vol. I p. 147, 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. 429-432
Skala, Harald, Österreichische Militärgeschichte