1759 - Prussian incursions behind enemy lines

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The campaign lasted from February to May 1759


Frederick II spent the winter of 1758-59 in Breslau (present-day Wroclaw). During the previous campaigns, he had lost a large part of his veterans. The quality of his army was now deteriorating through the adjunct of new levies and recruits. To compensate for this, he decided to improve his artillery.

For the campaign of 1759, Frederick considered that the superiority of his enemies would probably reduce him to the defence of his own kingdom.

From February onwards, several incursions were launched against French, Imperial, Austrian and Russian magazines to cripple their future operations.

Incursion in Thuringia against the Reichsarmee

At the beginning of January, 4 Austrian infantry rgts (Botta, Harrach, Hildburghausen and Thürheim) and the Bretlach Cuirassiers were sent from Bohemia to Franconia under FML Count d’Arberg to support the Reichsarmee.

On January 11, the contingent of the Upper Rhine district arrived at Erfurt to reinforce the garrison (1 bn of Kurmainz Infantry and 1 garrison bn of Gaisruck Infantry). Saalfeld was also occupied by a few bns and a number of horse to protect the line of communication between Erfurt and Franconia.

By January 13, the Reichsarmee and its Austrian auxiliaries had advanced into Thuringia and Franconia, and reached Erfurt. This army then extended its positions into the duchies of Saxe-Eisenach, Saxe-Coburg, Saxe-Gotha and the district of Fulda.

Towards the end of January, some Allied troops were transferred from Westphalia to Hesse to support Ysenburg’s Corps:

At the end of January, another Austrian corps was sent to support the Reichsarmee in Franconia. This corps consisted of 5 infantry rgts (Jung-Colloredo, Gyulay, Marschall, Salm, [[Blau Würzburg Infantry|Blau Würzburg), 5 cavalry rgts (Alt-Modena Cuirassiers, Trautmansdorf Cuirassiers, Liechtenstein Dragoons, Prinz Savoyen Dragoons, Zweibrücken-Birkenfeld Dragoons), 4 hussar rgts (Baranyay, Hadik, Splényi, Szechényi) and approx. 2,000 Grenzer light troops.

At the beginning of February

  • Austrians
    • General d'Arberg, at the head of an Austro-Imperial corps of 12,000 men, entered into the country of Hesse and seized the bailiwicks of Schmalkalden, Vacha, Friedewald and Landeck, and the Principality of Hersfeld, taking post between the Fulda and the Werra. The right wing of the Reichsarmee was now at Hof and Asch (present-day Aš in Bohemia) and its left, reinforced by an Austrian corps, in Fulda country from Meiningen to Vacha.
  • French
  • Prussians
    • Frederick had a meeting with Prince Heinrich where he instructed him to advance against Gotha and Erfurt, to drive the enemy out of these towns and to seize their magazines. Prince Ysenburg was ordered to support this offensive from Hesse. However, Prince Heinrich was reluctant to take the offensive. Nevertheless, Frederick maintained his orders and joint operations with Ferdinand’s Allied Army were planned for February 27 or 28. By that date, Prince Heinrich should have sent a strong corps forward to Naumburg, from there it would take the shortest road to march on Erfurt. Meanwhile, Aschersleben’s detachment (600 horse) would advance from the region north of Langensalza by way of Gotha to the vicinity south of Erfurt. During these movements, Prince Ysenburg would advance from the west on Hersfeld and Vacha. Prince Heinrich’s detached corps would then return to its quarters during the first week of March.

Prince Ysenburg had a meeting with the Hereditary Prince of Brunswick near Kassel to decide on the Allied plan. They sent light troops towards Hersfeld and another detachment to Allendorf on the Werra to observe the movements of the French in these areas. The Allies threw bridges on the Fulda above Kassel.

In the first days of February, Prince Heinrich detached Major-General von Aschersleben with 430 horse (100 men from Horn Cuirassiers, 100 men from the Leibregiment zu Pferde, 100 men from Markgraf Friedrich Cuirassiers, 100 men from the Prinz von Preußen Cuirassiers and 30 men from Szekely Hussars) from his winter-quarters in Saxony (Merseburg, Naumburg, Gera, Greiz and Plauen) to raise contribution of money and provisions in Thuringia.

The Reichsarmee had its winter-quarters south of the Thuringian Forest with its first line extending from Asch by way of Adorf, Hof, Eisfeld and Suhl up to Schmalkalden and from there, along the east bank of the Rhön, to Lower Franconia. The quarters extended backwards into the Upper Palatinate and to a line going from Nuremberg to Rothenburg an der Tauber.

Aschersleben’s expedition, which reached the region south of Langensalza, caused much worries to the commander of the Reichsarmee. The latter thought that Prince Heinrich and Duke Ferdinand had undertaken a much more important offensive.

D’Arberg’s Austrian Corps, which was marching towards the left wing of the Reichsarmee took position in the area between the Hörsel, Werra and Fulda, securing a line extending from Wanfried, by way of Eschwege, and Hersfeld, to Fulda. It soon established contact with French light troops deployed in outposts between Schültern, Ulrichstein and Marburg. A small number of Austrian hussars were sent to Saalfeld and Erfurt because the Reichsarmee had no light troops to reconnoitre the enemy positions.

Behind Arberg’s positions, there was a smaller corps (4 bns and a few sqns) under FML Baron von Kolb deployed in the area of Schalkau, Wasungen, Meiningen and Ostheim. Further north, Thürheim Infantry was posted in Arnstadt, Ilmenau and Frauenwald to support the troops occupying Saalfeld and Erfurt. The 5 sqns of the Palatine Kurfürstin Leib-Dragoner observed the movements of Aschersleben’s Prussian Corps between Erfurt and Gotha. A battalion of Münster was sent to Eisenach. The quarters of the rest of the Reichsarmee were established south of these positions. The defensive works of Erfurt were improved and work on a new magazine started.

When he was informed of the advance of an Austro-Imperial force, General von Aschersleben retired from the region of Langensalza and took new positions on the north bank of the Unstrut, leaving only Major von Kalben behind with a few horse to observe the enemy and to collect the 40,000 Thalers that the district of Thuringia had to contribute.

On February 16, observing that the Austro-Imperial army was fortifying Erfurt, Prince Heinrich decided to send a detachment of his army in Saxony under Major-General Friedrich Wilhelm Erhard von Knobloch against them. Duke Ferdinand would also contribute 4,000 men to these joint operations.

On February 17, the 2 sqns of Ruesch Hussars sent from Westphalia arrived at Ysenburg’s camp in Hesse. He immediately sent them towards Vacha to observe the movements of Arberg’s Corps.

On February 24, a Prussian corps of 7 bns (Grenadier Battalion Jung-Billerbeck, Grenadier Battalion Schwartz, Bülow Fusiliers, Finck Infantry, Freibataillon Wunsch), 600 horse (330 men from Horn Cuirassiers and 300 men from Meinicke Dragoons), 5 hussar sqns (Szekely Hussars) and 8 heavy artillery pieces (4 x 12-pdr guns, 4 x howitzers) belonging to Prince Heinrich’s Army began to assemble in the vicinity of Naumburg. This corps was placed under the command of Major-General von Knobloch.

At that time, the garrison of the Petersberg, the citadel of Erfurt, consisted of 1 bn of Kurmainz Infantry and 2 Austrian infantry coys while there were 1,500 men of the Reichsarmee under General Count Guasco in the city of Erfurt. An important magazine had also been established in the city. Furthermore, the towns of Blankenhain, Kranichfeld, Arnstadt and Ohrdruf were each occupied by 1 bn. The rest of the Reichsarmee was quartered behind these lines and also occupied Gotha and Eisenach.

On February 25, Lieutenant-Colonel von Kleist advanced with Knobloch’s vanguard (Freibataillon Wunsch, 300 men from Meinicke Dragoons and the Szekely Hussars) from Kösen to Auerstedt.

On February 26

  • Prussians
    • Lieutenant-Colonel Kleist reached Buttelstädt with his vanguard.
    • The rest of Knobloch’s Corps followed, marching in two columns from Naumburg to Buttstädt and Auerstedt.
    • Major-General von Aschersleben advanced to Langensalza as instructed by Prince Heinrich.

On February 27

  • Prussians
    • Knobloch’s Corps reached Neumark and Buttelstädt.
    • The infantry of the vanguard reached Kerpsleben and the cavalry of the vanguard continued its advance on Erfurt. Lieutenant-Colonel von Kleist attacked a cavalry outpost at Gispersleben, taking 3 officers and 54 men prisoners.
    • Additionally, 3 other Prussian columns under the command of Prince Heinrich were ready to operate in Hesse and on the Main.
  • Allies
    • Duke Ferdinand met the Hereditary Prince of Brunswick, the Prince Ysenburg and Major-General von Urff at Wilhelmsthal, 11 km north of Kassel, to plan the offensive in Thuringia. They should advance in three columns from Homberg, Melsungen and Hundelshausen on Hersfeld, Bebra and Treffurt.
  • Austro-Imperials
    • Around noon, a cannon shot was fired from the walls of Erfurt to signal to the surprised garrison that the Prussians were approaching. Until then, Guasco had not heard anything about the advance of a Prussian corps. He was probably also misinformed about the strength of the Prussians because he immediately agreed to surrender when he was summoned. The garrison obtained free withdrawal with its artillery and baggage. The Citadel of the Petersberg would remain occupied by Gaisruck Infantry but would be declared neutral.
    • The Austro-Imperials evacuated Gotha.

On February 28

  • Prussians
    • Knobloch sent the Grenadier Battalion Schwartz, the Meinicke Dragoons and the Szekely Hussars into Erfurt. The rest of Knobloch’s Corps took up cantonment in the villages east of the city. Knobloch raised a heavy contribution from Erfurt and from the clergy.
    • Knobloch then sent the Szekely Hussars forward under Lieutenant-Colonel Kleist (probably Friedrich Wilhelm Gottfried Arend von Kleist) along with the Meinicke Dragoons and 100 men from Horn Cuirassiers.
    • Aschesleben’s detachment reached Hochheim, to the southwest of Erfurt. The advanced elements of his detachment secured his positions against the Austro-Imperial troops occupying Ohrdurf and Arnstadt.
    • Prince Heinrich personally arrived at Naumburg.
  • Allies
    • The main Allied column concentrated near Bebra.
  • Austro-Imperials

When Broglie heard of the advance of the Allies into Thuringia, he sent the Chasseurs de Fischer forward from Schlüchtern and Freien-Steinau to reconnoitre the region of Fulda. Furthermore, 3 dragoon rgts followed the Chasseurs de Fischer while 2 bns and 1 cavalry rgt advanced from Hanau in the Kinzig Valley to support these troops.

On March 1

  • Allies
    • The main column marched from Bebra towards Friedewald where, in the evening, it surprised a small Austrian detachment and captured part of it after a brief combat while the other part managed to retire to the village of Motzfeld.
    • The southern Allied column marched from Homberg towards Hersfeld where an Austrian detachment just had time to evacuate the town.
  • Austro-Imperials
    • D’Arberg assembled the troops retiring from his outposts near Vacha.

On March 2

  • Allies
    • General von Urff advanced by way of Friedewald to Schenklengsfeld, followed by Freytag’s column. However, the enemy managed to escape, although after suffering some losses.
  • Prussians
    • Major-General von Aschersleben with his detachment (600 horse), Freibataillon Wunsch and 100 hussars advanced on Arnstadt which had been occupied by the Austrian Thürheim Infantry. However, this rgt had already retired through Ilmenau and covered the retreat of the 3 bns which had just evacuated Erfurt and were retiring by way of Schleusingen and Eisfeld. When the Prussian hussars and the jägers of Freibataillon Wunsch reached Ilmenau they engaged 1 sqn of enemy hussars and drove it back.
    • Lieutenant-Colonel von Kleist and his hussars attacked Eisenach which was defended by Elverfeldt Infantry, taking many prisoners. Kleist had obtained Prince Heinrich’s authorization to advance as far as Fulda,
    • Another Prussian detachment marched towards Schmalkalden and Vacha.
  • Austro-Imperials
    • D'Arberg was forced to retire from the heights of Vacha to Dermbach.

On March 3

  • Allies
    • Urff’s and Freytag’s columns retired to Hersfeld when reports arrived that French troops were threatening their right flank. Only small infantry detachments with a few jägers and hussars were left at Friedewald.
  • Prussians
    • A party of Szekely Hussars established communication with Allied troops belonging to Major-General von Urff’s Corps while Kleist advanced with the Meinicke Dragoons from Eisenach by way of Vacha towards Hünfeld. The 100 men of Horn Cuirassiers followed at a day’s march.
    • Knobloch sent 1 bn to Kranichfeld to screen his corps from enemy troops posted at Saalfeld. He had already sent I./Finck Infantry from Erfurt to Gotha to support Kleist’s detachment which was advancing on Eisenach.
    • Freibataillon Wunsch (600 men, 50 jägers and 4 artillery pieces) marched from Arnstadt to Ilmenau where Lieutenant-Colonel von Wunsch learned that the enemy had retired to Frauenwald and had erected a barrier on the road south of Ilmenau.
    • Prince Heinrich personally left Naumburg and returned to Dresden.
  • Austro-Imperials
    • D’Arberg retired to Kalten-Nordheim.
    • Kolb, who previously occupied Eisenach, retired to Meiningen.

On March 4

  • Prussians
    • Freibataillon Wunsch and the accompanying hussars advanced against the barrier which was defended by 3 coys and 2 artillery pieces. Wunsch drove back the defenders and took a number of prisoners and 1 artillery piece. The Austrians retired southwards by way of Frauenwald and then northeastward to Camburg in Franconia.
    • Aschersleben’s cavalry detachment reconnoitred in the direction of Eisenach, Meiningen and Saalfeld.
    • A party of Szekely Hussars established communication with Allied troops belonging to Major-General von Urff’s Corps while the main body of Kleist’s detachment reached Hünfeld.
  • Austro-Imperials
    • D’Arberg retired to Meiningen where he effected a junction with Kolb’s detachment. Arberg also asked Broglie for support. However, the latter, realizing that the Allies did not plan extensive operations, rejected this request. He rather proposed combined operations with the Reichsarmee against Hesse.

On March 5

  • Prussians
    • Major von Roëll with 150 hussars belonging to Kleist’s detachment surprised the town of Fulda and raised contributions.
    • Too weak to pursue the enemy farther, Freibataillon Wunsch returned to Arnstadt.

On March 6

  • Prussians
    • In the morning, Major von Roëll and his hussars retired from Fulda after skirmishing with the Chasseurs de Fischer. They marched to Hünfeld where they joined the rest of Kleist’s detachment.
    • Since Kleist planned to remain on the Fulda until March 7 before returning to Erfurt, Prince Ysenburg, at his request, temporarily left his light troops, 2 bns and 400 horse belonging to Urff’s Corps in Hersfeld to support him. Meanwhile the rest of Ysenburg’s detachment returned to its winter-quarters.

On March 7

  • Prussians
    • Kleist’s detachment retired from Hünfeld by way of Gotha and marched towards Erfurt.
    • I./Finck Infantry retired from Gotha and marched towards Erfurt.

On March 9

  • Allies
    • Urff’s Corps reached its old winter-quarters near Fritzlar. Only 50 jägers and hussars had been left behind in Hersfeld.
  • Prussians
    • Knobloch’s Corps began to evacuate Erfurt and to march back towards Saxony.

These manoeuvres had led the Austro-Imperials to entirely abandon Hesse and to retire to Meiningen in the country of Bamberg.

On March 10, Kleist’s detachment reached Erfurt, where it was joined by Freibataillon Wunsch which was retiring from Gotha.

On March 12, the Austro-Imperial army was advancing anew towards Hesse. It had left a strong body near Erfurt to observe the Prussian army of Prince Heinrich. FML Count d’Arberg at the head of 4,000 men captured Vacha, occupied by Hessian troops. Afterwards, Colonel Baron Vécsey marched towards Hersfeld with an Austrian detachment.

On March 13, Knobloch’s Corps arrived at Naumburg from where the troops returned to their winter-quarters. Freibataillon Wunsch and the Szekely Hussars were posted on the Saale and established outposts between Naumburg and Dornburg.

On March 15 in the morning, Vécsey's detachment arrived in front of Hersfeld. The Hessian garrison retreated to Kassel but was intercepted by Vécsey's cavalry near Fulda and virtually annihilated. In this affair, the Hessians lost their 4 guns and 35 men taken prisoners. Vécsey also captured the nearby Castle of Friedewald.

Thus, the Allies had been forced to retire in front of superior Austro-Imperial forces who re-occupied Schmalkalden, Saltzungen, Vacha and the Principality of Hersfeld. Another body of Austro-Imperials under Field-Marshal Johann Baptist Count Serbelloni advanced to the Werra. The Reichsarmee was now deployed with its left wing between the Werra and the Ulster with advanced posts at Vacha and Tann. Its right wing occupied Erfurt, Ilmenau, Frauenwald, Hof, Asch, the neighbourings of Kulmbach and Kronach. The reserve of the Reichsarmee was behind the Main River towards Lichtenfels and Schweinfurt.

On March 22 in the morning, Ferdinand of Brunswick set out from Münster and marched to Hesse.

On March 24, Ferdinand drove back Austro-Imperial troops posted near Kassel, and then marched to Meiningen.

On March 26, Ferdinand encamped at Rotenburg on the Fulda. The same day, Major-General Knobloch, at the head of a Prussian detachment, dislodged an Imperial detachment from Saalfeld.

On March 27, Ferdinand advanced to Hersfeld where his vanguard surprised about 100 enemies while the Austro-Imperial troops retreated everywhere. Ferdinand then marched to Fulda thus cutting off communications between the French and Austro-Imperial armies.

On March 28, a Prussian detachment under the command of General Lindstädt forced an Imperial detachment from Hof.

On March 31, near Mellrichstadt, the Hereditary Prince with 2 sqns of Ruesch Hussars defeated and dispersed the Hohenzollern Cuirassiers, capturing 55 of them. The hussars then turned their attention towards an isolated battalion of Blau Würzburg Infantry, capturing 130 of them and cutting the rest to pieces.

On April 1, the Hereditary Prince marched to Meiningen with 2 grenadier battalions and some light troops, and captured the garrison (2 bns: Kurköln Leibregiment and Elverfeldt Infantry) and a considerable magazine. He then proceeded to Wasungen where he captured Nagel Infantry. Arberg, who marched to the relief of Wasungen with 1 bn and some grenadiers, arrived too late to save the place and was forced to retire precipitously. Colonel Stockhausen with 40 Hessian hussars and some Hanoverian Jägers lead by Lieutenant-Colonel von Schlotheim, attacked Prinz Savoyen Dragoons and Bretlach Cuirassiers posted near Tann. At the moment of the attack, Prinz Savoyen Dragoons were attending mass. Several dragoons were killed and the Allies captures 4 flags, including 2 standards of Prinz Savoyen Dragoons. In the meantime, Bretlach Cuirassiers rallied and attacked the Allies, driving them back.

The Austro-Imperial army retreated towards Bamberg, closely followed by the Allies beyond Suhl and Schleusingen.

On April 2, Arberg's Corps marched to Schmalkalden and effected a junction with FML Schallenberg's cavalry (Prinz Savoyen Dragoons, Bretlach Cuirassiers and Szechényi Hussars) at Schwallungen. Count Arberg then proceeded to Eisfeld and Coburg while Count Schallenberg with his cavalry took post at Königshofen an der Saale. They then remained in these positions until end of April.

During this incursion, the Hereditary Prince had made more than 2,000 prisoners.

Incursion in Poland against Russian magazines

During the winter of 1758-59, the Russians had established important magazines at Posen (present-day Poznań) in Poland for their planned campaigns in Brandenburg and in Silesia. If these weakly garrisoned magazines were to be annihilated, it would postpone the opening of the campaign until new provisions could be assembled, an operation that would require some time in such a poor country with its insufficient road network. Such a delay would leave Frederick free to move unhindered against his other opponents for a few months.

Frederick was also informed that the Austrians and Russians had established important magazines in the vicinity of Krakau (present-day Kraków); and that provisions were assembled at Warsaw and other Polish cities.

On January 31, Frederick instructed Major-General Platen, commanding in Farther Pomerania, to destroy other Russian provision magazines established on the Netze (present-day Noteć River) or near that river. These magazines were only defended by weak garrisons.

Around mid-February, Frederick instructed Major-General Moritz Franz Kasimir von Wobersnow, his general-adjutant, to advance on Posen by way of Polnisch Lissa (present-day Leszno), and to destroy the Russian magazines established there.

On February 14, Frederick informed Major-General Platen of a planned incursion, which would be led by Major-General Wobersnow, against Russian magazines in Posen, instructing Platen to make a diversion to attract the attention of the Russians.

On February 15, General Platen reached Stolp (present-day Slupsk) with the Alt Platen Dragoons.

By February 21, Wobersnow had assembled 7 bns and 25 sqns and 12 heavy artillery pieces at Glogau (present-day Głogów) for his incursion in Poland. More precisely, his force consisted of:

On February 22, Frederick detached Major Baron Pannwitz with 500 men from the Möhring Hussars under Major von Lossow to capture the supplies assembled in the vicinity of Krakau and to bring back as mush as he could to Cosel (present-day Kędzierzyn-Koźle) in Upper-Silesia and to destroy the rest. Pannwitz spread the rumour that he would be marching on Warsaw, followed by an important corps to effect a junction with another Prussian corps at Posen.

On February 23, Wobersnow set off from Glogau, crossed the Oder and entered into Poland, reaching Fraustadt (present-day Wschowa). His mission was to overturn the Russian provision operations in this country. In particular, he had to look for Prince Aleksander Józef Sułkowski who was gathering food in expectation of the Russian advent. In fact, Sułkowski had formally declared war to Prussia.

On February 24

  • Prussians
    • Wobersnow continued his march towards Polnisch Lissa with 4 bns and 10 sqns. He also detached Major-General von Braun with 3 bns and 15 sqns towards Reisen (present-day Rydzyna) to put Prince Sułkowski under arrest.
    • Wobersnow surrounded the town of Polnisch Lissa.
    • Braun captured Sułkowski's considerable stock of Russian supplies, his little force of about 100 Poles (Sułkowski's personal guard), 15 small guns (from 1-pdrs to 3-pdrs) and Sułkowski himself. The Polish troops were compelled to take Prussian service (scattered among garrison regiments). Furthermore, Wobersnow issued a decree to recruit volunteers for the Prussian army. In fact, village peoples were forcefully incorporated into his corps. Sułkowski's wife was asked for a ransom of 30,000 thalers. Wobersnow then marched on Posen.

On February 26, Braun effected a junction with Wobersnow’s main body near Kosten (present-day Kościan). Wobersnow then marched by way of Stenschewo (present-day Steszew) towards Posen.

On February 28, Wobersnow’s Corps reached Posen. The 500 Cossacks guarding the place withdrew northeastwards without opposing any resistance but also without destroying the large magazines. The Prussians captured huge provisions of groat, barley and flour (enough to supply a 50,000 men strong army for 45 days). Unable to bring these provisions back, Wobersnow had to destroy them. He also ransomed Jews who were required to pay 2,000 ducats. Wobersnow took 14 hostages till they paid the remaining 676 ducats.

Two proclamations written by King Frederick in Latin were then distributed throughout the country. The first proclaimed his friendship for the Republic of Poland, mentioning that the Prussians had entered into Poland only to hinder the preparations of the Russians for an attack on the Kingdom of Prussia; and that the population would not be molested. In the second proclamation, Frederick explained his reasons to put Prince Sułkowski under arrest.

At the end of February, Pannwitz’s detachment marched by way of Tarnowitz (present-day Tarnowskie Góry) towards Krakau. However, Pannwitz found no magazines in the region of Krakau. He retreated by way of Biala (present-day Biała Krakowska). On his way he engaged a small Russian detachment escorting an adjutant sent by Fermor to Vienna, capturing several documents.

On March 2

  • Prussians
    • Wobersnow detached Colonel von Platen (not to be confused with Major-General von Platen) with the Jung-Platen Dragoons and the Zieten Hussars downstream along the Warthe River (present-day Warta) to destroy additional supplies in small Russian magazines in Obersitzko (present-day Obrzycko), Wronke (present-day Wronki), Pinne (present-day Pniewy), Birnbaum (present-day Kamionna), Meseritz (present-day Międzyrzecz) and Schwerin (present-day Skwierzyna). Colonel von Platen marched by way of Samter (actual Szamotuly) to Obersitzko.
    • Major-General von Platen, informed that Wobersnow was at Posen, detached Colonel von Gersdorff with 400 horse (from Alt-Platen Dragoons and Malachowski Hussars) to advance to the region between the Vistula and the Netze. This detachment was closely followed by 2 coys of Frei-Infanterie von Hordt. Gersdorff destroyed Russian magazines in Preussisch Friedland (present-day Debrzno) and Polnisch Krone (present-day Koronowo).

On March 3, Colonel Platen’s detachment marched by way of Wronke to Zirke (present-day Sieraków).

On March 4

  • Prussians
    • Wobersnow left Posen, where there was not enough forage for his cavalry, and marched to Polnisch Lissa.
    • Colonel Platen’s detachment reached Birnbaum.

On March 5, Colonel Platen’s detachment reached Meseritz. All along its way it had destroyed provisions of flour and wheat.

On March 6

  • Prussians
    • Wobersnow decided to turn back because the way beyond Posen was through a very difficult terrain. He marched towards Glogau. On his way, Wobersnow was harassed by Russian light troops under the command of Colonel Dalke.
    • Colonel Platen was ordered to return to Schwiebus (present-day Świebodzin).
    • Pannwitz’s detachment reached Ratibor (present-day Racibórz) with its prisoners.

On March 8, Colonel Platen sent the Zieten Hussars back from Schwiebus to Glogau. He then took up his winter-quarters in Sagan (present-day Zagan) with the Jung-Platen Dragoons.

On March 11, Wobersnow’s detachment reached Fraustadt.

On March 12, Wobersnow’s detachment reached Glogau.

On March 13 Wobersnow sent back his troops to their winter-quarters. Only 500 men of the Zieten Hussars under Major von Reitzenstein remained on the Polish border near Glogau to observe the Russian army.

Overall, Prussian incursions in Poland had deprived the Russians of several magazines and had bought time for Frederick to momentarily turn against his other opponents.

N.B.: Prince Sułkowski was freed on June 5, 1759 by Frederick II personal order.

Incursion in Bohemia against Austrian magazines

Map of the manoeuvres during the Prussian incursion in Bohemia in April 1759.
Source: Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen, volume III by the German Grosser Generalstab
Courtesy of Tony Flores

In the night of March 25 to 26, an Austrian force of 8,000 men led by General Beck stealthily marched from Bohemia by two or more roads and completely encircled Grenadier Battalion Diringshofen (some 1,000 under Major Diringshofen) at Greiffenberg (present-day Gryfów Śląski). The Prussian battalion had to surrender.

At the beginning of April 1759, the troops sent under generals von Knobloch and von Lindstedt by Prince Heinrich of Prussia against Saalfeld and Hof to support the Allied spring offensive in western Germany returned to their quarters. Prince Heinrich wanted to continue to harass the Austro-Imperial forces facing him. His main target was the Reichsarmee which he planned to annihilate.

Frederick II considered that the Austrian magazines in northwestern Bohemia were insufficiently protected and would constitute a good target for a raid. Prince Heinrich was well informed of the overall situation of the Austro-Imperial forces. He knew where and how the Austrians had blocked the passes in the Erzgebirge (Ore Mountains), and knew the location of their magazines and the positions of FML Gemmingen’s small corps (5 bns, 3 cuirassier rgts, 1,000 hussars and 3,000 Grenzer light troops for a total of 10,000 men) which was thinly deployed in northwestern Bohemia from Aussig (present-day Ústí nad Labem) to Eger (present-day Cheb). Gemmingen’s headquarters were located in Komotau (present-day Chomutov).

On April 4, Prince Heinrich informed Frederick of his intention to launch a raid against the Austrian magazines in northwestern Bohemia. However, he envisioned great difficulties which could compromise the success of this undertaking.

On April 9, Prince Heinrich ordered part of his troops to assemble, planning to cross the Bohemian border on April 15.

On April 14, Prince Heinrich took command of the main column (11 bns, 20 sqns, 8 heavy artillery pieces) of his force in its quarters south of Pirna. Two advanced detachments had been sent forward from this corps. Thus Prince Heinrich column consisted of:

Prince Heinrich columns targeted the Austrian magazines at Leitmeritz (present-day Litoměřice).

A second column took position to the right of Prince Heinrich’s column to cover his advance. This column consisted of 7½ bns (Grenadier Battalion Lubath, Hülsen Infantry, Knobloch Infantry, Bredow Fusiliers, ½ bn of Grabow Fusiliers), 10 sqns (Leibregiment zu Pferde, Belling Hussars), 300 picked men from Meinicke Dragoons and 4 heavy artillery pieces under Lieutenant-General von Hülsen. It took position between Zschopau and Marienberg. It was charged to make itself master of the pass of Sebastiansberg (present-day Hora Svatého Šebestiána) and to launch a cavalry raid into Bohemia while the infantry would remain at the pass of Sebastiansberg to support its cavalry. Hülsen was instructed to recall all his detachments on April 20 and to return to his quarters, south of Zschopau on April 21. However, if the Austrians were occupying the pass of Paschkopole (present-day Paškapole), Hülsen was instructed to proceed by way of Komotau and Brüx (present-day Most), attack the Austrians in flank and thereby relieve the column of Prince Heinrich.

Furthermore, Lieutenant-General von Platen would advance from Plauen towards Hof with 4 bns (Salmuth Fusiliers, I./Hessen-Kassel Fusiliers, Freibataillon Collignon), 4 sqns of Szekely Hussars and 300 picked men from Prinz Heinrich Cuirassiers (unidentified unit) to prevent Austrian or Imperial troops posted on the Upper Eger from intervening against the columns of Prince Heinrich and Hülsen.

On the night of April 14 to 15

  • Prussians
    • The right column under Lieutenant-General von Hülsen crossed into Bohemia near Reitzenhain. Major-General von Aschersleben led its vanguard (Grenadier Battalion Lubath, 500 picked men from Hülsen Infantry and Knobloch Infantry, 500 picked men from Bredow Fusiliers and Grabow Fusiliers), the Leibregiment zu Pferde, Belling Hussars and 300 picked men from Meinicke Dragoons).
      • The weak Austrian outposts facing Hülsen’s column retired at the first shots and evacuated two entrenchments south of Reitzenhain after a brief combat. A third entrenchment was stormed after a short artillery preparation by three 12-pdrs.
      • Meanwhile, Lieutenant-Colonel von Belling with 2 sqns of Belling Hussars and 1 sqn of the Leibregiment zu Pferde moved sideways by way of Satzung towards Sebastiansberg, skirmishing against Grenzer light troops.
      • At Sebastiansberg, Belling effected a junction with the rest of the cavalry under Major-General von Aschersleben.
      • After a brief resistance, the Grenzer light troops retired from Sebastiansberg and joined the 3 Austrian bns (including I./Andlau Infantry and 1 bn of Königsegg Infantry) posted near Basberg (another name for Sebastiansberg, present-day Hora Svatého Šebestiána) on the road leading to Komotau, along with 1,000 grenzers and hussars under General von Rheinhardt (a total of about 2,800 men).
      • Belling, supported by the remaining 3 sqns of Belling Hussars, immediately attacked this infantry in front and flank and drove back these 3 bns on the Schmerzing Cuirassiers and Grenzer light troops deployed behind them, disordering these units.
      • General von Rheinhardt was taken prisoner along with 51 officers and 1,500 men. Belling also captured 3 colours and 3 artillery pieces. In this action, the Prussian lost 55 men killed or wounded. The remnants of Reinhardt's force retired behind the Eger River to Trautenau (present-day Trutnov) where they joined Loudon.
    • The left column under Prince Heinrich crossed the Bohemian border, preceded by two vanguards (Meinicke and Wunsch).
      • Meinicke’s vanguard advanced unhindered by way of Kulm (present-day Chlumec u Chabařovic) towards Teplitz (present-day Teplice).
      • Wunsch’s vanguard, advancing in deep fog, bumped into a redoubt on an eminence defended by 1 Hungarian bn and about 600 Grenzer light troops in the forest between Peterswalde (present-day Petrovice) and Nollendorf (present-day Nakléřov). The Austrians resisted stubbornly but had to retire when some Prussian guns opened on the entrenchments.

On April 15

  • Prussians
    • Hülsen’s column
      • Part of Hülsen’s vanguard passed through Komotau and advanced towards Brüx in an attempt to establish communication with the column of Prince Heinrich. Meanwhile, the main body of Hülsen’s column took position at Sebastiansberg as previously instructed by Prince Heinrich.
    • Prince Heinrich’s column
      • Prince Heinrich reached Nollendorf with the main body of his column.
      • Wunsch’s column reached Aussig where it destroyed magazines. The garrison retired upstream on the Elbe aboard boats.
      • In the evening, Meinicke’s vanguard destroyed a small magazine at Teplitz and burnt about 200 boats on the Elbe.

On April 16

  • Prussians
    • Hülsen’s column
      • The vanguard occupied Komotau. For his part, Belling reached Saaz (present-day Žatec) with a small detachment (Grenadier Battalion Lubath, 400 cuirassiers and dragoons and 4 sqns of Belling Hussars). At Saaz, the Austrians burnt their large magazine before evacuating the town.
    • Prince Heinrich’s column
      • Prince Heinrich reached Hlinay (a small town near present-day Řehlovice) with the main body of his column. He had left 1 bn of Goltz Infantry behind at Nollendorf to secure his communication with Saxony.
      • Puttkamer Infantry occupied Königswalde to cover the column from an Austrian corps under Vehla.
      • Wunsch’s vanguard marched by way of Hlinay and Lobositz (present-day Lovosice) to Leitmeritz.
      • Meinicke’s vanguard marched from Teplitz by way of Hlinay, crossed the Biela River and reached Libochowitz (present-day Libochovice) where it found and destroyed provisions.
  • Austrians
    • Vehla’s Corps was posted near Gabel (present-day Jablonne v Podještědi) east of Tetschen (present-day Děčín).
    • The small Austrian garrison of Saaz had managed to evacuate the town before Belling’s arrival and to join a few hundreds Grenzer light troops posted in Kaaden (present-day Kadaň) under Major-General Brentano. This small force retired from the vicinity of Saaz towards Laun (present-day Louny) without opposing any resistance.

On the night of April 16 to 17, Platen’s small detachment advanced from Plauen in the direction of Hof. Its mission was to draw the attention of the Austro-Imperial units stationed in Franconia. Platen’s hussars soon came in contact with an Austrian outpost and took a few officers prisoners. The town of Hof was protected by fieldworks but the defenders quickly evacuated them at first shots.

On April 17

  • Prussians
    • Hülsen’s column
      • The infantry of Hülsen’s vanguard advanced northeastwards from Komotau and occupied Dux (present-day Duchcov), Bilin (present-day Bílina) and Brüx. The small Austrian garrisons opposed no resistance.
      • Hülsen sent forward 1 bn of his main body to occupy Komotau.
      • The cavalry under Major-General von Aschersleben marched from Komotau to Saaz.
    • Prince Heinrich’s column
      • Wunsch’s vanguard followed the Eger upstream and reached Budin (present-day Budyně nad Ohří).
      • The Prussians captured small magazines in Lobositz, Prosmik (probably present-day Prosmycká) and Leitmeritz and a large quantity of provisions in Budin. Due to the lack of a wagons, the Prussians could only transport three days of fodder for their cavalry. The rest was burned and flames accidentally set the town of Budin on fire and did some damage.
      • Meinicke’s vanguard remained in Libochowitz, waiting while its cavalry reconnoitred the region. The dragoons and hussars under Lieutenant-Colonel von Kleist rode up to Laun where they fought an engagement against the Paul Anton Esterházy Hussars and Grenzer light troops., capturing 3 officers and approx. 100 men.
    • Platen’s column
      • Platen continued his march and occupied Hof while his hussars pursued the Austrians up to Pirk.
  • Austrians
    • The Austrians had not taken any defensive measures in the wooded and mountainous area near Welemin (present-day Velemín) nor in the steep Elbe Valley, only the bridge near Budin had been destroyed, but the Prussians quickly restored it.
    • Field Marshal Leopold count Daun, who was at Jermer (present-day Jaroměř) with the main army, sent forward towards Tetschen a strong reconnaissance party from Vehla’s Corps, which was posted at Gabel.

On April 18

  • Prussians
    • Hülsen’s column
      • Aschersleben’s cavalry marched from Saaz to Postelberg (present-day Postoloprty).
      • Belling reached Laun, which had just been evacuated by General Brentano. In the evening Belling returned to Postelberg.
      • Hülsen’s vanguard destroyed all provisions found in Komotau, Saaz, Brüx and other towns. It also destroyed the bridges on the Eger near Saaz, Postelberg and Laun. It had accomplished the mission given to Hülsen by Prince Heinrich. Hülsen then recalled his various detachments to the main body.
    • Prince Heinrich’s column
      • Meinicke’s vanguard marched from Libochowitz to Budin where it effected a junction with Wunsch’s vanguard.
      • Lieutenant-Colonel von Kleist reconnoitred by way of Racinowes (present-day Račiněves) with his dragoons and hussars up to the vicinity of Welwarn (present-day Velvary) where he located a large Austrian force (it was part of Gemmingen’s Corps which had assembled between Welwarn, Schlan (present-day Slaný) and Rakonitz (present-day Rakovník).
    • Platen’s column
      • Platen sent a detachment forward by way of Konradsreuth in the direction of Münchberg. He then followed with the rest of his small column without meeting any significant resistance. Platen considered that the small Austrian force occupying Eger did not represent a serious threat for the columns of Prince Heinrich and Hülsen. Accordingly, his mission accomplished, Platen retired to Hof.
  • Austrians
    • Fearing for the left flank of the main army, Daun detached 4 infantry rgts and 6 cavalry rgts from the main army by way of Jungbunzlau (present-day Mladá Boleslav) to cover the retreat of Gemmingen’s Corps.
    • A strong Austro-Imperial force had by then assembled near Kronach and Kulmbach. However, only a small garrison occupied Eger.

On April 19

  • Prussians
    • Prince Heinrich’s column
      • In the afternoon, having reached his objectives, Prince Heinrich decided to retire. He recalled Meinicke’s and Wunsch’s vanguards from Budin and posted them near Lobositz and Welemin.
    • Hülsen’s column
      • Aschersleben’s detachment retired from Postelberg to Brüx. Lieutenant-Colonel Belling covered its retreat with his hussars against the entreprises of the Baranyay Hussars, sent forward by FML Count Maquire.
    • Platen’s column
      • Platen remained at Hof.
  • Austrians
    • When Daun was informed that the Prussians had already secured a passage on the Eger River, he sent additional troops from his main army to Jungbunzlau. However, it soon turned out that his concerns were unfounded.

On April 20

  • Prussians
    • Prince Heinrich’s column
      • The main body of the column retired from Hlinay towards Kulm.
      • Meinicke’s and Wunsch’s detachments acted as rearguard and took position at Hlinay.
    • Hülsen’s column
      • Aschersleben’s detachment retired from Brüx to Komotau. Reconnoitering parties located Austro-Imperial troops near Brunnersdorf (present-day Prunéřov), Belling advanced in this direction with his detachment. An engagement took place between the Belling Hussars and Austrian hussars near Brunnersdorf. When Grenadier Battalion Lubath arrived to support Belling, the Austrian hussars retired. Belling followed them up to Kaaden where he destroyed a bridge on the Eger. He then returned to Komotau where he effected a junction with Aschersleben’s detachment. The two detachments then marched towards Sebastiansberg.
    • Platen’s column
      • Platen’s small column set off from Hof, recrossed the border and returned to its quarters near Plauen.

On April 21

  • Prussians
    • The main body of Prince Heinrich’s column recrossed the border and returned to its quarters near Pirna.
    • Hülsen’s column retired from Sebastiansberg to Marienberg.

On April 22

  • Prussians
    • Meinicke’s and Wunsch’s detachments retired from Bohemia. On the way, near Peterswald, Freibataillon Monjou managed to capture a small Austrian detachment sent forward from Tetschen by Vehla.
    • Hülsen’s column returned to its quarters south of Zschopau. The retreat of Hülsen’s troops had been covered by Major-General von Aschersleben and Lieutenant-Colonel Belling whose detachments returned to their quarters on the same day.
  • Engagement of Mariaschein
    • Major-General von Brentano was following Wunsch’s detachment with some light troops.
    • An engagement took place near Mariaschein between Freibataillon Wunsch along with some hussars Lieutenant-Colonel Kleist, against Brentano’s force. The Prussians suffered some casualties before being able to recross into Saxony by way of the Geiersberg.
  • Austrians
    • As soon as Daun learned that the Prussians were evacuating Bohemia, he recalled the detachments that he had sent to the support of Gemmingen’s Corps, sending only Arenberg Infantry to reinforce Gemmingen.

During his incursion in Bohemia, Prince Heinrich had managed to destroy several Austrian magazines. Before considering an offensive in Saxony, the Austrians now had to establish new magazines in northwestern Bohemia. These considerable delays bought precious time for Prince Heinrich to turn his attention against the Reichsarmee. Furthermore, Prince Heinrich had taken some 3,000 prisoners during these operations.

Incursion in Austrian Silesia against Austrian magazines

At the beginning of April 1759, Frederick II received intelligence that the Austrian magazines in Troppau (present-day Opava/CZ) and Hof in Austrian Silesia (now part of Moravia) were poorly guarded. He judged that time would be appropriate to strike a paralyzing blow against this part of the Austrian army, which was constantly threatening his left wing. However, Frederick considered that he first had to reinforce his troops in this sector before launching his raid. He also saw such a raid as an opportunity to raise the morale of his army after the recent capture of Grenadier Battalion 21/27 Diringshofen at Greiffenberg (present-day Gryfów Śląski/PL) on March 26.

On April 10 and 11, Frederick detached Lieutenant-General von Seydlitz with 4 bns (Lindstedt Infantry, Münchow Fusiliers) and 20 sqns (Bredow Cuirassiers, Schmettau Cuirassiers, Seydlitz Cuirassiers, Vasold Cuirassiers) along with a number of heavy artillery pieces and 8 pontoons to reinforce Fouqué’s Corps for the planned incursion in Austrian Silesia. With these reinforcements, Fouqué was at the head of 25 bns, 45 sqns and 28 heavy artillery pieces for a total of 25,000 men (see the Prussian Army OOB mid-April for a detailed breakdown of Fouqué’s Corps).

Frederick had also recently reinforced his outposts at Liebau (present-day Lubawka/PL) and Schömberg (present-day Chełmsko Śląskie/PL) and relocated his main army near Landeshut (present-day Kamienna Góra/PL). He hoped that these manoeuvres would attract the attention of the Austrians and would allow Fouqué to attack FML de Ville’s Corps in Austrian Silesia.

By mid-April, de Ville was posted near Troppau in Austrian Silesia with his corps consisting of 20 bns, 22 grenadier coys, 8 garrison bns, 33 sqns, 8 elite cavalry coys, 2,500 Grenzer light troops and 14 heavy artillery pieces for a total of 28,000 men (see the Austrian Army OOB mid-April for a detailed breakdown of de Ville’s Corps).

De Ville’s advance posts extended from Troppau to Jägerndorf (present-day Krnov/CZ).

On April 16

  • Prussians
    • Fouqué set off from his positions between Neustadt (present-day Prudnik/PL) and Oberglogau (present-day Głogówek/PL), crossed the Hotzenplotz River (present-day Osobłoga River) in three columns and marched towards Leobschutz (present-day Głubczyce/PL) in Neisse (present-day Nysa/PL) country, encamping at Badewitz (present-day Bogdanowice/PL).
    • Frederick sent Lieutenant-General von Zieten with a small detachment southwards from Kupferberg (present-day Měděnec/CZ) across the Bohemian border to make a diversion. His hussars advanced up to Schatzlar (present-day Žacléř/CZ).
  • Austrians
    • De Ville, uncertain about the direction from which the real threat would come, retired to the vicinity of Hof behind the Mohra River (present-day Moravice).

On April 17, Fouqué’s Corps advanced on Troppau. His cavalry found that Jägerndorf had been evacuated and that Troppau was only defended by a few Grenzer light troops. 300 of them were taken prisoners. However, the Prussians did not find any large provision magazine in these towns.

On April 18, Fouqué set off from Troppau in the direction of Hof where there was an important magazine. However, his advance was interrupted when he arrived to the northeast of Hof and saw de Ville’s Corps established in very strong positions behind the Mohra.

On April 19, Fouqué turned back and marched towards Troppau.

On April 20, Seydlitz left Fouqué’s Corps with Frederick’s reinforcements (4 bns, 20 sqns) and marched by way of Leobschütz and Zülz (present-day Biala/PL) to rejoin the main army.

On April 21, Fouqué’s Corps retired from Troppau and marched to Leobschütz from where he sent his heavy artillery back to Neisse.

The Prussian incursion in Austrian Silesia had produced no tangible result.

De Ville hastily rushed through the Jagerndorf Hills and pushed on Fouqué's position. Frederick II, who was in Landeshut, hastened over to Leobschütz with reinforcement.

On May 1, Deville swiftly retreated. Frederick managed only to cannonade him in the passes of Zuckmantel (present-day Zlaté Hory/CZ) and to cut off his rear-guard of Grenzer light troops.


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. 365-366
  • Carlyle, T., History of Friedrich II of Prussia, Vol. 19
  • Grosser Generalstab Kriegsgeschichtliche Abteilung II: Die Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen, Part 3 Der siebenjährige Krieg 1756-1763, Vol. 9 Bergen, Berlin, 1911, pp. 54-55, 88, 99, 103-115, 118-122, 126-129, 193-204
  • Hotham, The operations of the Allied Amy under the command of his Serene Highness Prince Ferdinand Duke of Brunswic and Luneberg beginning in the year 1757 and ending in the year 1762, London: T. Jefferies, 1764, p. 75-80
  • Jomini, baron de, Traité des grandes opérations militaires, Vol. 3, 2nd ed., Magimel, Paris, 1811, p. 70
  • Gorani, Joseph: Mémoires, Paris: Gallimard, 1944, pp. 117-118
  • Pajol, Charles P. V., Les Guerres sous Louis XV, vol. IV, Paris, 1891, pp. 356-363

Other sources for the incursion in Poland

Konopczyński, W., Polska w dobie wojny siedmioletniej, Kraków-Warszawa 1911

Schwarz, F., Die Provinz Posen als Schauplatz des Siebenjahrige krieges, Posen 1890

Wengen, F. von: Geschichte des k. k. österreichischen 13. Dragoner-Regimentes Prinz Eugen von Savoyen, Brandeis 1879