Battle of Kunersdorf

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Battle of Kunersdorf
Part of: Seven Years War
Map of the battle near Kunersdorf (08/12/1759) .jpg
date August 12, 1759
place near Kunersdorf
output Victory of the Russians and Austrians
Parties to the conflict

Russian Empire 1721Russian Empire Russia Habsburg ( Austria , Imperial Army )
Holy Roman Empire 1400Holy Roman Empire 

Prussia KingdomKingdom of Prussia Prussia


Pyotr Semjonowitsch Saltykow
Gideon Ernst von Laudon

Friedrich II.

Troop strength
79,000 men, including
62,400 infantry,
16,600 cavalry
49,900 men, including
36,900 infantry,
13,000 cavalry

16,512 dead and wounded,
including 14,171 Russians

19,000 dead and wounded, 6,000 of them dead

Scene from the battle near Kunersdorf; contemporary representation
Friedrich, pursued by Cossacks, is rescued by Rittmeister Joachim Bernhard von Prittwitz ; contemporary representation by Bernhard Rode
Friedrich's letter to Karl Wilhelm von Finckenstein of August 12, 1759 with the closing words: “I will not survive the fall of my fatherland. Goodbye forever! "

The Battle of Kunersdorf took place during the Seven Years' War on August 12, 1759 between a Russian - Austrian and Prussian army and ended with the defeat of Frederick the Great .


After the defeat of a Prussian corps under Carl Heinrich von Wedel in the battle of Kay on July 23, the victorious Russians moved to camp near Paltzig. Wedel crossed the Oder with the rest of his corps on July 24th near Tschicherzig to prevent the threatened unification of the Russians with the Austrians. On July 29th, King Friedrich II took command of the corps of the Prince of Württemberg near Sagan and thus had 21 battalions and 35 squadrons. The Austrians under Field Marshal Lieutenant Gideon Ernst Freiherr von Laudon hurried north to the Oder, while Friedrich turned against Sommerfeld at the beginning of August 1759 in order to force the advancing enemy off to the west. On August 5, 1759, the 24,000 strong Austrian corps was able to unite with the 55,000 men of the Russian main army under Field Marshal Pjotr ​​Semjonowitsch Saltykow east of Frankfurt (Oder) to threaten the Prussian core province of Brandenburg with the capital Berlin . Together they had 84 battalions, 60 grenadier companies and 98 squadrons with 79,000 men and 212 artillery pieces. On August 9th Friedrich II united with Wedel's troops to dare a decisive battle against the allies encamped on the right bank of the Oder near Kunersdorf in a fortified hill position. The Prussians had a total of 63 battalions and 110 squadrons, a total of about 49,900 men and 160 guns.

Course of the battle

On August 11th the Prussians had crossed the Oder near Göritz , the cavalry crossed the ford near Ötscher . While Finck's corps was advancing to the Trettiner heights , on August 12th between 2:00 and 3:00 the main Prussian power began its march in a wide semicircle around Saltykov's position through the woods east of Kunersdorf. At daybreak it appeared opposite the south-east facing Russian front. Only now did Friedrich realize that he was not in the rear of the Russians, but against their fortified defensive position. With a loss of time he had to regroup his troops. The plain around Kunersdorf was crossed by watercourses and dominated to the northwest by terrain that was 20 meters high, the position of the allies. It stretched from the Oder lowlands in the southwest, where Laudon stood, to the Mühlberg in the northeast. The Elsbusch in the north-west was passable, the lake district in the south-east was largely crossable, but the crossings south of Kunersdorf were not visible. Between Kunersdorf and the Elsbusch, the position of the allies ran through the hidden Kuhgrund , a valley with rising slopes between 8 and 12 meters high. Still very flat on the southern slope, but rising to the northwest, it formed good cover in the event that the position was shortened.

At 11:30 am, Friedrich began the battle with an hour-long cannonade against the left wing of the Russians. After the first successful attack, which had brought the Mühlberg into Prussian hands, the General Staff advised Friedrich to leave it at that, because the success made a withdrawal of the allies likely. The king, however, decided, despite the numerical inferiority, to seek the decision and to beat the opponent.

Friedrich's planned evasion maneuver to use the crooked order of battle failed, however, and the second attack by the Prussians got stuck in Kuhgrund , which Friedrich had overlooked, in front of the opposing lines. Here the Prussians suffered heavy losses. A decisive counter-attack by the Russian and Austrian cavalry on the worn-out Prussian regiments led to their irregular escape from the battlefield in the evening hours. After Laudon had pushed the Prussian cavalry under General Ludwig Wilhelm von Schorlemer back into the Hühnerfließ, the Prussian defeat was a complete one. With only 3,000 men left, Friedrich withdrew from the battle.

The losses of his army amounted to over 19,000 men, including 6,179 dead. 28 flags, a large number of guns and 110 ammunition wagons were lost. As a result, Friedrich had lost over 40% of his soldiers. The Russians lost 566 officers and 13,615 men, the Austrians 116 officers and 2,215 soldiers.


On August 14, Torgau fell into enemy hands and the Swedes threatened Berlin. The king fell into depression at his defeat and thought of suicide. He had already handed over command of the army to General Finck and appointed his brother Heinrich to be generalissimo . When the inactivity of his enemies became apparent over the next few days and 19,000 dispersed soldiers had already gathered at his headquarters in Reitwein , he recovered and withdrew these orders, which had hitherto had no consequences.

Friedrich's opponents had not exploited their victory to advance on Berlin, but negotiated without result about their further course of action. In Friedrich's opinion the war would have been lost with the loss of the Prussian capital. Relief from the impending defeat he reported to his brother Heinrich in a letter dated September 1, 1759. The "Miracles of the House of Austria", satirizing the numerous wonderful salvations of the House of Habsburg by all sorts of saints, Friedrich for his part proclaimed a " Miracle ":

“I announce the miracle of the House of Brandenburg to you. At the time when the enemy had crossed the Oder and could have dared a second battle and ended the war, he marched from Müllrose to Lieberose . "

Friedrich had meanwhile brought his army back to 33,000 men and had taken a deadlock near Fürstenwalde . Russians and Austrians who had crossed the Oder on August 16, withdrew on August 31 in the direction of Silesia and Saxony. Thus, the greatest defeat of the Prussian army in the Seven Years' War had no impact on the outcome of the war.


King Friedrich II. Two horses were shot in the body during the battle. An enemy bullet ricocheted off his tobacco box, which has become legendary as a result (it is on display in the armory and treasury of Hohenzollern Castle ). Only the audacity of the Rittmeister Joachim Bernhard von Prittwitz saved him from capture. Among the fallen were the poet Ewald Christian von Kleist and the Prussian generals:


  • [Anonymous]: The battle near Kunersdorf, not far from Frankfurt an der Oder, between the united Russian and imperial troops, under the orders of the generals Soltikow and Laudon, and the royal Prussians under the command of the king on August 12th, 1759. ( digitized ).
  • Curt Jany : History of the Prussian Army. Vol. 2. The army of Frederick the Great 1740–1763. Edited by Eberhard Jany. Biblio, Osnabrück 1967, ISBN 3-7648-1472-1 , pp. 530-537.
  • Werner Benecke / Grzegorz Podruczny (eds.): Kunersdorf 1759, Kunowice 2009. Studies on a European legend. Study pewnej europejskiej legendy (Thematicon 15), Berlin 2010.
  • Marian Füssel : Between War Experience and Hero Myth. Ewald von Kleist and the battle of Kunersdorf on August 12, 1759. In: Lothar Jordan (Ed.): Ewald von Kleist. On the 250th anniversary of his death (= contributions to Kleist research. Volume 22). Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg 2010, ISBN 978-3-8260-4273-7 , pp. 137–159.
  • Great General Staff (ed.): The wars of Frederick the Great. Part 3: The Seven Years' War 1756–1763. Volume 10: Kunersdorf. Mittler, Berlin 1912.
  • Johannes Kunisch: Frederick the Great. The king and his time. Beck, Munich 2004, ISBN 3-406-52209-2 , pp. 400-412.

Web links

Commons : Schlacht bei Kunersdorf  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Olaf Groehler : The Wars of Frederick II. German Military Publishing House , Berlin 1968, p. 134
  2. Olaf Groehler : The Wars of Frederick II. German Military Publishing House , Berlin 1968, p. 134
  3. On the losses see Jany (Lit.), p. 537
  4. Christopher Clark : Prussia. Rise and fall 1600–1947 . DVA, Munich 2007, ISBN 3-421-05392-8 , p. 244.
  5. Facsimile and translation from the French by Herman von Petersdorff : Friedrich der Große. A picture of his life and his time. Gebrüder Paetel, Berlin 1911, hatchet. 17 (after p. 400)
  6. Numbers in Kunisch (literature), p. 402.
  7. ^ Günter Zorn: Battles of Frederick the Great, Bechtermünz, Augsburg 1996, p. 121
  8. Jany (Lit.), p. 537
  9. Reinhold Koser pointed to this connection in: History of Frederick the Great. Fourth and fifth increased editions. Third volume , Cotta'sche Buchhandlung Nachhaben, Stuttgart / Berlin 1913. p. 38 out; There also the quotation, Evidence in Volume Four, p. 87. The miracle of the House of Brandenburg was later reinterpreted as the allegedly decisive death of the Russian Empress Elisabeth in January 1762.
  10. ^ Friedrich Benninghofen, Helmut Börsch-Supan , Iselin Gundermann: Friedrich the Great. Exhibition of the Secret State Archives of Prussian Cultural Heritage on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the death of King Frederick II of Prussia , Berlin 1986, cat. No. IV, 52f, illustration on p. 206.

Coordinates: 52 ° 21 '5 "  N , 14 ° 38' 2.3"  E