Dohna, Christoph, Burgrave zu

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Christoph Burgrave von und zu Dohna-Schlodien

Major-General (1745-51), Lieutenant-General (1751-62)

Knight of the Order of the Black Eagle (1753-62)

born October 25, 1702, Schlodien, East Prussia

died May 19, 1762, Berlin, Prussia


Christoph von Dohna was the son of Lieutenant-General von Dohna.

In 1718, Christoph von Dohna joined Forcade Infantry as an ensign. Shortly afterwards, on January 1, 1719, he was transferred to Anhalt-Dessau Infantry.

In 1722, Dohna was promoted to captain in Anhalt-Dessau Infantry.

On December 9, 1730, Dohna was promoted to lieutenant-colonel.

On October 18, 1734, Dohna married to Countess Friederike zu Solms-Wildenfels.

In 1734 and 1735, during the War of the Polish Succession (1733-35), Dohna served with the special authorisation of the king, in the Austrian army against the French.

In 1740, Dohna was promoted to colonel and, in 1741, to commander of Prinz Moritz Infantry with whom he took part in the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-48).

On July 20, 1745, Dohna was promoted to major-general. The same year, he became proprietor of the former Polentz Infantry but was soon transferred as chef of the former Blanckensee Infantry.

On July 14, 1748, Dohna became proprietor of Graf zu Dohna Infantry (former Flanss Infantry).

On January 23, 1751, Dohna was promoted to lieutenant-general.

In 1753, Dohna was admitted in the Order of the Black Eagle.

In 1757, Dohna led the vanguard of Field-Marshal Lehwaldt during the campaign in East Prussia against the Russians. On August 30, Dohna took part in the Battle of Gross-Jägersdorf where he was severely wounded.

After Dohna’s recovery in February 1758, Frederick II sent him to assist and advise Field-Marshal Lehwaldt who stood with his army before Stralsund and Rügen, vainly hoping that that Dohna could finally induce Lehwaldt to cross to Rügen Island. On March 24, the king finally decided to replace Lehwaldt with Dohna. Around mid-June, with Pomerania and Brandenburg both threatened by the advance of the Russians, Dohna was forced to abandon the blockade of Stralsund. On June 26, his army crossed the Peene and marched towards Cüstrin to try to put a stop to the Russian invasion of Brandenburg. In mid-August Frederick came to his support with a small army. On August 25, Dohna commanded the right wing in the sanguinary Battle of Zorndorf. In October, Dohna came to the relief of Colberg. At the end of October, Dohna made a junction with Wedell's Corps at Berlin, they both took the road towards Torgau in Saxony leaving only 8 battalions under Manteuffel in Northern Germany. At the end of November, Dohna left Eulenburg in Saxony, advanced through Leipzig and returned to Pomerania to repulse the Swedes. Anklam and Demmin were soon abandoned to the Prussians and Dohna took his winter-quarters in Pomerania and Mecklenburg.

Overall, Dohna had not fulfilled the hopes which Frederick had placed in him. His unusually difficult task required qualities that Dohna did not possess: a high degree of clear and rapid recognition of operational conditions, rapid decision and daring. Nevertheless, Dohna was better than average generals. But the rapid, ruthless exploitation of a favorable situation was unknown to him. He also lacked the offensive spirit of the king and, instead of anticipating the movements of the enemy, he preferred to react to their initiatives. The king valued his prudence but he expected that he could at least force the Swedes out of the war by some daring actions but Dohna could not lead this kind of warfare. He had to thank his opponents for their clumsiness and disagreements who spared him any serious mishap.

In January 1759, Dohna launched an offensive against the Swedes in Western Pomerania, driving them back behind the Peene. In May, he fell ill and had to be temporarily replaced bu Manteuffel. The weaknesses of Dohna’s leadership became particularly evident during the campaign of 1759, even taking into account that he was quite ill. He undoubtedly acted to the best of his knowledge and ability, but he was just not the right man to handle this very difficult situation. In June, Dohna advanced into Greater Poland and made an unsuccessful attempt against Posen. Any hope to stop or even just delay the Russian army had to be abandoned. The failure of Dohna’s operations prompted the king to replace him, on June 20, by Lieutenant-General von Wedel as commander in chief in this theatre of operation. Dohna left the army two days later, going first to Berlin and then to Hamburg. However, he soon returned to Berlin because the king was angry about him.

Dohna died on May 19, 1762, in Berlin.


Grosser Generalstab Kriegsgeschichtliche Abteilung II: Die Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen, Part 3 Der siebenjährige Krieg 1756-1763, Vol. 8 Zorndorf und Hochkirch, Berlin, 1910, Appendix 14

Wikipedia – Christoph II von Dohna

The section on Dohna’s career between 1756 and 1762 is mostly derived from our articles depicting the various campaigns, battles and sieges.