War of the Austrian SuccessionThe War of the Austrian Succession (1740-1748). When Maria Theresa of Austria succeeded her father Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor in his Hapsburg dominions in 1740 in accordance with the pragmaticae sanctiones (Pragmatic Sanction), she, as a woman, was seen as weak, and some other princes (such as Charles Albert of Bavaria) alleged rights to the crown.
In this unsettled dynastic environment hostilities began with the invasion of Silesia by King Frederick II of Prussia in 1740, and only ended with the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle (Aachen) in 1748. After 1741 nearly all the powers of Europe were involved in the struggle, but the most enduring military interest of the war lies in the struggle of Prussia and Austria for Silesia. Southwest Germany, the Low Countries and Italy were, as usual, the battle-grounds of France and Austria. The constant allies of France and Prussia were Spain and Bavaria; various other powers at intervals joined them. The cause of Austria was supported almost as a matter of course by the United Kingdom and by the Netherlands, the traditional enemies of France. Of Austria's allies from time-to-time, Sardinia and Saxony were the most important.
Frederick Invades Silesia: 1740
Prussia in 1740 was a small, compact and thoroughly organised power. The only recent war service of its army had been in the desultory Rhine campaign of 1733 - 1735. It therefore had a reputation as one of the minor armies of Europe, and few thought that it could rival the forces of Austria and France. But King Frederick William I had drilled it to a perfection previously unknown, and the Prussian infantry soldier was so well-trained and well-equipped that he could fire five shots to an Austrian's three, though Prussian cavalry and artillery were less efficient.
But the initial advantage of Frederick's army was that it had, undisturbed by wars, developed the standing-army concept to full effect. While the Austrians had to wait for drafts to complete the field forces, Prussian regiments could take the field at once, and thus Frederick was able to overrun Silesia almost unopposed. His army massed quietly on the Oder, and without declaration of war, on 16 December 1740, it crossed the frontier into Silesia. The Austrian generals could do no more than garrison a few fortresses, and with the small remnant of their available forces fell back to the mountain frontier of Bohemia and Moravia. The Prussian army was soon able to go into winter quarters, holding all Silesia and investing the strong places of Glogow, Brzeg and Neisse. By effect, Prussia had doubled it's population and made huge gains in it's industrial productivity.
Silesian Campaign of 1741
In February 1741 the Austrians collected a field army under Count Neipperg (1684- 1774) and made preparations to re-conquer Silesia. The Austrians in Neisse and Brieg still held out. Glogau, however, was stormed on the night of 9 March 1741, the Prussians, under Prince Leopold (the younger) of Anhalt-Dessau, executing their task in one hour with a mathematical precision which excited universal admiration. But the Austrian army in Moravia was now in the field, and Frederick's cantonments were dispersed over all Upper Silesia. It was a work of the greatest difficulty to collect the army, for the ground was deep in snow, and before it was completed Neisse was relieved and the Prussians cut off from their own country by the march of Neipperg from Neisse on Brieg; a few days of slow manoeuvring between these places ended in the battle of Mollwitz (10 April 1741), the first pitched battle fought by Frederick and his army. The Prussian right wing of cavalry was speedily routed, but the day was retrieved by the magnificent discipline and tenacity of the infantry. The Austrian cavalry was shattered in repeated attempts to ride down the Prussians, and before the Prussian volleys the Austrian infantry, in spite of all that Neipperg and his officers could do, gradually melted away. After a stubborn contest the Prussians remained masters of the field.
Frederick himself was far away. He had fought in the cavalry mêlée, but after this, when the battle seemed lost, he had been persuaded by Field Marshal Schwerin to ride away. Schwerin thus, like Marshal Saxe at Fontenoy, remained behind to win the victory, and the king narrowly escaped being captured by wandering Austrian hussars.
The immediate result of the battle was that the king secured Brieg, and Neipperg fell back to Neisse, where he maintained himself and engaged in a war of manoeuvre during the summer. But Europe realised suddenly that a new military power had arisen, and France sent Marshal Belle-Isle to Frederick's camp to negotiate an alliance. Thenceforward the "Silesian adventure" became the War of the Austrian Succession. The elector of Bavaria's candidature for the imperial dignity was to be supported by a French "auxiliary" army, and other French forces were sent to observe Hanover. Saxony was already watched by a Prussian army under Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Dessau, the "old Dessauer", who had trained the Prussian army to its present perfection.
The task of Sweden was to prevent Russia from attacking Prussia, but her troops were defeated, on 3 September 1741, at Villmanstrand by a greatly superior Russian army, and in 1742 another great reverse was sustained in the capitulation of Helsingfors in Finland. In central Italy an army of Neapolitans and Spaniards was collected for the conquest of the Milanese.
The Allies in Bohemia
The French duly joined the Bavarian elector's forces on the Danube and advanced towards Vienna; but the objective was suddenly changed, and after many countermarches the anti-Austrian allies advanced, in three widely-separated corps, on Prague. A French corps moved via Amberg and Pilsen. The elector marched on Budweis, and the Saxons (who had now joined the allies) invaded Bohemia by the Elbe valley. The Austrians could at first offer little resistance, but before long a considerable force intervened at Tabor between the Danube and the allies, and Neipperg was now on the march from Neisse to join in the campaign. He had made with Frederick the curious agreement of Klein Schnellendorf (9 October 1741), by which Neisse was surrendered after a mock siege, and the Austrians undertook to leave Frederick unmolested in return for his releasing Neipperg's army for service elsewhere. At the same time the Hungarians, moved to enthusiasm by the personal appeal of Maria Theresa, had put into the field a levée en masse, or "insurrection", which furnished the regular army with an invaluable force of light troops. A fresh army was collected under Field Marshal Khevenhüller; at Vienna, and the Austrians planned an offensive winter campaign against the Franco-Bavarian forces in Bohemia and the small Bavarian army that remained on the Danube to defend the electorate.
The French in the meantime had stormed Prague on 26 November 1741, the grand-duke Francis, consort of Maria Theresa, who commanded the Austrians in Bohemia, moving too slowly to save the fortress. The elector of Bavaria, who now styled himself archduke of Austria, was crowned king of Bohemia (9 December 1741) and elected to the imperial throne as Charles VII (24 January 1742), but no active measures were undertaken.
In Bohemia the month of December was occupied in mere skirmishes. On the Danube, Khevenhüller, the best general in the Austrian service, advanced on 27 December, swiftly drove back the allies, shut them up in Linz, and pressed on into Bavaria. Munich itself surrendered to the Austrians on the coronation day of Charles VII.
At the close of this first act of the campaign the French, under the old Marshal de Broglie;, maintained a precarious foothold in central Bohemia, menaced by the main army of the Austrians, and Khevenhüller was ranging unopposed in Bavaria, while Frederick, in pursuance of his secret obligations, lay inactive in Silesia. In Italy the allied Neapolitans and Spaniards had advanced towards Modena, the duke of which state had allied himself with them, but the vigilant Austrian commander Count Traun had out-marched them, captured Modena, and forced the duke to make a separate peace.
Campaign of 1742
Frederick had hoped by the truce to secure Silesia, for which alone he was fighting. But with the successes of Khevenhuller and the enthusiastic "insurrection" of Hungary, Maria Theresa's opposition became firmer, and she divulged the provisions of the truce, in order to compromise Frederick with his allies. The war recommenced. Frederick had not rested on his laurels; in the uneventful summer campaign of 1741 he had found time to begin that re-organization of his cavalry which was before long to make it even more efficient than his infantry. The Emperor Charles VII, whose territories were overrun by the Austrians, asked him to create a diversion by invading Moravia. In December 1741, therefore, Schwerin had crossed the border and captured Olomouc. Glatz also was invested, and the Prussian army was concentrated about Olomouc in January 1742. A combined plan of operations was made by the French, Saxons and Prussians for the rescue of Linz. But Linz soon fell; Broglie on the Vltava, weakened by the departure of the Bavarians to oppose Khevenhüller, and of the Saxons to join forces with Frederick, was in no condition to take the offensive, and large forces under Prince Charles of Lorraine lay in his front from Budweis to Jihlava (Iglau). Frederick's march was made towards Iglau in the first place. Brno was invested about the same time (February), but the direction of the march was changed, and instead of moving against Prince Charles, Frederick pushed on southwards by Znojmo and Mikulov. The extreme outposts of the Prussians appeared before Vienna. But Frederick's advance was a mere foray, and Prince Charles, leaving a screen of troops in front of Broglie, marched to cut off the Prussians from Silesia, while the Hungarian levies poured into Upper Silesia by the Jablunka Pass. The Saxons, discontented and demoralized, soon marched off to their own country, and Frederick with his Prussians fell back by Svitavy and Litomysl to Kutna Hora in Bohemia, where he was in touch with Broglie on the one hand and (Glatz having now surrendered) with Silesia on the other. No defence of Olomouc was attempted, and the small Prussian corps remaining in Moravia fell back towards Upper Silesia.
Prince Charles, in pursuit of the king, marched by Jihlava and Teutsch (Deutsch) Brod on Kutna Hora, and on 17 May was fought the battle of Chotusice or Caslav, in which after a severe struggle the king was victorious. His cavalry on this occasion retrieved its previous failure, and its conduct gave an earnest of its future glory not only by its charges on the battlefield, but by its vigorous pursuit of the defeated Austrians. Almost at the same time Broglie fell upon a part of the Austrians left on the Vltava and won a small, but morally and politically important, success in the action of Sahay, near Budweis (24 May 1742). Frederick did not propose another combined movement. His victory and that of Broglie disposed Maria Theresa to cede Silesia in order to make good her position elsewhere, and the separate peace between Prussia and Austria, signed at Wroclaw on 11 June, closed the First Silesian War. The War of the Austrian Succession continued.
The French at Prague
The return of Prince Charles, released by the peace of Breslau, put an end to Broglie's offensive. The prince pushed back the French posts everywhere, and his army converged upon Prague, where, towards the end of June 1742, the French were to all intents and purposes surrounded. Broglie had made the best resistance possible with his inferior forces, and still displayed great activity, but his position was one of great peril. The French government realized at last that it had given its general inadequate forces. The French army on the lower Rhine, hitherto in observation of Hanover and other possibly hostile states, was hurried into Franconia. Prince Charles at once raised the siege of Prague (14 September), called up Khevenhüller with the greater part of the Austrian army on the Danube, and marched towards Amberg to meet the new opponent.
Marshal Maillebois (1682 - 1762), the French commander, then manoeuvred from Amberg towards the Eger valley, to gain touch with Broglie. Marshal Belle-Isle, the political head of French affairs in Germany and a very capable general, had accompanied Broglie throughout, and it seems that Belle-Isle and Broglie believed that Maillebois' mission was to regain a permanent foothold for the army in Bohemia; Maillebois, on the contrary, conceived that his work was simply to disengage the army of Broglie from its dangerous position, and to cover its retreat. His operations were no more than a demonstration, and had so little effect that Broglie was sent for in haste to take over the command from him, Belle-Isle at the same time taking over charge of the army at Prague.
Broglie's command was now on the Danube, east of Regensburg, and the imperial (chiefly Bavarian) army of Charles VII under Seckendorf aided him to clear Bavaria of the Austrians. This was effected with ease, for Khevenhüller and most of his troops had gone to Bohemia. Prince Charles and Khevenhüller now took post between Linz and Passau, leaving a strong force to deal with Belle-Isle in Prague. This, under Prince Lobkowitz, was little superior in numbers or quality to the troops under Belle-Isle, under whom served Saxe and the best of the younger French generals, but its light cavalry swept the country clear of provisions. The French were quickly on the verge of starvation, winter had come, and the marshal resolved to retreat. On the night of 16 December 1742, the army left Prague to be defended by a small garrison under François de Chevert;, and took the route of Eger. The retreat (December 16-26) was accounted a triumph of generalship, but the weather made it painful and costly. The brave Chevert displayed such confidence that the Austrians were glad to allow him freedom to join the main army. The cause of the new emperor was now sustained only in the valley of the Danube, where Broglie and Seckendorf opposed Prince Charles and Khevenhüller, who were soon joined by the force lately opposing Belle-Isle.
In Italy, Traun held his own with ease against the Spaniards and Neapolitans. Naples was forced by a British squadron to withdraw her troops for home defence, and Spain, now too weak to advance in the Po valley, sent a second army to Italy via France. Sardinia had allied herself with Austria, and at the same time neither state was at war with France, and this led to curious complications, combats being fought in the Isère valley between the troops of Sardinia and of Spain, in which the French took no part.
The Campaign of 1743
1743 opened disastrously for the emperor. The French and Bavarian armies were not working well together, and Broglie and Seckendorf had actually quarrelled. No connected resistance was offered to the converging march of Prince Charles's army along the Danube, Khevenhüller from Salzburg towards southern Bavaria, and Prince Lobkowitz (1685-1755) from Bohemia towards the Naab. The Bavarians suffered a severe reverse near Braunau (9 May 1743), and now an Anglo-allied army commanded by King George II, which had been formed on the lower Rhine on the withdrawal of Maillebois, was advancing southward to the Main and Neckar country. A French army, under Marshal Noailles, was being collected on the middle Rhine to deal with this new force. But Broglie was now in full retreat, and the strong places of Bavaria surrendered one after the other to Prince Charles. The French and Bavarians had been driven almost to the Rhine when Noailles and the king came to battle. George, completely out-manoeuvred by his veteran antagonist, was in a position of the greatest danger between Aschaffenburg and Hanau in the defile formed by the Spessart Hills and the river Main. Noailles blocked the outlet and had posts all around, but the allied troops forced their way through and inflicted heavy losses on the French, and the Battle of Dettingen is justly reckoned as a notable victory of British arms (June 27).
Both Broglie, who, worn out by age and exertions, was soon replaced by Marshal Coigny (1670 - 1759), and Noailles were now on the strict defensive behind the Rhine. Not a single French soldier remained in Germany, and Prince Charles prepared to force the passage of the great river in the Breisgau while the king of England moved forward via Mainz to co-operate by drawing upon himself the attention of both the French marshals. The Anglo-allied army took Worms, but after several unsuccessful attempts to cross, Prince Charles went into winter quarters. The king followed his example, drawing in his troops to the northward, to deal, if necessary, with the army which the French were collecting on the frontier of Flanders. Austria, England, Holland and Sardinia were now allied. Saxony changed sides, and Sweden and Russia neutralized each other (peace of Abo, August 1743). Frederick was still quiescent; France, Spain and Bavaria alone continued actively the struggle against Maria Theresa.
In Italy, the Spaniards on the Panaro had achieved a Pyrrhic victory over Traun at Campo Santo (8 February 1743), but the next six months were wasted in inaction, and Lobkowitz, joining Traun with reinforcements from Germany, drove back the enemy to Rimini. The Spanish-Piedmontese war in the Alps continued without much result, the only incident of note being a combat at Casteldelfino won by the king of Sardinia in person.
Campaign of 1744
With 1744 began the Second Silesian War. Frederick of Prussia, disquieted by the universal success of the Austrian cause, secretly concluded a fresh alliance with Louis XV of France. France had posed hitherto as an auxiliary, her officers in Germany had worn the Bavarian cockade, and only with England was she officially at war. She now declared war direct upon Austria and Sardinia (April 1744). A corps was assembled at Dunkirk to support the cause of the Old Pretender in Great Britain, and Louis XV in person, with 90,000 men, prepared to invade the Austrian Netherlands, and took Menin and Ypres. His presumed opponent was the allied army previously under King George II and now composed of English, Dutch, Germans and Austrians. On the Rhine, Coigny was to make head against Prince Charles, and a fresh army under the prince de Conti was to assist the Spaniards in Piedmont and Lombardy. This plan was, however, at once dislocated by the advance of Charles, who, assisted by the veteran Traun, skilfully manoeuvred his army over the Rhine near Philipsburg (July 1), captured the lines of Weissenburg, and cut off the French marshal from Alsace. Coigny, however, cut his way through the enemy at Weissenburg and posted himself near Strassburg. Louis XV now abandoned the invasion of Flanders, and his army moved down to take a decisive part in the war in Alsace and Lorraine. At the same time Frederick crossed the Austrian frontier (August).
The attention and resources of Austria were fully occupied, and the Prussians were almost unopposed. One column passed through Saxony, another through Lusatia, while a third advanced from Silesia. Prague, the objective, was reached on 2 September. Six days later the Austrian garrison was compelled to surrender, and the Prussians advanced to Budweis. Maria Theresa once again rose to the emergency, a new "insurrection" took the field in Hungary, and a corps of regulars was assembled to cover Vienna, while the diplomats won over Saxony to the Austrian side. Prince Charles withdrew from Alsace, unmolested by the French, who had been thrown into confusion by, the sudden and dangerous illness of Louis XV at Metz. Only Seckendorf with the Bavarians pursued him. No move was made by the French, and Frederick thus found himself after all isolated and exposed to the combined attack of the Austrians and Saxons. Marshal Traun, summoned from the Rhine, held the king in check in Bohemia, the Hungarian irregulars inflicted numerous minor reverses on the Prussians, and finally Prince Charles arrived with the main army. The campaign resembled that of 1742: the Prussian retreat was closely watched, and the rearguard pressed hard. Prague fell, and Frederick, completely out-manoeuvred by the united forces of Prince Charles and Traun, regained Silesia with heavy losses., At the same time, the Austrians gained no foothold in Silesia.itself. On the Rhine, Louis XV, now recovered, had besieged and taken Freiburg, after which the forces left in the north were reinforced and besieged the strong places of Flanders. There was also a slight war of manoeuvre on the middle Rhine.
In 1744 the Italian war became for the first time serious. A grandiose plan of campaign was formed, and as usual the French and Spanish generals at the front were hampered by the orders of their respective governments. The object was to unite the army in Dauphiné with that on the lower Po. The adhesion of Genoa was secured, and a road thereby obtained into central Italy. But Lobkowitz had already taken the offensive and driven back the Spanish army of Count de Gages towards the Neapolitan frontier. The king of Naples at this juncture was compelled to assist the Spaniards at all hazards. A combined army was formed at Velletri, and defeated Lobkowitz there on 11 August. The crisis past, Lobkowitz then went to Piedmont to assist the king against Conti, the king of Naples returned home, and de Gages followed the Austrians with a weak force. The war in the Alps and the Apennines was keenly contested. Villefranche and Montalban were stormed by Conti on 20 April, a desperate fight took place at Peyre-Longue on 18 July, and the king of Sardinia was defeated in a great battle at Madonna del Olmo (September 30) near Coni (Cuneo). Conti did not, however, succeed in taking this fortress, and had to retire into Dauphiné for his winter quarters. The two armies had, therefore, failed in their attempt to combine, and the Austro-Sardinians still lay between them.
Campaign of 1745
The interest of the next campaign centres in the three greatest battles of the war: Hohenfriedberg, Ke
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