1762 - Siege of Schweidnitz – Siege till the Battle of Reichenbach
The siege lasted from August to October 1762
The state of the fortrees and the arrival of the Prussian army and its initial deployment are described in our article 1762 - Siege of Schweidnitz – Preparations.
Description of Events
Opening of the Siege
The siege of Schweidnitz began on August 8. The siege corps (21 bns, 25 sqns) was deployed as follows:
- 4 bns between Kroischwitz (present-day Kraszowice) and Bögendorf
- 2 bns between Bögendorf and Schönbrunn
- 2 bns and 10 dragoon sqns between Schönbrunn and Croatenberg (unidentified location)
- 4 bns between Croatenberg and Tunkendorf
- 2 bns and 5 hussar sqns below Tunkendorf
- 5 bns from Tunkendorf towards Teichenau
- 3 bns as artillery reserve
- 5 hussar sqns at Vitschendorf (unidentified location, maybe Wickendorf, present-day Witków)
- 5 hussar sqns at Jakobsdorf
Meanwhile, the Prussians deployed a covering force in continuous positions all around the fortress to prevent the intervention of any Austrian relief force. A line of entrenchments was built behind the Peterswalde at the foot of the Eulengebirge.
The 12,000 Austrians were under Field-Marshal-Lieutenant Guasco who had with him the famous Gribeauval, another Frenchman, as chief-engineer charged with the command of the Austrian artillery and with the direction of the defence of the place. Guasco was seconded by Gianini. They had plenty of provisions and ammunitions.
On this first day (August 8) at daybreak, Colonel Calwell, commanding the Grenzers posted in front of the fortress, reconnoitred the trenches and noticed that the works were still very imperfect and that no battery had yet been erected to cover them. Meanwhile, the Austrian artillery maintained a violent fire on the Prussian positions till 2:00 p.m.. The same day, the Prussians determined the locations of their first batteries:
- Battery No. 1 (6 howitzers) directed against the right face of Fort No. II
- Battery No. 2 (6 mortars) directed against the front of attack
- Battery No. 3 (6 mortars) directed against the front of attack
- Battery No. 4 (6 mortars) directed against the front of attack
- Battery No. 5 (6 howitzers) enfilading the covered way between the Striegauer Fleche to Fort No. II and raking the area between the town and the Star fort No. III
The Austrians assembled a force (400 grenadiers in 8 coys, 1,500 fusiliers in 3 bns, 600 Grenzers, 130 dragoons, 300 workers, 10 guns taken from the glacis of the Galgen Fort and 6 from the Jauernicker Fleche) for an attack and placed it under the command of Colonel von Freyenfels from Starhemberg Infantry assisted by Lieutenant-colonels Mulrian and Weizmann. The 600 Grenzers, supported by the grenadiers of Ligne and Los Rios, should sally out of the Bögen Barrier and seize the brick barn; while the first bn would come out of the Striegauer Barrier to attack the right wing of the Prussian parallel; the second bn, supported by 3 grenadier coys, would come out of the Köppner Barrier to join the attack on the parallel; the third bn with all the artillery would support the remaining 3 grenadiers coys to prevent the intervention of the Prussian cavalry.
At 2:00 p.m., the Austrians sallied out of three gates to attack the right wing of the parallel defended by Grenadier Battalion 29/31 Falkenhayn and II./Gabelentz Fusiliers. Meanwhile, diversionary attacks were also launched against the left wing and the centre. The Grenzers and the supporting grenadiers made themselves master of the brick barn and the Austrians managed to drive the defending Prussian bns away from the trenches, taking Colonel von Falkenhayn prisoner along with 150 men. The Austrian workers then had time to fill 250 m. of the parallel. However, Lieutenant-colonel Reizenstein at the head of 2 sqns of Finckenstein Dragoons ran from Schönbrunn to threaten the rear of the Austrians, forcing them to retire to the glacis. They did not remain on the glacis for very long because Tauentzien was personally coming to the relief of the right wing with I./Ferdinand von Preußen, II./Ferdinand von Preußen and II./Prinz Heinrich von Preußen Fusiliers, taking position on a height near the brick barn to canonade them. The Austrians then retired to the covered way. During this action, the Prussians lost 3 lieutenants, 5 NCO and 79 men killed; 2 captains, 4 lieutenants, 10 NCO and 110 men wounded; 1 colonel, 2 lieutenants, 2 ensigns, 3 NCO and 120 men taken prisoners. The Austrians for their part lost 15 men killed, 40 wounded and 1 colonel, 5 officers and 235 men taken prisoners.
At 5:00 p.m., the Prussians assembled 800 workers from the army near Schönbrunn and 500 from Tauentzien's Corps to erect the batteries. The new covering force under Major-general Prince von Bernburg consisted of 10 bns (the 2 bns of Syburg Infantry which had suffered heavy losses at the battle of Burkersdorf accounting for a single battalion).
In the evening, 150 men were posted in a pit located close behind the right wing of the trenches which were covered by 150 dragoons while 150 hussars covered the left wing of the trenches.
In the night of August 8 to 9, despite this initial setback, the Prussians built the banquette of the first parallel; established communication trenches leading to this parallel and worked at the erections of the 5 planned batteries, losing 6 men killed and 8 wounded during work.
On August 9 at 6:00, the Prussians batteries 1 to 5 opened on Schweidnitz. Their howitzers set fire to all houses on the right of the Köppen Gate up to the Petersgasse and to the magazines of the fortress which had been previously emptied out and contained only a few old palisades and some lumber. Finally, they directed their fire on the Jauernicker Fort and Fleche almost silencing the fire of their defenders. However, the Austrian artillery placed in the neighbouring works replied with a very lively fire to prevent the destruction of the fort and to slow down the work of the Prussian miners in this area. Meanwhile, the old redoubt lying near the Eichberg on the left of the Prussian positions was repaired and manned with 40 serving six 12-pdr guns directed against the Bögen Gate. Furthermore, each day, 100 hussars took position to the right of this redoubt. Finckenstein Dragoons were transferred behind Schönbrunn. The Prussian artillery was ordered to erect 2 additional batteries on the left wing of the first parallel:
- Battery No. 6 (10 x 24-pdr guns)
- Battery No. 7 (6 x 12-pdr guns)
In the evening, a new Prussian covering force relieved the previous one. It consisted of 8 bns with 10 battalion guns under Major-general von Thadden. Furthermore, 725 workers were assigned to the artillery and 525 to the engineers.
The same day, the Austrians completed their new flèche (Flèche No. XIII) on a height in front of the Galgenfort. It had taken only 6 days to erect but had required 1,200 men to do so. Meanwhile, when Bevern learned of Beck's departure, he started his march towards Schweidnitz, passing the Neisse on his way. Meanwhile, Beck was trying to bar him the way by seizing post after post. Beck intended to get hold of a height called Fischerberg, lying near Reichenbach (in the southern Schweidnitz vicinities). This would have been the prelude to Daun's attempt on Koltschen Height.
In the night of August 9 to 10, two new trenches were opened from the first parallel (points L and M on plate V) to converge 200 paces forward (in N on plate V). The Prussians also made a return (O on plate V) near Schönbrunn, and another on the left wing of the first parallel (P on plate V) and 2 additional battery emplacements (8 and 9 on plate V) in the middle of the first parallel; and erected the planned batteries No. 6 and 7. Meanwhile, the Austrians completed the palisades and repaired damages causes by the bombardment of the previous day and cut 3 additional embrasures in the Garten Fort to be able to fire obliquely on the foremost Prussian batteries. During this night, the Prussians lost 6 privates, 1 NCO and 4 bombardiers belonging to the artillery killed; 1 lieutenant, 26 private, 4 bombardiers and a gunner wounded. The Prussian batteries kept a lively fire all night, reducing a few houses in front of the Striegauer Gate to ashes.
On August 10, the workers assigned to the artillery the previous night were replaced by 150 fresh ones. From daybreak till 9:00 a.m., a violent artillery duel took place, resuming from noon to 2:00 p.m. and from 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.. The foremost Prussian batteries suffered heavily during this duel but their howitzers set fire to and destroyed a hay magazine in the garden of the Friars Minor. Furthermore, the Austrians made additional embrasures wherever they could find an oblique field of fire on the Prussian siege works. They then recalled the Grenzers within the walls of the place. At 6:00 p.m., a Prussian covering force of 9 bns arrived under Major-general von Gablenz. It was accompanied by 1,025 workers assigned to the artillery and 600 others for the engineers.
The same day, Beck's Corps made a junction with the Austrian Main Army, taking position on the right at Kloster-Camenz.
In the night of August 10 to 11, the Prussians worked at the erection of Battery No. 8 (6 x 12-pdr guns) directed against Fort No. II and No. 9 (6 x 12-pdr guns) directed against Fort No. III and started to work on Battery No. 10 (8 x 24-pdr guns) directed against the latter fort. They also secured the left wing of the first parallel with a new redoubt (2 x 6-pdrs) and extended a communication trench (from H to Q on plate V). Meanwhile, the Austrians built Entrenchment No. XVI between Fort No. II and the place and repaired the damages caused the previous day. During this night, the Prussians lost 2 lieutenants, 7 privates and 1 gunner killed; and 2 NCO, 16 privates, 1 bombardier and 6 gunners wounded.
On August 11, the Prussian Battery No. 10 opened. In the evening, the new covering force consisted of 8 bns under the Prince von Bernburg and was accompanied by 1,195 workers.
The same day, the Duke of Württemberg's division was further reinforced with Werner Hussars (10 sqns).
In the night of August 11 to 12, the Prussians, under the direction of Ingenieur-Lieutenant Kistenmacher, established 5 zigzag trenches starting from the right wing of the first parallel (N on plate V) and reaching the Striegauer Road. Meanwhile on the left of these zigzag trenches, Ingenieur-captain Harroy and Lieutenant Wolf built a new 188 m. long trench (S on plate V). The Prussian also planted a flank batterie (Battery No. 11 containing 6 x 24 pdr guns) on top of a knoll to fire on Fort No. I and on the Wasserfort. The redoubt on the left wing of the parallel was also completed as well as the communication trenches leading to Batteries No. 8 and 9). Throughout the night, the Austrians kept a lively artillery fire while they continued to work at the wooden Entrenchment No. XVI under heavy artillery fire. During this night, the Prussians lost 3 NCO and 3 privates killed; and 1 lieutenant, 18 privates and 8 gunners wounded.
On August 12, Bevern reached Kunzendorf (present-day Drogoslaw) where he learned that Beck's Corps was near Frankenstein (present-day Ząbkowice Śląskie). The same day, all available Prussian batteries opened against the fortress, the flank batteries concentrating on the Bögenfort and Galgenfort. The fire of the Prussian batteries forces part of the Austrian garrison which encamped between the defensive works and the walls to retire into the town. With news of an approaching Austrian relief force, the brigades of Bernburg and Thadden moved their camp closer to the town, facing Freyburg and Striegau. That evening, Major-general von Thadden brought 9 bns to cover and 1,065 workers to resume siege works.
At nightfall, Bevern marched towards Nimptsch (present-day Niemcza).
In the night of August 12 to 13, the Prussians made a half-parallel (T on plate V) at the end of the zigzag trenches established the previous night on their right wing, this new work reached the Striegauer Road. On their left wing, they also made a half parallel (U on plate V). They also planted 4 mortars in each of the new batteries (No. 12 and 13 on plate V). Battery No. 5, already containing 6 howitzers, received 4 additional mortars. Furthermore, 2 mortars were removed from Battery No. 3 and No. 4, leaving both of them with 4 mortars; and all the 6 mortars of Battery No. 2. Throughout the night, small Austrian detachments (50 grenadiers and 300 infantrymen) prepared to launch an attack on the head of the Prussian zigzag trenches but the assault was postponed . The Austrians retired from Entrenchment XVI and erected Entrenchment XVIII closer to the Striegauer Gate and Work XIX in front of the Köppen Gate. During this night, the Prussians lost 3 privates killed; and 2 officers, 4 NCO, 29 privates, 1 bombardier and 11 gunners wounded.
On August 13, the camp of Peterwaldau became King Frederick's headquarters. Outposts were pushed up to Langenbielau (present-day Bielawa), defended by hussars and a freikorp. A reinforcement of 10 battalions joined the Duke of Württemberg. In the morning, Bevern had reached Ober-Peilau (present-day Piława Górna) after having marched the entire night. Bevern encamped with his right near Reichenbach and his left on the Fischerberg north of Mittel Peilau (now part of Piława Górna). Beck had been outmanoeuvred and he arrived too late to prevent Bevern from seizing this key position and from making his junction with the Duke of Württemberg's Division.
The same day, the Prussians, despite defensive fire, pushed two zigzag trenches from the new half parallel (U on plate V) built during the previous night. A Prussian bomb hit a powder magazine in the Fleche who exploded, killing or wounding 1 officer and 20 men. In the evening, Major-general Gabelenz arrived with 7 bns to cover the siege works and 680 men to resume work on trenches.
In the night of August 13 to 14, the progress of the Prussian siege works forced the Austrians to attempt a sortie. The task was entrusted to Colonel von Calwell at the head of 1,400 men with a covering force of 90 horse protecting his left flank. Calwell subdivided his troops into two groups of 700 men. About 10:00 p.m., the first group formed in 2 columns came out through the barriers of the parade to the left of the Striegauer Road to attack the half parallel on the right of the Prussian works. The second group made a sortie on the farther side of the flèche against the Prussian left. A battalion of Neipperg Infantry stood behind the Striegauer Barrier and another of Erzherzog Ferdinand Infantry behing the Köppen Barrier to cover the retreat of Calwell's troops. The attack was initially repulsed by Calwell successfully renewed it and finally reached the two half parallels as well as Batteries No. 4 and 5, forcing Prussian workers and a detachment of Gabelentz Fusiliers to retire to the first parallel. The Austrians were preparing to nail the Prussian guns when Calwell fell, mortally wounded. Meanwhile, Lieutenant-general Tauentzien had sent a battalion of Duke von Württemberg Fusiliers to reinforce the defenders of the Prussian trenches. The Austrians then precipitously retired behind their defensive works. In this action, the Austrians lost 1 colonel, 1 lieutenant-colonel and 120 men wounded, 20 men killed, 35 others taken prisoners and 16 deserters. For their part, the Prussian lost 1 lieutenant, 1 NCO and 19 men killed; 5 NCO, 52 men and 3 gunners wounded. During the rest of the night the Prussians resumed work on the the zigzag trenches (V on plate V) and a half parallel (between R and T on plate V).
On August 14, guns placed in Mantel No. II attracted too much fire and the Austrians improved the palisade defending them. That evening, Major-general Prince von Bernburg covered the Prussian siege works with 8 bns while 1,100 men resumed work in the trenches.
The same day, Beck retired to the camp of Schönwalde (present-day Budzów) near Silberberg (present-day Srebrna Gora). The Prussians extended the positions of their rearguard, establishing outposts at Ellguth (unidentified location) and Pulzendorf (unidentified location). Frederick sent several batteries of heavy guns to Bevern and instructed him to entrench his positions. Now, Daun could not force the Prussians to lift the siege of Schweidnitz without engaging and dislodging Bevern's Corps. Accordingly, Daun took dispositions for an attack on Bevern's positions and ordered Beck to recover the Fischerberg.
In the night of August 14 to 15, the Prussians extended the rightmost half parallel (from R to X on plate V) and the leftmost one (from U to Y on plate V) and advanced the zigzag trenches up to the place where they intended to build the second parallel. Meanwhile, they directed the fire of their howitzers and mortars against the Jauernick Flèche. The Austrians made a brief sortie at about 10:30 p.m. with only 20 men. During this night, the Prussians lost 1 officer, 1 NCO, 8 men and 2 gunners killed; and 3 officers, 3 NCO, 29 men, 2 bombardiers and 4 gunners wounded.
On August 15, the Austrians brought 2 howitzers in the covert way of No. IX to play against the Prussian zigzag trenches. The same day, the Prussian took 2 guns out of Battery No. 10. In the evening, Major-general von Thadden covered the trenches with 9 bns while 950 men resumed work.
In the night of August 15 to 16, the Prussians established the 500 paces long second parallel at some 250 paces from the glacis under the fire of the Austrian guns posted in the covert way. During this night, the Prussians lost 1 lieutenant, 9 men and 2 gunners killed; and 1 lieutenant, 2 NCO, 32 men, 1 bombardier and 4 gunners wounded.
Attack of the Austrian relief force at Reichenbach
On August 16, the Austrian relief force attempted to break through the contravallation. The point chosen for the attack was Reichenbach on the heights of Kesselberg and Stein-Seifersdorf. Marschal Daun gave the order to attack the Prussian circonvallation entrenchments, hoping to break the encirclement of Schweidnitz. The Prussian finally won the battle of Reichenbach and remained master of the battlefield. Meanwhile the Prussian siege corps had received precise instructions in case the Austrian garrison would attempt a sortie to support the ongoing combats at Reichenbach. The same day, I./Gabelentz Fusiliers was ordered to join Frederick's main army (it would return to the siege corps the following day after the successful repulse of the Austrian relief force). Furthermore, the Prussians finally started to dig mines, the siege corps provided 150 men for this purpose who joined the 40 miners. This mining corps was subdivided into 3 brigades. In the evening, Major-general Gabelenz arrived with the covering force (8 bns) with 500 men for artillery work and 270 men, 16 miners and 150 sappers.
The other phases of the siege are described in the following articles:
- From the battle of Reichenbach till the beginning of mining operations (August 17 to 22, 1762) describing the continuation of the siege after the Prussian victory at Reichenbach, the Prussian unsuccessful attempts to storm the place and the decision to rely on mining operations to conquer the fortress.
- First phase of the mining operarions (August 23 to September 22, 1762) describing the initial mining operations till the direct intervention of Frederick II.
- Second phase of the mining operarions (September 23 to October 11, 1762) describing the mining operations from the arrival Frederick II to the capitulation and occupation of the fortress.
The article is mainly a condensed translation of:
- Tielke, J.G.: Beytrage zur Kriegs-Kunst und Heschichte des Krieges von 1756 bis 1763, Vol. 4, Freyberg, 1781, pp. 151-359
A few paragraphs are excerpts from the following books which are now in the public domain:
- Carlyle T.: History of Friedrich II of Prussia vol. 20
- Jomini, Henri: Traité des grandes opérations militaires, 2ème édition, 4ème partie, Magimel, Paris: 1811, pp. 215-224
- Pajol, Charles P. V.: Les Guerres sous Louis XV, vol. V, Paris, 1891, pp. 301-304
Archenholz, J. W. von, Geschichte des Siebenjahrigen Krieges in Deutschland, Berlin: 1828
Duffy, Christopher, Fire and Stone: The Science of Fortress Warfare (1660-1860), David & Charles, London: 1975
Fiedler, Siegfried, Geschichte der Grenadiere Friedrichs des Grossen, München 1981
Grosser Generalstab, Die Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen, Hiller, Berlin, 1830-1913
Jany, K., Geschichte des Koniglische Preussische Armee, t. 2, Berlin 18??
Plan der Festung Schweidnitz nebst der Kayserl. Konigl. Attaque A(nn)o 1757 - Collection of Krzysztof Czarnecki
Tempelhoff, G. F., Geschichte des Siebenjahrige Krieges in Deutschland, t. VI, Berlin 1801, pp. 140-155
Carlo Bessolo for the initial version of this article