The Campaigns of 1757.
The 1756 campaigning season had been a highly successful for one for Elizabeth, Empress of all the Russians, but over the subsequent Winter the limitations on any further expansion of her realm started to become clear. Money, or more specifically lack thereof, was going to be a problem as war dragged on.
Elizabeth ruled an empire that was vast, but relatively poor, and the two new territories added to it in 1756 were, other than the longed-for warm water ports provided by the conquest of the Crimea, similarly lacking in resources. Two small-scale campaigns, both against minor opponents, and the subsequent crash ship-building program launched in the Baltic as soon as the Crimea had fallen into Russian hands had largely emptied Elizabeth’s treasury.
However, the Empress was not completely without resources at her disposal. Russia’s revenues might be be meager, but its reserves of manpower were vast. What was needed, it soon became apparent to the Tsarina, was an ally with the opposite problem to the one vexing her.
Enter the Dutch. The United Provinces had an extensive overseas empire when they joined the conflict and it had become more so since their Danish allies had seized a foothold in West Africa. With their seaborne trade secured by their alliance with Britain, the Dutch had coffers that were overflowing. What they still lacked were the troops to secure their empire, let alone expand it further (as they had plans to do in the coming year), and still defend their homeland.
In February 1757, the Dutch ambassador to in Saint Petersburg, Count Van Weigmann, found himself summoned to the Winter Palace to meet with the Empress Elizabeth. By the time he left his signature was on a treaty that promised great mutual benefit to the two, vastly different, allied parties.
Russia would supply a corps of “auxiliaries” to the Dutch, numbering up to 25,000 men, and 144 heavy guns. In return, Dutch gold would flow into the Elizabeth’s treasury to keep the Russian war effort going.
The British plan for 1757, was to regain the initiative in India, and to seize Canada from the French. With the co-operation of the Dutch, the Royal Navy was confident of superiority at sea. In India most of the sepoy army that had formed to support the French attempt on Madras had dispersed back home at the end of the year, and in North America an invasion of Canada could be made largely the responsibility of Provincial units that the British planned to raise in their American colonies. Well funded, and with a navy greatly expanded over the previous year, the British looked forward to 1757 with optimism.
If the British were fiscally on solid ground, the Dutch were even better positioned financially, and they improved the picture yet further at the outset of the year by using their sophisticated banking system to issue a "general loan" to the government. Roughly a third of this was magnanimously turned over to the British so that Anglo-Dutch relations entered the new campaigning season with a healthy glow.
Though increasingly out-funded it was the Catholic Alliance that managed to seize the initiative in the Spring. Count Leopold Joseph Von Daun assumed command of a new Austrian army forming around Vienna, and Browne sent the Bavarian contingent of the Hauptarmee to reinforce Saxony against what seemed a likely Prussian invasion. The feared invasion seemed inevitable in April when Frederick himself relieved Keith and personally assumed command of the Prussian Army of The Elbe massing across the Saxon border.
In India, Spring brought a return to the colors of the armies of the local princes allied to France, and preparations were soon underway there for a renewed effort to clear the British off the subcontinent completely.
A French fleet left Toulon, and sailed through the Straits of Gibraltar. Crossing the Atlantic, it united with LaGalissionere off the Atlantic coast of South America. This successful concentration of a formidable naval force in the waters of the New World, was eclipsed by the final fall, in April, of Saarbrucken. The marathon siege came to an end as the starving survivors of the garrison marched out, colors flying, having been granted full honors of war by the French who, having endured a miserable Winter in the siege lines, and likely convinced their efforts had been granted only a temporary reprieve from divine curses, were more than happy to agree to terms.
Russian forces spent the Spring concentrating on the borders of Poland, answering any questions as to where Elizabeth's newly acquired Dutch gold was to be spent. Apraxin was in command of one army headquartered at Smolensk, and menacing Polesia. The Prince of Odessa's old Crimean command formed a second army in the Volhynia region, poised to invade Galicia.
While these preparations were underway, a third Russian force sailed from Saint Petersburg, and was transported into the Western Mediterranean.
Another army went to sea in March. Led by the Duke of Cumberland, a British force departed on transports bound for Canada. In transit men of both army and navy were plagued with scurvy, greatly reducing their strength when they eventually arrived at Nova Scotia in early May. Despite this setback, Cumberland's force combined with an army of Provincials marching North from Britain's New England colonies to conduct a successful campaign, reducing Fort Carillon, Louisbourg, and finally Quebec to complete the conquest of lower Canada in under a month.
In June, Dutch forces arrived in West Africa to relieve the Danish expedition that had seized territory there a year earlier.
The same month, Russia and Prussia activated their secret pre-war compact to partition Poland. Russian armies invaded Polesia, and Galicia, and laid siege to the fortresses there. The Poles mustered an army at Warsaw hoping that their fortresses to the East would tie down the Russians long enough for a serious campaign of resistance to be mounted. They had reckoned without the Prussians.
Field Marshal Schwerin lead the swiftly-formed Army of Poland across the border, earned an extremely costly, hard-fought victory over the Poles at Pajor on the 24th, and entered Warsaw on the 27th.
Apraxin too continued his winning streak, accepting the surrender of Vitebsk on June 22nd and thereby securing control of Polesia.
In Galicia, things went very differently. The Southern Russian army managed to lay siege to Lemberg, but the Polish defenders fought with such ferocity that after four weeks of horrendously costly assaults that had gained them nothing, the Russians called the whole thing off and withdrew.
The Russo-Prussian partition of Poland.
The Russian expedition to the Mediterranean fared better, successfully landing, and seizing Venetia by the middle of July, though much of the Russian fleet was forced to put in to Corfu for repairs.
In North America, flush (perhaps overly so) with confidence after the conquest of Lower Canada, Cumberland began moving his army west into Upper Canada to reduce the French forts along the frontier. The logistics of a campaign conducted over so vast and undeveloped an area proved daunting, and by the time the leaves began (ominously) to fall little progress had been made.
By far the most startling development of the Summer of 1757 was provided by Spain. In the War of Austrian Succession, the Spanish had fought a protracted series of campaigns against the Austrians for control of Italy. That the two nations had wound up as nominal allies for the renewal of hostilities in 1756 was really only a product of the pre-war treaty of France with Austria, and Spain deciding it had no choice but to throw in with their fellow Bourbons in the great colonial struggle with Britain. In other words, Spain and Austria had very little in common except religion, and being allies with France. Over the first half of 1757 opinion in Madrid had drifted around to the view that there was very little to be gained from keeping the alliance with Austria, and a fair bit that might be potentially gained by breaking it (especially while the Austrians were beset by Prussia). The Spanish calculation was, that France would be forced to side with them, as without Spanish naval support the French effort against Britain would surely be doomed.
The announcement, in June, from Madrid that Spain was breaking her alliance with Maria Theresa, and declaring war on Austria can hardly have been viewed with less distress in Versailles than it was in Vienna. The Spanish proved correct though. Louis XVI and his ministers had no choice. They too broke their covenant with the Austrians, and Maria Theresa suddenly found herself standing alone, and quickly facing a new front. A Spanish fleet promptly left Catalonia and landed an army under General Panos in Tuscany. The port of Livorno fell on July 21st, and Panos began making plans to strike North across the Apennines and into the rich plain of Lombardy.
By the end of September Cumberland had finally managed to reduce all the French strongholds on the Canadian frontier, but his army was dispersed in the middle of a vast wilderness, at the end of impossibly long, and tenuous supply lines, and the temperatures were starting to drop in a way that was alarming.
In the same month Daun led his army up into to Saxony, and then into the Prussian-allied principalities of Hesse. That Daun managed to conquer Hesse, was something of a minor miracle in that this was a campaign where everything possible seemed to go wrong.
First, the Saxon contingent simply refused to take part. Frederick Augustus II, the Elector of Saxony was also the King of Poland. A year ago, he had endured the decimation of much of his army at Gollerwitz, and in the preceding months, he'd watched his Polish domains swallowed up with himself, and his Austrian allies helpless to intervene. Perhaps not surprisingly, he refused to have part of this latest venture.
Deprived of over a third of his force before he'd even started, Daun should still have had enough strength to succeed, but the example of the Saxons had a poor effect on Austrian discipline. Much of the army took to looting, and pillaging as the march into Hesse progressed, and the ranks were considerably thinned on a daily basis as soldiers took off to pursue mercenary agendas of their own.
It was thus much to Daun's credit that he was able to defeat the Hessians at Mohrlinden on the 17th, let alone that he went on to storm Kassel on the 26th, bringing the whole trying expedition to a successful conclusion.
If Daun's success brought a glimmer of light to the Austrian cause, it seemed that it would soon be snuffed out by the loss of Lombardy.
On September 30th, Panos' Spanish army crossed the border and invaded Austria's richest province. All that stood in their way was a small army, of less than 30,000, garrisoning the territory, under the command of an obscure young officer, Count Emmanuel Zinnsburger.