The Prussian Campaign of 1762 in Saxony II

The Prussians were after more than just a nuisance raid or two. Tearing up property, looting, raping citizens, might all help demoralize the civilian population in the affected areas all right, at least to an extent, but the destruction of the Austrian magazines in Northern Bohemia would compel the whitecoats to give up Saxony. At least in the short run. This last one was a most desirable outcome. The expedition unfolded accordingly, General Kanitz rolled into Sebastienberg (August 1), about the same time, Seydlitz with his body of men ranged to Komotau. The enemy thereabouts, under our old friend Török, slowly pulled back, confronted on his side by the appearance of Kleist, who was at Johnsdorf almost before the Allies realized it. Seydlitz & Company made a juncture, then pressed on Dux. Some of the bluecoats made it first to Ossegg, other forces drove the enemy scouts to and through Brüx.

But the enemy, led thereabouts by Count Löwenstein, did not come to blows. This time, the duo failed a mission, finding Löwenstein firmly emplaced at Teplitz. “Green” Kleist wanted to attack at once, proposing the very bold plan of striking fully at the enemy on August 1, before they ascertained the presence of the bluecoats and before the Allies had withdrawn to a post where they could put up a decent defense. In their present state, Löwenstein’s force was both understrength and very unsteady for battle. But the bold Prussian stroke for August 1 was thwarted by the normally very bold General Seydlitz. Seydlitz, unaccountably, insisted on a one-day grace to allow the infantry time enough to arrive. This delay enabled Löwenstein to repel the initial Prussian assault when it came, promptly forcing the Prussians to beat a retreat back to base. The Allies left 165 men in the clutches of the enemy. The upshot was, the foe held him cold and Prince Henry was most certainly disappointed.

As for Löwenstein, his command was most typical of the field formations that the Allies could field for this last campaign of the war in Saxony. Almost entirely bereft of light cavalry, even the “regular” cavalry formations, unlike their Prussian counterparts, were often very much understrength. As for General Seydlitz, he had seen little service (at least in a military sense) since the field of Kunersdorf in 1759. “Seydlitz’s health was also so poor that he often said of himself … the prince could not always depend upon him.”

Nothing daunted, the prince’s command was nothing if not resilient. The bluecoats were unbuckled upon Neuhof, leaning over at Preschen, which movement was well screened by the cavalry of Belling. The Prussians did not lack for confidence, and it was a worried Count Löwenstein who sent a dispatch rider galloping to General MacQuire, requesting the prompt dispatch of reinforcements to help out his hard-pressed command. At the same time, he shifted his forces to as favorable a post as possible for the forthcoming bluecoat attack.

Meanwhile, during the over night, the bluecoat cavalry tried its very best to earn its reputation here by putting as much pressure on the enemy as was possible. Under cover of darkness, the bluecoats commenced assembling for attack the next morning, beginning their preparation at about 2200 hours. While the Allies kept within their lines during the night, their foes were moving into attack position, maneuvering to make an effort to drive away the enemy. The Belling Hussars about this time gained possession of the Wachloderberg and vicinity. By about 0400 hours, the Allies, not willing to wait for the enemy to strike, unleashed a large cavalry attack to try to drive Belling off of his post.

The Prussian march was still moving up, which commenced at about 0400 hours on August 2. “Green” Kleist, leading a force of six full battalions of infantry and 18 squadrons of fine cavalry, moved round towards the eastern side of Löwenstein’s position hard by the little village of Hundorf. As for the main attack, it was to be entrusted to General Seydlitz, with a force of some five battalions and another 18 squadrons of cavalry. The front of the Allied position was covered by marshy ground, and dotted with little ponds. This was probably the best possible position in which to await attack, particularly when the enemy just happened to be Prussians. In the event, Seydlitz’ men erupted by Ullersdorf, from where they were screened from enemy detection by swarms of light troops flung out before them. The enemy, who had so few of the valuable light troops, were indeed caught by surprise. The move up was, of course, in the predawn darkness, and Löwenstein was thus almost entirely blind to the intentions of his enemy. In all fairness, the commander tried his best, but the budget cuts, well…

At this point, the initial Austrian cavalry charge pressed Belling off from his new post on the Wachloderberg. The Benedict Daun [27th] Cuirassiers, along with the Battyány (7thDragoons) and the 23rd Cuirassiers of Stampa, fighting all the while, played a prominent part in this repulse of the Prussian cavalry. Infantry support was provided by Major-General Carl Clemens Pellegrini, who rushed to the scene with elements of the Austrian 33rd and 15th Infantry Regiments. The latter also was insightful enough to send intelligence to some nearby Hungarian regiments, those of Gyulai and O’Kelly, that their presence was required forthwith. “Green” Kleist, in the meantime, had made his way towards the Wachloderberg to help Belling out if possible. But his Prussian force was met by the aforementioned mixture of Allied infantry and cavalry, which interrupted his mission. A short, but sharp, tussle resulted in the repulse of the bluecoats. The initial Prussian line was thus met and turned back, and the bluecoats withdrew as was their want a short way to the rear. Their foe advanced, led by the Gyulai Hungarian unit, which, although having shot off its ammo, was advancing with drawn sabers, straight at the vaunted forces of General Seydlitz.

The bluecoats were summarily driven back. The Austrian stroke of Gyulai & Company was checked forthwith by the second Prussian line, which had planted itself in the village of Kradrop hard-by. The encouraged Allies now surged forward, nonetheless, and finally defeated the Prussians, who skeddadled towards Dux (about 0800 hours). Count Löwenstein’s force could not pursue, again because of the utter lack of light troops.

The Prussian loss in this action was 558 men, 14 officers, and two pieces of artillery. The Austrians lost about an equal number: 667 men from all causes. Under the circumstances, this was a largely Pyrrhic victory. Nevertheless, the Prussians had to inevitably abandon any hope of further progress into Bohemia and withdraw from the province (August 5). Seydlitz’s shortcomings as a commander of a composite infantry-cavalry force, indeed, shone crystal clear in the affair of Teplitz. But it was equally obvious that Serbelloni would not be the man to reclaim the Saxon lands from the great foe. Shortly, Serbelloni was to be ordered back to Vienna.

Hadik replaced Serbelloni in command in Saxony. He had orders to do little more than hold his ground against the enemy wherever the latter was found. The Allies had not quite 60,000 men in Saxony as of the end of August, while Prince Henry was leading some 33,000 men. General Hülsen, Hadik’s old nemesis (who was by this point looking for little more than a way to retire gracefully from the king’s service) was ensconced in Wilsdruf. Prince Henry’s main force was still about, and the only sizable urban area in Allied hands (and thus not in the clutches of the Prussians) by this stage happened to be Dresden and vicinity.

Hadik rolled into Dresden on September 7, and almost immediately discovered that he would be sharing the command of the Imperialists with Stolberg. Worse, Serbelloni did not exactly appreciate being relieved of his command in the midst of a campaign. He harranged Hadik for the latter’s “lack of respect” regarding the transfer of power. Then, after venting against Hadik for what he perceived to be an unjustice committed against him personally, Serbelloni abruptly took his leave of the theater of war. Serbelloni was obviously resentful over being replaced. Nor was that all. He also failed to inform Hadik where the forces under his new command were, what their strength was, or even where the enemy were located in the country thereabouts.

But Hadik, one of the better of the Allied “minor” generals of the war, resolved to do his best under the troubling circumstances he had been dealt. He galloped out with a small entourage to determine for himself, in person, where his forces were and just where the enemy were to be found. On September 21, accordingly, Hadik duly sent a communication to Vienna about his future intentions (something which Serbelloni had been noticeably neglectful in doing throughout his tenure as commander). In short, Hadik was planning to take advantage of the Prussian concentration on the campaign in Silesia by launching an involved offensive along the whole front of the places where he was in charge. Hadik’s first move had been to call up the entire force to his aid, concentrating his troops south of Dresden, and simultaneously requesting reinforcements from Marshal Daun over in Silesia. Hadik took part of his force, concentrating on the Allied right wing, led by Generals Ried and Wied, which sought to keep the attention of Prince Henry and of his army fixed to enemy movements through Eastern Saxony, in the Tharandter Wald region.

The main impetus of the offensive was directly north across the Bohemian border, consisting of forces led by Count Löwenstein and Campitelli. The bluecoats opposite to this encroachment, under the charge of “Green” Kleist, were deployed at Kortenstein. The latter hitched backwards at once, with little contact to be had with the intruders from Bohemia. Kleist got to Seyde, although the main force, led by both Seydlitz and “Green” Kleist, was, in fact, at Dittersbach. On September 29, the main Austro-Imperialist force, of Löwenstein and Campitelli, went back to the attack. Allied artillery, set up and sited in to inflict maximum punishment upon the enemy forces opposite, commenced belching fire. In sharp fighting, Löwenstein led the Allied left to the Freiberger Walde, and even encroached briefly upon the town of Freiberg. Meanwhile, the forces of Campitelli, pressing the Allied right, proceeded over by the Burkersdorf area (located some 21⁄2 miles northwest of Frauenstein; not to be confused with the more famous Burkersdorf in Silesia). The Allies converged on the positions held by Prince Henry’s Prussian forces. The latter were outnumbered, and, meanwhile to the northeast, the diversionary attacks of the small Allied forces had continued on September 29.

Ried’s force stormed forward and turned the enemy opposite to him (over by Wilsdruf) out of the lines of abatis thereabouts. Prince Henry’s forces were outnumbered all right, and if Ried & Company should happen to be successful on the eastern side of Saxony, the entire Prussian position in Saxony would be in grave danger of being compromised. Other Allied forces erupted over by Weisteritz, under General Buttlar. The Allied advance of Hadik’s forces in that area were met head-on by a powerful Prussian counterattack directed at the Allied position at Ober-Cunnersdorf. Next morning, September 30, Hadik was fully prepared to renew his offensive effort. But, during the night of September 29–30, Prince Henry had withdrawn from his forward posts. In short, Prince Henry disengaged and withdrew to a line Meissen-Freiberg-Brand; here he was able to hold his own, although the enemy considerably outnumbered him. Thus, although he had been compelled to withdraw from a position he had held all summer, Henry was actually in a better position than before. As for Hadik, he appears to have been rattled by the proceedings. He was as confused by victory as by defeat on this occasion. In short, the Prussians had been pressed back a way all right, but Freiberg remained in Prince Henry’s hands for the moment.

In contrast to the hectic pace of military operations in the end of September, there were few operations in the first part of October, although some movements were being planned. Prince Henry made what preparations he could to face the offensive he knew was coming. As for Hadik, he was resolved to take another crack at pressing the bluecoats out of their lines over by Freiberg. On October 14, the enemy again struck the Prussian right flank, here led by General Syburg. The bulk of Hadik’s attack force was sent this way, while General Hülsen—leading the Prussian left—was distracted by an outright enemy diversion. The latter was mounted courtesy of Ried, and was primarily designed to keep the general pinned more or less behind the Triebisch. Now Buttlar, joined by reinforcements under the charge of General MacQuire, pressed from Conradesdorf, trying to break in upon Freiberg.

Stolberg brought his Imperialist brood over towards Freiberg as well. His advanced guard, under the command of General Kleefeld, pushed forward against the bluecoats, here led locally by Colonel Belling, striking them hard about Mönchenfrei. Belling hitched backwards a short distance to Erbischof, but his Prussians still had fight left in them. Their resistance stiffened, abruptly forcing Kleefeld to go back the way he had come, with the bluecoats following on his heels. It certainly appeared that Prince Henry had no intention of “going gentle into that good night.”

In the event, the Allies settled down facing the Prussian posts over by Tuttendorf, which the bluecoats were holding on to overnight close by Freiberg. Henry’s positions astride the Mulde were further pressed by General Luzinsky, who had in the interim set up his ordnance and commenced blasting away at Prussian positions on the Weissenborn Heights. This action naturally kept the majority of the enemy’s attention fixed to that locale over by Freiberg, especially as to what might be transpiring. October 14, General Kleefeld struck the opponent, directly opposite to him, in a virtual repeat of his previous effort, which, this time, turned out to a better conclusion for him than before. Prussian defenses, ground down in the previous few weeks, now fragmented in short order, and Henry’s men fell back, leaving Freiberg to finally fall into the unsteady hands of the now encouraged foe. The bluecoats reigned in by Gross-Voigtsberg, taking a very short breather.

Prince Henry was also pinned by Austro-Imperialist’s efforts to keep him from sending any help to Syburg. However, the Allied effort quickly ran out of steam as well. Hadik’s advance stalled out, and Henry again held the foe, inflicting heavier losses than he had sustained in the crisis. During the night of October 14–15, troops were transferred to the Prussian right, which aided Syburg when Hadik renewed his offensive early the next day. Holding attacks on the Prussian left and center helped to fix Henry, and the weight of superior numbers gradually pressed the Prussian right back. Prince Henry himself barely managed to escape capture from a group of marauding allied troopers. His lines, now stretched almost to the point of breaking, were collapsing; before dark he issued an order to hitch backwards upon Reichenbach. His army had been badly battered; nearly 2,000 men were killed, wounded, or captured and the old Prussian line had been destroyed. This was along with ten pieces of artillery.

Prince Henry conducted the retreat of his battered right, while General Hülsen drove the Prussian left/center by the Schlettau-Kätzenhäuser road, taking up post near the latter on October 16. Early the following morning, a Prussian counterattack enabled Henry to regain some of the lost ground. Frederick (from whom the joyous news that Schweidnitz had fallen was now in the camp) was sending 20,000 men under Wied to Saxony. The advance soon reached the scene—Major Henckel von Donnersmarck and his men—shortly. The king himself was now firmly resolved to go to Leipzig to winter with his men, leaving Prince Henry to wrap up the campaign (and likely the war) in Saxony.

But Hadik was also being reinforced, Prince Albert of Saxony had started for the Saxon theater with a force, albeit one weaker in numbers than the one Wied was bringing. Albert’s force had originally been about 13,000 strong, assembled in good detail at Trautenau, but the generally bad trend of the war in Silesia kept drawing off men from this total. In short order, Prince Albert was left with barely half of the force under his charge. October 18, the prince shoved off to reinforce the body of troops left over in Saxony, probably under some compulsion that the journey had better occur now or it never would, as the constraints of the campaign in Silesia would beckon. In short, this latter scene of operations would serve like a vacuum to inevitably draw the rest of Albert’s force off and leave nothing at all to reinforce the Saxon theater. However, with the advantage of interior lines, Albert could, at least, be expected days before the enemy could ever show with their force.

Besides, a communiqué sent by Hadik to the aforementioned Stolberg betrayed his belief that the foe could no longer mount a serious effort of any kind. As for Stolberg, he was busy concentrating on trying to prop up the Allied position at and about Freiberg. Despite Stolberg’s “brave front,” though, the prince was more than half anticipating that Prince Henry would come back, once bolstered with the forces on their way from Silesia, and reclaim Freiberg. (Obviously Stolberg did not share Hadik’s optimism about the actions of Prince Henry). Not only that, but Stolberg was equally nervous that Hadik himself had every intention of leaving the Imperialists out to dry, as the Austrian contingent was in desperate need of rest and refit. Next, word arrived, in the form of very reliable intelligence, that the Prussian king was indeed sending forth General Wied, from Görlitz and vicinity, with some 20,000 men, fresh off the capture of Schweidnitz and the virtual wrap-up of the war in Silesia. As for the allied reinforcements, Albert got into Weissig (night of October 27–28). He and his Allied contingent were too late to take part in the last major battle of the war, the Battle of Freiberg.

Henry wanted to launch a counterattack upon Hadik, ideally with as strong a force as possible, but it quickly became obvious that if he waited upon Wied, Hadik would already be strengthened by Albert’s men. The double danger, however, was that if Henry allowed Albert to join his comrade, then the reinforced Allies could continue with the advance. The enemy did not prove cooperative, and by the time Prince Henry decided to try on Hadik at Freiberg, his troops were already fortifying the position there to the hilt as well as daily looking for the expected reinforcements. October 22, renewed attacks were launched against the whole Prussian front. Prince Henry’s men held fast, although he worried about the attack plan. Henry knew it had to be implemented soon to have any effect.

He had about 28,000 men with him, opposed to 30,000 with Hadik. For a week, Prince Henry’s preparations went forward; as evening of October 28 drew to a close, he explained his plan to his subordinate officers.

Prince Henry had determined to throw down on the foe even before his own reinforcements could reach the scene of the action. In part, this was because the Allies felt the very conservative prince would want to wait until his army had been stiffened with new troops before he undertook his new enterprise. Thus they would be expecting no offensive action from him before then.