1760 - French campaign in West Germany – Allied offensive on the Lower Rhine

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Hierarchical Path: Seven Years War (Main Page) >> Campaigns >> 1760 - French campaign in western Germany >> Allied offensive on the Lower Rhine

The campaign lasted from May to December 1760. This article describes the fourth phase of the campaign from September 22 to October 22, 1760.

Introduction

The general situation at the beginning of the year, the last operations before taking winter-quarters and the sporadic operations while in winter-quarters are described in our article 1760 - French campaign in western Germany – Winter operations (January 1 to April 28, 1760).

The French manoeuvres to make a junction of their two armies and the Combat of Korbach are described in our article 1760 - French campaign in western Germany – Campaign till the Combat of Korbach (April 29 to July 10, 1760).

The French offensive in Hesse and the Battle of Warburg are described in our article 1760 - French campaign in western Germany – French offensive in Hesse (July 11 to September 21, 1760).

Allied siege of Wesel

On September 22, informed of the Duc de Broglie's plan, Ferdinand of Brunswick resolved to get ahead of him at Wesel. On the same day, a powerful train of siege-artillery, under the Count of Lippe-Bückeburg, marched away for Wesel.

On September 23, an engagement took place near Nörten between Luckner's Corps and a detachment of French cavalry. The Allied made prisoners a lieutenant-colonel and 107 men.

On September 24, the Allied reserve under Granby quitted Geismar, repassed the Diemel and joined the main army at Warburg. Gilsa also retired from Rheinhardswald to Warburg. When he was informed of these manoeuvres, Broglie detached some cavalry to the Lower Rhine. Since a moment, Planta and Lochmann brigades had been detached to Düsseldorf and Cologne. Furthermore, Louis XV had resolved to send 20 fresh battalions to secure the Lower Rhine.

On September 25, Luckner's Corps advanced on Northeim.

On September 26, Ferdinand sent the Hereditary Prince of Brunswick from Warburg with 15,000 men to assist the Count of Lippe-Bückeburg while he himself retired to Liebenau with the main army. The count was to conduct the siege of Wesel and the prince to cover it. The same day, the French right reserve reached Esebeck. Meanwhile, Castries was sent to the Lower Rhine with the Chasseurs de Fischer and a few garrisons.

On September 27, M. de Chabo was sent behind Welda with light troops. He attacked Allied advanced posts but was soon repulsed.

On September 28, the Allied Army retreated on Warburg. The Duc de Fronsac reached the Twiste. The same day, rumours about the march of an Allied corps against the Lower Rhine were confirmed. La Couronne Infanterie, stationed at Frankfurt since the Battle of Warburg, was sent to Cologne.

On September 29, a detachment of the Hereditary Prince's Corps passed the Rhine at Ruhrort and surprised part of Cambefort's force posted at Rheinberg before advancing towards Wesel along the left bank of the Rhine. In the evening, another detachment took possession of Rees and Emmerich. The main body of the corps of the Hereditary Prince reached Dorsten. The same day, M. de Castella, commanding at Wesel, reported that Allied troops at Dülmen and Coesfeld were marching on Borken, sending a detachment to Isselburg and continuing towards Dorsten. Castella thereupon broke down the bridge which connected Wesel with the western bank of the Rhine. Meanwhile, Castries had reached Koblenz where he took measures to garrison the citadel. Broglie, for his part, sent Belzunce Infanterie (4 bns) and Du Roy Cavalry Brigade to reinforce Prince Xavier's right reserve. Furthermore, the Gardes Brigade was sent on the right bank of the Fulda and Durfort went to Krumbach (unidentified location).

On September 30 in the morning, a detachment of the Hereditary Prince's Corps passed by Schermbeck on its way to Wesel while the detachment posted at Emmerich passed the Rhine and marched towards Kleve. On its approach, the French garrison (500 men under M. Barral) took refuge into the Castle of Kleve. Colonel Ditford was charged with the reduction of the castle. The French troops occupying redoubts along the Rhine abandoned their posts, leaving their artillery behind and neglecting to destroy their boats. The same day, Castries marched from Koblenz to Bonn.

From September 30 and October 14, the French Main Army and its left reserve gradually detached a total of 36 bns and 42 sqns to the Lower Rhine.

On October 1, Ferdinand sent a British division (8 bns, 2 cavalry rgts) under General Waldegrave as reinforcements to the Hereditary Prince. This division consisted of the 20th Kingsley's Foot, 25th Edinburgh Regiment of Foot (aka Home's Foot), 2 British grenadier bns, 2 Highlanders bns, 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons, 1 Hessian infantry regiment and 1 Hessian cavalry regiment. Meanwhile, the light troops of the Hereditary Prince had passed the Lower Rhine and raided the country up to Kleve, taking about 400 prisoners. The same day, informed of the situation on the Lower Rhine, Castries immediately left Bonn and marched to Cologne where he found only a small garrison. He then took dispositions to embark magazines and make them ready to leave at the first alert. He also instructed Montcalm Cavalerie, who were deprived of their horses infected with glanders, to march from Düsseldorf to Koblenz, leaving the Chasseurs de Fischer at Düsseldorf. The militia battalion at Kleve retired to Geldern. The militia battalion at Aachen retired to Liège. Still the same day, M. de Guers commanding the French garrison at Düsseldorf, was informed of the presence of the Hereditary Prince near Wesel which was garrisoned by only 1 bn and 2,500 men (recruits or soldiers unfit for service from various rgts). M. d'Auvet was ordered to go in 6 marches to Hachenburg with 4 bns and 14 sqns (Rouergue Infanterie Brigade, Royal-Étranger Cavalerie Brigade, the Gendarmerie, part of the Chasseurs de Fischer and a division of artillery), some supply and an ambulance. D'Auvet's Corps was now ready to rescue Cologne if the city was threatened or to cover the country between Giessen and Koblenz to protect the flour supply of the army. Furthermore, Broglie sent M. de Chabo towards Hachenburg with Royal Dragons and Thianges Dragons.

On October 2, General Howard's Division(4 bns, 2 cavalry rgts) was also ordered to proceed to the Lower Rhine with the 11th Bockland's Foot, 23rd Welsh Fusiliers, 33rd Griffin's Foot, 51st Brudenell's Foot, 1st (Royal) Dragoons and 10th Mordaunt Dradoons. The same day, Broglie detached M. d'Aubigny from Stainville's Corps with 6 bns and 4 sqns (Bouillon Infanterie Brigade, Royal-Pologne Cavalerie, Poly Saint-Thiébault Cavalerie and some artillery) towards the Lower Rhine.

By October 3, the Hereditary Prince completely invested Wesel. The fortress had a very weak garrison and lacked gunners. However, the bad weather made roads impassable for the Allied heavy artillery who arrived in the evening. Meanwhile, the garrison of the Castle of Kleve (500 men) surrendered to an Allied detachment as prisoners of war. The same day, Lochmann Infanterie and Planta Infanterie made an unsuccessful attempt to reinforce Wesel. Meanwhile, the corps of M. de Ségur, assisted by MM. de Thiard, de Wurmser, and de Bésenval, was dispatched towards Hachenburg and Cologne. It consisted of 13 bns and 6 sqns (La Tour-du-Pin Infanterie and Alsace Infanterie Brigade and Royal-Piémont Cavalerie Brigade and 1 militia bn).

On October 4, M. de Maupéou left for the Lower Rhine with Touraine, Vaubécourt and Orléans infantry brigades, 1 artillery bn, 1 militia bn, Aquitaine cavalry brigade and the Légion Royale. The same day, M. de Barral and the Nancy militia bn were taken prisoners at Kleve.

During this time, Castries was advancing by forced marches to the Rhine, despite the dreadful state of the roads, along a route full 80 km south of the Prince's Corps.

On October 10, on the Diemel, the Allied Main Army received orders to build huts. The same day, the head (4 bns, 6 sqns) of Castries' column reached the Erft and Neuss. It consisted of:

On October 11, the Allies concentrated at Wesel and opened their first parallel; a second was soon opened near the covert way. The siege was directed by the Count of Lippe-Bückeburg. The same day, the Chasseurs de Fischer had already taken position between Neuss and Meerbusch where they were soon joined by 8 bns, 4 cavalry sqns and 8 dragoon sqns:

On October 12, Castries crossed the Rhine at Cologne. Considering the unspeakable difficulties of foul weather and almost impassable roads, this march of Castries stands out as a very fine feat of resolution and endurance. Meanwhile, 2 bns of Normandie Infanterie arrived at Neuss. The same day, on the Diemel, the Allied Main Army fired a feu de joie to celebrate the reduction of Canada.

On October 13, M. de Castries arrived at Neuss with 19 bns and 24 sqns:

Now, 25 bns and 30 sqns had finally been hastily assembled under Castries at Neuss for the relief of Wesel; while 8 bns, 4 cavalry sqns and 8 dragoon sqns were deployed between Neuss and Meerbusch; for a total of 33 bns and 42 sqns. Part of these regiments were among those who had suffered the most during the summer campaign. Furthermore, 20 other bns were on their way from France but they lacked equipment and artillery.

Battle of Clostercamp

On October 14, without waiting for the additional troops which were under way to join his army, Castries marched to Moers. His vanguard reached Rheinberg, forcing an Allied advanced post of about 1,000 men to retire. Castries then selected Normandie Infanterie (4 bns) and Briqueville Infanterie (2 bns) to reinforce Wesel. When the Hereditary Prince heard of the approach of a French relief force, he resolved to attack it. Accordingly, he left a few battalions in the trenches and marched to the enemy despite his numerical inferiority. He planned to offer battle as far as possible from his main bridge on the Rhine. Some of his light troops reached Rheinberg and captured part of the Chasseurs de Fischer. The same day, Broglie instructed M. de Stainville to launch a diversionary attack on Halberstadt and, if successful, on Hanover; while raising contributions. With the recent successes of the Austro-Imperial Army in Saxony and the advance of the Russian on Berlin, the timing was good for such an attack, reinforcements for Ferdinand were not available.

On October 15, the Hereditary Prince encamped at Ossenberg on the left bank of the Rhine and immediately instructed General Bock to join him with his corps. At 6:00 a.m., Bock made a junction with the corps of the Hereditary Prince. At 11:00 a.m., Lieutenant-General Waldegrave arrived with his own corps. The same day, Castries took a strong position behind the Eugene Canal running from Geldern to Rheinberg. His right was anchored on the town of Rheinberg and his left towards Clostercamp. His corps consisted of detachments from the French Main Army operating in Hesse and of troops sent from the Low Countries who had forced march to relieve Wesel. His army slept with their arms. The Allied light troops initially occupying Rheinberg were forced to retire. The Hereditary Prince then received intelligence that Castries was still expecting reinforcements. After reconnoitring the French positions, he resolved to attack the left wing by surprise. At 8:00 p.m., Lieutenant-General Howard's Division joined him. However, 4 Hanoverian bns could not join the Allied corps that night. At 11:00 p.m., leaving 3 bns and 4 sqns towards Rheinberg in front of the French right, the Hereditary Prince marched on Clostercamp with 18 bns and 20 sqns and deployed his troops to face Rheinberg, with Ossenberg in their rear. The same day, a detachment under M. d'Espies marched on Northeim, forcing Luckner to repass the Leine while M. de Stainville left Dingelstädt with the Volontaires de Schomberg, Bercheny Hussards and Royal-Nassau Hussards and marched towards Halberstadt. From October 15 to 24, Stainville scoured the Hanoverian countryside before returning to Heiligenstadt (today Heilbad Heiligenstadt).

On October 16, the Allies surprise attack on Clostercamp failed. The Hereditary Prince retired on Alpen where he was informed that his bridge at Büderich on the Rhine had been carried away by the flooding river. His situation was now perilous for not only was his retreat cut off, but his ammunition was exhausted. After his victory, Castries threw reinforcements into Wesel but failed to pursue the defeated Allied Army, sending only the Chasseurs de Fischer and Cambefort light troops to follow them. The same day, additional French units continued to arrive in neighbouring towns:

On October 17 in the morning, still wounded though he was, the Hereditary Prince marched by Ginderich. The French launched an attack on an Allied advanced detachment deployed from the wood before Elverich to Gest. The engagement lasted till night. Meanwhile, the French vanguard under M. de Chabot took post 1.5 km from the positions of the Hereditary Prince. Due to bad weather, the bridge that the Allies had over the Rhine was in bad condition and had to be repaired before being used. The Hereditary Prince faced his difficulties with his usual energy, entrenched himself among his wagons and reconstructed his bridge. The same day, additional French units left behind during Castries' advance from Neuss to Clostercamp finally made a junction with the main corps:

On October 18 at 8:00 a.m., the bridge being now repaired, the Allied troops started to pass the Rhine unmolested. The same day, a large body of French troops under the command of M. de la Ferronaye entered the Duchy of Halberstadt, making itself master of the town of Halberstadt, exacting contribution and seizing hostages.

In the night of October 18 to 19, the Hereditary Prince raised the blockade of Wesel, sent his artillery and ammunition forward, and marched to Brünen where he encamped.

On October 19, Castries' Army encamped at Büderich. The same day, Broglie was informed that an Allied corps (10 bns and 4 cavalry rgts) was marching on Münster.

On October 20, Castries' Army (46 bns and 42 sqns) took cantons between Xanten and Büderich while garrisons were established at Koblenz, Wesel, Liège and Aachen. Meanwhile Maupéou's Division stopped at Rheinberg and Orsoy. The same day, the Allied reinforcements sent to the Hereditary Prince halted at Dortmund.

On October 21, Castries sent the Chasseurs de Fischer on the Rur (more probably on the Ruhr) and the Gendarmerie at Andernach. The Allied Army of the Hereditary Prince was still on the Heights of Brünen at 10 km from Wesel.

On October 22, M. de Maupéou marched towards Cologne with 10 bns and 4 sqns.

It then became necessary to send back to France several French rgts (Gendarmerie, Archiac Cavalerie, Conti Cavalerie, D'Arbonnier Infanterie, Lochmann Infanterie, Normandie Infanterie, Auvergne Infanterie, Alsace Infanterie, La Couronne Infanterie, Rohan Rochefort Infanterie), who had heavily suffered during the Combat of Clostercamp. Furthermore, Rouergue Infanterie (2 bns) was sent on the Meuse.

Meanwhile in Hanover, Prince Xavier re-took possession of Göttingen, sending advanced parties as far as Northeim.

Continuation

The last phase of the campaign is described in the following articles:

  • End of the campaign (October 22 to December 31, 1760) describing the Allied defensive measures, the French maoeuvres and the Allied attempt against Göttingen.

References

This series of articles is a compilation of 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. 521-528, 531-534
  • Fortescue, J. W.: A History of the British Army, Vol. II, MacMillan, London, 1899, pp. 501-519
  • 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. 137-184
  • Jomini, baron de: Traité des grandes opérations militaires, Vol. 3, 2nd ed., Magimel, Paris, 1811, pp. 221-240
  • Pajol, Charles P. V.: Les Guerres sous Louis XV, vol. V, Paris, 1891, pp. 2-114