Monday, October 10, 2016

Day 7: Torgau

The church at Elsnig where Frederick recovered from being hit by a spent musket ball during the battle of Torgau.

We travelled northwest of Dresden today to visit the site of the Battle of Torgau, fought in 1760 between Frederick of Prussia and Leopold Daun of Austria. It was a bit rainy today so most of my battlefield pictures were taken on my iPhone so as to keep my iPad dry. I will have to transfer photos from the phone to the pad at a later date. I did manage to snap a few pix from the bus towards the end of the visit.

Torgau was one of the Prussian depots on the Elbe River and the site of the last piece of high ground before the terrain opened up into the flat Northern German Plain that extends all the way to the North and Baltic Seas. So Torgau had double strategic importances to Frederick. Frederick borrowed the Austrian style of attacking in various columns all timed to arrive at the Austrian position at the same time. This was a departure from the usual Prussian tactics. Three columns were designated to march from the south, through the woods, north of the Austrian deployment on the Torgau ridge and hopefully catch the Austrians by surprise with an attack in the rear. Daun sensed this and shifted the facing of his army to the north.

Meanwhile, Zieten's corps remained south of the ridge and was supposed to pin the Austrians in place, but this did not happen as noted above with Daun's redeployment.

So Fredererick's army emerged from the woods and to his horror he found that he was looking down the barrels of the Austrian artillery. He had no idea where Zieten was and since he was committed to battle, the attack was launched, spearheaded by nearly all of his grenadier battalions.

The terrain of Torgau is such that one cannot hear the sound of battle from one side of the plateau to the other, so Zieten could not hear that Frederick had started the battle. The Prussians were getting slaughtered, but they kept on attacking. At one point, Frederick was hit by a musket ball, which knocked him senseless ( no, he did not run away from the battle as some pro Austrian writers might suggest) and he was removed to the church at Elsnig to recover.

Meanwhile, Zieten finally arrived in the rear of the Austrian position, via the town of Suptitz. One of his aides found a causeway through the mashy ground in the area and so the Prussians advanced forward. Additional luck came in the form of a re-entrant that obscured the Prussians from the Austrians up on the plateau. Thus did the Prussians arrive on the plateau late in the day and cause the Austrians to retire from the battlefield. It was a tactical and Pyrrhic victory for the Prussians, but the losses were staggering.

Door to the Elsnig church

The causeway near Suptitz where Zieten's corps traversed when it snuck into the rear of the Austrian lines.

A view of the open ground at Torgau showing the slight rise of the plateau where the Austrian army deployed. I believe that this where Frederick's grenadiers attacked and were massacred by the Austrian artillery.

Typical farmhouse construction of the 18th Century, for those who would like to build models.

One interesting note about the battle, the Austrians expended nearly all of their ammunition by the conclusion of the battle and thus were not able to fire at Zieten's corps when it arrived at the end of the battle.



  1. Fascinating stuff. I'm wondering about that last picture. Just surprised by the lack of windows.

  2. The church too looks fairly easy for scratch-builder modeling. Might have to give it a go myself as the building bug has been buzzing around lately. Really enjoying your updates and photos.

    Best Regards,


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  4. Interesting trip, I really enjoy your daily posts! As a german I can explain the missing windows: The last picture shows a typical barn. Sometimes there is also some place for livestock in a barn, that explains the small openings/windows in the left and right front of it.