1758 - Siege of Olmütz
The siege took place from May to July 1758
|Did you know that...|
|From 1793, during the French Revolutionary Wars, several French political prisoners would be detained in the Fortress of Olmütz. Among them, Gilbert du Motier, the famous Marquis de Lafayette who had previously fought in the American Revolutionary War. From May 19, 1794, he was imprisoned in the Jesuits Barracks. On November 8, 1794, he tried to escape but failed. On October 24, 1795, the Emperor authorised him to share his imprisonment with his wife Adrienne and his daughters Anastasie and Virginie. On September 19, 1797, all French political prisoners detained at Olmütz were finally freed.
Acknowledgement: J. Fiala and M. Sobotková for this interesting anecdote taken from their book "Francouzští a Polští státní vězňové v Brně, Olomouci, Hradci Králové a Josefově na přelomu 18. a 19. století", Brno/CZ 2017
In April 1758, Frederick II of Prussia proceeded to the invasion of Moravia, taking the Austrians totally by surprise. Indeed, Field-marshal Daun continued to expect an invasion of Bohemia while the Prussian army was already on the march into Moravia.
Frederick's main goal was the capture of the town of Olmütz (present-day Olomouc).
N.B.: please note that the actions of the Prussian covering forces and those of the various Austrian relief corps are described in detail in our article on the 1758 - Prussian invasion of Moravia. The current article rather concentrates on the description of events involving the Austrian garrison of Olmütz and the Prussian Siege Corps.
Description of Events
Austrian preparations in Olmütz
On May 1, 1758, the Prussian Army (about 38,000 men) crossed the border from Silesia into Moravia. The vanguard under Lieutenant-General von Retzow passed the Mohra River near Alt-Czechsdorf (present-day Staré Těchanovice), to the north-east of Bautsch (present-day Budišov nad Budišovkou), and reached Greschna (unidentified location, maybe a wrong spelling). Retzow then summoned the Austrian commander of Olmütz, Baron von Zawisch, without success.
On May 2
- All priests, monks and nuns of the region were ordered to take refuge in Olmütz, leaving only a few person at their monasteries. Many nobles and citizens moved out of town in the following days.
- De Ville arrived before the town and encamped under its guns with his 4 cavalry rgts. He detached his 4 Bavarian bns, the two first bns entering into the town the same day. His Grenzer troops and his 2 hussar rgts took post behind the March River (present-day Morava). He also sent his 2 uhlan pulks to Weiskirchen (probably Hranice na Moravě circa 37 km East of Olmütz) and Leipnik (present-day Lipník nad Bečvou) to the east of Olmütz.
On May 3
- In the afternoon, the Prussian vanguard arrived before Olmütz and encamped at Starnau (present-day Štarnov).
- Field-marshal Daun sent orders to Altstadt commanding at Olmütz to take dispositions. Daun also instructed Count von Zinzendorf, commanding at Prerau (present-day Přerov), to supply Olmütz. FZM Baron von Marschall took all the necessary emergency measures while his second column of Bavarian troops took refuge in the town where it joined the first column. There were now 1,500 Bavarians in the town.
- In the evening, every house supplied a man to work on the defences.
- 500 Austrian hussars were sent under Major von Owstien towards Mährisch-Neustadt (present-day Uničov) and another 500 under Lieutenant-Colonel Seelen towards Littau (present-day Litovel) to reconnoitre the Prussian positions.
On May 4, most of the inhabitants were commandeered to work in preparation of the Prussian siege, receiving standard wages for their participation.
On May 5
- Prussian hussars soon occupied the neighbouring villages, 500 of them advancing to about 1 km of the glacis where they were soon scattered by the workers, who had taken up arms, supported by Austrian hussars. A few Prussian platoons were also seen before the gates of the town where they skirmished with Austrian hussars and dragoons.
- Frederick with Johann Friedrich von Balbi, his engineer, reconnoitred the fortifications of Olmütz from a height near Schnobolin (present-day Slavonín).
- The commandeered inhabitants of Olmütz, assisted by 300 men of the garrison began to raze the suburbs. Herds of sheep and cattle from the neighbourhood were also brought into the town and parked on the place where the gallows usually stood. During the siege this place would see much speculative transactions by usurers.
On May 6
- The flood around Olmütz had progressed so far that it threatened to overflow the dam between the fortress and the Hradisch Monastery. The two dams that the Prussians had closed at Littau, 17 km north-west of Olmütz, to deprive the fortress of water, were carried away by the flood.
- An inventory of all timber available in Olmütz was made.
On May 7
- 40 tons of beer were taken at Groß Wisternitz (present-day Velká Bystřice) by Austrian hussars and transported to Olmütz under the eyes of the Prussians.
- The Prussians put fire to the neighbouring villages of Bonowitz (unidentified location, maybe a small estate near Duban) and Duban (present-day Dubany, circa 10 km to the SW of Olmütz), committing some excesses.
On May 8
- The Prussians exacted a contribution of 30,000 ducats from the Abbot of the Hradisch Abbey (present-day Klasterni Hradisko) located 2 km north-east of Olmütz.
- Frederick’s army was deployed between Prossnitz (present-day Prostějov) and Mährisch-Neustadt (about 30 km). Frederick daily received siege material from Silesia.
- Pavements were removed from the bridge and the streets of Olmütz. The old towers of the ramparts were inspected and repaired.
On May 9
- The Prussians set fire to the village of Trschitz (present-day Tršice).
- 500 workers were requisitioned in Olmütz and placed under the command of Ingenieur-Lieutenant von Winter to fill the sunken roads and the ditches.
On May 10, Captain Count von Zinzendorf identified the houses of Olmütz that should be demolished.
On May 12, the commander of Olmütz gave order to post one watchman, knowing the people of the neighbouring countryside, at each gate of the town to accompany them to the market and, once they had sold their goods, to escort them back to the gate.
On May 13, the Austrian commander of Olmütz instructed that, in case of alarm, nobody was authorised, out of curiosity, to climb into the towers, tall buildings and defensive works of the place under threat of being shot. In the evening, the Chapel of Maria Hülff was blown up.
In the night of 13 to 14 May, 400 men of the Warasdiner-Sankt Georger Grenzer marched from the Hradisch Monastery and attacked Prussian entrenchments at the bridgehead halfway to Neustift (present-day Nové Sady), killing part of the defenders and taking 13 prisoners.
In the morning of May 14, the rubble of the Chapel of Maria Hülff were collected.
On May 15, a Prussian detachment established its camp behind the Tafelberg (present-day Tabulovy Vrch) in preparation for the siege.
On May 16, 2,000 cows belonging to the Monastery of Hradisch were brought into Olmütz.
On May 17, Colonel Count von Giannini, sent by Field-Marshal Daun, arrived in Olmütz after taking many detours to avoid Prussian patrols and outposts.
On May 18
- Frederick with a strong escort reconnoitred Olmütz from the Tafelberg.
- Seeing troops on the Tafelberg, Austrian workers interrupted their activities and picked up their arms. **Powder was transported into the casemates.
On May 19
- The siege corps lifted its camp at Krönau (present-day Křelov) and established a new camp behind the Tafelberg.
- Frederick took dispositions to encircle Olmütz with his own army to cover the siege.
On May 20
- By that date, all four columns of the convoy bringing the siege train from Silesia were arrived at Frederick's camp and he was ready to undertake a formal siege.
Olmütz and surroundings
The town of Olmütz was nested in a meander of the March River. It counted some 1,200 houses and 24,000 inhabitants (some sources mention only 16,000 inhabitants). Till 1745, the town was simply surrounded by walls, towers and ditches. Indeed in December 1741, Frederick had easily captured the town which was defended by a mere 1,000 men. However, from 1745, the town had been heavily fortified with bastions, curtains, ravelins and other outer and inner defensive works. All these works were made of earth and had scarps and counterscarps. The March fed the wide ditch which was some 1.7 m deep. The western defences were further reinforced by the Salzgut works, erected on an island (present-day Nový Svět) of the March to the south of Olmütz, which covered the entire area with its fire. These skillfully designed works were difficult to attack because their low profile hid them almost entirely from sight. During the siege, the Prussians would designate these fortifications on the islands as the Wasserfort. These new fortifications combined with the advantageous location of the town made it a very strong fortress. The town was an arsenal or military storehouse of Austria, strongly fortified.
The March River improved the defensive positions of the fortress. It subdivided itself into several branches. Its banks were mostly flat and marshy. A practical locks system allowed to flood the plains located to the south-east and north sides of the town, virtually sheltering these quarters from any attack.
The area flanked by the defensive works of the Salzergut (present-day Nový Svět) was the most likely direction from which the Prussian main attack could come from. For this reason this area was significantly reinforced with mines. Several suburbs extended in front of this area: Neustift, Powel, Greinergasse, Maria Hülff, Mittergasse and Wagentrüsel. They were located partly in the plain, partly at the foot of the Tafelberg.
The road to Krönau passed by the Tafelberg and the Galgenberg. These high grounds to the west of the fortress overlooked the defensive works of the town, providing a good observation point. The Tafelberg in particular dominated the city but was located out of effective artillery range.
In the surroundings of Olmütz, there were also a few places which are worth mentioning: the Monastery of Hradisch and the villages of Pawlowitz (present-day Pavlovičky), Chwalkowitz (present-day Chválkovice), Hatschein (present-day Hejčín), and Hreptschein (present-day Řepčín). They were partially covered by some field entrenchments and remained occupied by troops belonging to the Austrian garrison for most of the siege, thus keeping communication opened with the countryside. The Monastery of Hradisch was the headquarters of a large party of grenzers led by Colonel Mikassinovich who also occupied Pawlowitz and Chwalkowitz. In Hatschein, there were 1 captain and 50 men; in Hreptschein 1 lieutenant and 30 men.
Finally, to the north of Olmütz, between Laschkau (present-day Laškov) and Chomottau (present-day Chomoutov) within two arms of the March River, the Forest of Laschkauer was a rich source of material for the Austrians as well as for the Prussians to build fascines and gabions.
Forces in presence
Olmütz itself was well supplied with ammunition and provisions of all kinds. FZM Baron Marschall von Bieberstein, one of the ablest general of the Austrian Army, was the governor of the place, assisted by Baron von Bretton. The commander of the place was Major von Paissel. The Austrian garrison (16 bns totalling 7,200 men, 200 horse and 100 hussars) consisted of:
- Brigade of Major-General Count Drašković (6 bns)
- Brigade of Major-General Baron von Voith (10 bns)
- Kaiser Infantry (1 bn of about 400 men)
- Hildburghausen Infantry (1 bn of about 400 men)
- Converged Grenadier Battalion (1 bn of about 400 men from Neipperg Infantry, Moltke Infantry and Arenberg Infantry)
- Kolowrat Infantry (1 bn of about 400 men)
- Marschall Infantry (1 bn of about 400 men)
- Kheul Infantry (1 bn of about 400 men)
- Wallis Infantry (1 bn of about 400 men)
- Kurbayern Infantry (3 bns totalling 1,300 to 1,500 men, converged from all Bavarian battalions who were part of the Auxiliary Corps)
- Major Count von Walderode
- Artillery under Lieutenant-Colonel von Alfson
- Deutsche Feldartillerie (3 captains, 5 artificers, 150 gunners)
- Artillery pieces (324 pieces)
- 48 x 3-pdr regimental guns
- 40 x 6-pdrs
- 73 x 12-pdrs
- 46 x 24-pdrs
- 6 x 12-pdr howitzers
- 21 x 10-pdr Pöller
- 12 x 30-pdr Pöller
- 6 x 60-pdr Pöller
- 2 x 100-pdr Bomben-Pöller
- 8 x iron 100 pdr Stein-Pöller
- 12 x iron 60-pdr Stein-Pöller
- 50 x iron 60 pdr mortars
- Major-General von Rochepine
- Austrian Ingenieurs (3 captains, 1 lieutenant, 2 sub-lieutenants, 1 driver)
- Austrian Mineurs (1 captain and 42 men)
From these troops, the 2 bns of Warasdiner-Sankt Georger Grenzer and part of the cavalry occupied the Hradisch Monastery (present-day Klasterni Hradisko) to the north of Olmütz; 8 bns were quartered in the city proper and 6 bns near the cathedral and the Jesuit College. The artillery of the fortress consisted of 324 pieces of various calibres. The placed was well supplied in ammunition and provisions. The inhabitants were busy working at the reinforcements of the fortifications and assumed internal security service. The suburbs were razed, the wooden roofs of the houses near the walls were demolished, guns were brought into the batteries, and bomb-proof shelters erected. The deserted monasteries served either for the accommodation of troops or as hospitals.
Part of the garrison was barracked, part billeted at the inhabitants. The latter performed numerous services throughout the siege: extinguishing fires, being on the watch in the towers, working tirelessly at the strengthening of the defensive works, demolishing the outer buildings neighbouring the walls.
Prussian Siege Corps
The Siege Corps (18 bns, 15 sqns, including the units detached to Horka (present-day Horka nad Moravou) and Chomottau) was under the command of Field-Marshal Keith
- Lieutenant-General Fouqué
- Major-Generals von Schenkendorf, Prince Franz of Brunswick, Rebentisch
- Ingenieur-Colonel Johann Friedrich von Balbi leading the siege works
- Markgraf von Brandenburg Fusiliers (2 bns)
- Pannewitz (2 bns)
- Fouqué Fusiliers (2 bns)
- Wied Fusiliers (2 bns)
- Jung Braunschweig Fusiliers (2 bns)
- Prinz Ferdinand von Preußen (2 bns)
- Bornstedt (2 bns)
- Prinz Heinrich von Preußen Fusiliers (2 bns)
- VI./Garrison Regiment Lattorf (1 bn)
- Grenadier Battalion 24/34 Naumeister (1 bn)
- Artillery under Colonel von Dieskau
- 15 x 24-pdr guns
- 66 x 12-pdr guns
- 19 howitzers
- 16 mortars
- Mineurs (2 coys)
The Prussian camp formed a large arc out of cannon range at about 7.5 km from the walls of Olmütz on the right bank of the March River. On such a wide front, Prussian infantry units had to be spread thin and individual squadrons had to be used to fill the gaps between these units. Both wings were anchored to the March River: the right wing with the village of Nimlau (present-day Nemilany) to its rear and Neustift to its front; the left wing with Krönau to its rear and Hreptschein to its front. The village of Neretein (present-day Neředín), to the south-west of Olmütz, occupied the centre of these positions. The Garrison VI Regiment Lattorf and 2 mineur coys were posted at the headquarters established in Schnobolin. The artillery park along with ammunition and siege train were located to the right of Schnobolin while supplies and ambulance were placed at Horka. A big artillery detachment and part of the wagons had been posted in Krönau. The entire camp was protected by circumvallation and contravallation works; while Krönau and Horka were further protected by entrenchments. Only the bridge of Chomottau now gave access to the left bank of the March River from the Prussian camp, the bridge of Nimlau having been destroyed. This remaining bridge was protected by an entrenchment to the south of Neustift. Thus, the Prussian blockade was quite complete on the right bank of the March River but very incomplete on the left bank were only a small detachment under General Meier (not part of the siege corps) was posted.
Opening of the siege
On May 20, Keith took command at Krönau of the Prussian Corps assigned to the siege of Olmütz. Balbi was engineer. Several criticism were made of their operations.
In the night of May 20 to 21
- The village of Schnobolin was set afire to punish the inhabitants who had killed a Prussian hussar the previous day.
- Parties reconnoitred the breastworks and redoubts built by the Prussians on both sides of the Tafelberg.
- The Austrians demolished the bridges of Neustift, Neumühle (a mill near the southern glacis of the fortress), Groß Wisternitz; razed the mills of Neumühle and Salzermühle; improved their defensive works; and workers, covered by 100 Grenzers and 50 horse, broke the dam at Groß Wisternitz. All people who had no provision and who could not be useful during the siege were ordered to leave Olmütz during the afternoon.
On May 21
- At daybreak, the Prussians threw a bridge across the March River between the villages of Nimlau and Neustift. They also requisitioned part of the inhabitants evacuated from Olmütz to work for them. Finally, they started to work at a small entrenchment at Neu-Neustift.
- Frederick ordered to start work on a contravallation wall.
- The Austrians continued to demolish the surrounding mills.
On May 22, the Prussians continued to build their works, requisitioning peasants to reinforce their own workers.
On May 23
- The Prussians made several fascines and gabions and started to build a circumvallation.
- In the evening, a Prussian party attacked the outposts of the Herzog Württemberg Dragoons, located on the right wing, but was soon driven back and then pursued on a long distance while the artillery of the fortress opened on them.
- Count von Drašković, at the head of 130 Grenzers, attacked the Prussian workers who were assembling fascines in the Laschkauer Woods near Czernowier (present-day Černovír to the north of Olmütz). Drašković lost his way and was spotted by the Prussian covering force (about 460 men). However, the workers took flight and the Grenzers had time to destroy several fascines and gabions before the intervention of the Prussian covering force (2 bns, 2 dragoon sqns, 1 hussar sqn). The Grenzers then retired in good order to their own positions.
- In the afternoon, Austrian hussars brought back 6 Prussian dragoons, taken prisoners.
- 75 oxen were brought into Olmütz.
In the night of May 23 to 24, all peoples who could not be of use during the siege were evicted from Olmütz.
On May 24
- The Prussians established a bridge in the bushes near Nimlau. They protected its access with a line of fascines and erected several other fascines on the Tafelberg.
- Möhring Hussars (10 sqns) left the Siege Corps to join Frederick's main army.
- The Siege Corps remained with only one cavalry regiment: the Herzog von Württemberg Dragoons (5 sqns). The circumvallation was now completed and works progressed steadily on the contravallation and on the entrance of the trenches, while a large number of fascines and gabions was accumulated near Schnobolin.
- Around 9:00 a.m., Austrian hussars escorted 10 wagons loaded with salt, taken from the Prussians, into Olmütz.
- Hussars and Grenzer light troops started to build entrenchments at their outpost of Pawlowitz.
- Daun’s relief army encamped to the north-west of Gewitsch (present-day Jevíčko/CZ).
On May 25
- By that date, the Siege Corps already had all the necessary fascines and gabions. Furthermore, a circumvallation wall had been drawn around the camp from the March River to the woods of Horka. The chosen point of attack was located between Hatschein and Neustift because this part of the line was not liable to flooding.
- Colonel von Balbi in agreement with the artillery colonels Dieskau and Moller decided to direct his attack against bastions no. 7 and 8 between the St. Catharine and Theresien Gates. His left wing was on the Tafelberg and his right wing rested on the Powalka, a tributary of the March. However, the chosen direction of attack had the disadvantage to expose the siege works to flanking fire from the Salzergut defensive works, a flanking fire that would become more effective as Prussian trenches would get closer to the fortress. Nevertheless, Balbi maintained his decision because an attack to the north of the Tafelberg would be exposed to flooding. Balbi intended to establish his artillery on the Tafelberg and to dig a 450-pace-long hollow way on top of the hill as his first parallel. Balbi overlooked the fact that the shortest distance between the artillery positions on the Tafelberg and the defensive works was approx. 1,500 paces.
On May 26
- The Governor of Olmütz forbade fishing in the March River while measures were taken to fight potential fires.
- In the evening, Austrian hussars intercepted wagons transporting 17 barrels of beer from Groß Wisternitz to the Prussian camp.
On May 27
- Work resumed on the circumvallation and contravallation around their camps.
- Additional heavy artillery pieces were assembled in the vale of Schnobolin.
- At daybreak, hussars took part in a skirmish, driving back a Prussian party from Groß Wisternitz to Dolein (present-day Dolany u Olomouce), killing about 20 of them and taking 6 dragoons prisoners.
In the night of May 27 to 28
- At about 1:30 a.m., a Prussian party (Grenadier Battalion 24/34 Naumeister supported by 4 guns) led by Major-general Rebentisch, attacked the village of Hreptschein. The defending Grenzers retired towards Olmütz without opposing resistance and the Prussians set the village afire. This attack was launched to attract the attention of the defenders and to induce them to believe that trenches would be opened in these quarters.
- The first parallel was opened by 4 bns on the Tafelberg on the opposite side of the fortress. They also worked at the erection of batteries for 24 guns and 16 mortars. They were covered by 4 other bns. The rest of the siege corps maintained the encirclement. These works continued throughout the night unnoticed by the defenders. However, this parallel was about 750 meters too far off which much increased the labour and the expenditure of gunpowder, shot having no effect at such a distance.
The distance from Silesia and the supplies (about 190 km) was also an important factor. Olmütz was excellently well defended. The Austrian commander was a vigorous skillful man, prompt to seize advantages. The garrison and the inhabitants were also zealously helping. The progress of the Prussians was unusually slow even though they were bombarding the town with 71 heavy guns.
On May 28,
- The artillery fired some 1,220 cannonballs and 306 bombs without destroying a single Austrian piece.
- The Prussians erected a battery behind the Heiliges-Kreuz-Kapelle, forcing several inhabitants to take part in the work under the fire of the Austrian artillery.
- At night fall, the Prussian covering party (I./Pannewitz, I./Wied Fusiliers, I./Prinz Ferdinand von Preußen and I./Bornstedt) under the command of Prince Franz von Braunschweig deployed in 2 columns, followed by the working force (1,325 men from II./Markgraf von Brandenburg Fusiliers, II./Fouqué Fusiliers, II./Jung Braunschweig Fusiliers and II./Prinz Heinrich von Preußen Fusiliers as well as 300 peasants). The workers were subdivided into 4 parties:
- the first party (1 major, 2 captains and 4 lieutenants from the Corps of Ingénieurs and 200 men from II./Markgraf von Brandenburg Fusiliers) under Balbi's direct supervision dug the rightmost half of the first parallel (450 paces long) from the middle of the Tafelberg, including a flanking work for the cavalry
- the second party (2 captains, 4 lieutenants, 15 miners and 200 men from II./Prinz Heinrich von Preußen Fusiliers) under the command of Colonel-Ingénieur von Wreden dug the leftmost half of the first parallel (200 paces long)
- the third party (3 captains, 3 lieutenants, 30 miners, 200 men from II./Jung Braunschweig Fusiliers, 200 men from II./Fouqué Fusiliers and 300 peasants) under the command of Lieutenant-colonel von Embers built the communication trenches
- the fourth party (525 men) erected batteries
- Each battalion of the working parties deployed outposts 80 paces ahead of the first parallel. Furthermore, 80 dragoons were posted behind each wing.
- At daybreak, the Austrian defenders of Olmütz saw that the first parallel on the Tafelberg from the Heiliges-Kreuz-Kapelle to the road to Neretein was completed.
- As the morning fog receded, the artillery of the fortress opened quite ineffectively against the Prussian siege works on the Tafelberg, killing 4 men and wounding 4 others.
- An Austrian party (200 dragoons and 10 hussars) posted at the foot of the glacis in front of the Theresien-Pforte was forced to abandon its position when 6 Prussian mortars opened on them.
On May 29
- For the time being, the Prussians had only a few light cannons in the first parallel to drive back Austrian light troops swarming in front of the fortress.
- A few volunteers set the houses near the Heiliges-Kreuz-Kapelle afire.
- A few cannonballs fell on Olmütz.
In the night of May 29 to 30, the Austrian artillery of Olmütz opened on the Prussians working at the platforms of their batteries.
By May 30, the first parallel extended on a length of 700 paces at about 1,400 paces from the fortress. It counted 6 batteries:
- a battery of 3 x 12-pdr guns on the right wing facing Salzergut
- a battery of 12 mortars
- a battery of 9 x 12-pdr guns and 4 x 10-pdr howitzers
- a battery of 3 x 12-pdr guns
- a battery of 8 x 24-pdr guns
- a battery of 4 mortars on the left wing
On May 30 at 4:00 a.m., the Prussian artillery opened on the town of Olmütz. The Austrian cavalry previously posted on the Place of the Cathedral took refuge behind the City Gate and the Reindel Gate. In the town, orders were issued to forbid to ring the bells and to beat drums. The main guard took position in the Jesuit College and fire-fighter parties were distributed among their various posts. A bomb fell on a corner of a townhouse. On this day, the Prussians fired more than a thousand cannonballs and more than 300 bombs on Olmütz. The artillery of the place answered with some 700 cannonballs and a few bombs. By 8:00 a.m., during this artillery duel, the Heiliges-Kreuz-Kapelle had been completely razed. The Austrian made two additional loopholes in the defensive works at Salzergut and prepared Casemate No. 3 to receive the wounded. The market was moved from its usual place to suburbs unthreatened by the bombardment. Field-Marshal Keith vainly try to convince Balbi that it was pointless to conduct a bombardment from this distance and that it would be more advisable to push the siege works closer to the fortifications.
The same day (May 30), Keith answered to Frederick’s suggestion to establish batteries on an island in the March that it would be difficult to build bridges over the Powalka in front of the enemy and that particular attention would have to be paid to the protection of the artillery planted on this island, concluding that the Prussian artillery would obtain better results from its current position on the Tafelberg.
In the night of May 31 to June 1, the Prussians extended the crochet on their right wing up to the ruins of Powel. They then planted 2 batteries of 8 guns and 3 mortars on their right wing some 500 paces closer to the fortress. Finally, they started to work on a laboratory and a depot near Schnobolin.
On May 31, the Prussian batteries opened quite ineffectively on the Fortress of Olmütz. Major-General Rebentisch, who was posted in the trenches, reported that only 2% of the shots reached the fortress. The important elevation angle given to the pieces reduced their accuracy and produced an excessive pressure on the platforms, many of which were rendered unusable.
Frederick immediately ordered the speedy construction of the second parallel which would be much closer to the fortress, at 1,000 paces.
On June 1
- Despite the ineffectiveness of his approach, Balbi continued to bombard the fortress from his batteries on the Tafelberg.
- In the evening, a terrible thunderstorm broke out which lasted for more than 90 minutes and flooded the trenches.
- The defenders strengthened their defensive works, adding two 12-pdr guns and two 6-pdr guns to Work No. 3, beginning the construction of two flèches in front of Ravelins No. 29 and 30, and placing mines in various locations.
On June 2, a few bombs fell on Olmütz but the fires were soon extinguished.
In the night of June 2 to 3, the Prussians started to work on the second parallel which began on the right wing of the first parallel and led towards the ruins of the Chapel of Maria Hülff and Greinergasse. Progress were slow under the lively fire of the fortress and the flanking fire of the Salzergut Fort.
On June 3
- At 8 a.m., the Prussian artillery opened a heavy fire on the town. The stone column of the Holy Trinity was damaged and the orderlies posted in the tower of the town hall were forced to transfer to the New Tower. The artillery duel lasted most of the day. The Austrian artillery dismounted three 4-pdr guns belonging to a battery planted on the Povel.
- At 6:00 p.m., a bomb hit a magazine containing 300 bombs near the Holy Chapel. The magazine exploded killing 30 men and destroying 12 guns. Fire raged for about 12 minutes but did not reach the nearby powder-magazine.
- A corporal of Simbschen Infantry at the head of 6 men drove back a party of 50 Prussians who were trying to demolish the small bridge leading to the copper foundry.
On June 4
- The Prussians completed the second parallel and started to arm it and to build batteries. Progress were slow because most of this second parallel could be enfiladed from the Salzergut Fort.
- A detachment of 200 grenadiers, 200 fusiliers and 120 workers, under command of Major von Tillier of Simbschen Infantry made a sortie, destroying some trenches, killing about 100 men and capturing 2 officers and 20 men. In this action the Austrians lost 30 men killed or wounded, including 2 officers and 14 men taken prisoners.
On June 5
- At daybreak, a battery of 6 guns located near the Chapel of Maria Hülff opened against the right face of the contre-garde of Work No. 7.
- The artillery mostly concentrated its fire on Works No. 7, 8 and 9.
- A party of grenzers (1 captain, 2 lieutenants and 100 men) launched an attack on Krönau and Horka. After an initial success they were driven back. Their captain and his 2 lieutenants were wounded and 19 of their men killed or wounded.
On June 6
- The rate of fire of the Prussian artillery slowed down while several guns, mortars and howitzers were transferred from the Tafelberg to the two new breaching batteries behind the Povel.
- The bridges in front of the Theresien Gate and St. Catharine Gate were broken.
- The Austrian artillery was very active trying to delay Prussian preparations.
On June 7,
- The artillery fired about 400 bombs and cannonballs on the town but the reply of the Austrian artillery was so effective that siege works did not progress significantly.
- The Austrians started to work on two Flèches at the corner of Works No. 29 and 30.
On June 8
- The Prussians had established 60 guns in the second parallel but only those of the left wing were ready to open against the fortress.
- At daybreak, this artillery opened, concentrating its fire on Work No. 7 and throwing 400 bombs on the town. Ammunition of the Prussian artillery were running low.
- A sap was started from the second parallel.
- The Prussians set the village of Böhmisch-Lodenitz (present-day Loděnice and Moravského Krumlova, circa 90 km to the SW of Olmütz) afire.
- The Austrian artillery seriously hindered work in the Prussian trenches, killing up to 200 men according to deserters. The artillery duel continued throughout the night.
In the night of June 9 to 10, the Prussians opened their third parallel.
FZM Marschall, the commander in Olmütz, realizing the ineffectiveness of the Prussian artillery fire, gave orders to economize ammunition. He rather concentrated his effort to secure the approached against mining, to hinder the progress of Prussian earthworks and to harass the besiegers with frequent sorties.
On June 10
- On the morning, the artillery duel was particularly violent. The Prussian main battery (21 guns and mortars), located on the left wing of the second parallel, tried to silence the Salzergut Fort. The Prussian artillery also managed to create a breach in the walls of Work No. 7.
- The Prussians tried to cut communication between Olmütz and the villages of Groß Wisternitz and Holitz (present-day Holice u Olomouce). The Austrians feared an attack on these posts.
In the night of June 10 to 11, Prussian artillery fire remained very lively.
On June 11
- The cavalry of Meier’s Corps could not prevent the exchange of messages between Daun and Marschall.
- Marschall wrote to Daun to request additional artillery.
- A party of artillerymen (3 artillery officers, 1 corporal and 12 gunners) arrived at Olmütz.
- Daun’s relief army was still in its camp at Gewitsch.
On June 12
- The Prussians made themselves master of Holitz and Groß Wisternitz.
- The Prussian finally had 9 pieces of the battery on the right wing opening against the Salzergut Fort. They also continued their heavy bombardment, throwing some 400 bombs on the area of the St. Catharine Gate where the Austrians were working at an entrenchment. This bombardment forced both guards and workers to retire from the entrenchment.
- The Prussian batteries created a breach at the shoulder of Bastion No. 7. This breach was thereafter repaired each night but constant fire gradually widened it.
- Throughout the day and night, the Prussian artillery fired some 3,000 cannonballs and 1,000 bombs on Olmütz.
In the night of June 12 to 13, as the Prussians were working knee deep in water to a zigzag trench, an Austrian party (550 men and 100 workers) made a sortie, driving back soldiers and workers, ruining the trench and destroying as much ammunition as possible by throwing them into the water filled trench. Meanwhile, around half past midnight, Major-General Count von Drašković with infantry and grenzers came out of the fortress in 3 columns and attacked the Prussian second parallel. The first column (2 captains, 100 Bavarian foot and 100 Warasdiner-Sankt Georger Grenzer), under Major von Keth of the Bavarian contingent, debouched from Work No. 31 to attack the left flank and the rear of the Prussian trenches where Prussian batteries were becoming a serious threat. They had already put 9 guns of the fortress out of service and severely damaged the ravelins and counterguards of bastions no. 7 and 8. The breach in the casemate of Bastion No. 7 was getting larger each day. The second column (200 commandeered foot under Lieutenant-Colonel Calvaria, and 100 workers under Captain Messich), led personally by Drašković, came out of the Theresien Gate and stormed the batteries located near the Chapel of Maria Hülff, nailing 6 guns, 2 mortars and 2 howitzers. Lieutenant-Colonel Calvaria was severely wounded during the combat and the Prussian battalions defending the trenches inflicted heavy casualties to his detachment. Captain Messich, who tried to penetrate into the parallel three times with his unarmed workers was repeatedly driven back. The third column (100 commandeered foot and 30 Warasdiner-Sankt Georger Grenzer), under Captain Riera, issued from Flèche No. 30, crossed a deep water-trench and reached a battery on the right wing of the second parallel where they nailed 8 pieces, set fascines afire and drove back the defenders. The Prussian trenches were defended by 6 battalions. At 4:00 a.m., Major-General von Rebentisch led a flank attack to repulse the Austrians. In these actions, the Prussians lost 15 men killed, 48 wounded and 10 missing; the Austrians 3 officers and 26 men killed, 1 lieutenant and 56 men wounded, 1 officer taken prisoner and 55 men missing. It seems that the Austrians did not succeed to permanently disabled the pieces who were rapidly brought back in service the following day.
On June 13
- Between 6:00 and 7:00 a.m., the Prussians artillery opened once more against the St. Catharine Gate and the Sporen-Gasse and Wester-Gasse. The Old Brewery and the Stone Mill burnt to the ground. More than 1,300 bombs fell on Olmütz that day.
- The Prussian reinforced their post at Holitz, extending their position up to the village of Groß-Teinitz (present-day Velký Týnec, circa 7 km to the SE of Olmütz).
- Around 4:00 p.m., a large party of Prussian infantry and cavalry encamped to the left of Krönau against the Tafelberg.
- Two zigzag trenches were only 200 paces distant from the glacis in front of Bastions No. 7 and 8. Furthermore, two batteries of 3 mortars or howitzers had been erected into these trenches.
On June 14,
- Some 600 bombs and 3,000 cannonballs fell on Olmütz. The Prussians started to work on a trench in the direction of Flèche No. 30 and on two saps advancing from the second parallel.
On June 15
- The entire Prussian siege artillery (31 guns, 16 mortars and 14 howitzers) was now in position to fire on the fortress. The bombardment of Olmütz continued. Frederick visited the trenches and expressed his satisfaction with the performance of his artillery. He gave 75 Frédéric d'or to his artillerymen and workers in recognition for their service.
- Around noon, a bomb fired from the fortress fell on a small Prussian powder magazine, setting fire to a neighbouring battery.
In the night of June 15 to 16, Daun sent Lieutenant-Colonel von Neugent of Sincère Infantry to get more information on the situation at Olmütz.
On June 16, the bombardment continued. The Prussians established a new battery of 2 mortars.
On June 17
- The Prussians tried to destroy bridges. The St. Catherine Gate suffered heavy damages.
- FZM Marschall sent an alarming report to Daun, mentioning that many of the outer works facing the Prussian approaches were partly in ruins.
- By 4:00 p.m., 4 Prussian batteries located around Salzergut on the Powel were almost silenced.
On June 18
- Keith reported to Frederick that, excluding light pieces, only a few heavy Austrian guns were still operational: 4 guns on the front, 5 guns in the Salzergut, and 5 mortars. However, he also mentioned that he had ammunition only for ten more days.
- The Prussians continued their saps and established two big batteries to fire on Work No. 7 and Ravelin No. 9.
- FZM von Marschall asked Daun for the support of high ranking officers and experienced soldiers. Daun resolved to send him GFWM von Bülow at the head of 1,366 men, along with Major von Stockhausen of the Ingenieur Corps and 2 officers, 2 corporals and 20 gunners of the artillery.
In the night of June 18 to 19, 20 Austrian volunteers made a sortie against the trenches. The Grenzers brought back to Olmütz 16 prisoners taken near Holitz and 13 others taken near Hradisch. However, a large breech had been made on the right face of Bastion No. 7. Meanwhile, General von Zieten took post at Groß Wisternitz and Samotischek (present-day Samotišky) with 3,000 men.
From June 19, the Austrian defenders of Olmütz had to be ready at midnight for an eventual sortie. They also began to subdivide the interior of the city in sections for defence.
Olmütz resistance nears its end
On June 20
- The Prussians continued their saps while their artillery kept a constant fire on the defence works.
- The breach at the shoulder of Bastion No. 7 measured about 15 m3.
- Bülow's reinforcement set off from Prerau, proceeding very cautiously and making a wide detour to avoid detection by the Prussian posts at Bistrowan (present-day Bystrovany) and Groß Wisternitz and to reach Olmütz from the north-east.
On June 21
- In the afternoon, Saint-Ignon’s Corps advanced on Gross-Teinitz to attract the attention of the Prussians.
- Taking advantage of Saint-Ignon diversionary move against Retzow's position, Bülow's reinforcement set off at 10:00 p.m. and marched by Groß Augezd (present-day Velký Újezd), Haslicht (present-day Varhošťský potok), Habicht (present-day the deserted village of Jestřabí in Libavá), Hombok (present-day Hlubočky) and Weska (present-day Véska).
On the night of June 21 to 22, Bülow managed to avoid the Prussian outposts at Groß Augezd (present-day Velký Újezd), Epperswagen (present-day Nepřívaz) and Weska. Meanwhile, a party of 500 Warasdiner Grenzer light troops had been sent from Olmütz to occupy Chwalkowitz to cover Bülow’s approach.
On June 22
- The resistance of Olmütz was nearing its end, but one last convoy of ammunition was still necessary for the Prussians to finish the siege.
- While Saint-Ignon made a demonstration at Groß-Teinitz, Bülow managed to enter into Olmütz with his 1,230 men to reinforce the besieged Austrian troops.
By June 24
- The third parallel was only 120 paces from the palisade of the covert way.
- Service in the Siege Corps was so difficult that desertion increased daily (overall 462 men deserted to Olmütz). However, the fire of the Prussian artillery was gradually asserting its superiority, but ammunition were diminishing rapidly.
On June 26
- Zieten arrived from the area of Prerau and distributed his corps in several smaller detachments: his grenadiers in Drosdein (present-day Droždín) and Samotischek; and his cavalry at Towerz (present-day Tovéř) and other neighbouring villages. With the new positions occupied by the Prussians, communications between Olmütz and the neighbouring villages became more difficult.
By June 27
- The trenches were only 4 paces from the glacis and the Prussian artillery was establishing a new battery nearby. However, provision as well as ammunition were running low in the Prussian camp. In fact, the large number of Prussian deserters taking refuge in Olmütz was becoming a serious embarrassment. Nevertheless, throughout the day, the Prussian artillery fire remained very intense.
- Buccow’s Corps took position at Ptin (present-day Ptení). Keith stroke his tents and had his force in readiness to fend off any attack by Buccow.
On June 28, the Prussian sap penetrated under the glacis. Balbi planned a general assault of the covert way for July 4 or 5.
On June 29
- An artillery major and a miner lieutenant of the main army arrived at Olmütz with the news that the Prussian convoy destined to the besiegers had been attacked in the mountains. Meanwhile, the artillery duel grew in intensity.
- Daun reconnoitred the Prussian camp near Olmütz and came to the conclusion that it was unassailable.
On June 30
- In the evening, the Prussians set the village of Chwalkowitz afire.
- In the evening, Keith was informed by an adjutant who he had sent to investigate the outcome of the engagement at Domstadl. Keith immediately ordered Retzow to come to the rescue of the convoy with 7 bns (Geist (2 bns), Kalckstein (2 bns), Fouqué Fusiliers (2 bns), Grenadier Battalion Nimschöfsky (1 bn)) and 20 sqns (Bayreuth Dragoons (10 sqns), Württemberg Dragoons (5 sqns), Seydlitz Hussars (5 sqns)). Retzow advanced to Giebau (present-day Jívová) to lessen the pressure on Zieten's retiring Corps. However, Retzow could go no further than Dolein where he found all roads leading into the mountains already occupied by Austrian troops. He then marched back to Bistrowan.
- The garrison of Olmütz made three small sorties, hindering siege works. Artillery fire from both sides slightly decreased. Meanwhile, 40 Prussian prisoners were brought back into Olmütz.
Retreat towards Bohemia
In the night of June 30 to July 1
- The sap had reached a length of 16 m. under the glacis.
- News of the disaster of Domstadl reached Frederick. Without ammunition to resume the siege of Olmütz, he decided to withdraw. However, the road to Glatz (present-day Kłodzko) through Moravia was blocked by the victorious Austrians, only the road through Bohemia remained open to the Prussian army. Frederick chose to march towards the Austrian magazines at Königgrätz (present-day Hradec Králové). Frederick assembled his generals and staff-officers at his headquarters in Schmirsitz (present-day Smržice) to inform them of his intent to abandon the siege of Olmütz and to retire towards Bohemia, with Keith marching by Littau and Müglitz (present-day Mohelnice) with the siege corps to effect a junction with Frederick’s Army at Mährisch-Trubau (present-day Moravská Třebová); the entire army would then march towards Königgrätz by Hohenmauth (present-day Vysoké Mýto). Frederick also promoted Lieutenant-Colonel von Mosel to major-general and threatened to cashier any defeatist.
- That night, the Prussian bombardment was uncommonly furious. The Prussians were shooting off their superfluous ammunition.
- After the successful interception of the Prussian supply convoy by Loudon and Siskovics in the Combat of Domstadl (present-day Domašov nad Bystřicí), Daun left his camp at Dobromielitz (present-day Dobromilice), crossed the March River in three columns at Kojetein (present-day Kojetin), Uhritschitz (present-day Uhřičice) and Tobitschau (present-day Tovačov) and, behind a screen of Grenzer light troops. Daun had left only a weak force in the positions between Tobitschau, Klenowitz (present-day Klenovice na Hané) and Prödlitz (present-day Brodek u Prostějova). After the crossing of the March, he marched rapidly towards Groß-Teinitz, only 3 km from Olmütz.
The numerous Austrian light corps were in a position to delay Frederick’s march, and if Daun pursued aggressively, the situation of the Prussian army could become very serious.
By July 1
- At 3:00 a.m., the alarm was beaten in the Prussian camp. Most of the Prussian cavalry then marched with the baggage from Schnobolin towards Krönau while outposts were retired.
- Throughout the day, the Prussian artillery kept on a very intense fire (more than 4,000 cannonballs and 600 bombs).
- In the evening, Keith had all his batteries intensifying fire on Olmütz and continued to work at the trenches.
- In the morning, till 8:00 a.m., there was a thick fog, so the garrison of Olmütz did not immediately realise what was going on. FZM von Marschall, in Olmütz, was the first Austrian commander to realise that the Prussians were retiring.
- In the morning, the Kaiser Franz I Hussars (part of Buccow's Corps) had attacked Zieten Hussars near Kosteletz in der Hanna (present-day Kostelec na Hané) to draw attention to these quarters.
- When Daun was informed of the Frederick’s retreat, he immediately advanced towards Olmütz. By noon, the main Austrian army had reached Roketnitz (present-day Rokytnice) in the neighbourhood of Kokor (present-day Kokory) and had deployed in three lines. Meanwhile the vanguard of the main Austrian army reached Groß-Teinitz.
- At 4:00 p.m., the main Austrian army resumed its advance.
- In the evening, the watch fires of the Austrian Main Army on the heights of Groß-Teinitz, Czechowitz (probably Czellechowitz, present-day Čelechovice or Čechovice,) and Grügau (present-day Grygov) could be seen from Olmütz, provoking much joy among the faithful inhabitants.
- During its march, the Austrian main army had been very effectively covered by Buccow's Corps at Ptin; the Marquis de Ville (3 bns of Toscana Infantry along with a few Saxon Cavalry regiments) near Prödlitz; Lieutenant-general von Zeschwitz (with the remaining Saxon Cavalry regiments) near Oplozan (unidentified location, probably misspelled); and the light troops who had formed a thick curtain in front of the Austrian camp to prevent any deserter to give alarm to the nearest Prussian patrols.
In the night of July 1 to 2
- The Prussians raised the siege of Olmütz under heavy rain. Keith then marched towards Krönau to the north-west of Olmütz while 300 grenadiers covered his retreat. He had left one 24-pdr gun and 5 iron mortars nailed in the trenches. Retzow was recalled from the eastern bank of the March, crossing the river on a pontoon bridge at Neustift. He was followed by Major-General von Krockow with the remnants of the vanguard of the convoy. Bridges were then broken up.
- Around 3:00 a.m., Marschall sent out from Olmütz a party of 300 Bavarians who took a few prisoners.
On July 2
- By 5:00 a.m., the entire Prussian siege corps was on the march towards Krönau. Upon reaching this village, Keith took the direction of Littau, marching in three columns, with the artillery pieces and vehicles forming the centre column. Only a few detachments sent out from Olmütz followed the retreating Prussians.
- At daybreak, the trenches around Olmütz were empty to the exception of five 60-pdr mortars and one 24-pdr gun whose carriage had been broken. The remaining supply had been partly loaded in wagons, partly destroyed. The sick and wounded were transported in wagons. Only the most severely wounded were abandoned to the goodwill of the Austrians.
- In the afternoon, Keith reached Littau. His main body encamped near Assmeritz (present-day Nasobůrky) while his artillery and vehicles marched across Littau and stopped on both sides of the town under the protection of 7 bns and 5 sqns.
During the siege, it is estimated that the Prussian fired some 103,533 cannonballs and 25,624 bombs on the place while the defending garrison fired 58,200 cannonballs and 6,100 bombs. The Austrian defenders lost 53 guns made unusable, 9 officers killed, 18 officers wounded, 189 soldiers killed, 548 soldiers wounded, 52 missing, 8 men taken prisoners and 52 deserters.
N.B.: for the description of the retreat of the Prussian Army, please refer to the last section of our article on the Prussian invasion of Moravia.
This article is mostly made of abridged and adapted excerpts from the following books which are now in the public domain:
- St.; E. v.: Zum Säcular-GedÇachtniss von 1758 – Der Felzug in Mähren oder die Belagerung und der Entsatz von Olmütz, Frankfurt am Main: Sauerländer's Verlag, 1858, pp. 8-180
- Grosser Generalstab Kriegsgeschichtliche Abteilung II: Die Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen, Part 3 Der siebenjährige Krieg 1756-1763, Vol. 7 Olmütz und Crefeld, Berlin, 1909, pp. 75-106, Anhang 21
- Jomini, Henri: Traité des grandes opérations militaires, 2ème édition, 2ème partie, Magimel, Paris: 1811, pp. 90-106
- Archenholz, J. W.: The History of the Seven Years War in Germany, translated by F. A. Catty, Francfort, 1843, pp. 150-155
- Carlyle T.: History of Friedrich II of Prussia vol. 18
- Vanicek, Fr.: Specialgeschichte der Militärgrenze aus Originalquellen und Quellenwerken geschöpft, Vol. II, Vienna: Kaiserlich-Königlichen Hof- und Staatsdruckerei, 1875, pp. 436-442
Obléhání Olomouce pruskou armádou v roce 1758 Czech archive on the city of Olomouc with several illustrations of the fortress at the time of the Seven Years' War
Dieter Müller and Boris Brink for the association of old German place names with the Czech names of these same locations nowadays.