1757 - French invasion of Hanover – Richelieu marches towards Saxony
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The campaign lasted from March to November 1757. This article describes the last phase of the campaign from September 15 to November 26 1757.
The preparations of the French and of the Allies for the campaign, the advance of the French on the Lower Rhine, their occupation of Wesel and the penetration of the French vanguards into Westphalia are described in our article 1757 - French invasion of Hanover – Preparations and initial moves (January 1 to May 17, 1757).
The French advance in Westphalia, their occupation of Hesse and the Battle of Hastenbeck are described in our article 1757 - French invasion of Hanover – French advance in Westphalia (May 18 to July 26, 1757).
The French offensive in Hanover, the retreat of the Allied army towards the sea and its capitulation at Kloster-Zeven are described in our article 1757 - French invasion of Hanover – French army invades Hanover (July 27 to September 14, 1757).
Richelieu marches towards Saxony
|Order of Battle|
|Order of battle of the French main army on September 28 1757|
After the signing of the Convention of Kloster-Zeven, the Maréchal Duc de Richelieu wanted to canton his troops in several towns while he awaited new order from Versailles, and to prepare his winter-quarters in Brunswick (aka Braunschweig) and Hanover. However, because of Frederick's march against the Prince de Soubise in Saxony, Paris sent orders to Richelieu to advance on Halberstadt to ease pressure on Soubise's Army and on the Reichsarmee. The French Court also instructed Richelieu to leave enough troops on the Aller to observe the Allied army and to contain it in the marshes around Stade even though it had theoretically surrendered.
Richelieu planned to personally reach Brunswick on September 19 while his first division would join him there on September 20. By September 23, he intended to have all his divisions assembled at Brunswick. He also instructed Lieutenant-General de Bercheny, commanding at Halberstadt, to assemble his corps and to march on the Werra with the design of encamping somewhere between Kassel and this river to support Soubise if the latter resolved to retire towards Kassel.
On September 14
- Richelieu's main army marched from the Lower-Aller towards Halberstadt with 40,000 men (94 bns, 106 sqns, 3 artillery bns and 2 Volontaires units). He advanced slowly in eight columns towards Zelle.
- Richelieu left only 4 bns, 4 sqns and 1 unit of light troops to face the Allied army.
- Polleresky Hussards were left in the Duchy of Lüneburg.
On September 15
- The Maréchal de Richelieu marched to Rethem
- The Duc de Brissac was at Verden
- The Lieutenant-General d'Armentières was at Bremen.
On September 16
- The Maréchal de Richelieu marched to Zelle.
- M. de Chevreuse remained at Rethem.
- The Duc de Chevreuse was at Bothmer and Essel.
- At Bremervörde, M. de Villemeur for the French and Lieutenant-General Spörcken for the Hanoverians agreed that the first Hanoverian troops would evacuate Stade on September 20 and the last on September 28.
- Prince Ferdinand, who had been sent from Thuringia by Frederick II to clear the region of Halberstadt of French troops, reached Eisleben with 6 bns, 11 sqns and 4 heavy pieces.
On September 17
- M. de Bercheny operated in Hesse.
- M. de Talaru reached Eschwege on the Werra.
- M. de Turpin marched from Witzenhausen to Allendorf, pushing a detachment to Kreuzburg.
- The Danish negotiator, M. de Lynar, wrote a letter to Richelieu to ask for the authorisation to quarter the Hanoverian troops in the areas of Lüneburg and Uelzen. Richelieu refused his request.
- Prince Ferdinand sent forward Lieutenant-Colonel von Horn of the Driesen Cuirassiers with his vanguard (300 picked foot, 200 cuirassiers and all his hussars) towards Aschersleben. Meanwhile, Ferdinand advanced to Arnstedt, south of Aschersleben, with the rest of his corps.
On September 18, the Lieutenant-General de Contades was at Zelle.
On September 19
- The Maréchal de Richelieu reached Brunswick while the first divisions (45 bns, 40 sqns) of the main army arrived at Wolfenbüttel.
- M. de Rochambeau reached Osterwieck with M. de Voyer.
- Upon arrival of Ferdinand's Corps, all French detachments sent forward to bring back grain and forage to Brunswick were forced to retire.
- Richelieu received a letter from the Danish plenipotentiary informing him that the King of Denmark had agreed with the Convention of Kloster-Zeven and had ratified it. Richelieu then felt free to concentrate his attention on his right wing where the arrival of Frederick's Army had changed the strategic situation.
- Horn surprised a French detachment near Egeln. He then surprised the unaware garrison of Aschersleben (6 sqns and 200 picked foot) and recaptured the place. In this action, the French lost 60 men killed (including the commander, Colonel Comte Lusignan) and 12 officers and 180 troopers taken prisoners, while the Prussians lost only 8 men. Horn then advanced on Gröningen and Kroppenstedt but, seeing that they were strongly defended, he returned to Aschersleben.
- Prince Ferdinand marched from Arnstedt to Ditfurt. The French withdrew all their advanced troops who retired to Osterwieck.
- Ferdinand, who continued to be informed by the authorities in Brunswick of Richelieu's movements, learned of his advance towards Zelle. Ferdinand then transferred his provisions from Osterwieck to Magdeburg.
On September 20
- Rochambeau and Voyer evacuated Osterwieck and retired by Hornburg behind the Bruch at Achim near Börßum to await the arrival of Richelieu. They were soon reinforced by 4 bns and 2 sqns sent from Braunschweig and Wolfenbüttel. The Lieutenant-General Marquis de Voyer then assumed command of the forces assembled at Achim near Börßum.
- As agreed the first Hanoverian and Hessian troops left Stade.
- In Vienna, the ambassador of the Duchy of Brunswick signed a treaty of neutrality with the ambassador of France, M. de Stainville. By this treaty, the French would continue to occupy Braunschweig and Wolfenbüttel for the duration of the war. Furthermore, the Brunswicker Contingent should march to join the Reichsarmee. The Austrian Chancellor Kaunitz recommended making similar agreements with Gotha and Hesse. However, after some deliberations, it was decided that it would be better to send the Brunswicker, Hessian and Mecklenburger contingent to join the Swedish army operating in Pomerania.
- Horn reinforced with the II./Anhalt-Dessau Infantry, advanced on Halberstadt. The French surrendered without combat; 3 officers and 50 men were taken prisoners.
- The main body of Ferdinand's Corps then remained in Halberstadt where it joined the garrison and established its headquarters, covered by the garrison of Magdeburg.
- Horn advanced to Ströbeck with the vanguard. He occupied Osterwieck and captured part of the content of the magazines.
- Quedlinburg was occupied.
- 3 bns were sent out of Magdeburg: Salmuth Fusiliers occupied Gröningen and II./Jungkenn Müntzer Fusiliers occupied Schwanebeck.
On September 21, Fischer, posted at Goslar, erroneously announced that Frederick was arriving in the area of Halberstadt.
On September 22, Richelieu started his advance by Wolfenbüttel.
On September 23
- M. de Villemeur, on his way to join Richelieu at Wolfenbüttel, was informed by Spörcken that he had been ordered to halt by the Duke of Cumberland.
- Ferdinand encamped at Zilly with 3 bns and 5 sqns. The rest of his corps remained in Halberstadt.
On September 25
- Richelieu's vanguard under Voyer reached Hornburg.
- Horn retired to Zilly.
On September 26
- Richelieu marched from Wolfenbüttel to Achim near Börßum with the first divisions of his army, awaiting the arrival of d'Armentières' Division, which was still north of Wolfenbüttel.
- Voyer (2 infantry brigades, 2 cavalry brigades, Bercheny Hussards, Volontaires du Hainaut, Volontaires de l'armée, 1 artillery brigade) marched from the area of Osterwieck to Achim near Börßum.
- At Achim, Richelieu received intelligence that Ferdinand's Corps at Halberstadt consisted of about 11,000 men (in fact it had fewer than 7,000 men) in addition to the garrison of Magdeburg. Another Prussian detachment (Horn's detachment) of some 3,000 men occupied the heights behind Zilly, 9 km east of Osterwieck. Ferdinand also had some hussars and dragoons in Osterwieck. Richelieu immediately gave orders to all available cavalry to pass the canal; to Voyer to march on Osterwieck during the following night; and to the Lieutenant-General Duc de Brissac (6 bns, 30 sqns) seconded by Guerchy, Noailles and FitzJames to march from Roklum at midnight for a planned junction with Voyer's Corps at dawn.
- Horn retreated to Halberstadt.
On September 27
- Voyer marched to Athenstedt, Danstedt and Ströbeck with the vanguard.
- Richelieu sent Chevert (Grenadiers de France, Carabiniers, 12 bns, 6 sqns, 18 pieces), seconded by Poyanne and La Vallette, towards Osterwieck. Chevert encamped at Dardesheim, Bersel (unidentified location) and Osterwieck.
- The Reserve, under Lieutenant-General Contades remained at Achim near Börßum.
- Ferdinand, accompanied by his hussars, observed the movements of Richelieu's Army. At 10:00 p.m., he retreated in the greatest silence from Halberstadt, and passed the Bode at Gröningen and Egeln, stopping at Hadmersleben
- Prince Ferdinand ordered Lieutenant-General von Borcke, commanding in Magdeburg, to send out a small detachment (2 bns of Kurmark Land Militia Regiment von Borck, a few coys of line infantry and some recruits of Meinicke Dragoons) to oppose French incursions in the region. This detachment drove back 150 men of Polleresky Hussards near Osterburg.
On September 28
- At 5:00 a.m., the various corps of the French army marched to the heights of Zilly where they deployed in seven columns, extending up to Athenstedt. Voyer, forming the vanguard, marched towards Danstedt and pushed light troops up to Halberstadt, which they found abandoned.
- Richelieu's Army encamped west of Halberstadt.
- The grenadiers and carabiniers took position east of Halberstadt.
- Voyer occupied Gröningen and Egeln with 7 bns, 15 sqns, the Volontaires du Hainaut and the Volontaires de l'armée.
- Ferdinand's Corps retired from Hadmersleben and encamped near Gross-Wanzleben.
- Horn retired to Klein-Wanzleben.
- Recruits arrived for Hülsen Infantry and Anhalt-Dessau Infantry. The latter regiment was able to re-establish its 3 bns. Ferdinand's Corps now counted some 7,000 men.
- Ferdinand was informed that the French were bringing heavy pieces from the region of Bremen. He feared for Magdeburg and asked Frederick if he should reinforce the garrison of the fortress (approx. 6,000 men) with his corps. Frederick, who intended to join with Ferdinand's Corps, instructed him to enter into Magdeburg only at the last extremity.
On September 29 and 30, the French Reserve under Contades arrived at Halberstadt while Chevreuse's Division reached Oschersleben on the Bode and d'Armentières reached Goslar. Richelieu occupied Halberstadt.
On September 30, Richelieu wrote to M. de Lynar to inform him that he agreed that the Hanoverian and Hessian troops could stop their march as they had been ordered by Cumberland. Richelieu even authorised them to march back to Stade!
|Order of Battle|
|Order of battle of Ferdinand's Prussian Corps, including the garrison of Magdeburg by October 1 1757|
On October 1, d'Armentières occupied Quedlinburg. Fischer, then stationed on the Bode, was sent towards the Saale. By this date, Richelieu's army consisted of 150 bns and 159 sqns:
- Main Body (72 bns, 65 sqns) around Halberstadt
- Chevreuse (10 bns, 20 sqns) at Oschersleben
- Voyer (7 bns, 12 sqns, Bercheny Hussards 3 sqns) at Gröningen
- Armentières (52 bns, 37 sqns, Turpin Hussards 4 sqns, artillery) at Quedlinburg
- Bercheny Hussards 1 sqn in Kassel
- Polleresky Hussards 4 sqns in the Duchy of Lüneburg
With Halberstadt occupied, Richelieu did not consider any additional operations and remained idle. He informed Paris that it was impossible to take his winter-quarters in the region, complaining about the conditions of his troops and claiming that his army urgently needed some rest to prepare for next year’s campaign. Richelieu also wrote to Soubise, warning him of the danger of confronting the war-hardened Prussian army led by Frederick just to prevent it from crossing the Elbe. In his opinion, the advantages of such an operation did not outweigh the risks.
Soon French detachments extended their incursions up to the Altmark, even crossing the Elbe downstream of Magdeburg and raising contributions in the Priegnitz.
As instructed by Frederick, Ferdinand tried to negotiate a ceasefire with Richelieu. If successful, he was to march as fast as possible to Wittenberg.
On October 4, the remnants of the Garrison Regiment IX de La Motte, who had defended Geldern, finally reached Magdeburg. On the way there, most soldiers had deserted.
On October 5, Cumberland quit Stade, leaving his army behind.
On October 6, Richelieu received the king's authorisation to finalize the Convention of Kloster-Zeven.
On October 7, as instructed by the court, Richelieu sent the Lieutenant-General de Broglie (20 bns, 18 sqns and some field-guns) from Halberstadt to join with Soubise's army. After a first march through the Hartz Mountains, Broglie encamped at Heimburg, having left several soldiers and the train behind. Richelieu's army now totalled only 42,000 men (most of his battalions and squadrons being severely understrength).
On October 8, Broglie reached Benneckenstein.
On October 9, Broglie reached Ellrich.
On October 10, Broglie reached Nordhausen with 17 bns and 16 sqns while the Comte d'Orlick advanced on Mühlhausen with 3 bns and 2 sqns.
On October 11, Cumberland arrived in Great Britain. The same day, part of Ferdinand's Corps made a demonstration against Chevreuse's Corps.
On October 12, Cumberland arrived at Kensington and George II, the King of Great Britain, immediately relieved him of all military offices.
In the night of October 12 to 13, Richelieu sent 3 infantry brigades and 10 sqns to reinforce Chevreuse near Oschersleben. These reinforcements brought Chevreuse's Corps to 22 bns and 20 sqns.
On October 13, the remnants of the Garrison Regiment IX de La Motte set off from Magdeburg for Berlin.
On October 14, Broglie divided his corps into two divisions. The first immediately marched from Nordhausen to Bleicherode.
On October 15, Broglie's first division reached Keula while the second division marched from Nordhausen.
On October 16, Broglie's first division reached Mühlhausen.
On October 17, Broglie's second division joined his first corps at Mühlhausen. Broglie's entire Corps then passed under the command of the Prince de Soubise as part of the French Army of Saxony.
N.B.: from this point all operations of Broglie's Corps are described in the article 1757 - Franco-Imperial invasion of Saxony while the present article describes the operations of Richelieu's Army.
On October 20, Ferdinand's Corps retired to Magdeburg.
Near Halberstadt, Richelieu's Army was making preparations to retire to its winter-quarters in Brunswick and Hanover. But in France, the Court was not inclined to confirm a ceasefire. Indeed, when the Cardinal de Bernis informed Starhemberg, the Austrian ambassador, of the agreement proposed by Richelieu, he vigorously protested against any such agreement.
On October 22, Frederick abandoned all hope of a ceasefire with Richelieu and ordered Ferdinand to march on Berlin.
On October 24, Ferdinand set off from Magdeburg and marched eastwards to Möckern.
At the end of October, the King of Great Britain despatched Count von Schulenburg, a Hanoverian, to Frederick II at Leipzig. The count asked King Frederick to assign Duke Ferdinand of Brunswick as general of the Anglo-Hanoverian army at Stade. Frederick gave his cheerful consent.
Preparation of the Allied counter-offensive in Hanover
On November 2, Richelieu's Army set off from Halberstadt and retired to the Duchy of Brunswick, leaving small detachments to occupy Halberstadt and a few towns along the Bode.
On November 6, upon his arrival at Hachum, Richelieu learned of the crushing defeat of Rossbach (November 5) suffered by Soubise. Fearing the revocation of the convention, he took steps to assemble his own army at Duderstadt to receive Soubise's retreating troops and to contain Frederick.
On November 7, while his logistical services prepared the movement towards Duderstadt, Richelieu marched to Brunswick where he established his headquarters. The same day, the Allies established a camp between Altenkloster and Buxtehude. Furthermore, 6 British transports sailed upstream from the mouth of the Elbe towards Stade.
On November ??, M. de Morangies (8 bns, 6 sqns) marched from Verden towards Soltau, a town to the north of the City of Hannover .
After the Prussian victory at Rossbach, the British Government denounced the Convention of Kloster-Zeven. Nevertheless, Richelieu dispersed his army in various winter-quarters in Hanover, Westphalia, Hesse, Brunswick and Halberstadt. Shortly after, the Allies, outraged by the behaviour of the French troops, began to assemble their contingents. Now that a force of 3,000 Prussians was in the region, the City of Halberstadt refused to pay contributions to the French.
On November 9, at Merseburg, Duke Ferdinand got his British commission. He remained in Magdeburg for six more days.
On November 13, seeing that the Hessian and Hanoverian contingents were prevaricating, Richelieu assembled the corps of the Marquis de Villemure (30 bns and 30 sqns) and sent it to Lüneburg with orders to support Harburg, garrisoned by 2 bns of La Roche Aymon Infanterie, Wurtemberg Cavalerie and a detachment of artillery. The town had previously been supplied and fortified by M. de Pereuse. Meanwhile Richelieu remained at Brunswick ready to march to his left or right depending on the evolution of the situation; and Maillebois went to Duderstadt to join the Prince de Soubise and to prepare winter-quarters.
On November 14, Duke Karl of Brunswick ordered his units to leave the Allied army and march home.
On November 16, it became known to Allied troops that Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick would assume command of the Allied army. Zastrow began to put Allied units in readiness. He occupied Bremervörde, some 27 km southwest of Stade. Wilhelm VIII, the Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel, immediately placed his troops under the command of the new commander-in-chief.
On November 17, Villemeur started his march from Brunswick. The same day, Ferdinand arrived at Magdeburg.
In the night of November 18 to 19, the Brunswicker Contingent set off from the Allied camp at Stade to reach the closest French outpost. Zastrow was immediately informed of their departure and ordered his Hanoverian and Hessian troops to prevent the departure of the Brunswickers. Generals von Imhoff and von Behr were put under arrest and Colonel von Zastrow, the next most senior officer of the Brunswicker Contingent, agreed to march back to Stade with this contingent and wait for new orders from the Duke of Brunswick.
On November 20, a detachment (10 bns, 12 sqns) of Villemeur's Corps reached Winsen. Another detachment was marching on Klötze. Meanwhile, Richelieu marched to Gifhorn where he learned that the Brunswicker contingent had left the Allied camp, ignoring that it already been intercepted by Hanoverian and Hessian troops.
On November 21, Villemeur was ordered to march from Uelzen on Lüneburg.
The Landgrave of Hessen-Kassel informed the French that, since his regiments were under British pay and that Great Britain had rejected the convention of Kloster-Zeven, “Things had changed.”
On November 22, Richelieu marched to Uelzen where he established his headquarters.
On November 23, Ferdinand of Brunswick arrived at the Allied headquarters at Stade. On his way, he had met with his nephew, the Hereditary Prince of Brunswick, at Escheburg near Bergedorf as the latter was going to the Dutch Republic according to his father’s orders. The prince informed Ferdinand of the attempt by the Brunswicker Contingent to march home. Ferdinand had managed to persuade the desperate young prince to return to the army, an event that did not fail to have a favorable effect on the Brunswickers.
On November 24, the division of M. de Laval reached Winsen. Richelieu established his headquarters at Lüneburg and recalled the French forces occupying East Frisia, instructing them to march towards Hoya. His right now extended up to the Elbe. He placed some guns in the Fort of Overschantz (unidentified location) overlooking this river to prevent the passage of Prussian riverine convoys. The same day, Duke Ferdinand arrived in Stade, on horseback at morning parade. He announced that he was come to take command, that King George II had declined to ratify the Convention of Kloster-Zeven and that this convention was abolished. When Richelieu was informed that Ferdinand had taken command of the reunited Allied Army, he threatened to burn the country if the convention was not abided by.
On November 26, Zastrow, the commander of the Hessian contingent, informed Richelieu that he was reopening hostilities. Ferdinand did not lose time and launched the Allied counter-offensive in Hanover. He soon drove back the French army to the Aller.
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. 201-206, 217-221, 242-244
- Archenholz, J. W.: The History of the Seven Years War in Germany, translated by F. A. Catty, Francfort, 1843, pp. 79-85, 103, 124, 209
- Carlyle, T.: History of Friedrich II of Prussia, vol. 18
- Du Bois: Camps topographiques de la Campagne de 1757 en Westphalie etc., Le Hague, 1760
- 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. 157-158, 168-173
- Vol. 6 Leuthen, Berlin, 1904, pp. 76-78
- Jomini, Henri: Traité des grandes opérations militaires, 2ème édition, 2ème partie, Magimel, Paris: 1811, pp. 1-5
- Pajol, Charles P. V.: Les Guerres sous Louis XV, vol. IV, Paris, 1891, pp. 43-82, 91-110, 115-118
- Sichart, L. von: Geschichte Der Koniglich-hannoverschen Armee, Vol. 3 - Part 1, Hannover, 1870, pp. 231-234
Évrard P.: Praetiriti Fides
Ortenburg, Georg von: Braunschweigisches Militär, Elm Verlag, Cremlingen, 1987
Rogge, Christian: The French & Allied Armies in Germany during the Seven Years War, Frankfurt, 2006
Rohan Chabot, Alix de: Le Maréchal de Belle Isle ou la revanche de Foucquet, Perrin, Paris, 2005
Service historique de l'armée de terre
- Archives du génie, article 15, section 1, §5, pièce 23
- A1 3536 – 111
- A4 29