This is a summary of the actions and movements that lead to the battle of Kolin in the summer of 1757. I’m writing this up in preparation for my mod (see signature - the title Silesia Inrupta is misleading), which is focused on a very small and detailed scale that puts the player into the role of an 18th century general. It’s all based on the “Großer Generalstab”, series 3, volume 3, which offers a quite detailed account from the prussian perspective. Adding the habsburg perspective would make writing up this summary an incredibly complicated task. Please excuse my very sub-optimal english – I could come up with something better, but this would take me a lot more time.
I think that the following account shows very well that 18th century warfare was a very flexible affair, characterized by many small detachments acting off-side the main armies and a lot of movement. I have not really taken a closer look at the operational level of Napoleons’ campaigns, but I don’t know in what ways they could have been more flexible than those of mid-18th century. You will see that corps were created on the fly and acted as independently as possible, also seeking to live off the land. The account also shows that the smaller scope can be very interesting from a game-play-perspective. Once we begin to split up armies into smaller corps and regions into smaller positions, we come closer to the reality of an 18th century general. It's also interesting to take a look at the composition of the detachments. In almost all cases, they consist of hussars, dragoons, grenzers, grenadiers, carabiniers. These light/elite troops seem to have been a major operational asset. Apart from battles, sieges and garrisons, we hardly ever get to hear anything about ordinary line troops.
In order to fully grasp the movements and developments in the campaign, it is imperative to consult maps. Luckily, I can simply point you to the Josephinische Landesaufnahme” which, for Bohemia, has been drawn in 1764, mere 7 years after the campaign, and shows the corresponding theatre of operations in extreme detail. It can be accessed online for free here: http://mapire.eu/de/map/collection/firstsurvey/?zoom=6&lat=47.89034&lon=14.76556
I’m always going to use the (german) names of the villages as they’re mentioned on the map. In addition, I provide the modern czech name in square brackets so that you can enter it as a search-term. For your general orientation, please open the map and look at the area between Prag (Praha) and Neü-Kollin (Kolín), which lies a bit (ca. 55 kilometers) to the east of Prague. This is where most of the following actions took place.
It might take some while until all the chapters are completed, because even filtering out the seperate actions of the individual corps from the "Großer Generalstab" is not that easy. For a general orientation, the campaign saw Prussia besieging the remnants of prince Charles' army at Prague, while at the same time trying to drive off and/or defeat another Habsburg army under Daun, who tried to reach Prague and lift the siege.
abbreviations used: btn = battalion; sqn = squadron; gren. = grenadier
PART I: THE INITIAL SITUATION
Aftermath of the battle of Prague 1: Operational movements
Frederick had beaten the Habsburg army east of Prague on 6.V. 1757. The situation after the battle seems to have been very chaotic, and it wasn’t quite clear in which direction the main bulk of the Habsburg army had “disappeared”. In fact, ca. 50.000 men had retreated to Prague, while a smaller part, ca. 12.000 went south towards the Zasawa [Sazawa] river that flows in the Moldau about 21 km south of Prague.
Frederick sent a detachment led by Puttkamer in pursuit after this force. As it was typical, detachments like these were composed of light/elite troops: 2 grenadier-battalions (Plötz and Burgsdorff), 5 squadrons of dragoons (Stechow) and 10 squadrons of hussars (Puttkamer). The whole pursuit lasted but two days: Although Puttkamers’ husars managed to make some prisoners (no numbers given), the main part of the retreaters made it to Beneschau [Benesov] slightly to the south of the Zasawa, where they were rescued and picked up by the arrière-guard of Prince Charles' army, ca. 14.000 grenzers and hussars under the command of Bretlach. Here, the wounded were loaded onto empty bread-wagons and transported to the rear. Puttkamer did not dare to engage Bretlachs detachment whose strength he slightly oversetimated, and retreated to Prague on 8.V., only leaving behind ca. 400 of his hussars at Sulitz [Sulice] to observe Bretlachs’ corps. However, Puttkamers’ report about a large concentration of habsburg troops at the Zasawa river induced Frederick to send Puttkamer back only one day later! On 9.V., Frederick ordered Puttkamers detachment back towards the Zasawa, only slightly reinforced (in addition to the grenadiers, hussars and dragoons mentioned above: battalion II./Anhalt and 5 squadrons of Normann-dragoons). On 10.V., however, as Frederick had learned about the position of Dauns’ army, this detachment was ordered to unite with Beverns’ corps (see below). So, many many days of marching for Puttkamers troops without real results.
While Fredericks army proceeded to lay siege to Prague (see next section), Frederick became aware of Dauns army. On 8.V., Frederick still believed that Daun was positioned at Königgrätz [Hradec Kralove], while in fact, on 9.V., Daun already stood at Böhmisch Brod [Cesky Brod], about a days’ march east of Prague! Daun’s army, having conducted night-marches, had only closely failed to unite with the main habsburg army under Prince Charles just before the battle of Prague. In fact, the advance-guard of Dauns' army under Puebla had come in eye-contact with the Prussian troops during the battle of Prague but failed to engage. Luckily for the Prussians, on 9.V., Frederick had sent off Zieten with a very large cavalry-force of 43 squadrons (cuirassiers: 5 Krockow, 5 Kyau; dragoons: 5 Blankensee; hussars: 10 Zieten, 10 Werner, 8 Wartenberg) from Prague to reconnoitre towards the east in the direction of Daun. Immediately, Zietens’ corps bounced into Daun. Because Dauns’ army was at that time not secured by any considerable advance-guard (only 250 hussars; Pueblas detachment which had reached the battlefield of Prague had been ordered back to the main army), Zietens’ appearance stirred quite an alarm, forcing Dauns’ army to break camp and prepare for battle. The prussian hussars are said to have fired their carabines at some piquets, but Zieten, for his lack of infantry, decided to retreated to the northwest towards Brandeis [Brandys nad Laben-Stara Boleslav], where he united with Mansteins’ corps (which had secured Brandeis after it had been taken by a detachment of grenzers operating from Nimburg [Nymburk]). The direction seems a bit weird, perhaps he wanted to protect the magazine at Jung-Bunzlau?
Zietens report of a considerable army at Böhmisch Brod reached Frederick in the night of 9./10.V. Even though every single man was needed to besiege Prague, Frederick immerdiatly sent out Bevern with 7 battalions, 15 squadrons and 10 guns. He was supposed to unite with Zietens’ and Mansteins’ force as well as with Puttkamers corps (which had been sent out towards the Zasawa on 9.V.). Beverns’ task was to keep Daun away from Prague and prevent him from reuniting with Bretlachs force (ca. 14.000 men at Beneschau). With some delay, Beverns troops united with Zieten and Manstein in Brandeis on the evening of 10.V. Also Puttkamer made his way to Brandeis on the very same day! Only inf btn. II./Anhalt got so exhausted that it had to take a break at Prague, only catching up with Bevern on 15. V.
So, on the morning of 11.V., Beverns’ corps (10 btns, 85 sqns, 13 guns / ca. 2.100 inf, 11.600 cav) was assembled in Brandeis and ready to go. Puttkamer lead the advance-guard, followed by Beverns’ main army in three columns. The corps headed directly east towards Dauns army, making contact with the hussars of the rear-guard. Daun, however, retreated towards Kolín and Bevern didn’t really follow Daun any further. On 12.V., Bevern made camp between the villages Hrzib (=Krzib [Hriby]?) and Chaschtjan (=Chrasitan [Chrastany]?) with his hussars screening at the Kaurzimka-river ([Vyrovka, I suppose?]). A small detachment (gren.-btn Wangenheim and 5 sqns of Werner hussars) was sent off to Schwartz-Kosteletz [Kostelec nad Černými lesy] to the south-west, where it captured a magazine full of much needed horse-fodder. In fact, it was Beverns dire supply situation that prevented him from following Daun any further. The corps had left Prague only with a small supply of bread, and now it had to wait for the bread wagons from the magazine at Jung-Bunzlau and the field-bakery at Welwarn to catch up. Following Daun would have increased the distance to the magazines.
Beverns corps, which got reinforced with 3 more battalions, seems to have stayed put for the next few days, during which hussars must have been sent into all directions to observe Dauns’ movements. On 14.V., a large prussian foraging party (hussars, 2 regs. of dragoons, 2 gren.-btns) came into contact with light troops of Daun and became aware that Dauns main army was camping northwest of Kuttenberg [Kutna Hora]. Moreover, the hussar-parties that had been sent out south towards the Sazawa reported back that parts of Bretlachs’ force had already reinforced Daun. Nevertheless, Bevern and Frederick were right in their assumption that Dauns army was not large, in any case smaller than 30.000 men. So, Frederick ordered Bevern to put pressure on Daun as soon as Beverns’ crops had been reached and supplied by the bread-wagons. Moreover, Frederick ordered to rope in all the villages around Beverns’ camp for baking bread until a field-bakery would reach Nimburg [Nymburk].
On 17.V., Beverns’ corps finally advanced. It swept aside habsburg piquets and marched on Kolín which was at that time occupied by a corps of ca. 7.000 light troops – the very same day, Nadasdy took over the command over this corps from Hadik. Things looked as if there was going to be a major action. The habsburg garrison had prepared the eastern suburbs of Kolín for defence. Beverns main army was formed into battle formation between Krzeczor [Krechor] and the Prague-Kolín-chaussée, while his advance-guard under Pannwitz (2 btns, 20 sqns, 6 guns) advanced on the “Galgenberg” [?]. However, the habsburg command finally decided not to risk battle and ordered their troops to retreat to the southeast to the line Kang [Kank]-Wysoka [?]-Suchdol [Suchdol]. Nightfall prevented Bevern from pursuit. His advance-guard entered Kolin and captured a magazine, while the main army camped where it had been formed for battle, secured by a screen of hussars.
The next day, 18.V., Bevern advanced further and camped between Sibochlau [Zibohlavy] and Kolin, with the Puttkamer-hussars reconnoitering on the left flank along the chaussée to the souteast, and the Wartenberg-hussars on the right flank towards Paschinka [Pasinka]. His very right flank was secured by 3 btns and the remaining 20 sqns of hussars at Groß Gbell [Kbel]. Bevern got notice that even though Daun got reinforced from Beneschau [Benesov], his main army had retreated to Czaslau, and that he was therefore only facing but a detachment (Nadasdys’ corps). Indeed, Daun acted extremely cautiously, not least because he had misleading reports about the size of Beverns’ corps and about Frederick leading 15.000 from Prague to Bevern (which was completely wrong). So, on 18.V. he had moved to Czaslau [Caslav], leaving Nadasdys’ light corps (reinforced to 17.000 men) to the northwest of Kuttenberg [Kutna hora].
For the rest of May, both sides, Bevern and Daun/Nadasdy, remained stationary. Daun didn’t want to risk his army. He reckoned that if he advanced against Bevern, Bevern would simply retreat, which meant that his supply would suffer. Moreover, reports from Prince Charles in Prague reached him, telling him that the army in Prague was still in supply and could indeed hold out a bit longer. Also the war council in Vienna suggested not to risk the army. Last but not least, Dauns’ army grew over time (end of May Dauns main army – excluding Nadasdys’ corps - counted 43 btns, 39 gren. coys, 88 sqns, 15 carabinier- and horse-gren.-coys) and got more and more confident after the defeat of Prague. Frederick and Bevern, on the other hand, were also content with the situation for now. Beverns’ corps was also growing over time. Until 4.VI., Bevern got reinforced with 5 btns (which had hitherto been positioned to defend the sections of the Prague-Kolin-chaussée) and with the leib-karabinier-reg. He now had 18 btns and 90 sqns (12.000 inf, 12.500 cav) at his disposal.
Naturally, the lack of major movements gave both sides plenty opportunity for small war and to cause supply problems. Frederick had ordered Bevern to stay at his advantageous position at Kolín but keep up the contact with the opponent. However, as the Große Generalstab tells us, observing the opponents’ actions was a difficult task for Bevern because of his disadvantage in light troops. Bevern had to make use of large reconnaissance-detachments for this purpose, consisting of ca. 300 troopers each. Smaller parties seem to have run the risk of getting captured/attacked too easily. Moreover, unlike the habsburg troops, these detachments could not stay put close to the enemy (we can assume that they would have been discovered and cut off/attacked), but rather had to return to the main army after their missions. Not only did this exhaust horses and men, but also it meant that there was no constant “contact” with the opponent. Information had to be updated by sending out detachments every time.
Habsburg light troops were also threatening the supply-line from Jung-Bunzlau [Mlada Boleslav] to Kolin. The Prussian “Etappentruppen” (detachments that were posted at regular intervalls along the main roads) did their best to defend the road network. On 18.V., infantry regiment Münchow, which escorted the field-bakery from Jung-Bunzlau [Mlada Boleslav] to Nimburg [Nymburk], had to dislodge three habsburg hussar-sqns from Nimburg before the field bakery could be installed. On 26.V., Werner, who had been sent across the Elbe at Podiebrad [Podebrady] on 21. V. with 5 sqns of his hussars in order to take part in the small war, engaged an austrian raiding party operating from Chlumez [Chlumec nad Cidlinou] (under Luszinsky) which was beaten back after fierce resistance. At Kolin, austrian light troops were more successful. Nauendorf and 120 grenzers and 200 hussars successfully surprised five sqns of Wartenberg-hussars, putting their camp on fire, taking several men prisoner and capturing many horses. Generally speaking, the austrian advantage in light troops took its toll on prussian supply. It’s also interesting to note that the peculiarly high share of (heavy) cavalry in Beverns’ corps was partly a result of the lack of horse-fodder around Prague. Frederick had sent his cavalry with Bevern because he believed that he would find more fourage in the east. However, as Bevern remained stationary (the fourage around a stationary camp would have been consumed rather fast) and couldn’t send out fourage-parties due to the habsburgs’ advantage in light troops, his corps soon ran out of horsefodder. On 21. V., Bevern sent out a large fourage-party (4 btns, 1.100 cav) that managed to capture a large horse-fodder-magazine bewteen Opatowitz [Opatowice] and Petschkau [Cervene Pecky]. A real blunder by Nadasdy, the whole of the prussian cavalry was allowed to ride back and forth between the camp and this magazine two times, carrying away horse-fodder for 5 days, which greatly improved Beverns’ situation.
Bevern and Frederick received reports about enemy raiding parties at the Zasawa river. On 2.VI., Frederick in Prague sent out Seydlitz at the head of gren-btns Kahlden and Möllendorf, 5 sqns Seydlitz-hussars and 200 Katte-dragoons towards Kaurzim [Kourim] and Zasmuk [Zasmuky]. We can only assume that this detachment was supposed to keep up the communication between Prague and Kolin, as the troops securing this route had joined Beverns corps earlier (see above)? Bevern also made provisions to secure his communication with Prague, sending out Puttkamer at the head of gren.-btn Manteuffel, 400 dragoons and 600 hussars towards Zasmuk [Zasmuky]. Puttkame reunited with Beverns’ corps at the evening of 5.VI., after the battle of Kang.
Frederick and Bevern were not really worried about these movements. They banked on a very defensive stance of Daun and conceptualized an attack on Nadasdys’ corps, followed by a mock-movement of Bevern around Dauns left flank in order to induce Daun to retreat further south and thereby release pressure on the prussian supply-line from Silesia to the field bakery at Nimburg. On 5.VI., Bevern broke camp and advanced at the head of 12 btns and 50 sqns in three columns, screened by an advance-guard of 4 btns and 30 sqns (under Zieten and Manstein), to confront Nadasdys corps. The Austrians, however, rightly taking movements in the prussian camp on 4.VI. for a sign, were better prepared this time. At Opatowitz, the prussian advance guard made contact with light troops. The grenzers retreated before the Prussians via Grund [Grunta] to Kang [Kank], the habsburg hussars via Przitoka [Pritoky] across the Maleschau-rivulet [Po Mlynech] to Policzan [Policany], where they united with the cavalry that had formed up here (amongst them the saxon chevauleger-regs.). The advance-guard under Zieten followed up and formed for battle east of Bilan [Bylany], starting to play its artillery on the habsburg cavalry until it left its position and moved to the east. Zieten did not follow but instead returned to Bevern.
Meanwhile, Beverns’ main army had formed up for battle, south of Opatowitz, facing east, with the infantry in two battle lines and the cavalry forming up behind as a third line. Then, with music playing, the army started to advance against the Gangberg to the east, which was held by grenzers. During the advance, the prussian troops were pulling to the right (with the intent to cut off the opponents’ retreat), which opened up gaps in both battle lines. Zieten sent Wartenberg-hussars and Blanckensee-dragoons to hinder habsburg hussars (who were advancing north from Kuttenberg) to attack the flank of the prussian infantry. The grenzers on the Gangberg did not risk a full battle. After firing off their guns at the advancing prussian army, they left the Gangberg for Malin [Malin], where they were received by Nadasdays cavalry which had formed up here/north of Malin in three battle-lines.
Bevern sent Zieten with a strong force of cavalry to by-pass the Gangberg to the north via Libenitz [Libenice] and then form up northwest of Hlizow [Hlizov] to face the habsburg cavalry. In the meantime, parts of Beverns infantry and some of his cavalry had turned south and entered Kuttenberg [Kutna hora]. Thus, the habsburg cavalry north of Malin was facing Zietens cavarly advancing from the north/Hlizov and was threatened on their left flank by Belling-hussars and Blanckensee-dragoons that were forming up east of Kuttenberg at Sedlets [Kostnice Sedlec]. Moreover, they came under fire by the prussian artillery that had taken position on the Gangberg. Under these circumstances, Nadasdys cavalry had to retreat to the south/southeast. As the grenzers who had taken up position at the villages Malin, Neuhof [Nove Dvory], Czirkwitz [Cirkvice] and Neschkaretitz [Neskaredice] covered the retreat of the cavalry with their fire, the prussian cavalry was unable to pursue (an attack by Manstein on Malin via Sedlets, driving off the grenzers, came too late). Therefore, Nadasdy was able to reform his cavalry at Trzebetitz [Trebesice], behind the Wolschau-rivulet [Klejnarka?]. Bevern was reluctant to take further actions as the terrain greatly favoured Nadasdys light troops. Moreover, Bevern observed large clouds of dust in the south, which he took for Dauns main army moving from Czaslau in support for Nadasdy. Thus, Bevern made camp where he was, on the Gangberg and in Kuttenberg, with the cavalry at Grunta and at Hlizow, the hussars at Przitoka, Kuttenberg, Sedlets and Hlizow. In Kuttenberg and in Neuhof, magazines were captured. The prussian losses in the battle of Gang had been trifling, while the loss of the Austrians was estimated at about 200 men.
(to be continued)
Aftermath of the battle of Prague 2: The siege of Prague
Back in Prague, the wounded needed treatment after the horrible battle. They were first taken care of in the villages and cloisters in the surroundings of Prague and from there transported west across the Moldau, as things promised to get quite hot on the eastside of the river. Moreover, more than 180 physicians from prussian (or prussian-occupied) lands were ordered and transported to Prague. From the western shore of the Moldau, the wounded were transported north over Welwarn [Velvary] to Leitmeritz [Litomerice], and from there on the Elbe to Dresden. The prisoners were also directed to Dresden on the land-route via Budin [Budyne nad Ohri].
The prussian main army (ca. 80.000 men after the battle) formed a ring around the city. On 8.V., the encirclement was complete. Since Prague lies on both sides of the Moldau, it was necessary to form two corps, one east, one west of the Moldau. The western corps was led by Keith, and was supplied by the field-bakery at Welwarn [Velvary], which, in turn, received its flour from the magazines in Saxony, from where it was transported up the Elbe to Leitmeritz [Litomerice]. The supply-line Leitmeritz-Welwarn-Prague was harrassed by habsburg light troops who repeatedly crossed the Elbe at Wegstattl [Steti] until, on 18.V., grenadier btn. Kamin and 100 hussars were sent to drive them back over the Elbe and sink all boats in the area. The eastern corps was commanded by Frederick in person and received its supplies from the captured magazine at Jung-Bunzlau [Mlada Boleslav]. Apart from the fact that the supplies in Jung-Bunzlau were already running low, this supply-line was even more endangered than that of the western corps (see further below). The communication between the two besieging corps was secured by two ship/pontoon-bridges that were installed across the Moldau north (at Podbaba [today part of Prague] and south of Prague (at Branik [today part of Prague]).
The besiegers dug themselves in. With the “help” of local labourers, most of the trenches had been completed by 11.V. They were further reinforced by mines and chevaux de frise. At that time, there were still some skirmishes taking place in the surroundings of Prague, especially in some wine-yards, where grenzers skirmished against free-battalion le Noble and the Fuß-Jägers. The important Ziska-mountain saw some larger action as 1000 grenzers plus 2 pieces of artillery under the command of Draskowich were driven off by a command (ca. 1000 men) led by Tresckow, with the support of 8 guns and 6 mortars. Also in other sections of the “siege”, there were minor actions and sorties. As the soutwest was the most likely direction for any serious attempt to sortie, a small prussian detachment (grenadier-btn Kamin, 500 Seydlitz hussars, 400 dragoons) was sent out on 13.V., led by Seydlitz, to destroy all bridges over the Beraun [Berounka] which flows in the Elbe about 8 km south of Prague. If there was to be a successful sortie, then at least the opponent would be delayed by the Beraun. Moreover, to prevent a sortie, more troops (especially cavalry) were termporarily shifted to the right flank of the western crops. Indeed the chance of a sortie seemed to have been quite high and real, since the prussian troops had to be dispersed over quite a distance around the city to cut the city off/deter a habsburg sortie and foraging parties. Laying siege to a city as large as Prague (circumfence ca. 12 km!) was a real challenge, especially as it was occupied by an army of 50.000 men!
Frederick reckoned that the troops in Prague only had supplies to hold out for 10 days. In fact, however, the habsburg command assessed on 7.V. that there was enough flour for two months and horse-fodder for four weeks. Nevertheless, the siege took its toll and rations were reduced immediately. From 25.V. on, the besieged ran out of horse-fodder, from 27.V. on, only horse-meat was given out. The habsburg command tried to improve the supply-situation by banning poorer inhabitants from Prague. However, the prussian besiegers didn’t let these poor people pass through and sent them back into the city.
(to be continued)
The battle of Kolín, painted by August Querfurt?, museum of military history Vienna