Battle of Kesselsdorf

Leopold von Dessau & Frederick Augustus Rutowsky

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A map of the Battle of Kesselsdorf, fought on 15 December 1745 between the Prussian army, commanded by Leopold I, Prince of Anhalt-Dessau (1676-1747) and the Austro-Saxon army, commanded by Field Marshal Frederick Augustus, Count Rutowsky (1702-64), resulting in a Prussian victory. War of the Austrian Succession (1740-48). Oriented with north to top.

This topographical map, with its green woods and blue streams, the carmine-coloured buildings, does not convey the icy terrain of 15 December 1745. Dresden, on the eastern margin of the map, was to be the venue for the talks which led to the Treaty of Dresden, 18 December 1745, recognising the transfer of Silesia from Austria to Prussia. The defense of the city was entrusted to Count Rutowski with his Saxon army, with, theoretically, the 46,000-strong Austrian army led by Prince Charles of Lorraine. In the event, the conflict was between Prince Leopold’s Prussian army, which had advanced from the west, and Count Rutowksi’s forces. The loss of life was substantial.

The Battle of Kesselsdorf was fought on 15 December 1745, between the Kingdom of Prussia and the combined forces of the Archduchy of Austria and the Electorate of Saxony during the part of the War of the Austrian Succession known as the Second Silesian War. The Prussians were led by Leopold I, Prince of Anhalt-Dessau, while the Austrians and Saxons were led by Field Marshal Rutowsky. The Prussians were victorious over the Royal Saxon Army and the Imperial Army of the Holy Roman Emperor.

Two Prussian columns, one led by Frederick, the second by the Leopold the ‘Old Dessauer’ were converging on Dresden, the capital of Saxony, which was then an Austrian ally. Interposed between Leopold and Dresden was Rutowsky with an army of Saxons. Rapidly marching towards Dresden and Rutowsky was prince Charles who hoped to be able to reinforce both. Leopold moved slowly and deliberately forward entering Saxon territory on 29 November and advanced on Rutowsky at Leipzig, whereupon Rutowsky retired towards Dresden. By 12 December, Leopold reached Meissen and joined with a corps under Lehwaldt. Rutowsky was reinforced by some Austrians under Grünne and took up a position at Kesselsdorf, 5 miles west of Dresden, that covered Dresden while leaving him closer to the advancing Charles than Leopold was to Frederick. The Saxons deployed along a ridge that ran from Kesselsdorf to the river Elbe and that was fronted by a stream and marshy ground. The 7,000 Austrians under Grünne formed on the right near the Elbe. The line was long and there was a considerable gap in its center between the Saxons and the Austrians. On the fifteenth, Leopold finally came up. There was much snow and ice on the field.


The Prussians were slightly outnumbered 35,000 to 32,000. Additionally, the Saxons and Austrians had the advantage of the ground. Dessauer, a long experienced general now sixty eight years old, perceived that by taking the town of Kesselsdorf the enemies flank could be turned and concentrated his efforts against the Saxon portion of the army. The Saxons had the town defended with twenty-four heavy cannons, [4] their engineers and carpenters enhancing its defensibility. Leopold made dispositions for an attack by an elite force of infantry and grenadiers, however the ground was very difficult and the first attack was repulsed with considerable loss, including the officer leading the attack, General Hertzberg. A second, reinforced attack was made and this too failed with the Prussians fleeing in disorder. The Prussians had suffered some 1,500 casualties from the attacking forces of 3,500.

The Saxon grenadiers seeing the flight of the Prussians left their strong defensive position and made an impetuous pursuit of the Prussians which exposed them to a massed charge by the dragoons of the Prussian cavalry. The shock of the charge sent the Saxons tumbling back and through their former position in Kesselsdorf, driving them from the field. At this same time, Leopold’s son, Prince Moritz, personally led an infantry regiment which broke through the Saxon center. The regiment, although isolated, held its ground while other Prussian regiments attempted but failed to link up with it due to the stubbornness of the Saxon defence. Eventually, Leopold’s success in taking Kesselsdorf bore fruit and the Saxon flank was turned causing the Saxon line to collapse and their army to flee at nightfall.

The Prussians’ losses amounted to over sixteen hundred killed and more than three thousand wounded, while the Saxon losses were less than four thousand killed and wounded with almost seven thousand Saxons taken prisoner as well as forty-eight cannon and seven standards. [5] During the battle, the Austrians on the right never fired a shot, while Charles, who had reached Dresden and could hear the cannon, failed to march to the aid of his ally.

The Saxons fled in a wild panic into Dresden. There, despite the presence of Charles and his army of 18,000 and the Austrians’ willingness to renew battle, they continued to flee. Leopold then linked up his forces with those of Frederick, who was so delighted by the victory that he embraced Leopold personally. The Saxons then abandoned Dresden, which Fredrick and Leopold occupied on the eighteenth after demanding its unconditional surrender. The Austrians subsequently began to negotiate the peace of Dresden immediately, ultimately ending the Second Silesian War and leaving Prussia’s ally, France, to conduct the rest of the war of the Austrian Succession alone.

Prussian Forces – Battle of Kesselsdorf

15 December 1745

Commanding Officer: Prinz von Anhalt-Dessau

Advanced Guard Division:

Soldan (Braun) Hussar Regiment

8th Hussar Regiment

Bonin Dragoon Regiment

Alt-Anhalt Infantry Regiment

Munchow Grenadier Battalion

Anhalt-Dessau Grenadier Battalion (10/22)

Aulack Grenadier Battalion (46/47)

Right Wing Cavalry Division:

Dragoon Brigade:

Alt-Mollendorf Dragoon Regiment

Holstein-Gottorp Dragoon Regiment

Jung-Mollendorf Dragoon Regiment

Cuirassier Brigade:

Liebgarde Cuirassier Regiment

Stille Cuirassier Regiment

Bredow Cuirassier Regiment

Lieb-Karabinier Regiment

Infantry Division:

1st Line:

Schoning Grenadier Battalion (8/30)

Prinz Leopold Infantry Regiment

Anhalt Dessau Infantry Regiment

Prinz von Preussen Infantry Regiment

Bonin Infantry Regiment

Bredow Infantry Regiment

Hertzberg Infantry Regiment

Prinz Moritz Infantry Regiment

Leps Infantry Regiment

Jeetze Infantry Regiment

2nd Line:

Polentz Infantry Regiment

Prinz Ferdinand Infantry Regiment

Alt-Württemberg Infantry Regiment

Jung-Darmstadt Infantry Regiment

53rd Infantry Regiment

Left Wing Cavalry Division:

Cuirassier Brigade:

Buddenbrock Cuirassier Regiment

Prinz Friedrich Cuirassier Regiment

Rochow Cuirassier Regiment

Kyau Cuirassier Regiment

Dragoon Brigade:

Stosch Dragoon Regiment

Bayreuth Dragoon Regiment

Total: 33 Bns infantry = 21,000 33 cannon

93 sqns cavalry = 9,000

Saxon Army – Battle of Kesselsdorf

15 December 1745

Commanding Officer: General Graf Rutowsky

Division: Generallieutenant von Birkholz

Brigade: Generalwachtmeister von Milkau

Sonderhaus Dragoon Regiment (2)

Rechberg Dragoon Regiment (2)

Königlicher Prinz Dragoon Regiment (2)

Division: Generallieutenant Graf Gru”nne

Brigade: Generalwachtmeister Wallbrunn (Austrian0

Hohenzollern Cuirassier Regiment (7)

Brigade: Generalwachtmeister Elberfeld (Austrian)

Wurmbrand Infantry Regiment (2)

Waldeck Infantry Regiment (2)

Keuhl Infantry Regiment (2)

Division: Generallieutenant Graf Renard

Brigade: Generalwachtmeister von Grankenberg

Allnpeck Infantry Regiment (2)

Bellegarde Infantry Regiment (2)

Brigade: Generalwachtmeister O’Meaghr

Cosel Infantry Regiment (2)

Rochow Infantry Regiment (2)

Division: Generallieutenant von Diemar

Brigade: Generalwachtmeister von Pirch

Brühl Infantry Regiment (2)

Weissenfels Infantry Regiment (2)

Brigade: Generalwachtmeister von Neubaur

Königin Infantry Regiment (2)

2nd Guard Infantry Regiment (2)

Leib-Grenadier-Garde Infantry Regiment (2)

Division: General Chevalier de Saxe

Brigade: Generalwachtmeister von Rex

Leibkurassier Regiment (2)

Karabinier Regiment (4)

Garde du Corps Regiment (1)

Brigade: Generalwachtmeister von Pol”tz

Plötz Dragoon Regiment (2)

Arnim Dragoon Regiment (2)


Brigade: Generalwachtmeister von Münch

Grenadier Battalions (4)

Brigade: Generalwachtmeister von Allnpeck

Grenadier Battalions (3)

Division: Generallieutenant von Rochow

Brigade: Generalwachtmeister von Minkwitz

Rutowsky Dragoon Regiment (4)

Bentheim Dragoon Regiment (4)

Brigade: Generalwachtmeister Bethlehem (Austrian)

Bethlehem Regiment (4)

Stolberg Regiment (2)

Brigade: Generalwachtmeister von Wilster


Brigade: Generalwachtmeister Graf Bellegard

Niesmeuschel Infantry Regiment (2)

Franz Pirch Infantry Regiment (2)

N. Pirch Infantry Regiment (2)


Anonciade Cuirassier Regiment (4)

Ronnow Cuirassier Regiment (2)

Minkwitz Cuirassier Regiment (2)

Prinz Karl Chevauxleger Regiment (4)

Division: von Sybilsky

Bledowsky Uhlan Pulk

Rudnicky Uhlan Pulk

Ulan Uhlan Pulk

Bertuczewsky Uhlan Pulk

Warasdiner Grenz Regiment (1,000)

Sybilsky Chevauxleger Regiment (4)

Schuster & Francke, Geschichte der Sachsischen Armee fon deren Errichtung bis auf die Neueste Zeit