1761-09-15 - Engagement of Gostyn
Prelude to the Battle
On September 11 1761, King Frederick II of Prussia decided to send a small corps under Platen in a raid in Greater Poland against the Russian supply lines. This command was ordered to destroy Russian magazines and then to return to the main body. If this proved to be unfeasible, Platen had to head for Pomerania and to reinforce the corps of the Prince von Württemberg.
On September 14, Platen sent a strong detachment under Colonel Kleist to Kobylin. This detachment threw the Russian garrison out of Kobylin and destroyed the magazines. In this town, Platen was informed by prisoners or by Polish inhabitants that the Russians had a large supply depot near Gostyń.
Description of Events
Arrival of Platen's corps and situation before the engagement
On September 15 at 4:00 a.m., Platen advanced to Gostyń. His vanguard was formed by Grenadier Battalion Arnim, Grenadier Battalion Rothenburg, Finckenstein Dragoons (5 sqns) and Ruesch Hussars (7 sqns). On the small Maliczna River, the Prussian cavalry defeated the Russian cavalry and pursued it up to the camp of Brigadier Czerepov. At this camp, Russian guns fired on the advancing Prussians. Platen then stopped his troops and decided to wait for the rest of his command. Platen was now only half an hour from Gostyń. Most of his corps had joined him after half an hour.
Brigadier Czerepov (civil officer for the Don Cossacks before the war) occupied the plateau to the south of Dręczew, near the wall and the buildings of a monastery, which was situated on the Holy Mountain. His infantry have deployed behind a Wagenburg (laager) formed with the supply train. These 5,000 Polish wagons, contributed by Polish townfolk under the podwody (some kind of feudal service), formed 3 imbricated squares each 50 meters distant. In the corner of these squares, Czerepov planted guns. Overall, there were 3 batteries totaling 7 guns (1st battery of 2 guns, 2nd of 3 guns, 3rd of 2 guns). The Russian cavalry was deployed on the road to Dręczewo between the camp and the forest. The rear of the Russian position was covered by a small river.
After the arrival of all his troops, Platen deployed his corps for an assault (see order of battle for details). The battalions of the right wing were instructed to attack the buildings of the monastery on the Holy Mountain while the left wing infantry was ordered to attack the Russian camp.
The engagement began around 5:00 p.m. when the Prussian batteries opened. However, artillery fire soon ceased due to its lack of effectiveness. The monastery was under fire too because the Prussians thought that it was occupied by Russian troops.
The Prussian infantry then attacked. Grenadier Battalion Görne entered into the monastery but found no Russian troops there. Advancing parallel to Görne, I./Finck battalion received two salvoes of canister and lost almost two platoons.
During this time on the right wing, Grenadier Battalion Arnim and Grenadier Battalion Rothenburg attacked the Russian camp. Major Teufel von Birkensee ordered to fire only when he saw the white of the eyes of enemies. Meanwhile, Ruesch Hussars attacked the Russian cavalry and routed them. They probably took 150 Russian dragoons prisoners. During these assaults, the 3 sqns of Finckenstein Dragoons of the right wing and the 2 sqns from the left flank covered the rear of the Prussian infantry.
After the first Prussian attack, the Russians were forced to abandon the first line of wagons and all the artillery deployed in this first perimeter.
When the Prussians attacked the second and third lines of wagons, Czerepov's troops fought stubbornly as long as they were covered by the wagons. Once driven out of their camp, the Russians ran away into the river and the forest. They were then attacked and surrounded by Finckenstein Dragoons. Most Russian troops surrendered. Finckenstein Dragoons thus captured an entire battalion and 2 guns.
The battle lasted until 8:30 p.m.1.
The Russian Brigadier Czerepov was captured along with 2 colonels (Perekusihin, Wercner2), 3 majors and 43 NCOs (among which 5 were severely wounded) and some 1,458 privates3. During this engagement, 12 Russian officers and 300-400 privates (500-600 as per Tempelhof), mostly from the infantry, died at the hands of the Prussian cavalry. Furthermore, 5 officers and 140 privates from Czerepov's Corps were left behind at Gostyń because they were seriously wounded. The Russian prisoners were sent to Cüstrin.
Platen lost some 200 killed (300 as per Tempelhof) from which 100 from I./Finck. Furthermore, Lieutenant von Belzig (of Grenadier Battalion Rothenburg) was killed and Captain von Auerswald, Lieutenant von Bockeberg and von Kamecke were wounded4. Finally 24 wounded were left at Gostyń.
Most wounded were left at the monastery. Polish wagons were plundered and burnt.
At 9:00 p.m., Platen sent part of his corps under Thadden to escort the supply and munition wagons, prisoners, pontoons and artillery to Czempiń.
From September 16 to 22, Platen continued to operate in Greater Poland before deciding to head for Pomerania and the camp of Colberg.
Platen's raid destroyed 3 important Russian magazines with supplies. Because of this raid, the Russians were forced to retire to Greater Poland. Platen with his corps then took part in the defence Colberg.
Order of Battle
Prussian Order of Battle
|First Line||Second Line|
|Right Wing under the command of Knobloch|
|Left Wing under the command of Jung Zieten|
Besides the aforementioned units who took part in the engagement, Platen's force also included the following units:
- V. "Standing" Grenadier Battalion Hachenberg
- IR9 Jung Schenckendorf (2 bns)
- II./IR 12 Finck (1 bn)
- IR29 Knobloch (2 bns)
- IR37 Braun Fusiliers (2 bns)
- IR42 Markgraf von Brandenburg Fusiliers (2 bns)
- DR9 Pomeiske Dragoons (5 sqns)5
- HR7 Malachowski Hussars (8 sqns)
Overall, Platen had 28 guns (including those used in batteries at Gostyn):
- 8 x 12-pdrs guns (4 light and 4 heavy)
- 4 x 6-pdrs guns
- 4 x 7-pdrs howitzers
- 4 x horse artillery guns
- 2 x 12-pdrs howitzers
Russian Order of Battle
Commander-in-chief: Brigadier Czerepov
Summary: about 2,500 infantry and some 50 artillerymen, 450 dragoons, 300-400 cossacks or hussars, 5,000 wagons with supply and some camp boys.
The exact strength and breakdown of Czerepov's units is not certain. German historiography accepts that brigadier Czerepov had from 4000 to 5000 men6. Frederick in his own history of the Seven Years War wrote that the Russians had 5 battalions of infantry7. Płk Masłowski in his work reported 2 weak battalions and 4 squadrons8. We think that German historians were more reliable, especially if we look at the accuracy of losses and prisoners. We think that Czerepov at Gostyń had 2 weak regiments of infantry (in all 4 battalions of musketeers and 4 combined companies of grenadiers, what was in Frederick's eyes a fifth battalion). Even though the specific units are not identified (Prussian sources mentions that there were men from different units), we know that there were some troops under the command of Buturlin.
Furthermore, Czerepov probably had one regiment of dragoons (a 1796 map shows 5 squadrons of regular cavalry). Ruesch captured some 150 dragoons9.
There were probably 1 or 2 squadrons of hussars (probably Makedonskiy Hussars) and 1 or 2 sotnias of Cossacks.
The artillery consisted of 7 guns (most probably 3-pdrs) and 2 unicorns.
1. A Russian author in his study (see D. O. Masslowskij, Der Siebenjahrige Krieg nach Russischer Darstellung, t. III, Berlin 1894, and his, Zapiski po istorii woennawo isskustwa w Rossii, t. I, Petersburg 1891 ) describes fire which was burning his wagons and two Prussian attacks which were repulsed. These two attacks may have been on the two lines of wagons. After the third attack Russian troops ran away. Masłowskij pay attention to the important role of the Prussian artillery which has been underestimated in German historiography
2. in Masłowskij as a major
3. J. G. Tielke, Beytrage zur Kriegs-Kunst und Geschichte des Krieges von 1756 bis 1763, t. Vi, Freyberg 1786, reported 42 officers, 1,400 prisoners and 600 killed, on the Prussian side 150 died, from Finck battalion almost 100, Masłowski have 3 officers and 129 men killed , wounded 7 officers and an unknown number of men.
4. Klinkowski, Potyczka pod Gostyniem (15.IX.1761) w świetle ówczesnej pracy berlińskiej (w:) Kronika Gostyńska, 1934.
5. In books C. Jany, Geschichte der Koniglisch Preussischen Armee bis zum Jahre 1807, Berlin 1928-1929. and G. Dorn, J. Engelmann, Kavallerie Regimentern Friederich des Grossen, Frieberg 1984, wrongly identified as DR3.
6. See bibliography.
7. Fryderyk Wielki, Oeuvres de Frederic le Grand , t. V, Berlin 1847, s. 126
8. Masłowski, Zapiski, op.cit.
9. Klinkowski, op. cit.
Archencholtz J.,Geschichte des siebenjahrigen Krieges in Deutschland, Berlin 1793.
Tielke, J.G., Beträge zur Kriegskunst und Geschichte des Kriegs von 1756 bis 1763, Freyburg 1778-17.
Zbieralski R., Działania armii rosyjskiej i pruskiej na ziemi gostyńskiej w dobie wojny siedmioletniej w latach 1759-1763, the copy of article in author hand
Gieraths G., Die Kampfhandlungen der Brandenburgische-preussischen Armee, Berlin 1964.
Masslowskij, D. O., Der Siebenjahrige Krieg nach Russischer Darstellung, t. III, Berlin 1894.
Masslowskij, D.O., Zapiski po istorii woennawo isskustwa w Rossii, t. I, Petersburg 1891
Maslowskij, D., Russkaia armiia w siemieletnojuju wojnu, t. III, Moscow, 1891
Klinkowski, Potyczka pod Gostyniem (15. IX 1761) w świetle ówczesnej prasy berlińskiej, (w:) Kronika Gostyńska, Gostyń 1934.
Frederick The Great, Oeuvres de Frederic le Grand, t. V, Berlin 1847.
Jany K., Geschichte der Königlisch Preussischen Armee bis zum Jahre 1807, t. 2, Berlin 1929.
Konopczyński W., Polska w dobie wojny siedmioletniej, cz. 2, Kraków-Warszawa 1911.
Grosser generalstab, Geschichte des Siebenjährigen Krieges in einer Reihe von Vorlesungen, Prussian Army Grosser generalstab, t. 5, cz. 2, Berlin, 1837, s. 482
Tomasz Karpiński (student at the Institute of History, University of Adam Mickiewicz in Poznań, Poland) for the initial version of this article
Ing. Jiří Sissak PhD. and the MZK Brno for their authorisation to publish the map scanned from Tielke