1757 - Russian campaign in East Prussia

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Hierarchical Path: Seven Years War (Main Page) >> Campaigns >> 1757 - Russian campaign in East Prussia

The campaign lasted from August to September 1757

Evolution of the situation in 1756

According to a former treaty with Great Britain, Russia was supposed to supply under subsidies 55,000 men and 40 to 50 galleys.

Indeed, since 1755, a Russian Expedition Corps of 40,000 was stationed in Livonia. The rest of the field troops was distributed among the various governments of the Russian Empire while almost all the available cavalry was in Ukraine.

However, the signature of the Treaty of Westminster on January 16, 1756, between Great Britain and Prussia totally modified the situation.

In April, Russia and Austria agreed for a common offensive against Prussia. However, Austria soon postponed the offensive to the Spring of 1757.

On June 23, when King Frederick II of Prussia heard of the accession of Empress Elizabeth Petrovna to the Treaty of Versailles and was informed that a Russian force was marching from Narva towards Riga and Mitau (present-day Jelgava), he appointed Field-Marshall von Lehwaldt as commander-in-chief in East Prussia. A force of 11 bns and 10 sqns was mobilized and sent to Pomerania to reinforce Lehwaldt's Army. Frederick still hoped that the British Navy would send a squadron in the Baltic Sea to prevent any Russo-Swedish amphibious operations.

Frederick vainly requested the Republic of Poland to supply 4,000 men guaranteed by the Treaty of Wehlau for the protection of Brandenburg and not to allow Russian troops to march through Poland.

At the end of September, a Prussian force of 8,000 men assembled in Pomerania under the Hereditary Prince of Hessen-Darmstadt.

In the Autumn, Field-Marshall Apraxin was appointed commander-in-chief of the Russian army who would invade Prussia.

Russia resolved to field a large army (83,000 foot, 14,000 horse, 3,000 artillerymen, 200 miners, 4,000 hussars, 19,500 irregulars) ready to operate in the Spring of 1757. It would consist of:

  • 3 new grenadier rgts (each of 2 bns and 4 regimental pieces and 1 Shuvalov secret howitzer)
  • 32 musketeer rgts (each of 3 bns, 2 grenadier coy and 5 regimental pieces)
  • 2 old cuirassier rgts (each of 5 sqns)
  • 3 new cuirassier rgts (each of 5 sqns and 2 regimental pieces)
  • 5 new horse grenadier rgts (each of 5 sqns and 2 regimental pieces)
  • 4 dragoon rgts (each of 6 sqns and 2 regimental pieces)
  • 2 artillery rgts and 1 howitzer corps with 79 field pieces (including a battery of 11 Shuvalov unicorns who reached the army only in July)
  • 1 detachment of siege artillery with 24 siege pieces
  • 1 miner coy (200 men) and engineers
  • 1 pontonier detachment with 30 pontoons
  • 4 hussar rgts (each of 5 sqns) a fifth rgt (Horvath Hussars) joined the army during the Summer
  • Chuguevski Cossacks (1 rgt of 5 sotnias)
  • 8 Don Cossacks rgts of the “Old Command” (each of 5 sotnias)
  • 10 Don Cossacks rgts of the “New Command” (each of 5 sotnias)
  • 8 Slobodan Cossacks rgts (each of 20 half-sotnias and 2 regimental guns)
  • Companeiskiy Cossacks (10 sotnias)
  • Asiatic Cavalry
    • Stavropol Kalmyks (500 men)
    • Bashkirs (500 men)
    • Meschtscheraken (probably Meskhetian Turks) (500 men)
    • Tatars from Kazan (500 men)
    • Kalmyks of the Volga (2 units of 2,000 men each)
Note: the Shuvalov secret howitzers reached the army only in May 1757.

Frederick sent Seydlitz Hussars to Sagan (present-day Zagan/PL).

On October 20, Lehwaldt gave orders to send 3 grenadier bns to East Prussia.

Several Russian depots were established in the Baltic provinces and along the Düna (present-day Daugava) and the Dniepr. The ships of the Baltic Fleet were ready at Kronstadt and Reval (present-day Tallinn/Estonia).

From October, several Russian units we posted along the frontier with Poland, from Riga to Smolensk, to prevent smuggling and desertion. They consisted of:

  • Smolensk Garrison Infantry
  • Dorogobusch Garrison Infantry
  • Welikoluki Garrison Battalion
  • Ingermlandskiy Dragoons
  • Voronej Garrison Dragoons
  • Rosslavl Garrison Squadron
  • Smolensk Gentry (?)

Furthermore, the following units were posted south of Smolensk:

On November 10, Apraxin set off from St. Petersburg to join the field army in Latvia.

On November 21, Apraxin arrived at Riga. Meanwhile, Poland had authorised Russian troops to march through its territory and to establish depots. Apraxin ordered to establish a dozen magazines (Skoruli, Keidany, Wilkomir, Orscha, Tcherikov, Tschetscherst, Retschiza, Oschmiany, Minsk, Sluzk, Kovno, Wilan, Troki and Stolbzy) on the Middle Niemen with supplies for two or three months. These magazines could be supplied by vessels.

On November 29, the Prussian corps under the Hereditary Prince of Hessen-Darmstadt was ordered to march towards Silesia.

In December, 2,000 Don Cossacks were posted on the Prussian border to the north of Memel (present-day Klaipeda/Lithuania).


Preparations for the campaign of 1757

Preparations for the campaign - Copyright: Kronoskaf

In the Winter of 1756-57, the Russian infantry, 1 cavalry rgt and 1 hussar rgt assembled in Livonia, Estonia and the Province of Pskov. The main body was in the region of Riga. A corps (11 infantry rgts, 1 cavalry rgt, Chuguevski Cossacks and 4 Don Cossacks rgts) advanced to Mitau in Courland. Meanwhile, part of the cavalry, 3 hussar rgts and 4 Don Cossacks rgts assembled between Smolensk and Pskov.

In January 1757, Major-General Count Rumyantsev took command of the troops assembled near Pskov. The rest of the cavalry was stationed between Smolensk and Chernigov under Lieutenant-General Matthäus Lieven. The Stavropol Kalmyks (500 men), the Bashkirs (500 men), the Meschtscheraken (500 men) and the Tatars from Kazan (500 men) joined Lieven's Corps during Winter.

By January 8, each musketeer and grenadier coy of Lehwaldt's Army had been reinforced by 30 men.

Towards the end of January, Lehwaldt took dispositions to secure his magazines. He considered that he could not prevent plundering north of the Memel River (a branch of the Neman River).

On January 26, Lehwaldt charged Major-General von Kanitz to cover the country south of the Memel River with 4 grenadier bns (Gohr, Manstein, Lossow and Polentz) and 10 sqns (Plettenberg Dragoons and 5 sqns of I./Ruesch Hussars).

On February 2, the formal alliance between Russia and Austria was concluded. It was agreed that Apraxin would launch an offensive against Prussia with 80,000 men.

On February 3, Apraxin held a war council, where he proposed to advance with the main body along the south bank of the Niemen (present-day Neman River) against Königsberg (present-day Kaliningrad/Kaliningrad Oblast), covered by a corps who would capture Memel before joining the main body. The council did not approve the plan but Apraxin later decided to carry it out.

On February 5, from Dresden, Frederick ordered the mobilisation of a Prussian army to defend East Prussia.

On February 11, Lehwaldt ordered to recall all men on leave and to reinforce, before the beginning of March, each dragoon sqn with 1 ensign, 2 NCOs and 12 troopers; and each hussar sqns with 6 troopers.

On February 13, Kanitz's detachment reached the neighbourhood of Tilsit (present-day Sovetsk/Kaliningrad Oblast). I./Ruesch Hussars established an outpost on the north bank of the Memel. Furthermore, 30 hussars of this battalion, under Second Lieutenant Göll, were posted on the frontier to the north of Memel.

On February 21, as thawing began, I./Ruesch Hussars retired behind the Memel.

On February 26, Göll's detachment rejoined I./Ruesch Hussars.

At the end of February, Lieutenant-General Lieven set off from his quarters along the Dniepr between Smolensk and Chernigov with the best elements of his cavalry and marched towards Slutsk and Wilna (present-day Vilnius/Lithuania). Troopers who had unsatisfactory mounts assembled at Smolensk and waited for the arrival of new horses. The mass of the Russian infantry was still stationed in Courland, Livonia and Estonia.

At the beginning of March, a Prussian corps (Holstein-Gottorp Dragoons, Finckenstein Dragoons, Malachowski Hussars and Kanitz Infantry) assembled at Angerburg (present-day Węgorzewo/PL) under Lieutenant-General Prince von Holstein to follow any Russian corps who would advance leftwards through Poland. Furthermore, II./Ruesch Hussars was sent to the frontier, so that the entire regiment now constituted the foremost defence from Tilsit to the south of Goldap (present-day Gołdap/PL).

The fortified places of East Prussia were all in very poor conditions. Königsberg with the Citadel of Friedrichsburg were in relatively good conditions and work was underway to repair damages: palisades and abattis were erected where the walls were in the worst conditions; magazines were built in front of the Friedland Gate. Thus the capital of the province could at least withstand a “coup-de-main”. The place was under the command of Colonel von Puttkamer and defended by 2 bns of Garrison Regiment I Puttkamer. The defensive works of Pillau (present-day Baltiysk/Kaliningrad Oblast) were not very strong: the ditches were almost filled with sand and 1 bn of Garrison Regiment I Puttkamer defended the place. In Memel, the defensive works were in such a bad condition that it seemed impossible to defend the place. Its garrison (4 coys of Land Regiment 2 Polentz) could only hope to hold a few days in the citadel. Finally, the defensive works of Marienwerder (present-day Kwidzyn/PL), an important place to hold East Prussia, had been neglected. The commander of the bn of Garrison Regiment I Puttkamer, charged with the defence of the place, had the works repaired and established an outpost to guard the bridges at Kurzebrack (present-day Korzeniewo/PL) to the west of Marienwerder.

In mid-March, the Russian troops were distributed for a potential rendezvous at Kovno (present-day Kaunas/Lithuania) at the end of May. However, Field-Marshall Apraxin hesitated to execute the order given to him by Empress Elizabeth to invade East Prussia. An Austrian envoy, FML von St. André, joined Apraxin at his headquarters in Riga while another Austrian representative, FML Baron von Buccow, was sent to St. Petersburg to try to induce the Russians to act. The fluctuating health of Empress Elizabeth combined with the known Prussian sympathy of her potential successor paralysed Apraxin. He argued that his army was not yet ready to undertake an expedition so far from its bases because he did not have sufficient provisions and the siege corps destined for Memel was not ready.

Initially, Lehwaldt considered to deploy troops on a front of some 60 km to prevent Russian incursions in East Prussia.

On March 28, Lehwaldt ordered to establish the East Prussia Land Militia Battalion to defend the frontier, cover the coast and protect the province against raids of the Russian irregular cavalry.

In the Spring, the other Russian irregulars units, who had reached the Dniepr on the previous Autumn, joined the Russian army.

At the beginning of April, Lehwaldt undertook a general inspection of the Province of East Prussia. He found troops in good condition but considered that garrison regiments lacked experienced officers. The fortresses were ready for defence and the East Prussia Land Militia Battalion had started to assemble.

On April 10, Lehwaldt wrote to Frederick that he was under the impression that the Russians would not be ready to march before mid-May. He estimated their strength between 80,000 and 120,000 men.

On April 24, Forester von Schlieben was ordered to recruit volunteers for the East Prussia Land Militia Battalion. Furthermore, according to an order issued by the administration at Königsberg, additional levies were made for the defence of the towns and villages of East Prussia. Small mounted units were charged to carry messages. As in the other towns, some 3,000 burghers of Königsberg were organised in armed coys while 6,000 others formed a reserve. Finally, the butchers' guild, according to ancient tradition, formed a squadron of 150 men.

On April 28, the Russian commanders were informed of the intended march towards Kovno. Meanwhile, troops stationed in Courland were ordered to march towards Riga which they should reach by May 11.

Learning that the Russian army had brought no forage and intended to resupply in its march through Poland, Frederick bought up all corn and forage in the regions through which the Russians would march. In fact, the poor harvest of the previous year in East Prussia forced him to bring supplies from other provinces or to buy them in Poland.

From the end of April to May 5, Prussian troops gradually took position between Insterburg (present-day Chernyakhovsk/Kaliningrad Oblast) and Tilsit. Lehwaldt established his headquarters at Insterburg.

At the beginning of May, the 6 coys of the East Prussia Land Militia Battalion, totalling 2,200 men, had been assembled. Lehwaldt appointed an officer to command each of these companies. Captain von Katrczinsky of the Goldap coy, was designated as commander of the battalion. The battalion joined Ruesch Hussars along the border between the Memel River and Goldap. Major-General von Ruesch took command of this detachment.

A strong Russian fleet (20 ships of the line, 6 frigates, 4 bombs, 2 gunboats and a large number of transport vessels) had been equipped in the Baltic to cooperate with the army. Empress Elizabeth ordered to blockade Prussian harbours. The squadron based at Kronstadt sent 6 bombs under Captain Valrunt towards Memel.

Russian Fleet of the Baltic in May
In Windau (present-day Ventspils/Latvia): Reval Squadron under Counter-Admiral Lewes, an Englishman in the Russian service.
  • 6 ships of the line
  • 3 frigates

On its way from Kronstadt towards Memel: bomb squadron of Captain Valrunt from the Kronstadt Squadron

  • 4 bombs
  • 2 gunboats

In Riga: transport galleys of Lieutenant S. Vishniakov to transport the siege artillery to Libau (present-day Liepāja/Latvia)

In Reval: transport galleys fleet of Counter-Admiral Kashkin

  • 42 galleys

In Kronstadt: Admiral Mishukov's Squadron

  • 14 ships of the line
  • 3 frigates

The main Prussian magazine in East Prussia was located in Königsberg but there were also large magazines in Tilsit and Ragnit (present-day Neman/Kaliningrad Oblast) and smaller ones were established at Gumbinnen (present-day Gusev/Kaliningrad Oblast), Angerburg, Insterburg and Wehlau (present-day Znamensk/Kaliningrad Oblast).

The Russians advance towards East Prussia

On May 7, a Russian squadron (6 ships of the line, 3 frigates) under Counter-Admiral Lewes sailed from Reval towards the Prussian coasts.

On May 10 and 11, Lieutenant-General Lieven occupied Kovno with 2 horse grenadier rgts.

On May 13, Lewes' Squadron arrived at Windau. Lewes sent cruisers to reconnoitre the harbours of Pillau and Memel.

Order of Battle
Order of battle of Lehwaldt's Prussian Army on May 13

Order of battle of Apraxin's Russian Army on May 13

By May 13, the Russian army (some 88,400 men including the troops already at Kovno) was deployed as follows:

  • the avant-garde under General in Chief Browne in and around Mitau
  • the main body under General in Chief Lopukhin mostly at Riga with part still on the march towards Riga
  • Major-General Rumyantsev's Cavalry on the march towards Wilkomir (present-day Ukmergė/Lithuania)
  • Saltykov's Brigade at Reval
  • small columns on the march towards Kovno
  • Lieutenant-General Lieven's Cavalry on the march towards Kovno and Grodno (Hrodna/Belarussia)
  • the irregular cavalry on the march from the Dniepr to the Niemen

On May 13, Apraxin ordered his army to march on Kovno in two divisions, each forming a column. The fact that most forage along the way had already been bought by the Prussians considerably hindered and delayed the advance of the Russian army.

On May 14, the main Russian army passed the Düna (present-day Daugava River).

On May 23, the right column of the Russian army reached Mitau; and the left column, Bauske (present-day Bauska/Latvia). Another column, commanded by General Fermor advanced through Samogitia, a province of Lithuania, heading for Memel to lay siege to the place.

On May 26, the Kronstadt Squadron under Admiral Mishukov sailed for Pillau.

The Russians advance towards East Prussia - Copyright: Kronoskaf

By the end of May, 4 Russian infantry rgts and 2 Don Cossacks rgts had also reached Kovno.

Around the end of May, a few Russian warships appeared in front of Brüsterort (present-day Majak) and Pillau, preventing commercial activities. However, after strong representations from Denmark and Great Britain, only Prussian vessels were intercepted.

Two high roads led from Poland and Lithuania to the Prussian border: one from Kovno by Balwerschischki (present-day Balbieriškis/Lithuania), Ludwinow (present-day Liudvinavas/Lithuania) and Wirballen (present-day Virbalis/Lithuania) to Königsberg; the other from Grodno by Augustow to Lyck (present-day Ełk/PL). The Memel flows in the northern part of East Prussia where it has an average width of 300 m. On the Ruß, the northern branch of the Memel, there were wide swamps extending as far as the town of Memel. There were no bridges but some ferries and fords near Tilsit. In the country between the Memel and the Ruß on one side and the Pissa and the Pregel (present-day Pregolya/Kaliningrad Oblast) on the other, the flat plain east of the Juster was covered by extensive marshes and groves which, especially near the Memel, made movements of ordered troops impossible. To the west of the Juster there was a hilly country which, near Ragnit, sloped down steeply towards the Memel. However, terrain sloped down more gently towards the Juster and gradually flattened towards the Pregel and the Ruß. In its eastern part, between Insterburg and Tilsit, this hilly country was more open and passable while its western part, between Tilsit and Tapiau (present-day Gvardeysk/Kaliningrad Oblast), was covered by large swampy forest with dense undergrowth. A large road led through these forests and swamps from Tilsit by Mehlauken (present-day Zalesye/Kaliningrad Oblast) and Labiau (present-day Polessk/Kaliningrad Oblast) to Königsberg. Otherwise, another road usable only when frozen, led by Heydekrug (present-day Šilutė/Lithuania), Ruß (present-day Rusnė/Lithuania), Rautenberg (present-day Zapovednoye/Kaliningrad Oblast) to Labiau. Therefore, an offensive coming from east and north-east against Labiau would have been very difficult. To the south of the Pregel, there were extensive swampy forests: the Astrawischkener Forest and the Frisching.

The Pregel, formed from the Pissa and Angerapp, flows between Insterburg and Königsberg with moderate current in a 1 to 2 km wide valley covered by wet meadows (slightly drier upstream of Tapiau). This valley was usually flooded each spring and fall. There were bridges at Insterburg, Taplacken (present-day Talpaki/Kaliningrad Oblast), Wehlau and Königsberg; and several fords between Insterburg and Tapiau. Up to Insterburg, the Pregel was navigable for small boats; and its tributary, the Alle, up to Friedland (present-day Pravdinsk/Kaliningrad Oblast). The lower end of the Alle valley was bordered by 40 to 50 m. high hills which often ran so close to the river as to make any troop movement impossible in the valley. The Deime, a branch of the Pregel, flowed into the Curonian Lagoon near Tapiau. It was impassable except at Tapiau and Labiau.

A bridge on the Weichsel (present-day Vistula) led to the Polish Fortress of Thorn (present-day Toruń). Component of a boat-bridge were ready near Kurzebrack, some 3 km west of Marienwerder. There were also ferries at Dirschau (present-day Tczew/PL) and other locations.

To the exception of the Samland Peninsula, the coasts of the Baltic Sea offered few suitable landings. The east coast of the Curonian Lagoon was covered by large moorlands; its south coast, by swampy meadows and shrubbery. So there too, landing would prove to be difficult. The stormy lagoon could only be used by flat-bottomed vessels but a narrow road led from Memel by Schwarzort (present-day Juodkrantė/Lithuania) to Rinderort (present-day Saliwino/Kaliningrad Oblast). Furthermore, the Friedrichsgraben Canal made it possible to avoid a large part of the dangerous journey across the lagoon. From Memel, boats could reach Kovno by the Ruß, the Memel and the Niemen.

The most important road to invade East Prussia led from Kovno to Eydtkuhnen (present-day Chernyshevskoye) on the border. It then followed the northern bank of the Pissa and Pregel down to Königsberg. Since the road ran through swampy groves, it was difficult to deploy troops and defenders were at an advantage. Another road of a lesser quality led from Gumbinnen along the south bank of the Pregel down to Königsberg.

By June 6, Fermor's Corps was at Wilna, on its way to Kovno the general rendezvous. The same day, Lehwaldt, now informed of the advance of the Russian army, established his camp at Insterburg. He still hoped that the Russians would abandon their project when they learn about Frederick's victory at Prague.

A magazine was established at Insterburg and provisioned from Königsberg, using the waterways. Another magazine was established midway at Wehlau.

With Russian troops advancing from north and east, Lehwaldt hesitated and could not come to any decision. However, in almost each of his letter, Frederick was urging him to take advantage of his interior lines of communication and to attack each Russian column one after the other. Despite these advices, Lehwaldt remained idle at Insterburg for five weeks. He still hoped for an intervention of the British Navy to prevent the capture of the Prussian harbours on the Baltic Sea.

During his march, seeing that Lehwaldt was sitting idle at Insterburg, Apraxin instructed Browne, who was replacing Fermor during his illness, to advance on Memel.

On June 10, the two columns of the main Russian army effected a junction at Keidany (present-day Kėdainiai/Lithuania) on the right bank of the Viliya River opposite Kovno. These columns were gradually ferried to Kovno by two boats. By that time, Lieven's Corps had already reached Kovno.

On June 11, Apraxin repeated his orders to Fermor to advance on Memel when the latter arrived at Libau.

On June 15, the main Russian army reached Kovno. Poor provisions, unfavourable weather and bad roads had increased the difficulties of the advance which had already been hampered by the large baggage train. Nevertheless, the army had managed to travel the 240 km separating Mitau from Kovno in 20 days. Troops were exhausted by ceaseless marches and constant encampments and a large number fell ill and had to be sent back.

Then 7 infantry rgts marched from Mitau by Doblen (present-day Dobele/Latvia) to Libau where 1 hussar rgt and 2 Cossack rgts were also sent. Meanwhile, Saltykov's Brigade was transported by sea from Reval to Libau. However, its horses and train had to march to destination. All these troops were destined to the siege of Memel under the command of General in Chief Fermor.

At Kovno, the main Russian army was once more subdivided in two divisions under Lopukhin and Browne. Preparations for the long march to Balwerschischki took a long time. To prepare the advance of the main Russian army from Kovno to the Prussian border, General-Quartermaster Stoffeln was charged to establish magazines and to repair roads. His corps (1 hussar rgt, 2 horse grenadier sqns, a detachment of pioneers) was sent to the left bank of the left bank of the Niemen.

After the defeat of the Austrians at Prague in Bohemia, their allies felt the urge to assist them. Accordingly, Chancellor Bestuzhev asked for speedy action.

In mid-June, as the Russian fleet cruising in front of Pillau threatened to effect a landing on the Samland Peninsula, Lehwaldt detached Colonel von Froideville at the head of 3 dragoon sqns and 3 hussar sqns to Petersdorf (present-day Kuibyshevskoje/Kaliningrad Oblast) near Wehlau, where this detachment was still 90 km from the peninsula!

On June 21, despite his orders to advance on Memel, Fermor was still near Grobin (present-day Grobiņa/Latvia) to the east of Libau when the fleet transporting Saltykov's Brigade and the artillery park arrived in front of Memel. As his advance on Memel should be timed with the advance of the main Russian army into East Prussia, Fermor asked Apraxin for further instructions. He nevertheless set off from Grobin towards Memel. On his way, Fermor received Apraxin's new orders, specifying that Memel should be taken as soon as possible.

On June 23, Fermor's cavalry vanguard was at Budendingshof (present-day Būtingė/Lithuania). His entire corps counted some 18,000 men with 24 siege pieces. To regulate supply, it was ordered that it would be forwarded from Libau, partly by the waterways and partly by a constantly travelling convoy of wagons.

On June 24, 500 Don Cossacks and 200 Moldavskiy Hussars of Fermor's vanguard reached the Memel to destroy bridges and cover the left flank of the siege corps.

On June 26, Lehwaldt, still encamped at Insterburg, was informed of Frederick's defeat at Kolin.

On June 27, as Stoffeln reported that roads were now repaired, the main Russian army began to cross the Niemen at Poniemon (probably Panemunė/Lithuania). Part of the Chevaux de frise were left behind to allow wagons and carts to carry provisions for 18 instead of 14 days.

The Russians enter into East Prussia

On June 28, the Russian vanguard under Major-General Prince Lubomirski set off towards Balwerschischki. The same day, Captain Valrunt arrived in front of Memel with 6 Russian bomb ketches.

On June 29, the main Russian army marched towards Balwerschischki by division. The irregulars plundered fortified farmhouses and perpetrated atrocities in the village of Prökuls (present-day Priekulė/Lithuania). That was the beginning of a chain of violent attacks who laid waste in the territories traversed by the Russian army. Irregulars belonging to Fermor's Corps were better controlled than those attached to the main army.

Fermor's Corps

Fermor's Corps

On June 30, Fermor's Corps marched by Budendingshof and Polangen (present-day Palanga/Lithuania) and passed the Dange to the north-east of Memel.

At the end of June, the Russian naval and land forces arrived before Memel which was defended by only 700 men. The fleet transported about 9,000 men who would land and attack Memel on the sea side while Fermor would do the same on the land side. The Siege of Memel lasted from June 28 to July 5.

On July 1, Lubomirski's vanguard reached Balwerschischki by way of Gogi (present-day Guogai/Lithuania) and Preny (present-day Prienai/Lithuania).

On July 4, Lehwaldt held a council of war. With the inevitable surrender of Memel, generals considered their positions at Insterburg much compromised and proposed to retire westwards to Wehlau. Only Ruesch advocated an offensive against Apraxin's Army but his proposal did not prevail.

On July 5, Lehwald sent First Lieutenant von Humboldt with a letter to Frederick in Bohemia to inform him of the general situation and of the decision of the war council. Lehwaldt also sent Major-General von Kanitz with 4 bns (Grenadier Battalion Lossow, Grenadier Battalion Gohr, 2 bns of Garrison Regiment XI Manteuffel), 5 sqns (one sqn of each dragoon rgt of the army), 300 hussars and 4 coys of the East Prussia Land Militia Battalion to Wehlau. Kanitz was charged to prevent any landing at Königsberg. At Wehlau, Kanitz's Corps effected a junction with Froideville's detachment (3 dragoon sqns, 3 hussar sqns) which was posted there since mid-June. Kanitz then established outposts on the coasts of the Curonian Lagoon and of the Baltic Sea up to Fischhausen (present-day Primorsk/Kaliningrad Oblast). He also had some boats cruising on the lagoon. The same day, Memel capitulated. The capture of this town allowed the Russians to transform it into a convenient place of arms well supplied by their fleet. Permskiy Infantry remained in Memel as garrison while Kegsgolmskiy Infantry was charged to assist in landing operations.

In growing concern about his lines of communication with Königsberg, Lehwaldt transferred supplies from the magazines of Königsberg to Insterburg and those located along the Pregel to Wehlau. He also moved the rest of the East Prussia Land Militia Battalion and the hussars closer to Insterburg.

On July 6, the last elements of the main Russian army finally reached Balwerschischki where a few days rest became necessary. It was found that the magazines established on the Niemen to support the offensive in East Prussia had been insufficiently supplied. Thus, it became very difficult to appropriately supply the smaller march-magazines established along the highway between Balwerschischki and Wirballen. Lack of vessels had previously hindered transport on the Niemen in the hinterland. With water level falling, it now became simply impossible.

On July 8, the Russian rearguard reached Balwerschischki. With great difficulties, provisions were transported by land and assembled at Balwerschischki and Ludwinow in preparation for the next marches. Apraxin resolved to put more emphasis on sea transportation and on the use of the waterways of East Prussia to supply his army. After the capture of Memel, Fermor should transfer supplies from Libau to Memel and redirect the transports arriving from St. Petersburg to Memel. The capture of Labiau was also considered to allow the army advancing on Königsberg to be supplied by boats on the Deime.

On July 10, Stoffeln reached Wirballen on the Prussian border.

On July 11, before the arrival of Frederick's answer, Lehwaldt retired westwards by Saalau (present-day Kamenskoye/Kaliningrad Oblast) in the direction of Wehlau to cover Königsberg, leaving Malachowsky at Insterburg with 600 men from Malachowski Hussars and Ruesch Hussars. The same day, at Balwerschischki, Apraxin was informed that Memel had fallen and that Lehwaldt was retiring westwards. Apraxin resolved to advance with his main army by Wirballen to Gumbinnen. Furthermore, a fleet of 30 galleys should set off from Memel and make itself master of Labiau. For his part, Lieven's Cavalry Corps was ordered to set off from Olita (present-day Alytus/Lithuania) a few days before the left wing of the army. He would be supported by an infantry brigade with some field artillery. The cavalry of the left wing (some 6,500 men mostly irregulars with a few regimental guns) under the command of the newly appointed Saxon General Sibilski would march by Oletzko (present-day Olecko/PL), Goldap, Darkehmen (present-day Ozyorsk/Kaliningrad Oblast) and Friedland, spreading terror and confusion on its way. If the Prussians retreated, Sibilski was instructed to stop and await the arrival of the main Russian army. To prevent Lehwaldt from crossing the Weichsel, Sibilski was also instructed to burn the bridges and vessels at Thorn and Marienwerder.

Smolenskiy Infantry was left behind at Kovno where it was joined by Kazanskiy Infantry, arriving from Wilna. Meanwhile, units still awaiting proper horses were left at Grodno as garrison.

On July 13, Apraxin ordered Fermor to make himself master of Tilsit as soon as possible but at least before July 26.

The Russians enter into East Prussia - Copyright: Kronoskaf

On July 14, Lehwaldt's Army reached Petersdorf near Wehlau. He established his camp with his right wing on the Pregel. He sent his hussars to Taplacken. Kanitz's main body marched from Wehlau to Kaymen (present-day Zarech'ye/Kaliningrad Oblast) on the road leading from Labiau to Königsberg.

By mid-July, Stoffeln had some 4,000 horse and a number of pioneers at his disposal at Wirballen.

On July 17, the Russian army set off from Balwerschischki by divisions. The 1st Division and the headquarters marched to Daukschi (present-day Daukšiai/Lithuania).

On July 18, the 1st Division reached Ludwinow where, after its junction with the 2nd Division, it rested for four days. There, Apraxin received the order of the Conference, issued after the fall of Memel, to engage Lehwaldt's Army to prevent its junction with Frederick's Army. The same day, the Prussian First Lieutenant von Humboldt returned with Frederick's answer who advised Lehwaldt to march against a Russian Corps and engage it.

On July 21, now that the road had been repaired, Fermor's vanguard set off from the area of Memel for Tilsit.

On July 22, Saltykov's Brigade, belonging to Fermor's Corps set off for Tilsit.

On July 23, the main Russian Army set off from Ludwinow.

On July 24, Colonel von Malachowsky at the head of most of Malachowski Hussars and Ruesch Hussars marched from Insterburg to the neighbourhoods of Gumbinnen. He wanted to drive back some Russian irregular cavalry which had been reported in the area of Niebudszen (present-day Krasnogorskoye/Kaliningrad Oblast).

On July 25, the main Russian army finally reached Wirballen after three marches. It then rested there for a week awaiting the arrival of the other columns.

On July 26, the rest of Fermor's Corps marched for Tilsit. Heat made the march very straining, the corps marched by way of Heydekrug and Winge (present-day Vingis in the municipality of Pagėgių/Lithuania) to Baubeln (present-day Bubliške/Lithuania). By then, Lieven's Cavalry Corps was at Karklupiany (present-day Karklupėnai/Lithuania).

On July 27, Rumyantsev arrived at Wirballen with 3 cuirassier rgts (each 400 men strong).

On July 28, Sibilski marched from Grodno.

On July 29, Fermor's Corps assembled at Baubeln.

On July 31, Tilsit opened its gates to Fermor. The same day, the Russian cavalry who had been left behind on the Dniepr arrived at Stallupönen (present-day Nesterow/Kaliningrad Oblast) under the command of Chomutov. It was still in very bad conditions. The vanguard of the main Russian army was on the frontier. Light troops roamed the East Prussian countryside since the beginning of July.

On August 1, the Russian vanguard entered into East Prussia. The same day, 200 hussars of Malachowsky's detachment engaged part of Chuguevski Cossacks near Kummeln (present-day Vischnevoe/Kaliningrad Oblast), driving them, as well as a detachment of horse grenadier resting in Kummeln, back to Kattenau (present-day Savety/Kaliningrad Oblast). However, Malachowsky was forced to retire when Russian reinforcements arrived. His hussars brought back 25 prisoners. He asked Lehwaldt for reinforcements. Many inhabitants of East Prussia sought refuge in Danzig (present-day Gdańsk).

On August 2, the main Russian army resumed its march in three columns to the heights of Stallupönen.

On August 3, the columns of the main Russian army effected a junction.

On August 4, the main Russian army marched to Budupönen (present-day Kalinovo/Kaliningrad Oblast).

On August 5, some Russian cavalry reached Gumbinnen.

On August 6, the main Russian army arrived at Gumbinnen and established a camp to the east of the town. The same day, Lehwaldt detached Major-General von Platen with Grenadier Battalion Polentz and 4 sqns of Platen Dragoons along the south bank of the Pregel to Insterburg.

On August 7, Apraxin held a council of war at Gumbinnen where it was decided to effect a junction with Fermor's Corps near Insterburg and to attack Lehwaldt's Army. However, magazines established along the line of march were insufficiently stocked and time was necessary to replenish them. Nizovskiy Infantry was left as garrison in Gumbinnen. In the evening, Stoffeln was sent forward with 700 Cossacks and 300 hussars, closely followed by 6 cuirassier sqns under Brigadier Demiku, to reconnoitre the road.

Combat of Pötschkehmen

Combat of Pötschkehmen - Copyright: Kronoskaf

On August 7, Lehwaldt sent Lieutenant-General Prince of Holstein with 5 sqns to reinforce Platen at Insterburg. Lehwaldt then decided to advance towards Georgenburg (present-day Mayovka/Kaliningrad Oblast) with his army to offer battle. Meanwhile, during his march, Platen rested his troops at Bubainen (probably Berezhkovskoye/Kaliningrad Oblast) for a few hours. There he received a message from Malachowsky at Insterburg informing him that the Russians (Stoffeln's detachment) had already reached Gerwischkehmen (present-day Priozernoye) while he still thought that they were near Gumbinnen. In the evening, Platen hastened towards Insterburg with the cavalry of his detachment.

In the night of August 7 to 8, Malachowsky tried to reconnoitre Stoffeln's camp at Gerwischkehmen but fog and darkness made it impossible to estimate the size of the Russian corps.

On August 8

  • Russians
    • Lieven's vanguard advanced towards Insterburg.
    • Fermor completed two bridges on the Memel and his corps passed the river and encamped at Kallkappen (present-day Barsukovka). A garrison of 500 foot had been left at Tilsit to protect the magazines.
  • Prussians
    • In the morning, Malachowsky returned to Pötschkehmen (present-day Krasnopolje near Gusev/Kaliningrad Oblast) just as Stoffeln set off from his camp. Malachowsky was pushed back to a forest occupied by troops of the East Prussia Land Militia Battalion, attacked by superior forces and, after a firefight of several hours, he was forced to retire to Insterburg where Platen was arrived. Stoffeln followed him but when he saw that the requested support had not kept pace, he established himself at Pieragienen (present-day Mitschurino in Tschernjachowsk/Kaliningrad Oblast) not far from Insterburg.
    • Lehwaldt sent Lieutenant-General Count zu Dohna by Saalau to Georgenburg on the north bank of the Pregel with a vanguard of 8 bns, 4 dragoon sqns and the rest of his hussars. The bridge of Taplacken and a bridge of boats near Bubainen allowed Dohna's vanguard and Platen's and Holstein's to support each others. Furthermore, Kanitz was recalled from Kaymen and Froideville from the neighbourhood of Wehlau. Only the East Prussia Land Militia Battalion and 100 hussars were left behind to defend the coast.
    • Platen informed Lehwaldt and Dohna that he thought that Stoffeln was trying to locate a proper camp for the main army. Dohna, who was at Saalau, abandoned his project of an advance on Georgenburg.

On August 9

  • Russians
    • The main army reached Stannaitschen (present-day Furmanovo/Kaliningrad Oblast) where it rested for a few hours. Indeed, the combat at Pötschkehmen had convinced Apraxin that his army should get out this difficult country as soon as possible.
    • Lieven's vanguard reached Tammowischken (present-day Timofeevka/Kaliningrad Oblast), 6 km east of Insterburg where it remained for two days.
    • Sibilski's Cavalry Corps was very rapidly turning the Prussian right wing and had reached Goldap.
  • Prussians
    • The tireless Malachowsky followed unnoticed the left bank of the Pissa with 200 hussars and reached the proximity of a Russian camp. However, he was forced to fight his way back when detachments of Cossacks and hussars crossed the river and tried to cut his line of retreat at Stannaitschen.
    • Platen confirmed to Dohna and Lehwaldt that the main Russian army was marching towards Insterburg.

In the night of August 9 to 10, the Russians drove back Platen's detachment who rejoined Holstein's detachment. Dohna finally assembled these detachments at Plibischken (present-day Glushkovo). Lehwaldt authorised them to retire between Stobingen (present-day Livny) and Wilkendorf (present-day Orekhovo) where they encamped. Taplacken was occupied to secure its bridge.

On August 10, the main Russia army marched to Trakehnen (unidentified location).

On August 11, the main Russian army encamped at Insterburg.

On August 13

  • Russians
    • Sibilski's Cavalry Corps, who had been recalled, rejoined the main Russian army at Insterburg.
    • Fermor's Corps set off from Kallkappen to effect a junction with the main army. It marched by Szillen (present-day Zhilino/Kaliningrad Oblast) and Kraupischken (present-day Ulyanovo/Kaliningrad Oblast).

On August 14, the main Russian army advanced to Georgenburg.

On August 17, the main Russian army marched to Sterkeningken (present-day Sovkhoznoye/Kaliningrad Oblast).

On August 18

  • Russians
    • Fermor's Corps finally effected its junction with the main army at Sterkeningken. After the junction, Apraxin reorganised his army: Sibilski was put at the head of the vanguard; Fermor assumed command of the 1st Division; Lopukhin, of the 2nd Division; and Browne, of the 3rd Division. Since May, the army had been reduced from 88,000 men to 55,000 men.
    • A war council of the Russian commanders resolved to harass all Prussian detachment on both banks of the Pregel.
    • Colonel du Moulin was assigned to Krasnoczekov's Corps of 5,200 cavalrymen (irregular cavalry, 4 hussar rgts and 1 Cossack rgt). He realised that the territory to the north of the Pregel offered very strong positions to the Prussians and that the Russians had little chance to launch any successful attacks. Du Moulin then decided to operate on the left bank of the Pregel.
  • Prussians
    • Major von Jeanneret with 200 Malachowski Hussars marched from Puschdorf (present-day Pushkarevo/Kaliningrad Oblast) towards Norkitten (Mezhdurech'e just north of present-day Bochagi) at the request of the plundered inhabitants. He drove back Cossacks, but saw himself suddenly attacked from all sides by far superior forces. He lost more than 100 men, including 30 men killed and 8 taken prisoners.

On August 19, a corps of 4,000 irregular Russian cavalry was assembled at Norkitten under Major-General Kastiurin. His advance having been detected, the latter failed to burn down the hay magazines near Wehlau. He then rode southwards by Muldszen (present-day Perevalovo/Kaliningrad Oblast) to Allenburg (present-day Druzhba/Kaliningrad Oblast). However, du Moulin was unable to persuade Kastiurin to resume his advance on Wehlau and Königsberg and the detachment marched back by Jodlauken (present-day Volodarovka/Kaliningrad Oblast) to rejoin the main army. Du Moulin was convinced that the army would find provisions for one month to the south of the Pregel.

On August 19 and 20, the Russian fleet sailed from the mouth of the Weichsel and cruised along the Prussian coasts for a few days before heading for the Russian harbours.

On August 20

  • Russians
    • The main Russian army encamped at Saalau.
    • Brigadier Krasnoczekov at the head of his cavalry detachment advanced along the north bank of the Pregel to reconnoitre the Prussian camp.

On August 21

  • Russians
    • Krasnoczekov's forces drove a Prussian detachment out of Kallehnen (probably Ryabinovoye/Kaliningrad Oblast). The village was then plundered and burnt down in the usual way.
    • In Flischken (unidentified location), the Russians attacked 2 coys of the East Prussia Land Militia Battalion who, led by Lieutenant von Losch, managed to retire in the forest, losing 10 men killed and 2 wounded in the engagement. The village of Flischken was then burnt down.
  • Prussians
    • Mainly for sanitary reasons, Lehwaldt transferred his camp from Petersdorf to Dohna's advanced positions at Wilkendorf.

On August 23, Apraxin held a council of war where it was decided that an attack on the Prussian camp at Petersdorf was futile and that the army would rather resume its advance by Allenburg towards Königsberg on the south bank of the Pregel while living of the country. Apraxin hoped that his advance on Königsberg would force Lehwaldt to abandon his advantageous positions and to offer battle.

On August 24

  • Russians
    • The main Russian army advanced to Siemohnen (present-day Sirenevka/Kaliningrad Oblast) where the Prussians had broken the bridge down.
    • Nizovskiy Infantry was sent back towards Tilsit because too many men were ill.

On August 25, the Russian vanguard started to cross the Pregel at Siemohnen.

On August 26

  • Russians
    • The Russian 2nd Division passed the Pregel.
  • Prussians
    • Major-General von Ruesch and Major-General von Kanitz advanced on Plibischken with I./Kanitz Infantry, 1,000 commandeered foot and 1,200 hussars. Cossacks outposts retired on supporting troops after setting fire to the village Russian regulars were posted with some artillery on the heights to the west of the Auer Canal. The hussars launched a successful attack and drove back the Russians. They then discovered a large Russian camp near Saalau and several bridges thrown across the canal. Lehwaldt concluded that the Russians intended to attack him soon.

On August 27, the rest of the Russian army passed the Pregel. Bridges were then broken down. Apraxin intended to move around the Astrawischken Forest on his way to Jodlauken but Fermor convinced him to take the shorter, but more difficult, road through the marshy area north of the forest. The Russians encamped on the plateau near Norkitten. In front, their camp was covered by the Norkitten Forest; on the right flank, by the Kuthkehm Wood; and on the left flank by the steep valley of the Aurinne. Cossacks and part of the infantry of the vanguard occupied the heights of Sittenfelde (between present-day Bochagi and Zelentsovo) in front of the left wing. Apraxin had encamped his army in a position from which it would be difficult to disentangle from and, by removing his bridges on the Pregel, deprived himself of a good line of retreat.

In the morning of August 28, the Prussians passed the Pregel in two columns and encamped at Puschdorf behind the dense Puschdorf Forest. Lehwaldt sent parties who vainly tried to reconnoitre the Russian positions. His manoeuvre had completely surprised Apraxin. The Russian army remained under arms till late in the evening. Furthermore, Apraxin ordered to burn down the village of Groß-Jägersdorf (present-day Motornoye/Kaliningrad Oblast) located in front of his position.

Battle of Gross-Jägersdorf

Map of the positions and outposts of both army on the eve of the battle of Gross-Jägersdorf.
Source: Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen, volume III by the German Grosser Generalstab, Courtesy of Tony Flores

On August 29

  • Prussians
    • In the morning, Lieutenant-General von Schorlemmer was sent forward through the Puschdorf Forest with 40 sqns to reconnoitre the Russian positions. Lehwaldt also sent Grenadier Battalion Gohr and Grenadier Battalion Lossow forward to support Schorlemmer. As the Russian light troops retired in front of Schorlemmer's cavalry, Lehwaldt could have a look at the positions of the main army. However, he could not see the troops posted near Sittenfelde.
    • The main Prussian army, led by Dohna, marched across the clearing east of Puschdorf, through the forest and deployed in order of battle. Lehwaldt decided to attack the Russian left wing which was apparently unsupported. He postponed the operations to the next morning, hoping to silently approach the Russian camp undetected. Lehwaldt's Army thus retraced its steps to the camp of Puschdorf. Schorlemmer's cavalry was closely followed by Cossacks during its retreat.
    • Lehwaldt tried to reconnoitre the Russian positions but obtained flawed intelligence which would lead him to attack the Russian centre when he thought that he was advancing against their left wing.
  • Russians
    • As Schorlemmer approached the Russian camp with his cavalry, Apraxin deployed his army in order of battle from the Pregel along the western edge of the Kuthkehm Forest by Metschullen and the ridge north of Daupelken up to this village. Light troops were deployed on both wings, along the Pregel and near Sittenfelde, part of the infantry of the vanguard was also posted near Sittenfelde. The gap between the Pregel and the Kuthkehm Forest, where Apraxin feared an attack, was occupied by infantry and cavalry.
    • After Schorlemmer's retreat, the Russians too returned to their camp but Apraxin posted the 1st Field-Artillery Brigade of the 1st Division, Leontiev's Infantry Brigade of the 3rd Division and hussars at the north-west corner of the Norkitten Woods to prevent any surprise attack. He also posted the 2nd Moscowskiy Infantry with 2 field pieces of the vanguard at the south-east corner. The infantry detachment of the vanguard previously posted near Sittenfelde returned to the Russian camp for the night. Only cavalry guarded the road leading to Muldszen.
    • In the evening, a Prussian deserter arrived at the Russian camp, pretending that Lehwaldt intended to attack at dawn. Apraxin assembled a war council where Fermor managed to convince him that there was no serious threat of an attack and that Lehwaldt just hoped to immobilize the Russian army in a poor region where provisions were difficult to obtain. It was thus decided to march the next day by Essenbruch (unidentified location) to Allenburg.

On August 30, Lehwaldt boldly attacked the Russians in the Battle of Gross-Jägersdorf but was defeated and forced to retreat to his camp at Wehlau. Having failed to prevent the retreat of the Prussians across the Pregel, Sibilski returned to Apraxin's camp at Groß-Jägersdorf. Apraxin did not try to exploit his victory. He rather gave orders to replenish his supply of ammunition and provisions before re-establishing contact with the enemy.

On August 31

  • Russians
    • A light corps of 1,600 horse under Colonel du Moulin advanced towards Wehlau. On its way, near Bürgersdorf, it drove back a party of Prussian cavalry. It then reconnoitred a Prussian camp to the south-west of Wehlau.
    • Nizovskiy Infantry arrived at Tilsit.
  • Prussians
    • Lehwaldt moved his camp to left bank of the Pregel, between Lindendorf (unidentified location) and Augken (present-day Bolshaya Polyana/Kaliningrad Oblast), leaving only a few men of Ruesch Hussars under Major von Beust on the right bank.

The Russians had lost the opportunity to destroy Lehwaldt's Army and had not even tried to hinder its retreat. After the reorganisation of his army, Lehwaldt felt strong enough to oppose the advance of the Russian army on Königsberg.

On September 1

  • Russians
    • Apraxin continued to send reconnaissance parties. On the right bank of the Pregel, du Moulin advanced up to Tapiau; on the left bank, the Cossacks reached the western end of the Wehlauer Forest.
  • Prussians
    • Recruits were sent from Königsberg to Lehwaldt's camp to replenish the ranks of his troops.

On September 2

  • Russians
    • Apraxin's Army marched to Eschenbruch.
    • The Russian fleet landed troops who burned down the villages of Rinderort and Labagienen (Saliwino/Kaliningrad Oblast) north of Labiau. Militia and hussars forced them to re-embark.

On September 3

  • Russians
    • Apraxin's Army marched to Klein-Ruhr (present-day Suchodolje/Kaliningrad Oblast).
  • Prussians
    • Lehwaldt did not know whether the Russians planned to attack his camp near Wehlau or to pass the Alle (present-day Lava River) at Allenburg and march on Königsberg.

On September 4

  • Russians
    • Apraxin held a war council where it was decided to advance on Allenburg to force Lehwaldt to abandon his present camp.
  • Prussians
    • Lehwaldt detached Major-General von Kanitz with 3 bns, 5 dragoon sqns and 500 hussars to Friedland, in case the Russians would march south-westwards along the Pregel.

On September 6

  • Russians
    • Apraxin's Army marched towards Allenburg leaving only Cossacks detachments in front of Lehwaldt's camp.
    • The Russian fleet landed 2,000 men near Schaaksvitte (present-day Kaschirskoje/Kaliningrad Oblast). They advanced on Schaaken (present-day Nekrassowo/Kaliningrad Oblast). As they marched across the village, 600 men of the East Prussia Land Militia Battalion supported by 100 hussars fired a salvo on them. The militiamen had taken position in a small wood. They finally drove back the Russians to their ships. On their way back to Memel, the Russians reduced the town of Rossitten (present-day Bogatowo/Kaliningrad Oblast) to ashes.
  • Prussians
    • When he was informed of the departure of the Russians, Lehwaldt decided to take the shortest road to precede Apraxin at Allenburg.

On September 7, Lehwaldt detached Platen with 3 bns and 200 hussars to reconnoitre the road upstream along the Alle. Platen soon realised the difficulties of a march between the swampy Frisching and the Alle with a Russian army close by. Lehwaldt finally decided to march northwards along the Frisching and to block the road leading from Allenburg to Königsberg.

As Lehwaldt prepared to oppose any advance of the Russians on Königsberg, Apraxin decided quite unexpectedly to retire behind the Memel near Tilsit, invoking the fact that his army was insufficiently supplied and that Lehwaldt's Army was growing stronger while his own army was getting weaker everyday. Apraxin mentioned that he planned to make himself master of Labiau and the line of the Deime during the coming Autumn and then to resume his advance on Königsberg. Only Sibilski and Saint-André opposed his plan, proposing instead to advance directly on Labiau where the army could be easily resupplied by boat. Finally, Apraxin seemingly rallied to their suggestion and sent and ingenieur-officer to reconnoitre the road towards Labiau. However, this officer had received secret instructions from Apraxin to declare the road impracticable so that he could hold to his initial plan of a retreat to Tilsit. (Archenholz pretends that Apraxin had been ordered to fall back by Chancellor Bestuzhev-Ryumin who had been bought by British gold)

Apraxin Retreats

Apraxin Retreats - Copyright: Kronoskaf

On September 8

  • Russians
    • Colonel du Moulin Lehwaldt's the movement to Apraxin who ordered to undertake the retreat towards Tilsit. A rearguard of 7 infantry rgts was drawn in order of battle in front of the Prussians. Du Moulin continued to follow Lehwaldt's Army; Krasnoczekov advanced on Königsberg by Friedland, getting within 14 km of Königsberg.
  • Prussians
    • Lehwaldt sent several cavalry detachments to Genslack (present-day Prudy/Kaliningrad Oblast) in the direction of Königsberg.
    • Lieutenants du Faix and von Grabowski of Ruesch Hussars, each at the head of 30 hussars, were sent forward to destroy as much provision magazines of the Russian army as possible.

On September 9

  • Russians
    • Covered by detachments of Cossacks, Apraxin's Army marched south of the Astrawischken Forest to Ilmsdorf (present-day Novobobruysk/Kaliningrad Oblast).
  • Prussians
    • Lehwaldt continued his march in the opposite direction, reaching Borchersdorf (present-day Selenopolje/Kaliningrad Oblast), on the road from Königsberg to Allenburg, where he was informed of Apraxin's retreat. The news were so astounding that Lehwaldt still doubted of Apraxin's real intentions.

On September 10, Apraxin's Army rested at Ilmsdorf.

On September 11

  • Russians
    • Apraxin's Army marched by Muldszen to Astrawischken (present-day Krasnoje/Kaliningrad Oblast).
    • Lehwaldt sent Major-General von Ruesch with 300 dragoons and 200 hussars to reconnoitre the area around Friedland.

On September 12

  • Russians
    • Apraxin's Army marched to Jodlauken.
  • Prussians
    • Early in the day, Lehwaldt sent Lieutenant von Knobelsdorff of Schorlemmer Dragoons, who knew the region very well, with 25 of his best cavalrymen in a large turning movement by Gerdauen (present-day Zheleznodorozhny/Kaliningrad Oblast) behind the Russian positions.

On September 13

  • Russians
    • Apraxin's Army marched to Jänischken (present-day Svoboda/Kaliningrad Oblast).
  • Prussians
    • Du Faix's and Grabowski's detachments reached Gumbinnen where they destroyed a provision magazine.

On September 14

  • Russians
    • At Jänischken, Apraxin was informed that Prussian hussars had burnt a small magazine at Gumbinnen. To secure the line of retreat, the Russian cavalry passed the Pregel at Insterburg. Part of the cavalry remained there to cover the six bridges that Stoffeln had thrown across the river while the main body of cavalry advanced towards the Tzullkinner Forest where threatening movements of armed peasants had been reported.
  • Prussians
    • Knoblelsdorff got close to Insterburg where he saw part of the baggage of the Russian army who had already recrossed the Pregel. He captured a few prisoners, horses and oxen and retired towards Lehwaldt's camp.

Until then, retreat of the Russian army had taken place under the most unfavourable conditions. Heavy rain had made the roads followed by the train almost impracticable. The already bad health conditions of the troops worsened due to the the lack of food caused by unsuitable marching orders (baggage and troops sharing the same road) in these difficult countries. Cavalry horses as well as those used for the train were exhausted. Soon some vehicles had to be burnt. Marauders were left behind. After a few marches, Apraxin had to face the fact that a Fall offensive from Tilsit would be simply impossible. On September 14

  • Russians
    • Apraxin held a council of war where it was resolved that the army would continue its retreat towards Libau where supplies would be kept in readiness.
  • Prussians

Lehwaldt received reports from Kanitz and Knobelsdorff both confirming the retreat of the Russian army across the Pregel. He decided to follow the Russians from a distance during their retreat.

On September 15

  • Russians
    • The main body of the Russian army assembled at Insterburg.
  • Prussians
    • Lehwaldt's Army marched to its old camp at Genslack.

Around mid-September

On September 16

  • Russians
    • The main body of the Russian army crossed the Pregel at Insterburg.
    • After the crossing of the Pregel, Apraxin subdivided his army in two columns.
  • Prussians
    • Lehwaldt's Army reached its old camp at Petersdorf to the north-east of Wehlau. From there, Lehwaldt detached the Prince of Holstein with a vanguard consisting of Plettenberg Dragoons, Holstein-Gottorp Dragoons and some hussars to the north bank of the Pregel which they crossed at Taplacken.

On September 17, the head of the left column of the Russian army (1st Division and 2nd Division) reached Sesslacken (present-day Pridorozhnoe) but road were so bad that the tail of the column arrived at destination only on September 19.

On September 18, Lehwaldt's Army passed the Pregel.

On September 19, the right column of the Russian army (3rd Division and cavalry), who had marched along the left bank of the Inster, arrived at Sesslacken where it received provision of biscuits sent from Tilsit.

On September 20

  • Russians
    • Apraxin's Army marched in order of battle and reached the region of Szillen (present-day Zhilino/Kaliningrad Oblast).
  • Prussians
    • Lehwaldt's Army reached Georgenburg by Kallehnen and Lasseningken (present-day Derschawino/Kaliningrad Oblast). The vanguard under the Prince of Holstein was reinforced with 4 bns and reached Aulowönen (present-day Kalinovka/Kaliningrad Oblast) halfway between Insterburg and Tilsit, skirmishing with the Russian rearguard.

On 21 September, Apraxin's Army marched to Sommerau (present-day Zagorskoye/Kaliningrad Oblast).

On 22 September, Lehwaldt's Army encamped at Aulowönen, only 18 km from the Russian army which was still at Sommerau.

On 23 September, Apraxin's Army finally arrived at Tilsit. During their withdrawal, the Russians had left 15,000 wounded and sick and 80 guns behind.

On September 24

  • Russians
    • Apraxin assembled a council of war where it was determined that the army was temporarily incapable of undertaking any enterprise and that it should retire behind the Memel while maintaining a bridgehead at Tilsit. It was also resolved to keep only the best horses and cavalrymen along with all hussars with the main army and to send the rest to Kovno. All irregulars to the exception of 4,000 Don Cossacks and the Chuguevski Cossacks would be sent back to Russia. Furthermore, 3 infantry rgts would garrison Tilsit (including 1 bn at Winge and 1 bn at Ruß). The same day, the Russian cavalry passed the Memel.
  • Prussians
    • Lehwaldt's Army advanced to Schillupischken (unidentified location). Malachowski Hussars spread alarm in a Russian camp between Tilsit and Ragnit. A patrol closely followed by Cossacks marched through Ragnit. The Russians then set fire to the town, accusing its inhabitants of having taken part in combats.

On September 25, the Russian infantry started to pass the Memel.

On September 27

  • Russians
    • Most of Apraxin's Army was assembled on the right bank of the Memel.
  • Prussians
    • Lehwaldt's Army advanced to Klipschen (unidentified location).

On September 28, judging that Tilsit could not be hold, Apraxin recalled the 3 rgts previously left there as garrison. The same day, they reached the left bank of Memel and threw all remaining unused flour into the river. They also destroyed the three bridges after crossing the river.

On September 29, Lehwaldt, who was still in Klipschen, was informed of the retreat of the Russians behind the Memel and of the evacuation of Tilsit.

In the night of 29 to 30 September, the Prince of Holstein was sent forward with 5 bns (Lehwaldt Infantry, Graf zu Dohna Infantry and I./Kanitz Infantry) to take possession of Tilsit. He occupied the town and established batteries on the left bank of the Memel.

On September 30 in the morning, the Russian artillery posted on the opposite bank of the Memel opened on the town of Tilsit. The Prussian batteries answered by firing on the Russian camp. A long and inconclusive cannonade ensued. The same day, the main body of Lehwaldt's Army reached Tilsit.

On October 2, Apraxin's Army retired disorderly under snowfalls towards Heydekrug and Prökuls near the Fortress of Memel.

On October 4, Lehwaldt, who had repaired one of the bridge at Tilsit, sent hussars across the Memel while he marched southwards along the river with the main body of his army.

On October 6, Lehwaldt received orders that Frederick II had sent him on September 29. These orders instructed him to turn his attention to the Pomeranian theatre of operation where the Swedes were making steady progress.

On October 9, Apraxin received a letter from the Empress where she instructed him to launch an offensive on Labiau. He answered that the army was in no condition to undertake such an offensive.

On October 17

  • Russians
    • Apraxin received a new letter from the Empress repeating her orders for an offensive on Labiau and adding that a landing on the south coast of the harbour should be undertaken, and that Apraxin should then pass the Memel and immediately attack Lehwaldt. Once more, Apraxin held a war council where it was determined that an eventual march of Lehwaldt on Memel should be opposed with all forces but that any other enterprise was impossible.
  • Prussians
    • According to Frederick's orders, Lehwaldt set off from Tilsit, leaving 2 bns to guard Königsberg and Pillau, and a cavalry cordon along the Memel, marched Swedes in Pomerania. with a force of 24 bns and 50 sqns (about 25,000 men).

By October 18, the exhausted Russian army had finally reached Memel.

On October 28, Apraxin was removed from command and recalled to St. Petersburg where he was indicted for having been bribed by Frederick II (Apraxin would die in captivity during his trial on August 17 1758).

At the beginning of November, the Russian army, now counting only some 35,000 men, started to take up its winter-quarters along the frontier between Prussia and Poland while the Cossacks established a cordon along a line from Prökuls, Schweksche (unidentified location), Tauroggen (present-day Tauragė/Lithuania) and Gawri (unidentified location). Russian troops also occupied Memel, Gorschdy (unidentified location), Krottingen (present-day Kretinga/Lithuania), Chweidany (unidentified location) and Gawri. The headquarters of the army and the staff of the 2nd Division were established in Libau (present-day Liepāja/Latvia); the staff of the 1st Division, in Telsche (present-day Telšiai/Lithuania); and the staff of the 3rd Division in Frauenburg (present-day Saldus/Latvia).


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. 206, 221, 224
  • Archenholz, J. W.: The History of the Seven Years War in Germany, translated by F. A. Catty, Francfort, 1843, pp. 42, 91-95
  • Carlyle, T.: History of Friedrich II of Prussia, vol. 18
  • Grosser Generalstab Kriegsgeschichtliche Abteilung II: Die Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen Part 3 Der siebenjährige Krieg 1756-1763
    • Vol. 2 Prag, Berlin, 1901, pp. 18-19
    • Vol. 4 Groß-Jägersdorf und Breslau, Berlin, 1902, pp. 13-108, Anhang 15, 16
  • Tempelhoff, Fr.: History of the Seven Years' War Vol. I pp. 206-214, as translated by Colin Lindsay, Cadell, London, 1793

Other sources:

Dorn and Engelmann: Die Schlacten Friedrichs des Grossen, Podzun Pallas, Hanau, 1986

Duffy, Christopher: Introduction to Battle of Gross Jagersdorf - August 30, 1757, Seven Years War Association Journal,Vol. X No. 2

Konstam A. & B. Younghusband: Russian Army of the Seven Years War, Osprey, London, 1996

Meuser, Denise: Battle of Gross Jagersdorf - Battle Description - August 30, 1757, Seven Years War Association Journal,Vol. X No. 2