THE BATTLE OF GOLLERWITZ - 18th SEPTEMBER, 1756.
Part 1: Prelude.

The fifty year-old Irish exile, Maximilian Ulysses Graf von Browne was a talented, and deeply experienced soldier. He had served his adopted Austria with great distinction both in the War of Austrian Succession, and against the Turks, and he had faced the Prussians in the field before. Consequently, Browne was well aware of how brutally efficient a military machine Frederick the Great had constructed. Armed with this knowledge,  he had used the six months of preparation granted him before launching his offensive to the maximum possible effect. Magazines, and depots had been abundantly stocked, and logistically, Browne was confident he could maintain his immense host in the field, conducting extended sieges, and fighting multiple battles if necessary, until the onset of Winter brought the campaigning season to a close, an event anticipated around the end of November.
Browne didn't expect to bring Schwerin to battle at all, anticipating that the Prussian would decline to fight such a superior force and simply fall back on Frederick's main army. Now that the Prussians had surprised him by offering battle, Browne's biggest problem was maneuvering his army so as to bring the full weight of its numerical advantage to bear. If he were able to do so, the Irishman had no doubt he could crush the force in front of him.
Kurt Christoph, Graf von Schwerin was one month shy of his seventy-second birthday in September 1756. As a young man he had fought, in Dutch Service, at Blenheim, and in the War of Austrian Succession, the young Prussian king had found him to be his most reliable subordinate. As such, when war engulfed Prussia once again, Frederick left Schwerin in charge of the defense of Silesia, the focus of the whole bitter conflict with Austria, while Frederick himself launched his lightning strike against the Swedes on the Baltic coast.
Throughout the Spring and Summer, Schwerin had watched the steady build-up of Browne's army in Bohemia and braced himself for the invasion he knew must be imminent. Such was the focus of the Prussian on the looming threat to the west, that O'Donnell's rapid march up from Vienna via Brunn unhinged the Prussian defense, and Schwerin fell back allowing Browne to invest the border fortresses unmolested, and then combine with O'Donnell at Glatz on the 14th.
This junction of the two invading forces turned the odds facing Schwerin from bad to worse, but the Prussian army had been undefeated in the field in the War of Austrian Succession, and although the Austrian infantry had reportedly narrowed the qualitative gap between themselves and their Prussian counterparts in the intervening peace, the Prussian mounted arm had been honed to the point where it was the best in Europe. Although he could easily have fallen back north to unite his troops with those commanded by his sovereign, Schwerin was not about to abandon the province so hard-won in the previous war without first giving the enemy a bloody nose. He was confident, despite the odds, in his men's ability to deliver such a check, and the days immediately before the battle gave further cause for optimism. The Prussian hussar brigades, reinforced by a brigade of Freikorps Cavalry prevailed against the more numerous Austrian light cavalry that had caused the Prussians such headaches in the previous war. They expertly screened Schwerin's army, allowing him to maneuver into a fine defensive position centered on the town of Gollerwitz.

Browne's army was advancing towards Breslau, the Silesian capital along two, roughly parallel roads. Between Gollerwitz, and Bernowitz the roads both ran between two small rivers. To the west, the Gollerbach flowed east between high, wooded ground before turning north and bisecting the town that derived its name from the river. Roughly two miles east from Gollerwitz lay the village of Bernowitz on the banks of the broad, marshy Schnabach stream. Unlike the Gollerbach, the Schnabach was impassable to formed bodies of troops, effectively forming the eastern boundary of the battlefield. In between the two settlements, the ancestral castle of the Prohl family, the Prohlschloss, sat atop high ground with the family hunting forest, the Prohlholz, lying to the north.
Roughly a mile south of Gollerwitz, the village of Austermuhl lay astride the western road, and it was from the Church tower there that Browne viewed the Prussian army deployed in front of him on the morning of September 18th.

Comments

  1. I can not wait for this battle! I've been getting more and more excited all week.

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  2. The Empress Maria Theresa has lands, and titles waiting with your name on them, Alan.

    ReplyDelete

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