1759-07-23 - Battle of Paltzig
Prelude to the Battle
At the end of April 1759, a large Russian army (about 70,000 men) started its advance on Brandenburg. Lieutenant-General Dohna, the commander of the small Prussian army (18,000) in this area, was very slow to react.
At the beginning of June, the Russian army, now under General Piotr Semionovitch Saltykov, had managed to concentrate at Posen (present-day Poznań) without any interference from Dohna. Saltykov then proceeded to the invasion of Brandenburg, starting his advance on Crossen (present-day Krosno) on the Oder, where he planned to make a junction with an Austrian army.
By July 17, the Russians had reached the area of Züllichau (present-day Sulechów) a few km from the Oder River. Dohna failed to interpose his small army between the Russians and the bridge at Crossen. Frederick II quite upset by Dohna's inefficiency despatched Lieutenant-General Carl Heinrich von Wedel to replace Dohna.
Wedel reached his army in the evening of Saturday July 22.
The battlefield is located in the southwestern corner of a wide and flat plateau bordered to the east by the Faule Obra, to the south by the Oder and to the west by the stream of Birkholz. A number of watercourses divided its southern part, close to the Oder, into several elongated areas consisting of flat ridges, dominated by small crests. These areas steeply sloped to the valleys of numerous streams and rivers. The line of sight was generally good, particularly in the vicinity of Züllichau. The swampy banks of the various watercourses limited movements in some places, increasing the strength of these positions. There were extensive forested areas to the east and north of Züllichau, to the south along the Oder and to the west along the stream of Kalkmühl.
The combat took place between Paltzig (present-day Palck) and the stream of Eichmühl in an area surrounded by forests to the north, west and south. The village of Paltzig is located on the western slope of a ridge which was dominated by two crests, one at its end, the other in the middle, separated by a slightly lowered saddle. To the east, this ridge gently sloped towards the Eichmühl stream which was bordered on both sides by swampy meadows up to a width of 100 m and consequently could only be passed at the existing crossings. To the south, this ridge was separated from the Zauche-Grund by steep escarpments (10 to 15 m high). The Zauche-Grund itself was covered with willows and bushes, but due to the persistent drought it was practicable for infantry and cavalry. To the northeast of this ridge, a few woods blocked view of this terrain.
Between Schönborn (present-day Kępsko) and Kay (present-day Kije), there were four passages over the Eichmühl stream: a bridge in the village of Nickern (present-day Niekarzyn), a mobile dam at the Eich-Mühl (Eich Mill), which led to the southern shore of a lake, a smaller dam between Glogsen (present-day Głogusz) and the Glogsen farmstead, which was unusable for troops, and the bridge at the Gross-Mühl (Great Mill) on the road leading from Züllichau to Crossen. The crossings at Nickern and at the Eich-Mühl were in the field of fire of any troops posted on the western bank of the Eichmühl stream. Some 500 m. from the Eich-Mühl, the stream turns southeastwards and there is an elongated area between it and the Zauche-Grund about 850 m. wide with the Schmiede-Berg and the Gross-Mühl at its end. This terrain has steep slopes on both sides and is covered with conifers. From the heights near Paltzig, the crossing near the Gross-Mühl is hidden from sight by the Schmiede-Berg and the Zauche-Grund.
To the east of the Eichmühl stream, there was a rather flat area dominated by the height of Paltzig, making the surrounding of the village a very good artillery position.
The position of Paltzig was made even stronger by the wide marsh surrounding the Eichmühl stream and by the escarpments along the Zauche-Grund. The only crossing protected from the fire of the troops occupying this position led to the small bridge near the Schmiede-Berg, on which the movements of the troops were extremely limited. Furthermore, an attack from this direction could hardly be supported by artillery, while the defenders could very effectively deploy their own artillery against this point. Finally, an attack against Paltzig, launched from the Zauche-Grund, could not rely on any heavy artillery support nor on a preparatory infantry fire. Thus, defenders posted on the southern crest of the Paltzig ridge could open a devastating fire from afar on any attackers before they even reached the last obstacles. Furthermore, if the attack from the Schmiede-Berg or across the Zauche-Grund failed, the defenders were in a good position to launch a devastating counter-attack against the troops routing towards the Eichmühl stream. Admittedly, the defenders could suffer a similar fate if the attackers managed to throw them back against the Kalkmühl stream. An attack from the northeast, between the Kalkmühl and Eichmühl streams could not be considered because of the forest extending in front of Paltzig and the absence of good artillery positions.
Description of Events
On July 23 around 3:00 a.m., Lieutenant-General von Wedel set off from his camp near Züllichau with 3 grenadier bns, 15 dragoon sqns and 15 hussar sqns to reconnoitre the left wing of the Russian positions and to see with his own eyes the army that he was supposed to stop. Generals von Wobersnow, von Schorlemmer and von Puttkamer rode with him. Nobody thought of conducting a simultaneous and thorough reconnaissance of the Russian right wing.
Between 3:00 and 4:00 a.m., the Russian army, which had rested for three hours in the vicinity of Buckow (present-day Buków) and Harthe (present-day Karczyn), resumed its advance. It marched northwards in order of battle in two columns from Buckow, by way of Lang Heinersdorf (present-day Łęgowo), Schönborn and Nickern towards the ridge of Paltzig, which was delimited by the Kalkmühl and Eichmühl streams, to gain a position in the area south of Rissen (present-day Rosin), Dornau (present-day Darnawa) or Paltzig, which would allow them to attack the flank or rear of the Prussians and thus force them to abandon their advantageous positions. Saltykov then planned to make a junction with an Austrian corps led by Hadik and Loudon at Crossen on the Oder.
Soon afterwards, Mordvinov's detachment (8 bns, 8 dragoon sqns and light cavalry) arrived at the Russian camp of Goltzen (present-day Kolesin) to protect the train and the baggage.
At daybreak, Wedel reached the heights near Langmeil (present-day Okunin). The heavily wooded area prevented him from seeing very much, but he saw glimpses of stationary troops that he mistook for the Russian left wing while they were in fact the rearguard. This led him to think that the whole Russian army was still idle and that therefore he still had time to outmanoeuvre it. Wedel then let the troops accompanying him advance further. From the nearby Russian camp, the din of the “Reveille” could be heard. Soon the Russians noticed the Prussian units advancing from Langmeil and sounded the alarm. The Russians rapidly manned the entrenchments defending their camp.
From the heights near Langmeil, Wedel noticed dense dust clouds in the direction of Harthe. He then realised that he was facing only the left wing of the Russian army and feared that the right wing was probably already on the march from Buckow. However, the assurances of the generals present that, according to the news and patrol reports received so far, the Russians must still be immobile in their camp, dispelled his concerns. Even now, he did not send any reconnaissance party towards the Russian right wing.
The Russian army was not marching since a long time when Saltykov was informed of the presence of Prussian units at Langmeil, near one of its camps. He suspected that the Prussians would launch an attack against his other camp at Goltzen and sent Major-General Fast with 6 bns (Observation Corps 3rd Musketeer, Observation Corps 4th Musketeer and an artillery brigade of 13 field pieces to protect the baggage, which had been left there. He also sent back Major-General Count Totleben with part of the light troops for the same purpose. Saltykov also expected that, by that time, Mordvinov’s detachment, which had been ordered on the previous evening to take position at Goltzen, would have reached its destination (he was right). Indeed, the loss of the baggage would have dramatic consequences for provision supply because of the bad lines of communication with the Vistula. However, Saltykov expected that the Prussians would very soon notice the movements of the Russian columns on their flanks and thus give up any thought of a serious undertaking against the Russian baggage.
Around 7:00 a.m., considering that there were no suitable positions in the vicinity of Langmeil for an attack against the Russian camp, Wedel marched back towards the area north of Tschicherzig (present-day Cigacice) to locate more advantageous positions than his present ones near Züllichau. Wedel was so convinced that the Russians would try to cross the Oder near Tschicherzig that he did not try to find out why there still were large dust clouds in the area of Buckow and Lang Heinersdorf, considering that they were probably caused by the numerous Russian light cavalry conducting reconnaissances. At any rate, neither Wedel nor any of the generals accompanying him thought that the Russians could turn the Prussian flank to the north, probably considering that the terrain was too difficult for such a movement.
As Saltykov’s Army approached the Eichberg, the cannon of the leading element of his columns opened against the Prussian redoubts established on this hill. The army continued its advance unmolested and reached the heights to the northwest of Nickern. There, Saltykov halted the heads of his column to allow their trailing elements to rejoin.
Around 10:45 a.m., the heads of the Russian columns began to emerge from the woods in full view of the astonished Prussian left wing in front of the village of Paltzig about 9 km from Züllichau.
Around 11:00 a.m., Wedel and his escort arrived in the area between Züllichau and Tschicherzig. Suddenly, he could hear the sound of cannon coming from the direction of the left wing of the Prussian camp. Wedel was still wondering what this could be when an officer of Malachowski Hussars rushed in and reported that a Russian column marching from Buckow was approaching Schönborn and was already firing at the redoubts on the Eichberg. However, according to Lieutenant-General von Manteuffel, who was commanding at the camp in the absence of Wedel, an attack of the Russians was not to be feared. He considered that it was only a demonstration to hide the march of the main Russian army towards Schwiebus (present-day Świebodzin). Wedel, who did not believe the report, went personally to observe the Russian troops.
Wedel then rejoined his army which was already in combat readiness. Part of the cavalry of his left wing (Markgraf Friedrich von Brandenburg Cuirassiers, Horn Cuirassiers, Schlaberndorff Cuirassiers) had already advanced by way of Kalzig (present-day Kalsk) and taken position alongside Malachowski Hussars. Meanwhile, Lestwitz Infantry had taken position near the redoubts on the Eichberg.
Wedel went to the Eichberg and could see that the Russian army was marching in the direction of Crossen. To delay the advance of the Russians, Wedel ordered Major-General Malachowski to cross the Eichmühl stream near Schönborn with the Malachowski Hussars and to attack them.
The artillery of Fermor’s 1st Division, which was deployed near Nickern, opened against the advancing Malachowski Hussars.
Malachowski soon reported that the Eichmühl stream could only be crossed on bridges. Accordingly, he had ridden to Nickern only to find that the fire of some Russian artillery pieces, which had been established on heights to the northwest of the village, made the crossing impossible.
After a while, Saltykov continued his march towards Paltzig.
Wedel could not ignore that Frederick had dismissed Dohna for being too cautious and had ordered him to attack the Russians wherever he found them. He was under pressure and, knowing that he had to do everything in his power to prevent them from reaching Crossen, he took a step that under different circumstances he probably would never have taken. He decided to block the line of advance of the Russians or, if this was no longer possible, to attack them on the march. Some Prussian generals were not sharing his confidence. Major-General von Wobersnow pointed out that the enemy was probably 40-50,000 strong with plenty of artillery pieces while their own army could not muster more than 27,000 and “I know not if we can bring a single cannon to where Saltykov is.” (Tempelhof iii 132-134).
Nevertheless, Wedel ordered his troops to march in 2 columns by the left: the first towards Kay and the second towards Mosau (present-day Mozow).
Around 1:00 p.m., the two lines of the Prussian army marched by their left in an attempt to reach the heights of Paltzig before the Russians. Lieutenant-General von Wedel assumed personal command of the first line which advanced along the Kalzig stream by way of Lochow (present-day Łochowo, part of Kije) and Kay towards the Gross-Mühl where it intended to cross the Eichmühl stream to reach the main road leading from Züllichau to Crossen. The second line under Lieutenant-General von Kanitz marched westwards by way of Mosau to cross the Eichmühl stream between the Gross-Mühl and the Oder and to then advance against the Russian left flank from the south in a wide detour. The rearguard (6 bns and 7 sqns of Malachowski Hussars) under Major-General von Wobersnow took position on the height to the north of Züllichau. Wobersnow had been charged to cover the dismantling of the field bakery, which was still in full operation in Züllichau, and to cover the rear of the army against any action by the Russian units, which were still in their camp at Goltzen (Wedel had no information on the number and strength of these units). Furthermore, 3 grenadier bns (Bornstedt, Lossow and Tann) had been left behind for direct protection of the field bakery. However, Wedel took no dispositions to reconnoitre the Russian positions, particularly in the direction of Paltzig.
At about the same time, the Russian army reached Paltzig. In the meantime, Saltykov had been informed that the Prussian army was also moving towards Paltzig. He deployed his army in two lines on the elongated ridge just east of Paltzig. The infantry right wing, consisting of the 1st Division under Count Fermor, extended up to the top of the slopes bordering the Zauche-Grund where the 2nd Moskovskiy Infantry and Vyborgskiy Infantry were formed en potence, facing the Zauche-Grund, to protect the right flank. The 2nd Division under Lieutenant-General de Villebois occupied the centre, in front of the village of Paltzig. The left wing consisted of the 3 rgts of the Observation Corps, under Lieutenant-General Prince Golitsyn, they were deployed in a single line behind the woods west of Nickern. The reserves of each regiment were posted between the two lines of the centre and the right wing. A cavalry brigade of 11 sqns (Narvskiy Horse Grenadiers, Sankt-Peterburgskiy Horse Grenadiers and His Imperial Highness Cuirassiers) was deployed behind the two lines of the infantry right wing at the southern exit of the village of Paltzig. Two other cavalry brigades were positioned behind the single infantry line of the left wing formed by the Observation Corps: a first brigade of 11 sqns (Novotroitskiy Cuirassiers, 3rd Cuirassier and Kievskiy Cuirassiers) was posted behind the right wing of the Observation Corps; and a second of 6 sqns (Ryazanskiy Horse Grenadiers and Kargopolskiy Horse Grenadiers), behind its left wing. The 3 sqns of the Kazanskiy Cuirassiers were posted in the centre of the Russian positions, between the two lines of infantry. The Russian artillery was deployed in 8 batteries in front of the entire positions, but with a concentration of 4 batteries on the right wing: 2 strong batteries on the ridge overlooking the Gross-Mühl to command the terrain up to the Schmiede-Berg and to the edge of the woods west of Glogsen; a third battery established on a spur of the ridge to command the Zauche-Grund and the road leading from Züllichau and Crossen and the entire terrain up to the Eichmühl stream; and a fourth battery located on a knoll on the extreme right wing, between the two lines of infantry.
The Russian light troops, who had covered the flanks of the main army during its march, now secured the crossings over the Eichmühl stream.
By 2:30 p.m., the Russian army had completed its deployment in order of battle. The Russian light troops, who had been driven back from the Schmiede-Berg, retired to the Zauche-Grund under the protection of the right wing of the main army.
Around 3:00 p.m., the heads of the Prussian columns arrived near Kay. The cavalry of the Prussian left wing, marching at the head of Wedel’s first line of infantry reached the Gross-Mühl which had not been occupied by the Russians. Continuing its advance, it debouched from the bridge, formed into squadrons and charged the Cossack light troops occupying the Schmiede-Berg, pushing it back onto the Russian infantry.
Under the protection of the cavalry occupying the Schmiede Berg, Wedel’s first line of infantry began to cross the Eichmühl stream.
Saltykov, who now knew the direction of the Prussian attack, sent the cavalry brigade posted near the southern exit of the village of Paltzig to reinforce the light cavalry, which had retired behind his right wing. This brigade deployed on the Zauche-Grund.
When the Gabelentz Brigade (the 5 foremost bns of the Prussian first line of infantry reached the Schmiede-Berg, Wedel gave orders to Lieutenant-General von Manteuffel to attack across the Zauche-Grund. He fully realised the difficult situation of his army, which was jammed in the narrow terrain between the Eichmühl stream and the Zauche-Grund. However, he thought that the Russians had not yet completed their deployment and considered that he could lead a decisive attack and gain control of the ridge of Paltzig. Lieutenant-General von Hülsen, at the head of the next 6 bns, was ordered to take position to the right of Manteuffel’s Brigade and to support its attack. The 4 bns under Major-General von Stutterheim forming the end of the column were still on their way. They were ordered to march to the left as soon as they would have crossed the Eichmühl stream and to turn the Russian right wing. The 2 cavalry rgts and the Zieten Hussars were instructed to take position behind Hülsen’s Corps to cover the right flank of the attack. The rest of the cavalry was ordered to support Stutterheim’s advance.
Wedel also confided to his second line, under Lieutenant-General von Kanitz, the very important mission to turn the right wing of the Russians by making a wide detour southwestwards. The second line would then march in the direction of the Rool-Mühl and the Feder-Mühl and attack the right flank and rear of the Russian army deployed on the ridge of Paltzig.
The Prussian artillery had trouble finding proper positions on the west bank of the Eichmühl stream while the Schmiede-Berg allowed the deployment of only a few guns. Moreover, with only one narrow crossing over the Eichmühl stream, the deployment of the heavy artillery would have required too much time and would have seriously delayed the attack of the infantry. But Wedel wanted to avoid such delay at all costs, because what mattered to him was the rapid, uninterrupted action of his battalions. So the batteries were deployed along the eastern slopes of the valley of the Eichmühl stream, between the Eich-Mühl and Glogsen. However, they were established too far from the Russian right wing to be of any assistance during the attacks of the infantry, which could only rely on its battalion pieces.
While the Prussian heavy artillery was deploying along the east bank of the Eichmühl stream, Manteuffel with the Gabelentz Brigade (3 bns of Anhalt-Bernburg and 2 bns of Braunschweig-Bevern) advanced towards the Schmiede-Berg where his troops found only poor cover behind the flat top of the hill and in the sparse coppice. They soon suffered from the violent artillery fire of the Russians.
In order to reply to the Russian artillery, Manteuffel formed the battalion guns of his 5 bns in a battery on the Schmiede-Berg. However, this small battery was no match for the the vastly superior number of heavy guns facing them. As the officers tried to straighten the ranks, the Russian cannonballs mowed down entire rows of soldiers. The situation soon became unbearable and the regiments involuntarily pushed forward, with the sole idea of getting to the enemy as quickly as possible.
Around 3:30 p.m., Manteuffel’s 5 bns reached the western edge of the coppice. A hail of grapeshots greeted them, forcing soldiers to bend down. Nevertheless, they continued their advance towards the two Russian batteries, drove back the troops covering them and decimated the artillerymen serving the pieces. Still advancing, Manteuffel’s bns came under the fire of the Russian infantry while a hot wind blew dust and powder smoke towards them.
The resolute Russian infantry calmly waited the Prussians who attacked the southern corner of the Russian position defended by grenadiers and musketeers of Permskiy Infantry and Sibyrskiy Infantry. Manteuffel’s bns managed to throw these rgts into disorder and to push them back. However the numerical superiority of the Russians began to tell and the Prussians were forced to retire towards the coppice under a devastating fire.
The remnants of Manteuffel’s 5 bns then rallied in the woods even though the Russian artillery kept up a lively fire. Manteuffel then renewed his attack, which was stopped midway from the Russian lines. Without support, he had no choice but to retire.
While Manteuffel was attacking the Russian infantry right wing, the rest of the Prussian first line of infantry was slowly crossing the bridge near the Gross-Mühl. Because of these delays, Hülsen, who was supposed to support Manteuffel, had been unable to fulfill his mission. However, with 6 bns (Gabelentz Fusiliers, Diericke Fusiliers and Jung-Schenckendorff Infantry), he wheeled half right after crossing the bridge and advanced to extend Manteuffel’s right wing. As Hülsen’s bns marched forward, the remnants of Manteuffel’s 5 bns, which had been repulsed for a second time, rallied in the coppice. They were encouraged by the arrival of Hülsen’s bns and they advanced alongside these fresh units.
The Prussian infantry was greeted by intense musket and artillery fire but continued its advance. A ferocious melee ensued but Manteuffel’s bns soon ran out of ammunition. Manteuffel himself was severely wounded and had to leave the battlefield and his adjutant was killed by a cannonball. Manteuffel’s brave bns were finally driven back and retired in the coppice with heavy losses.
Hülsen’s 6 bns were now outflanked on both wings. They attacked piecemeal. This left Saltykov enough time to mass 70 guns in the churchyard of Paltzig, covering his centre. Despite all the efforts of the Russians, the Prussian infantry managed to advance up to Paltzig but it was received with grapeshot and forced to retire with heavy losses, the Russians making good use of the protection of the second stream.
During the frontal assault of Manteuffel and Hülsen against the Russian right wing, Major-General Stutterheim, who had been ordered to turn the Russian right flank, had turned south after crossing the bridge near the Gross-Mühl and advanced towards the heights of the Heide-Berg. He managed to take position on the Zauche-Grund and advanced against the Russian right flank.
Soon the Russian artillerymen spotted Stutterheim’s bns advancing on their flank. They turned their guns against them and, together with 2nd Moskovskiy Infantry and Vyborgskiy Infantry, opened a devastating fire on the exposed and defenceless Prussian infantry.
Stutterheim’s bns tried to move as quickly as possible out of the killing field of the Zauche-Grund but they broke out midway and routed.
The Chuguev Cossacks, who were posted at the western edge of the Zauche-Grund, pursued the routing Prussian bns, capturing a battalion gun. Stutterheim’s bns managed to reach the Heide-Berg, after suffering heavy losses. They then retired towards the Schmiede-Berg.
Charge of the Prussian Cavalry of the Left Wing
The attacks of Manteuffel, Hülsen and Stutterheim had all failed. After these hard combats, the Russians were relieved to see the enemy retiring. Their officers managed to prevent the soldiers from launching a disorderly pursuit and tried to reorganise their troops.
At this moment, a dense dust cloud rose from the forest in front of the Russian positions and the flash of weapons pierced the dust- and smoke-filled air, the ground shook with the pounding of hundreds of hooves, and the Prussian cavalry appeared before the lines of the baffled Russian infantrymen. It was the 20 sqns of the left wing of Wedel’s column, which had followed Stutterheim when he had crossed the bridge near the Gross-Mühl, and had deployed in order of battle in the coppice between the bridge and the Schmiede-Berg. When this cavalry saw Stutterheim’s bns retiring, it took position on the Zauche-Grund.
The attack of the Prussian cavalry had been so sudden that the Russian cavalry posted at the western edge of the Zauche-Grund did not get enough time to launch a charge before the Prussians hit the right flank of the Russian infantry. The charge of the Prussian cavalry, totally surprised the disordered Russian right wing. A confused melee ensued.
Part of the Prussian cavalry manages to break through the first line and to advance against the second, which received it with a lively fire.
Lieutenant-General Demiku had realised the danger for the Russian flank and led His Imperial Highness Cuirassiers at a full gallop to join the fray.
From the Russian centre, Major-General Gaugreben came to the rescue with the Kazanskiy Cuirassiers, followed by the 3 rgts of Major-General Jeropkin arriving from the second line of the left wing.
During this time, the Prussian infantry twice tried to recross the Eichmühl stream near the Eich-Mühl but was stopped by the intense fire of the Russian batteries.
After a brief engagement, the now disordered Prussian sqns, which had been threatening the second line, were driven back. The Russian infantry of the second line then came to the support of the first and the rest of the Prussian cavalry was forced to retire. During this combat, the Russians lost their best cavalry commander, Lieutenant-General Demiku.
Nevertheless the cavalry attack of the Prussians had screened their retreating infantry from pursuit, and had bought time for them to rally.
The Prussian cavalry took refuge in the woods of the Schmiede-Berg.
Judging that any further attempts to cross the Eichmühl stream in this area were doomed to failure, Wedel marched southwards with the battalions of his first line.
During the ensuing pause in combat, both armies reorganised their positions. The Russians prepared themselves to withstand a new attack.
The rearguard under Wobersnow had initially been left behind when the main army had set off from its camp near Züllichau. Once the field bakery had been dismantled, Wobersnow considered that there was nothing to fear from the Russian troops left at their former camp near Goltzen. Accordingly, he set off with the rearguard and advanced towards the battlefield, guided by the din of battle.
Wobersnow chose to advance in the direction to the Eich-Mühl because of the knowledge of the terrain he had acquired during previous reconnaissances. He already knew that the narrow area to the northwest of the Gross-Mühl did not offer enough space for the deployment of the army. He decided to spot another crossing point. Kanitz’s column was already in the area south of the Gross-Mühl, so the only choice left to Wobersnow was an attack against the Russian left wing. He hoped that the Russians would be too busy on their right wing to oppose his crossing near the Eich-Mühl if he acted swiftly.
As Wobersnow’s troops appeared along the slopes to the southeast of the Eich-Mühl, he realised that the Russian left wing extended far to the north and that his own artillery could not keep them at bay. He abandoned his initial plan and decided to advance towards the Gross-Mühl and to ask General Wedel for further instructions.
Around 5:30 p.m., Wobersnow reached Kay with the rearguard. There he was joined by the 3 grenadier bns, which he had left behind at Züllichau. They escorted the baggage and the train of the field bakery. Wobersnow left 1 bn (probably I./Garrison No. V Jung-Sydow) at Kay to guard the wagons and carts, and advanced with the rest of his troops.
Upon leaving Züllichau, Wobersnow had detached the Malachowski Hussars to advance by way of Nickern and attack the left flank of the Russian positions.
At about the same time, Major-General Count Totleben, who commanded the Russian light troops, had left the camp of Goltzen to rejoin the main body of the army and made a junction with the light troops already posted on the extreme left wing. He immediately spotted the Prussian hussars advancing towards Nickern and set the village afire before they could reach the bridge located there. The Malachowski Hussars were unable to find another passage over the Eichmühl stream. They remained on the east banks of the stream to cover the Prussian batteries.
When Saltykov saw that his left wing could not be threatened, he gave orders to the rgts of the Observation Corps, which were previously deployed on his extreme left wing to march to the support of his right wing. The 3 bns of the Observation Corps 5th Musketeer reinforced the first line while the Observation Corps 1st Musketeer deployed behind the second line, south of Paltzig. These reinforcements arrived just in time because the Prussians were launching a new attack.
Kanitz, who had undertaken a vast turning movement to fall on the flank and rear of the Russian right wing, had been unable to cross the Eichmühl stream near the Oder. His column had then retraced its steps and marched towards the Gross-Mühl.
Upon arrival of Kanitz’s column, Wedel sent these fresh troops to take position on the Schmiede-Berg to launch a new attack.
A little after 5:30 p.m., Wedel ordered Kanitz’s 8 bns (the former second line) to attack the Russian right wing. These 8 bns were followed by Manteuffel’s and Hülsen’s corps, which had been rallied. The Russian artillery mercilessly pounded all these Prussian bns, which were closely packed in the narrow space extending between the Schmiede-Berg and the Russian positions. Tresckow Infantry broke and fled, and other bns soon followed, retiring towards Kay.
Wobersnow’s Last Attack
Around 6:00 p.m., undeterred by the failure of all his previous attacks, Wedel made a last desperate attempt. He threw his last troops into the fray, sending Wobersnow forward with his 8 bns. Wedel’s bns advanced using the same approaches as their comrades .But now the fight had turned into a hopeless frontal attack with all the Russian guns firing at point blank and this new attack did not get very far.
Without artillery support, the Prussians were cut to pieces. When Major-General von Wobersnow was killed by a grapeshot, his bns began to waver and retired.
Wedel tried a last card and asked Schorlemmer and his four regiments of cuirassiers to deliver a cavalry attack aimed at the southern corner of the Russian line to protect the retiring infantry. Some Russian hussars regiments tried to interfere, but they were soon driven back. However, their attack had slowed down the last Prussian charge which had come too late to change the final outcome of the battle. However, this charge bought enough time to allow the Prussian infantry to cross the bridge near the Gross-Mühl. The Prussian sqns then crossed the bridge and followed their infantry.
Around 7:00 p.m., combat ceased.
At 8:00 p.m., as the sun was setting down, Wedel finally realised that the battle was lost and gave the order to withdraw. His army managed to retire to the heights south of Kay where it took position with its left wing anchored on the woods of the Schablitzken-Berg, facing towards Paltzig. The artillery and baggage were escorted there by the Prussian cavalry.
The Russian light troops and part of the regular cavalry followed the Prussians while Saltykov advanced up to the Eichmühl stream with the army and held a thanksgiving service on the Schmiede-Berg.
Later in the evening, Saltykov encamped near Paltzig while his light cavalry occupied all crossings over the Eichmühl stream.
After the battle, Major-General Mordvinov, arriving from the Russian camp of Goltzen, joined the main army with his detachment and the 3rd Musketeer Regiment and 4th Musketeer Regiment of the Observation Corps.
Wedel took advantage of the night to move behind the defile of Kay and assembled his columns at Mosau.
The Prussians lost more than 8,000 men:
- 3 officers and 2,120 NCOs and privates killed in action
- 133 officers and 4,059 NCOs and privates wounded
- 5 officers and 1,908 NCOs and privates missing
- 7 officers and 355 NCOs and troopers killed in action
- 48 officers and 392 NCOs and troopers wounded
- 2 officers and 48 NCOs and troopers missing
- 797 NCOs and men killed in action
- 425 NCOs and men missing
The works of the Grosser Generalstab indicates losses of only 6,800. However, taking only the Infanterieregiment von Kanitz as an example, it lost 13 officers and 642 men as per Dorn and Engelmann and only 14 officers and 409 men according to the Grosser Generalstab. This tends to indicate that losses were more important than the stated 6,800 men. Major-General von Wobersnow died from his wounds; Lieutenant-General von Manteuffel and Major-General von Gabelentz had been wounded and Lieutenant-General von Wedel had suffered a light wound from a Cossack. The Prussians had also lost 2 colours and 2 standards, 2 heavy artillery pieces, 1 light 12-pdr gun, 28 ammunition wagons, and 10 three-pdr battalion guns.
The Russians lost 17 officers and 796 men killed; 118 men missing; and 158 officers and 3,744 men wounded for a total of 4,883 officers and men.
Saltykov failed to pursue the retreating Prussian army. His only aim now was to reach the town of Crossen and its bridge on the Oder where he hoped to join forces with the Austrians. But neither Hadik nor Loudon were there waiting for him. Saltykov then marched his troops towards Frankfurt some 70 km further down the Oder where they arrived on July 30.
Order of Battle
Prussian Order of Battle
Commander-in-chief: Lieutenant-General Carl Heinrich von Wedel
Summary: 19,600 foot in 30 bns, 7,800 men in 63 sqns, 56 field guns and 60 battalion guns served by 700 artillerymen for a total of 28,100 men.
On average, each Prussian grenadier bn counted 570 men; each musketeer bn, 670 men; each sqn, 133 horse with the exception of the sqns of Zieten, Ruesch and Malachowski hussars which counted only 100 horse.
|First Line under
Lieutenant-General von Wedel
|Second Line under
Lieutenant-General von Kanitz
Major-General von Wobersnow
|Lieutenant-General von Schorlemmer Division||
|Lieutenant-General von Manteuffel Division
Lieutenant-General von Hülsen Division
Major-General von Stutterheim Division
|Lieutenant-General von Schorlemmer Division||
Detachment in Züllichau guarding the field bakery
- Grenadier Battalion 13/26 Bornstedt (1 bn)
- Standing Grenadier Battalion No. IV Lossow (1 bn)
- Grenadier Battalion 17/22 von der Tann (1 bn)
The heavy artillery comprised 56 field guns:
- 1 x 24-pdr gun
- 19 x medium 12-pdr guns (Austrian style)
- 18 x light 12-pdr guns
- 2 x 18-pdr howitzers
- 1 x 10-pdr howitzers
- 15 x 7-pdr howitzers
Russian Order of Battle
Commander-in-chief: General Piotr Semionovitch Saltykov
Summary: 52 bns, 46 grenadier coys, about 53 sqns, 8 Cossack pulks (39 sotnias or approx. 3,900 men), 188 field guns and 128 regimental guns, for a total of 52,378 men
N.B.: excluding the force left at the camp of Goltzen to protect the baggage
|Vanguard||First Line||Second Line|
|General Krasnochekov Brigade||Major-General Demiku Light Cavalry Brigade||Major-General Demiku Heavy Cavalry Brigade|
|General Fermor Fermor First Division
Lieutenant-General Villebois Second Division
Brigadier Gaugreben (in reserve behind Dolgorouki Brigade)
|Lieutenant-General Fermor First Division
Lieutenant-General Villebois Second Division
|General Totleben Light Cavalry Division||lieutenant-general Fürst Golitsyn Observation Corps
|Major-General Jeropkin Brigade|
N.B. Maslowskij mentions that the 5 Russians Cuirassiers regiments totalled 21 sqns (our current order of battle has only 19 sqns of cuirassiers...)
Morbvinov Detachment marching to the Russian camp
- Infantry (8 bns)
- Cavalry (about 1,000 horse)
- Light Cavalry
- Serbskiy Hussars Detachment (6 sqns)
Detached by Saltykov during his march to reinforce the camp of Goltzen
- Fast Brigade
- unidentified Cossack units (2 rgts) under Totleben
- Artillery (13 field pieces and a number of regimental pieces)
N.B.: Troitskiy Infantry (2 bns) were garrisoning Posen (present-day Poznań)
This article incorporates texts from the following books which are now in the public domain:
- Grosser Generalstab Kriegsgeschichtliche Abteilung II: Die Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen, Part 3 Der siebenjährige Krieg 1756-1763, Vol. 10 Kunersdorf, Berlin, 1912, pp. 149-173, Anhang 6, Anlage 6
- Carlyle, T., History of Friedrich II of Prussia vol. 19
- Jomini, baron de, Traité des grandes opérations militaires, Vol. 3, 2nd ed., Magimel, Paris, 1811, pp. 113-116
Decker C., Die Schlachten und Hauptgefechte des Siebenjährigen Krieges, Berlin 1837
Dorn G., Engelmann J., Die Kavallerie – Regimenter Friederich des Grossen 1756–1763, Friedberg 1984
Dorn G., Engelmann J., Die Infanterie –Regimenter Friederich des Grossen 1756–1763, Augsburg 1992
Dorn G., Engelmann J., Die Schlachten Friederich des Grossen. Führung. Verlauf. Gefechts-Scenen. Gliederungen. Karten, Augsburg 1996
Duffy Ch., The Army of the Frederick the Great, New York 1994
Duffy Ch., Russia's military way to the West: origins and nature of Russian military power, 1700-1800, Michigan 1981
Gieraths G., Die Kampfhandlungen der Brandenburgische-preussischen Armee, Berlin 1964
Grosser Generalstab, Geschichte des Siebenjärigen Krieges, Dritter Theil – Der Feldzug von 1759, Berlin 1828
Grosser Generalstab, Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen, herausgegeben vom, cz. III, vol. 10, Berlin 1904–1914
Jany K., Geschichte der Königlisch Preussischen Armee bis zum Jahre 1807, t. 2, Berlin 1929
Korobkov N., Siemiletniaja wojna: (diejstwia Rossii w 1756-1762 g. g.), Moskwa 1940
Maslowskij D, Der Siebenjährige Krieg nach Russischer Darstellung, tl. A. Drygalski, t. 3, Berlin 1893
Maslowskij D., Russkaia armija w siemieletnjuju wojnu, t. III, Moskwa 1891
Masłowskij D, Zapiski po Istorii Wojennavo Iskusstwa w Rossji, t. 2, Sankt Petersburg 1894
Siemieletnaja wojna, under red. Korobkov H. M., Moskva 1948. (this book has published some documents from the Russian Archives, among which Saltykov's report to empress Elizabeth Petrovna after the battle)
Tempelhoff G. F., Geschichte des siebenjährige Krieges in Deutschland, t. 3, Berlin 1787.
Alessandro Colaiacomo for the entire initial version of this article
Tomasz Karpiński from Gniezno/Poznań for many subsequent improvements
Klaus Roider for the losses of each army