1759 - Allied spring offensive in Western Germany
The campaign lasted from January to April 1759
During its campaign against the French in November and December 1758, the Allied Army had lost some 10,000 men (including killed, wounded, sick and deserters).
The British Contingent had had no men killed or wounded during the preceding campaign, but had lost so many men to sickness and desertion that, proportionally, its regiments showed the greatest losses of all Allied contingents.
By the end of the campaign of 1758, the Allied army, excluding regimental artillery pieces, had 7 howitzers and 50 guns (12-pdrs, 10-pdrs, 6-pdrs and 4-pdrs). By the end of January 1759, there were not enough artillerymen (4 captains, 4 lieutenants, 30 artificers and 248 artillerymen) to properly serve these pieces. Field-Marshal Duke Ferdinand of Brunswick also had to supply guns for Lippstadt, Münster and Hameln out of his own artillery park.
At the end of 1758, Ferdinand planned to attack Soubise’s Army, which had taken up its winter-quarters behind the Lahn. He destined a corps of 23 bns and 30 to 40 sqns to this endeavour and thought that he would be ready to launch his offensive by February 20, 1759. However, the general situation soon forced him to abandon this plan.
During the winter of 1758-59, reinforcements were sent from Great Britain with requisite stores while some thousands of recruits were raised in Germany for the Allied army, bringing the army of Ferdinand of Brunswick to 70,000 men. A truce had been concluded until March 16 1759.
Ferdinand did not try to increase the number of heavy guns in his army because they could hardly follow his manoeuvering army. He rather intended to transfer 10 heavy Hanoverian pieces to the artillery reserve and to replace them with 30 Prussian style 24-pdrs and 12-pdrs. However, the introduction of these new guns required additional artillery personnel (officers and artillerymen) who were not easy to find. Two new coys had to be recruited in Great Britain while the Hessian militias contributed approx. 350 men and the rest came from the Bückeburg Grenadiers. Ferdinand's proposals were accepted by George II and the other sovereigns, but their execution was delayed, so that the increase in artillery took place later, during the campaign.
Ferdinand also tried to increase the number of engineers and established a pioneer coy of 80 men. He also added material for four additional bridges to supplement the four existing ones.
At the beginning of 1759, the Reichsarmee was in winter-quarters in Thuringia and Franconia, facing Hesse and the advanced posts of the Allies.
The French Army of the Rhine, under the Marquis de Contades, was positioned in front of the Meuse and the Dutch borders. It extended from Wesel, Contades’ headquarters, southward almost to Koblenz and faced the Lower-Rhine. The general plan of operation called for the French Army of the Lower Rhine to advance into Westphalia and Hanover along the Lippe River.
Meanwhile, the French Army of the Main, under the Prince de Soubise, was enquartered in the countship of Hanau and the Wetterau area, between the Main and the Lahn, with his back to the Rhine. It counted some 25,000 men. Plans called for the Army of the Main to invade Hesse.
The general plan of the French, Austrians and Imperials for this campaign was to occupy Thuringia and Franconia with an Austro-Imperial army to create a continuous front linking all these armies.
The Allied Army under Ferdinand of Brunswick had taken up its winter-quarters from Coesfeld, a little to westward of Münster, through Münster, Lippstadt and Paderborn to the Diemel. Ferdinand had detached the Prince von Ysenburg with 8 to 10,000 men to cover the outposts of the French Army of the Main. With his less numerous army, Ferdinand was on the defensive. He was facing two French armies. Furthermore, Ferdinand's position was potentially threatened to be taken in his left rear by the Saxon Army. However, a Prussian corps of observation covered the Saxons.
To secure his line of communication, Ferdinand had to retain possession of the Weser. To do so, he had to hold two fortresses: Münster in Westphalia and Lippstadt on the Upper Lippe. The fall of Münster would allow the French to push on unhindered to the Weser while the loss of Lippstadt would cut any communication between Westphalia and Hesse and allow the two French armies to make their junction. Furthermore, Ferdinand had to prevent the junction of these two French armies with the Austro-Imperial army operating in Saxony. He counted on Prince Heinrich to advance in Thuringia and Franconia with his Prussian Army of Saxony, forcing the Austro-Imperials to retreat.
Roughly speaking, the field of operations lay between the Rhine and the Weser, with the sea and the Main for northern and southern boundaries. Three rivers barred the advance of the French northward from Frankfurt to Kassel and beyond, from south to north: the Ohm, the Eder, and the Diemel. With the Diemel as the final barrier between Hesse and Westphalia.
Soubise captures Frankfurt-on-Main
On December 31 1758, the authorities of Frankfurt-am-Main authorized Soubise to march one regiment through the city.
On Tuesday January 2, 1759, at about 5:00 a.m., Nassau Prince Louis Infanterie presented itself before the Sachsenhausen Gate of Frankfurt and was admitted as agreed. As soon as it had entered the town, the regiment ordered the town-guard to deposit arms and to admit 5 other regiments (Beauvoisis (2 bns), Rohan Montbazon (2 bns), Rohan Rochefort (2 bns), Bentheim (2 bns) and Royal Deux-Ponts (4 bns)). These regiments then seized the artillery on the walls and all the other gates. Soubise had easily captured Frankfurt. This very important town remained under French control for the last four years of the war. The possession of Frankfurt secured a starting-point for French attacks on Hesse and Hanover and for co-operation with Contades and the Lower Rhine. It also provided a sure means of retreat.
Some light troops belonging to Contades’ Army already occupied Siegburg, Wipperfürth, Rade, Hattingen and Bottrop on the right bank of the Rhine. There were 14 field bns, 2 garrison bns and 6 sqns in Wesel; and 9 bns and 4 sqns in Düsseldorf. Furthermore strong detachments occupied Duisburg, Rees and Emmerich. The winter-quarters extended in four lines in an area delimited by Cologne, Meckenheim, Verviers, Huy, St. Trond, Hamont, Roermond, Kleve and Cologne.
For his part, Soubise had thrown garrison into Aschaffenburg, Hanau, Friedberg and Giessen. He had also improved the defensive works of Marburg. His light troops were deployed at Gelnhausen, Hungen and Lich. His winter-quarters extended from Hanau, along the Main and Tauber rivers southeastwards up to Tauberbischofsheim and from there in an area delimited by Zwingenberg, Biebrich, Miehlen, Limburg, and Giessen and Hanau. Soubise had established his headquarters in Hanau.
On January 17
- The Lieutenant-General Marquis d'Armentières, who would replace Contades during his sojourn at Versailles, arrived at Krefeld.
- The Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel, Wilhelm VIII, renewed the subsidy contract with Great Britain.
On January 19
- Contades departed for Versailles after authorising the Comte de Saint-Germain to negotiate the neutrality of the County of Mark with the Allies.
- Soon afterwards, d'Armentières was informed of the arrival of British troops at Münster. He immediately took dispositions to assemble 72 bns and 50 sqns at Xanten within 6 days.
On January 20, Soubise was informed that the Allies were working on the road from Brilon to Kassel by Volkmarsen and on the road from Paderborn to Warburg and Kassel. Meanwhile, considerable magazines were assembled at Kassel.
On January 24, the Lieutenant-General Duc de Broglie arrived at Frankfurt to replace the Prince de Soubise at the head of the Army of the Main which now numbered some 35,000 men. Soubise had been recalled to command the army destined to the planned invasion of Great Britain.
On January 27, when d'Armentières was informed of Prince Heinrich's movements against the Austro-Imperial army, he sent Johann Christian Fischer and the Comte de Schomberg ahead with the Volontaires d'Alsace.
Before the end of January, Madelet, at the head of a French detachment of 300 foot and 60 horse, left Wesel and tried to surprise a Hanoverian advanced post but was rather surprised himself by an Allied detachment sent from Coesfeld. The French also made an attempt against the Allied posts on the Ruhr River but were repulsed and forced to abandon their post at Hattingen.
Towards the end of January, some Allied troops were transferred from Westphalia to Hesse to support Ysenburg’s Corps:
- 3 Hessian bns (Hanau Infantry, Toll Infantry, Wurmb Militia) and 4 sqns (Hanoverian Dachenhausen Dragoons) were sent to Münden
- 2 sqns (Prussian Ruesch Hussars) were sent to Hersfeld which was precipitously evacuated by the French
By the end of January, Contades sent back 4 bns and 20 sqns to France, but they were soon replaced by 4 bns and 16 sqns sent from France.
Hearing of a possible involvement of the Netherlands in the war, Belle-Isle prepared 20 bns, 4 dragoon sqns and 15 pieces for Dunkerque; and 15 bns, 20 sqns (including the "Maison du Roi") and 10 pieces for Ghent to march on Antwerp and Bruges in such a case.
Ysenburg's corps was now encamped between Kassel and Zwehren with an advanced party eastward between Witzenhausen and Allendorf. The Hessians also had 6 bns and 2 cavalry rgts posted to the south near Rotenburg and 2 dragoon rgts and 3 bns near Homberg.
At the beginning of February, Broglie detached the Chasseurs de Fischer on Marburg.
On February 4, Soubise departed from Frankfurt for Paris.
On February 9, Duke Karl Eugen von Württemberg signed a new subsidy contract with France.
On February 17, the 2 sqns of the Prussian Ruesch Hussars, sent from Westphalia, arrived at Ysenburg’s camp in Hesse. He immediately sent them towards Vacha to observe the movements of Arberg’s Austrian Corps.
On February 18, Maréchal Belle-Isle and Maréchal d’Estrées issued plan for the main French army under Contades to advance from the Rhine into Westphalia, to lay sieges to Lippstadt and Münster and then to push back Ferdinand’s Army behind the Weser. Meanwhile the Army of the Main under Broglie would enter in Hesse to support Contades’ offensive. The fortified places on the Rhine would be garrisoned by some 15,000 militia.
In the second half of February, transports arrived at Emden with recruits for the British Contingent.
On February 27, Duke Ferdinand met the Hereditary Prince of Brunswick, the Prince Ysenburg and Major-General von Urff at Wilhelmsthal, 11 km north of Kassel, to plan an offensive in Thuringia against the Austro-Imperial army. They should advance in three columns from Homberg, Melsungen and Hundelshausen on Hersfeld, Bebra and Treffurt.
When Broglie heard of the incursion of the Allies in Thuringia against the Austro-Imperial army, he sent the Chasseurs de Fischer forward from Schlüchtern and Freien-Steinau to reconnoitre the region of Fulda. Furthermore, 3 dragoon rgts followed the Chasseurs de Fischer while 2 bns and 1 cavalry rgt advanced from Hanau in the Kinzig Valley to support these troops. Broglie also wrote to d’Armentières to send a strong corps from the Army of the Rhine to cover his left flank in the region of Altenkirchen if ever the Allies directed their offensive against the Army of the Main.
Allied light troops were sent towards Hersfeld while another Allied detachment went to Allendorf on the Werra to observe the movements of the French in these areas.
Fischer informed the French commanders of these movements. Broglie immediately ordered Fischer to deploy his force between Homberg on the Ohm and Schlitz on the Fulda while keeping communications opened with the Austro-Imperials on his right.
Arberg, who commanded an Austrian corps in Thuringia asked Broglie for support. However, the latter, realizing that the Allies did not plan extensive operations, rejected this request. He rather proposed combined operations with the Austro-Imperials against Hesse.
In March, the recruits for the British Contingent arrived in Westphalia. The same month, a large exchange of prisoners took place between the French and the Allies.
On March 6, Broglie advanced 3 dragoon rgts to support the Volontaires de Schomberg who had taken position at Neuhof, about 24 km from Steinau. Broglie also sent 1 cavalry rgt between Hanau and 1 sqn of Apchon Dragons to cover Schomberg's retreat.
On March 9, Urff’s Allied Corps reached its old winter-quarters near Fritzlar. Only 50 jägers and hussars had been left behind in Hersfeld. The joint incursion in Thuringia with troops belonging to Prince Heinrich’s Army had not produced the desired results.
On March 13, upon Broglie's request, d'Armentières sent a corps (1,400 foot and 1,200 horse, consisting of: Volontaires Étrangers de Clermont Prince, Volontaires Liégeois, Volontaires de Flandre, Turpin Hussards, La Marck Infanterie, Noë, Berry Cavalerie and Rochefoucauld-Langeac Cavalerie) under the command of d'Auvet. This corps took post at Hachenburg with detachments at Siegen.
D'Armentières also sent a detachment (3,000 foot, 1,700 horse) to Altenkirchen on the road to Marburg.
During winter, the French heavy artillery had been increased to 140 pieces while each battalion had 2 light cannon.
Allied Preliminary Operations against the Austro-Imperials in Thuringia
In mid-March, the French Army of the Main, after sending back home the 13 bns of the Württemberg Contingent, consisted of 50 bns and 45 sqns. By that time, only 2 infantry rgts of the French Army of the Lower Rhine (100 bns, 91 sqns) had received their full supply of arms and uniforms, the other units were still lacking tents and new uniforms. The Army of the Main was in a quite similar situation. A large number of horses were sick and had had to be isolated, so several cavalry rgts had no horse yet.
On March 14, the French detached some squadrons of cavalry and dragoons from the area of Frankfurt to take post near Friedberg in Hesse. They also sent a corps of 3,000 men into the district of Dillenburg and Herborn where they were in a good position to cooperate with the Austro-Imperial army which was now doing a second attempt against Hesse.
On March 18, Ferdinand wrote to Prince Heinrich from Münster to inform him of his intention to drive the Austro-Imperials out of Thuringia and suggested that the Prince should send part of his army into Thuringia to give the impression that these troops were the vanguard of his advancing army. Meanwhile, the prince would make another diversion in Franconia. Prince Heinrich refused to get involved in such a large enterprise but agreed to send forward generals Knobloch and Lindstedt against Saalfeld and Hof with the troops already posted on the Thuringian and Franconian borders.
On March 20, the Allied troops destined for the expedition against the Austro-Imperials set off from their winter-quarters in Westphalia and in the Paderborn country and marched in the direction of Niedenstein and Kassel.
On March 21, Ferdinand wrote to Frederick that he intended to advance against Broglie’s Army which was threatening Ysenburg’s Corps in Hesse. He hoped that he could capture the French magazines and take Frankfurt. But he first had to drive the Austro-Imperial army back from the Werra and to force it to retire to Bamberg. Then, during the operations against the French on the Fulda, the Prussian army of Prince Heinrich would have to prevent any attack of the Austro-Imperials against the rear of the Allied army for two or three weeks. Ferdinand instructed all rgts to have a 9-days provision of bread and a 3-days supply of forage. 800 wagons were prepared for the expedition.
On March 22 in the morning, Ferdinand Duke Ferdinand personally set off from Münster and rode to Hesse with the Duke of Holstein-Gottorp's and the Hereditary Prince's corps to contain the Austro-Imperial offensive in these quarters. He left Lord George Sackville and General Spörcken in command on the Lower Rhine during his absence, with instructions to assemble their corps near Dülmen if ever the French crossed the Rhine.
On March 24
- Ferdinand arrived at Kassel, after having ridden by way of Hamm and Lippstadt. There he met the Hereditary Prince of Brunswick, the Prince Ysenburg and the Duke of Holstein.
- Ysenburg's Corps took position at Melsungen and its light troops covered the concentration of the Allied army.
- Ferdinand was informed that the French were effecting some movements between Marburg and Siegen and that troops were marching from France towards the Austrian Netherlands, but that everything was calm in the region of Frankfurt. Furthermore, the transportation of the French artillery from Hanau and Frankfurt towards Friedberg had been seriously slowed down by persistent rain. Finally, the Austro-Imperials were still idle in Thuringia.
- In the evening, the Hereditary Prince took command of the Allied vanguard in Melsungen. He would be followed by the main army advancing in two columns:
- the right column consisted of the Westphalian Division under the Duke of Holstein and Lieutenant-General von Wutginau
- the left column was under the command of Prince Ysenburg
- Ferdinand left 2 Hessian militia bns in Kassel under the command of Lieutenant-General Prince Anhalt.
|Order of Battle|
|Detailed order of battle of Ferdinand' army operating against the Austro-Imperials at the end of March 1759.|
On March 25
- Ferdinand's divisions concentrated near Kassel. Then, the 27,000 men strong Allied army (29 bns, 43 sqns and some light troops) marched from Melsungen, Niedenstein and Kassel.
- The detachment (Block Infantry, Hardenberg Infantry, Volontaires de Prusse) under Major-General von Hardenberg assembled at Fritzlar to protect the line of communication of Ferdinand’s Army. The Hessian Miltitz Cavalry had also been left at Fritzlar.
- The Prussian detachment reached Orlamünde.
- Broglie sent forward M. de Puységur to Schotten to screen his positions near Friedberg. He also sent Prince Camille to Hungen for the same purpose.
On March 26
- Ferdinand encamped at Rotenburg on the Fulda.
- The Prussian detachment waited at Rudolfstadt for the arrival of Major-General von Knobloch who should join them with 2 sqns of Szekely Hussars and 4 bns (Braun Fusiliers, Bülow Fusiliers) previously posted near Gera, Weida and Greiz. However, Knobloch was delayed being unable to cross the Saale and forced to march by way of Orlamünde. He effected a junction with the troops already assembled at Rudolfstadt only in the afternoon.
- Major-General von Lindstedt set off from Plauen with 4 bns (Salmuth Fusiliers, I./Wied Fusiliers and Freibataillon Collignon) and 2 sqns of Szekely Hussars and marched on Hof.
- The Austrian General Browne had time to assemble troops (5 bns with their grenadier coys, 600 cuirassiers, 400 hussars) near Kaulsdorf not far from Saalfeld.
- Knobloch had to make a time-consuming detour and the Austrians retired to Gräfenthal. Prussian hussars followed the retiring Austrians and took several prisoners. Knobloch captured a small magazine in Saalfeld.
- General von Campitelli at Hof was posted with 6 bns (Gyulay, Marschall, Blau-Würzburg), 500 men of Hadik Hussars and 300 Grenzer light troops.
On March 27
- Ferdinand advanced to Hersfeld where his vanguard surprised about 100 enemies while the Austro-Imperial troops retreated everywhere.
- Ferdinand then marched to Fulda thus cutting off communications between the French and Austro-Imperial armies. He had left Bückeburg Infantry to guard Hersfeld and established a large magazine in Fulda, placed under the guard of Toll Infantry.
- Ferdinand detached Stockhausen to Tann with 100 horse and 60 men of the Hesse-Kassel Hussars to secure his left flank.
- Knobloch advanced on Gräfenthal but seeing that Browne occupied good positions there, he decided to return to Saalfeld.
On March 28
- The Austrians evacuated Gräfenthal and occupied the Sattel Pass.
- Knobloch sent Freibataillon Wunsch towards the Sattel Pass.
- Engagement near Hof
- Lindstedt’s detachment reached Hof. The Austrians occupied the heights southwest of Hof and manned a redoubt in front of the town. 100 Prussian volunteers stormed this redoubt. When Campitelli saw that the Prussians threatened his right flank, he retired to Münchberg. He charged 300 men to cover his retreat. The latter occupied entrenchments near Pirk with 300 men. After an artillery duel with this rearguard, Lindstedt retired to Hof.
On March 30
- Ferdinand sent the Hereditary Prince from Fulda with his vanguard on an expedition to clear his left flank from an advance of the Austrians upon the Werra River, by raiding Meiningen and Wasungen.
- The Allied vanguard under the Hereditary Prince reached Gersfeld and Bischofsheim to the southeast of Fulda which was found unoccupied to the exception of a small detachment of troops belonging to the Bishopric. The Hereditary Prince was also informed that enemy light troops occupied Neustadt, Mellrichstadt, Ostheim and Fladungen.
- The two columns of the Allies reached the vicinity of Stockhausen and Fulda. They had marched by way of Fritzlar and Weissenhorn; and Rotenburg, Hersfeld and Schlitz. The right column came into contact with French light troops near Lauterbach. These light troops withdrew in front of the cavalry of the Duke of Holstein.
- Hardenberg’s detachment reached Ziegenhain.
- Freibataillon Wunsch attacked the detachment guarding the Sattel Pass and took some prisoners.
- Knobloch did not dare to venture further into the Thuringian Forest and recalled Freibataillon Wunsch from Lehesten back to Saalfeld.
- Lindstedt detached Freibataillon Collignon) and 2 sqns of Szekely Hussars for a new attempt against the entrenchments at Pirk. The defenders retired to Münchberg without opposing any resistance. The Austrians then evacuated Münchberg. In the evening, the Prussians returned to Hof while the Austrians continued their retreat towards Bayreuth.
- Two columns were detached from the French Army of the Lower Rhine. One under Major-General Blaisel, who was previously posted at Elberfeldt with a large proportion of the French light troops, advanced by way of Biedenkopf and Frankenberg to threaten Fritzlar and Kassel. The second, under d’Auvet marched on Marburg.
- FML Count d’Arberg was posted at Fladungen with 4 Austrian infantry rgts, 4 cavalry rgts, the Szechényi Hussars and 8 or 9 Imperial bns.
- General von Browne, posted at Judenbach, received reinforcements from Coburg and sent part of it towards Lobenstein.
Knobloch’s Prussian Corps spent the night of March 30 to 31, in Gräfenthal.
On March 31
- The vanguard under the Hereditary Prince advanced in three columns against, Neustadt, Ostheim and Fladungen. However, difficult road conditions and bad weather delayed its advance and d’Arberg’s Corps had enough time to retire. The right and left columns of the Allies found Neustadt and Fladungen free of enemy troops. The middle column also found Ostheim unoccupied and advanced to Mellrichstadt where it caught up with the 4 sqns of the Hohenzollern Cuirassiers and 1 bn of the Blau Würzburg Infantry. The 2 sqns of Ruesch Hussars at the head of the column immediately attacked under the command of Major von Stensch. They first routed the cuirassiers, then charged the infantry, taking 98 prisoners.
- Lindstedt’s detachment retired in the direction of Plauen.
The Allied vanguard under the command of the Hereditary Prince spent the night of March 31 to April 1 in Neustadt, Ostheim and Fladungen. The Hereditary Prince received intelligence that Austro-Imperial troops were still stationed in Meiningen, Kalten-Nordheim and Tann. He decided to encircle the garrison of Meiningen and to attack the two other posts. Major von Stockhausen, whose troops had established contact with the Allied vanguard, would also take part in these operations. In the event of success, the Hereditary Prince planned to advance on Wasungen to force the Austro-Imperials to evacuate northwestern Thuringia.
By the end of March, on average, a French battalion counted 450 men and a French squadron, 140 men.
By April, the Allied Army counted 71,789 men (including troops garrisoning fortresses in Hesse). Furthermore, there were 7,159 men belonging to garrison or militia units in the fortresses of Hanover.
At the beginning of April, the French Army of the Main moved from its winter-quarters into cantonments.
On April 1
- The left column of march of the main Allied army, under Prince Ysenburg, took position between Rode and Neuhof. An entrenchment was built at Neuhof to cover the road leading to Frankfurt. It was defended by Brunswicker grenadiers with two 6-pdr cannon.
- The Duke of Holstein, who commanded the right column of march at Stockhausen, sent small detachments towards Schlechtenwegen and Blankenau and secured the roads leading to Ulrichstein and Büdingen. His troops established communication with Hardenberg’s detachment.
- The left column of the vanguard under Major-General von Urff advanced from Fladungen on Kalten-Nordheim. Lieutenant-Colonel von Schlotheim with a small detachment of Hanoverian foot jäger and 40 hussars was covering the left flank of the column when he captured an Austrian cavalry patrol in Tann. He learned from his prisoners that 2 rgts (Bretlach Cuirassiers and Prinz Savoyen Dragoons) had dismounted at a nearby homestead. Together with the small Stockhausen’s detachment, Schlotheim surprised these rgts while they were eating and captured 2 standards, 6 men and 31 horses. He then precipitously retired on the left column. Von Urff found Kalten-Nordheim free on any enemy. The Austrians retired by way of Dermbach to Schwallungen where they effected a junction with d’Arberg’s Corps.
- Meanwhile, the Hereditary Prince attacked the two rgts of the Reichsarmee (Kurköln Leibregiment, Elverfeldt Infantry) stationed in Meiningen and forced them to surrender, capturing 4 artillery pieces and a few colours. The grain found in magazine in the city could not be transported due to lack of wagons and was destroyed. While Major-General von Post remained in Meiningen with 4 bns and 4 sqns to guard and escort the prisoners, the grenadiers, jägers and hussars marched on Wasungen where they forced the garrison (Nagel Infantry) to surrender as prisoners of war.
- During these attacks, the Hereditary Prince made a total of 6 artillery pieces and 6 colours and some 2,000 prisoners.
- N.B.: Blumenthal in his book Schwarze Husaren mentions 2 standards belonging to the Hohenzollern Cuirassiers in addition to the 6 flags and 6 guns. However, these 2 standards had been captured in another engagement near Mellrichstadt on the previous day.
- Duke Ferdinand learned that the enemy had some 1,000 men near Freien-Steinau and others near Ulrichstein. He gave orders to the Duke of Holstein to drive the enemy out of these towns.
- Knobloch’s detachment reached Saalfeld. Considering that he had fulfilled his mission, Knobloch then marched towards Neustadt.
- D’Arberg’s Corps retired from the area of Vacha towards Meiningen to protect the magazine there and assist the garrison.
- During the attack of the Allies, FML Count d’Arberg marched from Schmalkalden towards Wasungen with Hildburghausen Infantry and 6 grenadier coys (from Hildburghausen Infantry, Botta Infantry and Harrach Infantry) to support the garrison. The Brunswicker and Hessian grenadiers managed to delay his advance until the Hereditary Prince arrived from Meiningen with the rest of his corps. Combat continued until midnight without decisive result. In this engagement, the Allies lost 7 men killed and 25 wounded; the Austrians, approx. 70 men.
On the night of April 1 to 2, FML Count d’Arberg retired from the vicinity of Wasungen to Schmalkalden.
On April 2
- D’Arberg continued his retreat from Schmalkalden to Eisfeld by way of Schleusingen.
- The Hereditary Prince detached Major-General Count von der Schulenburg with the grenadiers, dragoons and hussars to follow d’Arberg.
- The Duke of Holstein advanced on Freien-Steinau and Ulrichstein. The French evacuated Freien-Steinau before his arrival. Holstein’s hussars caught up with their rearguard, killing 20 men and taking 2 officers and 26 men prisoners. Holstein’s troops then returned to their positions near Stockhausen.
- Knobloch’s detachment reached Neustadt and returned to its winter-quarters.
- Lindstedt’s detachment reached Plauen.
- The French retired from Freien-Steinau to Birstein where there was 600 men of Piémont Infanterie.
On April 3
- The Hereditary Prince gave a day of rest to his troops.
- Schulenburg’s detachment caught up with d’Arberg’s rearguard between Suhl and Schleusingen, inflicting it some losses. In the evening, Schulenburg returned to Suhl.
- D’Arberg continued his retreat towards Königshofen and Coburg.
- Broglie moved all the regiments who were more than one march distant towards Friedberg and recalled the Saxons as well as all the cavalry rgts who were still on the left bank of the Rhine.
On April 4
- Major-General Marquis d’Auvet advanced from Hachenburg towards Herborn with 1 infantry rgt (La Marck) and 3 cavalry rgts (Berry, Rochefoucauld-Langeac and Noë). His light troops (Volontaires Liégeois and part of the Volontaires Étrangers de Clermont Prince) reached the vicinity of Marburg by way of Dillenburg.
- The light troops (Volontaires de Flandre, part of the Volontaires-Étrangers de Clermont-Prince and the 6 sqns of Turpin Hussards) of Major-General Blaisel moved towards Fritzlar by way of Biedenkopf and Frankenberg.
- After the return of Schulenburg’s detachment, the Hereditary Prince retired towards Fulda by way of Dermbach and Geisa. Stockhausen’s Corps and the Hessian Hussars were left behind at Meiningen to observe the enemy.
- Major-General von Hardenberg managed to move the magazines located at Fritzlar to Kassel.
On April 6
- Upon Broglie's request, d'Armentières sent Saint-Germain with a corps of 6,700 men consisting of 14 bns (Belzunce (4 bns), Champagne (4 bns), Navarre (4 bns) and Bouillon (2 bns)) and Caraman Dragons (4 sqns) from Cologne towards Altenkirchen. Once it reached Altenkirchen, Saint-Germain’s Corps turned and marched by way of Herschbach towards the Lahn where it cantoned at Limburg.
- D'Armentières also sent 8 bns under the command of M. de Lutzelburg toward Altenkirchen.
- The first elements of the corps of Hereditary Prince reached Fulda.
- In the evening, after having sent his Adjutant von Bülow to reconnoitre the Fortress of Ulrichstein, used as a base by a detachment of the Chasseurs de Fischer (370 foot and 37 horse under Lieutenant-Colonel von Ried), Ferdinand gave orders to the Duke of Holstein to capture the place.
On April 7
- Capture of Ulrichstein
- Before daybreak, the Duke of Holstein assembled 4 Hessian bns (Garde, Grenadier-Regiment, Erbprinz, Gilsa), 4 sqns (3 sqns of Finckenstein Dragoons, 1 sqn of Ruesch Hussars) and a number of Hessian Jägers near Eichelhain. A heavy fog delayed his march and he arrived in front of Ulrichstein only at 8:00 a.m. His troops managed to get to 100 paces from the place before being spotted by the guards who had time to close the gates and to alarm the garrison. Holstein’s first attack was driven back. He then vainly summoned the garrison to capitulate.
- At 9:00 a.m., a body of French cavalry arrived to relieve Ulrichstein. However, it did not dare to attack and retreated. The garrison of Ulrichstein finally agreed to surrender. It came out of the fortress with drums beating, deposited arms and pledged not to fight against the Allies for a year. The Duke of Holstein left a garrison in Ulrichstein and returned to his own quarters. In this action, the Allies had lost 120 men killed or wounded.
- The last elements of the corps of Hereditary Prince reached Fulda. In his expedition, the Hereditary Prince had captured 2,000 men, 200 horses, 6 artillery pieces, 6 colours and 2 standards.
- With the Austro-Imperial army now retreating towards Bamberg and the threat of their junction with the French armies eliminated, the various Allied detachments assembled at Fulda where the headquarters were established. This force totalled about 30,000 men and consisted of all the Hessian infantry and cavalry, all Brunswick line infantry, 20 sqns of Prussian dragoons, 3 rgts of British horse and 7 bns and 6 sqns of Hanoverian troops.
On April 8
- Lutzelburg’s detachment arrived at Altenkirchen.
- Major-General Blaisel surprised Miltitz Cavalry near Treysa with part of his light troops. After a hard fight, Miltitz Cavalry drove back the French. Blaisel marched back to Marburg and then continued his retreat towards Friedberg by way of Giessen.
At about this time in Westphalia, General von Spörcken sent Sachsen-Gotha Infantry and 2 sqns of the Malachowski Hussars to occupy Brilon and thus secure the communication with Kassel. He also sent Lieutenant-General von Imhoff to Lippstadt with 5 bns (Bock, Behr, Schele, Stolzenberg, Wangenheim), 8 sqns (Breidenbach Cavalry, Bremer Cavalry, Breidenbach Dragoons), 4 heavy artillery pieces (2 x 12-pdrs, 2 x 6-pdrs) to support Hardenberg’s detachment if ever the French advanced on Kassel.
Ferdinand received intelligence that the French occupied Gelnhausen and Langenfelbold, that 20 French bns were assembled near Friedberg, and that Saint-Germain’s relief corps (12,000 men) sent from the Army of the Main had taken position on the Lahn and in the vicinity of Marburg. Otherwise, everything was quiet in the winter-quarters of the French. On Ferdinand’s left flank, the Hereditary Prince had driven the Austro-Imperials out of Thuringia. Accordingly, Ferdinand decided to risk a long march at this bad season and to advance on Frankfurt as soon as possible and to attack the French Army of the Main before the arrival Saint-Germain’s relief corps. Ferdinand hoped to paralyze French operations in this region by severing them from their base. Contades was in Paris at that time so any attack from the Army of the Lower Rhine seemed rather unlikely. This allowed Ferdinand to concentrate his efforts on the Army of the Main. Since his arrival, Broglie had taken defensive measures, cantoning his troops within 2 days march of Bergen and covering the cantonments with light troops.
Allied Offensive on Frankfurt and Battle of Bergen
For the advance on Frankfurt, Ferdinand followed the advice of Prince Ysenburg, who was familiar with the region, and chose the road through the mountains by way of Freien-Steinau and Büdingen and not the more convenient road, which was probably blocked by French troops, by way of Schlüchtern through the Kinzig valley, where the fortified city of Hanau would impede his advance.
Ferdinand planned to launch his offensive on Frankfurt on April 10. He gave orders to supply his troops with provisions for nine days (the soldiers carrying provisions for three days while provisions for six days would be transported). Büdingen and Marienborn (8.5 km southwest of Büdingen) were chosen as locations to establish magazines.
General von Imhoff was instructed to advance from Lippstadt to Erwitte and, from there to send a detachment to occupy Meschede on April 14 and to make a demonstration against Dillenburg. Imhoff was also charged to protect Kassel if ever a French corps would advance into Hesse. For his part, Lieutenant-General von Hardenberg was ordered to take the Castle of Marburg on April 12.
For the offensive on Frankfurt, the Allied army would march in two columns. The Hereditary Prince would command the vanguard. The Duke of Holstein-Gottorp would lead the right column, and the Prince Ysenburg, the left column.
|Order of Battle|
|Detailed order of battle of Ferdinand' army for the advance on Frankfurt, on April 10, 1759.|
On April 10, Ferdinand decamped from Fulda with the main Allied army, leaving about 11,000 men to cover the Electorate of Hanover and the Bishopric of Münster, and marched in three columns towards Broglie's positions. The vanguard reached Freien-Steinau; the right column, Volkartshain, Völzberg, south of Vogelsberg, and Lichenroth; and the left column, Reinhards and Hinter-Steinau.
On April 11
- The vanguard reached Büdingen; the right column, Pferdebach; and the left column, Wolferborn, Kinderbügen and Leisenwald.
- Broglie finally realized that the Allies were not advancing against the Reichsarmee but against his own Army of the Main. He sent some French troops, including the Grenadiers Royaux de Narbonne to slow down the Allied advance. These troops distinguished themselves in the defence of Fritzlar.
- Broglie immediately gave orders to assemble his troops at Bergen, leaving only a brigade in Frankfurt. Broglie and his staff then rode to Vilbel where his heavy artillery and his pontoons had been assembled since a few days. Two bridges were built across the Nidda near Vilbel.
- The French garrisons of Birstein and Salmunster retired on the main army, concentrating under Broglie at Friedberg. Fischer was sent to Friedberg with the Chasseurs de Fischer to guard the magazine. Finally, the town of Hanau and Giessen were garrisoned.
On Thursday April 12
- The vanguard reached Windecken, a village about 24 km north-east of Frankfurt, where Freytag Jägers attacked a detachment of Royal Roussillon Infanterie, taking 1 officer and 40 men prisoners. Meanwhile, the right column reached Langen-Bergheim; and the left column, Marköbel and Marienborn.
- Ferdinand established his headquarters at Windecken. Patrols of light troops were sent towards Friedberg, Gross-Karben, Vilbel, Höchst, Bergen and Hanau. Only four 12-pdrs were accompanying the vanguard. The rest of the heavy artillery was still far behind the Allied army.
- The Allied army passed the night under arms, intending a battle on the morrow.
- The recently raised second sqn of Luckner Hussars joined Imhoff’s detachment near Lippstadt. It would remain with this detachment until May 24.
- Around noon, the first French rgts started to arrive at Bergen, a village about 10 km from Frankfurt on the road to Hanau. Broglie ordered them to make gabions and abatis while he threw 8 bns into the village. Bergen, located on the slope of a steep height, covered the French right. A large plain extended in front and to the left of the village up to the wood of Vilbel. Bergen was surrounded by a wall and gardens delimited by hedges.
- In the evening, Broglie communicated the situation of his army to the Chasseurs de Fischer and to Saint-Germain’s Corps. Broglie also gave orders to Saint-Germain to march as speedily as possible with his two divisions from Limburg towards Bergen. Meanwhile, Fischer was instructed to cover the magazines at Friedberg as long as he could and to destroy them if necessary.
On April 13
- At daybreak, Ferdinand marched in 5 columns directly towards Bergen.
- The last French rgts reached Bergen. The Saxon Contingent also arrived at Bergen.
- Broglie’s Army encamped behind the positions of Bergen and Vilbel.
- The Lieutenant-General Marquis de Castries, who had been detached with some troops to observe the enemy, rejoined the army at Bergen. He informed Broglie that the Allies were advancing in three columns and would certainly attack the next day.
- Since Broglie had taken measures for a potential retreat, he considered that he could calmly engage in the upcoming battle.
- Battle of Bergen
- Ferdinand fought Broglie at the Battle of Bergen but was repulsed with a loss of over 2,000 men. His audacious attempt to cripple one French army, before the campaign had even been opened, had failed.
During the night of April 13 to 14, the Allied army retreated unmolested to Windecken. Meanwhile, a French detachment under M. d'Apchon was sent to Friedberg with 2 dragoon rgts supported by 8 bns to reinforce Fischer's corps.
On April 14, the Allied army remained at Windecken. The same day, Saint-Germain corps joined Broglie's army.
On April 15, the Allied army marched from Windecken to Marienhof while the wounded were removed to Büdingen.
At about this time, Ferdinand sent Hardenberg's corps to lay siege to the castle of Marburg, hoping once more to lure Broglie out of his entrenchments but the latter remained at Bergen, sending detachments to harass the Allied rearguard.
On April 16, the Allied army remained at Marienhof.
On April 17, the Allied army decamped from Marienhof, passed the Nidder at Altenstadt, the Nidda at Staden where Ferdinand encamped with his left at Staden and his right at Bingenheim. Broglie did not know whether Ferdinand intended to march towards Hesse or to make an attempt against the French magazine at Friedberg. Fearing for Friedberg, Broglie sent 8 sqns of German cavalry to the heights of Wickstadt where they were instructed to light many camp fires to suggest the occupation of the heights by a large force.
On April 18, the Allied army marched to Grünberg. The same day, French light troops led by M. de Blaisel harassed the Allied rearguard but were repulsed.
On April 19, the Allied army marched to Alsfeld where it remained encamped until April 23. The same day, an Allied detachment consisting of 1 grenadier bn and 2 sqns of Finckenstein Dragoons was surrounded by the French who captured the 2 sqns. The grenadiers managed to rejoin the Allied army. Still the same day, Broglie dispersed his army in various cantonments and fortified the villages of Bergen and Sachsenhausen near Frankfurt. However, his entire army was so posted that it could assemble in 2 days. Furthermore, Broglie sent Waldner brigade to Friedberg, instructing him to support the light troops with 2 dragoon rgts and the latter with the 8 sqns of German cavalry previously posted at Wickstadt. Broglie also instructed du Blaisel and Fischer to follow the Allies up to Grünberg and to then seize Lauterbach and Schlitz to cut communications between Fulda and Hersfeld. Broglie also sent the Volontaires d'Alsace under M. de Beyerlé towards Fulda by Büdingen, and M. de Schomberg towards Fulda by Gedern.
Meanwhile Frederick II had detached Prince Heinrich of Prussia northward to secure Ferdinand's position against any attack from the Austrians. The latter made little movement during the ensuing month.
On April 22, Broglie cantoned his army along the Lahn river.
On April 23, the Allied marched from Alsfeld to Ziegenhain, a village about 30 km from Fritzlar. Ferdinand then detached General von Urff from Hirschfeld (unidentified location, maybe Bad Hersfeld) against the Austro-Imperial army into Franconia to assist the Prussian army of Prince Heinrich who had just entered the country in 3 columns.
|Order of Battle|
|Detailed order of battle of Ferdinand' army operating in Hesse during the first half of 1759.|
On April 24, Lieutenant-General von Dyherrn of the Saxon contingent, who had been wounded during the Battle of Bergen, died. The French wanted to have Baron von Glaubitz as his successor while Vienna authorities preferred General Franz de Crousatz. Finally, Prince Xavier with the help of his sister, Princess Maria Josepha, promoted his adjutant, Major-General Friedrich Christoph Count Solms.
On April 25, Contades arrived at Frankfurt from Paris to take command of his army. He had an approved plan of campaign in his pocket. At the beginning of May, he launched an general offensive in Western Germany.
This article incorporates 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. 359-363, 397-417
- Carlyle T. History of Friedrich II of Prussia, Vol. 19
- Fortescue J. W., A History of the British Army Vol. II, MacMillan, London, 1899, pp. 478-498
- Grosser Generalstab Kriegsgeschichtliche Abteilung II: Die Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen, Part 3 Der siebenjährige Krieg 1756-1763, Vol. 9 Bergen, Berlin, 1911, pp. 4-5, 7, 47-51, 61, 85, 94-110, 115, 130-153
- 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. 74-135
- Jomini, baron de, Traité des grandes opérations militaires, Vol. 3, 2nd ed., Magimel, Paris, 1811, pp. 1-46
- Pajol, Charles P. V., Les Guerres sous Louis XV, vol. IV, Paris, 1891, pp. 356-417
Rogge, Christian: The French & Allied Armies in Germany during the Seven Years War, Frankfurt, 2006
Savory, Reginald: His Britannic Majesty's Army in Germany during the Seven Years War, Oxford University Press: 1966
Service historique de l'armée de terre – A1 3518, pièce 40
Susane, Louis: Histoire de l'infanterie française, Librairie Militaire Maritime et Polytechnique de J. Corréard, Paris: 1876
Westphalen, Christian Heinrich Philipp: Geschichte der Feldzüge des Herzogs Ferdinand von Braunschweig-Lüneburg, Berlin: 1859