Friday, April 26, 2013

The Battle of Prague 1757

The weekend before the club made the trip to the Salute show in London, I had to drive Mrs.Goose out to a retail outlet on the east of Prague. Now a lot of this area is grim, with one or two industrial estates and a very large incinerator (which for navigation purposes can more or less be easily seen from most points in the city).
There are though some untouched open areas on the site of the main Prussian attack during the battle of Prague, which are situated in the Sterboholy district (this would be Sterbohol in any of the old Austrian maps of the battle).

Battle of Prague, 6 May 1757 - Attempted envelopment. 
Source : The Department of History, United States Military Academy


Sterboholy is at the southern end of a low rise/hill that runs south for a couple of kilometres from Malesice (Maleschitz) . It was on the line of this that Browne relocated the right wing of his army to face the Prussian flanking manoeuvre by the General von Schwerin.
Here is a view from the Austrian positions on higher ground overlooking the plain on which the Prussians approached.
The old story goes that von Schwerin mistook the green landscape in this district for meadows, when in fact the area was a patchwork of drained fish ponds, water meadows and streams. As the Prussians ploughed through the fields they quickly became bogged down in the mud, whilst the Austrians surveying the scene from drier heights opened up a murderous artillery barrage upon them. 

Here are the water meadows passed over by the Prussians when attacking the Austrian position
 The Prussians would have attacked from right to left in these pictures
As you can see the fields are still drained by numerous stream beds, and often flood after heavy rain.


It was during this point that von Schwerin was hit by a cannonball and killed outright.

 
Memorial to General von Schwerin on the battlefield at Steboholy

If the Austrians had held their ground here they would have won the day. They held the commanding grounds, with well-placed artillery and secure flanks. Unfortunately for them, around the same time as von Schwerin’s death, General von Brown (this blogs patron) was mortally wounded and carried back into to Prague (to die from his wounds days later)
The memorial to von Browne on the battlefield
With effective command passed to junior officers, the Austrians decided to attack the weakened Prussians, but in doing so opened up both their flanks. The Prussian brigades under General Bevern saw the opportunity and poured infantry through the gap on their left flank to the north, while the Prussian cavalry under von Ziethen did the same to their south. Their flanks turned and with the Prussians pushing at them again form the centre, the Austrians crumbled and fell back within the walls of Prague.


 The Prussians attacked up the rising ground here towards the Austrians (roughly in the direction of the chimney in this photo)
Above you can see the ground the Prussians marched over coming from Dolni Pocernice (Unter Pocernitz)

Though the Prussians won the day (just), they did not have enough troops left to storm the city, and their now depleted numbers would be completely routed the following month at the Battle of Kolin by General Daun (a post I promise in the coming months once I get a chance to drive back out to Kolin to take some pictures). This more or less put paid to Frederick the Great's attempt to snatch Bohemia away from the Austrians, as he had done with Silesia. For the rest of the Seven Year's war the Prussians were on the defensive, and it was only the inability of the Austrians and Russians to effectively cooperate in the east which saved Prussia.

Today there is a small memorial to the fallen of the battle on the site of the main Prussian attack, the fields around full of horse paddocks.

You can get here easily by bus from the last metro station on the green line, though a car is obviously better.

5 comments:

  1. Excellent pics!! Its great they've put up the memorials!

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    1. Thanks Ray. As far as I'm aware it's the only memorial to the battle in Prague and was only put up a few years ago.

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  2. Thank you for sharing, I have been to Prague twice, this is what I had wanted to see in the first place but never got to until today.
    Cyrille

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    1. You're welcome. The reality is that if you want to see what remains of the battlefield, you'll need a car for the day (or be prepared to change bus 3 or 4 times).

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  3. A very enjoyable account of the battle and the existing terrain today.

    Jim

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