Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Leuthen 1757

Seven Years War

December 5, 1757

Prussians under Frederick II, approximately 39,000 and 125 guns

Austro-Imperial Forces under Prince Charles of Lorraine, approximately 55,000 and 202 guns

Weather: Cold and clear after a morning fog. Clouding over late in the afternoon as a new front of snow moved in. Fresh dusting of light snow already covered frozen ground.

First Light: 07:06  Sunrise: 07:45   Sunset: 15:50  End of Twilight: 16:29
(Calculated from U.S.Naval Observatory from date and location)

Location: 51°8′N 16°48′E On Google Maps search for the present day village of Lutynia in Poland, about 16 km west of Wroclaw (formerly Breslau).

Author's Note: Here is another one of those battles which (like Blenheim) is not so obscure (at least to aficionadi of 18th century European history--my impression is that Gettysburg is obscure to most people, and many have trouble telling you how long the Seven Years War was.). However, I have a take on this otherwise well-known battle that may give some a second look--even if the event itself is not obscure to them.

Besides. as I've said before, this is my blog and I can write about any battle I want. You want to cover your favorite obscure battle? Start your own blog. I'll be your first follower.

What's So Obscure About Leuthen?

But what is my take on this? Well, for one thing, Leuthen is, for German historians, one of those great battles that has become symbolic to the evolution of the German national myth, and therefore its explanation has been, shall we say, a tad distorted. It probably stands in Germany as Gettysburg or the Battle of the Bulge does for Americans. Leuthen was supposed to be that apotheosis of Frederican warfare; the perfect example of the superiority of Prussian military prowess and the paradigm of the oblique attack that was Frederick's "secret weapon." And yet that was all just propaganda used by two centuries of German nationalists. Here was tiny Prussia, overwhelmingly outnumbered by the papist mongrels of the south, Austria-Hungary, defeating those hordes with discipline and simple Protestant virtue. Leuthen was Frederick's (and, by extension, Prussian) military genius at work.

And yet, as I hope to show, it was no such thing (that's the obscure part). Frederick's forces were not as outnumbered as has been represented; Leuthen was more of an even match. The simple brilliance of the oblique attack was, in reality, an old idea, even by 1757. In fact, within that very year the same tactic had been attempted by both Frederick (at Kolin) and the Allies (at Rossbach) and failed miserably. At Leuthen Frederick's oblique attack had a lot of luck to give it wings. Bigger guns didn't hurt either.

Finally, the strategic outcome of Leuthen was not nearly as geopolitically momentous as later historians would have us believe. The Austrians weren't annihilated (they rebounded quite energetically the next spring, in fact). The strategic situation wasn't altered. And the end of 1757 saw Frederick, while still on his throne and barely hanging on to Silesia, pretty much bankrupt. Leuthen was kind of a pyrrhic victory.

In this retelling, I hope to add that "obscure" perspective on a well-known battle.

This is a general map showing the ultimate dispositions of the Prussian and Austro-Imperial armies at the cusp of the battle, about 13:00, when Frederick was about to launch his coup on the left flank of Charles' position. The colors of the map conform to the early winter landscape; a light dusting of snow and bare trees. Elevations have been exaggerated for illustrative reference. "Bergs" were barely a few feet above the surrounding, undulating plain. Regimental names are suffixed with the eventual numbers of those regiments, which, for the Austrian Army didn't happen until after the Seven Years War. At the time of the battle, the regiments were only listed by the names of their inhabers (owners). The color of each regiment's facing is also noted in the color of the number.
(This image protected by Digimarc watermark against unauthorized copying.)

A Bad Year for Frederick

1757, the second year of the war, had had some significant ups and downs for Frederick. In June, attempting to achieve his signature maneuver, the flank attack, against the Austrians at Kolin, his army was defeated for the first time when his highly trained troops could not get their act together. There are many reasons for that defeat, which I may cover in a future post, but the immediate consequence was the huge boost in confidence it gave the Allies; that the unbeatable Prussians could be beaten. It also forced Frederick to abandon his siege of Prague.

This was made worse at the end of August for Frederick when one of his armies, under Lehwaldt, was also mauled by the Russians at Gross-Jagersdorf, in East Prussia. Then in October, an audacious raid by Austrian Croats and hussars ran through the streets of Berlin itself, stealing linens and gloves (this is true). And a critical fortress at Schweidnitz in Silesia was captured (along with 6,000 Prussians and 180 guns) by Charles. The Austrians were on a roll.

Finally that October, the French piled in and, hooking up with the Imperial Reichsarmee, invaded from the west with a combined army of 41,000. It looked like the Prussian beast was finally going to be dispatched.

Frederick, meanwhile, was chasing all over central Europe trying to shore up his defenses. His only ally, Britain, was not helping much yet (except in subsidies) and was making noises of an early, separate peace with France. All the rest of Europe was against him; Austria, Hungary, Russia, France, Sweden, Spain, Bavaria, Saxony and nearly all of the Holy Roman Empire. To someone with a clinical history of manic-depression, the situation sparked several bouts of despair in Frederick. But 1757 showed Frederick to be at his best. He showed true leadership, forgiving failures where honest effort had been made, shaming subordinates (mostly his brothers) when effort wasn't made, and inspiring his troops. And almost by sheer will-power (this before the age of Xanax) the king made himself snap out of depression.

In spite of all of these setbacks, too, the Prussian Army was also at its peak in 1757. Undaunted by defeats, their training and esprit de corps saw them bounce back again and again. They were also still a national army, a purely Prussian force. Unlike the troops of the Allies, which were made up of mercenaries and draftees from all over Europe and from both Protestant and Catholic states, the Prussian Army at this early stage of the war was still almost entirely Prussian, almost entirely veteran, and almost entirely Lutheran. Not only were they still the best trained, best led, best equipped army on the Continent, they were animated by a zeal for God. Even at the stealthy approach to Leuthen, when Frederick was trying to keep everybody quiet, he could not begrudge them their urge to belt out pious, Protestant hymns as they marched. They were insufferable.

A Good Month for Frederick

Then on one day, 5 November, everything changed. Frederick, having hustled what few troops he could westward to stop the Franco-Imperial invasion, decisively defeated a force twice his size at Rossbach. The poetic-justice thing about Rossbach (particularly in light of Leuthen exactly one month later), was that the Allies were trying to pull Frederick's own favorite maneuver, the flank attack, against him. Having studied his methods, they started off right, pinning what they thought was his front with a diversionary force and rolling around his left flank with the bulk of their army. It was a good plan. But it required a level of professionalism that the Allies just didn't have. Frederick's troops handily pivoted when he saw what was happening, and hit the French and German troops hard while they were still in route formation. Studying both Rossbach and Leuthen, you can't help but see how they mirror each other, but how the exact same maneuver failed in the one case and succeeded in the other.

Anyway, an analysis of Rossbach is for a later post (if I think it's that interesting). The immediate outcome was to knock both the French and the Reichsarmee out of the ring for the rest of the year and allow Frederick to swing back and concentrate on Charles and the main Austrian army in Silesia. It was also the shot in the arm that the Prussian troops needed as well. For all of their Lutheran stoicism, Rossbach was welcome medicine.

But One More Setback

Now Frederick hustled his little army back east some 250 miles to deal with the Austrians. He had left the Duke of Brunswick-Bevern in Silesia, defending the strategic fortress city of  Breslau (modern day Wroclaw, Poland), to occupy Charles until Frederick could get back to relieve him. But Charles, still feeling his oats after Kolin (for which he had no part) and the capture of Schweidnitz (Nadasty was the actual victor there), didn't wait. He had some 83,000 men  facing only 20,000 Prussians in Breslau. Charles launched a massive attack against Bevern's outnumbered defenders in their trenches, and after a day of heroic effort, the Prussians finally gave way. Several made their escape back through the town and over to the other side of the river, but Charles had seized this strategic prize with all of its stores. It was his first real personal victory in his career--at least one in which he had been actually in direct command. He was now in the driver's seat in Silesia. Or so he thought.

When Frederick reunited with Bevern's defeated and dispirited survivors, he was generous and encouraging.  Instead of blaming them for the defeat, he praised them for their heroic defense against overwhelming odds. And, like a good coach at half-time, was able to relight their fire for the second half.

Charles Calls the Game Prematurely.

Charles, meanwhile, was feeling pretty self-satisfied. He looked back on very successful year for his side, with strategic victories at Kolin, Gross-Jagersdorff, Schweidnitz and now the great prize of Breslau, and he thought the game was over.All he had to do was keep possession of the ball and run down the clock. There had been only one big hiccup, the Allied defeat at Rossbach. But that had happened to the French and was not too much for the Charles to worry about.  It was time to rest his battered and depleted army and put it into winter quarters. That's what good commanders did in the 18th century. In the spring he would still be in a strong position to finish off Frederick if the little Prussian still wanted to fight.

So at the start of December, with that object in mind Charles left a garrison in Breslau and started to march his army back toward Bohemia and winter quarters.

Even though a few contemporary memoirists (who evidently weren't there) have insisted that Charles marched west to deal Frederick a final, stunning blow, Christopher Duffy gives a persuasive argument that Charles had no such intention. His intelligence indicated that Frederick had, at most, with him 13,000 troops (it hadn't occurred to him, apparently, that the defeated Prussians from Breslau would rejoin Frederick) and wouldn't think of attacking his overwhelming army.

For another thing, Duffy points out, Charles left most of his heavy artillery back in Breslau. Had he intended to attack Frederick, he would surely have brought as much firepower with him as possible. Then more evidence; all of the detached grenadier companies (which, during a campaign, were brigaded as elite striking units) were ordered to rejoin their regiments, something that every 18th century army did as a matter of administrative procedure at the end of a campaign. He also brought all of his tents with him, something he would not have done had he merely intended to make a strike at Frederick close to Breslau. And finally, Duffy's evidence points to the fact that Charles had sent his army's mobile bakeries and quartermasters to Neumarkt (about 20 miles west of Breslau) to start cooking and laying out his winter camp. Duffy asserts that Charles' intention on leaving Breslau was to protect his line of communications during the winter. Had he had any idea that Frederick, with his tiny force of previously beaten men, was intending on attacking him directly he would surely have stayed behind his strong defenses at Breslau.

Charles had started off the year with some 83,000 men. But after dropping off garrisons in captured towns, as well as the year-long attrition from eight months of hard campaigning and fighting, his actual force on the field of Leuthen was probably much less. Parade states on the eve of the march reported 14,778 men sick in the hospitals back in Breslau. Though most military historians give Charles his full, original strength at Leuthen, Duffy calculated that, at most, Charles had with him not much over 50,000, possibly 55,000 at most. It was a force still larger than Frederick's 39,000, but not the overwhelming two-to-one that German propagandists would have it. As I've mentioned above, Charles also had left most of his big guns back in Breslau, bringing with him only about 50 medium tubes (12 and 6 pounders), some howitzers and 160 or so little battalion 3 pounders, which many don't even think should count as artillery.

Just a day's march out of Breslau, on the way to Neumarkt, the Austrian army downed packs and started building fires, bivouacing in the fields behind the villages of  Leuthen, Frobelwitz, and Nippern (see map above). They would make formal camp at Neumarkt (another 10 miles on) the next day. They were on their way to winter quarters at last, the year's fighting was over. And Christmas was coming!

The Battlefield

Leuthen and its surrounding terrain is in the middle of the great, flat, North German plain. The ground is relatively flat, with only slight undulations and patchy, deciduous woods. I have inserted, below, a panorama of the ground taken from a Googlecam along the highway between Wroclaw (Breslau) and Legnica (Legnitz) to give some idea of the flatness of the ground. This view would be from the approximate center of the Austrian line looking south-southwest toward the Prussian flank march. Though the map features so called "bergs" or hills, two of these (Schmiedeberg and Schonberg) are right in the middle of the frame. Clearly they weren't very prominent. But they were just high enough to have concealed marching troops and to have given the Prussians elevated firing positions for their artillery.

View from Austrian Center toward the southwest, the direction of Frederick's outflanking maneuver.

The convenient thing for Frederick and his men was that the area around Leuthen just happened to be the site of the Prussian Army's historic training grounds. Everyone, from the lowest private to Frederick himself, knew every inch, fold, and subtlety of this terrain. It was as if Charles had picked Camp Pendleton to fight the United States Marines (to you those of you not familiar with California's geography, Camp Pendleton is the Marines' big training base in...oh, never mind). To the Austrians it was a foreign land, deceptively flat. They did little to examine the ground because they didn't expect to be there long.

But Frederick's officers knew just where the defiles and low places were. This was their backyard.

To the north, the battlefield is bisected by the Zettlebusch, a forest of hardwood much bigger in expanse today than it evidently was 257 years ago. By December it would have been leafless. It was also not a dense wood and  fairly accessible to all troops, horse, foot, and guns. To the east of it was a large marshy area, which, on the day of battle, was probably frozen hard and would not have posed as significant an obstacle on a warmer day.

To the south of Leuthen, the area from which Frederick would launch his flanking attack, the ground was more broken up by copses, ditches, streams and marshy ground. But the frozen ground made it negotiable for guns, horses and men. The forested sections in this area, too, were lightly wooded and posed no obstacle to foot, horse or guns.

The many villages in the area were very small, mostly of one-storey, masonry buildings and barns. Leuthen was the largest, but even its buildings were widely spaced. The largest structure on the whole battlefield was the great church of Leuthen with its tall steeple (a good observation platform) and surrounded by a stone wall like a fort, complete with corner bastions.

The battlefield was vast by 18th century battle standards. Charles' front extended almost six miles (9 km--by comparison, the entire battle of Blenheim spanned a little of four miles flank to flank, Gettysburg about three miles, Waterloo barely two). To move troops from one flank to another would take an hour-and-a-half. It was not great ground to fight a defensive battle.

It had snowed lightly the night before and though December 5th was clear (when the morning fog eventually lifted), the ground was hard; perfect for fast marching and moving guns. While the snow muffled the sound of artillery wheels and tramping feet.

Christopher Duffy's excellent book on the battle, Prussia's Glory: Rossbach & Leuthen 1757 (see reference below) has many good views (albeit black and white) of the ground around the battlefield.

An Unexpected Appearance

As the Austrians stirred from their cold night on the ground and started poking their fires, alarming news came galloping in from the west. Prussians had attacked the bakeries at Neumarkt and the small force of cavalry and irregular troops guarding the highway west of Borne. Saxon chevaulegers and Hungarian hussars, as well as hundreds of Croats, began streaming back to the main body, all bloody. Hundreds more had been captured by Frederick's advanced guard. The Saxon cavalry, in particular, suffered in this retreat because their horses were not in great shape and were overburdened with luggage (remember, everybody thought they were heading for home). Enough made it back to join up with Nasasdy's cavalry on the south side of the battlefield to play a role later.

Hurriedly, Marshal Daun, Charles' chief of staff, began riding all over, ordering sleepy, stiff troops into hasty line and trying to get a sense of the battlefield. He was so unready to fight here that he had to ask local peasants what the place names were. There is an anecdote (undoubtedly apocryphal) that Daun asked one peasant what one of the low hills was called and the peasant, thinking he meant the whole area in general, said, "That's where the Prussians beat the Austrians every year," referring, of course to the fact that this was a training ground. Daun then said to his staff, "Hm, that doesn't sound good."

But Charles felt, for some reason, that he had to cover this extent of the whole distance all the way from Nippern, six miles down to Sagaschütz.  To make the army reach that far, Daun had the infantry battalions thin their ranks from the traditional four to three. Though this was a formation the Prussians (and several European armies) had long been comfortable with, it was brand new for the Austrians.  But even doing this, Charles had gaps in his line. And he didn't have nearly enough artillery to cover this wide front..The prudent thing to have done, in hindsight (we all love hindsight), would have been to consolidate the army in a tighter formation, ready to take an attack from any direction.

It took the Austrians several hours to all get into position on the unfamiliar ground. There was a lot of confusion. One smart thing that Daun did, though, was retain a reserve striking force (Alpern's eight infantry battalions and Serbelloni's cavalry division). These he initially placed behind the left-center, just south of Leuthen.

The Prussians started showing up on the east side of Borne (see map below) shortly after 08:00, as the morning fog began to lift. Frederick had pushed his aggressive hussars forward, some reaching almost all the way to the Austrian line at Leuthen. Three battalions of Freicorps, a couple of companies of Fussjager,  Württemberg's cavalry division (not to be confused with the Württemberg division on the Allied side), and a battery of 12 pounders made as if Frederick's main attack was going to be on the Austrian right. General Lucchesi, who commanded the Austrian cavalry on Charles' north flank, was convinced of this and begged for reinforcements. About 11:00 Daun and Charles agreed with Lucchesi and ordered Arenberg's reserve infantry, followed shortly afterwards by four regiments of Serbelloni's cavalry (Gelhay, Anspach, Schmerzing and O'Donnell Cuirassiers), to start the long trek north to cover Nippern. This left a dangerous gap in the line below Leuthen.

At this stage, though, Charles and most of his staff were not convinced Frederick was going to attack. They believed he was just as surprised as they were to bump into them (he was, actually, though he had better on-the-ground intelligence). They also thought, with his tiny army (which they underestimated at about 13,000--not realizing the Breslau losers had rejoined the main army, swelling it to 39,000), he would not dare attack their huge one. So when, after some perceived hesitation on the part of Frederick, they finally saw blue formation after formation march through Borne and make a hard right turn to march southward, they concluded that Frederick was wisely making his escape and would just keep marching south and west.

This is exactly what Frederick wanted them to think.

This map shows the main movements during the morning, from 08:00 to about 13:00. (This image protected by Digimarc watermark against unauthorized copying.)


"Now we've got 'em!"

When news came to Frederick from his scouts that Charles' entire army had left Breslau and was only a few miles ahead of them, camped all over the Prussian Army's old stomping grounds, the word rippled back through the column quickly. The marching pace increased and the men started shouting to each other, "Now we've got 'em." They had been game enough to attack the Austrians in the entrenched positions at Breslau, but they all knew that the Austrians had made a tactical blunder by coming out to meet them in the open. The odds had narrowed considerably. And these men, especially the recently defeated troops from Breslau, were salivating for payback.

Frederick had ordered the drummers not to beat, in order to conceal his approach in the fog. But the men started, irrepressibly, to sing Lutheran hymns. His adjutant asked him if he wanted them to stop, but Frederick (who wasn't religious himself, being a cynical creature of the Enlightenment and friend of Voltaire), said, "No. Let them sing." And then to Zieten (who was religious), "With men like these, how can I fail to win?"

I think he was mostly trying to reassure himself. In spite of the incredible victory at Rossbach the month before, Frederick was acutely aware that he was outnumbered and surrounded on all sides by most of Europe. That unnerving defeat at Kolin was still raw in his mind. His men may have been confident, but he wasn't. This might be his last battle. He had confided in one of his dragoon commanders that he wanted him to keep a squadron ready to act as a bodyguard in case he had to flee for his life.

Nevertheless, he had a plan. He was not going to march south to escape battle (as Charles thought he was doing), but to outflank the enemy and attack his weakest end. His scouts had reported that the southern flank was held by the most unreliable troops in the Allied army, the Bavarians and Württembergers, and, except for a few light battalion guns, was unsupported by artillery. Spending most of the morning getting his troops assembled around Borne, and making feints to the north, he achieved the deception he wanted. At about 11:00, from his vantage on the Schonberg, Frederick saw what he was waiting for. He noticed that the Austrians began to pull out several thousand troops (horse and foot) from the center of their line (these were the commands of Alpern and Serbelloni moving north to counter the perceived threat to the Austrian right flank--see above).

Frederick was like a soccer player lining up for a penalty kick, waiting to see the telltale sign of which way the goalie was going to lunge so he could kick to the opposite side. Charles was the goalie. And he lunged first.

Charles having moved his reserves north at about 11:00, Frederick now kicked the other way. He ordered his army south, not to retreat, as the Austrian staff was concluding, but to attack the southern flank of the long Austrian line. He was going to try his oblique attack again.  The Prussian units, having assembled around and behind Borne, made a hard right turn, and for a couple of hours disappeared behind the low hills.  Now these "hills"--Schonberg, Schmeideberg, Schelerberg, Sohpienberg--would never have been called that except by peasants who had never seen real hills. They were probably no more than a ten or so feet in height (see image above; they are all in the center of that apparently flat plain). But ten feet was enough to conceal marching men, even cavalry.

In 1904, wondering about this in writing an official history of the battle, officers of the Imperial German General Staff ran an experiment. They stood approximately where they thought Charles and his staff would have and had a cavalryman, carrying a large flag, gallop the length of Frederick's route. Even using modern field glasses, the General Staff officers could not see any of him or his big white flag for the entire three miles. So it was probable Frederick was able to conceal the true target of his southward march in 1757, keeping the Austrians thinking he was merely withdrawing, until he showed up on their southern flank.

But Frederick didn't share his plan with his men. As they marched southward, behind the hills, they were under the impression that they were running away from the battle. The happy Lutheran hymns stopped. That suited Frederick fine. The better to conceal their destination. And make the ruse more convincing. A lie works better when the liar believes it himself.

When the head of the column reached the vicinity of the little hamlet of Kol-Wustung, a staff officer was there to direct them to make a hard left. Spirits lifted again. Everybody now knew what was going on now. They weren't running away. They were going to do to the Allies what the Allies had tried to do to them at Rossbach; an outflanking attack.  But this time they were going to show them how real soldiers did it. Excitement was electric. However, Frederick now instructed the officers to keep the men from breaking out in song again.

An Aside About Formations

Much has been made of how Frederick's army was able to deftly execute the complicated maneuver of shuttling 37,000 troops for three miles over undulating, often broken terrain and having them all line up perfectly at their jumping off positions to the south of Leuthen.

Most of the narratives of the battle that I have read, including Brent Nosworthy's highly detailed description of 18th century formations and tactics, describe the maneuver of the Prussian Army as if it were on review at the Potsdam parade ground. While marching military formations are relatively rare today, anyone who has seen the marching bands in the Rose Parade (or who lives in a military dictatorship) knows what this looks like. The veteran company officers were supposed to keep perfect distance between the platoons in column so that, when they got to the designated launch point, all the stacked platoons had to do was wheel left in unison, like a gigantic set of louvered blinds, and, TA DA! they were instantly in line of battle. No adjustments necessary. This evolution was called "Processional Deployment." See the animation below for how this was supposed to have worked.

 The Processional Deployment procedure from a column at full distance. The entire evolution would take about 45 seconds, assuming the column distances had been maintained throughout the approach march, and not counting for dressing ranks.

But the Leuthen battlefield, even though familiar to the Prussians from their annual wargames, was not a smooth parade ground. It was bumpy and criss-crossed with inconvenient ditches, streams, copses, hedges, cabbage patches, and bogs. While it is elegant to think of the Prussians demonstrating the essence of geometric warfare at Leuthen, my hunch is that the reality was much messier. As each platoon maneuvered over the rolling ground, negotiating all the etcetera, the idea of keeping perfect distance between them was ludicrous.

I have a theory that another, simpler tactical evolution was in play:

Flank Marching from Close Columns
More years ago than I will admit, when I was in Naval Officer Candidate School, one of the many "useless" skills we had to master was close order marching. Everywhere we went--to class, to the gym, to the mess hall, to the exchange, to the docks, back to the barracks--we were required to march in formation. If there were two or more of us going anywhere, we'd have to form up and move in close order. We practiced for hours, getting ready for the big parade at the end of every week when the whole battalion would assemble for inspection.

I'm not sure what all this had to do with working on a modern warship, but the experience (and I'm sure many of  you reading this who have been through boot camp, OCS, ROTC, military school, or even band, share it) made me appreciate the problem of getting a whole lot of people from point A to point B in a perfectly aligned formation...oh, and doing it while walking in cadence. (Actually walking in cadence makes it easier; something the Prussians discovered a quite a few years before Leuthen.) And one of the most useful and basic commands was "By the right flank, march!" (or "left flank" etc). This command would have everyone in the formation instantly turn in place (right, left, about face, oblique--45 degrees) and march in that direction. Flank marching would allow the company to march up right behind another company in the battalion, and without even halting, move right (or left) and then left (or right) again to move up to place itself in line.  No need for the officers to preserve full distance between the platoons in column so they could hopefully wheel precisely into column. Flank marching took the guess-work out of moving men into position.

I have studied so many 18th and 19th century tactical diagrams in which platoons and companies perform these cumbersome wheeling maneuvers to get from column to line, and I wondered if they just didn't do it the way it's done now, with the flank march. It would obviate the need to keep perfect distance between following platoons, and make deployment much simpler, even in the roughest terrain. And it was certainly far more intuitive that the processional method.

In his book on the battle of Leuthen, Duffy cites eyewitness testimony by a Württemberg officer on the Allied flank that the Prussians moved into position in closed-up columns and "fanned" out into deployment when the columns were in position. Marching across all those miles of uneven terrain in close columns would have allowed them to cover the ground much more quickly, and at the same time, continue to deceive the observing Austrians as to their intentions. And the only way they could have done that would be by executing the flank march ("By the right flank march!") when they arrived at their deployment point and needed to get into line. In his earlier book, The Army of Frederick the Great, Duffy also describes this technique in detail, which Frederick describes as "Deployiren en tiroir" (a medley of German and French military language), a metaphor for pulling out the drawers of a cabinet.

Deployiren en tiroir: A Prussian infantry battalion moving from close column of divisions to line using the flank march method. Total time to change formation is approximately 1:20 minutes (not counting dressing ranks), assuming the troops are hustling at double time (120 yds/min).

The Prussians were highly trained in linear warfare. But my suspicion is that they were also very pragmatic in the field. Abraham Lincoln told a story about when, as a young man, he was drilling a local company of militia. He said that when he marched his men up to a gate in a fence, rather than issuing all the complicated commands to double ranks, wheel, etc. to get them through the gate, everybody would break ranks, run through the gate, and line up again on the other side. I would bet that this is the way the Prussians, for all their spit and polish, did it, too.

The other advantage of maneuvering in close columns, besides the ease of moving across rough terrain, was that, when viewed from ground level (or even a church steeple), the formation concealed the true strength, the enemy seeing only a platoon or two. It wasn't until the column was close up and started fanning out that its true strength was revealed. To the Austrian command, too, watching the Prussians march off to the southwest from Borne in close columns, they looked like columns of route, confirming their belief (or wishful thinking) that Frederick was avoiding battle today.

There is a misconception that these kinds of close columns were not used as combat formations until the Napoleonic Wars; the well-known "columns of attack." But there is ample evidence that the Prussians at least were using them regularly for half-a-century prior.

Everything is Falling into Place

By about 13:00, after two hours of marching and getting all ready, the entire Prussian army was in position at right angles to the Austrian line, about 1,200 yards from the nearest Allied positions at Sagaschütz (see map at the top of this article). They formed the traditional two lines of 18th century battle formation: infantry in the center, cavalry on the wings, heavy artillery to the front. Today, Frederick had given his right wing commander, Zieten, in addition to 53 cavalry squadrons, 6 infantry battalions (two musketeers and four grenadiers) to provide a strong mixed force on his vulnerable right. This was a deployment reminiscent of the mixed force he had first experimented with at his first battle, Mollwitz, 16 years before, with somewhat less success. In front of this whole array, he also assembled an assault force of three battalions under General Wedell, supported by a battery of 10 heavy siege guns called Brummers, an onomatopoetic nickname from the deep boom they made. These would play a crucial role in punching a hole in the Allied left.

All this time, while Charles and his staff were still convinced that Frederick was on his way south, away from a confrontation, Nadasdy, commanding the Austrian left, including the shaky Imperial troops, saw with horror what was really happening. At first the Prussians seemed like only a few companies assembling near Schriegwitz--perhaps a rear guard. But as they started unpacking their dense columns he soon realized, with hair standing on the back of his neck, that this was the entire Prussian army, not a few isolated companies of rear guard. He sent frantic messages to Charles to recall  the reserve (Arenberg and Serbelloni) from the north, or to send him any reinforcements (it was disputed by some of the German troops that he actually sent for help). Charles, too, realized his mistake and sent a recall order to Arenberg and Serbelloni. But the Arenberg's reserve corps was now over an hour-and-a-half away, up defending Nippern from grazing cows.

View north  from the final Prussian jump-off positions. The Leuthen church steeple can be see in the left distance. I am not sure where exactly this photo was taken from. Could that be Sagaschütz in the middle distance?. Photograph: Krzysztof Dusza, 2004


Now, Coach?

Frederick's officers were chomping at the bit. It was now around 13:00 and Prinz Moritz of Anhalt-Dessau pointed out that they only had less than three more hours of daylight (sunset was at 15:55 at this latitude and date). But Frederick wanted to make sure everybody was ready. The last thing he needed was another Kolin, where his enveloping maneuver was not properly coordinated and was defeated in detail. But by 13:30, after giving some personal pep talks to the assault troops of Wedell's command, he gave the order to attack.

Now here is where I have found some confusion about the nature of what happened next. Leuthen is supposed to be an example of what Frederick called his "oblique" or echelon method of attack. What this involved was a staggered line in which each battalion was about fifty yards ahead of the one on its left. The purpose of this was to allow a series of triphammer blows on the enemy. The refused battalions (the ones not yet engaged) would therefore be in a flexible position to either sustain a check to the right hand battalions or capitalize on their success. So the oblique order of attack always had a succession of fresh reserves.

The confusion arises in how Frederick initially deployed his two lines. Several battle maps I have found show the staggered line (the echelon formation--like a staircase) from the beginning. Some show the line starting off straight and then becoming staggered as each succeeding battalion from the right started marching a little before the next. I have read other accounts that have the infantry marching obliquely, left foot crossing over the right in a kind of dance step in order to get to the enemy positions--a peculiar way to charge. It's hard to imagine 25,000 men doing this in unison without a misstep, regardless of how well trained they were.

I have a different, simpler theory (a more "obscure" one, perhaps?). If you look at the initial deployment, the Prussian line is facing in the wrong direction to its first intended target, Sagaschütz (see deployment map at the top of this article). If, however, each battalion in line were to wheel 30 degrees right, this would aim them in the direction of the target and automatically stagger the line in echelon. It seems logical to me that Frederick's staff officers, in setting the end points for the line as Kol-Wustung (on the left) and Shriegwitz (on the right), anticipated the echelon and speeded up the deployment. It is easier to line up dozens of battalions in a straight line than in echelon. When the order was given to march, each battalion simultaneously wheeled 30 degrees right and headed straight toward the enemy. The effect would be an automatic echelon--or oblique--attack. See map below.

The oblique attack. Frederick's line all wheel as individual battalions 30 degrees and march straight ahead in echelon at the Allied salient. Few of them had to engage before the entire lot of Allied troops fled.
(This image protected by Digimarc watermark against unauthorized copying.)


The Attack Begins.

As Wedell's leading elements marched straight at their target (the little knoll on which the hamlet of Sagaschütz sat), the Croatian Pandours (put out front to act as a skirmishing screen for the main Allied line) fled almost without firing a shot. Hundreds of them scurried right back through the line of Württembergers in front of the village, and took many of those "regular" troops with them in the panic.

Colonel von Moller, the Prussian artillery commander, quickly moved his heavy Brummer battery onto the high ground opposite Sagaschütz (another one of those low "bergs," the Glanzberg) and started to blast the Württembergers from close range.  All the latter had to answer with were their eight little three-pounder battalion guns, which were soon demolished by the heavy Prussian ordnance. The single heavy battery at Nadasdy's disposal was not available here. This was still unlimbered in front of the Bavarians farther west, confronting the 41 other big guns (12 pdrs, 24 pdrs and howitzers) that Moller had had unlimbered on the Judenberg. So the hooked Allied line was being raked from two sides by 51 heavy guns.

As Wedell's three battalions neared the woods and hill that the Württemberger's occupied, the latter's Roeder Regiment got off one or two volleys but the Prussians kept coming. If truth be known, this is where religion revealed its inconvenient truth again. The Württemberger's--at least the rank and file--didn't have their heart in this war from the beginning. They had more affinity with their fellow Lutherans, the Prussians, than their Catholic allies, the Austrians.  Württemberg officers admired and emulated their Prussian neighbors. Even their organization, their equipment, and their uniforms were almost identical to the Prussians. Most of them felt like they were on the wrong side in this war. So for Charles to have placed them and the Bavarians (also historic enemies of the Austrians) to guard his vulnerable southern flank was the acme of moronity. This is not even in hindsight: Frederick himself, acting on his superior intelligence, recognized that this flank was Charles' weak spot. He knew the Imperial troops would not stand (just as they hadn't at Rossbach).

The Roeder regiment was the only one of the Württemberg troops to even begin to fight. But as soon as they saw that their first volleys were not stopping the oncoming Prussians, they threw down their muskets and fled, almost instantly followed by all the other Württemberger and Bavarian troops in a cascade of panic. In seconds there was a general stampede. And the Prussians collected hundreds of prisoners, eager to surrender. The bulk of the Prussian line hadn't even been engaged yet.

Meanwhile, further on the right. Nadasdy personally led all of his cavalry (even his hussars, which usually didn't fight in pitched battles) against the Prussian right in an attempt to turn Frederick's flank. Unfortunately, not familiar with the ground and running into the unexpected infantry (Bevern's six battalions) on Zieten's flank, the Austro-Saxon cavalry were broken up and attacked in detail by Zieten's 53 heavy and hussar squadrons, who did know the ground intimately and could take advantage of every ditch, fold and copse. Quickly, all of the Allied cavalry was either killed, captured, or chased off the field along with their infantry.

Leuthen Falls.

Having quickly wrapped up the Imperial infantry and cavalry, the Prussian line moved past Sagaschütz and onto the open ground between it and Leuthen. All Nadasdy had left were his 10 Austro-Hungarian infantry battalions, with which he tried to organize a counter-attack.But these were overwhelmed by the oncoming Prussian infantry and enfilading artillery on the Judenberg. Moller continued to move his heavy artillery aggressively and pushed his Brummers into Sagaschütz , where they pumped canister into the Nadasdy's battalions.

Von Moller's handling of the Prussian artillery at Leuthen is noteworthy. Traditionally, big guns were unlimbered into battery at the beginning of typical 18th century battle and not moved. The drivers and their teams were civilian contractors and once they had brought the guns into position, their contract was fulfilled and they withdrew to a safe spot. But Frederick had several hundred dragoons without mounts. Rather than letting them miss all the fun, he assigned them as grunt labor to manually haul the big guns á bricole, pulling them with ropes and harnesses. This allowed Col. von Moller to move his guns with the infantry in close support, laying down fire immediately where it was needed. Indeed, he moved these heavy guns ahead of the infantry to engage the enemy line from close range, anticipating Senarmont's famous "artillery charge" at the Battle of Friedland 50 years later (a possible, future Obscure Battle I may cover). The Austrians, having left most of their heavy ordnance back in Breslau, had little to counter it.

Soon Nadasdy's remaining infantry was thrown back, retreating through Leuthen and creating a traffic jam ahead of it. Frederick's infantry moved inexorably on.

It was now about 15:00, less than an hour of daylight left. The Austrian command had been frantically trying to reface its army southward, using the village of Leuthen as its new strongpoint. Battalions were forming column and hurrying southward, struggling against the tide of fleeing men. One, the Rot (Red) Regiment of Würzburg, the only other Imperial unit in the Allied army (and, apparently, the only one worth least to the Austrians), double-timed it into Leuthen and garrisoned the churchyard, furiously throwing up firing steps behind the rough stone wall.

Other Austrian battalions quickly worked to fortify the masonry buildings and barns, and a convenient drainage ditch on the north side of the town. The men of Arenberg's reserve command, who had been exhausted by long marches and counter-marches all day, were now lining up in the gardens of Leuthen village behind Serbelloni's remaining cavalry. These latter attempted a frontal charge on the Prussian infantry, but that proved to be foolhardy; the infantry were not intimidated and brought down scores of men and horses with controlled volleys. So Serbelloni, the last remnant of Nadasdy's right wing force, was forced to follow his fleeing troopers. He did, however, through this gallant sacrifice, buy enough time for Arenberg's eight battalions to get into position in the gardens of Leuthen.

Charles' staff also tried to move the only available batteries of heavy guns into the field below Leuthen to try and stop the oncoming Prussian infantry, but the mobs of fleeing men masked their field of fire. The only result of this was that several guns were dismounted by the Prussian artillery on the Judenberg and the guns themselves were overrun by Wedell's assault force.

Arenberg's force had just barely and breathlessly arrived in Leuthen when the main Prussian assault hit them. Some of the battalions didn't have room inside the village to deploy and so lined up behind their fellows. The Andlau battalion, for instance, crowded in behind the Ligne battalion and, in their panic, started to fire volleys into their backs, which I'm sure was not appreciated.

The Rot Würzburgers held their ground inside the churchyard, blasting away at the Prussian Garde Grenadiers swarming around them. Their defense, and that of Arenberg's corps, was enough to grind the Prussian blitzkrieg to a halt for some time, giving their comrades up the line time to reform an east-west defensive position north of the town. It was mostly the Prussian regiments on the right of the line that engaged in close fighting in the town (right to left: Markgraf Carl, Munchow, the Garde, and Pannewitz). And it was these, too, which would sustain the greatest number of casualties in the entire battle.

Finally, after having bogged down exchanging gunfire with the Austrians in the barns and houses and behind the walls and hedges, some entrepreneurial junior officers of the Prussian Garde Regiment, stormed the eastern gate of the churchyard and broke through and swarmed into the enclosure, bayoneting right and left (inspiring several 19th century salon paintings commemorating the battle). At the same time, Prussian artillery brought up close blasted a breach in the south wall allowing more companies of the Garde to rush in. The brave Würzburgers, having shown their mettle long enough, escaped over the north wall.

One of the many famous paintings of the storming of Leuthen by one of the 19th century's celebrated "salon" painters,Carl Röchling. This one is of Capt. Mollendorf leading the Third Battalion of the Garde in a charge on the eastern gate.

Once the churchyard "fort" was taken, all other resistance in the town collapsed and the rest of Arenberg's battalions scrambled out of Leuthen and into a ditch on the north side of its outskirts. Though they lost the town, they achieved their mission, which was to stop the Prussian attack long enough for the rest of the army (which still outnumbered Frederick) to reorient its line from north-south to east-west. It also gave time for the Austrians to amass all of the rest of their guns into a large battery on the "hill" around the windmills north of Leuthen.

It was now getting close to 16:00 and the was setting (15:50) At this late date and under the cloudy skies, there would not be much twilight (official twilight ended at 16:39 for this location and date)so the light was going to be fading fast. If Frederick didn't quickly push forward his attack and destroy the rest of Charles' army, the battle would be a draw, which was something he wasn't prepared to live with.

Lucchesi Strikes. Then Driesen.

While the right-hand battalions of Frederick's line were busy fighting for Leuthen village, the refused left wing were maneuvering around the west side of the town to envelope the Austrian line forming beyond it. They were taking punishing fire from the massed Austrian battery around the windmills, which were, in turn, also taking rounds from von Moller's own massed guns on top of the adorably named Butterberg. Von Moller had also brought up his big Brummers to add to this formidable fire base, bringing the total Prussian tubes to 51 vs 24 Austrian 12 pounders and howitzers. The Prussians were just about ready to overwhelm the new Austrian flank.

Then something bad happened.

Seeking to save the day for his country, General Lucchesi, commander of Charles' right wing cavalry, saw in the dimming light a shining opportunity. The left wing of the Prussian infantry, in wheeling inward toward Leuthen, had left its flank completely unprotected. Seizing the moment, he moved his regiments south, first at a walk, then at a trot. Almost 6,000 heavy cavalry thundering down on the exposed flank of the Prussian infantry. It was almost too good to be true.

It was.

Lucchesi failed to notice one tiny detail; group of officers silhouetted by the setting sun on the crest of one of the knolls to the southwest (the Sophienberg to be precise). One of them was the fat Lt.Gen. Driesen, the others were the brigade commanders of his corps, 4200 of some of the finest heavy cavalry in Europe, hidden from view behind those damned, deceptive "bergs".

Driesen saw what was unfolding in slow motion, and without waiting for orders from his king (whose standing order was for cavalry to attack anything in front of them anyway), he waited until Lucchesi's cavalry had turned just opposite him. Then he ordered the surprise attack. And it was a nasty surprise indeed.

The distance was still such that some of the Austrian right hand squadrons were able to turn to meet the Prussian charge on their flank and rear. And when the first line hit, they held their own for a time. But then, after the Austrians momentarily pushed back the first Prussian line, Driesen's second line hit them. Then the homicidally maniacal "White" Hussars came in, swinging their razor-sharp scimitars. And finally, seeing his own opportunity to join the fun, the Prussian General Wurttemberg's own hussar division galloped up from the south, adding another 2400 sabers to the fight.

Lucchesi himself had been decapitated by a lucky (or unlucky, depending on your point of view) cannon ball early in the charge. So he was not able to lend his legendary charisma to rallying his squadrons. He was now really legendary. As more and more furious Prussians joined in, from regiments that had been humiliated at Breslau weeks before and were here for payback, the Austrians started to give way, first one at a time, then in small groups, and soon in one massive tide. They galloped for their lives straight back through their own infantry on the windmill hill, starting a chain reaction. The Prussian cavalry was in hot pursuit.

The entire Austrian army started to run back toward Breslau in the dark, leaving most of their guns. Nadasdy had rallied what was left of his command, his trusty Hungarian and Netherlandish infantry, to line the woods and guard the exit roads east of Leuthen, allowing thousands of Austrians to escape and holding off the pursuing Prussian cavalry. In the dark, the Prussians didn't know what force this was or how strong, so they stopped.

By this time it had really become too dark to see. And snow had started to fall again, further restricting visibility.

Game Called on Account of Darkness

It was about 17:00 and it was snowing heavily and dark as pitch. The victorious Prussians made themselves comfortable around all of the abandoned campfires the Austrians had abandoned, helping themselves to the  generous provisions and singing more evangelical hymns of the "Nearer Mein Gott to Thee" variety. As I said, they must have been an insufferable lot.

Frederick, for his part, wasn't done. And wasn't in the mood for a sing-a-long. He realized he had an incomplete victory with the bulk of Charles' army making its escape back to to Breslau. He was also aware that his army had performed wonders that day. He was a tyrant, but not a "tyrant". So he called out for volunteers to go with him to chase the Austrians in the night. Three grenadier battalions, the Seydlitz Cuirassiers #8, and a couple of gun detachments mounted up.

He got as far as the crossing of the Schweidnitzer stream at Lissa, a 200 yard long wooden bridge. The opposite side was covered by an unknown number of Austrian guns and troops. His own guns and grenadiers kept up a fire fight for an hour or so, but Frederick called it a night, satisfied that he had, at least secured the bridge. It had been prepared for burning, but all the straw piled up for that was wet with snow, so he had his grenadiers kick it all into the river.

So he went into the nearby schloss for the night, surprised that it was already filled with wounded Austrian officers, who thronged around him like a bunch of fans. Frederick was la rock star, even to his enemies, apparently. But by 19:00 the battle was finally over, even for the king.

Was Leuthen the Greatest Victory of German Arms?

Not if you were a German on the Allied side. But not even if you were a Prussian, either. Frederick himself, not known for self-aggrandizement, assessed Leuthen as his masterpiece and often referred to it later as the battle that best demonstrated all of his principles of war. It was certainly a clever maneuver (very much like Stonewall Jackson's outflanking maneuver at Chancellorsville a century later) and the battle was indisputably a victory on the tactical level. The Austrians suffered a loss of 23,190 men (KWM), almost half their committed force as well as 131 guns. The Prussians paid a high price, too, with 6,382 KWM, or about 16% of their much smaller army.And the Prussian did get to eat the Austrians' dinner that night.

But strategically, while Leuthen allowed Frederick to end the campaign season with a win--like going into half-time with a touchdown (sorry for all the bad sports similes; it's because I'm an American and we like sports metaphors in our military history) it didn't stop the war. It did give him a small diplomatic win, at least. For much of 1757 it looked as though Prussia was about to lose the war, with one defeat after another and enemies closing in from all quadrants. But victory in the last two battles (Rossbach and Leuthen) at least kept Frederick in the game.

As for the Austrians, they took the defeat philosophically. Charles abandoned Breslau and fell back to Bohemia for the winter. But in the spring they were reformed, wiser, and back in the fight. Maria Theresa herself was forgiving and gracious with her troops, thanking them for their heroic stand. She fired her brother-in-law (graciously) and made Daun boss again. And we should also remember that the Austrians were dogged fighters. Historically they may have lost a lot of battles, but that made them stronger and tougher. The war went on for another five years, with Austria doing most of the heavy lifting on the Allied side and it left Prussia and Austria pretty much in the same place they had started (if broke).

To the German nation, however, Leuthen has ranked up there with Gettysburg (for the U.S.), Waterloo (for the U.K.) and Austerlitz (for France). For almost two hundred years, until Germany at last abandoned militarism as the source of its success, it was the symbol of the genius of the Prussian (and eventually the German) spirit.. This is why so many scenes of it have been painted, and the spectacle of pious Prussian soldiers singing hymns on the field of battle have persisted. They used it as propaganda during the Napoleonic Wars, during the rise of Bismarck and the unification of the Reich, and during WWI. The Nazis wantonly pimped the spirit of Leuthen in their own propaganda (even though Hitler himself was an Austrian). Frederick immediately milked it as propaganda for all it was worth, mostly to keep his only ally, Britain, in the war with him (and subsidizing him).

Leuthen was also used to perpetuate the myth of the invincible Prussian soldier, which ran into a brick wall in the form of the new French Army (the same he had humiliated at Rossbach) a generation later at Jena-Auerstedt. But, ironically, it was the zenith of the Frederickan soldier. The battles of 1757 had so sapped Prussia's native manpower, its treasury, and its moral strength that the caliber of its army saw a steady decline in subsequent years of the war. More and more foreigners were impressed into its ranks. Shortcuts in equipment were forced by shrinking budgets.  And, like the demise of the Confederate Army during the American Civil War, the military stars that had led it earlier were being killed off, to be replaced by lesser talents.

Tactical Lessons of Leuthen

The Prussians were fortunate in that Charles happened to fight them on ground they knew intimately. Ironically, at the earlier victory of Marshal Daun (Charles' chief-of-staff at Leuthen) at Kolin that same year, it was the Prussians who attacked the Austrians on their own training grounds.

But beyond this, Frederick's collection and use of tactical intelligence was superior to Charles'. The Prussian King dispatched scores of young officers all over the area to observe and report back. This was how he found out the Austrians had come out of Breslau (he had expected to attack them in their trenches there). It was how he learned about their extended deployment. It was how he was able to discover their weak flank; his officers recognized the Bavarian and Württemberg regimental flags and knew about those troops' disaffection. Using this intelligence, Frederick was able to precisely find just where to hit Charles where it would hurt most.

By contrast, Charles was criticized even by his own staff for not sending out scouts. Apparently he didn't trust what he couldn't see with his own eyes, which wasn't much on the rolling topography of Leuthen. He convinced himself (and his sycophants agreed) that the southward movement of Frederick's army at 11:30 was evidence of Frederick avoiding battle and not moving to attack his weak, southern flank. But he didn't send any scouts down there to follow up and see for themselves. It wasn't until the overwhelming din of the attack on his left that he reversed his convictions.

United Command
Command structure was another area where the Austrians were fighting at a disadvantage. Charles, brother-in-law (twice over) to Maria-Theresa, brother to the Holy Roman Emperor, Francis I,  had been appointed nepotistically, not for any military talent. His resumé was long with experience, but mostly from a list of spectacular defeats (Chotusitz, Hohenfriedberg, Rocoux). To make up for this, he was assigned Marshal Daun, the victor of Kolin, as his chief-of-staff. The idea was that Daun would be able to keep Prince Charles out of trouble. But the two men didn't like or listen to each other. Charles, being an aristocrat of the worst sort, was prone to listening to toadying staff officers and dismissing the reports of lesser nobles and especially commoners.

This divisiveness at headquarters was compounded by the two wing commanders, Nadasdy and Lucchesi, who, though ferocious and able soldiers themselves, tended to fight their own battles on their separate wings. Officers in Nadasdy's command later complained that he saw the growing threat to the south without thinking to send off messenger to HQ.

Frederick, however, being king and strong willed commander, kept a tight rein on his commanders. He was affable, frank, but strong willed. And his commanders evidently worshiped him, feeling totally at ease in his presence. He encouraged his officers to express their opinions and was definitely not a snob when those opinions came from commoners.  Even Driesen and Wurttemburg, acting on their own at the end, were still acting on Frederick standing orders for cavalry; never hesitate to attack the enemy in front of you.

This unity of command and a shared vision of the goal from subordinates was probably the single most decisive factor in the Prussian victory.

Dispersal vs Concentration
The disorganization of all of the Austrian staffs was not helped by Charles' decision to disperse his already diminished force over so large a front (6 miles). Even thinning his infantry ranks from four to three did not help his troops cover the ground, and there were large gaps in the line (particularly around Leuthen itself). Even his contemporaries criticized the wisdom of spreading out your force in the presence of an enemy of unknown strength or intention. It meant that, if attacked on a flank (which he was), he would not be able to quickly reinforce the threatened sector. Daun, at least, had seen the wisdom of creating a centralized reserve (Arenberg and Serbelloni)--this is what saved the day at Kolin. But even this was squandered when Charles', reacting to Lucchesi's nervousness on the right, sent them all up to that wing--in precisely the wrong direction.

The Prussians, again by contrast, concentrated their entire army in compact striking force. Even in maneuvering they condensed their columns to make them easier to manage and deploy. Frederick only kept the bare minimum (four battalions and some artillery) up by Borne to act as a fixing force.

The Oblique Attack
Frederick's favorite tactic, the oblique attack, is the lesson most people draw from Leuthen. All it meant was to attack a weak flank of the enemy with overwhelming, local force, fixing the rest of the enemy's army with a smaller force (in Frederick's case, the three-an-a-half battalions of light infantry in front of Borne). But the real lesson was planning, control, and proper timing. The oblique attack had been attempted by him at Kolin and by the Franco-Imperial army at Rossbach, both with disastrous results. Stonewall Jackson had used an almost identical ploy at Chancellorsville 106 years later (being a professor at Virginia Military Institute, he was undoubtedly a student of Frederick). Both were only successful because they were done in secret and made on a clueless enemy that had left his flank in the air.

Echelon Order
The real success of Frederick's (and later Jackson's) use of the oblique attack was the simultaneous use of the echelon formation. Each attacking unit was backed up on the flank and rear by fresh, supporting troops.This allowed greater flexibility in the assault, withholding successive units to either follow up a successful breakthrough (as happened with the Imperial troops around Sagaschütz) or provide an intact fallback in case of a check. Frederick was certainly not the first commander to use such tactics. He had, apparently, been inspired by the same tactic used by Epaminondas at the Battle of Leuctra over 2,100 years before.

The Importance of Strong Points
The biggest thing that stopped Leuthen from being an overwhelming victory for Frederick was the village of Leuthen itself. Having swept away all opposition, the assaulting Prussian line stopped cold at Leuthen, which, with its mile-long east-west orientation and its stone buildings and walls, acted like a strong breakwater against the Prussian wave. Granted, the village was eventually taken, but it was costly (the majority of Prussian casualties in the entire battle occurred in the assault of the village of Leuthen itself). But it's defense by Arenberg's men and the Rot Würzburg Regiment also provided vital time for the bulk of the Austrian army to re-orient itself and assemble a grand battery of heavy guns on the windmill hill behind it.

Frederick's army enjoyed an enviable supply system. While Austrian troops deployed with the cartridges they had on them (usually around 40), the Prussian army went into the battle with enough ammunition to supply its troops with up to 180 rounds per man. If your army is trained for fast firing and movement, it's important to make sure they're fed with cartridges frequently. Ammunition carts followed the advancing lines and musicians would make frequent runs back to the wagons to bring fresh rounds to their platoons.

One of the main reasons for a regular unit to bolt and run is not that it's scared and has had enough (though this  may be true), it's that it has run out of ammunition. To the defending Allied infantry, it must have seemed like the Prussians had unlimited supplies.

Wargame Considerations

To me, the main purpose of a wargame is as a laboratory experiment to test certain theories; a "what-if" exercise. Wargames whose rules are stacked in favor of the historic winner are not interesting, especially to the side who draws the historic loser. But that's just my cranky opinion.

For Leuthen there are a few theories that might be worth test in different scenarios.

In light of the observations above about dispersal, one variant of a battle of Leuthen would be to allow the Allied (Austrian) player to concentrate his army in a tighter area. There is no tactical or strategic need to cover all the ground between Nippern and Sagaschutz. So it would be interesting to see if the Prussians would have been so successful.

The Prussians were very adept at moving and redeploying their superior artillery. A similar mobility might also be allowed the Austrians. It would also be interesting to see what the outcome would have been had Charles brought all of his heavy artillery with him out of Breslau.

Concealed Movement
The key feature of Leuthen was that Frederick was able to move his entire force in concealment. Unfortunately there is no concealment on a game board or sand table. So a rule that would allow the Prussian player to move pieces in secrecy (off board) beyond a certain range of Austrian units could simulate this. Another variant of this game technique is to provide the Prussian player with decoy markers, so that the Austrian player doesn't know which force is real, or how big it is. Using a variant like this would allow the Prussian player to keep the Austrian player guessing which flank (or even the center) he will attack. Both sides should be able to use "scout" markers or figures to reveal the presence of actual troops. This is similar to the old AH Midway game model.

Orders of Battle

The following orders of battle are based on a number of sources: primarily on that of Simon Millar's book, Rossbach and Leuthen 1757: Prussia's Eagle resurgent and  the Kronoskaf website. But they are refined from Duffy's works as well, particularly more realistic estimates of combat strengths. The strengths listed in the tables below are averages based on these estimates. Unit Codes refer to the eventual regimental seniority number in that country's army (in effect in Prussia by the SYW and not in Austria until 1769). Regiments were still referred to by the names of their inhabers (aristocratic sponsors) in 1757, but Duffy uses these codes to keep track of regiments in his narrative. The number after the decimal point indicates the battalion number for that regiment.


Regimental Coat Color Facing Color Average Unit Strength  Number of Guns Companies


Regiment Regt # Strength Guns Coys
Prince Charles   55,354 202  
Leopold Daun        
Luzinsky   2,240    
Gradiskaner Pandours / 1 67.1 560   4
Gradiskaner Pandours / 2 67.2 560   4
Szluiner Pandours /1 63.1 560   4
Szluiner Pandours / 2 63.2 560   4
von Arenberg   4,592 16  
Los Rios 9 560   4
Bn 3 pdrs   12 2 1
Konigsegg 16 560   4
Bn 3 pdrs   12 2 1
Saxe-Gotha 30 560   4
Bn 3 pdrs   12 2 1
d'Arberg 55 560   4
Bn 7 pdr Howitzers   28 2 1
Haller / 1st Bn 31.1 560   4
Bn 3 pdrs   12 2 1
Andlau 57 560   4
Bn 3 pdrs   12 2 1
Mercy 56 560   4
Bn 3 pdrs   12 2 1
de Ligne 38 560   4
Bn 3 pdrs   12 2 1
Lucchesi   3,973    
Spada   1,131    
Erzherzog Joseph Dragoons D1 377   13
Erzherzog Leopold Cuir C3 377   13
Lucchese Cuirassiers Cii 377   13
Wollwarth   754    
Stambach Cuirassiers C10 377   13
Lowenstein Cuirassiers C27 377   13
Daun   754    
Benedict Daun Dragoons D31 377   13
Wurttemberg Dragoons D38 377   13
Trautmannsdorf   754    
Anhalt-Zerbst Cuirassiers C25 377   13
Serbelloni Cuirassiers C12 377   13
Esterhazy   580    
Esterhazy Hussars H24 290   10
Festetics Hussars #32 H32 290   10
Kheul   12,664 44  
Andlau   3,464 12  
Kaiser / 1st Bn 1.1 560   4
Bn 7 pdr Howitzers   28 2 1
Kaiser / 2nd Bn 1.2 560   4
Bn 3 pdrs   12 2 1
Botta / 1st Bn 12.1 560   4
Bn 3 pdrs   12 2 1
Botta / 2nd Bn 12.2 560   4
Bn 7 pdr Howitzers   28 2 1
Neipperg / 1st Bn 7.1 560   4
Bn 3 pdrs   12 2 1
Neipperg / 2nd Bn 7.2 560   4
Bn 3 pdrs   12 2 1
MacQuire   2,876 10  
Leopold Daun / 1st Bn 59.1 560   4
Bn 3 pdrs   12 2 1
Leopold Daun / 2nd Bn 59.2 560   4
Bn 3 pdrs   12 2 1
Puebla / 1st Bn 26.1 560   4
Bn 7 pdr Howitzers   28 2 1
Puebla  / 2nd Bn 26.2 560   4
Bn 3 pdrs   12 2 1
Arenberg 21 560   4
Bn 3 pdrs   12 2 1
Starhemberg   4,004 14  
Carl Lothringen 3 560   4
Bn 3 pdrs   12 2 1
Waldeck 35 560   4
Bn 3 pdrs   12 2 1
Wallis 11 560   4
Bn 3 pdrs   12 2 1
Pallavicini #15 15 560   4
Bn 3 pdrs   12 2 1
Kollowrat  / 1st Bn `7.1 560   4
Bn 3 pdrs   12 2 1
Kollowrat / 2nd Bn 17.2 560   4
Bn 3 pdrs   12 2 1
Baden Durlach 27 560   4
Bn 3 pdrs   12 2 1
Angren   2,320 8  
Alt-Wolfenbuttel / 1st Bn 29.1 560   4
Bn 7 pdr Howitzers   28 2 1
Alt-Wolfenbuttel  / 2nd Bn 29.2 560   4
Bn 3 pdrs   12 2 1
Joseph Esterhazy  / 1st Bn 37.1 560   4
Bn 3 pdrs   12 2 1
Joseph Esterhazy  / 2nd Bn 37.2 560   4
Bn 7 pdr Howitzers   28 2 1
Colloredo   8,008 44  
d'Arberg   572 10  
Nikolas Esterhazy  / 1st Bn 33.1 560   4
Bn 3 pdrs   12 2 1
Nikolas Esterhazy / 2nd Bn 33.2 560   4
Bn 3 pdrs   12 2 1
Thurheim 25 560   4
Bn 3 pdrs   12 2 1
Kheul  / 1st Bn 49.1 560   4
Bn 7 pdr Howitzers   28 2 1
Kheul  / 2nd Bn 49.2 560   4
Bn 3 pdrs   12 2 1
Puebla   572 10  
Moltke 13 560   4
Bn 3 pdrs   12 2 1
Hildberghausen / 1st Bn 8.1 560   4
Bn 7 pdr Howitzers   28 2 1
Hildberghausen / 2nd Bn 8.2 560   4
Bn 3 pdrs   12 2 1
Erzherzog Karl #2 / 1st Bn 2.1 560   4
Bn 3 pdrs   12 2 1
Erzherzog Karl #2 / 2nd Bn 2.2 560   4
Bn 7 pdr Howitzers   28 2 1
Haller   3,432 12  
Deutschmeister #4 4 560   4
Bn 3 pdrs   12 2 1
Rot Wurzburg RW 560   4
Bn 3 pdrs   12 2 1
Browne 36 560   4
Bn 3 pdrs   12 2 1
Betheln 52 560   4
Bn 3 pdrs   12 2 1
Harsch / 1st Bn 50.1 560   4
Bn 3 pdrs   12 2 1
Harsch  / 2nd Bn 50.2 560   4
Bn 3 pdrs   12 2 1
Wied   3,432 12  
Baden-Baden 23 560   4
Bn 3 pdrs   12 2 1
Gaisruck 42 560   4
Bn 3 pdrs   12 2 1
Jung Wolfenbuttel / 1st Bn 10.1 560   4
Bn 3 pdrs   12 2 1
Jung Wolfenbuttel / 2nd Bn 10.2 560   4
Bn 3 pdrs   12 2 1
Harrach  / 1st Bn 47.1 560   4
Bn 3 pdrs   12 2 1
Harrach  / 2nd Bn 47.2 560   4
Bn 3 pdrs   12 2 1
Serbelloni   3,393    
Hohenzollern   754    
Anspach Cuirassiers C33 377   13
Gelhay Cuirassiers Ci 377   13
Buccow   1,131    
Kalckreuth Cuirassiers C22 377   13
Erzherzog Ferdinand Cuir C4 377   13
Batthyany Dragoons #7 D7 377   13
Starhemberg   754    
O'Donnell Cuirassiers C14 377   13
Schmerzing Cuirassiers C20 377   13
Kollowrat   754    
Birkenfeld Cuirassiers C23 377   13
Kollowrat Dragoons D37 377   13
Nadasdy   20,484   50  
Forgach   5,752 20  
H. Daun  / 1st Bn 45.1 560   4
Bn 7 pdr Howitzers   28 2 1
H. Daun  / 2nd Bn 45.2 560   4
Bn 3 pdrs   12 2 1
Leopold Palffy 19 560   4
Bn 3 pdrs   12 2 1
Haller / 2ns Bn 31 560   4
Bn 7 pdr Howitzers   28 2 1
MacQuire 46 560   4
Bn 3 pdrs   12 2 1
Luzan 48 560   4
Bn 3 pdrs   12 2 1
Clerici 44 560   4
Bn 3 pdrs   12 2 1
Forgach 32 560   4
Bn 3 pdrs   12 2 1
A. Batthyani 34 560   4
Bn 3 pdrs   12 2 1
J. Palffy 39 560   4
Bn 3 pdrs   12 2 1
d'Aix (Bavarians)   5,720 20  
Kurprinz / 1st Bn Kur.1 560   5
Bn 3 pdrs   12 2 1
Kurprinz / 2nd Bn Kur.2 560   5
Bn 3 pdrs   12 2 1
Clemenz / 1st Bn Cle.1 560   5
Bn 3 pdrs   12 2 1
Clemenz / 2nd Bn Cle.2 560   5
Bn 3 pdrs   12 2 1
Leibgarde / 1st Bn LG.1 560   5
Bn 3 pdrs   12 2 1
Leibgarde / 2nd Bn LG.2 560   5
Bn 3 pdrs   12 2 1
Morawitzky / 1st Bn Mor.1 560   5
Bn 3 pdrs   12 2 1
Morawitzky / 2nd Bn Mor.2 560   5
Bn 3 pdrs   12 2 1
Minucci / 1st Bn Min.1 560   5
Bn 3 pdrs   12 2 1
Minucci / 2nd Bn Min.2 560   5
Bn 3 pdrs   12 2 1
Spiznass--Wurttemberg   5,108 10  
Roeder   4,304 8  
Truchess / 1st Bn Tru.1 560   5
Bn 3 pdrs   6 1 1
Truchess / 2nd Bn Tru.2 560   5
Bn 3 pdrs   6 1 1
Roeder / 1st Bn Roe.1 560   5
Bn 3 pdrs   6 1 1
Roeder / 2nd Bn Roe.2 560   5
Bn 3 pdrs   6 1 1
Prinz Louis / 1st Bn PL.1 560   5
Bn 3 pdr   6 1 1
Prinz Louis / 2nd Bn PL.2 560   5
Bn 3 pdr   6 1 1
Garde zu Fuss / 1st Bn GzF.1 448   4
Bn 3 pdr   6 1 1
Garde zu Fuss / 2nd Bn GzF.2 448   4
Bn 3 pdr   6 1 1
Romann   804 2  
Georgi Gren (Truchess/Roeder) Geo 268   4
Plessen Gren (Pr Louis/Spiznass) Ple 268   4
Rettenburg Grenadiers (Garde) Ret 268   4
Spiznass / 1st Bn Spi.1 560   5
Bn 3 pdr   6 1 1
Spiznass / 2nd Bn Spi.2 560   5
Bn 3 pdr   6 1 1
O'Donnell   1,508    
Hesse-Darmstadt Dragoons D19 377   13
Zweibrucken Dragoons D39 377   13
Jung Modena Dragoons D13 377   13
Saxe-Gotha Dragoons D28 377   13
Nostitz   2,396    
Prinz Karl Chvlgr (Saxon) PK 348   12
Prinz Albrecht Chvlgr (Saxon) PA 348   12
Bruhl Chvlgr (Saxon) Bru 348   12
Nadasty Hussars H11 290   10
Dessewffy Hussars H34 290   10
Banalisten Pandours 1st Bn 69 560   4
Banalisten Pandours 2nd Bn 70 560   4
Artillery   644 48  
Battery # 1 (12 pdrs) 1 140 10 1
Bn 7 pdr Howitzers   28 2 1
Battery # 2 (6 pdrs) 2 84 6 1
(12 pdrs)   56 4 1
Bn 7 pdr Howitzers   28 2 1
Battery # 3 (6 pdrs) 3 140 10 1
Bn 7 pdr Howitzers   28 2 1
Battery # 4 (6 pdrs) 4 84 6 1
(12 pdrs)   56 4 1
Bn 7 pdr Howitzers   28 2 1






Regiment Name Regt # Strength Guns Coys
Frederick   38,800 125  
Angelleli   2,100    
Jagers zu Fuss JzF 300   2
le Noble Freikorps FB1 600   4
Kalben Freikorps FB3 600   4
Angelleli Freikorps FB4 600   4
Wurttemberg, Avant Garde   2,294    
Warnery Hussars H3 444   12
Seydlitz Hussars H7 666   18
Werner Hussars H6 740   20
Szekely Hussars H1 74   2
Wurttemburg Dragoons D12 370   10
Driesen   3,700    
Bayreuth Dragoons D5 740   20
Driesen Cuirassiers C7 370   10
Lieb Carabiniers C11 370   10
Krockow Cuirassiers C1 370   10
Gessler Cuirassiers C4 370   10
Schonaich-Carolath Cuir C9 370   10
Kyau Cuir C12 370   10
Puttkamer Hussars #4 H4 740   20
Anhalt-Dessau   15,864 42  
Wedell   1,836 6  
Itzenplitz / 2 13.2 600   4
Bn 6 pdrs   12 2  
Meyerink / 1 26.1 600   4
Bn 6 pdrs   12 2  
Meyerink / 2 26.2 600   4
Bn 6 pdrs   12 2  
Geist   4,860 10  
Forcade / 1 23.1 600   4
Bn 6 pdr   12 2  
Forcade / 2 23.2 600   4
Bn 6 pdr   12 2  
Brunswick / 1 5.1 600   4
Bn 6 pdr   12 2  
Brunswick / 2 5.2 600   4
Bn 6 pdr   12 2  
von Hacke Grenadiers G 3/6 600   4
Shenckendorff Grenadiers G 35/36 600   4
Diringshofen Grenadiers G 21/27 600   4
Kurszell Fusiliers 37 600   4
Bn 6 pdr   12 2  
Munchow   2,448 8  
1 Winterfeldt / 1 1.1 600   4
Bn 6 pdr   12 2 1
Winterfeldt / 2 1.1 600   4
Bn 6 pdr   12 2 1
Hagen / 1 8.1 600   4
Bn 6 pdr   12 2 1
Hagen / 2 8.2 600   4
Bn 6 pdr   12 2 1
Kahlden   3,060 10  
Pannewitz / 1 10.1 600   4
Bn 6 pdr   12 2 1
Pannewitz / 2 10.2 600   4
Bn 6 pdr   12 2 1
Kannacher / 1 30.1 600   4
Bn 6 pdr   12 2 1
Kannacher / 2 30.2 600   4
Bn 6 pdr   12 2 1
Grenadier Garde 6 600   4
Bn 6 pdr   12 2 1
Brunswick   3,660 8  
Kremzow Grenadiers G 17/22 600   4
Markgraf Carl / 1 19.1 600   4
Bn 6 pdrs   12 2 1
Markgraf Carl / 2 19.2 600   4
Bn 6 pdrs   12 2 1
Garde / 2 15.2 600   4
Bn 6 pdrs   12 2 1
Garde / 3 15.3 600   4
Bn 6 pdrs   12 2 1
Unruh Grenadiers G 45/48 600   4
Kleist Grenadiers G 4/16 12   4
Forcade   6,692 16  
Oldenburg   3,060 8  
Kalckstein / 1 25.1 628   4
Bn 3 pdr   8 2 1
Kalckstein / 2 25.2 600   4
Bn 3 pdr   8 2 1
Pr Henry Fusiliers 35 600   4
Bn 3 pdr   8 2 1
Stehende Grenadier 1 SG 1 600   4
Pr Ferdinand 34 600   4
Bn 3 pdr   8 2 1
von Bulow   3,632 8  
Stehende Grenadier 6 SG 6 600   4
Ostenreich Grenadiers G 29/31 600   4
Wurttemberg Fusiliers 46 600   4
Bn 3 pdr   8 2 1
Jung Braunschweig Fus 39 600   4
Bn 3 pdr   8 2 1
Munchow Fusiliers 36 600   4
Bn 3 pdr   8 2 1
Pr v Preussen 18 600   4
Bn 3 pdr   8 2 1
Zieten   7,338 4  
Alt Krockow   3,922    
Friedrich Cuirassiers C5 370   10
Schonaich Cuirassiers C6 370   10
Seydlitz Cuirassiers C8 370   10
Gensdarmes C10 370   10
Gardes du Corps C13 222   6
Stechow Dragoons D11 370   10
Krockow Dragoons D2 370   10
Cztettriz Dragoons D4 370   10
Normann Dragoons D1 370   10
Zieten Hussars H2 740   20
Bevern   3,416 4  
Itzenplitz / 1 13.1 600   4
Bn 3 pdrs   8 2 1
Asseburg 27 400   4
Bn 3 pdrs   8 2 1
Bornstadt Grenadiers G 13/26 600   4
Heyden Grenadiers G 19/25 600   4
Manteuffel Grenadiers G 37/40 600   4
Wedell Grenadiers G 1/23 600   4
von Moller   812 63  
Battery #1 (Brummers) 1 140 10 5
Battery #2 12 pdrs 2 180 15 5
Howitzers   28 2 1
Battery #3 24 pdrs 3 140 10 4
Howitzers   28 2 1
Battery #4 12 pdrs 4 120 10 5
Howitzers   28 2 1
Battery #5 12 pdrs 5 120 10 5
Howitzers   28 2 1


I  have relied on all of the following references in building this article on Leuthen, but the most detailed and revealing have been the books and links marked with a *.

Asprey, Robert, "Frederick the Great: A Magnificent Enigma", Ticknor & Fields, ISBN 0-89919-352-8

*Duffy, Christopher, "Prussia's Glory: Rossbach and Leuthen 1757", Emperor's Press, ISBN 1-883476-29-1

Duffy, Christopher, "The Army of Frederick the Great",  Emperor Press, ISBN 1-883476-02-X

Duffy, Christopher, "Frederick the Great: A Military Life", Routledge, ISBN 0-415-00276-1

Duffy, Christopher, "The Army of Maria Theresa", Terence Wise, ISBN 0-7153-7387-0 

Duffy, Christopher, "Instrument of War: The Austrian Army in the Seven Years War", Emperor's Press, ISBN 1-883476-19-4

Duffy, Christopher, "Military Experience in the Age of Reason," Atheneum, 1987, ISBN 0-689-11993-3

Frederick the Great, "The Art of War", Da Capo Press, 1999, ISBN 0-306-80908-7 

Haythornethwaite, Philip, "Frederick the Great's Army 1  Cavalry", Osprey Publishing, ISBN 1-85532-134-3 

Haythornethwaite, Philip, "Frederick the Great's Army 2  Infantry", Osprey Publishing, ISBN 1-85532-160-2

Haythornethwaite, Philip, "Frederick the Great's Army 3  Specialist Troops", Osprey Publishing, ISBN 1-85532-225-0

Haythornethwaite, Philip, "The Austrian Army 1740-80: 1  Cavalry", Osprey Publishing, ISBN 1-85532-415-6

Haythornethwaite, Philip, "The Austrian Army 1740-80: 2  Infantry", Osprey Publishing, ISBN 1-85532-418-0

Haythornethwaite, Philip, "The Austrian Army 1740-80: 3  Specialist Troops", Osprey Publishing, ISBN 1-85532-4180

*Millar, Simon "Rossbach andLeuthen 1757: Prussia's Eagle resurgent", Osprey Publishing, ISBN 1-84176-509-0

*Nosworthy, Brent, "The Anatomy of Victory: Battle Tactics 1689-1763" Hippocrene, ISBN0-87052-785-1



Kronoskaf is, in my experience, and hands down, the best source online for information about the Seven Years War. Virtually every regiment of every country, every battle, every major personality is covered.

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