1761-04-02 - Engagement of Saalfeld
Prelude to the Battle
The combat took place near Saalfeld during the Prussian incursion in Franconia.
On March 17, 1761, Frederick II had left Leipzig to join his troops in their cantonments in Meissen Country where he organised a raid in Franconia.
On April 1, the Prussian generals Syburg and Schenkendorf set off from their quarters in Meissen Country, heading for Franconia to attack detachments of the Reichsarmee. Syburg's detachment (5 hussar sqns, 2 free bns, 3 grenadier bns) reached the vicinity of Orlamünde while Schenkendorf's detachment (5 hussar sqns, 10 cuirassier sqns, 1 free bn, 5 regular bns) advanced up to Neustadt.
Saalfeld (German: Saalfeld/Saale) is a town in Germany, capital of the Saalfeld-Rudolstadt district of Thuringia. It is best known internationally as the ancestral seat of the Saxe-Coburg and Gotha branch of the Saxon House of Wettin.
Description of Events
On April 2, 1761 around 7:00 a.m., Syburg assembled his troops Uhlstadt and marched by way of Rudelstadt. Syburg's vanguard consisted of 5 sqns of Zieten Hussars under Major von Prittwitz. Syburg had been instructed to attack the flank and rear of the Imperial Corps of FML Baron Rosenfeld while Schenkendorf would attack frontally. Schenkendorf's vanguard consisted of Zieten Hussars under Major von Hundt.
The Imperial FML Baron Rosenfeld had 6 bns. He deployed 4 bns on the heights near Garnsdorf, Wildenstein Infantry near Schwarza to cover his left flank and Mengersen Infantry in Saalfeld along with a detachment of Saxon infantry (approx. 100 men) and a 80 Grenzer light troops, who occupied the Brucken Gate.(4)
Syburg's Corps came through a pass from Rudelstadt(2) and attacked the village of Schwarza, occupied by Wildenstein Infantry and 3 sqns with 2 guns(1)(3)). Wildenstein Infantry opened fire on Syburg's advancing infantry.
Syburg let the [Frei-Infanterie von Rapin|Freibataillon Lüderitz]] and the Grenadier Battalion Lossau, which were marching at the head of the column, deploy with their guns. Meanwhile, the Zieten Hussars under Major von Prittwitz(5) rode around Schwarza.(1) Wildenstein Infantry, fearing to be isolated, evacuated the village.(3) and retired towards Saalfeld from where some Imperial cavalry came to their support.
Prittwitz attacked and drove back the Imperial cavalry and caught up with Wildenstein Infantry between Beulwitz and Crösten, (places near Wölsdorf), The latter formed a square. Prittwitz's hussars attacked from all sides.
After a stubborn resistance(8), Wildenstein Infantry was crushed by the hussars(5) and forced to surrender as prisoners of war.(4) In this engagement, the unit lost 17 officers and 400 men, with 3 flags and 3 guns.(2)
During this time, Schenkendorf's Corps, which was marching from Orlamünde near Neustadt(5) advanced from Garnsdorf towards Saalfeld. It was received with a lively artillery fire.
Rosenfeld quickly realised that he would not be able to hold out against this double-sided attack and decided to retire as Schenkendorf's Corps was approaching.
Around 9h00 a.m., Rosenfeld ordered Mengersen Infantry to evacuate Saalfeld and to take position in the entrenchment on the Keimberg to cover the retreat of his corps. Only the 100 men of the Saxon detachment were left in Saalfeld, still occupying the Brücken Gate. All the gates of Saalfeld were closed and secured.
Major Hundt advanced against Saalfeld with 3 sqns of his Zieten Hussars while his 2 other sqns crossed the Saale River on both sides of Saalfeld to cut the retreat to the defenders.
At the approach of Schenkendorf's Corps, the small remaining garrison briefly opened fire on the head of the column before evacuating the place. The inhabitants immediately opened the gates of Saalfeld and Hundt crossed the town with his 3 sqns and pursued the retiring Saxon detachment who tried to make a stand on the Rotenberg.(1) Hundt surrounded the Saxon detachment and forced it to surrender.
During this time, Prittwitz's hussars had reached the entrenchments where Mengersen Infantry under the command of Major-General von Kleist had taken refuge. They were received with artillery fire from the entrenchments and from the height near Garnsdorf. Prittwitz was soon joined by Hundt's hussars but they had both advanced so swiftly that they had no infantry or artillery support.
Rosenfeld joined the main body of his corps near Garnsdorf and retired. He also ordered his Reserve Artillery which was fighting alongside Mengersen Infantry to retire while the latter would cover the retreat.
The Prussian hussars caught up with Mengersen Infantry near the village of Eyba and enveloped the retreating battalion on both sides before it could join the rest of Rosenfeld's Corps. Most of the Imperial artillery managed to escape, but the Zieten Hussars under Major Hundt forced the right wing of Mengersen Infantry, which lost 13 officers and 500 soldiers, 3 flags and 2 guns. Most of them were taken prisoners and few had the opportunity to escape.(4) The remaining Imperial troops were forced to retire towards Arnsgereuth.(2)
With Mengersen Infantry out of combat, Major-General von Kleist joined Kurtrier Infantry, which deployed to cover the retreat. It managed to drive back the Prussian hussars and to reach the forest near Hoheneiche (Zur Hohen Eich) where it joined the rest of Rosenfeld's Corps, which had reformed.(1)
Rosenfeld then retreated in the greatest haste by way of Gräfenthal towards Judenbach.(1) Veczey immediately rode to Gräfenthal with his hussars and cavalry.
Around 11:00 a.m., when Schenkendorf's infantry reached Saalfeld, the combat was already finished.
The Austro-Imperials were totally defeated and were compelled to abandon the whole area around Saalfeld.
In this affair, the Prussians lost only 30 men killed or wounded.
Kurköln Wildenstein Infantry lost 17 officers and 400 men, with 3 flags and 3 guns.
Kurköln Mengersen Infantry lost 13 officers and 500 soldiers, with 3 flags and 2 guns.
The Austro-Imperials must have lost other men during the combat on the Hoheneiche.
After this engagement, the Prussians occupied Saalfeld for a few days.(5) After the end of the affair, the Prussian troops marched on Schlitz.(4)
Order of Battle
Austro-Imperial Order of Battle
Commander-in-Chief: FML Baron Rosenfeld
- Kurköln Wildenstein Infantry (1 bn)
- Kurköln Mengersen Infantry (1 bn)
- Kurtrier Infantry (1 bn)
- Saxon Contingent (1 bn)
- Swabian Baden Infantry (1 bn)
- Upper-Rhine Darmstadt Infantry (1 bn)
- unidentified cuirassier unit (3 sqns for a total of approx. 200 men) under Veczey
- unidentified Grenzer light troops
Prussian Order of Battle
von Syburg’s Corps (5 hussar sqns, 2 free bns, 3 grenadier bns)
- Zieten Hussars (5 sqns) under Major von Prittwitz
- Freibataillon Lüderitz (1 bn)
- I.Freiregiment Collignon (1 bn)
- Grenadier Battalion Lossau (1 bn) aka Lossow
- Grenadier Battalion Natalis (1 bn)
- Grenadier Battalion Heilsberg (1 bn)
von Schenkendorf's Corps (5 hussar sqns, 10 cuirassier sqns, 1 free bn, 5 regular bns)
- Zieten Hussars (5 sqns) under Major von Hundt
- Prussian Leibregiment (5 sqns)
- Spaen Cuirassiers (5 sqns)
- Freiregiment Wunsch (1 bn)
- Grenadier Battalion Carlowitz (1 bn)
- Jung-Stutterheim Infantry (2 bns)
- Alt-Braunschweig Infantry (1 bn)
- Forcade Infantry (1 bn)
This article is actually a compilation of explanations found on old maps of this engagement. Please note that on these old maps, many place names had been corrupted. The author had to consult modern Google maps to correct these names.
Maps used and accompanying legends
1 Map Raspe
- A. Prussian attack under the command of General Syburg through the pass to the village of Schwarza which was occupied by Imperial troops
- B. The Zieten Hussars passed behind Schwarza, caused much damage and took many prisoners.
- C. Position of the Austro-Imperial troops on the Rotenberg
- D. The Prussian Corps under command of General von Schenkendorf marched up from Gorndorf and attacked their right wing at E.
- F. Retreat of the Austro-Imperials to G. where they reformed again.
- During the battle some Prussian squadrons passed through Saalfeld and the rest followed on the other side, the Syburg Corps also came and all united at H., then advanced together and attacked again, taking many prisoners and all the Reichs troops retreated to Grafensthal in the greatest haste.
2 Map with French translation
- Arrival of General Syburg at Rudelstadt. Attack with one Grenadier bn and three Freikorps bns on two Imperial bns at Schwarza. Retreat and defeat of them, where they lost 17 officers and 400 men and with 3 flags and 3 guns. General Schenkendorf arrives near Saalfeld and attacks the Imperials at Rotenberg. Major Hundt forces their right wing, they lost 13 officers and 500 soldiers, 3 flags and 2 guns. They were also made prisoners of war on several occasions, and only a few had the opportunity to escape. They were obliged to retire to Arnsgereuth.
- Syburg Corps (5 sqns Zieten hussars and 2 frei bns) come to Schwarza and find there two bns, two sqns and two guns of Imperial troops. The enemy cavalry was driven out of the field by the Hussars and the enemy infantry was thrown out of the houses. Line up of the Hussars, later. Four bns and 4 guns of Imperial troops behind the entrenchments at Keim Berg. Schenkendorf's Corps. Two Hussar sqns who proceeded to attack the enemy. And three more following as support. Attack at Keim Berg of Major von Hundt. Flight of the Imperial troops. Follow up of the Hussars.
4 Map Saalfeld Kupferstisch
- The Wildenstein bn form Kurköln, standing at Schwarza. The Kurköln Mengersen bn which has occupied Saalfeld and after receiving news of the march of the Prussian troops via Ruldolstadt, encamped on the mountain near Garnsdorf. March of the Corps of General Syburg towards the area of Saalfeld. They attacked the Wildenstein bn, who were compelled to surrender as prisoners of war. Further march of the Prussian Corps on Saalfeld. Attack on the Mengersen bn, who were also made prisoners of war on several occasions, and only a few had the opportunity to escape. 80 Croats and 50 Saxon troops were standing in front of the Saalfeld bridge. March of the Prussian troops after the end of the affair on Schlitz.
Kessel, E.: Das Ende des Siebenjährigen Krieges 1760-1763, 2007, Paderborn, pp. 155-157
Kronoskaf – Various articles depicting the campaigns, battles and sieges, and the service of regiments during the conflict
Dinos Antoniadis for the initial version of this article and for the accompanying map
Richard Couture for the integration of information found in Kessel's work