Battle of Hastenbeck Account 05
This description is a translation, by Christian Rogge, of the relation of the battle by an anonymous French officer originally published in the “Neues militärisches Journal”, 1788-1805, vol. 1, Hanover 1788, pp. 220 - 236.
(…) As the marshal had inspected the position of the duc de Cumberland, so much as possible, he decided to advance around the heights, and attack the enemy on his left flanc. And all staff officiers were of his opinion. To this intention, he detached Mr de Chevert at midnight with the brigades of Picardie, of Navarre, of la Marine, the Volontaires de Flandre and Haynault, and those of the army. These three brigades sustained by the brigade d'Eu were to attack the enemies left wing. The success of the day depended on this attaque, because it was thought impossible to debouch into the plain, as long the enemy were master of the heights in front of the woods.
The marquis d'Armentieres, who had under his orders the brigades of Imperial troops, de Belsunce, de la Couronne and d’Alsace, supported by the Dragons on foot, had to direct his advance on the heights along the edge of the wood. The brigade of Champagne at the orders of Mr d’Auerly [d’Anlezy], supported by the brigade of Reding, was to attack outside the wood. And the brigades d'Orléans, Vaubecourt, Lyonnois, and Mailly, under the order of Mr de Contades, should direct their attack on the ravines between the wood and the village of Hastenbeck, and on anything that would be encountered behind it.
The marquis (comte) de Guerchy and Mr de St. Pern, with the regiments of du Roi, Grenadiers Royaux and the Grenadiers de France under their command, and supported from the Palatinate troops and the brigades of Poitou and Royal Suedois, were to attack the village of Hastenbeck. The whole Cavallerie was assigned to support the infanterie, and after the attaque had taken place, it was to debouch into the plain.
These were the dispositions for the army for the attaque on the following day. Thereafter the staff officiers returned to their troops.
On the 26th at 5 o'clock the next morning, the enemies started firing on their left flanc. Our artillery kept its predominance, and returned the opposing with all possible livelyness and effect.
As I already pointed out, the success of this day depended on the success of the attaque of Mr de Chevert. He was not to attack before 9 o'clock; and it was exactly on this time, when we heard the first musketshots on our right wing, the fire than increased, and after a very lively action, which lasted 1 to 1 1/2 hours, the enemies were expelled from the hills and from the woods, although they had almost all infanterie there, so to speak, which they constantly reenforced with troops drawn from their right wing.
With the first musketshots of Mr de Chevert’s attack, the army started to move foward, the field artillerie and the regimental guns taking the lead, which gave the enemy a terrible defeat. The marquis d'Armentières found but little resistance, the regiment of Champagne encountered a fierce resistance, having to pass a ditch in order to get on a battery of 8 pieces, that was blocking its advance. With the first salvos it fell into disorder, which however, lasted only for a moment. It opened fire, and captured the battery in an instant. In the meantime, Mr de Contades occupied the intervals between the wood and village of Hastenbeck with the brigades under his command.
Mr de Guerchy and Mr de St. Pern, who were to attack Hastenbeck village, formed 3 columns of the regiments of du Roi, the corps of Grenadiers de France and the regiment of Solar, They advanced at the same time the army started moving. They had hardly approached the village to 1/2 cannonshot, when one saw it in flames; one does not know whether it was the enemies or our hauwitzers. It is certain, that they were willing to defend it, as they had started to dig trenches, partly for their retreat, and partly for the counter-attack. The fire did not prevent the Grenadiers de France to advance into the village, while the regiments of du Roi and de Solar advanced to the left and to the right of the village. As the corps of Grenadiers de France debouched, it took some canistershots from a distance of hardly 1/2 musketshot to the enemy, which however, did little damage. The commanding officier, not hesitating a moment, ordered a 1/2 turn to the right, and on it rushed against the wood, still occupied by the enemy, which had to abandon a gun, many knapsacks, trenching tools, and the like.
By the account, I have given of the different attaques, one is aware, that we had now seized the hills and the village of Hastenbeck, and that the Cavallerie could debouch in order to attack the enemies in the plain. How big was the astonishment of the whole army, as the corps of Grenadiers de France got ordre, to withdraw into the village of Hastenbeck. Also, the artillerie was to retire past the ravins again, that lay between the wood and the village. The occasion of this movement was as follows: The rather close woods did not allow Mr de Chevert to follow the enemies and recognitre their movements. These withdrew and took the brigade d'Eu, which supported the brigade of la Marine, “en flanc”. On this, very unexpected attaque, and after a persistent fight, this brigade was forced to give way to the superior enemy.
Right at the beginning of this attaque, the commanding staff officier made off, claiming that he wanted to search for help, but did not return to the battlefield. He went to the marshal and announced to him, having observed an enemy column of more than 9 or 10.000 men turning our right wing. To this news, the marshal sent all light troops to the camp, because he feared it to be looted by the enemies; almost the whole Cavallerie was moved to the right wing. At the same time he ordered the army to halt, and gave orders to the artillerie to move back, which, as outlined above, had acquired a lot of fame on this day. This movement gave the enemys time to withdraw, and perhaps their flanc attaque was done only to cover their retreat. None but Mr de Guerchy could have observed better, as he advanced with his compagnie of Grenadiers de France. He was enraged, as he saw such a splendid opportunity for complete victory being wasted. Meanwhile he pursued the enemy with a brigade [bataillon] of Grenadiers de France as best as he could. At this moment, the marshal arrived and saw that he was given false information, and that the enemy withdrew. Immediately, but now too late, he gave the order to have the remaining Grenadiers de France advance again; the nearby Cavallerie brigades of Royal Pologne, and the Carabiniers debouched into the plain, while the Grenadiers de France advanced out of the wood. But the enemy had already passed the small creek at Afferde, and at 6 o'clock he was out of sight. He even took the precaution to set his camp on fire, probably in order to delay the advance of our Cavallerie. A single corps of infanterie could be observed retiring to the right, and by the saying of desateurs, it was a regiment of 2 battalions [Kielmannsegge’s Hanoveran Foot Guards?]. It seemed to march with speed, but one would have been able to catch it. However, the marshal did not allow any further action, instead, 3 compagnies occupied Afferde, and the Grenadiers de France occupied the wood, supported by the regiments of Picardie and Champagne, and the Cavallerie, that so far had debouched, formed up in the plain, to the left of the infanterie.
Its apparent, that the false report given to the marshal, has saved the opposing army, and I must say, that the staff officier who gave it, has lost his good name among the troops. That’s what happened on july 26th; after Feuquiere, one must not entitle this action a “bataille”, because the army did not engage “en front”; its rather a large scale infanterie fight, which however, is to its great honor, due to its couragous conduct, considdering the numerous obstacles it had to pass. (…)
( …) Much credit on the fortune of this day, must be assigned to our artillerie, Vallière had arranged for the placing and action of the artillerie, in order to silence the enemy guns. The army encamped on the battlefield; Broglio recrossed the Weser and moved into his old camp near Grohnde. On the 27th, a detachement of 600 horse and 12 compagnies of Grenadiers commanded by the duc de Fitzjames, and supported by the Grenadiers de France, were sent to Oldendorf in order to draw closer news on the enemy movements. From Oldendorf one could espy a small camp near Kollenstädt, and it was said that the enemy is retyring to Minden. On july 28th Hameln surrendered. Some 72 pieces of artillery were found here. Its garrison consisted of 700 men and 300 peasants. The first were told that they must not serve again, for the duration of a year, and the latter were forbidden to be ever caught in arms again, on pain of the gallows. The capture of Hameln is important, for one can establish magazines here. (…)
Rogge, Christian, The French & Allied Armies in Germany during the Seven Years War, Frankfurt, 2006