1758 - Austrian invasion of Silesia

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The campaign lasted from August to December 1758

Introduction

In July 1758, during his retreat from Moravia, Frederick II first retired through Bohemia. At the beginning of August, he redirected his march towards Silesia.

Description

Austrians enter into Silesia

On August 4, de Ville appeared in front of the Fortress of Neisse (present-day Nysa) with an Austrian corps consisting of the 3 Saxon Chevauxlegers regiments, 1 uhlan regiment and a large number of light troops. He then established a blockade around the place.

On August 10

  • Prussians
    • Keith being sick, Frederick II confided command of his army in Silesia to Margrave Karl before leaving for Brandenburg with a small corps. Margrave Karl was left at the head of 33,000 men in 44½ bns and 80 sqns.
    • Margrave Karl was informed of Daun's movements towards Saxony. He first taught that it was a diversion and that Daun's real intention was to penetrate into Silesia from the west. He immediately detached Puttkamer with his own hussars and Freibataillon Salenmon to Greifenberg (present-day Gryfow Slaski) to observe Daun's manoeuvres. Puttkamer soon realised that the Austrians were advancing from the area of Jaromirz (present-day Jaromer) and Eipel (present-day Úpice) towards Reichenberg (present-day Liberec) in the general direction of Lusatia. Their light troops were already roaming the country up to Friedland (present-day Frýdlant).
    • Margrave Karl also sent Zieten with 6 bns and 5 sqns to Löwenberg (present-day Lwowek Slaski) where he encamped behind the Bober.

On August 14, Zieten reached Lähn (present-day Wleń) with the Münchow Fusiliers and the Württemberg Dragoons. Puttkamer retired to Löwenberg as ordered by Zieten who had learned that a camp for 40,000 men was being prepared near Zittau.

On August 15, Zieten let Puttkamer advanced once more on Greiffenberg where Austrian hussars had been reported. Zieten then marched with his own detachment to Löwenberg. Puttkamer found that Greiffenberg was already occupied by 1,200 Austrian horse and Grenzers (part of Loudon’s light corps). He decided to wait for reinforcements.

On the night of August 15 to 16, Zieten, informed of the situation during the evening, immediately marched with the Münchow Fusiliers and the Württemberg Dragoons.

Early on August 16, Zieten arrived near Greiffenberg with his detachment. However, the Austrians had already evacuated the town. Later the same day, he was informed that the main Austrian army was marching on Zittau and that its vanguard had already reached Seidenberg (present-day Zawidów). In the evening, Zieten retired to Löwenberg. Zieten was reinforced by Wedell's and Krokow's (1 grenadier bn and 10 cuirassier sqns) detachments.

When Margrave Karl was informed of Daun's arrival at Zittau on August 17, he changed his dispositions. He sent forward his baggage and artillery train to Löwenberg under escort. Fouqué quit his camp at Halbstadt (present-day Jetřichov u Meziměstí) and moved to Grüssau (present-day Krzeszów). Jung-Krokow advanced to Freiburg (present-day Swiebodzice) with 15 sqns to escort the artillery train.

On August 20

On August 21, Loudon set off from Seidenberg and marched by Muskau (present-day Bad Muskau), Forst and Kottbus to Peitz. His light troops sacked the Prussian villages and spread terror up to the gate of Frankfurt/Oder, angering Loudon with their excesses.

On August 22

  • Prussians
    • Frederick sent orders to Margrave Karl to effect a junction with his own army to relieve Berlin, after marching by Guben.
    • Margrave Karl marched in the direction of Oberlangenau (present-day Dłużyna Górna) with the main body of the Army of Silesia.

On August 23

On August 26, Margrave Karl learned from deserters that Daun had set off from Görlitz.

Zieten and Margarve Karl leave for Brandenburg

On August 27,

  • Prussians
    • Margrave Karl received confirmation from his reconnaissance party, sent from Löwenberg to Lauban (present-day Luban), that Daun had effectively left Görlitz and was marching towards Reichenbach; and that a strong detachment under the Margrave of Baden-Durlach, posted at Schönberg, covered his march.
    • Zieten’s detachment reached Naumburg (present-day Nowogrod Bobrzanski) after slowly advancing from Bunzlau by Sprottau (present-day Szprotawa) and Sagan (present-day Zagan) downstream along the Bober. Zieten had 30 sqns, but, like Margrave Karl at Plagwitz, he was uncertain about the movements of the Austrians which were covered by a veil of light troops.
    • Margrave Karl decided, considering the change of situation, to march towards Lauban and thus threaten the Austrian magazines at Zittau.

On the night of August 27 to 28, Margrave Karl received the news of the Prussian victory at Zorndorf and of Frederick’s intent to effect a junction at Guben with his own army to cover Berlin.

On August 28, Margrave Karl set off from Plagwitz, marching downstream along the Bober.

On August 29, Zieten marched from Naumburg to Guben with his 30 sqns and Freibataillon Salenmon.

On August 30

  • Prussians
    • The rest of Zieten’s Corps rejoined him at Guben.
    • Margrave Karl reached Sprottau with his army.

On August 31, Zieten encamped at Lieberose in Brandenburg.

On September 1, Margrave Karl crossed the Bober near Sagan and then redirected his march westwards by Priebus (present-day Przewóz), according to the new orders received from Frederick the previous day instructing him to keep an eye on Daun’s Army.

From this point, all operations of Zieten and Margrave Karl are covered in
our articles on 1758 - Russian invasion of Brandenburg and 1758 - Austrian invasion of Saxony

Frederick relieves Neisse

By October 3, Neisse was completely invested.

After the Austrian victory at Hochkirch in Saxony on October 14, Daun sent messengers to General Harsch urging him to speed up the siege of Neisse.

On October 26

  • Prussians
    • Frederick, after a brilliant manoeuvre, took possession of Görlitz and threw bridges over the Neisse River to enter into Silesia.
  • Austrians
    • Harsh's batteries opened against the town and fortress of Neisse.

On October 28

  • Austrians
    • Daun, who was in the area of Görlitz, sent Wied with a strong reinforcement of 9 bns, 10 grenadier coys and 4 cavalry rgts to General Harsch, hoping that he would be able to capture Neisse before Frederick's arrival.
    • Daun also detached Wehla to occupy the mountains of Schönberg (present-day Sulikow).
    • Loudon was preparing to vigorously pursue the Prussian rearguard in Silesia.
    • Daun himself was waiting for Frederick to quit Saxony before attempting a raid on Dresden.

Wied marched by Zittau, Trautenau (present-day Trutnov) and Frankenstein (present-day Ząbkowice Śląskie).

On October 29

  • Prussians
    • In the afternoon, the Prussian army being now resupplied, Bornstedt marched towards Gruna (present-day Gronów) with the supply train.
    • Braun crossed the pontoons bridge at Görlitz and marched to Leopoldshain (present-day Łagów) with the artillery train and baggage escorted by 4 bns. The bridge of pontoons was then disassembled and followed this column.

During the night of October 29 to 30, the Prussian vanguard crossed the Neisse. At midnight, the battalions cantoned in the surrounding villages joined the main army which also crossed the Neisse.

On October 30

  • Prussians
    • At daybreak, Frederick's entire army was on the eastern bank of the Neisse, abandoning momentarily Saxony to its fate with the goal of relieving the Prussian force besieged at Neisse and to stop the Austrian invasion of Silesia. Frederick immediately marched on Schönberg to dislodge Wehla. However, the latter had already retired and the Prussian vanguard advanced up to Lichtenau (present-day Zareba). The first column, consisting of all the infantry, followed the same road through Pfaffendorf (unidentified location) and Nieder Geilsdorf (unidentified location). The second column, consisting of cavalry, advanced by Hermsdorf (probably Jerzmanice Zdroj) and Lauterbach (unidentified location). The third column, the convoy led by Braun, took the direct road by Leopoldshain and Lichtenberg (unidentified location) to Lauban (present-day Luban). A fourth column under Bornstedt marched from Gruna to Windschdorf (unidentified location).
  • Engagement near Scönborn
    • As soon as Loudon heard of the departure of the Prussian army, he went through Görlitz with 2 regiments of cavalry, closely followed by the rest of his corps, and pursued the Prussian rearguard under the command of Prince Heinrich and consisting of 6 bns and of the Zieten Hussars (10 sqns). The delay incurred by the Prussian rearguard, while going through the Defile of Schönborn (unidentified location), allowed Loudon to assemble his corps, to plant a few guns and to cannonade the Prussians although without great effect. Prince Heinrich was forced to set the village of Schönborn afire to stop the Austrian light troops which were pressing his freikorps.
    • Wehla's Corps soon joined Loudon near Pfaffendorf and the engagement became more contested,
    • Frederick even considered returning with some cavalry regiments to support his rearguard. During the fighting, the village of Pfaffendorf was burnt. The Prussian army encamped on the heights behind Geilsdorf with its headquarters at Lauban and its right wing anchored on a wood occupied by light troops. Loudon encamped in the woods between Pfaffendorf and Heidersdorf (unidentified location).

On October 31, Daun sent the Duke d'Arenberg across the Neisse with the Reserve. This corps encamped between Moys (present-day Zgorzelec) and Leopoldshain to support Loudon. Meanwhile, Daun remained in the area of Görlitz with the main Austrian army. Frederick's plan was to march to the relief of the Fortress of Neisse with 29 bns and 68 sqns and to detach Prince Heinrich with 21 bns, 4 freikorps bns and 45 sqns into the mountains through Hirschberg (present-day Jelenia Gora) to prevent Daun from rescuing Harsch at Neisse.

On November 1, the Prussian bns which were cantoned in the town of Lauban left before daybreak and formed on the opposite bank of the Queiss to cover the crossing of the army. At 7:00 a.m., the Prussian infantry crossed the river over 4 bridges made of wood beams while the cavalry forded the river. Loudon moved closer but did not make any attempt during the crossing. Once the main Prussian army on the other bank of the Queiss, he planted 8 guns and 8 howitzers on the heights between Geilsdorf and Lauban and cannonaded the rearguard. This rearguard consisted of 16 bns and 15 sqns personally led by Frederick. It gradually retired towards the river and finally crossed it. Frederick then resumed his advance towards Lowenberg while Prince Heinrich marched from Greifenberg towards Hirschberg. Loudon then crossed the Queiss and encamped a short distance from Frederick's camp. Harsch, informed of Frederick's arrival, withdrew all his siege artillery during the following night and evacuated it, along with most baggage, by the road to Zuckmantel (present-day Zlaté Hory) in Moravia. However, the trenches remained strongly guarded. Meanwhile at Neisse, General Treskow, commander of the place, found that the bombardment was gradually slackening.

On November 2, Frederick departed at daybreak and marched to Jauer (Jawor), establishing his headquarters at Pomsen (probably Pomocne) and his corps in the areas of Conradswalde (unidentified location) and Pomsen. Meanwhile, Prince Heinrich reached Hirschberg. The same day, Loudon took 11 pontoons and 107 prisoners from the train.

On November 3, Frederick's Corps arrived in the region of Schweidnitz (present-day Swidnica). It cantoned at Zeschen (unidentified location), Zedlitz (unidentified location), Arensdorf (unidentified location), Zirlau (unidentified location), Kletskau (unidentified location), Roth-Kirschdorf (present-day Wiśniowa), Sabischdorf (present-day Zawiszów) and Jauernick (present-day Stary Jaworów).

On November 4, Prince Heinrich marched to Landeshut, leaving Zieten behind at Hirschberg with 7 bns. General Fouqué, who was stationed at Landeshut since three months left the town at Prince Heinrich's arrival and marched to Waldenburg (present-day Wałbrzych) and then to Freiburg to make a junction with Frederick's army. Loudon followed Frederick up to Jauer and then encamped at Petrowitz (present-day Piotrowice), sending parties up to Breslau (present-day Wrocław) and Hirschberg. Furthermore, Wied finally arrived at Neisse, bringing Harsch's Corps total strength to 30,000 men (33 bns, 31 grenadier coys, several regiments of cavalry and grenzer light troops). Finally, instead of entering into Silesia, Daun returned to Bautzen to operate against Dresden. However, he sent General O'Kelly to Lauban to support Loudon if necessary.

On November 5, Harsch sent a strong division across the Neisse River. A second division was about to follow when Treskow, the Prussian commander of Neisse, made a sortie, capturing 1 colonel and 458 men. The same day, Frederick had made a junction with Fouqué's Corps and marched between Nimptsch (present-day Niemcza) and Reichenbach (present-day Dzierżoniów). Zieten moved to the camp of Thomasdorf (unidentified location) to cover the line of communication with Prince Heinrich's Corps. Loudon retired to Lahn (present-day Wlen). The Austrian General De Ville advanced to Troppau (present-day Opava) with 16 bns, 10 grenadier coys, 6 cavalry rgts and the 2 Saxon uhlan rgts to cover the projected retreat of Harsch from Neisse.

Austrians evacuate Silesia

During the night of November 5 to 6, Harsch lifted the siege of Neisse and retired into Moravia by Zuckmantel.

On November 6, Frederick marched to Munsterberg (present-day Ziębice), establishing his headquarters at Gross-Nossen (unidentified location) and putting his troops in cantonments.

On November 7, Frederick personally went to Neisse to examine the works. He detached Fouqué with 13 bns and 20 sqns at Glumpigau (unidentified location) to observe Harsch's and de Ville's corps.

On November 8, Frederick's Army began its march to resume its campaign in Saxony, leaving Fouqué's Corps behind to guard Silesia.

On November 9, a large body of Austrians who had been some time employed in the blockade of Cosel (present-day Kedzierzyn-Kozle) raised it.

On November 15, Frederick was back to Lauban where his infantry occupied the town while his cavalry cantoned in the surrounding villages along the Queiss River. His vanguard took position at Lichtenau. By that date, Prince Heinrich had marched towards Greifenberg, leaving Rebentisch at Landeshut with 8 bns and 10 sqns to oppose Kalnoky's Corps. Prince Heinrich left Zieten at Greifenberg with the rest of his corps to observe Loudon and resumed his advance with 15 sqns, making a junction with Frederick's Corps at Lauban.

Loudon then evacuated Silesia and retired to Zittau in Saxony.

On November 17, when Frederick left Weissenberg for Dresden with 8 bns and 20 sqns, he sent back the rest of his army to Silesia under the command of Margrave Karl.

On November 23, Margrave Karl's Corps reached Naumburg (present-day Nowogrodziec) on the Queisse.

On December 1, Margrave Karl's Corps abandoned its cantonments at Naumburg and took its winter-quarters. Zieten did the same.

On December 9, Fouqué received reinforcements from Margrave Karl and forced de Ville's Austrian corps to return to Moravia.

On December 10, Frederick personally departed from Dresden to return to Silesia.

On December 14, Frederick arrived at Breslau.

Fouqué's Corps, consisting of 25 bns and 30 sqns, took its winter-quarters in Ratibor (present-day Raciborz), Zulz (present-day Biala Prudnicka), Ottmachau (present-day Otmuchow) and Oberglogau (present-day Glogowek).

Zieten's Corps, consisting of 36 bns and 35 sqns, took its winter-quarters in the mountains in Greifenberg, Hirschberg, Lowenberg and Silberberg (present-day Srebrna Gora).

The rest of the Prussian Army of Silesia (16 bns and 30 sqns) took its winter-quarters around Breslau and Sagan.

The Austrian corps of Harsch took its winter-quarters in Königgrätz (present-day Hradec Králové) while de Ville spent the winter in Moravia near Troppau and Teschen.

References

This article is mostly made of abridged and adapted excerpts from the following books which are now in the public domain:

  1. Jomini, Henri: Traité des grandes opérations militaires, 2ème édition, 2ème partie, Magimel, Paris: 1811, pp. 176-180, 231, 240-257
  2. Generalstab Kriegsgeschichtliche Abteilung II: Die Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen, Part 3 Der siebenjährige Krieg 1756-1763, Vol. 8 Zorndorf und Hochkirch, Berlin, 1910, pp. 248-254
  3. Carlyle, T.: History of Friedrich II of Prussia, vol. 18
  4. Anonymous: A Complete History of the Present War, from its Commencement in 1756, to the End of the Campaign, 1760, London, 1761, p. 323
  5. Schuster, O. and F. Francke: Geschichte der Sächsischen Armee, 2. part, Leipzig 1885

Other sources

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

Acknowledgement

Harald Skala for information on the Saxon cavalry during this period