1760-11-03 - Battle of Torgau

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Hierarchical Path: Seven Years War (Main Page) >> Battles and Encounters >> 1760-11-03 - Battle of Torgau

Prussian Victory

Prelude to the Battle

On October 30 field marshal count Leopold Daun retired into his strong camp on the heights west of Torgau: Frederick II could not allow the Austrians to sit down on the Saxony resources of food, money and recruits, in a position on the Elbe which left the south flank of Brandenburg open. Therefore the King looked for a decisive battle. Accordingly on November 2, he advanced on Schildau, some 11 km south of Torgau. The army camped between Langenreichenbach, Wildschütz and Probsthain: all together 44,000 men with 62 battalions, 102 squadrons, 151 heavy guns. A further 14 battalions and 38 squadrons were distributed between Trossin, Gross-Zscheppa, Eilenburg, Düben und Leipzig.

Daun was deployed between Großwig and Zinna facing northward. The reconnaissance showed that the Austrian position was a strong one: indeed from the same camp both prince Henri and Hülsen defied Austrian attacks in the 1759 campaign. The Süptzitz Heights were steep and covered with sandy vineyards: the Rohrgraben was marshy banked and swelled with rain, and can be crossed only at some irrigation ditches. The ponds in front of Torgau made the area almost impassable. Further, the right flank was covered by the Dommitzscher Heide and by a Prussian abatis made in 1759 by prince Henri. The camp was cornered by fieldworks and earthen redoubts. A frontal attack from the southern route promised therefore as costly as a new Kunersdorf.

Frederick decided therefore to attack the Austrians from the north, where the hills climbed slowly southward in a gentle slope, using the Dommitzscher Heide to cover the flank march. The diversionary attack from the “refused wing” was entrusted to a whole corps at the orders of Ziethen. Hence Frederick split the army in two: 41 battalions and 48 squadrons under himself were to made a clockwise circuitous move of nearly 18 km into and around the Dommitzscher Heide to attack Daun position from the north. Zieten with 21 battalions and 54 squadrons was to attack at the same time the Süptitz heights from the south in order to take Daun between two fires and to cut the Austrian line of retreat to the Elbe.

In the late afternoon of November 2 Frederick gave private and verbal instructions to Ziethen regarding his task; those given to his generals were: “The Army will set up tomorrow at 6.30 a.m. in four columns on the left: the Schorlemmer Dragoons, the Mohring and Dingelstadt Hussars and the Frei-Dragoons shall remain in observation at Weidenhain. Since an enemy corps should be close to Pretzsch, they shall set out in order to face any situation. Our left wing shall attack the Austrians: accordingly the generals will ensure that the battalions shall march closed in order to be mutually supporting. The distance between lines will be 250 paces. When the enemy will be evicted from the vineyards, heavy guns batteries shall be deployed and the battalions rallied. As many squadrons as will be available shall advance on demand. His Majesty is confident in the skill of the officers and doesn't have any doubt that they shall make every effort to achieve a complete victory”.

On November 2, when the king's march to Schildau became evident, Daun shifted the front to the south. The Lacy corps was withdrawn in a position behind the Grosser Teich near Torgau, where it would be able to cover the retreat line to the Elbe against an enemy attack from the south. The Prinz Karl Chevauxlegers from this corps were detached at the Losswiger Damm. Brentano light cavalry (Kaiser and Hesterazy Hussars, Schiebel Uhlanen) remained at Dahlen to guard the local depot and to maintain open the line of communications with Dresden on the left-bank of the Elbe.

The light troops of Ried corp remained to cover the right flank which was now at Mockrehna. The grenadiers and carabiniers from the left wing were at Weidenhain whereas the grenadiers from the right wing were at Neiden. The latter, together with the Batthyányi Dragoons assured protection to Daun’s headquarters in Neiden. The Reserve corp was behind the left wing grenadiers at Großwig. Altogether Daun had at hand, besides the detached light troops, 55,000 man into 35 infantry and 24 cavalry regiments, supported by 275 guns, 58 of them being 12-pdrs., 24-pdrs, and howitzers.


Map of the battle of Torgau - Source: "With Frederick the Great" by A. Henty
Map of the battle of Torgau - Source: "The Universal Magazine, vol. XXVII, December 1760". Fabrizio Davì, personal collection
Map of the battle of Torgau - Source: "Schlachten der neueren Zeit by B. Herder 1843". Fabrizio Davì, personal collection.

Prussians (light blue)
a- Prussian camp (out of the map)
b- First Column approach march
c- Second Column approach march
d- Third Column approach march
e- Zieten Corps Infantry
f- Kleist light cavalry and Frei Batn. Salenmon
g- Syburg and Stutterheim grenadiers
h- Ramin and Gablenz Brigades
i- Brigade Butzke
(dark blue: Holstein cavalry attack)
l- right wing cavalry attack: Schmettau Cuirassiers and Bayreuth Dragoons
m- left wing cavalry attack
k- right wing cavalry attack: Spaen and Markgraf Friederich Cuirassiers

Austrians (pink)
A - Daun's first position
B - Corps de Reserve
C - Ferrari's Grenadiers and Batthyàny Dragoons
D- Lacy's first position
E - 3 guns and detachment from Von Normann brigade
F - St. Ignon Chevaulegers
(red: second position)
G - Daun second position
H -Ried Corps and Von Normann Grenadiers
I - Ferrari's Grenadiers
K - Lacy's second position, infantry
L - Brentano Croats
M - Lacy's second position, cavalry
(violet: O'Donnel cavalry counterattack)
N- Serbelloni, Buccow, Portugal and O'Donnel Cuirassiers with 6 Karabiniers coys.
O- Batthyàny Dragoons and a Cuirassiers Regiment
P- Darmstadt Dragoons and 3 Cuirassiers Regiments

Map of the battle of Torgau - Source: "unknown". Fabrizio Davì, personal collection.

a. Part of Frederick's camp behind Langenreichenbach, between Torgau and Schilda
b. The Austrian army encamped between Torgau and Großwig
c. First column of the Prussian left wing marching towards Neiden by Mockerehna, Wildenhayn and Großwig
d. Second Prussian column advancing towards Elsnig by Rechhütte, Jägerteich and Brückendorf
e. Third cavalry column advancing on Vogelgesang through the forest of Wildenhayn
f. An Austrian corps posted in the woods near Wildenhayn who withdrew at the approach of the Prussian left wing
g. Batthyányi Dragoons and an infantry regiment who withdrew too after receiving a few cannon shots
h. Infantry of the Prussian left wing intending to attack across the plain of Neiden
i. Cavalry of the left wing arriving after the indecisive attack in the vicinity of Wölsau
k. Second line of the Austrian army who wheeled to face the Prussian left wing and repulsed it
l. march of the Prussian right wing under the command of Zieten towards the road to Leipzig
m. An Austrian corps posted at the entrance of the wood of Klitschn who retreated after a short resistance
n. Attack of the Prussian right wing upon the heights near Großwig and Süptitz
o. Retreat of the Austrian army towards Dresden in the night of November 3 to 4 over 3 bridges of boats thrown across the Elbe from Torgau to Cossdorf
p. Lacy's corps drawn along the Elbe opposite Belgern

DigAM proposes the following maps of the battle of Torgau:

The following description of the area depicted in the map is taken from "The History of Friedrich II of Prussia" by T. Carlyle, Book XX, Chapter V which can be found at the "Project Gutenberg" site:

Torgau itself stands near Elbe; on the shoulder, eastern or Elbeward shoulder, of a big mass of Knoll, or broad Height, called of Suptitz, the main Eminence of the Gau. Shoulder, I called it, of this Height of Suptitz; but more properly it is on a continuation, or lower ulterior height dipping into Elbe itself, that Torgau stands. Suptitz Height, nearly a mile from Elbe, drops down into a straggle of ponds; after which, on a second or final rise, comes Torgau dipping into Elbe. Not a shoulder strictly, but rather a "cheek", with "neck" intervening;--neck "goitry" for that matter, or quaggy with ponds! The old Town stands high enough, but is enlaced on the western and southern side by a set of lakes and quagmires, some of which are still extensive and undrained. The course of the waters hereabouts; and of Elbe itself, has had its intricacies: close to northwest, Torgau is bordered, in a straggling way, by what they call Alt-Elbe; which is not now a fluent entity, but a stagnant congeries of dirty waters and morasses. The Hill of Suptitz abuts in that aqueous or quaggy manner; its forefeet being, as it were, at or in Elbe River, and its sides, to the South and to the North for some distance each way, considerably enveloped in ponds and boggy difficulties.

Along the southern side of Suptitz Height goes leisurely an uncomfortable kind of Brook, called the Rohrgraben, this which comes running through Suptitz Village, all along by the southern base of Suptitz Hill; to the idle eye, a dirtyish Brook, ending in the Entefang (Duck-trap), and what Ponds or reedy Puddles there are.

The Hill Siptitz, with this Rohrgraben at the southern basis of it, makes a very main figure in the Battle now imminent. Suptitz Height is, in fact, Daun's Camp; where he stands intrenched to the utmost, repeatedly changing his position, the better to sustain Friedrich's expected attacks. It is a blunt broad-backed Elevation, mostly in vineyard, perhaps on the average 200 feet above the general level, and of five or six square miles in area: length, east to west, from Großwig neighborhood to the environs of Torgau, may be about three miles; breadth, south to north, from the Suptitz to the Zinna neighborhoods, above half that distance. The Height is steepish on the southern side, all along to the southwest angle , but swells up with easier ascent on the west, earth and other sides.

Daun stands fronting southward along these Suptitz Heights, looking towards Schilda and his dangerous neighbor; heights, woods, ponds and inaccessibilities environing his Position and him. One of the strongest positions imaginable; which, under Prince Henri, proved inexpugnable enough to some of us. A position not to be attacked on that southern front, nor on either of its flanks:--where can it be attacked? Impregnable, under Prince Henri in far inferior force: how will you take it from Daun in decidedly superior? A position not to be attacked at all, most military men would say;--though One military man, in his extreme necessity, must and will find a way into it.

One fault, the unique military man, intensely pondering, discovers that it has: it is too small for Daun; not area enough for manoeuvring 65,000 men in it; who will get into confusion if properly dealt with. A most comfortable light-flash, the Eureka of this terrible problem. "We will attack it on rear and on front simultaneously; that is the way to handle it!" Yes; simultaneously, though that is difficult, say military judges; perhaps to Prussians it may be possible. It is the opinion of military judges who have studied the matter, that Friedrich's plan, could it have been perfectly executed, might have got not only victory from Daun, but was capable to fling his big Army and him pell-mell upon the Elbe Bridge, that is to say, in such circumstances, into Elbe River, and swallow him bodily at a frightful rate!

Description of Events

1. Prussian approach march and Daun countermeasures:

The King's army set out in motion at 6.30 a.m. (7.30 a.m. according to Kessel) of November 3 in four columns: the first under Markgraf Carl with 25 battalions and the 10 squadrons of HR2 (15700 infantry and 1000 cavalry), the second under Hülsen with 12 battalions (6200 infantry), the third under Holstein with 4 battalions, 38 squadrons (2000 infantry and 5500 cavalry), and the fourth under Mohring with 1 battalion, 25 squadrons (3000 man altogether) and the ammunition train: the King himself was with the first column. The fourth column was not intended to attack Daun's position, rather it has to move to Trossin in order to cover the approaching columns from a false-rumoured Austrian attack coming northward from Pretzsch.

The Austrians however didn't remain idle: early in the morning Lacy sent the 3 Warasdiner Kreutzer Croats battalions and the Jägers in the forest south of Süptitz, and the Kaiser Hussars at the Eilenburg-Torgau road. Further, two squadrons from the saxon Prinz Karl Chevauxlegers sent to investigate in direction of Schildau found no trace of Prussian troops in the area. Soon the Zieten corps make contact with the Croats outpost concentrated around the bridge on the Eilenburg-Torgau road near the "Rote Furth", behind the Langen Damm-Bach and at the branching of the Butter road. In the meantime Lacy moved his cavalry over the Rohrgraben in a position in front of the forest, in order to counter any attack from the Prussian which were starting to repulse the Croats and Hussars outposts from the woods. His first line of infantry under F.M.L. Buttler marched behind the Rohrgraben, its right anchored with the left wing of main army near Zinna, whereas the second line under F.M.L. Meyern deployed on the road Torgau-Beckwitz-Schilda. The Bethlen regiment and a battalion from the Haller regiment advanced from the second line, the first behind the Rohrgraben and between the Grossen Teich and the cavalry position, the second immediately left of the first line. Accordingly, the reinforced first line of Lacy infantry (9 battalions) was deployed between Zinna and the Torgau suburbs.

Ziethen, realizing that Lacy position was flanking Süptitz, turned his corps against him along the Eilenburg-Torgau road, and not along the Butter Road as originally planned. Thus, between 1:00 and 2:00 p.m., his avantgarde (FB2 Salenmon and I/IR 13 Syburg) made contact with the bulk of Croats at the "Hohen-Brucken", just outside the forest border: the Croat replied by firing their battalions gun before running and losing in the process a couple of them. Since the Prussian didn't pressed the attack home, it appeared clear to Lacy that the main Prussian attack was not coming from this direction. Therefore he allowed the Prussians to debouch out the wood, retiring his outposts and the cavalry behind the Rohrgraben.

Ziethen, on emerging from the wood at 2:00 p.m., deployed his troops in battle order in two lines, the cavalry on the right wing with the cuirassiers of Bandemer and Schwerin brigades in first and the dragoons of brigade Krockow in second line, the Kleist Husaren (HR1) covering the right flank in the direction of Melpitz: from this position he started to exchange with Lacy guns a strong and lively artillery fire for some hours.

The reasons of Ziethen move are unknown and this is one of the most debated points of the battle: was he obeying some unknown instructions of his Master or rather his attention was simply lured away by Lacy in the wrong direction? Was he acting following the spirit, rather than the letter, of Frederick plan? We can suspect that Ziethen instruction were not to engage battle before Frederick's attack since he didn't attacked Lacy position, a move which would have bring him away from his planned direction of march, along the Butter Road and towards Süptitz Heights.

Meanwhile, the Prussian turning columns approached the Dommitzscher Heide: at Mockrehna the first column was fired at by Ried's guns just before 12.00 a.m.. At the same time Ried received the news of a second Prussian column moving to his right and therefore began to withdrew his troops to Weidenhain, on the position of the left wing Grenadiers and Karabiniers which in turn moved to Großwig. During the process he exchanged again some gun shoots with the Prussian first column which, by-passing Weidenhain, was moving northward. The sound of guns within Daun's earshot made him clear the Prussian turning movement, and the Austrian commander first reaction was to order Reid to secure the left flank along the Weidenhain-Großwig road.

The Prussian infantry columns, already in march from nearly six hours and still into the Dommitzscher Heide, run into further troubles: first of all Frederick's column was misdirected by the local guide along a wrong track towards Elsnig rather than Nieden as originally planned, thereby forcing Hulsen's second column to alter its line of march; the 6 or 7 battalions of the column's tail were redirected along an unauthorised track, whereas the the column head was recalled back on its steps, thus changing the marching order. Further, the Chevaulegers Regiment Saint-Ignon was hiding in the woods north Weidenhain in reconnaissance duties and become entangled between the two prussian columns: the Ziethen Hussars supporting Frederick's column attacked the Austrians, capturing most of the regiment (a strenght return of November 5 gives only 160 troopers present) and killing in the process the acting regimental commander, major von Zedmar.

Daun responded to the threath of an attack coming from north by simply reshuffling his dispositive, so that the new left wing was north the Suptitz Heights and right wing close to Zinna. 6 Battalions from the Division Sincere (IR 2, 8, 17) formed front westward, whereas the Division Arenberg faced north and Division Wied formed again the second line. The Reserve corps from Großwig took position between Arenberg and Wied. The former right wing cavalry was deployed north of Zinna, whereas the left wing cavalry remained in its position south of Zinna either to support Lacy or to counter the Prussian main attack. Von Normann Grenadiers and Karabiniers deployed on the left wing parallel to the Forest border, nearly perpendicular to the infantry line. The position resembled a three-side rectangle, the short end on the west, and was so crowded that some regiments had simply to do an about-face to be in the new position. The guns were partly distributed to the front, and partly in a great battery near Zinna covering the new right wing (according to Decker this battery was formed by at least 80-100 guns and howitzers). The Ferrari Grenadiers and Karabiniers and the Regiment Batthyányi were still in outpost duty north of Neiden.

2. The King's battle till 5 p.m.:

By noon the Ziethen Hussars emerged from the forest just in front of Elsnig, surprising in the process some detachments from Ferrari's Grenadiers. After a brief skirmish and some cannon shots, both the grenadiers and the Batthiány Dragoons retreated back to Zinna. Behind the Hussars the elements of the first infantry column infantry sorted out from the Dommitzscher-Heide in front of Elsnig, far north from the planned route. The King was with them and a after a short pause directed the column south towards Neiden without waiting further for the other two columns. The second column emerged from the wood one hour later, about at 1.00 pm, whereas the third column was far back in the forest. Not only this column had the longest route to follow, but the sandy and narrow forest tracks had hampered the advance of the cavalry in such a way that at 1.00 pm it was still at the Jagdhaus. This meant that the Prince of Holstein had more than two hour of march before he could arrive on the battlefield.

Meanwhile, the King's column arrived at the Striebach, whose passage was not contested by Daun: he recalled the Ferrari's Grenadiers to the main Army, despite the fact that the stream was swollen by rain and can be crossed only by means of narrow causeway. Frederick rode forward with a party of Ziethen hussars to the Neidenschen Höschen in order to reconnaitre the Austrian position. Much to his dismay, he discovered that the Main Austrian army was not deployed in front of him but extended instead in a strong position to the west of Zinna. Furthermore a strong mass of cavalry can be detected close to Zinna, whereas from his position the King could not see the Lacy corps. Such a situation required a tactical reappraisal of the situation: Frederick original plan was based on the assumption that the Austrian position was east and not west of Zinna and accordingly the columns were directed in that area. The area east of Zinna, from the Ratsweinberg to the Elbe, was open enough to offer a favorable field for an attack fully-supported by cavalry: however, despite the fact that the Austrian had not even occupied the Ratsweinberg, an oblique-order attack against the Austrian right wing from this side seemed unpracticable, both from lack of time and lack of cavalry at hand. To the west of Zinna a small pond called Röhrteich flowed into a small run called Zeitschkengraben, whose deep and bush-trimmed banks make it almost impassable to all kind of troops before Zinna: only between Zinna and Welsau the run offered no serious obstacle.

It was nearly 2.00 pm, and the advanced season and the stormy weather left few hours of daylight to perform the attack: furthermore the strong wind from the south carried the sound of guns from the clash between the Croats and the Ziethen avantgarde. Frederick mistakenly assumed that Ziethen was already committed in a full-scale battle with the Austrian and should be supported immediately. Moreover he noticed the Austrian baggage retreating towards the Elbe (a move orderd by Daun himself so that nothing could get in the way in the event of a battle) and was probably worried that Daun would escape at the last moment from the annihilating blow of the double-sided attack.

Accordingly, for all these reasons, the King decided to immediately attack with the infantry alone, changing the axis of attack from the Austrian right to the left wing in order to throw the Austrian into the Elbe. Such a change in the attack direction was not without immediate consequences: according to the original plan the infantry was indeed marching in two open columns of peloton in the direction of the Ratsweinberg to perform the standard "parallel" deployment procedure. The first ten grenadiers battalions already had started to march to their left and each peloton had executed a quarter wheel to the right to form the line when orders came to make a right turn and march in column to the woods to their right. The remaining battalions of the first column marched to the new positions by means of the complicated diagonal "deployieren" maneuver. The whole movement, hampered by the forest where he had to partially take place, was done under the effective fire of the Austrian guns which tore apart trees and branches causing much damage to the Prussians. Colonel Dieskau was able to unlimber two heavy batteries at the wood edges near the Röhrteich only to see them silenced by the superior Austrian artillery fire.

It was 2.15 pm when the ten Grenadiers Battalions of the Syburg and Stutterheim brigades, accompanied by Frederick on horseback, finally emerged from the woods in echelon towards their left to attack the Austrian center, which was only 800 paces apart. It took minutes for the Austrian artillery to broke the attack before the soldiers could even reach the musket distance; both Brigade commanders were wounded and in the thundering confusion the King cried to his Aides de Camp: "Quel terrible cannonade, en avez vous jamais extend une pareille?". The first Prussian attack was repelled, the Grenadiers falling back in order leaving almost half of their comrades dead and wounded behind.

Behind the Grenadiers, 10 battalions from the first column under Bulow (Brigades Ramin and Gablenz) were hastily sent by Frederick in the direction of the Austrian position and as soon as they emerged from the wood edges they witnessed scene of slaughter and destruction, the remains of the Grenadier battalions trailing among them to the relative safety of the wood. The leading elements of this attack were the IR20 Jung-Stutterheim, IR8 Queiss and the II/IR30 Alt-Stutterheim. This attack met the Austrian division Aremberg whose brigade Pellegrini (IR26 Puebla and IR28 Wied) mounted a spirited counterattack, supported by the regiments Kaiser, IR1, Neipperg, IR7 and Gaisruck, IR42 from the brigade Hartenegg. It seems that such a counterattack, which broke the integrity of the Austrian line, was ordered by the local commanders at the regimental and brigade level, rather then by Daun itself. However the attack was successful enough to push back the Prussian infantry once more. It was 3.00 pm passed when the leading elements of the Hulsen column, namely the FR35 Prinz Heinrich and II/IR19 Markgraf Karl arrived on the scene. More austrian troops were lured at this time in the thick of the battle: the IR17 Kollowrat and IR27 Baden Durlach from the Sincere division, acting again without orders.

The exact course of the actions which followed is still unclear, different sources giving difference timings. However, as soon as the Prussian attack progressed into the Austrian line, more counterattacks mounted against them: the IR36 Tillier, IR40 Jung Colloredo and IR41 Bayreuth from the Reserve Corps were ordered from Zinna into battle by Daun himself; the Von Normann Grenadiers and Karabiniers attacked from the left as well as the cavalry regiments from the Buccow wing from the right. The Cuirassiers regiments CR 27 Benedict Daun, CR 3 Erzherzog Leopold and the DR9 Savoyen were directed against the Prussian infantry, supported only by the Zeithen Hussars, already depleted by the task of escorting the prisoners from the Saint Ignon regiment. The Prussians, attacked from three directions, began again to retreat: it was short after 3.00 pm and also the second infantry attack failed: anyway the King had still fresh troops at hand, namely and Brigade Butzke from the first column and the remaining battalions from the Hulsen command which renewed the attack for the third time. A renewed attack of Buccow cavalry repulsed once more the Prussians, the IR7 Bevern losing 5 flags to the Erzherzog Leopold Cuirassiers.

It is more or less in this phases of the battle that both the Army Commanders were injured: Daun was hit by a bullet in the leg, but remained in saddle and continued to direct the counterattacks; on the other side of the front, Frederick was on a small eminence of the terrain with two aides, two pages and a groom when was struck by a bullet and nearly fall back from the horse. The small party, lead by Berenhorst, give the first aid the King and removed the Royal person from the line of fire. Frederick came soon to himself, shocked but unharmed, the musket ball being stopped by the double layer of velvet of his coat.

Until now, nothing was heard about the Ziethen attack, nor any message arrived from him: as soon as the battle started the King had sent aides after aides urging both him and Holstein to hurry. As well as the latter is concerned, we left him at 1.00 pm deep in the wood, his columns spread out along the tracks. Realizing finally the urgency of the situation, the Prince ordered the regiments to move at trot, which evolved in gallop and then in full career until the Brigades Meinecke and Mayer intervened in the struggle by attacking the Austrian right. It seems that this happened more or less at 4.30 pm, after the failure of all the infantry attacks and with the Austrian infantry dangerously exposed on the slopes between the original position and the woods.

The King Generaladjutant, Major-General von Krusemarck, commanded the Spaen CR12 and Markgraf Friederich CR 5 Cuirassiers out of the column from Neiden and led them onto the Austrians. These regiments were followed by the Bayreuth Dragoons DR 5, probably by the Schmettau CR4 Cuirassiers and by the still full of fighting willingness Zeithen Hussars. The Schmettau Cuirassiers first encountered the Savoyen Dragoons, capturing a flag in the process, then broke and scattered the regiments of Baden-Durlach, Kollowrat and Puebla, whereas the other regiments rode up the regiments Kaiser, Neipperg, Gaisruck and Bayreuth, capturing hundreds of prisoners and 26 colours: the Duke of Aremberg was wounded in the process and had to hand the command to GFW Count Pellegrini, who formed hastily a defensive flank. The attack arrived even at the Austrian second line and the regiment Mercy, IR56 had to turn north.

A fierce and confused battle ensued, the Prussian infantry attacking again and the Austrian feeding the fight with more fresh troops: the second line of the O'Donnel cavalry (CR14 O'Donnell and CR 6 Portugal), the still uncommitted Stampach CR10 and Serbelloni CR 12 Cuirassiers from the Reserve Corps, the von Normann Karabiniers and the Mercy infantry. The other regiments of Holstein column (Lentulus CR3 and Schlabrendorff CR1 Cuirassiers, Jung Platen DR11 and Wurtemberg DR 12 Dragoons) were ordered by the Prince himself towards left in order to fall on the Austrian right flank, but before they could attack the infantry the first line of the O'Donnell cavalry wing took them in a pincer movement, the Anhalt-Zerbst CR 25 and Erzherzog Ferdinand CR 4 attacking frontally from the Zinna direction and the Hessen-Darmstadt DR19 dragoon crashing on the Prussian flank from the Welsau direction.The Prussian were thrown back on Neiden and Elsnig and Lieutenant General Graf Finckenstein had an horse shot under him and was captured.

The efforts of the Prussian infantry and cavalry were finally frustrated by a sudden flank attack made by the Ried light corps which at the beginning of the battle was placed on the Großwig-Weidenhain road near the old abatis: upon the approval of Daun, Ried suddenly emerged from the forest at the head of the HR32 Szechényi, the Staff Dragoons, one battalion of GR66 Slavonische Broder and 2 grenadier companies just on the rear of the Prussian troops. The surprise was complete, the Gens d'Armes CR10 was routed losing three standard, General von Bulow and a large number of officers and men were captured. With this also the fourth Prussian attack ended in full rout.

It was now 5.00 pm, the dusk was falling and the Prussians were everywhere in retreat. Here and there the infantry was still fighting but the cavalry was spent and in disarray. The King gave the battle for lost: the Zeithen attack had failed to materialize, and to revamp the attack with the few available battalions from the northern columns appeared pointless in the rapidly falling darkness. Accordingly orders were given to Hulsen to rally the infantry behind the Striebach and try to reform a line, whereas the cavalry was ordered to stop at the Striebach to cover the retreat and the reorganization of the infantry. The troops should remain under arms all night long in order to be always ready to fight: the King still hoped that with Zeithen at their back and given the heavy losses, the Austrian could give up their position sooner or later during the night. However the battle was ended for today, a view shared also by the Austrians which indeed maintained their costly-defended positions on the Suptitz Heights.

By 5.30 pm Daun, still suffering for his wound and in the well-founded belief that the battle was ended with a victory, had himself carried to Zinna to sit down and to remove the boot full of blood. Here he met Lacy and received the disturbing new that Zeithen had attacked Süptitz from the south but was repulsed. The battle was still going on and accordingly Daun ordered Lacy to send four of his battalions and most of his first line under Buttler in support of the second line of the Main Army, against Zeithen. Upon receiving a reassuring message in this sense from Lacy, the Feld-Marschal handed the command to his senior officer, O'Donnell, and at 7.00 pm was recovered in Torgau to have his wound finally dressed: he was certain that the clash with Zeithen would be terminated quickly.

3. The Ziethen attack and the end of the battle:

We left Ziethen engaged into an artillery duel with Lacy; when one lucky shot beheaded one of his cuirassiers just behind him, the hussar general remarked to troopers: "Don't worry lads! He had an easy death!" The sound of this confrontation was brought to the King's ears by the same violent southern wind which prevented Ziethen to hear anything from his master battle on the northern edge of the Suptitz heights. Finally at about 3.30 pm, he began to move his corps to the left towards Suptitz: we don't know if this move was urged by some messengers sent by the King or rather was a decision which Zeithen took by himself on sensing that Frederick's attack didn't met with the expected success. The Tettenborn brigade, which was in the second line at the extreme right, moved first to the left, followed in his tracks by the Saldern and then by the Zeuner and Grumbkow brigades in a caterpillar-like move, the cavalry and I/IR31 Lestwitz still facing the Lacy position.

When at 5.00 pm Tettenborn began his to attack against Süptitz, he found the Austrian infantry of the second line in an unfavorable situation: the generals Wied and O'Kelly were currently with the first line, regiment Mercy was fighting against the Holstein cavalry and the whole second line was under the fire of Prussian guns due to the insufficient depth of the Austrian position. However the position was strong enough, the Suptitz village being barricaded and defended by a battalion each from the regiments Harsch IR50 and Aremberg IR21 and three or four medium guns were sited by the artillery commander, GFWM von Waldenau in an old Prussian earth redoubt sited behind the village. The Prussian attack had some success but the infantry was unable to climb the slope behind the burning village. The attack was supported on the west of Suptitz by the Saldern brigade which again, after some success, was repulsed into the Rohrgraben by the infantry of Brigade Brinken. The attack stopped, and there was a small lull in the fight.

It was nearly 6.30 pm when lieutenant colonel von Möllendorf of the II-III/IR15 received the new that a causeway between the Schafteichen to the Süptitz height was left unguarded by the Austrians: he yielded the information to his brigade commander Saldern which moved his forces further left and crossed the causeway followed by Grumbkow. At the same time Tettenborn renewed is attack on Süptitz evicting the defenders from the village and taking the redoubt: Tettenborn himself was wounded whereas on the Austrian side Waldenau was killed. The Austrian didn't remain idle and a series of furios counterattacks were mounted by the local commander, the chain of command broken by Daun's wound: Ayasasa Karabiniers and Grenadiers, Ried croats and the regiments Erzherzog Karl IR2 and Hildburghausen IR8 from brigade Migazzi converged altogether on the Prussian forces.

The darkness was falling on the battlefield and more troops were sent against Zeithen, Wied collecting the remnants of the first line, and Brinken sending the rallied regiments Harrach IR47 and Leopold Daun IR59 into the fight. More reinforcements were coming from Lacy, namely those of brigade Zigan and IR38 Ligne. These frantic counter-attacks slowly repulsed the Prussian up to a Gartenhaus on top of the Weinberg, and at the cry Vivat Maria Theresia the regiment Leopold Daun reconquered the summit of the hill, the brigades Grumbkow and Zeuner repulsed until the causeway and that of Tettenborn back to Süptitz. In the meantime Ziethen moved his cavalry to the left, to support the attack.

The increasing noise from the Süptitz battle and light of the burning village weren't unnoticed by the King and his generals: Hulsen had detected amidst the flames and the smoke the site of the Tettenborn and Saldern attacks, as well as the Fluegeladjutant Gaudi. Immediately the King sent orders to the cavalry and to the reforming battalions to turn back, the two still uncommitted regiments of the Holstein column, namely IR22 Schenkendorff and IR16 Dohna, spearheading the attack supported by some heavy artillery. Hulsen took the command of this hastily reformed force, and since his age and his wounds prevented him to mount on an horse, he had himself put on a gun-carriage, shouting "Pull!" to the men around him. The attack took the Austrians on the rear, disintegrating all the first line which had turned to meet Zeithen attack, the only fresh troops from the Lacy Corps still close to Zinna. Altogether Ziethen and Hulsen were able to bring 25 battalions on the Suptitz heights, now firmly in Prussian hands. The Austrian were cut in two by Hulsen attack, the regiments of extreme left, Erzherzog Karl, Karabiniers, Ried light troops stranded around the old abates: further counterattacks from regiments Mercy, Kaiser, Botta lead by O'Kelly and supported by O'Donnell cuirassiers were unable to recover the heights from the Prussian hands.

Lacy realized soon that with the troops under his direct command it was impossible to recover the heights: he met O'Donnell at Zinna and both rode to Daun in Torgau. The Feld-Marschall looked astonished when the two came to his room with the incredible new that the enemy had taken Suptitz heights: at 8.00 pm he sent them back to the battlefield, together with d'Ayasasa and the french attache Montazet to have a correct assessment of the situation and entrusting them with the order of recovering the heights. When they were gone, he composed the message of victory for Maria Theresa sending his aide, Baron Rothkirch, to Vienna with the message: the result of the day seemed not questioned by the unwelcome news brought by Lacy. Back on the battlefield, O'Donnell, Lacy and their party found the army in full retreat towards Torgau: the officers were summoned at Zinna and their reports made clear to everyone that the Prussian were well established on the plateau and that the Austrian army was depleted, disorganized and without ammunition, the artillery already making his way to Torgau. At 9.00 pm the last shots were exchanged and the battle was lost for the Austrians.

The battle ended with both armies in a state of total confusion, and in the darkness the survivors camped where they currently were, friend and foe alike, around makeshift campfires to make the bitterly cold November night livable. Many soldiers were unable to understand who has carried the day and the numerous dead and wounded lying around the battlefield were plundered by a mob of soldiers, drivers and camp-followers. In the darkness Mollendorf was taken prisoner when he gave orders to a party of Austrian hussar, likewise GFWM Migazzi gave orders to an astonished Prussian battalion which took in custody without further ado. Of the Austrian units cut off from the main army, regiment Erzherzog Karl was captured almost whole, whereas the Staff dragoon and infantry evaded capture by morphing themselves as Prussian Freikorps thanks to their uniquely blue uniforms. Frederick, accompanied by the Bayreuth Dragoons at the end of the fight rode back to Elsing: on the Austrian side, it was FML O'Kelly which prevented the retreat becoming a rout, directing the troops towards the boat bridges on the Elbe.


Already at past midnight the Austrian artillery retreated beyond Torgau on the right bank of the Elbe by means of the boats bridge, followed by the remaining troops at 2.00 a.m.. Lacy Corps remained on the left bank of the Elbe to cover the retreat of the main army and then marched in the direction of Dresden. The Prussian army was too exhausted to pursuit. It bivouacked on the battlefield: only ten battalions and 25 squadrons advanced to Torgau, by now abandoned by the Austrians, capturing in the process 20 pontoon from the abandoned boats bridges.

The King forbade the publication of the losses because of their appalling number: according to Jany they amounted to 16,670 soldiers, of whom 3,858 killed and 3,654 missing or prisoner, more than one third of the strength, which rises to half if we consider only the infantry; the figures given by Bleckwenn are instead in the region of 24700. Most infantry regiments were reduced to only a battalion, two of them (Prinz Heinrich and Ramin) could muster only a battalion together, whereas 15 grenadiers battalions were to be consolidated together into 6, a loss of elite troops that Frederick could scarcely affords. The Austrians lost 15897 soldiers (with more of 7000 prisoners) 49 guns, 31 flags and standards (other sources give 12,000 killed and wounded, 8,000 prisoners, 45 guns, 29 flags and 1 standard); they had taken 2954 prisoners, 8 guns, 43 flags and 2 standards. They were not destroyed, as the King had hoped and his bloody success achieved more or less nothing from a strategical point of view.

Order of Battle

Austrian Order of Battle

Commander-in-chief: F.M. Graf Leopold Daun

Summary: 67 bns, 116 sqns, 8 indep. coys, 275 guns (167 3 pdrs., 50 6 pdrs., 30 12 pdrs., 8 24 pdrs, 20 howitzers), about 55460 men (Main Army and Corps de Reserve: 23546 infantry, 10000 cavalry; Lacy Corps: 11541 infantry, 6908 cavalry; Ried Corps: 3686 infantry and cavalry ).

Main Army: Feldmarschall Daun (48 bns, 75 sqns)

First Line Second Line
Left Wing of Cavalry under G.d.K. O'Donnell assisted by von Pellegrini Left Wing of Cavalry under G.d.K. O'Donnell assisted by von Pellegrini
Center Center
Right Wing of Cavalry under G.d.K. Buccow assisted by von Schallenberg Right Wing of Cavalry under G.d.K. Buccow assisted by von Berlichingen
  • Grenadier Corp: G.F.W. D'Ayasasa
    • Oberstleutnant Ferraris
      • Grisoni cvg. Grenadiers bn.
      • Papilla cvg. Grenadiers bn.
      • Kokorova cvg. Grenadiers bn.
      • Cvg. Carabiniers/Horse Grenadiers (5 sqns)
    • Oberstleutnant Graf von Normann
      • Freyenfels cvg. Grenadiers bn.
      • Burmann cvg. Grenadiers bn.
      • Andlern (Andlau?) cvg. Grenadiers bn.
      • Cvg. Carabiniers/Horse Grenadiers (5 sqns)

Lacy’s Corp: G.F.Z. Lacy ( 19 bns, 41 sqns)

Corps Ried, Light troops: G.F.W. Ried (6 bns, 10 sqns, 8 indep. coys)

Prussian Order of Battle

Commander-in-chief: King Frederick the Great

Summary: 62 bns, 102 sqns, 246 guns (Decker gives 140 between field guns and heavy 12 pdr.; other sources credit for 181 "heavy guns"), about 35000 infantry, 13500 cavalry (Main army: 24000 infantry, 6500 cavalry, Zieten's corps 11000 infantry, 7000 cavalry).

Main Army: Frederick the Great (41 bns, 48 sqns, 80 guns)

Zieten's corps: G.d.K. von Zieten (21 bns, 54 sqns, 40 guns)

Detached troops, guarding the army train (Fourth column, main army, 1 bn, 25 sans, 10 guns)


This article incorporates texts from the following books which are now in the public domain:

  • T. Carlyle - The History of Friedrich II of Prussia, Book XX, Chapter V.

Other sources:

  • E. Daniels - Zur Schlacht von Torgau am 3. November 1760. Ph.D. Dissertation, Berlin, 1886.
  • C. Duffy - The army of Frederick the Great, 2nd edition. The Emperor Press, 1996.
  • C. Duffy - The army of Maria Theresa. David & Charles, 1977.
  • C. Duffy - Frederick the Great: a military life. Routledge, 1985.
  • C. Duffy - By Force of Arms, Vol. II of The Austrian Army in the Seven Years War. The Emperor Press, 2008.
  • D. E. Shoewalter - The Wars of Frederick the Great. Longman, 1996.
  • A. H. Jomini - Traité des grandes opérations militaires contenant l’Histoire critique des campagnes de Frédéric II comparées a celles de L’EMPEREUR NAPOLEON, Troisième partie, Paris, 1811.
  • J. Engelmann and G. Dorn - Die Schlachten Friederichs des Grossen. Podzun Pallas, 1986.
  • J. Engelmann and G. Dorn - Friederichs des Grossen und seine Generale. Podzun Pallas, 1988.
  • A. Preil - Osterreichs Schlachtfelder, Band 2, Kesseldorf 1745-Freiberg 1762, Weishaupt Verlag, Graz, 1991.
  • C. v. Decker - Die Schlachten und Hauptgefechte des Siebenjahrigen Krieges, Berlin, 1837.
  • Eberhard Kessel, Das Ende des Siebenjährigen Krieges 1760-1763, comissioned by the (German Army) Research Departement of Military History [Militärgeschichtliches Forschungsamt – MGFA], edited by Thomas Lindner, Paderborn 2007 – the recent reedit of the missing volumes of the early 20th c. Großer Generalstab publications.
  • Grosser Generalstaff - Geschichte des siebenjährigen Krieges: In einer Reihe von Vorlesungen, mit ..., Vierter teil: die feldzug von 1760 , Berlin 1834.
  • "The Prussian ACCOUNT by AUTORITHY of the Battle fought near Torgau on the 3d of November, 1760. With an accurate Plan of the Battle, neatly engraved", in The Supplement to the Universal Magazine, vol. XXVII, December 1760, 367-371.
  • Rezensionen: Die Schlacht bei Torgau am 3. November 1760. Nach archivalischen Quellen bearbeitet. Nebst 5 Beilagen (Beiheft zum konigl. preusischen Militar-Wochenblatt fur das 2. Quartal 1860. Redigirdt von der historischen Abteilung des Generalstabes). Berlin 1860. In Commission bei E.S. Mittler und Sohn. 79 S. in 8." In: Streffleur, OSTERREICHISCHE MILITARISCHE ZEITSCHRIFT, II Jahrgang, 1861, Erster Band, p. 77-87.
  • Wrede, Alphons Freiherr v.: Geschichte der K. und K. Wehrmacht. Die Regimenter, Corps, Branchen und Anstalten von 1618 bis Ende des XIX. Jahrhunderts, band II., Wien 1898
  • Generlieutenant von Strotha, Königlich Preussische Reitende Artillerie vom Jahre 1759 bis 1816. Berlin 1868, Vossische Buchhandlung


User:Fabriziodavi for the intitial version of this article and its evolution