Austrian forces attacking an encamped Prussian army at the Battle of Hochkirch, Saxony, Oct. 14, 1758, during the Seven Years’ War; painting by Johann Christoph Brand at the Museum of Military History, Vienna.
Frederick turned his attention to the Austrians, marching into Saxony with elements of his army from Zorndorf. He met up with a Prussian force of 24,000 men. The Austrians had assembled a corps of 80,000 men under the command of Marshal Leopold J. v. Daun and they marched into Saxony as well, where the two armies spent five weeks attempting to outmaneuver one another.
The armies met on the morning of 14 October near the village of Hochkirch. A Prussian soldier stated that skirmishing occurred at 3.30 am and that the order was given ‘Fall in! Under Arms!’ (Paret, Frederick the Great: A Profile, p. 122). Because Frederick initially thought he was facing only Austrian light troops and not the main army, some of the Prussian units had not formed into position when the Austrian attack came in against their camp at 5.00 am. The Austrian left pushed the Prussians back beyond the village of Hochkirch, while the Prussian left flank came under attack by a large Austrian force, taking the village of Koditz. The Austrian push against the Prussian flanks was taking its toll, and the Prussians, realizing they were running out of ammunition, began to withdraw. In spite of their initial success, the Austrians had been badly shaken by the heavy fighting and failed to pursue the retreating Prussians. The Prussians lost 9,000 men and the Austrians 8,000 men.
Frederick and the remaining Prussian army were out of range of the Austrian army by the time they had gotten themselves organized. In the end Frederick lost more than a quarter of his army, 6 generals, one of whom was his brother-in-law, 101 guns, and nearly all the tents. Daun and his army celebrated their victory. Daun was sent a blessed sword and hat from Pope Clement XIII, a common reward for defeating “infidels”. Although Frederick showed off his leadership and courage in rallying his troops again, this is marked as one of his worst losses. The wounded Prussians had to make their own way to the field hospital; walking wounded dumped the others onto carts, waiting for them to die so they could have their clothes. The wounded had to beg for food from villagers; even medical orderlies robbed them.