1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Seven Years' War

SEVEN YEARS' WAR (1756–1763), the name given to the European war which arose from the formation of a coalition between Austria, France, Russia, Sweden and Saxony against Prussia, with the object of destroying, or at least crippling, the power of Frederick the Great. Prussia was joined by England, and between England and France, as usual, a maritime and colonial war broke out at the first pretext; this war laid the foundations of the British empire, for ere the seven campaigns had been fought in Europe, the French dominion in Canada and the French influence in India, in spite of Dupleix, Lally and Montcalm, had been entirely overthrown by the victories of Clive, Amherst and Wolfe. Great as was the effect of these victories on the history of the world, however, it is at least questionable whether the steadfast resistance of Prussia, almost single-handed as she was-the resistance which laid the solid, if then unseen, foundations of modern Germany—is not as important a phenomenon, and from the technical military standpoint Rossbach and Leuthen, Zorndorf and Kunersdorf possess an interest which it would be possible perhaps to claim for Plassy and for Quebec, but not for border conflicts in Canada and India. It is not only battles, the distinct and tangible military events, that make up the story of Frederick’s defence. There are countless marches and manœuvres, devoid of interest as regards their details; but, as indications of the equilibrium of forces in 18th-century warfare, indispensable to a study of military history as a whole.

Learning of the existence and intentions of the coalition, Frederick determined to strike first, and to that end, during the months preceding the outbreak of hostilities, he concentrated his 150,000 men as follows:—11,000 men in Pomerania to watch the Swedes, 26,000 on the Russian frontier, 37,000 men under Field Marshal Schwerin in Silesia, andPirna. a main body of 70,000 in three columns ready to advance into Saxony at a moment’s notice, the king being in chief command. On the 29th of August 1756 the Saxon frontier was crossed; Dresden was occupied on the 10th of September, the Saxon army, about 14,000 strong, falling back before the invaders to the entrenched camp of Pirna, an almost inaccessible plateau parallel to the Elbe and close to the Bohemian frontier. The secret of the Prussian intentions had been so well kept that the Austrians were still widely disseminated in Bohemia and Moravia. 32,000 men under Field Marshal Browne were at Kolin, and 22,000 under Piccolomini at Olmütz, when on the 31st of August the news of the invasion arrived, and such was their unreadiness that Browne could not advance till the 6th of September, Piccolomini until the 9th. Meanwhile the Prussians, leaving detachments to watch the exits from Pirna, moved up the Elbe and took post at Aussig to cover the investment of the Saxons. Learning of Browne’s approach on the 28th of September, the king, assuming the command of the covering force, advanced yet farther up the Elbe to meet him, and the two armies met at Lobositz (opposite Leitmeritz) on the morning of the 1st of October. The battle began in a thick fog, rendering dispositions very difficult, and victory fell to the Prussians, principally owing to the tenacity displayed by their infantry in a series of disconnected local engagements. The nature of the ground rendered pursuit impossible, and the losses on both sides were approximately equal—viz. 3000 men—but the result sealed the fate of the Saxons, who after a few half-hearted attempts to escape from their entrenchments, surrendered on the 14th of October, and were taken over bodily into the Prussian service. Prussian administrators were appointed to govern the captured country and the troops took up winter quarters.

Campaign of 1757.—The Coalition had undertaken to provide 500,000 men against Prussia, but at the beginning of the year only 132,000 Austrians stood ready for action in northern Bohemia. Against these the king was organizing some 250,000, 45,000 of whom were paid for by British subsidies and disposed to cover Hanover from a Battle of Prague.French attack. After leaving detachments to guard his other frontiers, Frederick was able to take the field with nearly 150,000 men, but these also were scattered to guard a frontier some 200 m. in length—the left wing in Silesia under Schwerin and the duke of Brunswick-Bevern, the centre and right under the king. In April the operations began. Schwerin and Bevern crossed the mountains into Bohemia and united at Jung Bunzlau, the Austrians falling back before them and surrendering their magazines. The king marched from Pirna and Prince Maurice of Dessau from Zwickau on Prague, at which point the various Austrian commands were ordered to concentrate. On the morning of the 5th the whole army, except a column under Field Marshal Daun, was united here under Prince Charles of Lorraine, and the king, realizing the impossibility of storming the heights before him, left a corps under Keith and a few detachments to watch Prague and the fords across the river, and marched during the night upstream and, crossing above the Austrian right, formed his army (about 64,000) for attack at right angles to the Austrian front. The ground had not been reconnoitred, and in the morning mist many mistakes in the deployment had been made, but as Daun was known to be but 20 m. away and the Austrian army was changing its front to meet the unexpected attack, the king threw caution to the winds and sending Zieten with his cavalry by a wide détour to cover his left, he ordered the whole to advance. One of the most savage battles in history was the result. Almost immediately the Prussian infantry became entangled in a series of morasses, the battalion guns had to be left behind and the troops had to correct their alignment under the round shot fired by the Austrians, who had completed their change of front in time and now stood ready to sweep the open glacis before them. Before the storm of bullets and the grape and canister of the heavy and battalion guns the Prussian first line faltered and fell in thousands. Their attempts to prepare the way for the bayonet assault broke down. Schwerin was killed. But the second line carried the survivors on, and in the nick of time Zieten’s cavalry drove the Austrian horsemen off the field and broke in on the flank and rear of their infantry. This turned the scale, and the Austrians retreated into Prague in hopeless confusion, leaving some 10,000 men (14·8%) on the ground, and 4275 prisoners, out of about 66,000, in their enemy's hands. The Prussians lost 11,740 men killed and wounded and 1560 prisoners, and in all 20·8% of their strength. The actual fighting seems only to have lasted about two hours, though tiring did not cease till late at night; 16,000 Austrians managed in the confusion to evade capture and join Daun, who made no movement either on this or succeeding days to come to the assistance of his comrades, but began a leisurely retreat towards Vienna.

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The Prussians immediately began the siege of the town, and after a month’s delay Daun, now at the head of some 60,000 men, moved forward to the relief of the city. Learning of his approach, the king, taking with him all the men who could be spared from the investment and uniting all available detachments, moved to meet him with only 34,000 men,Kolin. and on the 18th of June he found Daun strongly entrenched. He immediately endeavoured to march past him and attack him on the right flank as at Prague, but the Austrian light troops harassed his columns so severely during the movement that without orders they wheeled up to drive them off and, being thus thrown into disarray, they took three divergent objectives. Their disunited attacks all fell upon superior numbers, and after a most obstinate struggle they were badly beaten with a loss in killed and wounded of 6710 (18·6%) and 5380 prisoners with 22 colours and 45 guns. The fighting lasted 51/2 hours. The Austrian loss was only 8000 out of 53,500, or 15·2%, of whom only 1500 were taken prisoners.

This disaster entailed raising the siege of Prague, and the Prussians fell back on Leitmeritz. The Austrians, reinforced by the 48,000 troops in Prague, followed them 100,000 strong, and, falling on Prince August Wilhelm of Prussia, who was retreating eccentrically (for commissariat reasons) on Zittau, indicted a severe check upon him. The king was compelled to abandon Bohemia, falling back on Bautzen. Having re-formed his men and calling in Keith’s 27,000 men from Pirna, he again advanced, but found the enemy so strongly posted at Burkersdorf (south of Bischofswerda) that he relinquished his purpose and retreated on Bernstadt.

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Meanwhile his enemies had been gathering around him. France had dispatched 100,000 men under d’Estrées against Hanover, where Cumberland with 54,000 stood to meet him, and another 24,000 men were marching through Franconia to unite with the “Army of the Holy Roman Empire” under the prince of Frederick
in the west.
Saxe-Hildburghausen. Fortunately this latter army was not as formidable as its title, and totalled only some 60,000 most undisciplined and heterogeneous combatants. In the north 100,000 Russians under Apraxin were slowly advancing into East Prussia, where Lehwald with 30,000 was preparing to confront them, and 16,000 Swedes had landed in Pomerania. On the 26th of June Cumberland had been beaten at Hastenbeck by d’Estrées, and the French overran Hanover and Brunswick. The king, leaving Bevern with only 13,600 men in Silesia to watch the Austrians, began to march across Germany to succour Cumberland. Arrived at Leipzig on the 3rd of September, he heard of Lehwald’s defeat at Gross-Jägerndorf on the 30th of August and immediately afterwards of Cumberland’s convention of Kloster Seven, which gave up Hanover to the French. Fearing that the French army now set free in Hanover might unite with the Army of the Empire under Hildburghausen and with 150,000 men march direct on Berlin, Frederick, taking with him 23,000 men, marched to join Prince Ferdinand in the district about Halberstadt, hoping to strike his blow before the enemy’s junction could be completed. Mobility, therefore, was the first consideration, and arrangements for supply having been made in advance along his road, his troops covered 170 m. in 12 days (September 1–13). But Hildburghausen, not having been joined by d’Estrées, refused to fight and fell back into the wooded districts of Thuringia and Franconia. Bad news now reached Frederick from Silesia; leaving Ferdinand to observe Hildburghausen, he marched with all haste to Eckersberg to support Bevern. Arrived here, he found more bad news from Berlin, which had been entered by a body of Austrian raiders under Hadik and plundered. Prince Maurice and Seydlitz were sent by forced marches to its aid, and before them Hadik retired at once (October 18th). Finding the Austrians for the moment quiescent and hearing that Hildburghausen was again advancing, the king now concentrated all available men on Leipzig and marched to support Prince Ferdinand. Hildburghausen took up a position about Meucheln on the 2nd of November, and on the 5th moved off to repeat Frederick’s manœuvre of Prague against its inventor. The battle of Rossbach (q.v.) followed. In this Seydlitz and the PrussianRossbach. cavalry won imperishable renown. Aided only by the fire of 18 guns and of 7 battalions of infantry, only two of which fired more than five rounds, the Prussian squadrons swept down upon the marching columns of the Allies and in about 40 minutes the whole 64,000 were in full flight. Never was a victory more timely, for the Prussian army was almost worn out and more bad news was even then on the way.

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Bevern in Silesia, who had been beaten at Moys near Gorlitz (September 7th) and in the battle of Breslau on the 22nd of October, had been compelled to retire behind the Oder, leaving the fortresses of Schweidnitz and Breslau to their fate, and both had capitulated within a few days. Leaving a small reinforcement for Ferdinand, the king now moved by forced marches to Liegnitz. The distance, about 170 m. through difficult country, was covered again in 12 days, but the numbers were small, only 13,000, which shows how tremendous had been the drain upon the men of the previous six weeks’ exertions. On the night of the 4th of December, having joined the beaten forces of Bevern at Parschwitz, making in all 43,000 men of very unequal fighting value, he decided to attack the 72,000 Austrians who lay across the Breslau road, their centre marked by the village of Leuthen (q.v.). His position appeared so desperate that he sent for all his generals, laid the facts before them, announced his decision to attack and offered to accept any man’s resignation without prejudice to his character should he deem the risk too hazardous. Needless to say, not one accepted the offer.

Covered by the low rolling hillocks of the district, the army now moved off to its right across the Austrian front, the advance led by Zieten and half the cavalry, the rear covered by Driessen with the remaining half—some 40 weak squadrons. The infantry having gained a position sufficiently on the Austrian flank, now wheeled into line and attacked inLeuthen. échelon of battalions from the right. The battle soon became desperate, and the Austrian cavalry on their right wing under Luchesi, unaware of Driessen’s presence as a flank guard, issued out of their lines, wheeled to their left and swept down upon the refused flank of the Prussian infantry; but they never reached them, for Driessen, seizing his opportunity, set his squadrons in motion and attacked. The Austrians, completely surprised, were ridden down and driven back on to the front of their own infantry, and the pressure of the fugitives threw the rear of their left wing into confusion and in a short time the ruin of their army was completed. When the news of Driessen’s charge was brought to the king his astonishment was expressed in the single phrase, “What, that old fool Driessen?” The fighting, however, had been desperate, and though the Austrians out of their 72,000 lost 37% including 20,000 prisoners, with 116 guns and 51 colours, the Prussians lost 6200 (14%) making with the other battles of the year a total of nearly 75,000 men, and not including losses in minor skirmishes and on the march.

Campaign of 1758.—The raid upon Berlin had accomplished if nothing, and the advance of the Russian main body had died out for want of resolution to seize the opportunities offered by Frederick the Great’s absence. The Czarina, annoyed by his slowness, recalled Apraxin and appointed Fermor in his place. Utilizing the winter snows, he collected some 31,000 men and crossed the frontiers of East Prussia (January 10th, 1758) and attempted to annex the province, driving out all the Prussian officials who refused to swear fealty to Elizabeth. This took time, and when the period of thaw supervened the Russians were immobilized and could not advance until approaching summer had dried the roads again. For the moment, therefore, no danger threatened Frederick from this quarter, and Rossbach had effectually tamed the French. The Swedes, too, showed little energy, the “roadless” period affecting them equally with the Russians.

Frederick therefore resolved to seize the opportunity to renew his invasion of Austria. As a beginning he recaptured Schweidnitz in April with 5000 prisoners. The Austrian field army under Daun lay about Königgrätz, covering all the passes out of Silesia; but covered by the newly formed “Free Corps” (his answer to theSiege of Olmütz. semi-savage Croats, Pandours and Tolpatches of the Austrians), Frederick marched right across their front on Olmütz, whilst a special corps (30,000) under Prince Henry threatened their left from Saxony and the Elbe. He had with him about 40,000 men. But Olmütz lay 90 m. from the Prussian frontier, and the Austrian light troops swarmed in the intervening district. Ultimately a great Prussian convoy was destroyed in the action of Domstädl, and the siege of Olmütz had to be raised (July 1st); but instead of marching back the way he had come Frederick led his troops through Bohemia practically in the rear of Daun’s army, and on the 14th of July entered Daun’s empty entrenchments at Koniggratz. Fermor’s Russians were now again in the field and had reached Posen, burning and plundering horribly. By skilful maneuvering the king deceived the Austrians till the roads to Silesia by Skalitz and Nachod were open and then by a rapid march passed over into Silesia, reaching Grüssau (near Landshut) on the 8th of August. Leaving Keith with half his force to hold this district, he then marched to Frankfurt-on-the-Oder, taking with him only some 15,000 men, to strengthen the wing already engaged against the Russians. Frankfurt was reached on the 20th of August. Fermor was then besieging Cüstrin with 52,000 men, and hearing of the king’s approach he raised the siege and placed himself behind a formidable obstacle facing north, near Zorndorf, from which direction the king was approaching. Seeing that the same obstacle that prevented him from attacking the Russians prevented them equally from attacking him, the king marched right round Ferrnor’s eastern flank—the Russians gradually forming a fresh front to meet him—so that when the Prussian attack began on the morning of the 25th of August they stood in three irregular squares, divided from each other by marshy hollows, and thus unable to render one another support. The king made his first effort against the square on the right—Seydlitz with his squadrons covering theZorndorf. movement. But the Russian troops fought with far more spirit than the Austrians had ever shown, and things were going very badly with the Prussians when Seydlitz, who in the meanwhile had succeeded in making paths across the Zaberngrund on which the Russian right rested, flung himself upon the great square, and rode over and destroyed the whole mass in a prolonged mêlée in which quarter was neither given nor asked. Relieved by this well-timed charge, the king now re-formed the infantry already engaged, and concentrated all his efforts on the south-west angle of the great centre square. Again the Russians more than held their own, issuing forth from their squares and capturing many field pieces. Some of the Prussian infantry was actually broken and in full flight when Seydlitz, with his ranks re-formed and his horses rested, returned and again threw himself upon the square exactly as on the previous occasion and with the same result—the square, as a formation, was broken, but groups still stood back to back and the most savage butchery ensued. The combatants could not be separated and only darkness put a stop to the slaughter. Of 36,000 Prussians 12,500 were killed or wounded, 1000 prisoners or missing (37·5%), and of 42,000 Russians about 21,000 had fallen (50%).

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In the night the survivors gradually rallied, and morning found the Russians in a fresh position a couple of miles to the northward, but Frederick’s troops were too weary to renew the attack. Gradually the Russians withdrew towards Landsberg and Königsberg, and the king, leaving Dohna to follow them up, marched with the remainder of his forces on the 2nd of September for Saxony, covering 22 m. a day. They arrived only in the nick of time, for Daun had united with portions of the Empire Army and was threatening to crush Prince Henry under the weight of more than two-fold numbers. The prince had been driven into an entrenched position above Gahmig near Dresden and Daun was about to attack, but the mere name of Frederick was enough, and learning of his arrival Daun fell back to Stolpen on the 12th of September.

The Prussian army now lay around Grossenhain, Prince Henry’s force covering Dresden and the Elbe bridges. The Empire Army was at Pirna, Daun at Stolpen, and in these positions they remained until the 26th of September, the Prussians getting the rest they so urgently needed. On that date, however, the state of truce wasHochkirch. broken and the king moved towards Bischofswerda, where Daun’s subordinate Loudon was posted. The latter retired, opening the road to Bautzen. The king arrived at Bautzen on the 7th of October and had to wait until the 10th for provisions from Dresden. He then moved forward to Hochkirch, where he found Daun strongly entrenched across his path at Kittlitz with 90,000 men, the Prussians having only 37,000. The king determined to attack the Austrian right. So confident had the Prussians become in the belief that Daun would never take the offensive himself that the most elementary precautions of safety were forgotten and only Zieten kept his horses saddled. During the night of the 13th the Austrians, leaving their watch-fires burning and moving silently through the woods, which covered much of the ground, formed up almost all round the Prussian camp. At 5 a.m. the attack was delivered from all quarters simultaneously and a most desperate struggle ensued. Nothing but the superb discipline of the Prussians saved the situation. Zieten with his squadrons managed to keep a way of escape open, and after a most obstinate conflict the wreck of the army succeeded in withdrawing, leaving 101 guns and 9450 men on the ground or in their enemies’ hands (25·5%). The Austrians, in spite of the advantage of a well-conceived surprise, lost 7590 men and were too shaken for pursuit. They fell back to their old camp, where they remained for a week, thus giving Frederick time to bring up reinforcements from Dresden (6000 men) and, starting on the 23rd, he marched right round the Austrian right and raised the siege of Neisse, the prime object with which he had set out. Daun, learning that the king had gone past him into Silesia, now laid siege to Dresden. On the 15th of November he heard that Frederick was marching to its relief through Lusatia and incontinently gave way, retiring on Pirna. The king was in Dresden again on the 20th.

Campaign of 1759.—The drain on Frederick’s resources had been prodigious. On the battlefields of the previous three years he had lost at least 75,000 men, not counting the waste of life in his marches and skirmishes; but he still managed to keep 150,000 men in the field, though for want of the old two years training in loading, firing and manœuvring the average efficiency had much diminished. In cavalry, too, he was relatively weaker, as there was no time to train the remounts. His enemies felt their losses far less and were beginning to understand his tactics; fortunately they remained incapable of combined action.

After minor operations on the frontiers the Russians took the field. Fermor had been superseded by Soltikov, and Dohna with his 18,000 men proved quite inadequate to arrest the Russians’ progress. He was superseded by Wedell, who, on the 23rd of July, with 26,000 men boldly attacked the 70,000 Russians whilst on the march nearKunersdorf. Züllichau. He was defeated with a loss of 6000 and fell back to Crossen bridge, 5 m. below Crossen, which Soltikov occupied next day, thence he moved down the river towards Frankfurt, keeping on the eastern bank. Daun had detached Loudon and Hadik with 35,000 men to join him, and it became vital to Frederick to prevent the combination. Leaving Prince Henry at Schmöttseifen to watch Daun, he marched with all available forces and joined Wedell on the 6th of August at Müllrose near Frankfurt, after vainly searching for the Hadik-Loudon force. Here he was joined on the 10th by Finck with 10,000 men, bringing his whole force up to 50,000 against the Russian and Austrian 90,000, who lay entrenched in the sand hills about Kunersdorf. On the 11th, he crossed his whole force over the Oder at Reitwein and on the 12th marched forward, intending to envelop the Russians on both flanks; but his columns lost their way in the woods and their attacks were delivered successively. In spite of their usual disciplined gallantry, the Prussians were completely beaten, even Seydlitz and his squadrons failed to achieve the impossible, and the night closed down on the greatest calamity Frederick had ever experienced. Of 43,000 men 20,720 (48·2%) were left on the ground and 178 guns and 28 colours fell into the hands of the enemy; and the allied Austro-Russian force only lost 15,700. The battle had only lasted six hours. In the depression following this terrible day he wrote to Schmettau, commanding at Dresden, telling him to expect no help, and on the 4th of September Dresden fell.

As usual Frederick was saved by the sluggishness of his enemies, who attempted no pursuit, and being reinforced the day after the battle by 23,000 men, and having ordered up Kleist (who had been watching the Swedes), he was again at the head of an army. Week after week went by, during which he countered all attempts of Daun and Soltikov to combine, andMaxen. ultimately the Russians, having consumed all the food and forage in the districts they occupied, were compelled to fall back on their own frontiers. Then, uniting with Prince Henry, the king turned to fall upon Daun; but his contempt for his adversary proved his own undoing. Contrary to all his own teaching, he sent a detachment of 12,000 men under Finck to work round the Austrians’ flank by Dippoldiswald to Maxen, but the latter, learning of the movement and calling up a wing of the Empire Army to their assistance, fell upon Finck with 42,000 men and compelled him to surrender after two days’ hard fighting. The combination having failed, the two armies stood facing one another till far into the winter. But for Prince Ferdinand’s glorious victory at Minden on the 1st of August, the year would have been one catalogue of disaster to the Prussian arms, and these operations must now be mentioned.

In the early part of 1758 Prince Ferdinand with 30,000 men had advanced from Lüneburg and was joined by Prince Henry with 8600 from Halberstadt. The approach of the latter threatened the right wing of the French army under Clermont, which was posted along the Aller, and the whole line gave way and retreated without making any serious stand behind the Rhine. Prince Ferdinand followed and defeated them on the 23rd of June at Crefeld. Clermont was relieved by Contades and at the same time Soubise, who had at last reorganized his command, shattered by the disaster of Rossbach, moved forward through Hesse and compelled Prince Ferdinand to withdraw from his very advanced position. No engagement followed; Soubise fell back upon Frankfurt and Prince Ferdinand held a line through Münster, Paderborn and Cassel during the winter.

Fortunately events in Canada and the glory of his victories had made Frederick’s cause thoroughly popular in Great Britain, and at last it became possible to detach a considerable force of British troops to Prince Ferdinand’s assistance, whose conduct turned the scale in the critical moment of the campaign. During the winter the French had organized their forces in two columns based on Frankfurt and Wesel respectively. Broglie was now in command of the former; Contades still led the latter.

In April Prince Ferdinand advanced to drive the French out of Hesse and Frankfurt, and actually reached Bergen, a village some 10 m. to the north, but here he was defeated by Broglie (13th April) and forced to retreat the way he had come, the French following along their whole front and by sheer weight of numbers manœuvring himMiden. successively out of each position he assumed. On the 10th of July Broglie surprised Minden, thus securing a bridge over the Weser and free access into Hanover, and light troops overran the south of the electorate. On the 16th Contades with the left column joined Broglie and the French now had some 60,000 men against the 45,000 Ferdinand could muster. (The latter’s position was extremely difficult, for the French had only to continue in possession of the bridges at Minden to ruin the whole country by their exactions, and the position they held was too well protected on the flanks and too strong in front for direct attack. Nevertheless Prince Ferdinand drew up before it and met the French plundering raids by a threat on their communication with Cassel, and as a further inducement to tempt Contades to attack him, he detached a column under Wangenheim, which entrenched itself across the only outlet by which the right of the French army could debouch from behind the marshes which lie in the angle between the Weser and the Bastau, a small tributary joining the former below Minden. The bait took, and during the early hours of the 1st of August the French army moved out to attack Wangenheim. But Ferdinand’s troops had been lying in instant readiness for action, and as soon as the outposts gave the alarm they were in motion in eight columns, i.e. practically deployed for action to meet the French as they emerged from their positions. Unfortunately the outpost reports were delayed by about two hours, owing to the heavy gale and storm that was prevailing, and the French had made far greater progress with their deployment than Ferdinand had reckoned on. An almost front-to-front engagement ensued. Things were going badly with the Prussians when, through a mistake in the delivery of an order, the British brigade (12th, 20th, 23rd, 25th, 37th, 51st), followed by some Hanoverian battalions, began to advance straight upon the masses of French cavalry who stood protected by the crossfire of several batteries. Once launched, neither fire nor shock could check their progress; halting for a moment to pour volleys into the charging squadrons hastily thrown against them, they swiftly resumed their advance. French infantry too were hurled against them, but were swept away by fire and bayonet, and presently they had pierced right through the French line of battle. Now came the moment when cavalry should have been at hand to complete the victory, and this cavalry, the Blues, the 1st and 3rd Dragoons, Scots Greys and 10th Dragoons under Lord George (afterwards Viscount) Sackville (q.v.) stood ready, waiting only the order to advance. This Sackville refused to give, though called on three times by the prince; no satisfactory explanation of his conduct has ever been discovered, but he was tried by a general court-martial and cashiered. Nevertheless, so brilliant had been the conduct of all the troops engaged, especially of the infantry brigade that the victory was won even in spite of this failure of the cavalry, and before evening the French were retreating as a demoralized mass towards Cassel, leaving some 10,000 men, 17 colours and 45 guns in the hands of the victors, who on their side out of 43,000 had lost 2600 killed and wounded. Of the six British regiments that went into action 4434 strong, 1330 (30%) had fallen, but their feat is not to be measured only by the losses victoriously borne these were not unusual in the period—but by the astounding discipline they maintained throughout the advance, resuming their march after beating off cavalry charges with the cool precision of a review in peace-time. Ferdinand followed up his victory by a pursuit which was vigorous for three days and had all but reached the Rhine when his movement was stayed by the necessity of detaching 12,000 men to the king to make good the losses of Kunersdorf.

Campaign of 1760.—The year opened gloomily for Frederick. His embarrassment both for men and money was extreme, and his enemies had at last agreed on a combined plan against him. They purposed to advance in three columns concentrically upon him: Daun with 100,000 men in Saxony, Loudon with 50,000 from Silesia, Soltikov’s Russians from East Prussia; and, against whichever column the king turned, the others were to continue towards Berlin. Only in Hanover were the conditions more favourable, for Ferdinand had 70,000 (20,000 British) against the 125,000 of the French.

Early in April the king stood with 40,000 men, west of the Elbe near Meissen facing Daun, Prince Henry with 34,000 in Silesia from Crossen to Landeshut, 15,000 under Forcade and Jung-Stutterheim in Pomerania facing the Swedes and Russians. Towards the end of May Loudon moved to besiege Glatz, and Fouqué, who commanded at Landeshut, marched with 13,000 to cover Breslau. Loudon at once seized Landeshut, and Fouqué, returning in response to urgent orders from the king, was attacked by Loudon with 31,000 men and almost destroyed. Meanwhile, Prince Henry had moved to Landsberg against the Russians, but failed to seize his opportunities and thus Silesia lay open to the Austrians. Frederick decided to march with his main body against Loudon and attack him if unsupported, but, if his movement induced Daun to move to Loudon’s support, then to double back and besiege Dresden. For this purpose a siege train was held in readiness at Magdeburg. He marched rapidly on Bautzen, then hearing that Daun was approaching to support Loudon he returned and besieged Dresden (July 12th). The town was bombarded, there being no time for regular siege approaches, but it held out, and by the 28th of July Daun’s army returning had almost surrounded Frederick. The siege had to be raised, and during the night of the 29th of July the Prussians slipped away to Meissen. On the same day Frederick learnt that Glatz, the key to Southern Silesia, had fallen into the hands of the Austrians, but as a set-off the news shortly afterwards arrived of Prince Ferdinand’s brilliant victory at Warburg, in which the British cavalry led by the marquis of Granby amply wiped out the disgrace incurred by Sackville. On the 1st of August Frederick began his march into Silesia, summoning Prince Henry from Landsberg to join him, which he did by a splendid march of some 90 m. in three days. The king’s march was almost as remarkable, for the roads were very bad and the Austrians had freely obstructed them, nevertheless in five days he reached Bautzen, having marched more than 100 m. from his starting point, and crossed five considerable rivers on his way. Thence he continued more easily to Bunzlau. Daun was in front of him and Lacy with clouds of light troops on his right, the Russians under, Czernicheff with Loudon not far away to his left front, 114,000 men in all to his 30,000, but he held to his decision to reach Schweidnitz. With this purpose in view he moved south-east on Jauer, marching 25 m. on the 9th of August, but the enemy was still in front of him and hovering on his flanks. On the 10th he tried the Liegnitz road with the same result, and his position became desperate as his food was almost exhausted. He had already covered 15 m. that day, but at 11 p.m. he called on his men for a night march and formed up again on his old position next morning, the 11th of August. He appeared to be completely surrounded, and things looked so desperate that Mitchell, the British ambassador, burnt his papers and cipher key. At sunset on the 12th, however, Frederick again broke camp and by a night march evaded the enemy’s scouts and reached Liegnitz at noon on the 13th, the Austrians appearing a couple of hours later. The troops restedLiegnitz. during the 13th and 14th, but at nightfall, leaving their watch-fires burning, marched off by the Glogau road, and the only way of escape still open. The Austrians, however, had planned a night attack, and Loudon’s columns were moving to close this last loophole of escape. Fortunately for the Prussians they arrived just a few minutes too late, and in the combat that ensued 15,000 Prussians indicted a loss of 10,000 men and 82 guns upon their assailants, afterwards resuming their march undisturbed.

But the danger was not yet over. Czernicheff was known to be in the immediate vicinity; so as to get him out of the way, Frederick gave to a peasant a despatch addressed to Prince Henry containing the words: “Austrians totally defeated to-day, now for the Russians. Do what we agreed upon.” The peasant was to take care to be captured by the Russians and only give up the paper to save his life. The plan worked as he had anticipated, the paper duly reached Czernicheti’s hands and he immediately evacuated the dangerous neighbourhood. Elated with his success the king now abandoned his retreat on Glogau and determined to press. on at all hazards to Breslau, which in spite of many anxious moments he reached on the 17th of August.

The Russians now abandoned the campaign in the open held and besieged Colberg on the Baltic coast. Frederick in Silesia manœuvred for some weeks between Breslau, Schweidnitz and Glatz, but was suddenly recalled by the news of the capture of Berlin on the 9th of October by Cossacks and portions of the Empire Army and Austrians from Saxony. On the 11th of October the king was in full march, but the news of his approach was enough and the enemy dispersed, the Austrians and Empire Army making for Torgau. Daun, relieved of Frederick’s pressure, now also moved to Torgau, leaving Loudon in Silesia, and had concentrated over 64,000 men at and around Torgau before Frederick had collected an attackingTorgau. force of 45,000. The position held by the Austrians was an entrenched camp fronting in all directions, but it was too cramped for their numbers and difficult to leave for a counter-stroke. Frederick determined to attack it both front and rear, and leaving Zieten to act against the former, he marched off at 6·30 of the 3rd of November to attack it as soon as Zieten should have thoroughly attracted the enemy’s attention. But for once Zieten failed; he allowed himself to be drawn off by the Austrian light troops, and Frederick, in ignorance of the real state of affairs, launched his grenadiers against a thoroughly intact enemy, strongly entrenched, with, it is said, 400 guns in position to sweep the approaches. The grenadiers were simply swept away by grape and case—only 600 out of 6000 remained, and Prussian batteries hurrying up to their support were destroyed before they had time to load. The attack was, however, renewed by fresh brigades as they came to hand, and the Prussian artillery did something to diminish the intensity of the Austrian case fire. The action began at 2 p.m. At 4.30, as the sun was setting, the king’s last reserve of horse and foot at last succeeded in breaking the Austrian line and in the darkness there ensued a confused slaughter as at Zorndorf. The result was still in the balance when at length Zieten reached the field and attacked at once. For an hour or so the struggle still raged, but the Austrians were by now completely spent and withdrew gradually into the fortress and then across the river. Out of 44,000 the Prussians had lost 13,120 men (30%), out of 65,000 the Austrians only 11,260 (17·3%), but of these over 7000 were prisoners. Both sides, however, were completely paralysed by the struggle, and the year ended without further effort on either side.

EB1911 - Seven Year's War - Torgau.png

On the western theatre of war Prince Ferdinand after the victory of Warburg had pressed the French back to the Rhine and besieged Wesel, but was compelled to raise the siege after suffering the defeat of Kloster-Kamp (16th Oct.) and to withdraw to Lippstadt and Warburg.

Campaign of 1761.—Torgau proved to be Frederick’s last great battle. All parties were now so completely exhausted that they no longer were able to face the risks of a decision on the field. In the west Prince Ferdinand was first in the field, and in February and March he drove the French southward as far as Fulda, but an attempt to capture Marburg failed and the gradual pressure of French numerical superiority, together with the reduction of the British contingent on the death of George II., compelled him to retreat gradually until by the beginning of October both Brunswick and Wolfenbiittel fell into their hands. In the east the king had barely 100,000 men against 300,000 Austrians and Russians. Leaving Prince Henry to observe Daun in Saxony he marched to join von der Goltz, who with 23,000 stood about Schweidnitz. The Russians (50,000) under Buturlin were approaching from Posen, and Loudon with 72,000 men starting from Glatz manœuvred to join them. After two months’ skirmishing and marching the Allies effected their junction between Liegnitz and Jauer, having completely severed Frederick’s communications with Prussia. But Frederick depended for his food and immediate supplies on Southern Silesia, and not caring to risk a battle with odds of three to one against him he withdrew into the entrenched camp of Bunzelwitz, where the Allies did not dare to attack him. Ultimately, as usual, the Russian commissariat broke down, and in September Buturlin withdrew the Way he had come. Relieved of this antagonist, Frederick manœuvred to draw Loudon out of his positions and compel him to fight in the open, but Loudon refused the challenge and after an attempt to surprise Schweidnitz, which failed, withdrew into winter quarters. Prince Henry in Saxony held his own against Daun.

England now threatened to Withdraw her subsidies, and as the Prussian armies had dwindled to 60,000 men the end seemed very near. But a turn of fortune was already at hand. On the 5th of January 1762 the tsarina died, and her successor, Peter III., at once offered peace. On the 16th of March an armistice was agreed to, and shortly afterwards the treaty of St Petersburg was signed, by which Pomerania was given back to Prussia and a contingent of 18,000 men placed at Frederick’s disposal. The withdrawal of the Russians led in turn to the withdrawal of the Swedes, and thus only France and Austria remained—the former bled white by the strain of her colonial disasters, the latter too weary to make further great exertions. Though the war dragged on for some months, and Prince Henry, assisted by Seydlitz, won the victory of Freiberg over the Empire Army (29th Oct. 1762), no great battle was attempted, and although a revolution at St Petersburg deprived Frederick of Russian assistance, in the autumn Ferdinand drove the French back over the Rhine, and thereupon an armistice was agreed upon by all. Final terms of peace were adjusted on status quo ante basis at Hubertusburg on the 15th of February 1763. Prussia had maintained all her possessions and made good her claim to rank for all time with the Great Powers.  (F. N. M.) 

Bibliography.—The three principal works on the “Third Silesian” part of the war are the Prussian General Staff, Der siebenjährige Krieg (Berlin, 1901–  ); Austrian Official “Kriegsarchiv,” Kriege der Kaiserin Marie Theresia (in progress), and Carlyle’s Frederick the Great. See also C. B. Brackenbury, Frederick the Great; Bernhardi, Friedrich der Grosse als Feldherr (Berlin, 1881); biographies of Prince Henry, Zieten, Seydlitz, Maurice of Dessau, &c.; von Arneth, Maria Theresia und der Siebenjährige Krieg (Vienna, 1875); the older histories of the war by Tempelhoff, Archenholz and Lloyd; Jomini, Traité des grandes opérations militaires; Masslowski, Die russische Armee im 7 jähr. Kriege (Berlin, 1893). The main authorities for Ferdinand’s Campaign are Westphalen, Feldzüge des Herzogs Ferdinand von Braunschweig, and J. W. Fortescue, Hist. British Army, vol. ii.

Naval Operations

The naval operations of the Seven Years’ War began nearly a. year before the declaration of hostilities. In June 1755 a British squadron under Boscawen was sent into the Straits of Belle Isle to intercept French ships carrying soldiers and stores to Quebec, in retaliation for aggressions on British possessions in North America. On the fsth of June Boscawen seized two French line-of-battle ships fitted as transports, the “Alcide” and the “Lys.” A general seizure of French merchant ships followed, and thousands of French sailors were in prison in England by the early days of 1756. The government of Louis XV. did not reply by a declaration of war, but prepared to retaliate by a threat of invasion, which created something like a panic in Great Britain. The government, then in the weak hands of the duke of Newcastle, accumulated warships in the Channel, and on the 3rd of February 1756 issued a proclamation which instructed the inhabitants of the southern counties of England to drive their cattle inland in case of a French landing, and thereby much aggravated the prevailing fear. But the invasion scheme was so far only a cover for an attack on Minorca, then held by Great Britain.

A squadron of twelve sail of the line was prepared at Toulon under La Galissonière, a veteran admiral who had entered the navy in the reign of Louis XIV. It escorted transports carrying 15,000 troops under the duc de Richelieu. The danger to Minorca, where the garrison had been allowed to fall below its due strength, was well known to the British ministers. On the 11th of March they appointed Admiral John Byng to command a squadron which was to carry reinforcements. He did not, however, leave St Helens till the 6th of April. Byng had with him ten sail of the line, and carried 3000 soldiers for the garrison. The ships were indifferently manned, and the admiralty refused to strengthen him by drafts from the ships it proposed to retain in the Channel. In order to find room for the soldiers, the marines of the squadron were left behind. There was therefore a danger that, if an encounter with the French fleet took place after the reinforcements were landed, the British squadron would be short-handed. Byng reached Gibraltar on the 2nd of May. The French invasion of Minorca had been carried out on the 19th of April. The governor of Gibraltar, General Fowke, refused to part with any of his soldiers to reinforce Minorca. On the 8th of May Byng sailed, and on the 19th he was in communication by signal with General Blakeney, governor of the fortress. Before the soldiers could be landed the French fleet came in sight. Byng had been joined by three ships of the line at Gibraltar, and had therefore thirteen ships to twelve. One of the French vessels, the “Foudroyant” (84), was a finer warship than any in the British line, but in effective power Byng was at least equal to his opponent, and if his ships were poorly manned La Galissoniére was in worse case. The British admiral rejected one of his small line-of-battle ships in order to engage in the then orthodox manner—van to van, centre to centre, and rear to rear, ship against ship. By the manœuvres of the afternoon of the 19th and morning of the 20th he gained the weather-gage, and then bore down on the enemy at an angle, the van of the English steering for the van of the French. The sixth ship in his line, the “Intrepid” (74), having lost her fore topmast, became unmanageable and threw the vessels behind her out of order. Thus the six in front were exposed to the tire of all the French, who ran past them and went off. Byng could have prevented them by bearing down, but refused to alter the formation of his fleet. Being now much disturbed by the crippled state of the ships in his van, he made no effort either to land the soldiers he had on board or to renew the action; and after holding a council of war on the 24th of May, which confirmed his own desire to retreat, he sailed for Gibraltar (see Byng, John, for his trial and execution). The loss of Minorca, which was the consequence of this retreat, gave the French a great advantage in the Mediterranean. During the rest of the year no very vigorous measures were taken on either side, though the British government reinforced its squadrons both in the Mediterranean and on the coast of America.

In 1757 the naval war began to be pushed with a vigour hitherto unprecedented. The elder Pitt became the effective head of the government, and was able to set about ruining the French power at sea. Owing to the long neglect of the French navy, it was so inferior in strength to the British that nothing short of the worst mismanagement on Pitt’s part could have deprived Great Britain of victory. Some of the minister’s measures were not indeed wise. He sent out, during the last months of 1757 and the whole of 1758, a series of combined expeditions against the French coast, which were costly and for the most part unsuccessful. They terminated in September 1758 with a disaster to the troops engaged in St Cas Bay. Yet these assaults on the French coast did much to revive the spirit of the nation, by removing the fear of invasion. Meanwhile a sound aggressive policy was followed in distant seas during 1758. In the East Indies the squadron which had been engaged during 1757 in co-operating with Clive in the conquest of Bengal was strengthened. Under the command of Sir George Pocock it was employed against the French squadron of M. d’Aché, who brought a body of troops from Europe under General Lally-Tollendal to attack the possessions of the East India Company on the Coromandel coast. The two actions fought at sea on the 29th of April and the 1st of August in the Bay of Bengal were not victories for Sir George Pocock, but neither were they defeats. The French admiral was so uncertain of his power to overcome his opponent that he sailed for the islands of the Indian Ocean so soon as Lally and the authorities at Pondicherry would allow him to go. In America the strong squadron of Boscawen rendered possible the capture of Louisburg, on the 26th of July, and cleared the way for the conquest of Canada in the following year. During 1759 the French government, trusting that the multiplicity of the calls upon its fleet would compel Great Britain to scatter its naval forces, laid plans for a great invasion (for the details of this plan and its results, see Quiberon, Battle of). But the British navy proved numerous enough not only to baffle invasion at home but to effect large conquests of French possessions abroad. In North America the co-operation of the navy rendered possible the capture of Quebec by Wolfe. In the West Indies, though an attack on Martinique was repulsed, Guadaloupe was taken in January. In the East Indies the squadron of M. d’Aché reappeared in the Bay of Bengal in September. He fought another undecided action with Sir George Pocock on the 8th, and gave some small help to the French army. But the bad state of his squadron forced him to retreat soon, and the resources of the French being now exhausted in those seas, he did not reappear. The British navy was left in complete command of the Bay of Bengal and the coast of Malabar. On shore, Lally, cut off from reinforcements, was crushed, and Pondicherry fell.

During 1760 and 1761 the French fleet made no attempt to keep the sea. The British navy went on with the work of conquering French possessions. During 1760 it co-operated on the Lakes and on the St Lawrence in the final conquest of Canada. Between April and June of 1761 it covered the capture of the island of Belle-Île on the French coast, which both strengthened its means for maintaining blockade and gave the British government a valuable pledge to be used for extorting concessions when the time for making peace came. The complete ruin of French merchant shipping and the collapse of the navy left the maritime population free to seek a livelihood in the privateers. Commerce-destroying was carried on by them with considerable success. The number of British merchant ships taken has been put as high as one-tenth of the whole. But this percentage was the price paid for the enormous advantage gained by the ruin of the French as commercial rivals. The merchant shipping of Great Britain increased largely in the course of the war, and from it dates her commercial predominance.

By the close of 1761 the helplessness of France at sea had been demonstrated, but the maritime war was revived for a few months by the intervention of Spain. A close alliance, known as “the family compact,” was made between the royal houses of that country and France in the course of 1761. The secret was divulged, and Pitt would have made war on Spain at once. He was overruled and retired. So soon, however, as the treasure ships from America had reached Spain, at the close of 1761, the Spanish government declared war. Its navy was incapable of offering a serious resistance to the British, nor did it even attempt to operate at sea. The British government was left unopposed to carry out the plans which Pitt had prepared against Spain. The only aggressive movement undertaken by the Spanish government was an attack on Portugal, which was the close ally of Great Britain and gave her most useful help by allowing her the free use of Portuguese ports. As the king of Portugal refused to join the French and Spanish alliance, his country was invaded by a Spanish army. Great Britain supported her ally. A regiment of cavalry and seven battalions of foot were landed. They gained several small actions against the invaders, and had the most active share in the operations which forced them to retire. But the most effective blows delivered against Spain were directed at her colonies. The British troops, left free by the recent success against the French in America, were employed in an attack on Havana. A powerful fleet left England on the 5th of March, bringing troops which were joined by others in the West Indies; Sir George Pocock, who had returned from the East Indies, was in command. Under his direction the fleet reached its destination without loss, and Havana was assailed. The citadel known as the Moro Castle made a stout defence, and some of the ships suffered severely in a bombardment. But the worst losses of the besiegers were due to the climate of Cuba, aided by bad sanitary arrangements. Of the 10,000 troops landed, three-fourths are said to have suffered from fever or dysentery, and the majority of the sick died. Yet the Moro was taken on the 30th of September, and Havana, which could have made a longer resistance, surrendered on the 10th of October. Martinique, the last important possession of France in the New World except her half of San Domingo, had fallen in February. In the East Indies, where the surrender of Pondicherry had left other forces free, a combined expedition triumphed easily in October over the natives of Manila, under the direction of the archbishop, who acted as governor. The preliminaries of the peace of Paris were signed on the 3rd of November 1762.

See Beatson, Naval and Military Memoirs of Great Britain (London, 1804); Captain Mahan, Influence of Sea Power upon History; Lacour Gayet, La Marine militaire de la France sous le règne de Louis XV (Paris, 1902).  (D. H.)