Sunday, 29 January 2012


Well, this week we managed to finish off the battle of Paltzig and a bloody affair it was too. The background can be found on the Kronoskaf site.
Wedel had taken over command of the Prussian army from Dohna, who was considered too passive by Frederick. The King's instructions to Wedel were simple, attack, attack, attack! Unfortunately, neither appreciated the fact that the Russian army, commanded by Saltykov was at least twice the size of their own and had an even bigger advantage in artillery.

An attack on the Prussian centre was impractical. A marshy stream barred the advance and was crossed by a single bridge. This bridge was covered by artillery in a redoubt and three brigades of infantry. Wedel decided to move to his left and attack the Russian flank. Saltykov had anticipated such a move and had concentrated his artillery and grenadiers to block the Prussian attack. A further handicap for Wedel was that his artillery were not well placed to support his attack, being
positioned in the centre. Nevertheless, with his king's orders in his pocket Wedel ordered the attack and the brigades of Manteuffel and Hulsen moved forward flanked by grenadier battalions. Behind them the cavalry formed up to cover the infantry's flank and the infantry reserve under Flemming took up position in the rear.
The Prussian infantry soon came under artillery fire, but pushed on in spite of the losses. As they neared the low ridge on which the Russian artillery were placed the fire slackened, but only because the Russian grenadiers were in the way. Now it was musketry volleys which plagued the determined Prussian infantry. However, the accuracy of the grenadiers' fire was not to the liking of their generals; the Prussians halted dressed their ranks and returned the compliment, causing heavy casualties amongst their opponents.

In the centre the Prussian artillery had had some success against the Russian infantry, causing battalions to retreat because of casualties. Saltykov saw that the Prussians were bringing forward their howitzer battery to assist the infantry attack and decided to counter this threat with one of his Pandour units. The central Russian artillery battery gave assistance by targeting the weak brigade supporting the Prussian guns. This comprised garrison and Frei Korps troops and they quickly demonstrated that they had no appetite for standing under artillery fire and fell back to the lee of the ridge in the Prussian centre. This left the howitzer battery vulnerable to sniping fire from the Pandours, but fortunately the gunners spotted the threat and managed to drive off the Russians with a salvo of grape. After this events in the centre were limited to exchanges of artillery fire.

Seeing the Prussian attack develop, Saltykov began to move troops to his right, particularly his cavalry as the Cossacks and Hussars originally stationed on that flank were over-matched by the Prussian dragoons and cuirassiers now advancing towards them. In the van were the von Schorlemmer (or Porcelain) Dragoons. The Russian light cavalry did an excellent job slowing the Prussian advance and just in time the lead regiment of Russian horse grenadiers moved into the line covering the flank of the grenadier brigade. This marked the 'high water mark' of the Prussian advance. Against the odds the Prussian infantry were gaining the upper hand over the Russian grenadiers, though at fearful cost. One of the Russian Observation Corps regiments had been driven off by the right flanking Prussian grenadier battalion and a battered battalion of the Itzenplitz regiment was taking on the artillery fusiliers who were the last line of defence for the Russian batteries.

The Horse Grenadiers and Dragoons smashed into each other and the Prussians lived up to their nickname, being broken and fleeing to the rear. A second regiment of dragoons tried their luck, but they too were trampled underfoot by the Russians. The cuirassiers fared no better, they were also defeated and had to retire to reform. Von Schmettau and Von Normann struggled to cobble together forces to oppose the seemingly invincible Horse Grenadiers; it was vital to try and hold the ground in order to protect the infantry. Eventually, perhaps more by good luck than management, the Von Buddenbrock Cuirassier managed to attack the flank of the Horse Grenadiers and drive them off. However, there was not time to celebrate, as Buddenbrock were in their turn hit in flank by a supporting Russian Dragoon regiment.

Wedel could see the remnants of his infantry attack falling back off the ridge; he sent an aide requesting Von Flemming to advance to support the attack. It was too late, Manteuffel and Hulsen between them had only four battered battalions in the line and these were under strength. The final Prussian cavalry units were driven from the field by the Russian reserve cavalry and a fresh unit of Horse Grenadiers charged Von Flemming's line. One of his battalions broke and the cavalry surged through. Ahead lay the broken Prussian infantry units heading for the pontoon bridge across the marshy stream, all was lost for the Prussian army. Those units which could closed ranks and slowly moved off the field. For Alt Dohna, still fighting the grenadiers there was no escape, the cossacks saw to that.

The Prussians also lost their general. Wedel, waiting for the supports saw some infantry moving towards him from the ridge. He moved to rally them and was taken prisoner by the Pandours he had mistaken for Prussians.
At supper that evening with his victorious opponent he confided that "war is a horrid business, but murder is a good deal worse and that is what my orders today amounted to".

1 comment:

  1. A nasty fate for Wedel - caught by the Pandours!
    Nice report David.