Saturday, February 23, 2013

Battle of Soor 1745

30 Sept 1745

2nd SILESIAN WAR

WAR OF THE AUSTRIAN SUCCESSION

Prussians under Frederick II: approx. 24,000

Austrians/Saxons under Prince Charles of Lorraine: approx. 41,000


Situation at about 0800
Map Scale: 1:3600  1 px = 1 yd

Toward the close of the 2nd Silesian War between Austrian and Prussia, Frederick II, trying to get his army back across the Silesian border to safety, is strategically surprised by the sudden appearance of Prince Charles of Lorraine’s army on his flank, threatening his retreat. 


Why Is Frederick Surprised?
 The reasons for the king’s embarrassment may be that, while the Prussian Army is rated as superior in combat due to their brutal discipline and training, that very discipline works against them when it comes to battlefield security. The risk of desertion is so high that the Prussians cannot afford to post pickets outside their camp. During the 1740s, they have no light infantry formations to fill this role. And Frederick’s army by this stage of the campaign was separated from its hussar arm, which would also have provided forewarning of Charles’ movement.

His Only Card 

Frederick is not only not deployed as Charles occupies the high ground to the west of Burkersdorff, the enemy outnumber and outgun him 41,000 (including about 3700 Saxons) to 22,000. His line into Silesia cut, the Prussian king realizes that the only card he has now is a preemptive attack before the Austrians can launch theirs.

Of course, having seized the initiative and the high ground, Charles’ evident strategy is for Frederick to do just that, wasting his forces on suicidal attacks uphill in the face of superior firepower. Perhaps he anticipates that Frederick, in the true spirit of cordial 18th century warfare and card games, will see he has been trumped and fold like a gentleman.

Frederick, while a gentleman, is now fighting for his life.


Situation at 0800, 30 September. Narrative continued below the map.

The Prussians Move into Position

Fog cloaks the lower part of the battlefield until about 0800, allowing time for the Prussians to move into position in relative security. Though their flanks are theoretically exposed to enfilade gunfire from the formidable 12 pounder Austrian artillery on the Graner Kroppe, the fog protects them as they complete the dangerous maneuver in front of the enemy. By the time the mist begins to lift, Frederick has his main strike force in position opposite the Austrian left. The map show the relative positions of the armies at this point.

The Battle Starts

 

Frederick, holding his center and left in echelon, signals the attack on the Austrian left. Prussian cavalry charge up the steep hill of the Graner Kroppe. The Austrian cavalry, instead of using their superior numbers and elevation to counter-charge the Prussian cavalry as they puff up the hill, await the impact inertly and deliver one, ineffective volley (in contemporary Austrian tactical doctrine) before the Prussians crash into and rout them.   A counter-attack by the supporting Austrian cavalry in the second line is thwarted by the confusion of hundreds of their comrades fleeing through their own ranks. Soon, all the Austrian cavalry is in flight through the open trees, swept along by a general stampede.

The two lines of Austrian cavalry swept away, the Prussian infantry now follows the cavalry charge and moves uphill in the teeth of the  strong, canister-vomiting battery on the Graner. Decimated by the fire, they are counterattacked by the Austrian Grenadiers under Beneda and driven back down the hill.

The Prussians reform, however, and launch a renewed attack. The Austrian grenadiers, milling around downhill from the artillery battery and so masking their own guns, are overrun by the oncoming second wave of Bluecoats, who sweep over the hill, capture the guns, and force the Austrian left to collapse.

Meanwhile, What is Happening Down South?

 

For some reason, Charles’ right, under d’Aremburg, remains inactive during the entire battle.  His right wing cavalry make a half-hearted move to advance about midday, but are immediately counter-charged by Baron von Kyau’s cavalry, who sweep them from the field. At about noon, the entire Austrian line begins to fall back into the pine trees of the Königsreichwald.

The only other action in this quarter is a farcical raid on the defenseless Prussian camp by Austrian hussars and pandours under Nadasti and Trenck, who steal some loot, torture some hapless sutlers to death, burn some papers (otherwise valuable as intelligence), and either (according to whose account you read) hack Frederick's beloved greyhound, Biche, to death, or merely made off with her. While lamentable (particularly for the sutlers and the dog) the action proves to be completely inconsequential to the outcome of the battle or the war. Few generals know how to use light troops to strategic advantage at this stage of warfare.

A Nasty Surprise Turned into a Gift

 

Frederick has not only saved his army by following his own maxim of audacity, but, with a few more deft maneuvers and skirmishes, has managed to conclude this 2nd Silesian War in a favorable position for negotiation.

Though the battle is described as proportionately one of the bloodiest during the two Silesian Wars of the 1740s (7,500 Austrian and 4,000 Prussian casualties), it proves to be the final knockout blow to the Austrian will to continue. Frederick, under the Treaty of Dresden, signed in December, is finally able to keep the rich Silesian province while recognizing Maria Theresa’s claim to the Hapsburg Throne, securing, at least in terms of the eponymous War of the Austrian Succession, that monarch's political position in Europe.

War Gaming Options:

 

1. It might be interesting to see what would have happened had Charles or d’Aremburg taken more initiative on his right and moved on the weaker Prussian left. Charles complained that his staff was incompetent, which is why he explained the slowness of his deployment. A war game could test this theory by giving the wing commanders more autonomy and initiative.

2. Another variation would be to allow the Austrian cavalry, with their numerical superiority and higher position, to charge down on the Prussians from the Graner Koppe rather than receiving them halted. While this was contrary to contemporary Austrian doctrine of fire over movement, even at the time, Charles and others complained that their cavalry were using the doctrine to excuse cowardice.

Notes about the Map

 

This map was created referencing a combination of satellite images from Google Earth and maps in the works mentioned below. In order to make the formations easier to see, the ground is rendered in a homogenous green, though it would have been more mottled and broken up into fields of various states of cultivation.

Rather than the convention of representing units as dull and imprecise blocks, the troops are represented in their actual, doctrinal formations and occupy ground that is accurate to the scale of the map. In this way one can see how wide and thin the 3 and 4 rank linear formations of the period actually were, as well as the practical limitations of 18th century linear warfare.

The size and layout of the Prussian camp is speculative and represented here in a stylized way.

To order a high resolution PDF copy of this map ( in which you can zoom down to see not only individual regiments, but individual soldiers, regimental flags, and cannon) for $10, contact me at jeff@peoplesbranding.com.


References:


Frederick the Great, The Magnificent Enigma
Robert B. Asprey, 1986  pp 333-338

The Army of Frederick the Great
Christopher Duffy, 1996  pp 243-245

Frederick the Great, A Military Life
Christopher Duffy, 1985  pp 69-71

To view the area today on Google Maps search for Stritezska, Trutnov, Czech Republic the current name of Burkersdorf. During Frederick's day this region was a part of the Hapsburg Empire and known as Bohemia.


Orders of Battle






Prussians Facings Strength Guns
Frederick   23,957 31
Buddenbrock   1,570 0
Gensd'armes / 1   160  
Gensd'armes / 2   160  
Gensd'armes / 3   160  
Gensd'armes / 4   160  
Gensd'armes / 5   160  
CR#1 Buddenbrock / 1   154  
CR#1 Buddenbrock / 2   154  
CR#1 Buddenbrock / 3   154  
CR#1 Buddenbrock / 4   154  
CR#1 Buddenbrock / 5   154  
Posadowsky   2,338 0
Garde du Corps   150  
DR# 3 Rothenburg Drag. / 1   159  
DR# 3 Rothenburg Drag. / 2   159  
DR# 3 Rothenburg Drag. / 3   159  
DR# 3 Rothenburg Drag. / 4   159  
DR# 3 Rothenburg Drag. / 5   159  
CR# 2 Prinz von Preussen / 1   151  
CR# 2 Prinz von Preussen / 2   151  
CR# 2 Prinz von Preussen /3   151  
CR# 2 Prinz von Preussen / 4   151  
CR# 2 Prinz von Preussen / 5   151  
CR# 12 Kyau / 1   128  
CR# 12 Kyau / 2   128  
CR# 12 Kyau / 3   128  
CR# 12 Kyau / 4   128  
CR# 12 Kyau / 5   128  
Jeetze & Blanckensee   3,687 3
Wedell Gr.   607  
Strantz Gr.   633  
Finck Gr.   580  
IR# 3 Alt-Anhalt / 1   653  
IR# 3 Alt-Anhalt / 2   588  
IR# 3 Alt-Anhalt / 3   602  
IR# 3 Artillery   24 3
Fouquee & Bonin   3,180 4
IR# 17 La Motte / 1   571  
IR# 17 La Motte / 2   630  
IR#17 Artillery   16 2
IR# 23 Christoph Dohna/ 1   639  
IR# 23 Christoph Dohna / 2   682  
IR# 23 Artillery   16 2
Hagen Gr.   618  
Ferdinand v Brunswick   10,882 14
IR# 25 Kalckstein / 1   697  
IR# 25 Kalckstein / 2   663  
IR# 25 Artillery   16 2
IR# 14 Lehwaldt / 1   679  
IR# 14 Lehwaldt / 2   683  
IR# 14 Artillery   16 2
IR# 4 Dohna / 1   624  
IR# 4 Dohna / 2   682  
IR# 4 Artillery   16 2
IR# 19 Brandenburg/ 1   650  
IR# 19 Brandenburg/ 2   731  
IR# 19 Artillery   16 2
IR# 15 Garde / 1   660  
IR# 15 Garde / 2   650  
IR# 15 Garde / 3 (Grenadiers)   650  
IR# 19 Artillery   21 3
IR# 6 Grenadier Garde   658  
IR# 6 Artillery   16 1
IR# 2 Schlichting / 1   732  
IR# 2 Schlichting / 2   727  
IR# 2 Artillery   16 2
Grumbkow Gr.   658  
Kahlbutz Gr.   621  
Kyau   2,300 0
CR# 9 Bornstedt /1   138  
CR# 9 Bornstedt / 2   138  
CR# 9 Bornstedt / 3   138  
CR# 9 Bornstedt / 4   138  
CR# 9 Bornstedt / 5   138  
CR# 8 Rochow / 1   150  
CR# 8 Rochow / 2   150  
CR# 8 Rochow / 3   150  
CR# 8 Rochow / 4   150  
CR# 8 Rochow / 5   150  
CR# 4 Gessler / 1   144  
CR# 4 Gessler / 2   144  
CR# 4 Gessler / 3   144  
CR# 4 Gessler / 4   144  
CR# 4 Gessler / 5   144  
DR# 12 Alt Wurrtemburg Dr / 1   140  
DR# 12 Alt Wurrtemburg Dr / 2   140  
DR# 12 Alt Wurrtemburg Dr / 3   140  
DR# 12 Alt Wurrtemburg Dr / 4   140  
DR# 12 Alt Wurrtemburg Dr / 5   140  
12 pdr Battery   203 10

     
Austrians Facings Strength Guns
Archduke Charles   41,284 98
Lobkovitz   15,853 45
Preysing   1,152 0
Bernes Cuir Regt   240  
Serbellon Cuir Regt   516  
Elite Coys   396  
Modena*   1,932 0
Czernin Cuir Regt   492  
Birkenfeld Cuir Regt   444  
Palffy Cuir Regt   516  
Lucchesi Cuir Regt   480  
Philibert*   1,476 0
Preysing Dragoons   480  
Wurttemberg Dragoons   468  
Philibert Dragoons   528  
Millich*      
Battery on Graner Kopp   288 16
Daun   11,005 29
Benda Grenadiers / 1   400  
Benda Grenadiers / 2   400  
Benda Grenadiers / 3   400  
Wurmbrand / 1   480  
Wurmbrand bn gun   6 1
Wurmbrand / 2   495  
Wurmbrand bn gun   6 1
Wurmbrand / 3   475  
Wurmbrand bn gun   6 1
Harrach/ 1   425  
Harrach bn gun   6 1
Harrach/ 2   415  
Harrach bn gun   6 1
Neipperg / 3   490  
Neipperg bn gun   6 1
Koenigsegg- / 1   500  
Koenigsegg bn gun   6 1
Koenigsegg / 2   500  
Koenigsegg bn gun   6 1
Koenigsegg / 3   425  
Koenigsegg bn gun   6 1
Lothringen / 1   490  
Lothringen bn gun   6 1
Lothringen / 2   500  
Lothringen bn gun   6 1
Lothringen / 3   435  
Lothringen bn gun   6 1
Kaiser / 1   465  
Kaiser bn gun   6 1
Kaiser / 2   425  
Kaiser bn gun   6 1
Kaiser / 3   495  
Kaiser bn gun   6 1
Saxe-Weissenfels   2,700 14
Konigen   590  
Konigen / bn gun   6 1
Pr Friedrich August / 1   593  
Bn gun   6 1
Pr Max / 1   556  
Bn gun   6 1
Liebgrenadieren / 1   465  
Bn gun   6 1
VitzthumDragoons   160  
Saxon Cuirassiers   144  
Saxon Garde du Corps   168  
Saxon Battery   180 10
Wallis   10,696 29
Garde zu Fuss (Saxon)   576  
bn gun   6 1
Pr Xavier / 1 (Saxon)   619  
Bn gun   6 1
Botta / 1   465  
Botta bn gun   6 1
Botta / 2   477  
Botta bn gun   6 1
Botta / 3   451  
Botta bn gun   6 1
Vettes / 1   445  
Vettes bn gun   6 1
Vettes / 2   485  
Vettes bn gun   6 1
Vettes / 2   465  
Vettes bn gun   6 1
Bayreuth / 1   435  
Bayreuth bn gun   6 1
Bayreuth / 2   495  
Bayreuth bn gun   6 1
Bayreuth / 3   475  
Bayreuth bn gun   6 1
Jung Wolfenbuettel / 1   490  
Jung Wolff. bn gun   6 1
Jung Wolfenbuettel / 1   450  
Jung Wolff. bn gun   6 1
Jung Wolfenbuettel / 1   455  
Jung Wolff. bn gun   6 1
Marschall / 1   410  
Biberstein bn gun   6 1
Marschall / 2   500  
Biberstein bn gun   6 1
Browne / 1   435  
Browne bn gun   6 1
Browne / 2   415  
Browne bn gun   6 1
Browne / 3   435  
Browne bn gun   6 1
Gyulai / 1   415  
Gyulai bn gun   6 1
Gyulai / 2   500  
Gyulai bn gun   6 1
Gyulai / 3   455  
Gyulai bn gun   6 1
Battery on Right Wing   216 12
d'Aremberg   14,735 24
d'Aremberg   4,655 10
Kollowrat / 1   415  
Kollowrat bn gun   6 1
Kollowrat / 2   455  
Kollowrat bn gun   6 1
Baden Baden / 1   410  
Baden Baden bn gun   6 1
Baden Baden / 2   480  
Baden Baden bn gun   6 1
Baden Baden / 3   475  
Baden Baden bn gun   6 1
Damnitz / 1   475  
Damnitz bn gun   6 1
Damnitz / 2   500  
Damnitz bn gun   6 1
Damnitz / 3   500  
Damnitz bn gun   6 1
Hessen Cassel / 1   450  
Hessen Cassel bn gun   6 1
Hessen Cassel / 2   435  
Hessen Cassel bn gun   6 1
Harrach*   6,544 14
Andlau   440  
Andlau bn gun   6 1
O'Gilvy   445  
O'Gilvy bn gun   6 1
Platz / 1   475  
Platz bn gun   6 1
Platz / 2   485  
Platz bn gun   6 1
Platz / 3   425  
Platz bn gun   6 1
Grunne / 1   465  
Grunne bn gun   6 1
Grunne / 2   505  
Grunne bn gun   6 1
Leopold Daun / 1   445  
Leopold Daun bn gun   6 1
Leopold Daun / 2   460  
Leopold Daun bn gun   6 1
Waldeck / 1   460  
Waldeck bn gun   6 1
Waldeck / 2   485  
Waldeck bn gun   6 1
Neipperg / 1   450  
Neipperg bn gun   6 1
Neipperg / 2   435  
Neipperg bn gun   6 1
Harrach/ 3   485  
Harrach bn gun   6 1
Hoehnembs   3,536 0
Diemar Cuirassiers   468  
Johann Palffy Cuirassiers   528  
Hohenemb Cuirassiers   528  
St Ignon Cuirassiers   500  
Liechtenstein Dragoons   516  
Kohary Dragoons   480  
Nadasti Hussars   516  

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