1758-08-25 - Battle of Zorndorf

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Hierarchical Path: Seven Years War (Main Page) >> Battles and Encounters >> 1758-08-25 - Battle of Zorndorf

The battle was a draw

Prelude to the Battle

The Russian invasion of East Prussia had begun as early as January 1758. By January 22, the Russians occupied Königsberg (present-day Kaliningrad). They then seized Elbing (present-day Elbląg) and Thorn (present-day Toruń). In June they crossed the Vistula and, by the end of the month, Fermor was concentrating his army at Posen (present-day Poznań).

On August 10, Fermor crossed the Warthe (present-day Warta River) at Landsberg (present-day Gorzów Wielkopolski) and advanced into Brandenburg. On August 15, a Russian corps laid siege to Cüstrin (present-day Kostrzyn nad Odrą). A small Prussian army under the command of Lieutenant-General zu Dohna closely followed the movements of the various Russian corps.

On Sunday, August 20, Frederick II arrived with 15,000 men to reinforce Dohna and put a stop to the Russian invasion.

On Tuesday, August 22, Frederick made a junction with Dohna’s force at Manschnow. He was now at the head of 37,000 men. Deceiving the Russians as to his intentions by opening a heavy cannonade on one of their redoubts, as if intending to ford the river Oder there, he crossed that evening with the vanguard 19 km downstream at Alt-Güstebiese (present-day Gozdowice).

On August 23, the Prussian main army also crossed the Oder.

On August 24, Frederick detected the presence of the main Russian army south of the Mietzel River (present-day Myśla River), so he pushed his advance guard over a bridge still intact near the paper-mill of Neudamm (present-day Dębno) and ordered a few troops to cross and establish a bridgehead. He also had another wooden bridge built to assure communications between the two parts of his army. The Russian commander, General Fermor, sent away his baggage train to a small village called Klein-Cammin (present-day Kamien Maly), and planted himself on a moor, where his front was covered by quagmires and the “Zabern-Grund”.

Hearing, late in the evening of August 24, that Frederick was likely to be upon them the next morning, Fermor stroke camp and drew out into the open ground north of Zorndorf (present-day Sarbinowo), which stands on the bare rise of Quartschen (present-day Krzesnica) surrounded by woods and quagmires. He posted the Observation Corps and its artillery on the ridge between the branches of the “Langen-Grund”. Then he moved his whole army to the right extending its right wing to the western edge of the Langen-Grund. His right wing cavalry, consisting of only a few sqns, took position to the east of the Langen-Grund facing towards Zicher (present-day Cychry). Cossacks secured the areas north and east of Zicher, south of Darrmietzel (present-day Dargomyśl) and between Quartschen (present-day Chwarszczany) and Kutzdorf (present-day Gudzisz) and remained in contact with the Prussian outposts. Zicher and Quartschen were each occupied by 300 foot and two cannon.

The Russian army spent the night in combat readiness with parts of the army alternatively resting. Fermor had decided to wait for Frederick’s attack in the area between the Langen-Grund and the Zabern-Grund. He estimated the Prussian army at 55,000 men (in fact 0nly 36,000 men) while his own army numbered only 39,000 regulars.

Frederick, who had established his headquarters in the paper-mill of Neudamm, gave some rest to his troops but did not allow to pitch tents, keeping them in readiness for an early departure. He was in an excellent and confident mood and spent the evening in animated conversation with de Catt.

After 9:00 p.m., generals arrived at Frederick’s headquarters to receive their orders. The meeting lasted about 30 minutes.


Map of the battle of Zorndorf - Source: Die Werke Friedrichs des Grossen in deutscher Übersetzun, Vol 4, by Gustav Berthold Volz and Friedrich von Oppeln-Bronikowski
Copyright Tony Flores
Map of the battle of Zorndorf - Source: "Die Schlachten und Hauptgefechte des siebenjährigen Krieges mit vorherrschender Bezugnahme auf den Gebrauch der Artillerie, in Verbindung mit den beiden andern Hauptwaffen der Armee" by Carl von Decker
Map of the battle of Zorndorf - First Prussian attack
Source: Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen, volume III by the German Grosser Generalstab
Copyright Tony Flores
Map of the battle of Zorndorf - Second Prussian attack
Source: Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen, volume III by the German Grosser Generalstab
Copyright Tony Flores

The theatre of the battle consisted of a flat plateau which, to the south, steeply sloped down to the Warthe Valley with steep-sided rivulets cutting across the slope. To the north the plateau was bounded by the mostly swampy Mietzel Valley, the river passable only on a few bridges (Frederick had cut all the bridges across the rivers Warthe and Oder). To the east and west of the plateau extended large forests passable by infantry and cavalry through paths and roads.

The battlefield itself was characterized by three elongated depressions that intersected it from southeast to northwest, of which the westernmost, the Zabern-Grund, was the most important. This depression, carved some 10 to 15 m. into the plateau, had very steep slopes, especially in its northern and central parts. With its bottom covered with ponds, wet trenches, marshy strips, bushes and hedges, the narrow depression of the Zabern-Grund was passable only at a few places and only by small detachments. It formed an unusually strong obstacle.

The central depression, the “Galgen-Grund”, was wider. Its northern half had steep slopes covered with shrubbery. To the south, however, it quickly flattened and ended northeast of Zorndorf in a wide hollow. This depression was passable by all type of troops even though there was a marsh near the village of Quartschen.

The western branch of the last depression, the Langen-Grund, did not play any role in the coming battle. It ended in the deep swamp of the Hofbruch. Although it was the flattest of these three depressions, it was less easy to cross than the Galgen-Grund, since pools and swamps restricted movements. Here, too, the central and northern parts were easier to cross than the southern part.

In the western part of the battlefield, along the eastern side of the Drewitz Heath, there was a series of ponds and swamps; while in the eastern part from Wilkersdorf (present-day Krześniczka) to the Zicher Heath there was a quite deep depression covered with numerous lakes and ponds, ending in the swamps near the village of Zicher. The area between these depressions did not present any major feature but had many small elevations and hollows, which, as inconspicuous as they may be, provided cover and limited the field of fire. Most particularly, the line of sight in front of the centre, north of Zorndorf, was hampered by a group of hills and by the Steinbusch, a small wood. There was also a small round knoll, the Fuchsberg, to the west of the Steinbusch, between the Zabern-Grund and the Galgen-Grund, forming the spur of a ridge gradually rising towards Zorndorf. A similar ridge extended from Quartschen eastwards through the Steinbusch up to Wilkersdorf. Both ridges, together with the hills of the Steinbusch, enclosed a broad, north-facing hollow between the Hapfuhl and Zorndorf. Overall, the terrain delimited by the Zabern-Grund and the Galgen-Grund was quite favorable to an attack launched northwards from Zorndorf, since the terrain provided good positions for the artillery and frequent covers for the infantry. The irregularities of the terrain did not represent a major obstacle for the movements of well-trained troops. The area between the Steinbusch and the Langen-Grund was less favorable for an attack because it did not offer as good cover for the infantry and poor field of fire for the artillery.

The village of Zorndorf was located on the southern slope of the aforementioned ridge and was completely hidden from view from the north. The two main roads traversing the village were wide enough to allow troops and vehicles to pass easily. Since houses did not form a enclosed road, infantry could easily pass between the buildings and across the light garden enclosures into open terrain. Just to the south of Zorndorf, a wide hollow extended almost up to Wilkersdorf, providing good cover. To the south and south-east the terrain rose again. Countless hills and depressions made it difficult to get a clear view of the area, and it was possible to cleverly exploit this characteristic to deploy troops out of sight of the enemy, even at close range. Groups of hills, gradually flattening to the north and northeast, lay between Gross-Cammin (present-day Kamień Wielki) and Klein-Cammin, close to the swampy valley of the Warthe, at the edge of which ran the road leading from Tamsel (present-day Dąbroszyn) to Landsberg.

The great heat of the days before the battle had completely dried up the light sandy bottom, so that the movements of troops whirled up clouds of dust so thick that they revealed them. However, line of sight was not impaired by grain fields, because the Russians had harvested all fields during the siege of Cüstrin.

Frederick’s Army consisted of 38 bns, 83 sqns, 117 heavy pieces, 76 battalion pieces for a total of 36,500 men.

The Russian army consisted of 56 bns, 50 sqns, 60 field pieces, 146 regimental pieces and 3,200 Cossacks for a total of 39,000 men. On average, to the exception of the bns of the Observation Corps, Russians bns were smaller than Prussian ones.

Description of Events

Frederick’s plan

Frederick had cut all the bridges across the rivers Warthe and Oder and believed that he should, after defeating the Russians, drive them into the angle formed by the junction of these two rivers, and force them to surrender at discretion. Unfortunately, he had not heard that the Russian train had been sent to Klein-Cammin. Had he done so, he could have seized it, and so have possessed himself of the Russian stores and all their munitions of war, and have forced them to surrender without a blow; for the Cossacks had wasted the country far and wide, and deprived it of all resources. But Frederick and his army were so burning with indignation, and the desire to avenge the Cossack cruelties, that they made no pause, and marched in all haste right round the Russian position, so as to drive them back towards the junction of the two rivers.

Fermor's Cossacks brought him in news of Frederick's movements, which were hidden from him by the forests; and seeing that he was to be attacked on the Zorndorf side, instead of from that on which he had expected it to come, he changed his front, and swung round the line containing his best troops to meet it.

Frederick slept for a while during the night of August 24 in a tiny room of the paper-mill of Neudamm, but at midnight he was already up making preparations for August 25.

The Prussians march around the Russian positions

Two local forestry officials who knew all the small lanes of the area arrived at the mill on Frederick's request and they both were asked to act as guides for the five Prussian columns: the advance guard, plus two columns of infantry and two of cavalry, all screened by 15 hussar sqns that were going to march through the Zicher Woods, all around the Russian position through the villages of Wilkersdorf and Zorndorf.

At 3:00 a.m. on August 25, Frederick mounted his horse and after having received from the scouts reports about the enemy, started off at the head of his advance guard. His troops had been allowed only a short night's sleep when they had to resume their advance.

At 3:30 a.m., the Prussian Main army started its march. The infantry crossed the Mietzel on the bridges established at the paper-mill of Neudamm. Most of the Prussian cavalry had left camp before the infantry and passed the Mietzel on a bridge near Kerstenbrügge (present-day Mostno), some 6 km north of the paper-mill of Neudamm, and immediately rejoined the rest of the army. and the cavalry on the bridge of Kerstenbrügge. Since the cavalry had reached the Prussian camp late the previous night and almost immediately resumed its march, it had had virtually no rest before the battle. Baggage and pack horses were escorted to the paper-mill of Neudamm.

After the crossing of the river, the Prussian army resumed its advance in 3 columns by the left through the forest in the direction of Batzlow (present-day Bogusław), guided by a forester. The infantry formed the first and second columns and the cavalry the third. It marched towards Batzlow.

The vanguard had already advanced to Zicher and secured the approaches with hussars against Russian troops who soon retreated on their main army.

Around 5:00 a.m., the Prussian troops began to emerge from the woods to the north-west of Batzlow. Frederick allowed his troops to halt while he reconnoitred the area. He was accompanied by the foresters who had guided the army. With the Russian cavalry preventing any close approach to the Russian positions, Frederick had to assume that the Russian wing facing him was deployed along the Langen-Grund and the Hofbruch. An advance in the direction of Zicher would be a step into the unknown and, moreover, would lead through swampy terrain. Frederick finally decided to advance towards Batzlow to gain a better position for his army and get a better point of observation of the Russian positions.

With the Russian cavalry close at hand, Frederick sent 15 hussar sqns (8 sqns of Malachowski Hussars and 7 sqns of Ruesch Hussars) along the eastern edge of the hollow leading from the Grutzberg to Wilkersdorf, to secure the march of the army. To the left of this flank guard marched the vanguard (8 bns with 10 sqns at their head and rear) under Lieutenant-General von Manteuffel. The first and second lines of infantry and cavalry followed, separated by minimal space. The army advanced some 1.5 km in the direction of Batzlow and then made a sharp turn to the right (westwards) in the direction of Wilkersdorf. Suddenly, the Russian “Wagenburg” established near Klein-Cammin came into sight. It would have been easy to capture this “Wagenburg”, however Frederick did not allow himself to be distracted from his real objective, the annihilation of the Russian army.

Fermor reorganises his positions

At daybreak, Fermor was informed of the advance of the Prussian army in the direction of Batzlow. Convinced that the Prussian attack would come from the south, he had his army make an about-face. His lines were not interchanged, he rather had his brigades or regiments reversing their front. To secure his new right wing, he pulled it back from Zorndorf towards Quartschen so that its right flank leaned against the northern part of the Zabern-Grund. Meanwhile, his new left wing had already occupied the heights along the Langen-Grund. However, the withdrawal of his right wing caused the whole line, especially the troops deployed between the Galgen-Grund and the Zabern-Grund, to get closely packed together, which was alarming considering that the Prussian artillery positions dominated the Russian positions. Because of the hills of the Steinbusch, the terrain within the chosen positions had to be used very skillfully by the Russians to get a satisfying field of fire. In the meantime, the centre of the army could not advance to align with the right wing, it rather had to be held back to occupy the northern edge of a wide hollow between Steinbusch and Hofbruch. Thus, the Russian army was deployed along a very broken front. Because the regiments posted on the flanks had been formed en potence, the overall deployment took the form of a large rectangle, 3 km long by 800 m. deep, facing south and southeast.

The new second line found cover in the terrain sloping down to Quartschen and the Hofbruch. The distance between the second and first line was about 350 m on the left wing and in the middle, corresponding to the frontage of the Grenadier Regiment of the Observation Corps, which secured the left flank. However, from the centre to the right wing, this distance increased to 800 m, because the light baggage had been placed in the Galgen-Grund between the two lines and had slowly started to move towards Quartschen.

Fermor did not deploy the cavalry of his right wing on the ridge west of the Zabern-Grund. He rather placed the 9 sqns of Brigadier von Gaugreben between the two lines of infantry of the Russian right wing, using the depression of the Galgen-Grund as cover. This was not the ideal terrain for cavalry but there was insufficient space in the marshy lowlands behind the second line to accommodate all the cavalry (5 hussar sqns and Cossacks were already deployed there).

Some 300 m in front of the Russian right wing stood the Fuchsberg which severely restricted the field of fire. The Russians could have posted their artillery near this height, thus significantly improving its field of fire but it would have broken their line of battle and exposed these forward positions to enfilade fire from the Prussian artillery posted on the heights near Zorndorf.

At some distance behind the infantry front line stood the “Regimental Reserves”, these were detached troops from the regiments of the first and second lines which had been converged into bns. The field artillery was posted at suitable points near the infantry. The two weakest batteries were those of the centre whose field of fire could not reach the heights of the Steinbusch. The regimental artillery was deployed in the intervals between regiments or, in the case of the secret howitzers, close to their front.

Such a formation had been found excellent by the Russians in their Turkish wars, but was by no mean well adapted to meet Frederick's methods of impetuous attack. Being ignorant as to the side upon which Frederick was likely to attack, and having decided to stand on the defensive, Fermor adopted the methods most familiar to him. Only Cossacks were left outside the square.

The Prussians deployed near Zorndorf

Meanwhile, the Prussians had resumed their march towards Wilkersdorf. Frederick was able to observe the Russian troops deployed between Zicher and the Steinbusch but the Russian right wing remained hidden from sight. Even from the most important heights to the southwest of Wilkersdorf, most of the Russian army was still not visible.

After the arrival of the Prussians at Wilkersdorf, the main body of the Russian cavalry under the command of Major-General Demiku took a new position on the new Russian left wing to the south of Zicher. In this confined position, cavalry regiment were deployed in columns (probably in half-squadron columns). The Cossacks, together with the Serbskiy Hussars, had followed the advance of the Prussians towards Wilkersdorf. Most Cossacks later joined Demiku’s Cavalry while some of them along with Serbskiy Hussars rode to the right wing where they took position to the west of the Zabern-Grund.

Around 7:00 a.m., to prevent the Prussians from marching through Zorndorf, Fermor ordered the Serbskiy Hussars, who were gradually retreating in front of the Prussian hussars, to set fire to the village. Fire spread rapidly and the south wind drove the dense smoke towards the Russian right wing.

Frederick ordered to resume march through and around Wilkersdorf in the direction of Zorndorf. During the march, the Prussian hussars and the Russian light cavalry came to grip.

By 8:00 a.m., after the rearrangement of the Russians positions, 16 bns, 14 sqns and a few Cossack sotnias with 34 field pieces formed the right wing up to the Galgen-Grund. The Observation Corps, deployed on the left wing counted 14 bns. To its left stood 36 sqns, some 20 Cossack sotnias with 26 field pieces. The centre of the Russian positions consisted of 24 bns and some 24 field pieces.

The main weaknesses of the Russian positions lay in the narrowness of their individual sections, their low height and their restricted field of fire. However, the inaccessible marshy terrain extending behind the Russian positions were even more alarming since, in case of defeat, the Russians were vowed to total destruction (Frederick had already destroyed the bridges on the Mietzel and ordered armed peasants to guard all passages).

The attackers also faced considerable difficulties, above all because the Russian wings were well protected. Furthermore, the hills of the Steinbusch made the reconnaissance of the Russian positions very difficult and divided the attack area into two halves, which could not be simultaneously observed.

Around 8:00 a.m., on arriving at Zorndorf, Frederick found that the Cossacks had already set the village on fire. This was no disadvantage to him, for the smoke of the burning houses rolled down towards the Russians, and so prevented them from making observation of the Prussian movements. The head of the Prussian columns reached Zorndorf. Escorted by hussars, Frederick rode to the heights north of the village, close to the edge of the Zabern-Grund. From these heights, he could finally observe the Russian right wing in its entirety. With the additional information provided by the foresters who accompanied him, Frederick soon realized that an attack across the Zabern-Grund was impossible because this depression was too deep and boggy to be easily crossed. Thus, the situation prevented him to use his favorite “oblique order” attack and allowed only for a frontal attack. To achieve local superiority, Frederick finally decided to concentrate his attack against the Russian wing deployed between the Zabern-Grund and the Galgen-Grund, planning to turn against the rest of the Russian army after this initial attack. To protect this attack against a possible sweeping movement of the Russian army, Frederick had to hold back a strong reserve ready to intervene immediately in case of an imminent threat or to exploit the successes of the attacking wing. Accordingly, he placed his right wing under the command of Dohna, while the left, reinforced by the avant-garde and a reserve of cavalry, had to carry out the attack. To prepare this attack, the bulk of the artillery of the left wing was to be used, while at the same time the heavy guns assigned to the right had to pin down the enemy facing it by their fire.

As the head of the Prussian columns reached the Maser quagmire, Frederick had the columns form into line facing north. The left wing, responsible for the attack, under Lieutenant-General von Kanitz counted 9 bns in its first line and 6 bns in its second and flanks. Preceding Kanitz’s two lines, the 8 bns of the avant-garde, under Lieutenant-General von Manteuffel formed an additional line, while 20 sqns under Lieutenant-General Marschall von Bieberstein formed a reserve behind Kanitz’s lines. The rest of the cavalry was deployed as follows: 27 sqns under Lieutenant-General von Schorlemer formed in two lines on the right wing; and 36 sqns under Lieutenant-General von Seydlitz to the west of the left wing, at the edge of the woods. The heavy artillery under Colonel von Moller was deployed in groups in front of the army. All these preliminary manoeuvres were performed out of sight of the Russians.

Soon after 8:00 a.m., the Prussians had completed their deployment south of Zorndorf. Each platoon of the Prussian army then made a quick conversion. The Prussian left wing was behind Zorndorf and the right wing extended up to 800 paces from Wilkersdorf. The gap between the right wing and this village was filled by Normann Dragoons and Ruesch Hussars detached from the second line. The rest of the Prussian cavalry deployed on the left wing with Zieten Hussars and Malachowski Hussars along with the 6 cuirassier rgts in the first line and the dragoon rgts in the second. The 8 bns of the vanguard were posted 250 paces in front of the left wing. The Prussian right wing was thrown back in a typical oblique order arrangement. It was now time to plant the artillery in suitable positions.

Frederick then ordered the entire army to advance. The 4 leftmost bns of the avant-garde went around the burning village of Zorndorf, but the remaining 4 bns did not find enough space to move around it and had to march across the village. The 8 bns of the avant-garde then reformed their line to the north-west of Zorndorf, still hidden from the Russians, with their left leaning against the Zabern-Grund.

Under cover of the 8 bns of the avant-garde, a battery of 20 heavy guns was deployed on a narrow ridge some 400 m to the north-west of Zorndorf while a second battery of some 40 guns was planted on a height to the north of the same village. All this artillery had been delayed because it had to pass through the burning village of Zorndorf.

Kanitz’s two lines followed and rearranged their formation north of Zorndorf with their left close to the Zabern-Grund immediately behind Manteuffel’s avant-garde.

During this time, the heavy artillery (57 pieces) of Dohna’s right wing had formed a large battery on the height just north of the Hapfuhl while the cavalry of that wing halted behind the Hapfuhl close to Dohna’s infantry. On the extreme left wing, Seydlitz advanced with his 36 sqns to the west of the Zabern-Grund. His hussars secured the outskirts of the Birkbusch, hidden from sight and ready to launch an attack.

Soon before 9:00 a.m., while the Prussian were completing their last movements, the batteries of their left wing opened on the artillery of the Russian right wing and centre, soon imitated by the large battery of the right wing. Soon afterwards, the Prussian battery north of the Hapfuhl began to bombard the rest of the Russian positions.

Since the frontal attack of the Prussian infantry would be very difficult, it needed a thorough artillery preparation. However, it was soon realised that the two batteries of the left wing were established too far from their targets and they had to be moved forward some 600 m further, skillfully using the terrain. These batteries were relocated on and to the east of a knoll offering a much better field of fire against the Russian right wing.

Sketch of the situation around 10:00 a.m. at Zorndorf – Copyright Tomasz Karpiński and Jakub Wrzosek
1 - Prussian Infantry Brigade
2 - Prussian Battalion
3 - Prussian Cavalry Brigade
4 - Prussian Battery
5 - Russian Infantry Brigade
6 - Russian Infantry Regiment
7 - Russian Cavalry Brigade
8 - Russian Cavalry Regiments
9 - Russian battery
10 – Russian Baggage

An artillery duel of rare violence ensued. The air and ground resounded under the thunder of more than 200 artillery pieces crowded together in such a tight space. The Russians could hardly hit the Prussian artillery, cleverly posted behind ridges. They barely saw the Prussian pieces and their aiming was much hindered by the blinding sun, the dense smoke and the dust. Moreover, the Russians had to shoot uphill, their cannonballs were almost always too high and could not harm the well covered Prussian infantry and cavalry halted near Zorndorf. Furthermore, the Russian artillery of the right wing faced almost double the number of heavy artillery pieces, which were also better served and very much superior to theirs. Of course, in these conditions, the Russian artillery could not silence the Prussian artillery; on the contrary, the Russian battalions of the front line of the right wing, which were completely uncovered behind their batteries, tightly packed and unmissable, suffered terribly from the artillery fire. Some of the projectiles flying over the first line rolled into the Galgen-Grund, causing confusion in the baggage train which had been hidden there, they even inflicted losses among Gaugreben's Cavalry.

Nevertheless, for more than two hours, the Russians endured the deadly fire of the Prussians with blunt courage. Relentlessly, they fed their regimental reserves to plug gaping holes in their first line and, when these reserves were exhausted, they moved units of their second line forward.

The centre and the left wing of the Russians suffered much less because the Prussian batteries facing them were too distant. Furthermore, especially in the centre, Russian troops were partially under cover. Their second line, formed on each side of the plateau did not suffer many losses.

Attack of the infantry of the Prussian left wing

Shortly before 11:00 a.m., after two hours of artillery preparation, the three Prussian infantry lines under Manteuffel and Kanitz set off, under the cover of the Prussian artillery, from the positions where they had patiently waited. Meanwhile, to be at hand if the left wing or the centre of the Russians rushed to the aid of their threatened right wing, the Prussian right wing, under Dohna, advanced as far as permitted while still covered by the terrain. At the same time, Dohna inclined to the right so that he would no longer be towered over by the Russian wing facing him, perhaps also to avoid crossing the Steinbusch in a later thrust. During the advance, a wide gap gradually appeared between the two wing of the Prussian army.

As Manteufeel’s 8 bns came closer to the line of artillery, the leftmost Prussian battery was quickly moved forward closer to the Fuchsberg. The artillery of both sides then began a devastating grapeshot fire.

Meanwhile, the Prussian cavalry of the left wing extended its first line to the west of Zorndorf under the Russian artillery fire, while the Prinz von Preußen Cuirassiers and Markgraf Friedrich Cuirassiers were sent to reinforce the right wing.

Around 11:15 a.m., the infantry of both sides also started to fire. Meanwhile, the Russians had finally managed to move their light baggage away towards Quartschen, so that their second line could move closer to their first and that Gaugreben’s Cavalry had enough room to take position behind the extreme right wing along with the Serbskiy Hussars.

The 2 Russian grenadier rgts deployed in the first line near the Zabern-Grund, had suffered badly from the fire of the Prussian battery established west of the Fuchsberg and needed support. Sankt-Peterburgskiy Infantry and Novgorodskiy Infantry came to their assistance. Shortly afterwards, the Prussian bns emerged from the clouds of dust and smoke only 40 paces from the Russian first line.

At last, the bns of the Russian first line, who had been exposed to enemy fire for more than two hours, could see their opponents. Without orders these troops, some of whom had expended their last cartridge, attacked the Prussians at the point of the bayonet. A terrible struggle ensued. Despite heavy losses, Manteuffel’s bns continued to advance in good order. Already a third of their men had been killed or wounded but the rest still fought with the energy of desperation. Their situation gradually worsened. Sankt-Peterburgskiy Infantry and Novgorodskiy Infantry advancing along the Zabern-Grund managed to turn the left flank of Kanitz Infantry, the leftmost unit of Manteuffel’s avant-garde. Nevertheless, these brave bns still held but were on the verge of breaking under the pressure of the more numerous Russians. Now only the fresh troops of the two lines of Kanitz’s left wing could reverse the situation.

However, despite clear orders to attack, General von Kanitz had not remained behind Manteuffel’s avant-garde but had gradually wheeled to the right. Indeed, Kanitz had noticed that Dohna’s right wing was inclining eastwards and, fearing that the Russian centre could interpose itself between the two Prussian wings, he decided to close this opening gap. Kanitz’s lines advanced through difficult terrain across the Steinbusch and his first line became quite disorganised. The bns of his second line tried to plug the gap appearing in the first line.

Kanitz’s attack hit the Russian centre which, until then, had not suffered much from the Prussian artillery fire. Kanitz’s disorganised left wing advanced against the receding angles of the Russian lines and thus came under deadly crossfire.

Soon, even parts of the Observation Corps turned against the right flank of the Kanitz’s left wing. Dohna, being too far away, could not prevent this counter-attack. In a short period, the regiments of Kanitz’s left wing suffered heavy losses and their advance came to a halt.

Frederick, who was observing the evolution of the battle from the battery in the centre, ordered to send I./Sers Infantry from Dohna’s left wing. Thus the 23 bns that Frederick had directed against a small part of the Russian positions had extended themselves across a thin and weak line of about 2 km without any support.

During Kanitz’s advance, the bns of Manteuffel’s avant-garde still struggled against the Russians, both opponents getting more and more disorganised. When the remnants of Manteuffel’s avant-garde resumed their advance, the Russians engaged the last troops of their second line (probably Muromskiy Infantry and Smolenskiy Infantry).

At 11:25 a.m., the Russian infantry running short of cartridges delivered a bayonet attack on the Prussian line but, suffering heavy casualties, was forced to fall back and at 11:35 the second line rgts of Novgorodskiy, Voronejskiy, Riazanskiy and Sankt-Peterburgskiy were brought forward to re-establish the Russian line. During the fighting, the Prussian vanguard had exposed its left flank. Had Kanitz division been close at hand, as it should have been, the victory would already have been won; but although also engaged it was not near.

At 11:45 a.m., General Fermor decided to relieve the hard pressed infantry by sending the three heavy cavalry rgts of Gaugreben's Brigade and the Serbskiy Hussars upon Manteuffel's flank and front. Suddenly the 14 sqns of Brigadier Gaugreben break out of the Zabern-Grund and attacked the left wing and the flank of Kanitz Infantry, the leftmost unit of Manteuffel’s avant-garde. The regiment wavered, gave way and routed, causing the other bns to break. Gaugreben’s Cavalry then attacked the few bns still resisting. Without support, and surrounded, the Prussians could do nothing. The entire avant-garde was swept back and driven back on Zorndorf and Wilkersdorf, losing 24 guns.

Fermor ordered his right wing infantry to pursue the retiring Prussians. However, while pressing on the fleeing Prussians with shouts of victory, these Russian bns soon became disordered.

Almost at the same time, the attack of General von Kanitz against the Russian centre collapsed after suffering terrible losses. His troops broke and routed, joining the remnants of the Prussian avant-garde, pursued by the infantry and the cavalry of the Russian right wing.

When, from his observation point near the battery of the centre, Frederick saw his infantry break and run, pursued by the Russians, he immediately sent orders to Seydlitz and Marschall von Bieberstein to counter-attack with the cavalry of the left wing and of the reserve. Frederick then vainly tried to rally his routing infantry.

Attack of the cavalry of the Prussian left wing

Sketch of the situation around 12:00 a.m. at Zorndorf – Copyright Tomasz Karpiński and Jakub Wrzosek

The Russian officers failed to reorganise the infantry of their right wing which pursued the fleeing Prussian infantry. Only a few well-formed bns followed behind the second line. The Russians captured the abandoned Prussian battalion guns and the battery established near the Fuchsberg.

At 11:50 a.m., the Prussian battery of the centre was about to suffer a similar fate when Prince Moritz of Anhalt-Dessau appeared at the head of General Bieberstein’s Cavalry Reserve with the Schorlemmer Dragoons, Alt-Platen Dragoons and Plettenberg Dragoons.

Indeed, when Prince Moritz had seen the Prussian infantry routing, he had immediately decided, without waiting for orders, to come to its support with part of the Cavalry Reserve. The Alt-Platen Dragoons and the Schorlemmer Dragoons rode to the right of the Plettenberg Dragoons.

Prince Moritz delivered a deadly counter-attack, passed through the routing infantry and threw Gaugreben's Cavalry back into the ranks of the Russian infantry causing disorder and confusion. However, the charge of the 20 Prussian sqns broke against the Russian infantry who offered the most obstinate resistance.

At this critical moment, trumpets sounded from the bottom of the Zabern-Grund, the ground shook under thousands of hoofs, and Seydlitz’s 36 sqns burst out of clouds of dust in front, against the rear and flank of the surprised Russian infantry. Seydlitz had used the time spent on the artillery duel and the infantry combat to reconnoitre the passages across the Zabern-Grund so that he could move quickly across this obstacle. He had divided his cavalry in three groups to cross the Zabern-Grund: to the right rode the Czettritz Dragoons and the 3 sqns of the Garde du Corps; in the middle, the Gens d'Armes and the SSeydlitz Cuirassiers; and to the left the Malachowski Hussars and Zieten Hussars. To save time, Seydlitz had ordered each of his regiment to form each of its squadrons in line, one behind the other, as soon as they would have crossed the Zabern-Grund and to hurl themselves against the Russians.

At the head of the Zieten Hussars, Malachowski Hussars and Seydlitz Cuirassiers, Seydlitz counter-charged and overwhelmed the Russian cavalry. Meanwhile, the Gens d'Armes and Garde du Corps charged over the Zabern-Grund and into the milling mass of disordered Russian infantry, throwing it into irretrievable confusion.

Charge of the Garde du Corps - Source: Wojciech Kossak, 1899

A sanguinary combat ensued. The Russian infantry assembled in small groups and tried to repulse the repeated attacks of the Prussian cavalry with their last cartridges and with their bayonet. With tough determination and admirable contempt for death, the Russians defended their lives. Zieten Hussars managed to attack the rear of the bns of the second line and to penetrate their ranks. However, they were soon surrounded and had to exert the utmost efforts to break free.

During this time, Frederick had recalled the Plettenberg Dragoons and Alt-Platen Dragoons to reinforce the right wing. However, seeing the success of his cavalry on the left wing, he instructed these 2 rgts to turn around and come back to the left wing. Prince Moritz then ordered Alt-Platen Dragoons to charge the Russian infantry while Plettenberg Dragoons supported the attacks of the Prussian cavalry.

Minute by minute, with the arrival of the quickly collected Prussian sqns, the fierceness of the combatants increased. Quarters were not given nor demanded, producing a horrible death toll. Disorder was spreading more and more, the dense dust clouds and the billowing powder smoke made friend and foe hardly distinguishable, so that in the confusion, individual groups of Russian soldiers began to shoot at each other. This murderous struggle raged for a while, until finally the tenacious resistance of the Russians, surrounded on all sides by the Prussian squadrons and repeatedly attacked by them, begins to waver. The Russian cavalry, which from the start had been less numerous, had been wiped out of the field. Now the isolated groups of infantry began to disintegrate. An ever growing number of fugitives flowed towards Quartschen, closely followed by the Prussian cavalry.

In fifteen minutes the whole Russian army was a confused mass. The entire Russian right wing up to the Galgen-Grund had been shattered and, to the exception of some parts who had managed to cross the Galgen-Grund and had been rallied in the centre, it would not play a role in the rest of the battle. Most of the fugitives took refuge in the woods to the north of Quartschen, others crossed the Zabern-Grund and halted on the Drewitz Heath and another part reached the light baggage of the Russian army, started to plunder it and fell in the greatest disorder.

However, at the end of this sanguinary contest, the cavalry of the Prussian left wing was completely disorganised and severely exhausted, unable to launch an attack across the Galgen-Grund against the fresh Russian centre. Furthermore, Fermor had already deployed fresh troops with artillery and some rallied units along the east side of the Galgen-Grund, forming a potence to protect his right flank.

The cavalry of the Prussian left wing finally retired to Zorndorf to take cover from the fire of the Russian artillery, to reorganise its ranks and to take some rest. It did not even succeed to bring back the Russian and Prussian artillery pieces abandoned on the battlefield.

Fermor, who had initially led the combat on his right wing and suffered a light wound, was overwhelmed by the flow of fugitives. With the Russian horse, he fled to Kratsdorf (unidentified location, maybe Kutzdorf). He finally managed to rally his staff in Quartschen and to join the centre of his army while Prince Charles, Saint-André and Armfelt continued their retreat, crossed the Mietzel and marched towards Soldin (actual Myślibórz) to effect a junction with Rumyantsev’s Division.

Taking advantage of Seydlitz's charge, the Prussian infantry had rallied, Frederick personally leading the Bülow Fusiliers, and pressed forward again. The Prussian infantry poured their volleys into the Russian mass but they stood immovable and passive, dying where they stood.

According to all rules, the Russians should by now have surrendered; but they proved unconquerable save by death. Thanks to the success of his cavalry, which had neutralized almost a third of the Russian army, Frederick could now prepare a new attack with the rest of his infantry and rally the remnants of his left wing.

At 1:00 p.m., the battle ceased for a moment. The Prussians had marched at 3:00 a.m. and, seeing that although a third of the Russian army had been destroyed, the rest had gradually arranged itself into a fresh line of battle, Frederick formed his forces again.

Situation at 2:00 p.m.

Sketch of the situation around 2:00 p.m. at Zorndorf – Copyright Tomasz Karpiński and Jakub Wrzosek

During the attack of the Prussian left wing, the right wing had remained idle in the hollow to the northeast of Zorndorf. Dohna probably hesitated to advance independently from the Hapfuhl, because, by leaving cover and proceeding through the heights north of the quagmire, he would have gotten within effective range of the Russian artillery without any possibility to find cover. Any advance of the Prussian right wing would inevitably lead to combat, a thing that Frederick wanted to avoid for the moment. However, Frederick also expected a more active demonstration of Dohna’s right wing to pin down the Russian centre and left. Nevertheless, the large battery in front of Dohna’s positions had opened, quite ineffectually, against the Russians since 9:00 a.m.

Around 1:00 p.m., as ordered by Frederick, Dohna’s battery advanced some 800 m from its positions north of the Hapfuhl to get within cannon range of the Russian lines. The II./Alt-Kreytzen Fusiliers was charged to protect the battery.

By 2:00 p.m., Seydlitz’s Cavalry as well as the Cavalry Reserve had rallied west of Zorndorf. Meanwhile, the battery in front of the Prussian centre, which had now become the leftmost Prussian battery, moved closer to the Prussian right wing and opened against the Russians troops who could be seen to the east of the Galgen-Grund. On the Prussian left wing the generals rallied the remnants of the bns of Manteuffel’s avant-garde and of Kanitz’s left wing.

Frederick’s situation was not significantly better than at the beginning of the battle because the success of the cavalry of his left wing had not led to a decision. The Russian centre and left wing could still oppose 38 bns against Frederick’s 14 uncommitted bns. Not much could be expected from the recently rallied infantry of the Prussian left wing who had suffered very heavy casualties. For these reasons, Frederick expected that his artillery and cavalry would play an even greater role than in the combat of the morning.

On the east wing, Demiku’s 36 sqns and large number of Cossacks gave the Russians a numerical superiority over Schorlemer’s 27 Prussian sqns. However, Schorlemer’s troops were better trained.

On the Prussian left wing (west wing), the 56 Prussian sqns assembled near Zorndorf had virtually no Russian cavalry in front of them. However, the shaken Prussian infantry of this wing badly needed the support of a strong cavalry corps to hold its positions and to keep the Russian bns assembled along the Galgen-Grund in check.

Frederick had to recognize that the attack of his left wing had failed to bring a decision. Furthermore, a frontal attack on the strong Russian positions along the Galgen-Grund seemed impossible. However, the terrain was less difficult in the eastern part of the front, even though the Langen-Grund prevented any flanking attack.

Around 1:30 p.m., Frederick instructed Dohna’s troops to prepare for an attack against the Russians deployed to the west of the Langen-Grund. The indefatigable Prince Moritz von Anhalt-Dessau, after making a demonstration with Marshall's Cavalry Reserve against the Russian right wing, had already moved to the Prussian right wing where he took position in front of the centre of infantry, waiting for Frederick’s arrival.

Frederick moved Dohna’s infantry further to the right to anchor its flank on the Langen-Grund. Meanwhile, his two batteries (97 pieces) opened a lively fire against the Russian positions.

Frederick also instructed Alt-Platen Dragoons and Plettenberg Dragoons, which were posted on the left wing to reinforce Schorlemer’s Cavalry on the right wing.

The Prussian right wing infantry then slowly advanced. Meanwhile, the Prussian infantry of the left started its advance anew. Thus, all the Prussian infantry was advancing towards the Russian positions under the cover of the Prussian artillery.

Attack of the Russian cavalry left wing

Around 3:00 p.m., the Russian Observation Corps under General Browne advanced while Major-General Demiku launched a cavalry attack. He had noticed, from the heights south of Zicher, the exposed location of the Prussian right battery and the movements of the Prussian infantry. Horvat Hussars were charged to capture the battery while the cuirassier rgts would attack Dohna’s infantry and the rest of the Russian cavalry, along with the Cossacks, would engage Schorlemer’s Cavalry.

Demiku’s attack caught the Prussian completely by surprise. The right battery barely had time to fire a few shots before being captured. The Horvat Hussars attacked the battery and the II./Alt-Kreytzen Fusiliers. They surrounded and captured the battery and the bn along with its two colours.

Meanwhile, Demiku’s cuirassiers engaged Dohna’s right wing and momentarily threw a few bns in disorder. They then charged the I./Prinz von Preußen in front and flank. The Prussian battalion placed one of its platoon en potence to protect its exposed left flank and fired a deadly volley into the charging cavalry, breaking its charge and driving it back.

At 3:10 p.m., Schorlemer's Prussian right wing cavalry (Normann Dragoons, Czettritz Dragoons, Leib-Carabiniers and Ruesch Hussars) defeated the Russian dragoons, hussars and Cossacks without too much difficulty. Part of Schorlemer’s Cavalry then pursued them up to Zicher while the rest turned its attention against the retiring Russian cuirassiers and put them to flight. Some Cossacks then set fire to Zicher but could not escape the village which had already been surrounded by the Prussian cavalry.

At 3:15 p.m., the two Prussian dragoon rgts veered north and drove off the Horvat Hussars from around the endangered battery, freeing the II./Alt-Kreytzen Fusiliers. Meanwhile, towards the centre of the battlefield, the Russian Brigadier Manteuffel advanced with his two rgts: Nevskiy and 2nd Grenadier, in support of Browne's Observation Corps as they resumed their advance towards Dohna’s troops.

During this cavalry engagement, the Prussian right wing infantry had continued its steady advance towards the Russian lines. The situation was quite different on the Prussian left wing where the Prussian infantry heard the din of battle and then saw the servants of the right battery routing, closely followed by Russian hussars. Furthermore, they saw unidentified cavalry (these were the Alt-Platen Dragoons and Plettenberg Dragoons marching to the right wing to support Schorlemer’s Cavalry as ordered) units running in a cloud of dust behind their positions. Thinking they were under attack from Russian cavalry, a large part of Manteuffel's and Kanitz's troops broke and fled towards Wilkersdorf men retreated in great haste towards Wilkersdorf. They were soon imitated by the troops covering the left battery. The officers finally managed to rally the bns of the left wing south of Wilkersdorf.

Upon arrival on the right wing, Alt-Platen Dragoons and Plettenberg Dragoons soon realized the disaster and charged the Horvat Hussars who were pursuing the former defenders of the right Prussian battery and freed the II./Alt-Kreytzen Fusiliers.

Demiku’s Cavalry finally moved around its own infantry and rallied behind its lines. It had suffered heavy casualties

Dohna's division was now alone to face the Russian line.

Seydlitz’s Cavalry second attack

From the heights north of Zorndorf, Seydlitz had assisted to the rout of the Prussian left wing infantry. He considered that, despite the fatigue of his troops, he had to intervene. The terrain through which he had to attack was difficult and quite narrow, forcing him to divide his forces: the two rgts closer to Zorndorf attacked around the eastern edge of the Steinbusch where they would join the Alt-Platen Dragoons and Plettenberg Dragoons; while the rest of Seydlitz’s Cavalry, including Schorlemmer Dragoons, attacked to the west of the Steinbusch with the hussars forming its left wing.

Around 3:30 p.m., Seydlitz’s Cavalry was received by a lively musket-fire and grapeshots while their exhausted horses could only run at a short gallop. Nevertheless, it managed to come to contact with the Russian infantry but its attack was broken by the steady and tenacious resistance of this stubborn infantry. The Prussian cavalry managed to disengage, retire and rally.

The attack of the Prussian right wing infantry

Once more the cavalry attack had not led to a decisive result. However, it had monopolized the attention and fire of the Russians while the Prussian right wing infantry (some 20 bns) advanced drum beating along the Langen-Grund. Dohna’s rgts, perfectly clean and well accoutered, were less accustomed to war than Frederick's veterans,

The Prussian second line comprised only 2 or 3 bns. During the advance, these bns probably plugged gaps in the first line. Thus when the Prussians arrived close to the Russian positions, they formed a single thin line.

Around 4:00 p.m., the Prussian right wing infantry engaged the Russians who stubbornly defended themselves, repeatedly driving back the Prussian foot. Each time however, the timely intervention of the Prussian cavalry protected the Prussian infantry against pursuits by the Russian cavalry.

During these combats, the Prussians managed to move their left battery forward and to establish it on a knoll at the north-western corner of the Steinbusch, in a position allowing it to better support the Prussian infantry and to prevent the Russian bns to act in conjunction with their cavalry.

At 4:30 p.m., Lieutenant-General Dohna launched his second and final attack on the Russian Observation Corps, his troops advanced with the support of the left wing artillery but the Russian Observation Corps nevertheless fought with great determination keeping their ranks, filling up the gaps as they were formed, and returning as best as they could the fire of the Prussians, held together with sullen obstinacy. On both sides, lines were now totally disorganized, informal groups continuing the combat. By this time the ammunition on both sides was exhausted, and now the struggle became hand to hand, bayonet against bayonet, butt end of musket to butt end.

Sketch of the situation around 6:00 p.m. at Zorndorf – Copyright Tomasz Karpiński and Jakub Wrzosek

Around 6:00 p.m., the Russian Observation Corps started to give ground. Part of it retired into the Hofbruch and another part towards Quartschen. The Prussian bns facing them gradually wheeled westwards and advanced against the flank of the Russian centre. During this advance, the Russians managed to turn their wings back and to retreat to the Galgen-Grund.

Seydlitz, returning from pursuit, again hurled his horsemen upon the Russian masses, managed to break through the scattered groups engaged in hand-to-hand combat. However, the Prussian infantry, exhausted by the fierce combats in scorching heat and confused, no longer possessed the necessary power to exploit this success. Similarly, the Prussian cavalry, as a result of the great exhaustion and heavy losses, was no longer capable of concerted and effective actions.

Seldom had so terrible a struggle ever been witnessed. Nightfall was approaching. Foot by foot the inert Russian mass was pushed backwards. Their right was thrown back onto Darrmietzel and their left onto Quartschen and Zorndorf. All tried to gain the bridges over the Mietzel which had been cut. With no retreat possible, the Russian generals managed to reform some units. Indeed, General Demiku collected some 2,000 foot and 1,000 horse behind the Galgen-Grund while another corps rallied on the height behind the Hofbruch, between Darrmietzel and Quartschen. The Russians were even able to rescue a large number of guns.

The Prussians took position along the Galgen-Grund, near Quartschen and the woods east of the village.

Soon after 6:00 p.m., combat temporarily ceased.

The combat during the evening

Generals Demiku and Fast drew the still united bns on the western side of the Galgen-Grund, facing east. Gradually, many of the disordered units joined them and were hurriedly rallied. The rescued field guns were assembled on the northeastern foothills of the Fuchsberg to form a battery. Behind it, 6 to 8 sqns had been reorganised. The new positions of the Russian infantry extended some 1,150 m. In front of these new positions, several smaller detachments were deployed in the bushes on the slopes of the Galgen-Grund. Part of the baggage had been moved through Quartschen to the area to the south of Darrmietzel were many fugitives had also assembled. However, most vehicles were jammed in front of Quartschen, between the woods and the Galgen-Grund. There too, officers had rallied scattered troops to defend the baggage. The village of Quartschen was full of wounded. Meanwhile, the Cossacks plundered the area of Zorndorf and Wilkersdorf.

For their part, the exhausted Prussians had now been on the move for more than 16 hours. Frederick had very few bns still able to fight. Nevertheless, he was still determined to obtain a decisive victory. Accordingly, he decided to attack the Russians across the Galgen-Grund and near Quartschen with the few Prussian bns (8 to 10) still able to fight. Frederick also planned to attack the Russian right flank between the Steinbusch and Zorndorf with the troops of his left who had broken and routed during the afternoon near Wilkersdorf but had now been partly rallied. The attack would be supported by the heavy artillery planted on the heights north of the Steinbusch. After the terrible combats of the day, Frederick could not count on his cavalry for an additional charge. He simply assembled his cavalry between the Steinbusch and Wilkersdorf and instructed it to put a stop to the depredations of the Cossacks. Only the Ruesch Hussars took position behind the right wing of the Prussian infantry.

The troops of the Prussian left wing, under Major- General Rautter, were still too severely shaken to withstand any opposition and they broke when the Russian artillery fired on them from the Fuchsberg and some Russian cavalry appeared on their flank. They fled and first came to a halt in the woods near Zicher. Without the support of that wing, Frederick’s attack across the difficult terrain of the Galgen-Grund could hardly succeed. He instantly dismissed Rautter from the service.

Already around 7:00 p.m., the Prussian met a fierce resistance in the bushes on the eastern slope of the Galgen-Grund. The attack had to be renewed several times before the Prussians finally managed to establishing themselves on the opposite slope.

The Prussian right wing had meanwhile driven back the Russian troops covering the light baggage. Forcade Infantry and Prinz von Preußen Infantry seized most of the army-chest, light baggage and artillery. Entire Prussian units disbanded to bring their booty back to safety.

The Ruesch Hussars had been charged to support the attack of this wing across the woods east of Quartschen by advancing against the flank of the enemy. However, as soon as they saw the abandoned wagons, they forgot their orders and plundered the baggage, seizing a large sum of money.

Soon the Prussian attack stalled along the entire line. Only a small part of the Prussian troops, including Prinz von Preußen Infantry, managed to cross the Galgen-Grund, before being driven back by a strong counter-attack.

By 8:00 p.m., the Prussian infantry was completely exhausted. Nevertheless, combat still went on for a while in the Galgen-Grund. Darkness was falling and disorder grew among the Prussians who finally retreated.

Frederick and Seydlitz at the end of the battle of Zorndorf - Source: Carl Röchling, 1895

Without any fresh troops With night rapidly approaching, Frederick finally put an end to the attack and assembled his army behind the heights extending from Wilkersdorf to Quartschen across the Steinbusch, facing south-west and his right wing near the Hofbruch, covered by ponds. He then transferred all his grenadier bns to his right under the command of Dohna.

The Ruesch Hussars covered the right wing while the rest of the Prussian cavalry was posted on the left wing and behind the infantry centre. The bns of Manteuffel’s and Kanitz’s corps assembled in the woods behind Zicher.

Around 9:00 p.m., when they were certain that the Prussians had retired, the Russians evacuated their own positions. Meanwhile, Fermor had rejoined his troops. He decided to retire to the “Wagenburg” near Klein-Cammin. However, the great disorganisation of his army forced him to stop near Zorndorf to reorganize his units, collect the fugitives and wounded and, as much as possible, recover the guns and vehicles abandoned on the battlefield, and give his troops some rest. The Russians encamped behind the small valley of Quartschen. The Cossacks burnt the villages of Darrmietzel, Quartschen and Wilkersdorf.

Frederick sent for his tents, and the army pitched its camp, facing the Russians; but during the night the latter, having got into a sort of order, moved away to the westward and bivouacked on the Drewitz Heath, facing the battle ground.


Fermor had some 28,000 men still with him, while Frederick had 18,000.

The Russians had lost 200 officers and 6,400 men killed; 412 officers and 9,072 men severely wounded; 224 officers and 2,795 men slightly wounded; and 82 officers and 2,477 men taken prisoners or missing; for a total of 918 officers and more than 20,700 men, almost half of the army. Most generals had been wounded and five generals had been taken prisoners (Lieutenant-General Count Yvan Saltykov, Lieutenant-General Count Chernishev, Major-General Yvan von Manteuffel-Zöge who would later die of his wounds, Brigadier von Thiesenhausen and Brigadier von Sievers). The Prussians had also captured 24 colours, 103 artillery pieces, the army-chest (more than 850,000 Rubles) and innumerable baggage.

The Prussians had lost 12,797 men (355 officers and 12,442); of whom 3,685 were killed (92 officers and 3,593 men) 7,216 wounded (249 officers and 6,967); and 1,896 made prisoners (14 officers and 1,882). Major-General Zieten was killed and majors-generals von Froideville, von Kahlden and von Kurssell were wounded. Furthermore, a certain number of Prussians deserted and presented themselves to the Russian army: 1 officer, 13 NCOs, 2 corporal, 723 privates and 27 hussars. The Russians captured 8 infantry colours, 2 standards, 7 kettle-drums, 15 x 12-pdrs, 7 x 3-pdrs, 4 howitzers, and some ammunition wagons.

Thus each side lost more than a third of its number in this terrible struggle.

The detailed losses of the Russian army were as follows:

Unit Killed or missing Heavily wounded Lightly wounded Fit for service
Prince Fedorovitch Cuirassiers 80 97 45 389
3rd Cuirassier 163 92 5 333
Kazanskiy Cuirassiers 62 73 20 271
Novotroitskiy Cuirassiers 63 62 14 177
Kargopolskiy Horse Grenadiers 18 16 19 319
Tobolskiy Dragoons 70 47 4 214
Arkhangelogorodskiy Dragoons 22 17 14 161
Total 478 404 121 1,864
Serbskiy Hussars 120 11 21 534
Gruzinskiy Hussars 40 8 4 379
Slavianoserbian Hussars 13 1 0 250
Horvat Hussars 176 6 0 705
Total 355 26 25 1,697
1st Grenadier 538 533 19 701
2nd Grenadier 266 217 182 1,225
3rd Grenadier 522 523 93 872
4th Grenadier 322 297 125 742
Nevskiy Infantry 290 147 111 792
Rostovskiy Infantry 352 195 91 948
Chernigovskiy Infantry 483 217 74 751
Troitskiy Infantry 241 226 49 815
Schlusselburgskiy Infantry 263 224 98 835
Sankt-Peterburgskiy Infantry 512 259 106 433
Novgorodskiy Infantry 179 329 63 453
Voronejskiy Infantry 204 321 139 575
Riazanskiy Infantry 205 280 157 509
Kazanskiy Infantry 180 268 80 715
Smolenskiy Infantry 274 250 47 617
Muromskiy Infantry 212 173 204 605
Butyrskiy Infantry 237 232 38 774
Kegsgolmskiy Infantry 323 203 36 713
Ladozskiy Infantry 416 278 15 443
Suzdalskiy Infantry 269 191 94 705
Total 6,288 5,366 1,821 14,193
Observation Corps Grenadiers 879 632 93 1,940
Observation Corps 1st Musketeer 748 535 192 1,401
Observation Corps 3rd Musketeer 693 652 102 1,270
Observation Corps 4th Musketeer 1,103 639 295 740
Observation Corps 5th Musketeer 1,575 575 11 1,189
Total 5,008 3,033 683 6,540
Field Artillery 68 94 5 1,537
Observation Corps Field Artillery 154 115 0 207
Engineers 13 3 0 102
Total 235 212 5 1,876
Grand total 12,191 9,041 2,651 26,140

On August 26 at daybreak, the Russians reorganised their lines with their right towards Zorndorf and their left behind the small valley of Quartschen. Frederick then advanced his right wing towards this small valley and extended his left up to Wilkersdorf. A cannonade was for some time kept up on both sides, but the armies were beyond range of artillery. Everything then came to a standstill until 11:00 a.m.. The Russians then retired closer to the woods. After receiving its baggage, the Prussian army encamped on the battlefield. It lacked ammunition and the cavalry was too exhausted to launch another attack.

Neither party had any real thoughts of fighting. Fermor, beaten on his own ground the day before, could not dream of attacking the Prussians. The latter were worn out by the fatigues of the previous day. Moreover, on each side the musketry ammunition was used up. The hussars, pursuing the Cossacks, had in the night come upon the Russian wagon train at Klein-Cammin, and carried off a good deal of portable plunder.

During the night of August 26 to 27, under cover of fog, the Russians marched towards the Wagenburg previously established at Klein-Cammin. At 2:00 a.m., cossacks attacked the Prussian advanced posts to screen the movement of the main Russian army. When Frederick realised that the Russians had left their position, he ordered his cavalry to pursue them and the rest of his army to march and to support the cavalry. The Russians planted a battery on the heights near Wildersdorf and cannonaded the Prussian cavalry. The Russians then resumed their retreat to Klein-Cammin unmolested.

Order of Battle

Prussian Order of Battle

Commander-in-chief: Frederick II assisted by Prince Moritz von Anhalt-Dessau

Summary: 36,500 men in 38 bns and 83 sqns, and 117 field pieces and 76 battalion guns.

Vanguard First Line Second Line
Right Wing Cavalry under von Schorlemmer
Right Wing Infantry
  Right Division under Lieutenant-General zu Dohna  
Left Wing Infantry
Avant-garde under Lieutenant-general von Manteuffel Left Division under von Kanitz Second line under Forcade de Biaix
Left Wing Cavalry under Seydlitz

Reserve under Marschall von Bieberstein

Russian Order of Battle

Commander-in-chief: General Villim Vilimovich Fermor assisted by Major-general Rothelier

Summary: 39,000 men in 56 bns, 50 sqns (about 4,970 men including 2,103 hussars), 7 Cossack rgts (about 3,200 men), a field artillery of 60 pieces and 146 regimental pieces.

N.B.: the Grosser GeneralStab works mention 84 field pieces. Some authors place the 6 converged grenadier bns which were guarding the Wagenburg at Klein-Cammin in an intermediate line between the first and second lines.

Detailed deployment of the Russian army at Zorndorf - Source: Korbkov N. M. -Semiletnjaja vojna

N.B.: the number preceding the name of each unit indicates its position on this map

First Line Intermediate Line Second Line
Right Wing Cavalry
Gaugreben Division    
Centre Infantry
Saltykov Division under Lieutenant-general Piotr Semionovitch Saltykov   Count Galytsin Division
Observation Corps under Major-general T. Browne
Left Wing Cavalry under Major-general Demiku

Detached at Klein-Cammin to guard the Wagenburg

  • All grenadiers of the line musketeer rgts (4,000 men):
    • 1st Converged Grenadier Battalion (1 bn)
    • 2nd Converged Grenadier Battalion (1 bn)
    • 3rd Converged Grenadier Battalion (1 bn)
    • 4th Converged Grenadier Battalion (1 bn)
    • 5th Converged Grenadier Battalion (1 bn)
    • 6th Converged Grenadier Battalion (1 bn)
  • 1st Novoserbskiy Hussars (100 men) also known as Horvat
  • Cossacks (200 men from an unidentified unit)
  • Artillery (6 guns, including 2 Shuvalov secret howitzers)

Detached at Schwedt under command of Stoffeln

Detached on the Oder under Chomutov

  • Cossacks (500 men from an unidentified unit)


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

  1. Generalstab Kriegsgeschichtliche Abteilung II: Die Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen, Part 3 Der siebenjährige Krieg 1756-1763, Vol. 8 Zorndorf und Hochkirch, Berlin, 1910, pp. 117-154, 161
  2. Jomini, Henri, Traité des grandes opérations militaires, 2ème édition, 2ème partie, Magimel, Paris: 1811, pp. 148-165
  3. Carlyle, T., History of Friedrich II of Prussia, Chapter XIII

Other sources:

Dorn, Joachim, and Günter Dorn: Die Schlachten Friedrich des Großen, Nebel Verlag: 2001

Duffy, Christopher: Frederick the Great: A Military Life, Routledge, London: 1985

Gray, Wilbur E.: The Age of Honor, Age of Eagles

Korbkov, N. M.: Semiletnjaja vojna, Moscow, 1948

Millar, Simon: Zorndorf 1758: Frederick faces Holy Mother Russia, Osprey Campaign, Oxford , UK: 2003


Wisnicki, Boris and Sébastien Coels: Le projet Zorndorf, Par Toutatis: 2000


Alessandro Colaiacomo for the entire initial version of this article; and Tomasz Karpiński from Gniezno/Poznań and Jakub Wrzosekfrom from Warsaw for precisions on the Russian order of battle and sketches of the various phases of the battle