1758-10-10 - Battle of Lutterberg

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Hierarchical Path: Seven Years War (Main Page) >> Battles >> 1758-10-10 - Battle of Lutterberg

French Victory

Prelude

In September 1758, during the French offensive in Hesse, when the Prince de Soubise advanced on Einbeck defended only by the small force of Prince Ysenburg (7,500 men), Ferdinand of Brunswick detached General Oberg with 14,000 men to support him. In front of the combined forces of Ysenburg and Oberg, Soubise retired first on Göttingen and then on Kassel. The Allies were on his heels and soon the two armies were facing each other near Kassel.

The situation remained stable until October 3 when Oberg learned that two strong detachments had been sent by the Marquis de Contades to reinforce Soubise. The same night, Oberg crossed the Fulda and encamped on the plateau of Sandershausen.

On October 9, the two detachments sent by Contades made their junction with Soubise. After receiving reinforcements, Soubise was at the head of 78 bns and 68 sqns for a total of approx. 42,000 men. He immediately crossed the Fulda near Kassel and established its camp to the south and southeast of Bettenhausen behind the Losse Stream.

On October 9 in the afternoon, a number of Soubise’s grenadier coys, with some sqns and with the light troops were sent forward to Dahlheim, 2 km to the southeast of Uschlag to secure the narrow road leading towards Landwehrhagen.

The same day, Oberg took position on the heights near Sandershausen. He also sent his train to Münden. He was at the head of 17 bns, 20 sqns and the Hanoverian Jägers, a total of approx. 14,000 men.

When Oberg learned that Soubise’s Army far outnumbered his own, he considered that he could nevertheless accept battle because the terrain was very favourable to a defensive combat.

Soubise decided to give battle on the following day. He knew that the Allies were posted on the heights between Sandershausen and Landwehrhagen and hoped to completely annihilate their army.

The Duc de Broglie, who had recently fought the Battle of Sandershausen on this same battlefield, suggested to make a wide turning movement to envelop the left wing of the Allies, thus cutting their line of retreat towards Münden and forcing them to surrender. This manoeuvre was entrusted to Chevert. Meanwhile, a few artillery pieces, posted along the left bank of the Fulda would also fire on the right wing of the Allies; and a detachment under the Maréchal de Camp Marquis de Castries advancing along the left bank of the Fulda would simultaneously threaten the line of retreat of the Allies.

In the evening, when Oberg learned that a large force already occupied Dahlheim, he realized that his positions had been turned and thus rendered untenable. Fearing for his lines of communication, he decided to immediately retire.

On the night of October 9 to 10 around 1:00 a.m., Oberg’s troops decamped from the plateau of Sandershausen and marched in several columns towards Lutterberg, passing the village of Landwehrhagen. Oberg left only a detachment on the plateau to cover his retreat. He planned to recross the Fulda at Münden.

The same night, the strong French detachment posted at Dahlheim was further reinforced.

Map

Reconstruction based on various documents.
 
Courtesy: Christian Rogge

The battlefield is located 6 km south of the confluence of the Werra and the Fulda near Münden, on the northernmost edge of the big forest of Kaufung. It was bordered to the west by the Fulda, to the north and east by the Kaufung Forest and to the south by a ridge near the village of Landwehrhagen.

The Fulda River offered a good protection for the right wing of the Allies which could deploy on the heights near Lutterberg, facing south. From these heights, terrain gently sloped southwards to a depression through which ran a stream flowing into the Fulda. This stream was partly bordered by wet meadows, which made the crossing impossible for artillery outside of the roads and made it difficult for cavalry.

From the stream, terrain rises to Landwehrhagen, so that an attack launched from Landwehrhagen would have to cover the entire distance to the heights of Lutterberg under the fire of the defenders.

The Kleine Staufen-Berg, a few hundred m. southeast of Lutterberg, offered a particularly advantageous position for the artillery. The Grosse Staufen-Berg rises even higher, but it was quite far away from Oberg’s main position and a few hundred m. in front of the Kaufung Forest.

Furthermore, the area north of the Lutterberg plateau was a dense forest, through which only a few steep roads descending towards the Fulda led to Münden.

Description of Events

On October 19 around 3:00 a.m., Lieutenant-General Chevert arrived at Dahlheim with the rest of his corps. He and Prince Xavier (aka Comte de Lusace) began a long 8 km march around the Allied left flank through a wooded area, crossing a small affluent of the Fulda.

At dawn, Fitzjames marched to take position to the right of Soubise's Corps. Meanwhile, Soubise sent detachments under MM. de Broglie, de Lanion and de Castries.

Around 4:00 a.m., Broglie, who commanded the French vanguard, realized that the Allies were in full retreat. He reconnoitred the plateau of Sandershausen which was now devoid of any enemy troops. He crossed the Nieste with the vanguard and skirmished with the Hanoverian Jägers, which were covering the retreat of the Allies, in the vicinity of Landwehrhagen.

About 7:00 a.m., while waiting for the main body of the French army, Broglie reconnoitred the enemy position and cannonaded them to slow down their deployment. Upon reaching Landwehrhagen, Broglie was informed that Chevert was now some 3 km to his right. Indeed, Chevert had reached the village of Benterode which lay to his left. Fitzjames was also approaching this village, placing himself to the left of Chevert's Corps.

By 7:30 a.m., Oberg’s Army had reached the heights of Lutterberg. By that time, one could see the flare of the French artillery firing from Landwehrhagen where Broglie had halted to wait for Soubise’s main body.

Oberg had now to decide whether he should resume his retreat pursued by Soubise’s Army or accept battle. After a brief council of war, where it was argued that it would be dangerous to continue the retreat towards Münden through difficult terrain with the French so close behind his columns, Oberg decided to make a stand. He hoped that the wooded and difficult terrain to the southeast of Lutterberg would seriously delay or even halt any large detachment trying to turn his positions.

As his rearguard reached Lutterberg, closely followed by Broglie’s vanguard, Oberg had to deploy his army in order of battle.

Around 8:00 a.m., Oberg’s Army began its deployment. The right wing was anchored on the wooded heights between Speele and Lutterberg. The left wing extended up to the Kleine Staufen-Berg where Oberg established 4 x 12-pdrs and 3 x 6-pdrs. The infantry was deployed in two lines. The cavalry formed a third line to the northwest of Lutterberg. The Hanoverian Jägers took position near the Fulda to secure the right flank of the Allies. Major-General von Zastrow was charged to cover the left flank with Canitz Infantry, Prinz Ysenburg Infantry and 2 sqns of Bock Dragoons posted in the forest south of the Grosse Staufen-Berg. He was joined by most of the Hanoverian Jägers. The front of Oberg’s position was covered by a deep and wide ravine with marshes at its bottom. The village of Lutterberg was behind the Allied lines and 4 x 12-pdrs were planted on the rising ground towards the village.

Learning of the movements of the Allies, Soubise personally joined Broglie to reconnoitre their positions. He then ordered his columns to speed up their advance.

Around 10:00 a.m., the six columns of Soubise’s main body and Fitzjames’ Corps, with artillery at their head, advanced in good order, crossing the brook of Bettenhausen. After the crossing of the brook of Sandershausen, Soubise rearranged his 6 columns into 8. His main body deployed near Landwehrhagen under the supervision of MM. de Lugeac and du Mesnil.

By 10:00 a.m., Chevert’s Corps (25 bns, 18 sqns and light troops for a total of approx. 14,000 men) had managed to cross the Nieste and several streams and reached a valley some 1,5 km south of Sichelnstein. While his advanced units under M. de Chabot chased enemy light troops in front of them, Chevert deployed his troops in two lines with his left 1 km to the right of Benterode and his right at Sichelnstein. He also formed a third line with his cavalry.

During the morning, Oberg learned that a large body of French troops had reached the vicinity of Nienhagen (that was Chevert’s Corps). He realised that Zastrow’s small detachment, although it had successfully driven some light troops back, would not be strong enough to prevent the French from turning his left wing. He decided to extend his left wing, to the detriment of his centre, by redeploying his entire second line on the left.

Around 11:00 a.m., Major-General von Post advanced with Post Infantry, Oberg Infantry and 2 sqns of Prinz Friedrich Dragoons to the western slope of the Grosse Staufen-Berg and took position north of the heath of Strauch. Meanwhile, Major-General von Bock with Diepenbroick Infantry, Hanau Infantry, Wangenheim Infantry, Marsschalck Infantry, the Füsiliers von Fersen, 2 sqns of Prinz Friedrich Dragoons, Prinz Wilhelm Cavalry, Pruschenk Cavalry and 2 sqns of Bock Dragoons wheeled towards the Grosse Staufen-Berg to support Zastrow’s detachment. Furthermore, five 6-pdrs were planted on the Grosse Staufen-Berg.

By noon, the Allies had completed the re-arrangement of their positions.

For two hours, nothing happened to the exception of a few skirmishes between the Hanoverian Jägers and French light troops in the woods on the Grosse Staufen-Berg.

Even though, he could see the entire French army deployed in front of his positions, Oberg still hoped that he could avoid a battle and retire unmolested to Münden during the night.

By 1:00 p.m., Soubise had completed the deployment of his main body. His left wing (8 bns, 16 sqns, 1 artillery brigade) was posted in the forest to the northwest of Landwehrhagen along the scarps of the Fulda. Another 39 bns were deployed in two lines on the heights directly to the east of Landwehrhagen. The hedges of the village of Landwehrhagen were occupied by Waldner Infantry Brigade and 9 Württemberger battalions. Rohan Infantry Brigade linked this position to the Gendarmerie on left wing while the Commissaire Général Cavalry Brigade and other Württemberger units were placed behind Rohan. This section of the battleline was under the command of Prince Camille assisted by MM. de Puységur, de Raugrave and de Bezons. The infantry of the second line was under the command of the Marquis de Crillon. Fitzjames' infantry (10 bns) was placed to the right of Landwehrhagen, extending to Benterode. Fitzjames' cavalry, under M. de Champignolles and the Chevalier de Montbarrey, was placed in the third line of the centre. Finally, 20 sqns were deployed in third line to the west of Landwehrhagen behind the centre.

At 1:00 p.m., Soubise sent orders to Chevert to resume his march towards the left wing of the Allies. Soubise had decided to wait for Chevert’s attack before engaging the Allies frontally.

Soon after 1:00 p.m., Chevert marched northwards in three columns from Sichelnstein. The right column consisted of 10 French and Palatine bns; the left column, of 12 Saxon bns under Prince Xaver; and the centre column of 48 artillery pieces escorted by 3 bns. The cavalry followed the infantry columns. The grenadier coys marched at the head of the columns while the light troops covered the right flank.

Around 2:00 p.m., the French artillery positioned all along the line opened a very efficient fire. Meanwhile, Chevert had made a northwards outflanking march through the forest to the northeast of Sichelnstein.

Zastrow found himself forced to shift his troops to the left of the Grosse Staufen-Berg.

As Chevert reached the edge of the forest, some 1,2 km to the northeast of the Grosse Staufen-Berg, with his centre and right columns, he sent his cavalry forward. His left column had been delayed, by that time it should have reached the fork of the road 700 m east of the Grosse Staufen-Berg.

Chevert then received from Soubise the order to engage.

At 2:45 p.m., Chevert gave the signal (four cannonshots) to attack the left flank of the Allies. His 42 guns began a brisk cannonade against the Allied positions.

Zastrow had not yet completed his manoeuvre to change front when the grenadier coys forming the head of Chevert’s columns emerged from the woods. Zastrow realised that he had not enough time to complete his deployment and decided to march to the enemy with Canitz Infantry and Prinz Ysenburg Infantry, driving back the French grenadiers.

At about the same time, Oberg received a message from the Hanoverian Jägers informing him that a strong French corps was threatening to turn their left flank. Oberg immediately rode to the Grosse Staufen-Berg accompanied by Major-General von Fürstenberg. Combat had already begun when he reached the height.

As the French grenadiers were driven back, Chevert’s cavalry (18 sqns under Voyer and Bellefonds) charged through their own retiring grenadiers and crashed against the front and flank of the two disordered Hessian battalions which could not withstand the shock and routed. Voyer was wounded during the charge.

The few Allied sqns of Zastrow’s detachment, vastly outnumbered by the French cavalry, were unable to stop the charge. They were outflanked and force to retire. Zastrow himself was wounded during the combat. Canitz Infantry and Prinz Ysenburg Infantry each lost a colour. They both join the other Allied bns rushing to their support as Chevert launched an attack with his infantry.

The Allied infantry opposed a fierce resistance despite being seriously outnumbered. The Füsiliers von Fersen drove back the advancing French Cuirassiers at the point of the bayonet; while Marsschalck Infantry distinguished itself during its baptism of fire.

Around 3:00 p.m., hearing the sound of the guns coming from the Grosse Staufen-Berg, Soubise ordered the main body of his army, deployed near Landwehrhagen to attack. The left wing cavalry then swiftly advanced but was delayed by the marshy meadows between Landwehrhagen and Lutterberg and the wooded Yckels-Berg. The Piémont, Castellas and Alsace infantry brigades advanced so rapidly that they soon reached the opposite slope, so did the artillery.

Meanwhile, the left column (12 Saxon bns) of Chevert’s Corps had advanced against Post Infantry and Oberg Infantry which were deployed to the right of Zastrow's troops.

The guns of the Allies, posted on the Grosse Staufen-Berg, immediately opened fire against the Saxon column as it emerged from the forest. Nevertheless this column stormed the Grosse Staufen-Berg. Prince Xavier attacked the position frontally at the head of the Saxon grenadiers while the Baron von Dyherrn turned it. Prinz Xaver Infantry, led by Colonel von Kavanagh drove back 2 Hessian bns and captured 6 guns at the point of the bayonet. After some bitter fighting the Saxons remained master of the Grosse Staufen-Berg.

Post Infantry and Oberg Infantry were driven back. They tried to counter-attack and to recapture the lost positions. But their counter-attack was repulsed with the support of Prinz Friedrich August Infantry, Prinz Maximilian Infantry and Rochow Fusiliers while the Count Solms attacked from the right side with 10 grenadier coys.

After a fierce resistance, the left wing of the Allies began to give way when the Duc de Fitzjames appeared at the head of the 10 bns, forming the right wing of Soubise’s main body and having advanced from Bruchhof, and started to turn the flank of Zastrow’s troops. The entire left wing of the Allies then retired northwards into the Kaufung Forest.

As the Allies retired in front of Chevert, his cavalry deployed in the plain. Eight sqns of Allied cavalry then advanced in good order and deployed to cover the retiring column. During the engagement that ensued, the cavalries of both sides clashed five times and the Allied cavalry was repeatedly pushed back.

Around 3:45 p.m., Oberg ordered his centre and right wing to retreat towards Münden, hoping to save at least these part of his army.

The French artillery opened on the Allies while they passed the defile leading to Münden, breaking down the artillery and ammunition wagons. Oberg then formed 3 to 4 bns in front of the defile and the Allies managed to retire unmolested.

At 5:00 p.m., when the bns of the main body of Soubise finally reached Lutterberg, they met only Oberg’s weak rearguard. Indeed, a few bns of the former Allied centre had taken position at the edge of the forest. These bns allowed the Allies to retreat in good order while suffering little loss. The Bückeburg Infantry particularly distinguished itself.

Captain von Campen of the Hanoverian Jägercorps captured a standard belonging to Chartres Cavalerie which had become isolated during the pursuit.

To cover the retreat of the Allied left wing, Lieutenant-Colonel Huth took position at the edge of the forest to the north of the Grosse Staufen-Berg with a detachment.

When the other corps of the French army reached the Allied positions they could only contemplate retiring cavalry units as darkness slowly took possession of the battlefield.

During their retreat, the Allies abandoned most of their artillery on the road to Münden and several soldiers were captured in the woods.

The French army encamped for the night on the positions that it had conquered. During the night, the Allied army crossed the Werra, finally halting at Dransfeld.

Outcome

In this battle the Allies lost 11 officers and 155 men killed; 22 officers and 404 men wounded; and 10 officers and 568 men missing (most of them having been taken prisoners). General von Zastrow was among the prisoners. Furthermore, the French had captured 2 standards and 12 guns during the battle, and 2 colours, 1 standard, 16 artillery pieces and a number of ammunition wagons during the pursuit.

The French lost 94 officers and 775 men killed or wounded, along with 70 men missing.

Order of Battle

Allied Order of Battle

Summary: about 14,000 men in 17 bns and 20 sqns

Commander-in-chief: Lieutenant-General von Oberg with von Ysenburg commanding the second line.

First Line Second Line
Right Wing under Major-General von Urff (?)
  Hanoverian Cavalry

Hessian Cavalry

Centre
From right to left:

N.B.: only 700 men since 300 were detached to Osnabrück

Hessian Cavalry Brigade
Left Wing under Major-General von Bock (?)

Hanoverian Artillery

  • 4 x 12-pdrs
  • 8 x 6-pdrs

French Order of Battle

The order of battle below is an approach to the historic composition of the French army at Lutterberg. It represents deployment around noon when the columns of the main force had caught up with their vanguards and then formed in line.

Summary: about 38,000 men and circa 40 guns in 78 bns and 52 sqns

Commander-in-chief: Prince de Soubise

First Line Second Line Third Line
Far Left under M. de Lanion (?)    
Left Wing Cavalry under Prince Camille de Lorraine assisted by MM. de Puységur, de Raugrave and de Besons
 
Infantry Centre under the Duc de Broglie assisted by MM. de Waldner and d’Orlick Infantry Centre under the Marquis de Crillon assisted by Carl von Württemberg (?) Cavalry Reserve under M. de Champignelles and the Chevalier de Montbarrey
Right Wing under the Duc de Fitzjames
 

Artillery

Chevert's Division

Detachment under the Marquis de Castries on the opposite (left) bank of the Fulda

  • Aquitaine Brigade
    • Aquitaine (2 sqns)
    • 2 unidentified cavalry regiments (4 sqns)
  • Bercheny Hussards (6 sqns)
  • probably some infantry
  • Artillery (4 field guns)

References

Archenholz, J. W.: The History of the Seven Years War in Germany, translated by F. A. Catty, Francfort, 1843, p. 230

Bourcet, M. de: Principes de la guerre de montagnes Ministère de la guerre, Paris, 1775, pp. 201- 206

Grosser Generalstab Kriegsgeschichtliche Abteilung II: Die Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen, Part 3 Der siebenjährige Krieg 1756-1763, Vol. 8 Zorndorf und Hochkirch, Berlin, 1910, pp. 396-406

Hotham: The operations of the Allied Amy under the command of his Serene Highness Prince Ferdinand Duke of Brunswic and Luneberg beginning in the year 1757 and ending in the year 1762, London: T. Jefferies, 1764, pp. 64-66

Rogge, Christian: The French & Allied Armies in Germany during the Seven Years War, Frankfurt, 2006

Salisch, M. von: Treue Deserteure – Das kursächsische Militär und der Siebenjährige Krieg, Munich, 2009

Schuster, O. and F. Francke: Geschichte der Sächsischen Armee, 2. part, Leipzig 1885

Acknowledgement

Harald Skala for information on the Saxon Army during this period