1762-08-30 - Combat of Nauheim
During the campaign of 1762 in West Germany, after their defeat at the battle of Wilhelmsthal on June 24, the French generals Soubise and d'Estrées retired behind the Fulda the following night, leaving a single division to occupy the entrenched camp of Kratzenberg in front of Kassel. The two French generals then adopted a defensive stance.
In the second half of August, the French generals resolved to recall the Prince de Condé from the Lower Rhine with the greatest part of his army. After the junction of the two armies, Soubise and d'Estrées planned to advance once more in Hesse. During the last weeks of August, Ferdinand of Brunswick tried to prevent this junction. On August 29, this junction was almost completed. Ferdinand marched to Nidda with the main Allied army to make a junction with the Hereditary Prince of Brunswick, still hoping to prevent the junction of the two French armies. The same day, judging his position on the Johannisberg too isolated, Condé had retired to the heights of Bommersheim (unidentified location) near Homburg (present-day Bad Homburg).
Plan of attack
The two French armies were trying to complete their junctions. To do so, Soubise and d'Estrées planned to advance on Friedberg and to encamp there, thus threatening the Allied right flank. They also instructed Condé to return to his former camp on the Johannisberg.
Ferdinand's goal was to drive a wedge between these two armies to prevent their junction. The French having abandoned the Johannisberg, he wanted to occupy these heights which were ideally located for his purpose.
DigAM proposes the following map of the combat of Nauheim:
Document 5370 (3 different sketches illustrating the various phase of the engagement)
Please note that these sketches have all been drawn with due North pointing to the right hand side.
Stainville was screening the French Army of the Upper Rhine with his vanguard along the Nidda from Staden to Assenheim. Guerchy was not far behind with a strong corps (18 bns, 6 sqns, the Carabiniers and 2 brigades of artillery).
A watchtower dominated the Johannisberg whose northern and north-eastern slopes were quite steep and south-western slope gently sloping.
Description of Events
On August 30 in the morning, Condé left Bommersheim as ordered to encamp at Ober-Rosbach (more probably Rosbach vor der Höhe) with his vanguard on the Johannisberg.
At 5:00 AM, Luckner marched from Bingenheim towards Dorheim with his corps. He planned to pass the Wetter there and to advance on Friedberg.
At about 6:30 AM, Condé's vanguard under M. de Lévis reached the Johannisberg. He deployed his infantry on the heights, facing east with woods protecting his two flanks, supported by his dragoons, and sent his light troops towards Nauheim and Friedberg.
Condé, closely following his vanguard, soon reached Ober-Rosbach and deployed behind the Strassbach stream.
At 8:00 AM, the Hereditary Prince marched out of his camp at Wölfersheim in 3 columns, advancing on Assenheim. The rightmost column, under Hardenberg, marched by Melbach and Beienheim; the center column, under Schele, by Weckesheim; the left most column, under Oheimb, towards Dorn-Assenheim. Meanwhile, Lieutenant-colonel Jeanneret was detached towards Wickstadt with 5 hussar squadrons to threaten Assenheim.
Allied troops could be seen advancing along the Wetter. Soubise and d'Estrées ordered Stainville to speed up his advance and to place himself under the command of the Prince de Condé whose main body was still too distant from Lévis' vanguard to support it effectively.
Meanwhile, the Hereditary Prince personally visited Luckner and observed his manoeuvres. Luckner's vanguard had already came to contact with French light troops near Dorheim. Realising that Luckner could not drive back the superior force facing him, the Hereditary Prince changed his plan and redirected his rightmost column (Hardenberg's), who had already reached Beienheim, to support Luckner at Dorheim.
This reorganisation of his lines were under way when the Hereditary Prince was informed that a French force had occupied the Johannisberg, thus increasing the menace against his right flank. Leaving 4 battalions (Hessian Leib Regiment and Prinz Carl) to Luckner at Dorheim, the Hereditary Prince immediately marched towards Wisselsheim at the head of Hardenberg's column and of the heavy artillery under Schele. Baggage were left at Weckesheim and the rest of Schele's column (6 Hessian grenadier battalions), under command of Major-general von Dittfurt, resumed its march towards Assenheim to support Jeanneret's detachment. Finally, the Hereditary Prince instructed Lieutenant-general Oheimb to immediately send Müller Dragoons as reinforcements to Luckner; to detach a further 8 squadrons (including the Leib-Dragoner and Jung Bremer Cavalry) to reinforce Jeanneret; and to support Luckner's attack on Dorheim with the rest of his corps.
Around 9:00 AM, despite the fact that the French had already broken the bridges on the Wetter, Luckner's Hussars managed to pass the river at Dorheim. They came to contact with advanced elements of Lévis' vanguard, mainly detachments of the Dragons Chasseurs de Conflans, and drove them back as they advanced on Friedberg. However, other light troops belonging to Lévis' vanguard (Volontaires du Dauphiné, Dragons de Wurmser) were occupying Friedberg and they firmly received the attack of Luckner's Hussars and repulsed them.
During these skirmishes around Friedberg, Luckner and Oheimb had passed the Wetter and taken positions on the heights between Dorheim and Friedberg. Meanwhile, the Hereditary Prince had reached Wisselsheim and planted his heavy artillery on a height between the Wetter and the Usa. His artillery then opened on the Johannisberg, covering the passage of the Wetter by the Allied troops.
Around 11:00 AM, the Hereditary Prince personally led the Hanoverian infantry (Kielmannsegg, Estorff, Craushaar, Meding and Linsingen) across the river while Schele did the same on his left at the head of Block Infantry, Prinz Karl von Mecklenburg-Strelitz Infantry and Erbprinz Infantry.
By 11:00 AM, the Prince de Condé had been informed of the movement of the Hereditary Prince. He immediately marched to support his vanguard.
After the crossing, Block Infantry launched two assaults on Nauheim (present-day Bad Nauheim) before finally dislodging the defending French troops. The regiment then rejoined the other Allied battalions preparing for an attack against the Johannisberg.
The Allied infantry then started to climb the steep slope of the Johannisberg. During this time, Luckner's corps (including the recent reinforcements) had marched from the heights near Friedberg to Niedermörlen on Lévis' left flank.
Lévis' grenadiers (Grenadiers Royaux de Cambis, Grenadiers Royaux d'Ally) stubbornly defended their positions. Meanwhile, Luckner with 7 squadrons also attacked Chapt Dragons and Flamarens Dragons. After a lively combat lasting two hours, where MM. de Wurmser, de Conflans and de Viomesnil distinguished themselves, the Johannisberg was taken by the Allies.
Around 12:30 PM, while marching towards the Johannisberg, Condé was reinforced by 5 grenadier battalions who were part of Stainville's vanguard of the Army of the Upper Rhine.
The heads of Condé's columns debouched on the Johannisberg as Lévis' vanguard was evacuating its positions and the Hereditary Prince was forming his troops in his newly conquered positions. The Allies had just enough time to bring up a single regimental gun on the hill.
Condé advanced with the head of his own column against the right wing of the Allied army which was under the command of Luckner. Meanwhile, Stainville advanced through the woods against the Allied left wing with his own grenadiers. During the ensuing combat, the French were continuously reinforced. Soubise personally joined the corps under the command of the Prince de Condé and d'Estrées, after occupying Friedberg, personally joined Stainville's grenadiers.
The Boisgelin infantry brigade, under the command of M. de la Guiche but personally led on this occasion by Soubise, along with the Grenadiers Royaux de Narbonne, the Grenadiers Royaux de le Camus, the Grenadiers Royaux du Plessis d'Argentré, the Grenadiers Royaux de la Roche-Lambert, the Grenadiers Royaux de l'Espinasse, the Grenadiers Royaux d'Ally, and the Grenadiers Royaux de Cambis to their right all advanced against the Allied line without firing a shot, closely supported by the Grenadiers de France.
Condé used his mounted troops to extend his left wing. During this time, Choiseul Dragons, Nicolaï Dragons and Schomberg Dragons had reached the heights of the Johannisberg and soon reinforced the French left wing. Now, a total of 20 dragoon squadrons were facing Luckner who could oppose them only 7 squadrons. Furthermore, Condé's heavy cavalry (Gendarmerie and Berry Cavalerie) was deployed in the second line behind the French dragoons. Thus, the French mounted units gradually outflanked the right wing of the Allies.
The Allies were driven out of the woods that they occupied and routed. The Hereditary Prince was lightly wounded while trying to rally Meding Infantry. Despite the efforts of the Hereditary Prince, his infantry retired precipitously towards the plain where Luckner's 7 squadrons had already redeployed near Niedermörlen.
The Prince de Condé launched his cavalry against the routing Allied infantry, threatening to decimate it. Oheimb, leaving the Brunswick Carabiniers to guard the artillery, joined Luckner's squadrons with 3 squadrons of Müller Dragoons and, together, they came to the rescue of Allied infantry but were driven back. The Allied cavalry rallied behind a ravine and rapidly advanced again. Condé's cavalry (Berry cavalry brigade and the Gendarmerie) then launched a second charge and, after an obstinate combat, drove back the Allied cavalry. The Dragons Chasseurs de Conflans captured a standard of a Hanoverian cavalry regiment.
This cavalry engagement allowed the Allied infantry to retire to the ravine formed by the Wetter.
While reforming his infantry, the Hereditary Prince was wounded my a musket ball.
Finally, the Hereditary Prince was forced to retire and to repass the Wetter. Dittfurt and Jeanneret also stopped their advance on Assenheim and retired.
By 2:00 PM, the engagement was finished.
The Hereditary Prince was repulsed with considerable loss (70 soldiers and 2 officers killed, 347 soldiers and 19 officers wounded, 926 soldiers and 30 officers taken prisoners, 2 standards and 10 guns). The French lost about 750 men killed or wounded.
In the evening, as soon as Ferdinand was informed of this setback, he detached his second line on Bingenheim and Staden to prevent the French from exploiting their success.
Order of Battle
Allied Order of Battle
Commander-in-chief: Lieutenant-general Luckner
- Hanoverian Luckner's Hussars (4 sqns)
- British 15th Eliot's Light Horse (3 sqns)
- Hanoverian Alt Bremer Cavalry (2 sqns)
- Hanoverian Estorff Cavalry (2 sqns)
- unidentified jäger units (4 bns)
Hereditary Prince's Corps
Commander-in-chief: Hereditary Prince of Brunswick
- Lieutenant-general von Hardenberg's column (13 bns)
- Lieutenant-general von Schele's column (6 bns)
- Major-general von Dittfurt's grenadier brigade
- Hessian 10/12 Gosen Converged Grenadier Battalion (1 bn)
- Hessian 2/4 Knoblauch Converged Grenadier Battalion (1 bn)
- Hessian 5/8 Schmidt Converged Grenadier Battalion (1 bn)
- Hessian 1/6 Biesenroth Converged Grenadier Battalion (1 bn)
- Hessian 7/11 Bose Converged Grenadier Battalion (1 bn)
- Hessian 3/6 Lossberg Converged Grenadier Battalion (1 bn)
- unidentified heavy artillery units
- Major-general von Dittfurt's grenadier brigade
- Lieutenant-general Oheimb's column (17 sqns)
- Lieutenant-colonel Jeanneret's detachment (5 sqns)
French Order of Battle
Reserve of the Lower Rhine
Commanders-in-chief: Prince de Condé
- Avant Garde under Lieutenant-general de Lévis
- Main body (only the leading elements are listed because they were the only ones involved)
N.B.: this vanguard was the only part of the Army of the Upper Rhine involved in the engagement
- Grenadiers Royaux de Narbonne (2 bns)
- Grenadiers Royaux de le Camus (2 bns)
- Grenadiers Royaux du Plessis d'Argentré (2 bns)
- Grenadiers Royaux de la Roche-Lambert (2 bns)
- Grenadiers Royaux de l'Espinasse (2 bns)
- Grenadiers de France (4 bns)
- Choiseul Dragons (4 sqns)
- Nicolaï Dragons (4 sqns)
- Schomberg Dragons (4 sqns)
This article incorporates texts from the following book which are now in the public domain:
- Jomini, Henri; Traité des grandes opérations militaires, 2ème édition, 4ème partie, Magimel, Paris: 1811, pp. 182-183
- Mauvillon, I.; Geschichte Ferdinands Herzogs von Braunschweig-Lüneburg, Part 2, Leipzig: 1794, pp. 245-249
- Pajol, Charles P. V., Les Guerres sous Louis XV, vol. V, Paris, 1891, pp. 421-426
Kessel, Eberhard: Das Ende des Siebenjährigen Krieges 1760-1763, Paderborn: Schöningh, 2007, pp. 886-891