1759 - French offensive in Western Germany

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Hierarchical Path: Seven Years War (Main Page) >> Campaigns >> 1759 - French offensive in Western Germany

The campaign lasted from April 1759 to January 1760


N.B.: because this article was rapidly becoming quite large, it has been split. Thus, the part of it depicting the early operations of the French and Allied armies in the spring of 1759, including the Allied offensive against Frankfurt and the ensuing battle of Bergen, has been moved to a different article entitled 1759 - Allied spring offensive in West Germany .

After his failed attempt to capture Frankfurt and his defeat at the battle of Bergen, Ferdinand of Brunswick had gradually retreated northwards, reaching Ziegenhain some 30 km from Fritzlar by April 23.

French Invasion of the Weser Countries

On April 25, the marquis de Contades arrived at Frankfurt from Paris to take command of his army. He had an approved plan of campaign in his pocket.

By April 26, the duc de Broglie's corps consisted of: 29 bns, 1 artillery bn with 18 pieces, 31 sqns (including Volontaires de Nassau (4 sqns)), 1,620 Volontaires (1,200 Volontaires de Clermont and 420 Volontaires d'Alsace).

By April 30, the former army of the prince de Soubise consisted of 50 bns, 53 sqns and the Saxon contingent (15 bns). On the same day, the corps under the command of the comte de Saint-Germain consisted of 14 bns, 4 sqns.

In May, Enghien Infanterie (2 bns) was transferred to the Army of the Rhine as reinforcements. Meanwhile, 14 sqns and some bns returned to France.

On May 2, Contades quitted Frankfurt.

On May 4, Contades arrived at Krefeld. He then divided the Army of the Rhine into 4 corps: 2 of them about Wesel, a third at Düsseldorf, and a fourth about Cologne. He also threw bridges across the Rhine between Wesel and Rees. Contades also repeatedly asked the Elector to occupy Koblenz. This grouping, as Contades intended, left Ferdinand in doubt whether his main design was aimed at Westphalia or Hesse. The corps of the Hanoverian general Friedrich von Spörcken guarded Westphalia and lay a little to the west of Münster. It included the British contingent under lord George Sackville, who had been appointed to the command on the death of the duke of Marlborough in the previous year.

On May 10, the French army (129 bns, 138 sqns) was deployed as follows:

  • Broglie's corps on the Main and in Wetterau country: 17 bns, 1 artillery bn, 11 Saxon bns, 11 garrison bns (including 3 militia bns), 31 sqns (including 4 sqns of Volontaires de Nassau), Volontaires de Clermont, Volontaires d'Alsace
  • Beaupréau's corps in Wetterau country near Limburg: 17 bns, 22 sqns (including Volontaires de Raugrave), Volontaires de Dauphiné
  • Saint-Germain's corps on the Main: 14 bns, 4 sqns
  • French corps near Deutz on the right bank of the Rhine
  • d'Armentières' corps at Düsseldorf: 19 bns, 2 artillery bn, 16 sqns and, on the frontier of the duchy of Bergh, the Légion Royale and 6 sqns of Turpin Hussars
  • Chevreuse's corps at the camp of Burich in Ostfriese: 16 bns, 12 sqns (including 6 sqns of Bercheny Hussars)
  • Saint-Pern's corps at the camp of Kalkar: 6 bns, 8 sqns
  • Brissac's cavalry corps at the camp of Aersem (unidentified location): 35 sqns

Broglie took leave of absence because of health problem and the chevalier de Muy temporarily replaced him at the head of the Reserve. Before leaving, Broglie had sent Fischer Corps towards Wertheim and Mittelberg and the Volontaires d'Alsace to Lohr am Main to hinder the Allied manoeuvres in Franconia.

At about this time, a letter from Ferdinand of Brunswick to the British secretary of state William Pitt was intercepted by the French. In this letter, Ferdinand mentioned that after his defeat at Bergen and the ensuing retreat, his infantry had lost a third of its effective without possibility to recruit fresh troops and that his cavalry was all but destroyed. Ferdinand asked for a reinforcement of 10,000 British infantry.

By May 14, the French army of the Rhine was in motion. Contades headquarters were at Düsseldorf where he began to form a camp. Other camps were being formed at Wesel and Burich in Ostfriese.

On May 16, Spörcken growing uneasy over Contades' movements, Ferdinand marched from Ziegenhain towards Lippstadt, leaving 16,000 men under lieutenant-general Philip baron von Imhoff to protect Hesse.

On May 17, Contades was informed by de Muy that Ferdinand had started to evacuate Hesse to return to Münster, that there were no troops in Neustadt and Jesberg and just a few in Ziegenhain; that Fischer's detachment, which occupied Marburg, had established itself at Kirchain; that Ferdinand was marching towards Westphalia with only 15,000 men; that Imhoff was at Fritzlar and Homberg with about 14,000 men; and that 8,000 Allies were to make a junction with the Prussian army of prince Henri at Neustadt on the Saale river.

On May 18, Ferdinand moved his headquarters to Lippstadt, bringing with him most of the troops of the Allied left wing. Hardenberg's corps moved from Lippstadt to Hamm.

French Invasion of Hesse

Map of Part of Hesse-Kassel - Source: Fortescue J. W., "A History of the British Army Vol. II, MacMillan, London, 1899"

On May 20, while Ferdinand was rearranging his positions, Contades left Düsseldorf with the Army of the Rhine (100 bns and 100 French sqns, including Broglie's reserve consisting of 18 bns, 31 sqns and 2 light troops rgts) and marched south-eastward intending to make a junction with Broglie and to begin operations against Hesse. The same day, Contades' main army reached Mulheim.

On May 23, the main French army was at Siegburg.

On May 24, Ferdinand moved his headquarters from Lippstadt to Hamm, effected his junction with Spörcken and cantoned his troops along the Lippe from Coesfeld to Hamm. The same day, the main French army marched to Uckerath.

On May 25, Ferdinand reached Lünen where he took position with his right near this town, his centre at Unna and his left at Werl. The same day, the main French army marched to Hachenburg. Contades left d'Armentières with a small corps (about 20,000 men in 18 bns, 1 artillery bn, 24 sqns, and light troops) on the Rhine. More precisely, d'Armentières' corps consisted of:

Besides d'Armentières' corps there were also 12 militia bns in various places on the Rhine.

On May 27, the main French army was at Neunkirchen, crossing the difficult country of the Westerwald.

On May 28, Ferdinand moved his headquarters from Hamm to Reken. Spörcken took position at Dülmen, Wangenheim at Dülmen and Haltern, and Lückner's and Scheiter's corps at Dorsten. The Hereditary Prince of Brunswick joined Hardenberg's corps at Unna. The same day, the main French army marched to Leun. Seeing that Ferdinand manoeuvred to threaten the Lower Rhine, Contades instructed d'Armentières to guard his places and to cover his magazines.

On May 29, d'Auvet's corps marched to Breidenbach to protect the French left flank.

On May 30, the main French army was at Heuchelheim. The same day, d'Auvet's corps marched to Biedenkopf, his light troops occupying Hatzfeld, Frankenberg and Battenberg on the Eder.

On May 31, the main French army was at Wieseck near Giessen while de Muy marched to Friedberg with the Reserve. Indeed, Contades had resolved to move the Reserve closer to the main army.

On June 1, the main French army arrived near Giessen. It now counted some 60,000 men (57 bns and 40 sqns). It encamped in two lines with its right at Wieseck and its left near Lollar. Hoping to recall Contades to the Rhine, Ferdinand detached the corps under the Hereditary Prince (3,000 men) to threaten the French garrisons at Düsseldorf and other points along the Rhine. This menace did not divert Contades from his original plan.

On June 2, an additional force of 25 bns and 14 sqns under the comte de Noailles made a junction with Contades' main army between Giessen and Marburg, bringing its total strength to 82 bns, 54 sqns and 62 pieces (not counting the Reserve of 20,000 men in 18 bns, 29 sqns and 12 pieces and the garrisons of the Lahn and Mayn). The same day, de Muy quitted Friedberg and cantoned at Hungen.

On June 3, the British infantry quitted its cantonment and encamped near Lünen. The same day, the main French army marched in 3 columns, traversing a difficult country, and encamped in 2 lines on the right bank of the Lahn at Walgern (unidentified location), about 4 km from Marburg while de Muy marched to Grünberg with the Reserve. The French army (126 bns, 125 sqns and some light troops) was now deployed as follows:

On June 4, de Muy's reserve reached Alsfeld and Kirtorf on the Ohm. The same day, the main French army encamped near Marburg in the plain of Niederweimar with light troops in advanced posts towards Frankenberg. Turpin Hussards occupied Frankenberg. Other French detachments occupied Battenberg and Hatzfeld. Finally, Bercheny Hussards were sent towards Gemünden on the Wohra.

On June 5, Ferdinand moved his headquarters from Reken to Werl. The Allied forces occupying Unna retired to Soest. Imhoff encamped near Fritzlar. The magazine at Münster was moved to Lippstadt and the magazine at Osnabrück was transported to the banks of the Weser. Meanwhile d'Armentières remained at Wesel and Düsseldorf and Contades at Niederweimar. However, Saint-Pern quitted Marburg with the French vanguard (10 grenadier bns) accompanied by d'Auvet's brigade (4 bns). The Hereditary prince, who had passed the Ruhr, launched his light troops against Provence Infanterie posted at Erbefeld, dislodging it. Provence lost several men killed or wounded and 92 men taken prisoners.

On June 6, Contades' army marched from Niederweimar in 3 columns, preceded by a vanguard (14 bns) under Saint-Pern, passed near Marburg and marched to Wetter. D'Auvet quitted Battenberg with his 4 bns and 2 sqns and marched towards Hallenberg. Meanwhile, the reserve under Broglie marched from Guntershausen to Homberg and the vanguard took post at Ziegenhain, forcing the Allied garrison of this town to retire on Fritzlar. The Allied forces occupying Lünen and Kamen retired eastward to Soest. Ferdinand encamped at Soest with the main Allied army. The same day, the Hereditary Prince reached Kaiserswerth, 10 km north of Düsseldorf.

During the night of June 6 to 7, the Hereditary Prince surprised a French force of 1,000 men near Duisburg and captured most of them.

Order of Battle
Detailed order of battle of Contades' army in June and July 1759.

On June 7, Contades' army marched to Frankenberg; the vanguard under Saint-Pern to Niederorke; d'Auvet to Medebach; and the reserve under de Muy to Treyssa (actual Schwalmstadt). De Muy launched his light troops on Jesberg, Borken and Homberg. Meanwhile, Ferdinand of Brunswick assembled his forces between Anrochte and Brenken.

During the night of June 7 to 8, Imhoff retired from Fritzlar to Kassel, sending the pontoons, artillery and hospital to Minden.

On June 8, Contades' army marched to Sachsenberg. Meanwhile, Broglie joined the reserve to re-assume command. The reserve sojourned at Treyssa while Saint-Pern and d'Auvet remained on their positions, sending light troops to Allendorf and Eppe, about 10 km from Corbach. Meanwhile, Bercheny Hussards, at Frankenau, protected the line of communication between the reserve and the main army. The same day, the Hereditary prince reached Dortmund.

On June 9, Imhoff left Zastrow in Kassel with 3 Hanoverian bns and 1 dragoon rgt to protect the evacuation of the magazines. Imhoff then retired to Liebenau towards Warburg. The same day, Broglie (18 bns, 29 sqns, including Volontaires de Clermont, Volontaires de Nassau and Volontaires d'Alsace) marched to Oberurff, advancing towards Kassel. He sent 18 grenadier coys to Fritzlar, light troops to Werkel, Volontaires to Felsberg, Schomberg Dragons to Obermöllrich and Niedermöllrich on the Eder and the Corps des carabiniers de Monsieur le Comte de Provence to Zennern. Saint-Pern reached Immighausen and d'Auvet Nieder-Schleidern.

On June 10, Contades marched northward from Sachsenberg through Waldeck on Corbach where his army encamped in 2 lines, his right at Strothe and its left at Lelbach. He established his headquarters in Corbach. Saint-Pern was at Sachsenhausen and d'Auvet at Rhene (unidentified location). Work was initiated to transform Corbach into a supply base for the French army. The same day, Bercheny Hussards marched from Frankenau to Waldeck.

During the night of June 10 to 11, Broglie made a forced march to surprise Zastrow at Kassel but the latter, with a force too small to defend Kassel in front of such a large army, evacuated Kassel, passed the Fulda, reached Münden and marched towards Hameln. Imhoff retreated to Lippstadt. In the morning, Broglie occupied Kassel where he found intact magazines. He then sent a detachment in pursuit of Zastrow. This detachment took possession of Münden and of other intact magazines. During his retreat, Imhoff was forced to abandon large quantities of fodder and oats at Witzenhausen and Dransfeld.

Order of Battle
Detailed order of battle of Ferdinand' army in early June1759.

On June 11, Ferdinand made a junction with Sackville's and Spörcken's corps at Soest. By this time, 6 companies of British grenadiers had been converged into a single battalion under the command of major Maxwell. Ferdinand then marched eastward towards Büren, leaving 9,000 men under general Wangenheim at Dülmen to watch d'Armentières's designs against Münster. Imhoff made a junction with Wutginau's corps at Büren. Ferdinand also recalled the Hereditary Prince from Düsseldorf. Nevertheless, his army was still weaker than the combined French armies.

On June 13, the Allied army retired to Anröchte. The same day, Contades who had decamped from Corbach marched northwards to Stadtberg (today Marsberg on the Diemel river), sending his light troops forward to Essentho on the Diemel (about 30 km south of Paderborn). Contades then encamped behind the Diemel covered by d'Auvet's corps (Orléans infantry brigade, Noé Cavalerie, Turpin Hussards) who encamped in front of the defiles near the village of Essentho on the left bank. Contades also sent 2 brigades to occupy the left bank of the Diemel, to cover Stadtberg and support the French positions at Essentho. Saint-Pern took position at about 8 km from Arolsen (actual Bad Arolsen). Broglie who was still at Kassel, received orders from Contades to make a junction with the main army as soon as possible.

During the night of June 13 to 14, Turpin Hussards, along with 1 rgt of light troops, approached the camp of Büren to observe the Allies, some skirmishes took place.

On June 14 in the morning, Contades advanced to Essentho with his main army in 6 columns, passed the Diemel and the defiles of Essentho unmolested and encamped between Essentho and Meerhof. The duc de Chevreuse, who had just replaced d'Auvet, was sent westward in front of Fürstenberg with a strong detachment. Saint-Pern (Grenadiers de France, Grenadiers Royaux, 1 infantry brigade) took position between Fürstenberg and the main army. Turpin Hussards and some light troops reached Wünnenberg while Bercheny Hussards took post at Atteln. The same day, Ferdinand joined Imhoff's and Wutginau's corps at Büren. Headquarters were established at the castle of Brenken. The army extended along the heights opposite Büren with the Alme rivulet to its front, a wood to its left and its right anchored on a steep slope. Both flanks were protected with entrenchments and artillery. At this date, the isolated corps of Wangenheim was still at the camp of Dülmen on the Lower Rhine.

On June 14 or 15, indecisive skirmishes took place between Leiberg and Wünnenberg between the light troops of both armies. Hanoverian hussars and jägers attacked the Volontaires of Chateau Thierry, Turpin Hussars and Volontaires de Dauphiné.

On June 15, Broglie set off from Kassel, leaving behind a garrison of 4 bns, 2 sqns and some light troops under Waldner; and force marched to Warburg with the intent to make a junction with the main French army near Meerhof. The same day, d'Armentières passed the Lower Rhine and advanced towards Schermbeck.

On June 16, Broglie, after 3 days of force march, reached Kleinenberg, 16 km north of Meerhof. Then, for a couple of days, the 2 armies faced each other without undertaking any action.

On June 17, Contades reconnoitred the Allied positions near Büren. Broglie's reserve remained at Kleinenberg.

On June 18, Contades, whose main force was still encamped at Meerhof until the completion of the new supply base at Corbach, sent 2 infantry brigades to occupy the heights of Helmern and Haaren near the Allied positions. Furthermore, Bercheny Hussards along with some light troops occupied the village of Helmern. Fischer's corps took post on the Allied right flank to threaten their communications with Lippstadt. Meanwhile, Broglie sent prince Xaver with a strong detachment to Brenken to threaten the Allied left, his light troops capturing Paderborn. Prince Xaver then proceeded by forced marches round the Allied left, threatening their communication from the Weser. Broglie reached Atteln with the rest of the Reserve. The same day, the Corps des carabiniers de Monsieur le Comte de Provence joined the main French army and the Gendarmerie de France remained at Stadtberg.

On June 19, his position at Büren becoming too dangerous, Ferdinand was forced to decamp and to retire between Lippstadt and Erwitte. His camp at Büren was immediately occupied by elements of Turpin Hussards. The same day, d'Armentières, arriving from Wesel, encamped at Schermbeck. Contades visited the camp of Broglie's reserve. The French had now the possibility to besiege Lippstadt and Münster or to force a battle. The situation of the Allied army was now critical. Ferdinand even asked that ships might be ready to evacuate the army from Emden.

On June 20, the Allied army passed the Lippe while a French detachment under M. de Muret made an unsuccessful attempt against its rear. The Allies then marched unmolested to Rietberg where they encamped in a strong position with the river Ems to their front, their right wing extending to the village of Wiedenbrück and their left to Neuenkirchen. Wangenheim's corps (11 bns and 7 sqns) was still near Dülmen to observe d'Armentières' corps at Schermbeck. The Allied hospitals previously located at Münster and Kassel were both transferred to Verden while the heavy baggage and the field hospital were moved to Nienburg. The same day, part of d'Armentières' corps, which had initially been left behind at Wesel, reached Borken.

On June 22, Contades sent 1 infantry brigade to Paderborn to prepare his installation in this town. Furthermore, he extended his light troops from Büren to Lippspringe (actual Bad Lippspringe).

On June 23, Broglie marched to Neuhaus (unidentified location) with the Reserve.

French capture Minden

On June 24, Contades advanced in 6 columns from Meerhof to Paderborn where he encamped with his right anchored on this town and his left extending up to the village of Wewer. He also deployed advanced posts at Neuhaus while Fischer's corps reached Detmold.. Chevreuse's corps moved from Fürstenberg to Büren, throwing a screen of light troops between Fürstenberg and Büren to cover the defiles of Stadtberg . The Grenadiers de France took post on the Alme and the Corps des carabiniers de Monsieur le Comte de Provence along with 1 infantry brigade at Atteln. The French army remained in these positions for a few days. Ferdinand was still unsure about Contades' intentions.

On June 29, Contades advanced northwestward from Paderborn towards Rietberg. He encamped at about 15 km from Rietberg, between Lippspringe and Schlangen to await a bread convoy. Broglie reached Osterholtz and Chevreuse marched from Fürstenberg to Neuhaus to cover the magazine at Paderborn. Contades also launched attacks against Allied advanced posts on the Embs. It now became clear to Ferdinand that his objective was the capture either of Hameln or Minden on the Weser. The same day, Wangenheim, who had been observing d'Armentières corps, was recalled to join the main Allied army. Leaving his camp at Dülmen, he marched to Wolbeck. On his way, he left Zastrow behind with 3,000 to garrison Münster.

On June 30, Ferdinand retired from Rietberg to Marienfeld, encamping between this place and Harsewinkel. French light troops harassed the Allied rear and a skirmish took place between Turpin and Bercheny Hussars and 5 sqns of Prussian hussars under colonel Narzinsky. Meanwhile, French light troops surprised and captured the castle of Rietberg, taking the garrison (130 men) prisoners. French light troops advanced up to Bielefeld.

By July 1, Contades army totalled 129 bns and 138 sqns, and consisted of the following corps:

  • first line: 37 bns and 29 sqns under the duc de Fitz-James, Nicolaï and the duc de Brissac
  • second line: 83 bns, 16 sqns under Andlau, the comte de Noailles and Dumesnil
  • d'Armentières' reserve (at Schermbeck) : 19 bns and 20 sqns
  • Broglie's reserve: 25 bns and 31 sqns
  • duc de Chevreuse's reserve: 12 sqns
  • Saint-Pern's reserve: 12 bns
  • Poyannes' reserve: 18 sqns
  • Hussars: 12 sqns
  • Artillery: 3 bns

On July 1, Contades detached Melfort with a brigade to make an attempt on Lippstadt, but the town was too well garrisoned to be in any danger in front of Melfort's force. (see the description of the French attempt on Lippstadt by the comte de Melfort).

On July 2, the main French army advanced to Stuckenberg near Bielefeld while Chevreuse marched to Delbrück and Muret took hold of Stromberg. Broglie was at Oerlinghausen.

On July 3, the Allied army decamped from Marienfeld and marched to Dissen, sending its light troops forward as far as Halle. Wangenheim reached Ladbergen, joining the main Allied army shortly after. The same day, French dragoons and light troops from Broglie's Reserve occupied Bielefeld. Meanwhile, Broglie reached Heepen and Herford. Ferdinand was nearer to his food supplies than the French. The two armies were separated by a broad chain of wooded hills.

On July 4, the main French army passed the defiles of Bielefeld, where Contades established his headquarters, and formed in the direction of Herford. It then waited for 2 days for supplies. The reserve was at Heepen about 5 km east of Bielefeld while the Grenadiers de France, the Grenadiers Royaux, the Gendarmerie de France and the Corps des carabiniers de Monsieur le Comte de Provence occupied position in front of the village of Schildesche, 3 km north of Bielefeld, with 1 brigade at Brackwede.

On July 5, d'Armentières marched northward from Schermbeck to Borken where he took position on both banks of the Aa, sending the Volontaires de Cambefort to Coesfeld and the Légion Royale to Dülmen. Meanwhile, in the area of Bielefeld, Turpin and Bercheny Hussards reached Steinhagen while the Volontaires and light troops of Broglie's corps reached Enger.

On July 6, d'Armentières, informed that the Allies had retired from the town of Münster into the citadel, marched on Coesfeld. His advance was covered by a detachment under the command of Conflans at Appelhülsen and another one under d'Argens in front of Coesfeld.

Several skirmishes took place between the light troops of both armies. The Allied hussars which were posted at Halle were attacked by a detachment of about 1,000 men (Volontaires de Clermont, coys of Grenadiers Royaux and some hussars) under the command of Voyer and forced to retire upon the castle of Ravensberg (unidentified location) where the Hanoverian jägers and Prussian light infantry were posted. The French detachment advanced on the castle but was repulsed, loosing about 20 men. The Allies then reinforced their light infantry with 5 grenadier bns and 4 dragoon sqns. Seeing this, the French detachment abandoned Halle. In another skirmish, the Prussian Ruesch Black Hussars along with some Hessians fought Turpin Hussars, taking more than 100 prisoners. Finally, Hanoverian jägers surprised a French party posted at Neuenkirchen, killing a captain and 17 Volontaires de Clermont and capturing 1 captain, 1 lieutenant and 46 privates.

On July 7, Contades' main army marched towards Herford; Chevreuse quitted Delbrück for Rietberg; and Turpin Hussards advanced on Warendorf which the Allies evacuated. Meanwhile Broglie reached Enger and 3 brigades of infantry occupied his former position at Herford.

On July 8, Contades' main army arrived at Herford, encamping on a difficult terrain with its right anchored to the Bega river. Andlau was left behind at Bielefeld to defend the defile of Brackwede. Fischer's corps marched to the Weser river, Corvey and Detmold. Meanwhile, d'Armentières remained at Nottuln while Conflans and Chabot marched to Münster and summoned the garrison who refused to capitulate. The same day, the Allied army decamped from Dissen and marched to Osnabrück while the heavy baggage were sent to Bremen. In the evening, Broglie marched with a strong detachment (16 bns, the Cuirassiers, Schomberg, Nassau, Fischer's corps and 1,400 other infantrymen from various units) from Enger towards Minden.

On July 9, Broglie's Reserve marched to Bergkirchen near Minden, supported by a strong detachment under the command of the prince de Condé at Rehme. Around 5:00 AM Allied jägers and dragoons retired in front of French hussars. Broglie summoned the Allied commander of Minden, Zastrow, now commanding the 1,500 men (1 Hessian bn and some picquets of various units) of the garrison of Minden, rejected the summon and the French invested the place. A hornwork protected the bridge giving access to Minden and Zastrow had removed all other means to pass the Weser. At 9:30 AM, Broglie wrote a dispatch mentioning that the town was too well defended to risk an attack. However, during this time, the Volontaires de Nassau had discovered a float of timber which Broglie immediately used to pass the river at the head of 300 light troops from Fischer's corps and the Volontaires de Lanoue. Broglie had also intructed M. de Closen to turn the town and to take position in front of the Nienburg gate to prevent the garrison from escaping. The light troops accompanying Broglie attacked the hornwork while a few guns enfiladed the bridge. The first French attack was driven back but the second one succeeded. Allied troops defending the hornwork precipitously retired into the town, leaving the drawbridge open. Grenadiers of Fischer's corps followed them on and entered into Minden. They opened the gates of the left bank. At 9:00 PM, Broglie's troops entered Minden. Zastrow resisted for some time but was forced to surrender. The French took 1,200 prisoners. Broglie found a large magazine in the captured town. The French had now secured a bridge over the Weser and had free access into Hanover. The same day, d'Armentières blockaded Münster, extending his right up to Sankt Mauritz and his left anchored on the Upper Aa. Contades, having supply problems, could not advance on Minden as quickly as he intended and was forced to remain at Herford for several days.

On July 10, the French invested Münster in form. Contades moved his headquarters from Bielefeld to Herford and sent part of his army to Gohfeld. The same day, Ferdinand decamped from Osnabrück and marched to Bohmte where he received the news that Broglie had surprised Minden on the day before.

In the night of July 10 to 11, d'Armentières made himself master of the suburb of Sankt Mauritz.

On July 11, Ferdinand remained at Bohmte with the main Allied army. He hesitated whether or not to return to Münster and then decided to fall back to the Lower Weser, so as to save his magazine at Nienburg. He also occupied the Imperial Free Town of Bremen in case he had to evacuate the Allied army. The same day, Ferdinand sent the Hereditary prince ahead to Stolzenau with a corps of 10,000 men along with all his light troops. Between Diepenau and Stolzenau, the Allied light troops engaged a party of 500 French infantry under the command of M. de Villars, defeating them and taking 200 prisoners. At Holzhausen, a little farther, the Prussian hussars attacked a party of 600 French cavalry frontally while Allied jägers attacked them in the rear to cut off their retreat. The French lost 200 men killed and 400 taken prisoners. Still the same day, d'Armentières positions at Sankt Mauritz were heavily cannonaded by the garrison of Münster. Judging that the general situation did not lend itself to a formal siege, d'Armentières countermanded the transport of his siege artillery from Wesel and took dispositions to storm Münster.

In the night of July 11 to 12, d'Armentières made an attempt to surprise the garrison of Münster, attacking the town in 5 different places. Groslier's column was stopped by abatis. Maupeou's column got lost following its guides and did not reached its assigned position in time and the attack aborted. In this action, d'Armentières lost 900 men killed and 1,400 wounded.

On July 12, Contades finally received some bread, allowing him to advance part of his troops towards Minden. Meanwhile, Broglie's reserve marched to Minden and was replaced at Enger by Duménil's corps (2 infantry brigades, Grenadiers de France, Grenadiers Royaux and 1 cavalry brigade).

On July 13, the main Allied army marched to Rahden and Diepenau. The same day, Contades sent forward a first corps ( infantry brigades of Picardie, Belzunce, Lorraine and Aquitaine along with 1 cavalry brigade) under M. de Beaupréau to Eidinghausen near Gohfeld.

On July 14, the main Allied army marched to Stoltzenau on the Weser where Ferdinand established his headquarters. He had now re-established his lines of communication by taking position between his magazine at Nienburg and Minden on the Weser. He also sent Dreves at the head of a detachment (4 bns) to Bremen to prevent the capture of the place. The same day, Contades' main army, now fully supplied, quitted Herford and reached Eidinghausen and encamped in 2 lines. Meanwhile, Beaupréau's corps passed the Weser and marched to the French camp near Minden where it replaced Broglie's reserve while Dumesnil quitted Enger and Broglie's reserved passed the Weser and took position at Bückeburg. Part of Contades light troops also seized Osnabrück.

In the night of July 14 to 15, general Dreves arrived before Bremen.

On July 15 at daybreak, Dreves surprised the garrison of Bremen and made himself master of the town. The same day, Contades' main army and Dumesnil's corps encamped near Minden with their right to the town and their left extending to Haddenhausen. They were covered by the Grenadiers Royaux, the Grenadiers de France and the Corps des carabiniers de Monsieur le Comte de Provence. The French right flank was covered by the Weser, the front by the Barte rivulet and the left by the large marsh extending beyond Lübbecke. The count of Raugrave's division was deployed in front in the plain between Minden and Kutenhausen to observe the Allies. Still the same day, Saint-Germain's corps (Auvergne brigade and 1 cavalry rgt) marched from Bielefeld on Hameln to prevent the Allied garrison of this place from harassing the French convoys coming from Kassel by Paderborn and Herford. The village of Lübbecke was occupied by the Bercheny and Turpin Hussars and the village of Hille by the Volontaires de Hainaut and Haller. A small French detachment under general Andlau was posted at Eickhorst supported by the division encamped at Gohfeld under the duc de Brissac.

The Allied army was still in a difficult situation: Fischer's corps raided the country up to the city of Hannover while the Volontaires de Dauphiné did the same towards Nienburg. Chevreuse blockaded Lippstadt, d'Armentières besieged Münster and Broglie, from Bückeburg, threatened the Allied line of communication with Hanover.

On July 16, Contades debouched into the basin of Minden with the rest of the main army and pushed a part of his army as far to the northward as Petershagen. D'Armentières continued the blockade of Münster and the duc de Chevreuse at the head of a detachment of about 3,000 men (3 bns, 3 sqns and some light troops) was sent to invest Lippstadt. Broglie passed the Weser and took position on the road to Bückeburg. Fischer's corps launched a raid into Hanover while other light troops advanced up to Osnabrück which had recently been captured by the French.

On the night of July 16 to 17, hoping to attack Broglie and Contades separately before their junction, Ferdinand marched in 3 columns from Stolzenau to Petershagen. However, he discovered the French army already deployed behind Minden morass with its right anchored on the town of Minden and its left to a height near Hartenhausen (unidentified location). Accordingly, he encamped the Allied army with its right at Brüninghorstedt and its left inclining to the Weser, establishing his headquarters at Ovenstädt in the rear of the left wing. The Allied vanguard consisted of Bevern's division (5 Hessian grenadier bns, 8 Hessian dragoon sqns), Wangenheim's division (8 Hanoverian bns, 10 Hanoverian sqns). The vanguard was placed at the head of the central column which included the heavy train of artillery. It encamped in front of Petershagen, the grenadiers in the first line and Wagenheim's corps in the second.

On July 17, hoping to lure the French into a battle, Ferdinand advanced his vanguard, supported by piquets of the main army, in the plain of Minden where it formed in front of the villages of Todtenhausen, Kutenhausen and Stemmer. The cavalry in the first line, the infantry in the second and the hussars on the left. A French corps positioned in front of Minden retired under the guns of the place. By 4:00 AM, the French army was in order of battle behind the morass. Ferdinand reconnoitred the French positions and ordered his army (45,000 men) to advance southward into the plain in 9 columns to offer battle:

  • 1st column: cavalry of the right wing
  • 2nd column: brigade of heavy artillery of the right wing
  • 3rd and 4th columns: infantry of the right wing
  • 5th column: brigade of heavy artillery of the centre
  • 6th and 7th column: infantry of the left wing
  • 8th column: brigade of heavy artillery of the left wing
  • 9tht column: cavalry of the left wing

The Allied army formed its line of battle behind the village of Todtenhausen with its right to the village of Südfelde and its left to the wood near the Weser. Raugrave's division retired under the guns of Minden and Contades sent orders to Broglie to join him. At 4:00 PM, the Allied army marched back to its old camp since the French had rearranged their positions, retiring to an unassailable position immediately to south of Minden.. Wangenheim's corps took its old position while Bevern encamped behind Todtenhausen, posting a grenadier battalion in this village. The Allied hussars took position between Kutenhausen and Stemmer. The same night, Broglie, who had repassed the Weser to join the main French army, passed it again and encamped with his right at Meinsen and his left to the Weser. Contades hoped to fix Ferdinand while his detachments accomplished their various missions.

So far Contades's campaign had been almost flawless. He had taken Kassel, the capital of Hesse, and had invested Lippstadt and Münster. Furthermore, he had taken Minden on the Weser and invested Hameln. He was now in a good position to control the Weser and, as soon as this would be done, to invade Hanover.

Ferdinand's position was now critical. With Contades fixing his army while remaining in an impregnable position, Ferdinand could hardly make any serious attempt against the French forces investing Lippstadt, Münster and Hameln. Indeed, Contades' army lay immediately to the south of Minden, communicating by three bridges with Broglie's corps on the other side of the Weser. Contades' right rested on Minden and the Weser, and his left on wooded hills while his front was covered by a wide morass traversed by the Bastau brook. However, the position, strong as it was, did not allow his army to move easily in all directions. Furthermore, the protection of the lines of communication between Minden and the French base at Kassel required to maintain strong detachments in the areas of Gohfeld and Herford. Ferdinand decided to gradually establish advanced posts in the villages in front of his position.

Allies approach Minden

On July 18, Wangenheim's corps took position before Todtenhausen while a detachment of 500 foot and 50 horse were posted at Fredewald. The same day near Lippstadt, the Bückeburg Carabiniers dispersed a French party.

On July 19, Allied piquets were posted at Stemmern and Holthausen. At night, they attacked French hussars at Hille, capturing 40 of them.

During the night of July 19 to 20, d'Armentières opened the trenches in front of Münster.

On July 20, Ferdinand ordered to make openings in the dyke between Holthausen and Todtenhausen to ease passage of his army to the plain of Minden.

During the night of July 20 to 21, with the arrival of his heavy artillery from Wesel, d'Armentières opened the trenches in front of the citadel of Münster.

On July 21, Allied infantry piquets were posted at Nord, Hemmern, Holthausen and Stemmern while cavalry piquets were placed between Fredewald and Holthausen.

On July 22, Wangenheim's corps, now numbering some 10,000 men, took new positions with Schaumburg-Lippe-Bückeburg Infantry encamped near the windwill before Petershagen. The same day, the garrison of Münster abandoned the town and retired into the citadel. The French entered into the town and took a few prisoners.

On July 24, the Allied perfected their bridge of boats near Ovenstädt and 2 Hanoverian grenadier bns, under the command of colonel Laferd, posted on the other side of the Weser at Windheim and Jössen were assigned to its protection.

On July 25 at 3:00 AM, the French batteries finally opened on the citadel of Münster. At 8:00 AM, the Allied garrison under the command of Zastrow capitulated. The 3,100 men of the garrison became prisoners of war. After the capture of Münster, d'Armentières became free to march on Lippstadt and to besiege it while Chevreuse was able to return to Minden with his detachment.

On July 27 in the afternoon, the Hereditary Prince set off from Petershagen with 6 bns (Alt Zastrow, Diepenbroick, Behr, Bock and the 2 bns of the Brunswick Leib-Regiment) and 8 dragoon sqns (Busche and Bock), totalling some 6,000 men, and marched south-westward towards Lübbecke to threaten the French left flank and the supply line between Minden and Paderborn. The same day, Schaumburg-Lippe-Bückeburg Infantry and the heavy artillery brigade took position behind the grenadier bns.

On July 28 in the morning, the Hereditary Prince drove back Bercheny Hussards and Volontaires du Hainaut occupying Lübbecke and protecting Contades' left flank. During their retreat, Bercheny Hussards were joined at the defile by Turpin Hussards, Volontaire de Prague and Volontaires de Muret. These French forces pushed back the Allied detachment pursuing the Volontaires du Hainaut. The same day, Gilsa Infantry, arriving from Stolzenau, joined the Allied army. Ferdinand detached Schleiffen with 40 hussars and a party (200 men) of Breidenbach Dragoons to relieve the small garrison of Vechta threatened by the French. Simultaneously, Dreves marched with the garrison of Bremen to make a junction with Schleiffen. Once united, the detachments of Schleiffen and Dreves marched on Osnabrück which was garrisoned by the Volontaires de Clermont. Schleiffen forced a gate of Osnabrück and made himself master of the town while the Volontaires de Clermont abandoned the place, leaving 2 guns, and retired on Hille and Münster.

Prelude to the Battle of Minden

On July 29, the Hereditary Prince, turning eastward, pursued his operations against the French communications and marched from Lübbecke to Riemsloh. Dreves, arriving from Osnabrück, made a junction with the Hereditary Prince at Riemsloh. The same day, Ferdinand, leaving Wangenheim's corps isolated about Todtenhausen, led the rest of the army in 3 columns by the right from Petershagen south-westward. The columns were composed as follows:

  • 1st column under Ferdinand of Brunswick: 1st line
  • 2dn column under count Lippe-Bückeburg: heavy artillery
  • 3rd column under Spörcken: 2nd line

The main Allied army encamped between Hille and Fredewald with the villages of Nord Hemmern and Holthausen to its front. The British held the place of honour on the right of the line. The British 12th Napier's Foot and 20th Kingley's Foot were assigned at the guard of Ferdinand's headquarters at Hille. Ferdinand instructed all general officers to get acquainted with all routes susceptible to lead their troops to the plain of Minden. Piquets were pushed on to Sud Hemmern, Hartum, and Hahlen villages on the eastern side of Hille, by the border of the morass. Wangenhein's corps, although isolated, was strongly entrenched, with several guns. His position covered the only outlet by which the French could debouch from behind the marsh. This secured the safe passage of Allied convoys from the Lower Weser. Furthermore, Ferdinand made sure that his left could rapidly link with Wangenheim's right. The same day, d'Armentières' corps marched from Münster towards Lippstadt, stopping at Rheda for the night.

On July 30, Gilsa marched from the Allied camp at the head of 3 bns (Linstrow, Prinz Karl and Brunswick I./Behr) to take post at Lübbecke to maintain communication with the Hereditary Prince. The same day, the Hereditary Prince advanced towards Herford. Contades, ignoring the dispositions taken by Ferdinand, considered that the Allied army was dispersed: the Hereditary Prince was at Herford with 10,000 men, 2,000 more were at Lübbecke, Ferdinand was at Hille with the greater part of the army and Wangenheim had detached part of his 10,000 men across the Weser. With his lines of communication with Paderborn and Kassel threatened, it looked very tempting for Contades to engage a battle against Ferdinand. In preparation for such an endeavour, he detached the duc de Brissac with 8,000 men to Gohfeld to cover the Hereditary Prince.

On July 31, the Hereditary Prince and General Dreves established themselves at Kirchlengern across the lines of communication between Minden and Paderborn and Kassel, cutting all supplies coming from the south to Contades' army. In the evening, Brissac's corps took position at Gohfeld with the Werra river in his front. The Hereditary Prince then decided to attack Brissac the next morning. The same day, an Allied detachment of 300 horse of the right wing joined Gilsa at Lübbecke and d'Armentières reached Langenberg, only 11 km north of Lippstadt. Still the same day, Contades received the authorisation from the court to engage the Allied army. He could bring 51,000 men with 162 guns into the plain of Minden while Ferdinand could oppose him only 41,000 men and 170 guns. Contades then chose to attack the apparently isolated corps of Wangenheim and to pass the defile of Minden. Accordingly, he threw 8 bridges over the Bastau, a rivulet running between the morass and Minden, for the passage of his troops across it in as many columns and erected a battery of 6 guns on the causeway of Eickhorst leading to Hille through the morass. He also ordered Broglie to be ready to cross the Weser with his corps to form a 9th column upon his right.

Battle of Minden

On August 1, the Allied army defeated the French army in the battle of Minden. The British infantry showed extraordinary bravery while British cavalry shamefully stayed out of the action. The same day, at 3:00 AM, the Hereditary Prince had set from his camp at Quernheim, attacked and routed Brissac at the engagement of Gohfeld. Since the Hereditary Prince had already cut the line of communication from Minden to Paderborn and Kassel, where the French had considerable magazines, the French army was forced to retreat through countries where it had no subsistence. Still the same day, d'Armentières arrived in front of Lippstadt, establishing his headquarters at Hellinghausen, 5 km west of the town and deploying the Légion Royale and Thianges Dragons northward at Warendorf and Telgte to guard his communications with Münster.

The Allies now had the initiative and proceeded to a general counter-offensive in Western Germany which by the end of the year had driven back the French to the positions that they had occupied at the beginning of the campaign.


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
  • 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

Other Sources

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