War of the Austrian Succession
17 May 1742
Prussians under Frederick II and Leopold von Anhalt-Dessau: Approx: 25,000
Austrians under Prince Charles of Lorraine: approx: 25,000
Location: Chotusice, Czech Republic 49° 56′ 57″ N, 15° 23′ 39″ E
Sunrise: 0413 Sunset: 1946
A Long-Awaited RematchThis their second and last major battle of the 1st Silesian War gave both the Austrians, under Prince Charles, and the Prussians, under Frederick II, a chance to redeem mistakes from the Battle of Mollwitz the year before. For the Prussians' part, Frederick had spent more than a year retraining, remounting, and refitting his cavalry, which had embarrassed him so egregiously at Mollwitz. For the Austrians, under the new commander, Prince Charles, their infantry saw 1742 as a much better trained and disciplined force than the raw recruits had been at the beginning of the war. Each side was anxious to test themselves again.
Unfortunately for Frederick, Charles surprised him with his forces dispersed. The Prussian rear guard of some 12,000 (including most of the cavalry) under Prince Leopold von Anhalt-Dessau, was caught on the early morning of 17 May by Charles' entire army of 25,000, who were supposed to still be two days march away. Instead of providing intelligence and security, as light cavalry would later be tasked to do, the Prussians' sole hussar regiment under Bronikowsky was bedded down comfortably somewhere near Kutterberg and it took a few hours to locate and rouse them for battle. So the Prussians were initially caught flat-footed in this battle, just as they had caught the Austrians at Mollwitz the year before. Frederick, with the bulk of his army's infantry, was at least three hours march away in Kutterberg. Leopold began frantically sending messenger after messenger to him beginning around 0500 to come quick, but many of these messengers were intercepted by roving Hungarian hussar patrols, who seemed to be, at least, doing their duty as light cavalry.
The map below shows the situation at around 0700. Leopold was scrambling to get his infantry lined up south of Chotusitz, but there was some confusion about his orders from Jeetze. Meanwhile, Buddenbrock's cavalry was deploying to the west and getting ready to charge the Austrian left wing cavalry, uphill. Waldow's Prussian cuirassiers were coming in from their camps around Schuschitz to attack the Austrian right wing next to the Brzlenka stream. Frederick, meanwhile, with the bulk of the Prussian infantry was still marching in from Kutterberg, to begin a double line deployment in the dead ground between the Cirkwitz Pond and Chotusitz.
To order a hi-res version of this map, which is rendered in such detail that you can bore down into individual soldiers in their formations, contact Jeff Berry at firstname.lastname@example.org. Cost is $10.
(narrative continues below the map and panoramas)
|Copyright 2013, Jeffery P. Berry Trust, all rights reserved|
|1 This is the view that Prussian infantry would have had looking south toward the Austrian positions as they entered the battlefield on the Kutterberg-Chotusitz road. Though the crops (in this case corn) would not have been this high during May.|
|6 Position of the Austrian right wing cavalry under Lichtenstein, looking toward the Prussian left. Waldow's three Prussian cuirassier squadrons would have charged over this ground from the center distance.|
The Cavalry Debacle
The battle opened with the Prussian cavalry charging both wings of the Austrian line. They had been in intensive reorganization and retraining since their shameful showing at the Battle of Mollwitz the year before and were eager to get payback. However, while both Waldow and Buddenbrock's squadron's inititally drove off the Austrian first lines, the western cavalry battle devolved into a long skirmish with the Austrian second line cavalry, who eventually drove off or captured what was left of Buddenbrock's cuirassiers. Meanwhile, Buddenbrock's second line of dragoons, who should have been support, had veered off course to their left, lost in the swirling dust, to run unexpectedly into the fire of the Austrian left wing infantry, and were driven off themselves.
The eastern cavalry battle, in spite of the Prussian initial success, only resulted in the disordered Prussian squadrons chasing off to the west and never rallying to attack Charles' main line in the rear. Consequently, Liechtenstein's Austrian cavalry were able to rally, reform and attack the Prussian camps behind Chotusitz, where they themselves found themselves sucked into a fruitless loot-fest.
Therefore, through collective indiscipline, both sides lost effective use of their cavalry for the rest of the battle.
Fighting in the Center: Leopold Fights for Time.
In the meantime, Charles began a bombardment of Leopold's infantry south of Chotusitz with a concentration of heavy guns and howtizers. After about an hour of this, he launched his first line of infantry against the outnumbered Prussians. Leopold's battalions, in spite of their superior discipline and rates of fire, found themselves falling back through the village of Chotusitz, fighting a stubborn, house-to-house withdrawal. In the process of driving the Prussians, Charles' infantry managed to set fire to the thatched roofs of the village, helping no one, least of all the hapless villagers.
By this stage, around 0930, the entire battlefield was obscured by the swirling dust of the ineffectual cavalry battles and the smoke of the burning Chotusitz. Under the cover of all this, and the dead ground between Cirkwitz Pond and Chotusitz, Frederick was able to deploy his fresh infantry in a great, oblong square of 24 battalions (about 12,000 infantry), each supported by two of the new 3 pounder guns.
At 1030, this huge striking force was ready. Frederick ordered it to wheel left and start firing on the left flank of the Austrian infantry, engaged in pushing back Leopold through Chotusitz. The grand tactical surprise that Charles sprung on Frederick at dawn was now returned. Completely shocked by this sudden appearance of thousands of fresh Prussian infantry on their flank, the Austrians began to fall back.
Seeing that his chance for a coup was gone, his left flank now threatened, and with the loss of any command of his cavalry from their looting and hand-to-hand fighting, Charles ordered a general retreat through Czaslau. Though he had begun the battle with an excellent chance of victory, and though his infantry had performed admirably (especially compared to their embarrassing performance at Mollwitz the year before), Charles conceded the field to Frederick, who had made the fewest tactical mistakes (barely) and ended up with the last trope. The last battalions and guns made it over the Brzlenka bridges into Czaslau about noon. The battle was over in time for a nice lunch.
A Bloody Mess
Both sides suffered heavily at Chotusitz; the Prussians lost 4,819 (mostly cavalry) KWM, and the Austrians 6,322 (including 1,200 prisoners) and 18 guns or about 20% of both sides' forces. However, under the gentlemanly rules of 18th century warfare, Frederick technically "won" the battle since he remained on the field. This probably felt like a distinction without a difference to the thousands of horribly mangled survivors of the two armies.
While the Prussian cavalry had improved considerably in the year since Mollwitz, it still had a long way to go. It's biggest problem was not in its aggressiveness or charge discipline, but in its ability to retain control of itself following a successful charge. Horses tended to run away with the rest of the herd, in what amounted to a stampede. Frederick was going to have to work on this.
Austrian cavalry, too, was only marginally more disciplined at this stage than the Prussians. In the opening of a battle they could give a good accounting of themselves, but after a victory, they were too tempted by looting the enemy camp to retain control enough to envelope the enemy flanks. While they ultimately won the western cavalry battle, they had no reserves or reformed units to exploit the exposed Prussian infantry's flank.
Strategically Chotusitz was decisive for Frederick in that it allowed him to negotiate a separate (if temporary) peace with Maria Theresa and extricate himself from this first of the two Wars of the Austrian Succession with possession of Silesia, an extremely rich and populous province. He used this two year truce and his new Silesian resources to build up his army to continue part two of the war in 1744.
1. Cavalry Combat Efficiency
In rating the cavalry units for a war game, in whatever simulation system you use, rank both Prussian and Austrian cavalry as either Militia or Green for rallying purposes. If your system gives you flexibility to rate your units at varying levels by activity, both cavalries should also be rated at Regular or Veteran combat efficiency levels for purposes of movement and charging. Once disordered, however, their combat efficiencies should drop to the next lower level, making it harder for them to reform.
2. Austrian Infantry Rating
In the year since the disaster of Mollwitz, the Austrian infantry had much improved. Though it still had perhaps 1/3 the rate of fire of the Prussians with their iron ramrods (the Austrians used birch ramrods to load their muskets, which had a tendency to break if used in haste), and was deployed in the less efficient four rank line (vs the Prussian three ranks), it still managed to push back the Prussians. So, in rating the Austrian infantry vis-a-vis the Prussians, one could rank them as more or less equivalent in combat efficiency (though with a slower rate of fire).
The Austrian infantry at this date, too, did not employ cadenced marching, which meant that their movement and change of formation was more likely to disrupt their ranks. So whatever mechanism the game engine employs to simulate the risk of disruption from movement should be heightened for Austrian troops. Either that or one can simply reduce the movement rates by half for the Austrians, simulating frequent stops to dress the ranks.
3. The Timely Arrival of Frederick
One of the controversies about this battle is why it took Frederick so long to get the bulk of his army the seven miles from Kutterberg in spite of Leopold's urgent messages to come quickly. One theory is that the Austrian hussar patrols were so thick that all but one of the messengers were intercepted, preventing Frederick from getting word.
Another is that even though under normal marching speed, someone could have walked the seven miles in a little under two hours, this wouldn't have accounted for the much greater amount of time it would take to issue orders, assemble the troops (in some cases, find where they were camped), form them up and get them under way. In the days before radio, all messages and orders had to be conveyed paper or word of mouth, and delivered by horse. Since Frederick wasn't expecting to have to counter-march, much less fight a battle, he had probably allowed his own force to become lax and dispersed.
To simulate this unknown, one an generate a randomizing element (dice, for instance) each turn after 0700 to see if the lead elements of Frederick's infantry appear on the northwestern edge of the map/board.
My sand table model of Chotusitz with 5 mm (1:300 scale) figures. Ground scale 1:1500.
Copyright 2013, Jeffery P. Berry Trust. All rights reserved. No part of this site may be reproduced or re-posted without permission the the Jeffery P. Berry Trust. However, feel free to link to this site from other, related sites for the purposes of sharing information.
Duffy, Christopher, "The Army of Frederick the Great", Emperor Press, ISBN 1-883476-02-X
Duffy, Christopher, "Frederick the Great: A Military Life", Routledge, ISBN 0-415-00276-1
Duffy, Christopher, "The Army of Maria Theresa", Terence Wise, ISBN 0-7153-7387-0
Asprey, Robert, "Frederick the Great: A Magnificent Enigma", Ticknor & Fields, ISBN 0-89919-352-8
Nosworthy, Brent, "The Anatomy of Victory: Battle Tactics 1689-1763" Hippocrene, ISBN0-87052-785-1
Map ReferenceA Google Maps view of the battlefield can be found by searching for Chotusice, Czech Republic. This is one of those areas that is covered in high resolution detail. You will see, though, that while the countryside and villages look pretty much as they must have looked 270 years ago, the central area of the battlefield is currently the site of a decommissioned Soviet air base.
Chotusitz Orders of Battle
These orders of battle were derived from Christopher Duffy's "The Army of Frederick the Great" and his "Frederick the Great: A Military Life". Individual unit strengths are averages from the reported gross strength of each army.
While it is reported that the Austrians had 29,000 in the battle, Duffy's report of 3,000 hussars greatly exceeded those two regiments described as actually being present, so that the lower number here was probably the result of most of the hussars being detached before the battle. The 2,500 Pandours and Warasdiner Croats are also not mentioned as participating directly in any of the researched narratives. So the actual Austrian combatants may have been about the same strength as the Prussians.
|IR# 7 Brauns-Bevern / 1||7.1||515||4|
|IR# 7 Brauns-Bevern / 2||7.2||515||4|
|Regt 3 pdrs||30||4||1|
|IR# 30 Jeetze / 1||30.1||515||4|
|IR# 30 Jeetze / 2||30.2||515||4|
|Regt 3 pdrs||31||4||1|
|IR# 10 Anhalt-Dessau / 1||10.1||515||4|
|IR# 10 Anhalt-Dessau / 2||10.2||515||4|
|Regt 3 pdrs||30||4||1|
|IR 2 Roeder / 1||2.1||515||4|
|IR 2 Roeder / 2||2.2||515||4|
|Regt 3 pdrs||27||4||1|
|Kanitz Grenadiers 11/14||512||4|
|Jeetze Grenadiers / 12/17||512||4|
|Hagen Grenadiers / 5/20||512||4|
|Uchlander Grendaders/ 7/19||512||4|
|Itzenplitz Grrendadiers / 8/24||512||4|
|IR# 34 Pr Ferdinand / 1||34.1||515||4|
|IR# 34 Pr Ferdinand / 2||34.2||515||4|
|Regt 3 pdrs||30||4||1|
|IR# 4 Groeben / 1||4.1||515||4|
|IR# 4 Groeben / 2||4.2||515||4|
|Regt 3 pdrs||28||4||1|
|IR# 16 Flanss / 1||16.1||515||4|
|IR# 16 Flanss / 2||16.2||515||4|
|Regt 3 pdrs||27||4||1|
|IR# 15 Garde / 1||15.1||515||4|
|IR# 15 Garde / 2||15.2||515||4|
|IR# 15 Garde / 3||15.3||515||4|
|Regt 3 pdrs||39||6||1|
|IR# 14 Lehwaldt / 1||14.1||515||4|
|IR# 14 Lehwaldt / 2||14.2||515||4|
|Regt 3 pdrs||29||4||1|
|IR# 29 Jung-Borcke / 1||29.1||515||4|
|IR# 29 Jung-Borcke / 2||29.2||515||4|
|Regt 3 pdrs||29||4||1|
|IR# 24 Alt-Schwerin / 1||24.1||515||4|
|IR# 24 Alt-Schwerin / 2||24.2||515||4|
|Regt 3 pdrs||30||4||1|
|IR# 17 La Motte / 1||17.1||515||4|
|IR# 17 La Motte / 2||17.2||515||4|
|Regt 3 pdrs||31||4||1|
|IR# 11 Holstein-Beck||11||515||4|
|Regt 3 pdrs||14||2||1|
|IR# 27 Prinz Leopold / 1||27.1||515||4|
|IR# 27 Prinz Leopold / 2||27.2||515||4|
|Regt 3 pdrs||27||4||1|
|CR# 8 Rochow||C 8||500||10|
|CR# 4 Gessler||C4||500||10|
|CR# 9 Mollendorff||C 9||500||10|
|CR# 1 Buddenbrock||C 1||500||10|
|DR# 3 Rothenburg||D 3||500||10|
|DR# 5 Bayreuth / 5-10 Sdns||D 5||500||10|
|CR# 7 Bredow / 1||C 7||500||10|
|CR# 12 Alt-Waldow / 1||C 12||500||10|
|CR# 2 Pr v Preussen / 1||C 2||500||10|
|DR# 5 Bayreuth||D 5||500||10|
|DR# 7 Roehol||D 7||1000||20|
|Grune Husaren||H 1||1000||20|
|Bty 1 24 pdrs||1||100||4||1|
|Bty 2 12 pdrs||2||180||10||5|
|Bty 2 6 pdrs||3||180||10||5|
|Lubomirski Cuir Regt||C29||580||13|
|Hohenambs Cuir Regt||C4||580||13|
|Lothringen bn artillery||16||2||1|
|Waldeck / 1||35||516||5|
|Waldeck / 2||516||5|
|Waldeck / 3||516||5|
|Waldeck bn artillery||16||4||2|
|Leopold Daun / 1||45||516||5|
|Leopold Daun / 2||516||5|
|Leopold Daun / 3||516||5|
|Daun bn atillery||16||4||2|
|Stahremberg / 1||24||516||5|
|Stahremberg / 2||516||5|
|Stahremberg / 3||516||5|
|Stahremberg bn artillery||16||4||2|
|Grunne / 1||26||516||5|
|Grunne / 2||516||5|
|Grunne / 3||516||5|
|Grunne bn artillery||16||4||2|
|Moltke / 1||13||516||5|
|Moltke / 2||516||5|
|Moltke / 3||516||5|
|Moltke bn artillery||16||2||1|
|Prinz Karl Lothringen||3||695||5|
|Pr Karl gun||16||1||1|
|Harrach / 1||47||516||5|
|Harrach / 2||516||5|
|Harrach / 3||516||5|
|Harrach bn artillery||16||2||1|
|Koenigsegg-Rothenfels / 1||16||516||5|
|Koenigsegg-Rothenfels / 2||516||5|
|Koenigsegg-Rothenfels / 3||516||5|
|Rothenfels bn artillery||16||2||1|
|Biberstein bn artillery||16||2||1|
|Palffy / 1||19||516||5|
|Palffy / 2||516||5|
|Palffy / 3||516||5|
|Palffy bn artillery||16||2||1|
|Vette bn gun||8||1||1|
|Thungen bn artillery||8||1||1|
|Birkenfeld Cuir Regt||C23||580||13|
|Palffy Cuir Regt||C8||580||13|
|Podstatzky Cuir Regt||Ciii||580||13|
|Diemar Cuir Regt||C33||580||13|