Battle of Hochkirch
In the Battle of Hochkirch on October 14, 1758, the Imperial Austrian Army under the command of Field Marshal Leopold Joseph Graf Daun attacked the Prussian army camp near Bautzen (Hochkirch is 10 km east of the city in the direction of Görlitz ) in Saxony in a night battle . This battle of the Seven Years' War went down in history as the second personal defeat of Frederick the Great ; Their outcome, which was unfortunate for Prussia, is to a large extent attributed to the king's lack of caution in choosing the camp site.
Course of the battle
Frederick the Great, whose tendency to “battalion” was not only met with reluctance by his brother and harshest critic Prince Heinrich of Prussia (in the middle of the 18th century, given the tight logistical conditions, a succession of five major battles within a year was considered quick and unusual ), pursued the plan to bring about a decision against the Austrians as soon as possible following the expulsion of the Russians from the Mark ( Battle of Zorndorf ). Some historians reasonably plausibly attribute the extremely risky choice of location the night before Hochkirch to this: The king, for his part, wanted to take the Austrians by surprise, but did not expect them to be able to forestall his attack , especially at the instigation of the capable and committed Gideon Ernst von Laudon . The fact that the Prussian field camp was also located directly between the Austrians and the Görlitz depot only made an Austrian preventive strike even more likely.
On the night of October 14, around five in the morning, the surprise attack by Austro-Hungarian Pandours began on the Prussian positions. Hundreds were still asleep when parts of the camp were overrun by enemy soldiers. The Prussians' rapidly improvised line of defense could only offer temporary resistance. It was mainly thanks to the cavalry generals Hans Joachim von Zieten and Friedrich Wilhelm von Seydlitz that a reasonably orderly retreat succeeded. Because they had - contrary to the advice of the king - insisted that the horses of their units also be saddled at night, probably in anticipation of the impending danger. Seydlitz himself is said to have said before the battle that the Austrians deserved to be hanged if they did not attack the Prussians in such a favorable situation. Meanwhile, numerous units, in particular the infantry regiments Prince of Prussia, Prince Heinrich, von Geist and von Anhalt, fought for bare survival. A violent cannonade unfolded in the darkness, pushing parts of the Prussian infantry towards the Hochkirch cemetery. There, the 2nd Battalion of Infantry Regiment No. 19, Margrave Karl, under his commander Major von Langen, offered bitter resistance. (Friedrich had the battalion commander, who had died eleven days after the battle his numerous injuries, an honorable literary memorial erected.) After several hours of desperate resistance, the melted battalion had to surrender to the enemy. In view of the not inconsiderable losses of his own, Marshal Daun refrained from pursuing his opponents.
Even though his horse had been hit by a musket ball, Friedrich managed to order an orderly and successful retreat into a safe defensive position under enemy fire. This prevented the Austrians from winning completely.
The battle of Hochkirch did not put Prussia in existential danger. For the Austrians initially refrained from pursuing their offensive, probably also because the main Prussian power was still too powerful and extensive for a final blow to destroy. However, it marked a further turning point in the course of the war: From now on Friedrich and his grenadiers were finally from hunter to hunted, the danger of mutual embrace by the Russian army in the north and the Austrians in the south was omnipresent, and any success could only be seen as a starting point for a new defensive action can be used.
In addition, the battle had cost the lives of two important military leaders: Field Marshal General James Keith , a Scottish emigrant and close friend of the monarch, was fatally wounded in the Austrian attack. After the battle, the Austrians laid out his body with all honors in the church of Hochkirch and then buried it there. Field Marshal Prince Moritz von Anhalt-Dessau was seriously wounded and taken prisoner; Although he was released the following year, an infection caused by the injury to his hand tied him to the bedside until he died in 1760 after a long illness without having previously returned to work.
The Prussians subsequently tried to translate their devastating military defeat into a moral victory, because despite the completely surprising night attack by the Austrians they had managed to retreat in an orderly manner and inflicted severe damage on the enemy.
- The Battle of Hohkirch in Upper Lusatia between the Imperial-Royal troops, led by Field Marshal Count Von Daun, and the Royal Prussians, under the orders of the King, on October 14th, 1758 ( digitized version of the Saxon State and University Library Dresden).
- Carl Daniel Küster: The Prussian field preacher Küster, fragment of his campaign life in the Seven Years' War. (It contains the description of the Hochkircher night battle in 1758; with some preceding and following war events and comments.) 2nd, corrected and greatly increased edition, Matzdorff, Berlin 1791 ( full text ).
- Andreas Bensch (ed.): The fight for Hochkirch 1758. Local history factual report on the events of October 14, 1758 . Self-published, Bautzen, 4th edition 2007.
- Sam Coull: And nothing but my sword. The life of Field Marshal General Jakob Keith . Lausitzer printing and publishing house, Bautzen and Hochkirch 2007, ISBN 978-3-930625-42-0 .
- Joachim Engelmann, Günter Dorn: The battles of Frederick the Great. Leadership, course, battle scenes, outlines, maps . Podzun-Pallas, Friedberg 1986, ISBN 3-7909-0275-6 .
- Marian Füssel: The culture of defeat. Perception and representation of a battle of the Seven Years' War using the example of Hochkirch in 1758 . In: Sven Externbrink (ed.): The Seven Years War (1756–1763). A European World War in the Age of Enlightenment . Akademie-Verlag, Berlin 2011, ISBN 978-3-05-004310-4 , pp. 261-273.
- Lars-Gunter Schier: The victory medals for the battles of Hochkirch and Bautzen . In: Derselbe (Ed.): Studies on Upper Lusatian Numismatics. Monetary history - municipal coins - medals - securities - numismatists (= Krobnitzer Hefte, No. 8). Schlesisch-Oberlausitzer-Museumsverbund, Krobnitz 2015, ISBN 978-3-9815952-3-9 , pp. 131–150.
- Christopher Clark : Prussia rise and fall. 1600-1947 . Deutsche Verlags Anstalt, Munich 2008 (8th edition), p. 246.