This was the last battle of the Seven Years War in the western European theatre A Prussian force under the command of Prince Henry was attacking a Reichsarmee commanded by Prince Stolberg. The Reichsarmee had the support of an Austrian corps under the command of Hadik. Whilst the Reichsarmme held a series of heights in front of Freiburg, the Austrians were in an entrenched camp on the southern flank.
Historically Prince Henry had decided to screen the Austrian positions with a small force, hoping for their inactivity and attack the weaker northern flank with the bulk of his forces. Taking command of the Prussians I, in my wisdom, decided to attack all along the line, hoping to break through in a couple of places and reach the town of Freiburg.
The Prussian cavalry moved forward to force the opposing cavalry to retire and thus clear the way for the infantry to advance. This was accomplished with some ease, but it brought the Prussians within range of the enemy artillery and cuirassier regiment Buddenbrock suffered several casualties. On the Prussian left the cavalry advanced against the Imperial infantry. Their flank covered by hussars a regiment of cuirassier moved onto the heights thorugh a gap in the entrenchments. However, their progress was halted by a square of grenadiers who presented an unwavering wall of bayonets.
Cavalry cannot afford to be static in the centre of an enemy position and they had to fall back. Prince Stolberg had not been idle, he had moved all the cavalry reserve to his right to bolster the defence. This mass of heavy cavalry was a threat to the Prussian dragoons and hussars on this flank. Trying to use the terrain to offset the difference in numbers the Prussian cavalry charged their opponents. A fierce melee ensued but gradually the greater weight of the Austrian cavalry told and the dragoons and hussars routed, exposing the left flank of the cuirassiers on the heights. Indeed the right flank of the cuirassiers was also ,now threatened, Saxon cavalry had moved from the centre to support the Reichsarmee infantry. Fortunately, the supporting Prussian fusilier brigade had now arrived and their volleys removed this threat
Two Austrian curiassier regiments now attacked the single Prussian one, the contest was never in doubt, overwhelmed the Prussians broke and fled from the field. This left the Prussian left wing totally open to an outflanking manoeuvre by the Austrian cavalry. Prince Henry was already making plans for the whole army to withdraw. It was at this point that Hadik 'requested' the return of the Austrian cavalry to support the centre of the position which was under attack. With some relief the Prussian command watched the enemy cavalry turn and move back towards their own lines.
The Prussian fusiliers continued the attack on the heights, but were unable to dislodge their opponents and suffered increasing losses from the enemy artillery.
Meanwhile in the centre Prussian infantry had advanced and a tussle began between opposing units of grenadiers, with the Prussians discovering that their opponents were a stiffer prospect than they had anticipated. To the left of the Imperial grenadiers the brigade from Bavaria were under heavy attack. Even though they were supported by two artillery batteries they were unable to halt the Prussian brigade advancing towards them.
On the left of the Bavarians a stout defence was being put up by Frei Korps Loudon. Their first volley stopped their opponents in thier tracks
Loudon then followed this up by stopping two cavalry attacks with their disciplined volleys. With Frei Korps of this calibre, what would the rest of the Austrian corps do?
The answer was not very much, at least offensively. Hadik's orders were to 'hold his position' and this he intended to do, but no more. He would not risk his command by abandoning his entrenchments. The artillery fusiliers held an exposed position defending a key battery. Behind them stood a brigade in support. This force was attacked all day by the Prussians, who eventually gained the heights, but had no strength to push the advantage so dearly bought.
On the far right of the Prussian army a mixed force of Frei Korps and grenadiers faced the Austrian entrenched camp. I should have moved them further left to support other attacks, but I didn't. Perhaps it was an attempt to counter the almost universal opinion that the Prussian Frei Korps were no more than a liability on the field and would never achieve anything. In any event, forward they went against a brigade of Austrian regulars behind a palisade. s you would expect, they didn't achieve much, apart from closing up to the palisade and exchanging volleys with the defenders. However, once the grenadiers arrived the situation changed. The Hungarian brigade were perhaps a little overconfident and soon found that the grenadiers were a force to be reckoned with
Hadik's confidence that he 'would not give up an inch of his position' was severely dented and he moved his reserves to counter this threat.
However, as night fell the Prussian command could see little gain for the losses they had sustained. All along the line they had gained a little, but nowhere had sufficient progress been made to claim victory. If the force had been concentrated the breakthrough may have been achieved. Note to diary: remember the principle of concentration of force when attacking.
Denamrk in the GNW
8 hours ago