I was reading my new old copy of Duffy’s “Frederick the Great: A Military Life” whilst on my lunch-break today and I came across what might be an interesting little action that took place at what was evidently a walled town called Neumarkt.
It took place on 4th December 1757 in the days leading up to Leuthen. Frederick was with some Hussars in front of his Armys’ avant-garde when they received reports from local peasants that the town ahead held an Austrian field bakery as well as stocks of bread and flour.
As I read the action, it seemed to me that some of the hussars went to envelop the town from the rear whilst others dismounted, smashed their way in through the town gates with axes and then, using their carbines, winkled the enemy out.
Apparently two regiments of Austrian Hussars make their escape but 100 Croats were killed and another 500 were made prisoner.
I assume the Austrians had at least two regiments of hussars and a battalion of Croats while the Prussians must have had at least one regiment of their own Hussars.
Minor Update: The Prussians had 2 regiments of Hussars; HR2 (Zeiten Hussars) and HR4 (Puttkamer Hussars).
This brisk-seeming episode might make the basis of an interesting little game, and I wonder if anyone has any more detail on force composition. And what a good opportunity to get the Old Fritz onto the table-top for a minor action!
Taken from "History of Friedrich II of Prussia" Frederick the GreatChapter IX. - Friedrich Marches for Silesia by Thomas Carlyle
Found online here.
Sunday, December 4th, at four in the morning, Friedrich has marched from Parchwitz, straight towards the Austrian Camp; [Muller, p. 26.] he hears, one can fancy with what pleasure, that the Austrians are advancing towards him, and will not need to be forced in their strong position. His march is in four columns, Friedrich in the vanguard; quarters to be Neumarkt, a little Town about fourteen miles off. Within some miles of Neumarkt, early in the afternoon, he learns that there are a thousand Croats in the place, the Austrian Bakery at work there, and engineer people marking out an Austrian Camp. "On the Height beyond Neumarkt, that will be?" thinks Friedrich; for he knows this ground, having often done reviews here; to Breslau all the way on both hands, not a rood of it but is familiar to him. Which was a singular advantage, say the critics; and a point the Austrian Council of War should have taken more thought of.
Friedrich, before entering Neumarkt, sends a regiment to ride quietly round it on both sides, and to seize that Height he knows of. Height once seized, or ready for seizing, he bursts the barrier of Neumarkt; dashes in upon the thousand Croats; flings out the Croats in extreme hurry, musketry and sabre acting on them; they find their Height beset, their retreat cut off, and that they must vanish. Of the 1,000 Croats, "569 were taken prisoners, and 120 slain," in this unexpected sweeping out of Neumarkt. Better still, in Neumarkt is found the Austrian Bakery, set up and in full work;--delivers you 80,000 bread-rations hot-and-hot, which little expected to go such a road. On the Height, the Austrian stakes and engineer-tools were found sticking in the ground; so hasty had the flight been.
How Prince Karl came to expose his Bakery, his staff of life so far ahead of him? Prince Karl, it is clear, was a little puffed up with high thoughts at this time. The capture of Schweidnitz, the late "Malplaquet" (poorish Anti-Bevern Malplaquet), capture of Breslau, and the low and lost condition of Friedrich's Silesian affairs, had more or less turned everybody's head,--everybody's except Feldmarschall Daun's alone:--and witty mess-tables, we already said, were in the daily habit of mocking at Friedrich's march towards them with aggressive views, and called his insignificant little Army the "Potsdam Guard-Parade." [Cogniazzo, ii. 417-422.] That was the common triumphant humor; naturally shared in by Prince Karl; the ready way to flatter him being to sing in that tune. Nobody otherwise can explain, and nobody in any wise can justify, Prince Karl's ignorance of Friedrich's advance, his almost voluntary losing of his staff-of-life in that manner.
Likewise, from Henty:
At four in the morning on Sunday, December 4th, Frederick marched from Parchwitz; intending to make Neumarkt, a small town some fourteen miles off, his quarters. When within two or three miles ofthis town he learned, to his deep satisfaction, that the Austrians had just established a great bakery there, and that a party of engineers were marking out the site for a camp; also that there were but a thousand Croats in the town. The news was satisfactory, indeed, for two reasons: the first being that the bakery would beof great use for his own troops; the second, that it was clear thatthe Austrians intended to advance across the Schweidnitz Water to give battle. It was evident that they could have had no idea thathe was pressing on so rapidly, or they would never have established their bakery so far in advance, and protected by so small a force.
He lost no time in taking advantage of their carelessness, but sent a regiment of cavalry to seize the hills on both sides of the town; then marched rapidly forward, burst in the gates, and hurled the Croats in utter confusion from Neumarkt, while the cavalry dashed down and cut off their retreat. One hundred and twenty of them were killed, and five hundred and seventy taken prisoners. In the town the Austrian bakery was found to be in full work, and eighty thousand bread rations, still hot, were ready for delivery.
This initial success, and the unexpected treat of hot bread, raised the spirits of the troops greatly, and was looked upon as a happy augury.