previous next

Example of an oblique order of battle: battle of Leuthen, December 5, 1757.

The army of Frederick II., King of Prussia, commanded by the Duke of Bevern, had been defeated, near Breslau, by Field Marshal Daun, commander of the Austrian army, amounting to about 86,000 men. The king, hearing of this disaster after the victorious battle of Rosbach, hastened, with about 15,000 men, to Silesia, where he made a junction with the remaining portion of the army, commanded by the Duke of Bevern. His whole force amounted now to about 30,000

Battle of Leuthen. Dec. 5, 1757.

[103] men. Frederick addresses himself to his soldiers, telling them of the dangerous position of the Prussian monarchy, and excites them to the highest pitch.

In the mean time the great Austrian army takes its position at Leuthen, near Breslau, awaiting the king to give battle. Frederick arrives near the Austrian position, orders a feint attack near Frovelitz by his advanced guard, in order to deceive the enemy on the real point of attack, and in the mean while he brings his army in the position A A, as shown in the plan. The Austrian left wing is attacked by a superior force, and is defeated. The army of the king advances, continually defeating and outflanking the Austrians, and arrives at B, where the rest of the Austrian army is formed in a new line of battle; their right wing is battered by a heavy battery, which had already taken their whole line in echarpe. The Prussian cavalry of the left wing charges the cavalry of the Austrian right wing in flank and rear, and drives it entirely from the field of battle; it then returns, and attacks the Austrian right wing in rear, and completely defeats it. The Austrian left wing, in the mean time being outflanked, is obliged to retreat. C C is the position of the Prussians after the battle.

By this victory the king regained his provinces in Silesia. The Austrian loss amounted to nearly 50,000 men, including 32,000 prisoners.

In this battle we distinguish three different actions — the main attack; a very short and insignificant feint attack, bearing more the character of a demonstration; and, finally, we see, by the inclined position of the king's army, a part of the Austrian front continually kept in position, in the expectation of being attacked. [104]

In this battle we see better than in any other the greatest principle of war brought in action — to always act with concentrated and superior forces against inferior forces.

The first partial victory conducted the king to a series of small victories, all of which were obtained by a superior force against a weaker one. By the oblique movement of Frederick, the ends of the Austrian lines were continually out-flanked, and attacked in front, rear, and flank, thereby rendering all resistance impossible. One-half of the Austrian army was defeated before the other half could change its position and form a new front. The left wing of this new front was already in great disorder before it could be formed, and the right was so promptly attacked by the Prussians that it had no time to form. If the king, instead of making an oblique movement, had moved straight down the Austrian line, his own right wing would have been easily outflanked. Frederick, at the battle of Kollin, had proposed a similar plan of attack; but a mistake of one of his generals prevented its execution.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Austria (Austria) (5)
Frederick, Md. (Maryland, United States) (3)
Silesia (2)
Breslau (Poland) (2)
Preussen (1)
Leuthen (Poland) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Field (1)
Daun (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
December 5th, 1757 AD (2)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: