1757 - Prussian invasion of Bohemia – Retreat
The campaign lasted from April to June 1757
The general context of the campaign, winter operations and the preparations of Austria and Prussia for the incoming conflict are described in our article Context and preparations (January 1 to April 17, 1757).
The advance of the Prussian columns into Bohemia and their manoeuvres around Prague are described in our article Prussian invasion of Bohemia till the Battle of Prague (April 17 to May 6, 1757).
The siege of Prague, the Austrian relief attempt and the Battle of Kolin are described in our article Siege of Prague till the Battle of Kolin (May 7 to June 29, 1757).
Frederick abandons the siege of Prague
On Sunday June 19 at 2:00 a.m., Major Grant arrived at Prague and went to Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick, interim commander on the Ziskaberg, with order to raise siege. Before daybreak, the Prussians had evacuated the right bank of the Moldau (present-day Vltava River). On both hills, the guns were removed (across the Moldau for those on the Ziskaberg), batteries destroyed, siege-gear neatly gathered up, to go in wagons to Leitmeritz (present-day Litoměřice), then by boat to Dresden. Grenzer light troops immediately occupied the Ziskaberg. All this was already done when Frederick arrived in the evening.
On Monday June 20, before sunrise, the siege was raised. At 3:00 a.m., Frederick marched eastward from the Ziskaberg to Altbunzlau (also known as Brandeis, present-day Brandýs nad Labem-Stará Boleslav), his army disposed in three columns with drums beating and colours flying. Prince Henri perfectly covered the retreat with the rearguard. Meanwhile, Prince Charles had also sent from Prague Colonel Inkey de Pallin at the head of 300 hussars and 300 Grenzers against Keith's Corps. The latter's rearguard under Schmettau was attacked by these Austrian light troops. In this action Schmettau lost some 400 men, 1 artillery piece and 2 ammunition carts. However, Keith continued his march north-westwards to Budin (present-day Budyně nad Ohří). At 3:00 p.m., Prince Charles of Lorraine sent out from Prague 2,880 grenzers and 27,000 regulars under FZM Kheul to dislodge Keith from the left bank of the Moldau. Lieutenant-Colonel Karl Baron von Amadei asked FML Maquire for the privilege to lead the attack. The Austrians poured out of the Karl Gate. Amadei then sent Captain Riß with some troops through a little valley in the flank of the Prussians, he himself launched an attack on the Prussian redoubts and entrenchments under heavy artillery fire, getting over wolf pits and chevaux-de-frise. The Prussians resisted stubbornly but the Austrian fusiliers stormed the parapet and the Prussians were forced to abandon their positions which were soon occupied by Austrian grenadiers and Grenzer light troops. However, the Prussians had rallied at the Castle of Stern on the Weisse Berg where they held their ground. With the arrival of the Duke of Arenberg with additional Austrian troops, the Prussians gave way again and retreated to Ressin (present-day Řež). At 4:00 p.m., Marshal Keith, who had initially remained in his camp on the Weisse Berg, set off with all the baggages and artilleries. Initially his two wings were separated but they made a junction at Rep (unidentified location). Then the entire Corps marched to Schlan (present-day Slaný), closely followed by Colonels Loudon and Inkey de Pallin at the head of hussars, a few grenadier companies and Grenzer light troops. During all these manoeuvres, Daun was still standing among the heights and swamps of Planian and did not try to hinder the retreat of the Prussian army.
The Prussians retire towards Leitmeritz
On Tuesday June 21, Frederick marched to Alt-Lissa (present-day Lysá nad Labem) to shorten the distance between his force and the beaten Kolin army under Moritz and Bevern which was coming up that way. He intended to take post there and to do his best in those parts, with Zittau magazines and Lusatia to his rear. That night, Frederick's headquarters were in Lissa or neighbourhood. The headquarters remained at this location until Friday June 24. He then moved towards Nimburg.
On Thursday June 22, orders were given for seven regiments of horse to reinforce Keith. There was no sign of pursuit anywhere. Keith marched northward from Budin to Leitmeritz (??? on the 22nd or later ???) which was the assigned rendezvous with the king.
On June 23, Prince Charles moved from Prague to Altbunzlau to prepare his junction with Daun.
On Friday June 24, Prince Moritz with the Kolin army arrived from Nimburg area and made his junction with Frederick at Lissa. After dinner, leaving Prince Moritz in command at Lissa, Frederick set off with Prince Henri with 14 battalions and 7 cuirassier regiments towards Leitmeritz to make his junction with Keith. That night, Frederick formed his camp upon the heights of Dirnowa (unidentified location).
On Saturday June 25, Frederick marched to Melnik. Meanwhile, Keith had sent 7 battalions to clear the Pascopol Highway from Austrian light troops to avoid another raid similar to the one on Welmina (present-day Velemín) the previous day.
On Sunday June 26, Frederick marched from Melnik to Gastorf (present-day Hoštka). The same day, Daun and Prince Charles effected their junction at Kolodeg (present-day Koloděje) some 6 km to the east of Prague.
On Sunday June 27, Frederick, at the head of 14 bns and 7 cuirassier rgts, finally reached Leitmeritz. He lodged in the Cathedral Close, in sight of Keith, who was on the opposite side of Elbe. The town had a bridge over the Elbe. The same day, Moritz left Lissa and marched northward to Lustmitz (present-day Lustenice).
On Tuesday June 28, Frederick made his junction with Keith. The bridge was rightly secured with party of dragoons and foot left on the right bank to occupy a height which covered Leitmeritz. However, Colonel Loudon with his Grenzer light troops occupied the Pascopol, ready to harass Frederick's army during its retreat. Therefore, 3 more battalions were sent to reinforce the 7 battalions already detached by Keith on June 25 for this purpose. On the same day, Moritz continued his retreat, marching from Lustmitz to Jungbunzlau (present-day Mladá Boleslav) across the Iser and up to Tscheditz (unidentified location).
By Wednesday June 29, the Pascopol was cleared from Austrian light troops. The retreat from Prague to Leitmetitz had been a perfectly executed delicate set of operations, thanks to Frederick rapidity and also to Daun cautiousness.
This closed the Prussian campaign in Bohemia. Frederick was now on the defensive waiting to see where the brunt of the Austrian assault would bear: Saxony or Silesia. Finally, the Austrians opted for the invasion of Silesia.
By the end of June, Saxon deserters, who had gradually assembled at the various collecting points established for them, set off from Austria under the command of Major-General Galbert and marched to Hungary where they were initially used as garrisons.
On July 3, a new engagement took place near Welmina between a Grenzer detachment (Karlstädter-Lykaner Grenzer, Karlstädter-Ottochaner Grenzer, Karlstädter-Oguliner Grenzer and Banal-Grenzinfanterieregiment nr. 2) and Keith's detachment sent to clear the Pascopol.
By October, Saxon troops, who had escaped from the Prussian service and marched to Hungary, already counted 7,331 men. However, illness spread due to unhealthy accommodations and their financial situation worsened.
In November, Major-General Galbert was replaced by Major-General Rochow (former commander of the Fortress of Sonnenstein) at the head of the Saxon contingent.
This article incorporates texts from the following books which are now in the public domain:
- Anonymous: A Complete History of the Present War, from its Commencement in 1756, to the End of the Campaign, 1760, London, 1761, pp. 205-216
- Archenholz, J. W.: The History of the Seven Years War in Germany, translated by F. A. Catty, Francfort, 1843, pp. 32-64, 88-89
- Carlyle, T., History of Friedrich II of Prussia, vol. 18
- Grosser Generalstab Kriegsgeschichtliche Abteilung II: Die Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen, Part 3 Der siebenjährige Krieg 1756-1763
- Vol. 1 Pirna und Lobositz, Berlin, 1901, p. 127
- Vol. 2 Prag, Berlin, 1901, pp. 4-120, App. 3
- Tempelhoff, Fr.: History of the Seven Years' War Vol. I pp. 18-120, as translated by Colin Lindsay, Cadell, London, 1793
- Vanicek, Fr.: Specialgeschichte der Militärgrenze aus Originalquellen und Quellenwerken geschöpft, Vol. II, Vienna: Kaiserlich-Königlichen Hof- und Staatsdruckerei, 1875, pp. 409-426
Pajol, Charles P. V.: Les Guerres sous Louis XV, vol. IV, Paris, 1891, pp. 40-42
Skala, Harald: Rückzug des preussischen Heeres nach der Schlacht bei Kolin 1757, der Fall von Gabel und Zittau
Skala, Harald: Österreichische Militärgeschichte
Harald Skala for information on the Saxon Army during this period