1760 - Siege of Breslau

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The siege lasted from July 30 to August 3, 1760

Introduction

At the beginning of his campaign in Silesia in 1760, Feldzeugmeister Loudon forced a Prussian corps under Lieutenant-General Heinrich August de la Motte Fouqué to surrender on June 23 at the Battle of Landeshut. He then laid siege to Glatz (present-day Kłodzko/PL), storming this fortress on July 26. He then immediately sent FML Drašković towards Breslau (present-day Wrocław/PL) to besiege the town and ordered General Nauendorf to march from Neumarkt (present-day Środa Śląska/PL) to Lissa (present-day Wrocław-Leśnica/PL). The same day, a Russian army under the command of Count Saltykov set off from Posen (present-day Poznań/PL) and marched towards Breslau to make a junction with Loudon's Corps.

Meanwhile, the Prussian army of Prince Heinrich also advanced towards Breslau. Thus, the Austrians were besieging the town while a large Russian army was marching to reinforce them and a Prussian army was trying to relieve the town.

Description of events

On July 30, Loudon reinforced Nauendorf with Waldeck Infantry and 4 heavy guns and the Prussians were forced to abandon their outposts and to retire to the Nicolai suburb of Breslau. Austrian cavalry men caught up with Chaumontet free bn near Schmiedefeld (present-day Kuzniki/PL) and inflicted them heavy losses, capturing a battalion gun. The gates of Breslau were then closed and the ramparts manned.

In the evening, Major-General Tauentzien, the governor of Breslau, sent away his cavalry under Major von Owstien because it was useless during a siege. Owstien marched towards Glogau (present-day Głogów/PL) to join the army of Prince Heinrich. Only 3 officers and 70 hussars were left behind in Breslau. Tauentzien had only 3,000 men to guard the long walls of the town which were not in very good condition.

Nauendorf's Corps took position behind the Lohe River between Neukirch (present-day Zerniki/PL) and Pilsnitz (present-day Pilczyce/PL).

The same day (July 30), the Austrian Reserve Corps (6 grenadier bns, 11 elite cavalry coys) crossed the Oder at Leubus (present-day Lubiąż) and advanced along the right bank to Auras (present-day Uraz/PL).

On July 31, Drašković took position between Dürrgoy (present-day Tarnogaj/PL) and Gräbschen (present-day Grabiszyn/PL) with the corps which had brought back from Glatz; while Nauendorf's Corps was posted up to Klein-Mochbern (present-day Muchobor Maly/PL) and Pöpelwitz (present-day Popowice/PL); and the Reserve Corps on the right bank up to Carlowitz (present-day Karłowice/PL).

The Fortress of Breslau was now completely encircled. The main body of Loudon's Corps, consisting of 15 bns (Platz, Angern, Joseph Esterházy, Leopold Pálffy, Wallis, Deutschmeister, Marschall and 1 bn of Loudon Infantry) and 28 sqns (Schmerzing Cuirassiers , Trautmansdorf Cuirassiers, Modena Cuirassiers, Prince Albert Cuirassiers, Pálffy Cuirassiers and 3 sqns of Kolowrat-Krakowski Dragoons), remained posted south of Liegnitz (present-day Legnica/PL) under FML Baron Wolfersdorff. Major-General Count Caramelli was posted near Parchwitz (present-day Prochowice/PL) with the Erzherzog Joseph.

Colonel von Rouvroy was sent to Breslau to summon General von Tauentzien to surrender the place. The latter replied that he would defend the place to the last man. The free battalion evacuated the Nicolai suburb and occupied the covert way. Grenzer light troops then pressed in and settled in the suburbs to fire on the ramparts.

The Austrians established a bridge near Klein-Masselwitz (present-day Maślice Małe/PL) to maintain communication with their Reserve Corps.

The same day (July 31), Prince Heinrich's Army marched in three columns to Linden (present-day Lipinki), south of Schlawa (present-day Sława) and the rearguard under Major-General von der Gablentz reached Züllichau (present-day Sulechów/PL). He sent Major-General Werner forward to Schlawa with 9 bns and 22 sqns.

On August 1, part of the Ohlauer suburb and the building of the Schweidnitzer common were set afire.

As Loudon had not yet received his siege artillery, he tried to give the impression that he was preparing to bombard Breslau. He established a battery of howitzers in the Ohlauer suburb, between Gabitz (present-day Gajowicka/PL) and Neudorf (an elongated village along the road south of Breslau, now part of Breslau) and in front of the Nicolai suburb.

At 9:30 p.m., the Austrian batteries opened on Breslau, setting fire to the Royal Palace and to many streets. Meanwhile, Grenzer light troops vainly tried to storm some outworks but were driven back everywhere by the fire of the Prussian defenders. Around midnight, the Austrian batteries ceased fire.

The same day (August 1), the Russian army marched to Kobylin while its vanguard reached Rawitsch (present-day Rawicz/PL). Saltykov then unexpectedly decided to rest his troops. Meanwhile, Prince Heinrich passed the Oder at Glogau and encamped at Gramschutz (present-day Grębocice/PL).

On August 2, Loudon was informed that Prince Heinrich's Army had reached Glogau on the previous day. He also received a message from Totleben mentioning that the Russian army should reach Zduny on August 2. There were thus little chance that the Russians would make a junction with Loudon's Army before the arrival of Prince Heinrich's Army. Nevertheless, Loudon did not abandon all hope of capturing Breslau. He once more summoned the place to surrender and he ordered Wolfersdorff to advance from Liegnitz to Neumarkt with his troops.

Prince Heinrich reached Parchwitz.

In the night of August 2 to 3, Wolfersdorff's troops set off from the vicinity of Liegnitz and reached Neumarkt on August 3.

On August 3, in the evening, Loudon began to bombard Breslau, causing several fires.. However, he was soon informed that a Prussian column was marching on Jauer (present-day Jawor) by way of Liegnitz (in fact it was only the Dingelstedt Hussars). Loudon now feared for his line of communication. Furthermore, with the unexpected halt of Saltykov's Army at Kobylin, he would have to face Prince Heinrich's Army alone. Loudon then resolved to abandon the siege of Breslau and to retire.

On August 4 early in the morning, once the Reserve Corps had crossed the Oder on a bridge established near Oswitz (present-day Osobowice), Loudon's entire siege corps marched towards Woigwitz (present-day Wojtkowice), south-west of Canth (present-day Kąty Wrocławskie/PL), behind the Weistritz River, where it made a junction with Wolfersdorff's troops which were arriving from Neumarkt.

The army of Prince Heinrich had marched 145 km in three days from Glogau! The rapid reaction of Prince Heinrich had saved Breslau.

References

This article is essentially a compilation of texts from the following books which are now in the public domain:

  • Jomini, baron de, Traité des grandes opérations militaires, Vol. 3, 2nd ed., Magimel, Paris, 1811, pp. 277-279
  • Grosser Generalstab Kriegsgeschichtliche Abteilung II: Die Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen, Part 3 Der siebenjährige Krieg 1756-1763, Vol. 12 Landeshut und Liegnitz, Berlin, 1913. pp. 174-177