Battle at Frohnhofen
The battle near Frohnhofen or battle near Laufach took place on July 13, 1866 as part of the Main Campaign of the Prussian Army in the German War . In a battle lasting several hours, the Prussian 26th Infantry Brigade repulsed attacks by the 3rd (Hessian) Division of the VIII. Corps of the Federal Army , with the Hessians suffering heavy losses. It thus secured the Spessart crossings and created favorable conditions for the battle of Aschaffenburg around the Main crossing the next day .
In the context of the fighting in the German War of 1866, Central Germany was a secondary theater of war . From the beginning, the Prussian army concentrated its main forces against the Austrian army in Bohemia and Moravia . On the other hand, only a 50,000-strong army under General von Falckenstein was deployed against the West and South German allies of Austria , which essentially consisted of four divisions. The federal armed forces opposed to this association should theoretically have consisted of 120,000 soldiers in four corps . Due to their slow mobilization and the fact that they were positioned far apart, the offensively operating Prussian troops succeeded in preventing the assembly of federal troops north of the low mountain range. Only the VII Federal Corps provided by the Bavarian Army and the VIII Federal Corps from Baden , Hesse , Nassau , Austrian and Württemberg troops were set up. On paper the corps were 46,000 and 40,000 men strong.
On July 1, the Prussian army under Falckenstein, still around 43,000 strong, launched its operation against these two troops. They had marched north from Schweinfurt or Frankfurt am Main in order to unite there for joint operations with the Hanoverian troops . After the battle near Dermbach , the Bavarians withdrew and were pushed to the southeast in battles near Hammelburg and Kissingen on July 10th. Falckenstein directed his troops to the west against the VIII. Corps, since the decision to go to war had meanwhile been made at Königgrätz and the occupation of the small German states was now viewed in Berlin as more advantageous with regard to the coming peace negotiations than a battle against the Bavarian corps; especially since this, as an advance by Manteuffel's corps showed, had withdrawn into a strong position around Schweinfurt.
The VIII. Corps had marched back to Frankfurt after the Bavarian defeat at Dermbach von Fulda, where they wanted to meet the VII. (Bavarian) Corps, and now moved further south to establish a connection with the VII (Bavarian) Corps. On July 12th, the approximately 9,000 strong 3rd (Hessian) Division was sent by rail to Aschaffenburg to secure the crossings over the Main, and later an Austrian brigade and artillery were sent to it. The Hessian troops had previously lacked combat experience. She received orders not to engage in serious combat until reinforcements were ready. On July 13, the Hessian division therefore only ordered a brigade under General Frey to clear up the Spessart crossings at Hain and Waldaschaff .
From Lohr the Prussian 13th Division marched towards her in two separate brigade columns via Waldaschaff and Laufach. The 13th Division under Lieutenant General von Goeben was at that time with the assigned reinforcements about 15,000 men strong, its two brigades were still about 6,000 men strong. She had already been the focus of the fighting in Dermbach and suffered heavy losses near Kissingen . Since then she had covered over 50 km to Lohr in two days of walking in the humid heat. On July 13, she left at 4 a.m. and had to cover another 25 km through mountainous terrain. As with the Hessian troops, the efforts of the march claimed not only a large number of march sick people but also some deaths from heat stroke .
The Hessian Major General Frey, after his brigade had arrived in Weiberhof around 12 noon , sent 1 battalion each with cavalry up the valleys of the Aschaff and Laufach . He had also reinforced the reconnaissance battalion on the Laufach to Hain with two guns. Cavalry and skirmishers from both groups encountered the heads of the two marching Prussian brigades at about 2:30 a.m. After a brief cavalry battle with the Prussian hussars at the head of the marching column under the eyes of General von Goeben, the detachment deployed in the Laufach valley was pushed back to Laufach by the Prussian fusilier battalion marching at the head of the infantry . There the infantry battalion, which had taken up position, delivered a short firefight and withdrew under steady but ineffective fire, also partly covered by the two guns, around 4:30 a.m., while the Prussian top battalion followed them to Frohnhofen. At about 5 a.m. the two Hessian reconnaissance departments were back in Weiberhof, where they moved outpost lines towards Fronhofen and - along the railway embankment - against the 25th Brigade under General von Kummer, which had advanced to Schmerlenbach, Unterbessenbach and Steiger .
The two infantry brigades of the 13th Division then went to rest. While the 25th Brigade under Major General Kummer was actually no longer involved in combat operations, the 26th Brigade under Wrangel was exposed to repeated attacks from the Hessian authorities. The reason for this was incorrect information about the condition of the Prussian troops, which caused the Hessian division commander Lieutenant General von Perglas to give his troops orders to attack. The Frey brigade with 2 regiments of 2 battalions each , a squadron cavalry and 6 guns, as well as the Stockhausen brigade with 2 regiments of 2 battalions each of the Prussian Wrangels brigade, consisting of 2 regiments of 3 battalions, a fusilier stood on the Hessian side Battalion, 2 squadrons of hussars and 12 guns, opposite. At the beginning of the fighting, Frey's brigade stood at Weiberhof, Stockhausen's brigade was only just approaching. The Hessian generals only expected weak enemy forces and proceeded accordingly. Wrangel's brigade was in the field camp near Laufach and originally only pushed the Fusilier Battalion 55 to an outpost position on the western outskirts of Frohnhofen, where it secured the approximately 500 m wide valley and the flat northern slopes.
The battle was initiated by Frey's 1st regiment, previously held in reserve, at around 6:30 a.m. It was advantageous for the Prussians that at the time of the attack the Fusilier Battalion 55 on outposts was replaced by the Fusilier Battalion 15 and a squadron of hussars, thus practically doubling the outpost line from the edge of the forest of the Bischlingsberg to the grove south of Frohnhofen were occupied. The attack carried out by the two battalions of the regiment in the valley on Fronhofen, as well as across the fields northwest of it against the ravine north of Fronhofen, came up against a defender of about the same strength and was repulsed. Even dense rifle lines and the support of the brigade's battery, which was deployed at a height northeast of Weiberhof, could not compensate for the superiority of the Prussian needle guns , especially since the Prussian infantry in Fronhofen could hardly be made out and their own infantry soon obscured the target for the artillery. The Hessian infantrymen advanced over open, albeit undulating, terrain with tall grain. A second attack by the same troops also failed to penetrate the place. Frey then pulled the defeated regiment, which had lost almost 100 men, out of the battle. The four advanced guns northeast of Weiberhof also soon cleared the field and retreated to the Geißenberg, as they were threatened by Prussian riflemen who hesitantly followed the Hessians.
Thereupon, at around 7 o'clock, the Stockhausen Brigade advanced in full strength along the Chaussee towards Frohnhofen. In the meantime, however, Wrangel had pushed the remaining two battalions of Regiment No. 15 , which were encamped on the western edge of Laufach, behind the wings of the outpost position. Again the attack was stopped by the Prussian fire. Several attacks carried out from a deep depression in front of the Prussian front were shot down. The wounded and the dying gathered in the valley. To the north of it, the 4th regiment , which was deployed in the second meeting and swung to the left, managed to break into Fronhofen near the bowling alley. The attackers who broke in did not only get caught in the close range of the defenders in the village, but were also shot at from the north and south by advancing rifle lines and by two batteries driven north and south-west of Wendelstein on the heights. The provided at Wendelstein Prussian Reserve , consisting of the two remaining battalions of the Regiment. 55, then went to the counter-attack and urged the alaq at the bowling alley of the inn Hesse after a short melee of Frohnhofen before the second meeting of the fourth (Hessian) regiment could come up for reinforcement. The two squadrons of cavalry positioned behind the attacking Hessian brigade were not used and returned with the infantry. The Prussian riflemen and a squadron of hussars then carefully chased the Hessian troops to Weiberhof until they were shot at by the two remaining battalions of Freys from Geißenberg and Weiberhof. With their fire they drove away the battery on the Geißenberg and after the Hessian rearguard had withdrawn they captured the baggage that had been left in Weiberhof at around 8 a.m. The Hessian losses before Frohnhofen were significant. The Prussian needle guns fired 175 dead and 394 wounded , while the Prussians , who mainly fought from covered positions, suffered only 65 dead and wounded. In addition, there are 124 captured Hessian soldiers.
The expulsion of the Hessian troops from the narrow area near Weiberhof created favorable conditions for the unification of the Prussian marching columns, and the battle that lasted until late in the evening had caused heavy losses for the Hessian division. The Hessian regiments withdrew to Aschaffenburg, where no provisions had been made for their accommodation. So the next day, when they tried in vain with an Austrian brigade in the battle of Aschaffenburg to prevent the 13th Division from crossing the Main , they entered the battle under the impression of the previous day's defeat. With the crossing of the Main, the operations of the Prussian troops against the VIII Federal Corps no longer faced any major terrain obstacles. The way to Frankfurt and Darmstadt was free for the Prussians . The Hessian Grand Duke Ludwig and his government fled to Munich.
Frohnhofen itself resembled a hospital for days. A group of doctors and nurses from the Hessian field hospital, who later took care of the wounded, found them only poorly cared for in unfavorable hygienic circumstances. The care of the partly seriously wounded was assigned to the local population. It was not possible to transport the fallen Hessian soldiers away due to the summer temperatures and the associated rapid decomposition process of the corpses, which is why mass graves were dug right next to the bowling alley. After the end of the war, the Grand Duchy of Hesse erected memorial stones for the fallen here.
Personal consequences in the Hessian military
An investigation was initiated against a number of Hessian officers in connection with their behavior in the Frohnhofen field. The Hessian general von Stockhausen shot himself after the military disaster in which his son was killed. Lieutenant General Carl Freiherr Pergler von Perglas was dismissed as commander of the Hessian division on August 11, although this was officially done for health reasons. However, the general was held responsible for the defeat at Frohnhofen because, contrary to the orders of the corps commander, he had ordered an attack and after this order was given he left the battlefield. The Hessian War Minister Friedrich von Wachter asked on December 6, 1866 for his leave of absence, which then led to his replacement.
The battlefield today
The traces of the struggle were visible in Frohnhofen for a long time. Numerous houses in the town had bullet holes in the walls, and the old bowling alley was no longer usable after the battle and was in ruins. Today, 150 years later, the traces of the struggle can hardly be guessed. Only overgrown remains of the foundation walls are left of the bowling alley. The old farmsteads were demolished over time and replaced by new buildings. What remains are the grave monuments for the fallen Hessian soldiers, they are now in the cemetery of the village of Frohnhofen. For the five fallen Prussians, a memorial plaque was attached to the village's Herz Jesu chapel.
The inn of the bowling alley is now the restaurant "Zum alten Brauhaus" with decorative red and white shutters, in which there is a reference to the battle: When you enter the building, you can see three cones worked into the plaster of the wall above the counter with a ball. The scabbard of a saber is attached underneath.
- Anonymous: The battle of Frohnhofen, Laufach and Weiler on July 13, 1866 , in: Allgemeine Militär-Zeitung 41 (1866), pp. 377–379, 382 f., 385–388, 393–396. Google digitization
- Theodor Fontane : The German War of 1866 . Volume 2: The Campaign in West and Central Germany. Berlin 1871, pp. 162–171 online in the Google book search
- Heinz Helmert, Hans-Jürgen Usczeck: Prussian-German Wars from 1864 to 1871 - Military Course , 6th revised edition, Military Publishing House of the German Democratic Republic, Berlin 1988, ISBN 3-327-00222-3
- War History Department of the Great General Staff (ed.): The campaign of 1866 in Germany , Ernst Siegfried Mittler and Son, Berlin 1867, pp. 617–622 in the Google book search
- Emil Knorr: The campaign of 1866 in West and South Germany , 2nd volume, Berlin 1870, pp. 283-318 digitized version of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek
- Captain von Krieg: War diary of the 2nd Westphalian Infantry Regiment No. 15 from the Main Army campaign , Minden 1867. P. 64–69 Google digitized
- RM: The battles of Frohnhofen and Tauberbischofsheim on July 13 and 24, 1866, in: Allgemeine Schweizer Militär-Zeitung 16 (1870), pp. 57-61. Google digitization
- Carl von Zimmermann: The share of the Grand Ducal Hessian Army Division in the war in 1866 , (War-historical single writings 4), Berlin 1897.
- Roland Seubert: Friday, July 13th, 1866 when Prussia and Hesse shot at each other near Frohnhofen, ISBN 978-3-00-052810-1 PDF on www.laufach.de
- An unofficial list of names of the wounded and prisoners can be found in the Wormser Zeitung No. 116 of July 22, 1866 digitized version of the Darmstadt University and State Library
- "Frey, Philipp Georg". Hessian biography. In: Landesgeschichtliches Informationssystem Hessen (LAGIS).
- Supplement to Wormser Zeitung No. 112 of July 15, 1866, digitized version of the University and State Library Darmstadt
- s. Wormser Zeitung No. 157 of October 2, 1866 Digitized version of the University and State Library in Darmstadt
- s. Wormser Zeitung No. 208 of December 11, 1866 Digitized version of the University and State Library in Darmstadt ; s. also Fontane p. 171; Stockhausen died on December 9, 1866 in Darmstadt; s. Grand Ducal Hessian Military Ordinance Sheet of December 21, 1866
- Wormser Zeitung No. 129 of August 14, 1866 digitized version of the Darmstadt University and State Library and Wormser Zeitung No. 132 of August 19, 1866 with Perglas last daily order digitized version of the Darmstadt University and State Library
- s. Fontane pp. 170-171