1758 - French offensive in Westphalia

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The campaign lasted from August to November 1758

Introduction

This article deals with Contades' campaign in Hanover in 1758 after the Allied campaign on the west bank of the Rhine. Another article deals with the simultaneous French invasion of Hesse by an army under the command of the Prince de Soubise.

Description

Previous operations of the Allies

On May 9, Ferdinand of Brunswick detached Lieutenant-General Prince von Ysenburg to Marburg, to organise the defence of Hesse against Soubise's Army. Ysenburg left Westphalia with a force of 2 bns, 2 sqns and 2 light troops coys.

On May 21, Prince Xavier arrived in Linz in Austria to take command of the Saxon contingent destined to join the French armies in Germany. He then reviewed six of his regiments.

On May 31, Ferdinand of Brunswick crossed the Rhine at the head of the Allied main army to operate on the west bank of the Rhine against Clermont's Army.

On July 23, while Ferdinand still operated on the west bank of the Rhine, the Duc de Broglie defeated Ysenburg in the Combat of Sandershausen. By this single action, Soubise became master of Hesse. He was now free to push farther in Hanover and Westphalia. This manoeuvre became dangerous to Ferdinand.

By the end of July, Prince Xavier's Saxon contingent arrived at Strasbourg after having marched from Linz by Braunau and Freising. This corps then proceeded to Andernach. Princess Maria Josepha of France, who had taken patronage of the contingent, sent 24 French guns as a gift to "her" corps.

Order of Battle
Detailed order of the British Contingent in August.

On August 3, a British contingent of 12,000 men, under the command of the Duke of Marlborough, disembarked at Emden. Indeed, the successes of Frederick II at Rossbach during the previous year and those of Ferdinand in Hanover since January had enticed the British Government to send reinforcements.

On August 9 and 10, fearing an attack on the British contingent troops recently landed and anxious about his bridge on the Rhine, Ferdinand army recrossed to the right bank of the Rhine with his army and then dismantled his bridges. Meanwhile, General Hardenberg evacuated Düsseldorf and retired to Lippstadt.

On August 10, Contades encamped at Alpen while his vanguard under the Duc d'Armentières reached Kleve. Düsseldorf was occupied shortly after the departure of Hardenberg.

French counter-offensive

On August 11

  • French
    • Contade's Army started to cross to the right bank of the Rhine near Wesel to follow Ferdinand's Army. It then encamped on the banks of the Lippe.
  • Allies
    • To prepare the junction with the British contingent, Ferdinand sent General Imhoff to Bocholt, General Oberg to Praest near Emmerich and General Urff with a brigade at Werth to support Imhoff. The Allied main army encamped at Millingen

On August 12, a storm broke the bridges that the French had erected over the Rhine, delaying Contades.

In the following days, the corps of the Duc d'Armentières crossed the Rhine at Wesel and made a junction with the main French army.

On August 17, the British contingent reached Coesfeld after marching through a very heavy rain.

On August 19, Contades’ Army, after much delay caused by the destruction of its bridge, finally managed to cross to the right bank of the Rhine.

Order of Battle
Detailed order of battle of Contades' Army on August 20 near Wesel.

On August 21

  • French
    • Contades marched to Schermbeck where he established his headquarters.
  • Allies
    • Ferdinand's troops finally made a junction with the British contingent at Coesfeld. He was now at the head of 46 bns and 73 sqns for a total of approx. 40,000 men.

On August 22, Contades remained at Schermbeck.

On August 23, Contades crossed the Lippe on three bridges near Dorsten to avoid a direct confrontation with the Allies who had been reinforced by the British Contingent.

On August 25

  • French
    • The Army of the Lower Rhine, under Contades, left its camp and moved eastward to Recklinghausen where it encamped. Contades considered that the swollen waters of the Lippe offered a good protection against Ferdinand’s enterprises.
    • Saint-Pern's Corps was posted at Lünen to cover Contades' right flank.
    • The corps of the Duc de Chevreuse encamped in front of Haltern to cover his left wing.
    • While the French Army of the Lower Rhine advanced to Schermbeck and then to Recklinghausen, Soubise received the order to leave his camp of Zwehren and to move towards Lippstadt.
  • Allies
    • Since both French armies were now converging on Lippstadt, Ferdinand immediately detached General Oberg with 7 bns and 10 sqns to cover this place and to stop the French advance in this quarter.
    • General Zastrow was ordered to support Oberg while covering the Allied magazines at Warendorf. These measures taken by Ferdinand effectively put a halt to the advance of Soubise.

On August 28, Ferdinand marched from Coesfeld with his army.

Order of Battle
Detailed order of battle of Chevert's Corps at the end of August near Soest.

On August 29

  • French
    • The Saxon contingent led by Prince Xavier effected a junction with a French corps under the command of Lieutenant-General Chevert at Soest. Prince Xavier was promoted as French lieutenant-general. In the French army, he was often designated as "Comte de Lusace". He had a difficult time conciliating the diverging interests of the courts of Vienna, Warsaw and Paris.
    • After the arrival of the Saxon Contingent, Contades was at the head of 104 bns and 117 sqns. However, since most of his bns could not field more than 400 men, and his sqns, more than 110 men, his army totalled only some 44,000 foot and 14,500 horse.
  • Allies
    • Ferdinand’s Army encamped south of Dülmen.
    • The Hereditary Prince of Brunswick was detached forward to the Lippe with 7 bns and 14 sqns to cover the area between Dorsten to Haltern.
    • The Duke of Holstein-Gottorp was sent to Bork with 7 bns and 10 sqns to cover the area between Olfen and Lünen.

The Allies and the French remained in these position until the beginning of October.

On August 31

  • Allies
    • The 2nd North British Dragoons (Scot Greys) finally joined the British contingent at Coesfeld. They had been detained some considerable time at sea by contrary winds and could not join the British contingent before its departure from Emden on August 5.
  • Engagement near Dorsten
    • A skirmish took place near Dorsten between Hanoverian jägers and French hussars. The hussars were routed but both parties suffered heavy losses.

On September 3, Prince Xavier (aka Comte de Lusace) at the head of the Saxon contingent (12 regiments totalling some 9,000 men) encamped at Castrop, 15 km from Recklinghausen, on his way to make a junction with Contades. Prince Xavier used the following weeks to train his corps, especially the coordination with the French cavalry newly allocated to him.

On September 4

  • French
    • Contades feared that he could not find enough provisions to sustain a general advance of his army.
    • The Saxon Contingent reached Unna.
    • 12 sqns occupied Hamm.
    • Part of Soubise’s Corps was posted at Marburg.
  • Allies
    • Ferdinand’s Army (including the British contingent) marched to Dülmen while Ferdinand's vanguard was at Haltern on the Lippe.

On September 5, 50 Hanoverian jägers led by Captain Scheiter passed the Lippe upstream of Gahlen and defeated a party of 100 French horse, making several prisoners. They then proceeded towards Wesel where they destroyed a convoy of 30 supply wagons, took 60 oxen and captured 3 couriers.

By the end of the summer, Contades was elaborately manoeuvring to capture Lippstadt or some fortress in the Rhine-Weser countries. However, as long as he could not cross the Lippe, it was impossible to Soubise's Army to advance in Hanover beyond the Werra River. Therefore, Soubise waited at Kassel for almost a month for Contades to advance close enough to allow for mutual support.

On September 12

  • French
    • The Grenadiers de France advanced towards Hamm while 2,000 French foot took post at Alten (unidentified location) on the road to Lippstadt.
  • Allies
    • Ferdinand advanced a corps up to Calenberg.

On September 15

  • French
    • The Duc de Fitzjames and the Comte de Saint-Germain were detached from the main army with 4 brigades and marched to Castrop.
  • Allies
    • Ferdinand sent Holstein-Gottorp to Werne on the Lippe with a considerable detachment.

Both main armies remained in their former headquarters.

On September 16

  • French
    • The Duc de Loval was sent to Lünen with a large detachment.
  • Allies
    • General Zastrow marched from Warendorf towards Hameln to join Prince Ysenburg.

On September 17, after having made several demonstration as if he intended to cross the Weser, Oberg suddenly moved to Paderborn with 14,000 men, on his way to Kassel where he intended to make a junction with Ysenburg to oppose Soubise in Hesse.

On September 24, the Belzunce Brigade along with a brigade of cuirassiers were detached from the main French army towards Hamm.

On September 25, Lieutenant-General Chevert with M. de Voyer and M. de Grollier joined the French troops already stationed at Hamm.

On September 28, Soubise asked Contades for reinforcement to fight the combined corps of Oberg and Ysenburg near Kassel. During all the manoeuvres of the Allies against Kassel, Contades had remained idle in his camp at Recklinghausen where he was since August 19.

During the night of September 28 to 29, as a diversion, Contades ordered Saint-Pern with his Reserve (8,000 men) to make a surprise attack on the isolated force of the Duke of Holstein-Gottorp (3 bns and 2 dragoon rgts). Saint-Pern left Lünen, made himself master of 2 bridges over the Lippe at Lünen and Beedeburg (unidentified location). His corps then marched during the night to approach Holstein-Gottorp's positions, arriving at its destination at daybreak. An Allied post on the road of Lünen temporarily delayed its advance before retiring in good order. Saint-Pern finally launched an assault on Bork where Holstein-Gottorp occupied advanced positions. The timidity of the French assault allowed Holstein-Gottorp to escape unmolested with his entire force.

On September 29

  • French
    • Contades detached Lieutenant-General Chevert from the French main army at Unna with 22 bns (including the Saxon Contingent) and 24 sqns to reinforce Soubise near Kassel. Chevert should march by way of Soest and Büren.
  • Allies
    • In the evening, Holstein-Gottorp re-occupied his former positions at Bork.

On September 30

  • French
    • The Duc de Fitzjames set off from Werl with another 10 bns and 12 sqns destined to Soubise’s Army. Fitzjames should follow Chevert’s Corps in its march.
    • Soubise informed Contades that Oberg’s Corps had appeared in front of Kassel. Contades immediately sent instructions to Chevert and Fitzjames to hurry towards Kassel. Contades also decided to march upstream along the Lippe with his main army to prevent Ferdinand from sending additional forces towards Kassel.

At the end of September, Contades was instructed by the Duc de Belle-Isle to consume or destroy all subsistence on the Upper-Lippe, in the neighbourhood of Paderborn and in the country lying between the Lippe, Paderborn and Warburg. These instructions were given to prevent a march of Ferdinand on the Rhine or on the Ruhr.

Allied and French manoeuvres in Westphalia from August to November 1758.
 
Source: Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen, volume III by the German Grosser Generalstab
 
Courtesy: Tony Flores

On October 5, Contades finally marched from Recklinghausen to Lichnen (unidentified location).

On October 6, Contades marched to Hamm. The Duc de Chevreuse left Dorsten and took post at Recklinghausen to support de Lorges' Corps at Hamke (unidentified location).

On October 7

  • French
    • Contades was posted south of Hamm with his main army while strong detachments had been sent towards Lünen, Soest (the Duc de Chevreuse’s detachment) and Werl. He also rearranged his line of communication which previously linked his army with Wesel, choosing to direct it to Düsseldorf instead. From his new positions, Contades was now threatening Lippstadt.
  • Allies
    • Ferdinand decided to retreat towards Münster and to try to bring Contades to battle.

On October 8, Ferdinand marched in 3 columns from Dülmen to Nottuln with the main body of his army. General Imhoff and Lieutenant-General Wutginau joined him there with their own corps.

On October 9

  • Allies
    • Ferdinand reached Münster with the main body of his army and encamped nearby.
    • Ferdinand detached the Hereditary Prince of Brunswick and the Duke of Holstein-Gottorp to Telgte on the Ems.

On October 10

  • French
    • In Hesse, Soubise defeated Oberg at Lutterberg near Kassel.
  • Allies
    • The Hereditary Prince and the Duke of Holstein-Gottorp marched to Warendorf.

On October 12

  • French
    • In Hesse, the corps of Chevert and Fitzjames quitted Soubise’s Army to rejoin Contades’ main army in Westphalia.
  • Allies
    • Ferdinand was informed of Oberg’s defeat at Lutterberg, two days before. He immediately decided to take position between the armies of Contades and Soubise to prevent their junction and to stop Soubise from advancing into the Electorate of Hanover. Ferdinand also considered the possibility to recall Oberg with his small army and, once a junction would have been effected, to attack Contades before he could be reinforced by Chevert’s Corps.

To mislead the French on his intentions, Ferdinand ordered to repair the roads in all direction but particularly those leading towards the Weser. Quarters were established in Paderborn and in various other towns and villages

When Contades was informed of Soubise's victory, he thought that he now had his chance against Ferdinand.

On October 14, Ferdinand marched his army from Münster to Telgte, about 10 km eastward, leaving a garrison in Münster. Meanwhile the Hereditary Prince advanced to Rheda.

On October 15, Ferdinand set off from Telgte, marching in a wide sweeping movement by way of Warendorf and Wiedenbrück towards Lippstadt. Meanwhile a detachment under Major-General von Kielmannsegg, along with Scheiter Corps, made demonstrations on the Lippe at Lünen and Hamm.

On October 16, Ferdinand was at Rheda.

On October 17

  • Allies
    • Ferdinand’s Army arrived near Lippstadt. Ferdinand had decided to attack Contades without waiting for the arrival of Oberg’s Corps. He had just learned, from an intercepted dispatch, of Frederick’s defeat at Hochkirch. He chose to advance on Soest and Werl.
    • Oberg, with 10 bns and 12 sqns, crossed the Weser near Holzminden.
  • French
    • Contades was finally informed of Ferdinand’s departure from Münster. He initially thought that he was marching on Bielefeld but in the evening he finally realised that the Allies were heading for Lippstadt.
    • At that time, Contades’ main body (approx. 18,500 men) was near Hamm. Another corps (approx. 11,000 men) under d’Armentières was posted on the Lippe a full day’s march from Hamm. Beauffremont was near Werl with 1,500 men and Chevreuse near Soest with 3,500 men.
    • Chevert was still on the march from Hesse but he had already reached Büren, some 55 km southeast of Hamm, with the first part of his 12,000 men strong corps, unaware that Ferdinand now stood between him and Contades’ main army.
Copper engraving depicting the action near Soest on October 17
Source: Leonard Dorn's Collection
Legend
1- Soest
2- Retiring French troops
3- Werl which the French reoccupied


On the night of October 17 to 18

  • Allies
    • Ferdinand's vanguard (10 Prussian dragoon sqns, 14 Allied sqns and 14 Allied bns) under the command of the Hereditary Prince and the Duke of Holstein-Gottorp, threw bridges over the Lippe at Benninghausen, passed the river and encamped near this village. Meanwhile, Ferdinand's main force stopped at Cappel without passing the Lippe.
    • The Hereditary Prince then marched on Soest.
  • French
    • Contades tried to send a messenger to warn Chevert but this messenger was intercepted.
    • Chevreuse, who was posted at Soest with 5 bns and 12 sqns, was warned by inhabitants of the march of the Allies. He immediately recalled Beauffremont’s detachment (12 sqns) from Werl. However, the patrols send forward did not spot any Allied troops and Beauffremont was sent back to Werl while Chevreuse sent back his own troops into their quarters.

On October 18

  • Engagement of Soest
    • Ferdinand's vanguard marched on Soest in two columns.
    • At 7:00 a.m., the Prussian and Hessian dragoons attacked by surprise the French horse guarding Chevreuse’s positions. Despite the fire of the French dragoons posted behind abatis, they crossed the obstacle and engaged their opponents. The French cavalry fled the field, leaving its infantry to its fate. Part of this infantry retired towards Werl, part towards Hamm. The Hessian Miltitz Cavalry captured 2 French grenadier coys (11 officers and 163 men) prisoners. In this affair, the French dragoons lost 7 officers, 55 dragoons killed, wounded or taken prisoners. The Hereditary Prince also captured provisions in Soest.
  • Allies
    • Ferdinand's main army passed the Lippe on the bridges at Cappel and encamped at Benninghausen. However, he had been unable to cross the Lippe fast enough with the main body of his army to support his vanguard.
  • French
    • When Contades was informed of the attack of the Allies on Soest, he immediately marched with part of his forces to Hamm where he effected a junction with part of Chevreuse’s detachment.
    • D’Armentières marched from Lünen to Unna with his detachment.
    • Chevert’s Corps marched from Büren and made a wide sweeping movement by way of Meschede to avoid an engagement with the Allies.

On October 19

  • Allies
    • Early in the morning, the Hereditary Prince and the Duke of Holstein-Gottorp advanced westwards from Soest in the direction of Werl. However, Beauffremont had already evacuated Werl and retired to Unna where he had been reinforced by troops sent by d’Armentières. In front of this superior force, the Prussian cavalry retired towards Werl and took position near Schlückingen.
    • Ferdinand's main army arrived at Soest after a night march.
  • French
    • Fearing for the isolated corps of Chevert which had previously left Soubise and was on its way to rejoin him, Contades left his camp at Hamm and marched southeastwards to Wambeln, taking position near Scheidingen, behind the Schaubach.
    • The d’Armentières advanced on Schlückingen, Beauffremont’s sqns joined his detachment on the march. In the afternoon, they saw the forces of the Hereditary Prince and the Duke of Holstein-Gottorp retiring towards Paradiese, 5 km west of Soest.
    • The first troops of Chevert’s Corps reached Arnsberg.

Ferdinand abandoned his plan to attack Contades and decided to move closer to the Lippe to maintain his lines of communication with Münster and Hannover.

On October 20

  • French
    • Contades marched to Werl where he established his headquarters. He was soon joined by the Saxons.
  • Allies
    • The Duke of Marlborough died of a fever at Münster and was succeeded by Lord George Sackville as commander of the British Contingent.

On October 21 in the afternoon, Ferdinand’s Army set off from Soest and marched all night, reaching the excellent position of Hovestadt early on October 22 and encamping there.

On October 22

  • French
    • Contades could not hope to take up his winter-quarters on the right bank of the Rhine as long as Ferdinand occupied his current positions at Hovestadt.
  • Allies
    • Oberg’s Corps (10 bns, 12 sqns) effected a junction with Ferdinand’s Army at Hovestadt after a march of 130 km in six days. It took position to cover the Allied right flank.

On October 23

  • French
    • Contades returned to his previous camp at Hamm with the main part of his army. He would remain there for several weeks.
    • The leading elements of Chevert’s and Fitzjames’ corps reached Werl and Unna.
    • Contades resolved to make an attempt on Münster in the rear of the Allied positions. He charged d'Armentières of this mission.

On October 24

  • French
    • D’Armentières marched from Lünen and Hamm with 17 bns and 26 bns to Drensteinfurt, intending to make himself master of Münster.
  • Allies
    • Lieutenant-General Kielmannsegg was posted at Drensteinfurt with 3 bns and 4 sqns. When d’Armentières’ Corps approached, he retired to Münster.
    • In the evening, Ferdinand was informed that a French corps had crossed the Lippe near Hamm.

On October 25

  • French
    • D’Armentières appeared in front of the Fortress of Münster and started to prepare to take the place by storm.
  • Allies
    • In the morning, Ferdinand detached General Imhoff with 4 bns and 6 sqns to reinforce Kielmannsegg on the Lippe. Imhoff marched by way of Rheda.
    • In the evening, Ferdinand was informed of Kielmannsegg’s retreat to Münster and of the preparations of the French to take the place by storm. He could not afford to lose Münster, so he decided to march to its relief.

On October 26

  • Allies
    • In the morning, Ferdinand marched with the Allied main army, crossed the Lippe and reached Lippstadt.

On the night of October 26 to 27, Ferdinand’s vanguard, under the Duke of Holstein-Gottorp, effected a junction with Imhoff’s detachment near Rheda. At 3:00 a.m., they both resumed their march.

On October 27

  • Allies
    • Imhoff’s detachment and Holstein-Gottorp’s vanguard reached Warendorf.
    • The Allied army reached Telgte.
  • French
    • D’Armentières was informed of the approach of the Allies. He abandoned his preparations to take Münster by storm and retired precipitously towards Hamm, followed up by Scheiter's corps.

On October 28

  • Allies
    • Imhoff’s detachment and Holstein-Gottorp’s vanguard arrived at Münster. Holstein-Gottorp resumed his advance to follow d’Armentières but soon found that the latter had already retired behind the Lippe.
  • French
    • D’Armentières’ Corps reached Hamm.

On October 31, Ferdinand arrived at Münster with the rest of his army and reoccupied his old camp.

At the beginning of November, Belle-Isle, the French minister of war, realising that any advance into Germany was now almost impossible during this campaign, reinstated his instructions to Contades to consume or destroy all subsistence, especially forage, between the Weser and the Rhine as well as between the Lippe, Paderborn, the Diemel and the Fulda.

On November 13

  • French
    • Contades left Hamm with his army, beginning his march to take his winter-quarters on the left bank of the Rhine.
  • Allies
    • Ferdinand established his headquarters at Münster guarded by 10 bns and 2 sqns.

On November 16, the French main army separated in three columns at Bochum. These columns marched off respectively to Wesel, Düsseldorf and Cologne.

Order of Battle
Detailed breakdown of the Allied troops in their winter quarters in December 1758 in Hesse and Westphalia.

On November 17

  • French
    • The three French columns crossed the Rhine to go into winter-quarters, leaving 40 bns and 3,000 horse in Wesel, Düsseldorf and Cologne and the Légion Royale under the command of M. de Chabot on the right bank of the Rhine at Hattingen. The quarters of the French army extended along the Rhine from Kleve to Koblenz. Contades headquarters were established at Krefeld. Six bridges had been thrown over the Rhine.
  • Allies
    • The rest of the Allied army marched to its winter-quarters. The largest corps (15 bns and 32 sqns) went to the Bishopric of Paderborn. The other corps (9 bns and 25 sqns) went to the Bishopric of Osnabrück. Small detachments occupied Lippstadt and Hildesheim.

By November 20, the French had taken their winter-quarters between the Meuse and the Rhine, from the Dutch border to Andernacht. Only 5,000 light troops had been left on the right bank of the Rhine beyond Wesel and Düsseldorf. Entrenchments were built in the vicinity of Emmerich to prevent the Allies from crossing the Rhine.

References

This article is essentially a compilation of texts from the following books which are now in the public domain:

  • Anonymous: A Complete History of the Present War, from its Commencement in 1756, to the End of the Campaign, 1760, London, 1761, pp. 306-309, 331
  • Archenholz, J. W.: The History of the Seven Years War in Germany, translated by F. A. Catty, Francfort, 1843, pp. 230-232
  • Bourcet, M. de: Principes de la guerre de montagnes Ministère de la guerre, Paris, 1775, pp. 193-200
  • Carlyle, T.: History of Friedrich II of Prussia vol. 18
  • Grosser Generalstab Kriegsgeschichtliche Abteilung II: Die Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen, Part 3 Der siebenjährige Krieg 1756-1763, Vol. 8 Zorndorf und Hochkirch, Berlin, 1910, pp. 378-432
  • Hotham (probably): 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. 51-70
  • Jomini, Henri: Traité des grandes opérations militaires, 2ème édition, 2ème partie, Magimel, Paris: 1811, pp. 45-46, 56-60, 61-65
  • Schuster, O. and F. Francke: Geschichte der Sächsischen Armee, 2. part, Leipzig 1885
  • Tory, J.: A Journal of the Allied army's marches from the first arrival of the British troops in Germany to the present time, J. W. Kisling, Osnabruck, 1762, pp. 3-5

Other sources

Evrard, P.: Praetiriti Fides

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

Service historique de l'armée de terre, A4, 27, pièce 58

Vial J. L., Nec Pluribus Impar

Acknowledgement

Harald Skala for information on the Saxon Army during this period