1762 - French campaign in West Germany – French evacuation of Germany
The general situation at the beginning of the year and the minor operations who took place before the opening of the campaign are described in our article Preliminary operations (March 10 to June 4, 1762).
The Allied approach on Kassel, the battle of Wilhelmsthal and the progressive retreat of the French Army of the Upper Rhine out of Hesse are described in our article Allied reconquest of Hesse (June 6 to July 15, 1762).
The manoeuvres of the Army of the Upper Rhine and those of the Reserve arriving from the Lower Rhine till their junction after the combat of Nauheim are described in our article French manoeuvres to make a junction of their two armies (July 16 to August 31, 1762).
The French manoeuvres to turn Allied lines and relieve Kassel, including the combat of Amöneburg, are described in our article French attempts to relieve Kassel (September 1 to November 2, 1762).
Peace preliminaries in Fontainebleau
On November 4, the Allied Army fired a feu de joye to celebrate the reduction of Kassel.
On November 7, the French generals were informed that negotiations had begun at Fontainebleau and that preliminaries of a treaty had been signed. Kassel was the last battle action of the war in West Germany.
On November 8, Ferdinand of Brunswick informed his generals that, the night before, he had received from the French marshals the preliminaries of peace and that he was awaiting confirmation from the king before ceasing hostilities.
On November 9, Ferdinand informed the army that peace negotiations were under way but that he meanwhile intended to lay siege to Ziegenhain. Luckner was detached towards Münster to repel a body of French light troops operating in the area. These light troops retired to Wesel upon his approach.
On November 14, Ferdinand received confirmation from King George III that preliminaries of peace had been signed at Fontainebleau on November 3. A truce was then signed at the bridge of the Brücker Mühle near Amöneburg, suspending military action on this theatre of operation.
On November 15, a convention was signed between Ferdinand and the French marshals Soubise and d'Estrées. Ferdinand immediately ordered to the Allied Army to cease hostilities. The same day, the French army marched from Bauerbach to take position between Giessen and Marburg.
On November 16, the French army resumed its march towards Giessen. The same day, Ferdinand's British Contingent started to retire from its positions.
On November 18, the French army reached Giessen. The Prince de Condé and d'Estrées departed for France, leaving Soubise in command of the main army and M. de Monteynard in command of the Reserve. Soubise sent back 51 bns and 47 sqns (excluding the Maison du Roi) towards the frontier, thus reducing his own forces to 90,000 men. The same day, Ferdinand's German troops started to retire from their positions.
|Order of Battle|
|Detailed order of battle of the French Armies in Germany on November 20 1762.|
On November 19, Soubise reached Butzbach. The French and Allied armies began to retire to their quarters. The British retired to the Bishopric of Münster; Ferdinand established his headquarters at Neuhaus near Paderborn.
On November 20, Soubise reached Friedberg.
On November 21, a convention of neutrality was signed in Frankfurt. The same day, a Prussian Corps under General Kleist entered into Franconia, reaching Bamberg. The Prince-Bishop took refuge in the fortress of Würzburg. He then asked Soubise for the support of French light troops and of a few Saxon battalions. On the contrary, Soubise sent orders to the Volontaires du Hainaut and Bercheny Hussards, who were marching towards Würzburg, to interrupt their march. He then recalled all French officers serving in Bamberg Country or with the Saxon Contingent.
Ferdinand of Brunswick subdivided his army. His troops took their winter-quarters in the bishoprics of Münster, Osnabrück and Hildesheim, in Westphalia and in Hanover. His Hessian troops occupied their own country and detached 4 regiments to Eychfeld Country.
On November 23, Ferdinand wrote to the King of Great Britain to congratulate him on the peace and to ask his permission to quit the army.
On November 29, the Saxon Contingent assembled at Würzburg.
On December 3, the King of Great Britain replied to Ferdinand to authorize him to leave the army.
On December 10, King Louis XV promulgated a reform of his army: his infantry was reduced to 19 regiments of 4 battalions, 22 regiments of 2 battalions and 6 regiments of 1 battalion. Regiments would, from then on, be named as per provinces of his kingdom. The king also reserved for himself the privilege to nominate lieutenant-colonels and majors. The new regulation also created a treasurer and a fund for each regiment; increased the duration of the engagement of a soldier from 6 to 8 years; and increased officers' pay.
Other regulations issued in December stipulated that the Corps des Carabiniers would be reduced from 40 to 30 companies; that the Grenadiers de France would now count 48 companies of 50 men each. Royal Corse Infanterie was disbanded and incorporated into Royal Italien Infanterie. French cavalry was reduced to 30 regiments, excluding the Carabiniers. The companies of Gardes Françaises were reduced from 140 to 126 men; German infantry regiments were all reduced to 2 battalions, to the exception of Alsace Infanterie who had 3 battalions. Finally, dragoons were organised in 17 regiments.
On December 12, the French ceded back Ziegenhain and Marburg to the Allies.
On December 15, the French ceded back Giessen to the Allies. There were still many places to evacuate on the Upper Rhine: Hanau, Frankfurt and Rheinfeld. Ceaselessly, boats transported artillery and material down the Main.
On the Lower Rhine, the situation was slightly different. When leaving the various places belonging to the King of Prussia, the French commanders planned to transfer these places to the Austrians. However, there were only 4 Austrian battalions in the entire Austrian Netherlands.
From December 19, the entire French army still operating in Germany (58 bns, 59 sqns) abandoned its cantonments and marched to Butzbach, converging on Frankfurt. Germany had to be evacuated by December 31. Furthermore, a force of 4 dragoon rgts and 2 bns was left in the Low-Countries at the disposal of Prince Charles of Lorraine.
The French regiments were directed towards Valenciennes, Coblence, Thionville and Landau, as follows:
- 19 bns and 21 sqns were directed on Valenciennes
- Boisgelin Infanterie (4 bns)
- Dauphin Infanterie (2 bns)
- Briqueville Infanterie (2 bns)
- Limousin Infanterie (2 bns)
- Orléans Infanterie (2 bns)
- Condé Infanterie (2 bns)
- Puységur Infanterie (2 bns)
- Corps Royal de l'Artillerie (1 brigade)
- Paris Militia (1 bn)
- Falaise Militia (1 bn)
- Grenadiers à cheval (1 sqn)
- Berry Cavalerie (4 sqns)
- Orléans Cavalerie (4 sqns)
- Chartres Cavalerie (4 sqns)
- Condé Cavalerie (4 sqns)
- Nicolaï Dragons (4 sqns)
- 13 bns and 12 sqns were directed on Coblence and Thionville
- 26 bns and 26 sqns were directed on Landau
- Gardes Françaises (4 bns)
- Gardes Suisses (2 bns)
- Chatellux Infanterie (4 bns)
- Vaubécourt Infanterie (2 bns)
- Touraine Infanterie (2 bns)
- Aquitaine Infanterie (2 bns)
- Bretagne Infanterie (2 bns)
- Gardes Lorraines (2 bns)
- Provence Infanterie (2 bns)
- Tournaisis Infanterie (1 bn)
- Lons-le-Saulnier Militia (1 bn)
- Rouen Militia (1 bn)
- Saint-Denis Militia (1 bn)
- Royal-Roussillon Cavalerie (4 sqns)
- Royal-Picardie Cavalerie (4 sqns)
- Royal-Normandie Cavalerie (4 sqns)
- Artois Cavalerie (4 sqns)
- Fitz-James Cavalerie (2 sqns)
- Du Roy Dragons (4 sqns)
- La Ferronnaye Dragons (4 sqns)
On December 20, Soubise quitted Friedberg.
On December 21, Soubise reached Frankfurt. Judging that the evacuation was proceeding at an acceptable pace, he started his journey to return to Versailles. MM. Dessalles and Vogüé continued to supervise the evacuation.
On December 24, Ferdinand quit the army, leaving command to General Spörcken.
On December 25 on the Lower Rhine, MM. de Monteynard and de Langeron, who commanded at Wesel signed a convention with Colonel Bauer of the Prussian Army to the effect that he would not pass the Rhine with his corps and remain in his present positions. This convention would expire on January 6 1763.
At the end of December, M. de Monteynard received intelligence that General Stutterheim should arrive at Münster early in January at the head of a Prussian Corps of 10,000 men. Combined with Bauer's force, this new corps would bring the Prussian forces to a total of 15,000 men in this area and could represent a serious threat for the places that the French planned to transfer to Austria.
Upon its return to France, the French army was reorganised as per the new ordonnance of December 10.
Prince Xavier of Saxony hoped that he could renew the subsidy contract to maintain and reorganise the Saxon Army. Indeed, the Saxon Contingent urgently needed recruits and new equipment and its treasury was empty. However, Count Brühl planned to send the Saxon Contingent to reinforce the Reichsarmee event though its soldiers were in very poor conditions and not ready for service in field.
On January 25 1763, the first part of the first division of British troops began its march through the Netherlands; by Nijmegen and Breda to Willemstad where transports were ready to receive and convey these troops to England.
On 11 March, Elector Friedrich August II finally decided to rapatriate the Saxon contingent. However, the contingent had insufficient equipment and horses to march home and finance did not allow to supplement these deficiencies. The family of Prince Friedrich Christian finally obtained a loan of 130,000 livres from bankers in Paris to refurbish the contingent.
This article is essentially a compilation of texts from the following books which are now in the public domain:
- Fortescue, J. W.: A History of the British Army Vol. II, MacMillan, London, 1899, pp. 547-557
- Hotham (probably): 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, pp. 284-288
- Jomini, Henri: Traité des grandes opérations militaires, 2ème édition, 4ème partie, Magimel, Paris: 1811, pp. 160-187
- Pajol, Charles P. V.: Les Guerres sous Louis XV, vol. V, Paris, 1891, pp. 306-466
- Schuster, O. and F. Francke: Geschichte der Sächsischen Armee, 2. part, Leipzig 1885
Salisch, M. von: Treue Deserteure – Das kursächsische Militär und der Siebenjährige Krieg, Munich, 2009
Harald Skala for information on the Saxon Army during this period