1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Leuthen

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LEUTHEN, a village of Prussian Silesia, 10 m. W. of Breslau, memorable as the scene of Frederick the Great’s victory over the Austrians on December 5, 1757. The high road from Breslau to Lüben crosses the marshy Schweidnitz Water at Lissa, and immediately enters the rolling country about Neumarkt. Leuthen itself stands some 4000 paces south of the road, and a similar distance south again lies Sagschütz, while Nypern, on the northern edge of the hill country, is 5000 paces from the road. On Frederick’s approach the Austrians took up a line of battle resting on the two last-named villages. Their whole position was strongly garrisoned and protected by obstacles, and their artillery was numerous though of light calibre. A strong outpost of Saxon cavalry was in Borne to the westward. Frederick had the previous day surprised the Austrian bakeries at Neumarkt, and his Prussians, 33,000 to the enemy’s 82,000, moved towards Borne and Leuthen early on the 5th. The Saxon outpost was rushed at in the morning mist, and, covered by their advanced guard on the heights beyond, the Prussians wheeled to their right. Prince Charles of Lorraine, the Austrian commander-in-chief, on Leuthen Church tower, could make nothing of Frederick’s movements, and the commander of his right wing (Lucchesi) sent him message after message from Nypem and Gocklerwitz asking for help, which was eventually despatched. But the real blow was to fall on the left under Nadasdy. While the Austrian commander was thus wasting time, the Prussians were marching against Nadasdy in two columns, which preserved their distances with an exactitude which has excited the wonder of modern generations of soldiers; at the due place they wheeled into line of battle obliquely to the Austrian front, and in one great échelon,—the cavalry of the right wing foremost, and that of the left “refused,”—Frederick advanced on Sagschütz. Nadasdy, surprised, put a bold face on the matter and made a good defence, but he was speedily routed, and, as the Prussians advanced, battalion after battalion was rolled up towards Leuthen until the Austrians faced almost due south. The fighting in Leuthen itself was furious; the Austrians stood, in places, 100 deep, but the disciplined valour of the Prussians carried the village. For a moment the victory was endangered when Lucchesi came down upon the Prussian left wing from the north, but Driesen’s cavalry, till then refused, charged him in flank and scattered his troopers in wild rout. This stroke ended the battle. The retreat on Breslau became a rout almost comparable to that of Waterloo, and Prince Charles rallied, in Bohemia, barely 37,000 out of his 82,000. Ten thousand Austrians were left on the field, 21,000 taken prisoners (besides 17,000 in Breslau a little later), with 51 colours and 116 cannon. The Prussian loss in all was under 5500. It was not until 1854 that a memorial of this astonishing victory was erected on the battlefield.

See Carlyle, Frederick, bk. xviii. cap. x.; V. Ollech, Friedrich der Grosse von Kolin bis Leuthen (Berlin, 1858); Kutzen, Schlacht bei Leuthen (Breslau, 1851); and bibliography under Seven Years’ War.