1759 - Prussian incursion in Franconia

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Hierarchical Path: Seven Years War (Main Page) >> Campaigns >> 1759 - Prussian incursion in Franconia

The campaign lasted from April to June 1759


At the beginning of 1759, the Reichsarmee and its Austrian auxiliaries had advanced into Thuringia and Franconia, and reached Erfurt where they took post, formed magazines and strengthened the fortifications. In March, the Prussian army of Prince Henri and a detachment of the Allied army of Ferdinand of Brunswick conducted joint operations in Thuringia to dislodge the Austro-Imperial troops from this country. By the end of the month they had driven them back to Franconia.

In April at the opening of the campaigning season, a Prussian army of 43 bns and 60 sqns was deployed in Saxony under the command of Prince Henri. For their part, the Austrians had positioned Gemmingen's Corps (9 bns, 39 sqns, 3,000 Grenzers) on the Eger (present-day Ohře River) on the frontier between Bohemia and Saxony while another Austrian corps of 15,000 men had already joined the Reichsarmee cantoned in Franconia near the Saxon border with another strong division occupying the Bishopric of Fulda and several important posts on the Werra near Hesse. Globally these forces amounted to about 45,000 men.

On April 15, Frederick II ordered Prince Henri to raid the Bohemian border and to destroy as much Austrian magazines as he could. This area was guarded by Gemmingen but his forces were too spread out and the raid was a success.

Around mid-April, the Duke of Zweibrücken joined the Reichsarmee. He decided to assemble his army between Schweinfurt and Lichtenfels, thus breaking the communication of his left wing with the French army of the Duc de Broglie. Zweibrücken vainly asked Broglie to attack the rear of the Allies. However, with Ferdinand concentrating the Allied army against him, Broglie was in no position to bring his support to Zweibrücken. Nevertheless, Broglie sent Schomberg's detachment forward to Lohr and Wertheim on the Upper Main.

On April 23, Prince Henri's force was back in Saxony.

Frederick then decided to send the Prussian Army of Saxony against the Reichsarmee to put it out of action for a certain time. The success of this operation would allow Prince Henri to make his junction with Frederick in prevision of the coming campaign against the Russians.

On April 26, Prince Henri marched his troops to Obel-Geburgen (unidentified location).


Left part of the map showing manoeuvres during the Prussian incursion in Franconia in May 1759.
Source: Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen, volume III by the German Grosser Generalstab
Courtesy of Tony Flores
Right part of the map showing manoeuvres during the Prussian incursion in Franconia in May 1759.
Source: Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen, volume III by the German Grosser Generalstab
Courtesy of Tony Flores


At the end of April, the Austro-Imperial army, under the command of the Duke of Zweibrücken, was divided into several detachments:

  • Hadik's Corps was entrenched at Münchberg
  • Maquire's Corps encamped at Asch (present-day Aš in Bohemia) near Egra (present-day Cheb)
  • Margrave of Baden's Corps at Stadtsteinach
  • Zweibrücken's main army

From April 29 to May 5, Prince Henri left the Zschopau region and marched on Bamberg in Franconia in three columns.

On April 29, the leftmost column led by Finck departed.

On May 4, Zweibrücken's main army marched to Kulmbach while detachments occupied Hof and Nordhalben. The same day, Prince Henri resolved to attack Hadik's entrenched camp of Münchberg without delay. He assembled his forces (23 bns, 40 sqns) at Zwickau. Prince Henri planned to send 2 detachments on the flanks of the Austro-Imperial army and to attack it frontally with his main force. Knobloch (7 bns) marched from Gera to Auma on their left flank and rear while Finck (9 bns and 10 sqns) marched to Waldkirchen near Reichenbach in Vogtland on their right.

On May 5, Prince Henri started with his own column while Knobloch marched to Schleiz.

On May 6, Knobloch marched to Lobenstein (Bad Lobenstein) while Finck marched to Bergen (unidentified location) and Prince Henri's main army advanced to Pöhl.

On May 7, Prince Henri moved towards Reichenbach in Vogtland with the main Prussian army and encamped near Oelsnitz. He then attacked Maquire (8 bns and some cavalry) near Hof, forcing him to retire by Asch (present-day Aš) and capturing the Prince of Salm. Among the Austro-Imperial troops, Marschall (1 bn), Salm (1 bn) and the Darmstadt Grenadiers (1 bn) suffered considerably. Simultaneously, Knobloch marched to Nordhalben, advanced on Saalfeld, and passed the Saale near Saalburg. Knobloch's manoeuvre forced Ried's Austro-Imperial force to fall back behind Nordhalben. The same day, Finck took position at Adorf.

On May 8, the Prussians attacked Ried in Nordhalben, forcing him to retire to Steinwiesen where he was again attacked. Ried then fell back to Wallenfells. The same day, Finck marched to Asch. Maquire bravely withstood all Finck's efforts for the whole day but, being in danger of being overpowered by numbers and without any hope for support, Maquire retired southeastwards during the night through Haslau (present-day Hazlov) towards Eger (present-day Cheb).

On May 9, Knobloch marched to Zeyern and Prince Henri's main army advanced to Hof, his advanced guard reaching Birk. During this time, Finck, informed of Maquire's manoeuvre, halted near Nagel, waiting for Maquire to engage into the defiles of Fichtelberg. Finck also asked Prince Henri for additional troops and immediately received 4 bns and 10 sqns.

During the night of May 9 to 10, Hadik abandoned his entrenched camp near Münchberg to avoid an open battle and retired to Kulmbach where he arrived in the morning, joining the forces of M. de la Touche.

On May 10, Maquire marched to Wunsiedel on his way to Bayreuth while most of the Austro-Imperial army assembled at Kulmbach, sending baggage away by the route of Bamberg. In the evening, the reunited Austro-Imperial army marched to Grasmannsdorf where the rearguard took post under the command of General Pálffy. The same day, Prince Henri arrived near Münchberg while Knobloch marched to Kronach and Finck marched to Weißenstadt by Sparneck and Münchberg.

On May 11, Finck marched to Doberz (unidentified location) and Prince Henri marched to Benk Bindlach in the neighbourhood of Bayreuth and established his headquarters at Himmelskron. In the afternoon, a Prussian detachment (Meinicke Dragoons and Szekely Hussars) under the command of General Platen charged Riedesel's Austro-Imperial rearguard which was retreating towards Kulmbach. Platen took 2,500 men prisoners (1 general, 20 officers, Cronegk Infantry and 522 men of the Kurpfalz Leib-Dragoner). The same day, the main Austro-Imperial army marched to Bamberg while Maquire modified his itinerary and marched towards Nuremberg. Indeed, Maquire had been informed of the movements of the Prussians in time to avoid being trapped in the defiles of Fichtelberg, redirecting his march towards Nuremberg to entrench in the impregnable camp he had there. Nevertheless, Finck's vanguard caught up with Maquire's rearguard near Nagel, capturing 11 officers and 319 men.

On May 12, Knobloch was still before Kronach while Finck marched to Bayreuth and Prince Henri's main army remained at Benk.

On May 13, Knobloch marched to Zeulnweg while Itzenplitz marched to Melkersdorf (unidentified location) and Finck made a junction with Prince Henri's main army at Altstädt (unidentified location).

On May 14, Knobloch marched to Lichtenfels while Itzenplitz marched to Ahrendorf (unidentified location) and Prince Henri's main army marched to Hollfeld, sending its advanced guard to Heiligenstadt in Upper FRanconia on the road to Bamberg. The same day, the main Austro-Imperial army evacuated Bamberg, leaving General Kolb with some 2,000 Grenzer light troops behind to occupy the town and another force of about 4,000 men to escort a large magazine being transferred to Forchheim. The main Austro-Imperial army then encamped at Hochstadt.

On May 15, Knobloch marched to Zapfendorf while Itzenplitz marched to Scheßlitz and Prince Henri's vanguard marched to Nistendorf (unidentified location).

On May 16, Knobloch's and Itzenplitz's corps made a junction with Prince Henri's vanguard at Bamberg. The united forces being placed under the command of Itzenplitz while Prince Henri's main army still remained at Hollfeld. On the approach of the Prussians, the city of Bamberg surrendered on terms. Before the capitulation was completely finished, a party of Grenzers fired upon some Prussian troops stationed near one of the gates. This was considered by the Prussians as a breach of capitulation and Itzenplitz's force entered into Bamberg. Street fighting against the Grenzer light troops ensued. It took a few hours to rid the towns of these light troops who marched to Sommerfeld (unidentified location). The Prussians then pillaged the city for 2 days in a very licentious manner, seizing a considerable magazine which had been partly destroyed. Bamberg then became a Prussian place-of-arms. The same day, the Castle of Kronach surrendered to Knobloch after a brief cannonade. Still the same day, after throwing 8 bns into Würzburg to defend it against Knobloch's entreprises, Zweibrücken marched to Herzogenaurach near Nuremberg with the main Austro-Imperial army, abandoning most of Franconia to the contributions inflicted by the Prussians.

On May 17, the Prussian army encamped at Sachsendorf while the main Austro-Imperial army made a junction with Maquire's and Kolb's corps at Steinbach behind Nuremberg and encamped there. From this camp, Zweibrücken was able to pass the Danube at Donauwörth if necessary.

Upon this, Prince Henri was informed that General Gemmingen was entering into Saxony with an important Austrian army and that the Russians were in full march. He decided to retreat to Hof.

On May 21, after raising large contributions at Bamberg and destroying several enemy's magazines, Prince Henri sent his artillery and heavy baggage back to Saxony.

On May 22, Prince Henri marched back towards Saxony, leaving 1,000 men at Hof.

On May 25, the Prussian detachment under Itzenplitz left behind as rearguard in Hof followed the main body. During this incursion, Prince Henri was seeking to engage into an open battle with the Austro-Imperial army. However, he did not succeed in his scheme. Rather than advancing deeper into enemy territory, he resolved to return to Saxony.

On May 30, the vanguard of the Austro-Imperial army under the command of General Pálffy was sent to harass the rear of the Prussian army. An engagement took place between Berneck (Bad Berneck) and Gefrees near Hof. Pálffy was defeated and lost a great number of killed and wounded and several prisoners among whom General Kleefeld. The Prussians then pursued the Austro-Imperial vanguard up to Bayreuth.

On June 1, Prince Henri was back to the Saxon frontier. Seeing this Gemmingen retired into Bohemia with his Austrian corps.

On June 3, Prince Henri's forces were assembled in the neighbourhood of Zwickau.

Wunsch, lieutenant-colonel of Frei-Infanterie von Wunsch, distinguished himself in this expedition. Kleist, of the Szekely Hussars, also made a figure there.


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. 366-367
  • Carlyle, T.: History of Friedrich II of Prussia, Vol. 19
  • Hotham: 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, p.89-91
  • Jomini, Baron de: Traité des grandes opérations militaires, Vol. 3, 2nd ed., Magimel, Paris, 1811, pp. 67, 71-76
  • Pajol, Charles P. V.: Les Guerres sous Louis XV, vol. IV, Paris, 1891, pp. 369-383