1758-10-10 - Battle of Lutterberg
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 who immediately crossed the Fulda and formed a line of battle in front of the Allied army.
Description of Events
Soubise plan for the battle was to turn the Allied left flank with Chevert's Corps while Fitzjames would attack in the centre and himself would launch an assault against the Allied right wing on the plateau of Sandershausen.
During the night of October 9 to 10, fearing for his lines of communication, Oberg decamped from the plateau of Sandershausen, passed the village of Landwehrhagen, leaving only a detachment on the plateau to cover his retreat. He planned to recross the Fulda at Münden.
At 3:00 a.m., Lieutenant-General Chevert and Prince Xavier (aka Comte de Lusace) began a long 8 km march around the Allied left flank through Dahlheim and 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.
Broglie reconnoitred the plateau of Sandershausen which was now devoid of any enemy troops. Soubise then formed his corps and Fitzjames' Corps into 6 columns and crossed the brook of Bettenhausen. After the crossing of the brook of Sandershausen, Soubise rearranged his 6 columns into 8.
Continuing his advance on the plateau of Sandershausen, Broglie came to contact with some jägers who soon retired. Broglie then rapidly marched towards Landwehrhagen which had also been abandoned by the Allies.
When Oberg saw Broglie's forces close behind his army, he realized that it would be dangerous to continue his march towards Münden through difficult terrain with the French so close behind his columns. He then decided to deploy his army with the infantry in two lines in the centre, a right wing of cavalry and the cavalry of the left wing positioned behind the infantry to the left. His right was anchored on light woods and heights, the village of Lutterberg behind his centre. His left wing extended to a thicket upon an eminence where 5 x 6-pdrs were placed. His front 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.
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.
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. The columns, with artillery at their head, then advanced in good order and deployed under the supervision of MM. de Lugeac and du Mesnil. To the left, Soubise battleline was anchored on woods and on the scarps of the Fulda. His right extended to the village of Benterode. 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 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.
Chevert had now reached 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.
At 1:00 p.m., the entire French army was deployed in order of battle. It was resolved that the left and centre would stand still until Chevert would be ready to launch his attack.
At 2:00 p.m., Chevert received the order to attack. The French artillery positioned all along the line opened a very efficient fire while Chevert debouched in three columns followed by his cavalry in front of the enemy positions. The Allies could barely return fire since most of their artillery was still on the road towards Münden. Shortly after, Soubise ordered Fitzjames to advance. Oberg reacted by detaching Major-General Zastrow from the right wing with 2 bns of the second line and 4 sqns to reinforce his left.
At 2:45 p.m., Chevert's columns came to contact with the Allies left flank. Zastrow's battalions attacked the French with their bayonets and forced them to retire from the wood. Oberg sent 4 bns and 4 sqns of his second line to reinforce Major-General Zastrow to prevent Chevert to deploy in the plain. He also placed 2 bns and 2 dragoon sqns of the second line behind a thin wood between the Allied left and Zastrow's Corps.
At 4:00 p.m., Chevert began a brisk cannonade against this column with his 42 guns and simultaneously fell on Zastrow's Corps. His first line was composed of infantry which Zastrow attacked with the bayonet and routed. However, a considerable line of cavalry was supporting this first line. Chevert then ordered Voyer and Bellefonds (at the head of the cavalry) to charge the Allied column. The cavalry attacked Zastrow's infantry in front and flank and broke it. Voyer was wounded during the charge.
The attack of Chevert was the signal that the French army was waiting for. The left wing cavalry then swiftly advanced but was delayed by a dale and a brook. The Piémont, Castellas and Alsace infantry brigades advanced so rapidly that they soon reached the opposite slope, so did the artillery.
As the Allied column 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. Meanwhile, Chevert's Saxon column stormed the Stodberg hill where the Allies had placed several batteries and an important force. 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 Stodberg. An Allied 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.
Meanwhile, the rest of the French army advanced against the front of the Allied first line. Faced with the success of Chevert's attack, Oberg soon ordered the retreat towards the defile leading to Münden. The French artillery opened on the Allies while they passed this defile, breaking down the artillery and ammunition wagons. Oberg then formed 3 to 4 bns in front of the defile. 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. Overall, losses of the Allies during this action amounted to about 1,500 men killed, wounded or taken prisoners and 28 guns.
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.
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 (?)|
|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 (?)|
- 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|
- V./Corps Royal de l'Artillerie - Loyauté under the Chevalier de Pelletier and M. de Guiol
- 32 field guns
- Right column under the Chevalier de Grollier and the Baron d’Osten
- Centre column
- Left column under Prince Xavier assisted by MM. von Dyherrn, Goldberg and Kleinenberg
- vanguard of Saxon grenadiers (10 coys) under the Comte von Solms
- Two Saxon Brigades consisting of:
- Cavalry under M. de Voyer assisted by M. de Bellefonds
- First Line
- Second Line under M. de Bourbon-Busset
- Light Troops under the Comte de Chabot on Chevert's right flank
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)
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
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
Harald Skala for information on the Saxon Army during this period