1760-10-16 - Battle of Clostercamp
Prelude to the Battle
On September 22 1760, during the campaign in West Germany, Ferdinand resolved to prepare an offensive on the Lower Rhine with the objective of Capturing the fortress of Wesel. On the same day, a powerful train of siege-artillery, under the count of Lippe-Bückeburg, marched away from Geismar for Wesel. On September 25, the Hereditary Prince followed from Warburg with 15,000 men to cover the siege of Wesel. A few day later, Ferdinand sent reinforcements to the Hereditary Prince (12 bns, 4 cavalry rgts). The British division consisted of the 11th Foot, 20th Foot, 23rd Foot, 25th Foot, 33rd Foot, 51st Foot; 2 grenadier bns, 2 Highlanders bns, the 1st (Royal) Dragoons, 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons and 10th Dragoons. On September 30, the Hereditary Prince appeared in front of Wesel. By October 3, the place was completely invested. Meanwhile Castries was advancing with a relief force by forced marches, despite the dreadful state of the roads, along a route full 80 km south of the prince's, to the Rhine. On October 12, Castries crossed the Rhine at Cologne. By October 13, Castries had assembled a corps of 32 bns and 38 sqns (about 20,000 men) at Neuss. On October 14, Castries marched to Moers, his vanguard reaching Rheinberg, forcing an Allied advanced post to retire. When the Hereditary Prince heard of the approach of a French relief force, he resolved to attack it. Accordingly, he left a few bns in the trenches and marched to the enemy despite his numerical inferiority (21 bns and 22 sqns). On October 15, the Hereditary Prince encamped at Ossenberg on the left bank of the Rhine. The same day, Castries took position in a strong position behind the Eugene Canal running from Geldern to Rheinberg.
Description of Events
On October 15, at 10:00 PM, leaving 3 bns and 4 sqns towards Rheinberg in front of the French right, the Hereditary Prince marched in dead silence on Clostercamp with 18 bns and 20 sqns. His force was disposed in 5 divisions. The 1st Royal Dragoons and 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons, and Prussian hussars formed the advanced guard. Then came the support of 2 battalions of Highlanders; then the main body under command of general Waldegrave; then the reserve under general Howard; then a rear-guard of the 10th Dragoons and 10 Hanoverian and Hessian squadrons.
Map and initial deployment
Castries had taken up a position behind the Eugenian Canal, facing north-west, with his right resting on Rheinberg, and with the abbey of Kloster Kamp, on the northern side of the canal, before his left front. Immediately before his left, but on his own side of the canal, stood the village of Kampenbrück, consisting of several scattered houses with gardens, ditches, and hedges. In front and to the left, or western, side of Kampenbrück was a morass covered by a straggling wood of sparse and stunted trees, through which were cut paths to a bridge that connected the village with the abbey on the other side of the canal. Across this bridge lay the Prince's only way to penetrate into the French camp; and Castries had been careful to guard the passage by posting no less than 2,000 irregular troops in and about the abbey. The only possible chance for the Prince lay in an attack by surprise.
On October 16 at 2:00 AM, the Allied vanguard reached a French outpost 2 km north of Clostercamp. Despite the strict orders, Allied troops fired on this post which was soon taken. This sporadic fire did not alarm the French troops who believed that it was simply a patrol. The Allied army managed to reach the bridge over the Eugene canal unmolested, thus cutting off Fischer Corps in the abbey from the French main body.
The isolated Fischer Corps was then attacked. Fischer took the only reasonable decision and, despite darkness, assembled most of his men and retired towards Guelders. While the musketry was still crackling loud round the abbey's walls the prince stealing silently on with the British grenadiers penetrated into the wood towards village of Kampenbrück. Nevertheless alarm had been given and the French left wing dressed the ranks, but the darkness of the night prevented it to take any other precautions safe to send grenadiers and chasseurs of Auvergne Infanterie on the left at the place from where the enemies could debouch, to support Fischer's Corps as agreed the previous day.
The Hereditary Prince resumed his march so quietly and yet so swiftly that he had passed the canal at Niederkamp and seized the village of Kampenbrück before the French were aware of his presence. Castries went to the left wing where he found M. de Rochambeau who had deployed the chasseurs and grenadiers of Auvergne Infanterie on the road to Moers as well as in the hedges and houses of Kampenbrück. This advanced post had temporarily stopped the Allied column, allowing Auvergne Infanterie to come to its support.
A picquet of Auvergne Infanterie posted in the thickets in front of Kampenbrück came to contact with British grenadiers. Captain chevalier d'Assas then shouted “Auvergne, voici les ennemis!” before falling, pierced by several bayonets. Rochambeau reported the situation to Beusenval who sent ahead lieutenant-colonel de Ségur. The latter immediately rushed to the spot with a battalion of Auvergne Infanterie and advanced into the village where he was wounded and captured. Furthermore, M. de Beusenval had his horse killed under him and M. de Castagnos was wounded. Castries ordered Rochambeau to deploy the 4 battalions of Auvergne Infanterie along the canal, their extreme left anchored on the marsh near Kampenbrück.
Castries then led Alsace Infanterie to the left wing to support Auvergne Infanterie. Alsace Infanterie took positions in the hedges and houses to the right of Auvergne Infanterie and these 2 brigades sustained repeated attacks.
With the Allies advance stopped, Castries now dealt with the means to oblige them to retire, and it was with this in view that La Tour-du-Pin Infanterie, who was then arriving, was ordered to advance in column by the right on a wide opening debouching on Kloster Kamp where the Allied column could be attacked in the rear. The guns of this brigade then opened on the left flank of the Allies. A fierce combat ensued. Meanwhile, M. de Lugeac planted 2 16-pdrs, under the command of M. Thiboutot, in front of the Gendarmerie de France. The supports of the Allies came up in their turn; and the fight swayed furiously backward and forward until daylight.
At daybreak, M. de Roquepine arrived from the right with 8 battalions while M. de Chabot was instructed to leave only 200 men of Fischer Corps in the town and to march to the point of attack with the rest of his corps. The reserves of the Allies were promptly and frequently summoned, but through some mistake were not to be found. Auvergne Infanterie and Alsace Infanterie having suffered heavily while repulsing repeated attacks. M. d'Auvet was sent to their support with Normandie Infanterie and Briqueville Infanterie.
D'Auvet's brigade entered into the hedges to stop the head of the Allied column. Still the little force of British and Hanoverians fought desperately on.
As the action lasted since three hours and could not be decided, M. de Castries went himself at La Tour-du-Pin Infanterie to make it charge at the point of the bayonet the Allied column attacking Auvergne Infanterie, Alsace Infanterie and Normandie Infanterie. The Hereditary Prince himself fell wounded from his horse. After a deadly combat which lasted until noon, the Allies, unable to drive the French out of their positions, were forced to retire on Alpen.
The French broke their ranks with loud cries of exultation for the pursuit and entered into the heath near Kampenbrück despite orders given to them to keep their position. Elliot's British cavalry swooped down upon them, charging home as their custom is, broke up 2 battalions completely, and drove the rest flying back in confusion into the hedges.
D'Auvet then advanced with I./Briqueville Infanterie who fired on the British cavalry and stopped it.
Royal-Piémont Cavalerie along with 1 squadron of Balincourt Cavalerie, led by the comte de Thiard de Bissy, now came forward in overwhelming numbers and handled the British squadrons very roughly; but the charge of the British cavalry had given the infantry time to rally, and to make their retreat in good order.
The Allied reserve finally appeared at Kloster Kampen in time to cover the retiring troops.
By noon, the battle of Clostercamp was over.
During the combat on the French left wing, a small Allied column tried to turn the French right and fired a few cannonballs on the Royal-Étranger cavalry brigade, commanded by the marquis de Cursay, who managed to contain the Allied column till the arrival of La Couronne infantry brigade. Upon the approach of this brigade, the Allied column retired.
During the affair, the Allies planned to attack Rheinberg. The comte de Chabot, who commanded there with the vanguard, and who, not waiting for the orders given to him by M. de Castries, had moved part of his troops on his left to be in a better position to help him, walked immediately to his right when he heard that fire was moving away and he penetrated in Rheinberg at the moment when an enemy detachment was going to attack it. His dispositions during this day were made with such accuracy that he was always able to help the left and to assure the right for which he was responsible. When the enemies retired, he debouched from Rheinberg, followed them up and took a few prisoners.
The Allies lost 10 officers, 16 NCOs and 221 privates killed; 68 officers, 43 NCOs and 812 privates wounded; 7 officers, 6 NCOs and 429 privates made prisoners 1 gun, 1 British colour and 14 ammunition wagons. Lieutenant-colonels Pitt and Lord Downe were wounded and taken prisoners; major-generals Elliot and Griffin together with lieutenant-colonels Johnson and Harvey were wounded; and Major Follock of Keith's Highlanders was killed. The Hereditary Prince had his horse killed under him and received a slight wound in a leg.
The French loss was as heavy and heavier, Normandie, Auvergne and Alsace brigades having heavily suffered. Overall, 2,469 men and 192 officers of all ranks had been killed or wounded. The French infantry alone losing 19 captains killed and 87 wounded; 7 lieutenants killed and 76 wounded; 815 soldiers killed and 1,644 wounded. The French cavalry lost 1 officer killed and 3 wounded; 5 troopers killed and 28 wounded; and 92 horses killed or wounded. Furthermore, lieutenant-general de Ségur and brigadier-general de Wangen and 300 men were taken prisoners. The marquis de la Tour-du-Pin had been wounded by a shot in the thigh, the marquis d’Escars, colonel of Normandie, by a shot at the head. The comte de Rochambeau, colonel of Auvergne, had been slightly wounded. The baron de Wangen, brigadier, colonel commanding Alsace Infanterie, had been captured at the beginning of the action. M. de Grenneville, officer of the Gendarmerie, had been killed by a gun shot. The French also lost 2 guns and 1 pair of colours.
The struggle was unusually stubborn and murderous, and the fire of the British was so rapid and deadly that 3 French brigades were almost wiped out of existence. Yet it is said that after this action the Hereditary Prince would never take British troops under his command again (yet the British Guards were with him on the Lippe in 1761). He admitted that general Waldegrave did wonders in the combat, but he complained of the behaviour of his troops, though Waldegrave bore witness that not a man retired until his ammunition was exhausted. It may have been that the prince was irritated by the failure of the reserve to arrive when it was wanted; but no blame is imputed to any one for this mischance, which appears to have been due simply to bad luck. Mauvillon, who is always very frank in his criticism of the British, says flatly that he does not believe in their misconduct on this occasion; and as the only extant list of casualties, though very far from complete, shows that they lost 500 killed and wounded, it should seem that the prince's strictures were ill deserved.
Order of Battle
Allied Order of Battle
Commander-in-chief: Karl Wilhelm Ferdinand Hereditary Prince of Brunswick
Summary: 7.500 men in 21 bns, 22 sqns and 24 guns, excluding Kielmansegg's brigade left behind in front of Wesel (as per Savory), all units being much below strength with an average battalion strength of about 250 men
Troops within each column listed in order of march: right wing forming the head.
Avant-garde under major-general Elliot
- Prussian Malachowski Hussars (2 sqns) under lieutenant-colonel Jeanneret
- British 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons (2 sqns)
- British 1st Royal Dragoons (2 sqns) aka Conway
- British 87th Foot Keith's Highlanders (1 bn)
- British 88th Foot Campbell's Highlanders (1 bn)
Main force under lieutenant-general Waldegrave
- Avant-garde under colonel Beckwith
- Main body
- Reserve under lieutenant-general Howard
- Cavalry under colonel Harvey
Containing force under major-general von Bock, north of Rheinberg
- Hanoverian Alt Zastrow (1 bn)
- Hessian 3. Garde (2 bns)
- Hanoverian Bock Dragoons (4 sqns)
- Hanoverian and Hessian artillery (24 guns), for the most part but some guns assigned to other brigades
Containing the French north of Rossenray
- Hanoverian Volontaires (1 bn) under captain von Winzigerode
Kielmansegg's brigade left behind near Wesel
French Order of Battle
Commander-in-chief: lieutenant-general marquis de Castries, his headquarters in Rossenray with part of II./Corps Royal de l'Artillerie - Invilliers Brigade (1 battery of 6 guns, including 2 to 4 16-pdrs)
Summary: 16,000 men in 31 bns, 32 sqns and 6 field guns, excluding Fischer Corps (as per Renouard). Savory gives only some 7,000 men. However, in a relation of the battle written by Castries himself, he evaluates the French force who took part to the engagement to 12,000 men, including cavalry.
|First Line||Second Line||Reserve|
|Far Right under maréchal-de-camp comte de Chabot assisted by maréchal-de-camp marquis de Roquépine|
|La Couronne brigade under the comte de Montbarrey in front of Rheinberg||Brigade Liégeoise under M. de Sionville (absent) in Rheinberg||Rouergue infantry brigade under the comte de Champagne, south of Rheinberg
Réserve de dragons under the maréchal-de-camp duc de Fronsac
|Right Wing under lieutenant-general marquis d’Auvet|
La Tour-du-Pin brigade (4 bns) under the marquis de la Tour-du-Pin
|Royal-Étranger cavalry brigade under the marquis de Cursay|
|Left Wing under lieutenant-general marquis de Ségur assisted by maréchaux-de-camp baron de Beusenval and baron de Wurmser|
|Alsace infantry brigade (4 bns) under the baron de Wangen
Auvergne infantry brigade (4 bns) under the comte de Rochambeau
|Royal-Piémont cavalry brigade under the comte de Thiard de Bissy||Gendarmerie de France (8 sqns) under the marquis de Lugeac|
|Fischer Corps (1 bn and 4 sqns), detached on the far left at Kloster Kamp|
- Pajol also mention a “Mante” militia battalion accompanying the artillery
- The bulk of Castries' remaining heavy guns (16?) under the command of the chevalier de Pelletier, maréchal-de-camp, actually arrived at the end of the action and formed up behind the cavalry
The main source for this article has been an article written by Christian Rogge on “the French and Allied armies at Kloster Kamp October 16, 1760”. This article has been complemented with texts extracted 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. 533-534
- Carlyle T. History of Friedrich II of Prussia, Vol. 20
- Castries, Duc de; Le Maréchal de Castries (1727-1800), Flammarion, 1956, pp. 41-49
- Castries, marquis de; Relation de la Bataille donnée par M. le marquis de Castries le 16 octobre 1760
- Fortescue J. W., A History of the British Army Vol. II, MacMillan, London, 1899, pp. 515-518
- 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. 178-179
- Jomini, baron de, Traité des grandes opérations militaires, Vol. 3, 2nd ed., Magimel, Paris, 1811, pp. 238-239
- Pajol, Charles P. V., Les Guerres sous Louis XV, vol. V, Paris, 1891, pp. 70-73
- Renouard, Carl; Geschichte des Krieges in Hannover, Hessen und Westphalen von 1757 bis 1763, Kassel 1863
- Tempelhof, G. F. v., Geschichte des Siebenjährigen Krieges in Deutschland vol. IV, Berlin, 1783
Évrard, Philippe; Praetiriti Fides
Savory, R; His Britannic Majesty’s Army in Germany during the Seven Years War, Oxford 1966