- Musketeer, Infanterie-Regiment Hardenberg, 1759. This Musketier also displays some typical features of Hanoverian uniform, including the pompons or cord-pulls in the two side corners of the hat, in this case coloured red and orange. Hardenberg was one of the better Hanoverian regiments; at Hastenbeck it was part of the outflanking force under Breidenbach and Dachenhausen which recaptured the key Obensburg position towards the end of the battle, thus causing near-panic amongst the French – leading to the unusual spectacle of both armies hastily withdrawing from the battlefield at the same time. At Minden it took part in Spörcken’s advance, and when Scheele’s brigade, to which it belonged, was effectively crowded out, it determinedly kept up with the Fussgarde and participated in the destruction of the French cavalry.
- Grenadier, Grenadieren zu Pferde. The Horse Grenadiers were in effect the dragoon element of the Guard cavalry, and by all accounts were well mounted but rather old-fashioned in their training, which emphasized precision in movements at the expense of speed, and the use of firearms rather than cold steel. While they were present at most of the major engagements, including Hastenbeck and Minden, their war record was rather uneventful, and in 1762 they were amalgamated with the Garde du Corps. Both units wore red coats, but while the latter had dark blue facings the Grenadieren zu Pferde had black cuffs and lapels. These were originally edged with gold lace, but this was later dispensed with as an economy measure. The unit did, however, retain the elaborately embroidered grenadier cap featuring the arms of Hanover, as well as other infantry/grenadier accoutrements such as cartridge boxes and match cases on their belts.
- Cuirassier, Kürassiere-Regiment von Hodenburg. Rather more effective were the heavy cavalry, represented here by a trooper of the Hodenburg regiment. While still officially designated as cuirassiers, none of the Hanoverian heavy cavalry actually wore armour by this period, other than metal `secretes’ or openwork metal skullcaps under their hats. Dragoon regiments were very similarly dressed, and were largely distinguished from the Kürassiere only by having facing-coloured lapels and right shoulder aiguillettes. When mounted they wore the customary jacked leather kneeboots, but when off duty – as here – they normally changed into more comfortable shoes (at one point Ferdinand had to order their shoes to be turned over to his barefoot infantry). Incidentally, observers tended to be struck by how slovenly the troopers’ stockings and breeches looked when they were not wearing their boots. This particular regiment was the oldest in the army, having been raised as far back as 1645, and was also known as the Cell’shes Reiterregiment. For a time it had a reputation as an unlucky unit, with no fewer than three of its Inhabers being killed in action during the War of the Austrian Succession, and a fourth, von Schlutter, killed in the opening days of the Seven Years’ War. His successor, von Hodenburg, gave the lie to this by commanding it for the duration – most notably at Hastenbeck, where two squadrons took part in the wildly successful attack on the French right flank.
- Fusilier, Fusilier-Regiment von Berthold, 1760. As part of the 1760 reforms two infantry regiments, Von Gilsa and Von Berthold, were redesignated as Fusiliers. The change in status was purely cosmetic, and other than the probable adoption of white or straw-coloured breeches in place of blue the only real alteration in appearance was the replacement of the cocked hat with the distinctive brass-fronted cap depicted here. Copied from the Prussian style, this cap as worn by the Fusilier-Regiment von Berthold had a dark blue `bag’ rather than orange as previously worn by the regiment’s grenadiers; the caps worn by the fusiliers of Fusilier-Regiment von Gilsa followed their grenadiers by having bags in the facing colour of creamy yellow. Originally raised in 1683, the then Infanterie-Regiment von Capellan had seen action at Hastenbeck in July 1757; on 5 August 1758 at Mehr the regiment was part of Imhoff’s force which repulsed the French attempt on the Allied bridgehead at Rees, and it also fought at Lutterberg on 10 October. The following year it was involved in the debacle at Bergen, when Ferdinand of Brunswick rushed, and botched, an attempt to retake Kassel; it had better luck later in the year at Minden, when it was part of Von Wutginau’s brigade, and it went on to fight in 1760 at Emsdorf and Warburg.
- Officer, Infanterie-Regiment von Imhoff. By contrast, this smart-looking officer is virtually indistinguishable from his colleagues in the Prussian service. While his uniform is obviously made from better materials than those served out to the rank and file, and bears all the customary marks of rank such as metallic braid decoration and a sash loosely knotted around his waist, another indicator of his status is the tailoring. Coats worn by the rank and file followed Prussian fashion, being tightly cut and relatively short, with permanently turned-back skirts; but officers in all the German states – including Prussia – demonstrated that they were gentlemen by continuing to wear very full-cut frock coats. A relatively new regiment formed only in 1748, this unit had a good record; it fought at Hastenbeck, and under LtGen von Imhoff at Mehr in the hard battle to secure the Allied bridgehead over the Rhine at Rees. The regiment was also engaged at Bergen, Minden, Fulda, Ziegenhain, Vellinghausen and Wilhelmstal.
Cumberland, the hero of Culloden, commanded the Army of Observation in the Seven Years War. On 26 July, on the Weser near Hameln, Cumberland was attacked by a superior French force under Marshal d’Estrées, and was forced to retreat. Acting on private instructions from his father George II, he retired in good order to Stade, where he negotiated the convention of Kloster‐Zeven, disbanding his forces. The British government repudiated the convention.
The armies finally met on the morning of 25 July at the village of Hastenbeck. The commander of the French right flank, general François de Chevert, was ordered to engage Hanoverian troops at the village of Voremberg, but failed to drive them out. As the French left under general Duc de Broglie was still crossing the Weser near Hameln, d’Estrées decided to postpone the battle until all his troops were up.
The next day saw the Hanoverian army holding on a line from Hamelin to Voremberg. Their right flank was anchored on the Hamel river and the Hastenbach creek. The center of the Hanoverian front was deployed north of the town of Hastenbeck and an artillery battery was situated on high ground behind the town. The Hanoverian left consisted of two entrenched batteries with grenadier battalions protecting the guns. The left flank was anchored on the Obensburg. Cumberland made the mistake in assuming the hill to be impassable to formed troops and deployed a meagre three Jäger companies on its summit, effectively leaving the Hanoverian left flank in the air.
General Chevert was ordered to flank the Hanoverian position with four brigades containing troops from Picardy, la Marine, Navarre and Eu. At 09.00 hours this force advanced toward the Obensburg in three battalion columns and quickly overwhelmed the Jägers. The Duke of Cumberland, seeing his position threatened from the rear, ordered his reserves and the grenadier battalions protecting the guns to recapture the Obensburg. The use of these grenadier battalions in the counterattack on the Obensburg meant they were no longer available in the center when the main French attacks went in against the Hanoverian center.
The French main attack consisted of general d’Armentieres’ attack against Voremberg with five brigades of infantry plus four regiments of dismounted dragoons. At the same time, the French center assaulted the battery immediately north of it. The Hanoverian grand battery was able to repulse several of the French attacks but eventually the guns were overrun. When the Hanoverian reserve infantry arrived on the Obensburg, they were able to turn the tide momentarily, but as the Duke of Cumberland had begun to withdraw his army, they were unable to maintain the now-isolated position for long.
The Battle of Hastenbeck is one of the most curious battles in history, since both commanders-in-chief thought that they lost the battle and were already starting to withdraw from the battlefield. The battle eventually resulted in the Convention of Klosterzeven and the occupation of Hanover. During the battle Hastenbeck was almost completely destroyed, only the church, the manse and the farm house were not destroyed.