Seven Years War

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Some background

Most of the causes of the Seven Years War originated in the results of the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-1748), in the Colonial conflicts and competition between European countries, and in the Franco-British conflict in North-America. In turn, these conflicts led to the Diplomatic Revolution of 1756.

...and consequences

The war, even though it re-established European boundaries to their ante bellum locations, had huge political consequences.

General reference

Cover page

Digby Smith, a regular contributor to "Kronoskaf - Project SYW", has published the book:

Armies of the Seven Years War - Commanders, Equipment, Uniforms and Strategies of the ‘First World War’

...a very good introductory work for this period. It is available through Amazon UK and Amazon USA among others.

More than 250 years ago, in 1756, the major powers of Europe became entangled in a conflict now known as the Seven Years War that was to last until 1763. It involved all the major powers of Europe, with Austria, France, Russia, Saxony, Sweden, and later Spain siding against Great Britain, Hanover, Prussia, and later Portugal.

The war had in fact begun in 1754 in North America and India where France and Great Britain were struggling for colonial supremacy. In Europe, Empress Maria Theresa of Austria had engaged in intense diplomatic efforts to forge an alliance against Prussia with the goal of wresting the lost province of Silesia from the grasp of Prussia.

In August 1756, Frederick II of Prussia launched a preemptive invasion of Saxony. By the end of October, he was master of this country. In the North American Theater, the same year saw the French destroy two British forts on the Great Lakes. Meanwhile, British troops struggled against the Nawab of Bengal in India.

Early in 1757, the French army invaded Hanover while the Prussian army was invading Bohemia and besieging Prague. However an Austrian relief army defeated Frederick II at Kolin, forcing him to retreat. Taking advantage of this victory, the Austrians invaded Silesia while a Franco-Imperial army entered Saxony. Furthermore, in August, a Russian army advanced into East Prussia and defeated a Prussian Army at Gross-Jägersdorf. Frederick was at bay but he masterfully turned the situation with his victories at Rossbach and Leuthen. By the end of the year, the Austrian, French, and Imperial armies were in full retreat on all fronts. Meanwhile, the British had conquered Bengal, placing a puppet king on the throne, but were still on the defensive in North America.

At the beginning of 1758, Ferdinand of Brunswick launched a counter-offensive in western Germany forcing the French to abandon Hanover and to retreat behind the Rhine. The French eventually managed to reoccupy part of Western Germany. Meanwhile, Frederick II made a failed attempt to conquer Moravia, fought the inconclusive battle of Zorndorf against the Russians and barely retained his hold on Saxony. That year, Great Britain became much more involved in the war, launching two expeditions against the French coast, seizing French posts in Senegal, and sending reinforcements to Germany and North America where they captured Louisbourg but were stopped at Carillon (Ticonderoga).

During 1759, the struggle between the French and Allied armies in Western Germany saw a lot of actions but by the end of the year all belligerents were basically back to their initial positions. That year was a very tough one for Frederick II who had to deal simultaneously with Austrians invading Lusatia, Imperials operating in Saxony, Russians in Brandenburg and Silesia and a small Swedish force in Pomerania. In North America, Great Britain won a decisive battle at Québec. After this, the conquest of the rest of Canada was just a matter of time. Earlier during the year, a British amphibious force conquered Guadeloupe Island.

In 1760 the Austrians and Russians planned to make a three pronged attack on Berlin. Despite Frederick's victory at Liegnitz, Berlin was momentarily captured on October 9. Frederick won another victory at Torgau on November 3 but it was so costly that it marked the end of operations for both armies. Meanwhile in Western Germany there were several more battles. However, like in the previous years, the French did not manage to make any significant progress in Hanover. In North America, the French counter-attack on Québec failed and Great Britain completed the conquest of Canada by capturing Montréal.

In 1761, the opponents in Europe were totally exhausted. Frederick entrenched his army at Bunzelwitz where the combined Austro-Russian army did not dare to attack it. Meanwhile the French occupied Brunswick and Wolfenbüttel. In America, with Canada now conquered, Great Britain turned its attention towards Dominica Island which fell in June.

In 1762, the death of the Tsarina Elizabeth Petrovna saved Prussia since her successor Peter III, who was an admirer of Frederick, broke his alliance with Austria. He even supplied some 18,000 men to Frederick, his new ally. Austria now deprived of its former ally did not attempt any major action. Meanwhile the Anglo-Hanoverian army pushed the French army back to the Rhine. A new front opened in the Iberian Peninsula where a Franco-Spanish army attempted the conquest of Portugal who, assisted by a British force, held its ground. In America, the British conquered the islands of Martinique and Cuba.

Early in 1763, all belligerents made peace. The treaties of Paris and Hubertusburg put an end to a conflict that left the political map of Europe unchanged but allowed Great Britain to eliminate its most important competitor for world domination. The mere fact that Prussia survived this war was also a feat in itself.