Donnerstag, 31. Oktober 2019

The siege of Freiburg in 1744 (part 5)

Today I ask myself for what the French fought and captured the town? Perhaps the death of Charles VII changed all the French plans. Theoretically the town was sawn as a part of Charles heritage and he had the chance to get a fine fortress. But very fast the French decided to not stay in Freiburg but to destroy the fortress at the hill and the town’s fortifications mostly planed by the French engineer-genius Vauban. Even today visitors can see the remnants of the craters of the French demolitions at the fortress.

Large contemporary bomb in the Museum of the town "Museum für Stadtgeschichte" in the Wentzingerhaus, Freiburg.
Photo from 2018.
The remnants of the Pulverturm (powdertower) near the Schwabentorbrücke. Note the depth of the trench even today.
Photo from 2018.

Modern archaeologists from the Regierungspräsidium Freiburg discover more and more about the condition of the fortress and the results of the latest detections are impressing. The trenches of the city walls had a depth of 12 meters and enormous walls. The archaeologists are finding more and more always when new buildings were raised in the old town for example for the students of the university. Some of the hand-grenades used during the sieges can be seen at the museum of the town in the Wentzingerhaus. Dr. Bertram Jenisch (archaeologist from Freiburg, RP Freiburg) assured the audience at an important colloquium[1] about the warfare in Southwestern Germany that more finds would be presented to the public soon.

A view on the trenches of the "Franzosenschanze" (French redoubt) built in 1744.
Photo from 2018.
Even today it’s not too difficult to find relicts from the great siege in 1744. I visited the “Franzosenschanze” near the Kybfelsen-area for several times. This redoubt was built during the siege by the French and is laid out opposite of the fortress on around the same level like the fort. Many contemporary maps show dozens of such redoubts built by the besiegers.
The entrance of the Franzosenschanze.
Photo from 2018.

Inside the redoubt. Note the Level of the wall of the redoubt at the right. Maybe that was the Level during the siege. I'm not sure about the function of the small redoubt, which was typical for the period and can be found on the contemporary maps of the siege, which Show many of such redoubts on that side of the Dreisam-valley.
Photo from 2018.
One of the main objectives was to blockade the Dreisam-valley to stop Austrian reinforcements (the Austrian high command never ordered any reinforcements to save Damnitz).

That is the end of my series about the siege of Freiburg. Please feel free to write a comment. Do you want more posts of that style?
I want to thank my wife and my kids, who were so kind to help me visiting all the places, which would have been very boring without them.

Text: André Hanselmann
Photos: André & Cecilia Hanselmann

[1] Dr. Bertram Jenisch. „Archäologische Spuren von Festungen im rechtsrheinischen Oberrheingebiet“ at the colloquium by the Alemannisches Institut and the Landesamt für Denkmalpflege „Im Krieg ist weder Glück noch Stern“ Friday 15th of june 2018, at Breisach

Freitag, 25. Oktober 2019

The siege of Freiburg in 1744 (part 4)

Some original cannonballs in the collection of the "Museum für Stadtgeschichte" Freiburg
The "communication", a walled way from the Oberschloss and Fort Carré to the Salzbüchsle. Narrow but plenty of space to move the guns from one section of the fortress to the other. The Austrians had frequently to replace their destroyed guns, which were shot by the French siege artillery. In late October 1744 however most of the Austrian guns on the fortress were silenced.
A contemporary drawing of the "communication" above on a modern plaque on the Schlossberg.

Freiburg still was a cracking nut and the heavy fighting with outbreaks on 13th and 14th of October showed the attackers that the defenders was determined to fight.

A drawing of the Salzbüchsle by the comte de la Venerie in 1723/28.
The Salzbüchsle was one of the sections which were extended after the siege during the War of the Spanish Succession.
From a plaque on the Schlossberg in 2018.
A second "communication" which connected the Salzbüchsle with the Unterschloss. In that area the visitor still can find many of the explosion craters from the final French destruction of the fortress in 1745.
The size of the kids elucidade the width of the "communication" which was crucial for the reinforcements at the Unterschloss.

The Austrians celebrated the saint’s day of their female monarch on October 15th but the saluting gunnery was silenced by heavy French artillery fire in minutes. After heavy fighting at the ravelins and the Kaiser-Bastion and in front of the Martinstor the French had shot many breaches in the walls.

Above a contemporary pistol with bullets. beneath some original Hand grenades from 1744 in the collection of the "Museum für Stadtgeschichte" Freiburg.

But the brutal fighting at walls lasted under the eyes of the French king the 2nd halve of October. The Austrians and French fought with great fury with bayonets and grenades. Some citizens wrote about the fighting at the 2nd of November around the Kaiser-Bastion and two ravelins:

“… There was no shot of a musket to hear… It became 3 o’clock in the morning when the French used the raining weather to advance in silence. Easily they captured the first ravelin with storm ladders and overwhelmed the outposts. Captain Wurzer had manned the post with 40 men and withdraws the soldiers in the guardroom. The muskets put in front of the guardroom were taken by the enemy; the captain had to surrender with his men…”  
To take the second ravelin through the muddy trench was a lot more difficult. But the French were motivated after the surprise attack at the first:

“… But here the sentry was more cautious and gave fire immediately. There was only a post of 100 men at the wall, but fortunately they were reinforced at the moment by the replacement. The gallery was a strong obstacle for the enemy too. The deeper the silence was, so louder were now the cries: “Avance, avance, vive le roi!””[1]

Detail of the large Diorama of the town and fortress in the "Museum für Stadtgeschichte" Freiburg.
Note, the high near the river which is the Schwabentor, where Leutnant Fetzer attacked the French.
At the right side the large ravelins attacked by the French in late October and early November 1744.

Montag, 21. Oktober 2019

The siege of Freiburg in 1744 (part 3)

A painting by Pierre Nicolas Lenfant shows us a somehow idealized situation[1]. The king himself who visited the siege more as a spectator then as a commander wears his red dress, well known from different battle paintings by Parocel and Lenfant. (Look at the painting in the collection of Versailles: ) He is talking to some officers and generals and his position is characterized by the Loretto-chapel at the left of the painting. The guns are bombarding the town and the Austrian artillery answers the fire. What Lenfant paints is a mixed bag. The artillery is firing but the river Dreisam still is in the old riverbed in front of the town’s walls, which are partly destroyed already. The buildings at the Schlossberg are completely arising of the painter’s fantasy – you just have to compare them with historical maps. The most important features of the fortress like the “Salzbüchsle” or “Fort Aigle” (as the French called it) which were heavily modified in the 1720s after the lesson the Austrians learned from the 1713-siege, looked completely different. But for some studies of French camp-life, uniforms and the French view on the siege this painting really is interesting. The painter gave the landscape a more romantic atmosphere with rocky hillsides and nice exotic looking trees while in this period the hillsides were covered with vines.

The king's view at the town from the Lorettoberg.

The Loretto-chapel today.

The presence of the king was in fact of no great significance for the battle itself. In many biographies of Louis XV it is mentioned in a foot note at the most because his recreation from his serious illness in 1744 is of more importance for the outcome of the war than the siege of Freiburg. Bernier[2] gives a good impression of the character of the “bien aimé”, a better picture for sure then Reed Browning, although his book about the war is highly readable[3]. The king had his headquarters at Munzingen in the same castle where prince Charles of Lorraine stayed at the time of his attempts to cross the Rhine at Breisach in 1743. All sources mention that he observed the siege from the Lorettoberg. There was an agreement that the French would not bombard at the minster of Freiburg, if the Austrians would not shoot at the position of the French king. But it seems that the Austrians shot in his direction nevertheless because it’s possible to find a cannonball even today near his place of observation[4].

The canonball in the wall of the Loretto-chapel - although in my opinion neighter the caliber nor the place of the canonball make sense to me.
An indiscription at the Loretto-chapel mentioning the presence of king Louis XV observing the siege from that Point in 1744.
The inscription mentions the battle of 1644 too. The chapel was built in 1657 in memory of the bloody battle during the 30-years war.

Naturally Louis XV didn’t come to share the bloody warfare with his soldiers and for sure he didn’t share the heavy work of thousands of French peasants who were brought to Freiburg to build a new riverbed for the Dreisam. The king himself showed not much affection to stay until the town was won. He departed with his entourage at the morning of the 7th November shortly before the French troops entered the town.

A view from the place of the Salzbüchsle, where nowadays is a modern tower, on the landscape.
Please note the two small hills in the middle distance. The lower one is the Lorettoberg, the position of the French king in 1744.

Text: André Hanselmann
Photos: André Hanselmann

[1] Pierre Nicolas Lenfant: „Siège de Fribourg, 11 octobre 1744“ at the château de Versailles, No. d’invitaire MV 187
[2] Olivier Bernier: „Ludwig XV. – Eine Biographie“ Benzinger, Zürich, 1986
[3] Reed Browning: „The War of the Austrian Succession“ St. Martin's Press, New York, 2008
[4] Tilman Spreckelsen: „Patenschaft fürs Kirchenschiff“ Die Zeit, 10. September, 1998

Sonntag, 20. Oktober 2019

The siege of Freiburg in 1744 (part 2)

It’s very interesting that hussars and light infantry played a major role in the defence of the town, although they had just 8 companies of light infantry and 300 hussars only as a part of the garrison which was around 6.500 men strong[1]. The commander in chief, FML Damnitz, was an experienced soldier who was not such a sort of town’s commanders, who saw little action in the open field. The French army was a mighty force of 66 battalions and 117 squadrons, although the cavalry was reduced later because there was not enough of fodder for the horses[2]. But for the first stages of the siege a large cavalry force was crucial for the encirclement of a besieged town.

A picture of the whole fortress at the Schlossberg. At the left: the Oberschloss or Fort St. Pierre with the "Große Hornwerk"; in the middle the Fort Carré (the lodgings of the commander of the fortress); at the right: the Unterschloss. The Unterschloss formerly was the old castle of Freiburg in the middle-ages.
At one of the plaques on the Schlossberg in 2018.

The Austrians launched some more outbreaks with modest success, destroying some of the work of the French engineers and setting a great stock of wood at the hillside of the Schlossberg in fire. The outbreak in the twilight of October 14th is especially interesting. The Austrians had 30 "Theisser" and 40 grenadiers under the command of Lieutenant Fetzer to attack a redoubt opposing the Schwabentor. The Austrians not only managed to destroy parts of the French earthworks and take away Tools, but the French lost the engineer Marquis d'Aversnes and the Maréchal de Camp de Coutomer killed too during the action.

But the light troops played not only a major role in these events but as feared robbers of the poor citizens of Freiburg too. The pandours and Theisser used the chaos of the bombardment which set a large part of the town in fire. When Damnitz heard the accusation of the citizens against his light troops, he convicted some of them to death, but the citizens pleaded him to show mercy. Besides Damnitz had raise up gallows at the Fischmarkt before the battle to demonstrate his earnestness to keep discipline and order in the citizenship.

A model of a French 16-pounder gun (in the middle of the photo) by Imperial (Hagen Figuren).

The famous French artilleryman de la Vallière (best known for the Vallière-system) was present at the siege and advised Coigny to not start with the bombardment before every gun was ready. But Coigny ignored the advice and if he was right or not, the result of the bombardment was devastating, not only destroying many civilian houses but the house of the commander – known as the fort carré – too. Soon it was clear that the positions of the French batteries in 1744 were a lot more effective than during the siege of 1713. Now the French guns could nearly not miss the target and could destroy huge parts of the fortress in a short time.

Text: André Hanselmann
Photos: André Hanselmann
Fort Saint Pierre today. At the left formerly the wall with Palisade, than a trench and at the right the place, where the barracks of the fort Saint Pierre stood.

The place of the chapel St Pierre marked by a wooden cross.

[1] Porges/Rebrachta p. 530
[2] Porges/Rebrachta p. 533

Donnerstag, 17. Oktober 2019

The siege of Freiburg in 1744 (Part 1)

As it was with the battlefield of Simbach, I had the chance to walk over the landscape of the great siege of Freiburg. Therefore I decided to write about it and I hope that this topic is even more exciting for you, as we have the 275th anniversary of the battle (no great attention in Freiburg today nevertheless).

275 years passed since the great siege of Freiburg in autumn 1744. Fortunately this particular siege was viewed as one of the major events of the 1744-campaign in Germany. Therefor a big part of Porges and Rebrachas very detailed work about the War of the Austrian Succession is dedicated to Freiburg[1]. But there are many contemporary accounts printed during the mid 18th century too like “Campagne de Monsieur le Maréchal Duc de Coigny en Allemagne” including many letters and statistics[2]. A really impressive number of maps and other pictures of this and other sieges of Freiburg and the fortress were published in 1988 as one volume of two about the fortress and city[3]. This book is really recommended to get an impression of the actions in 1744.

 A map of the Fort St Pierre on a plaque at the fortress.

I’m so fortunate to look at the remnants of the fortress of Freiburg every morning looking out of the window of our living room. It’s really inspiring for somebody who has an interest in military history. When Alex Burns asked me to write a short guest post I thought about all the remnants of the fortress still visible today and spend a day with my kids walking over the Schlossberg. Besides I was reading a biography about De la Metterie, one of Fredericks closest philosophers and drinking buddies, who suffered a lot from a fever during the siege of Freiburg, where he was present as an intimate of the Duc de Gramont (1689-1745) and as a doctor of the guards[4].

But let us commence more chronical.

The French army followed the Austrian troops under prince Charles of Lorraine and FM Traun when they had to march east to deal with Frederick II attempt to join the war again. The French commanded by Noailles and Coigny tried to attack the Austrians crossing the river Rhine but where thrown back by the Austrian rearguard at Auenheim and Suffelnheim at August 23th 1744. This fail reduced the French plans to catch the Austrian main army. Frederick II justly blamed Coigny and Noailles for their poor leadership at Auenheim. To get one objective for the rest of the campaigning season at least the Austrians began to encircle in September 1744 the city of Freiburg.  Some days later the French commanders send Belle-Isle with significant troops to Rheinfelden, Konstanz and later even to Bregenz to occupy these towns. After some easy success the French were humiliated during their attempt to invade Vorarlberg by local Austrian militias[5].

The militia in Vorderösterreich (Further Austria) were formerly very similar like the strong militia of Vorarlberg and sometimes organized by the same administration. In the 17th century Further Austria assembled the men from 16 to 40 years old in 8 “Landfahnen” (banners). But since 1734 2 “Landfahnen” only remained. One of them, the “Hauensteiner Fahne”, had 906 men in 4 platoons. These relicts of the old militia were commanded by a baron Grammond (not to be mixed up with the French duke of the similar name!), who reinforced the garrison of Freiburg in 1733/34 and was again in Freiburg in 1744[6]. These troops naturally were not fit to fight regulars. But they were used as workers on the fortifications and should stock the old “Linien” (lines of fortifications) all over the Black Forest, when they first were built during the War of the Spanish Succession[7]. Though the militia of Further Austria was weak in numbers compared with the size of the territory (bigger than Wurttemberg for example!), the corporative recruitments were of no great significance too. Further Austria and Vorarlberg together had to put forward 1.500 men for the regular Austrian army in 1744. Most of them were infantry serving in the regiment Brandenburg-Bayreuth (IR 41)[8]  

A view from the Fort St Pierre at the town – one can imagine how easily the Austrians could shoot at the French in 1713 from this Position. The Kaiserstuhl lies in the background.

Mittwoch, 16. Oktober 2019

New content

I decided, that I will change the blog slightly.

The blog will report further about our events, but I would like to offer more diversity.

By the way I noticed that most of the questions and all comments were in English. Therefore I will write some posts in English only.

I have to confess that I really much like the style of Jonathan Freitag's blog Palouse Wargaming Journal for example with a wide range of postings about wargaming and historical sides in Europe as well. Especially his studies and analyzes about several battles like Mollwitz are fascinating.

Some of our blogentries have some similarities with Kyle Dalton's excellent blog "British Tars, 1740-1790", which is in his way quiet unique, as it is very narrowly focussed on the period and the main subject.
Occassionally we noticed that not our blogposts about our own events and research for them had the luck to attain the most attention of our readers but entries like our battlefieldwalks at Simbach for example (although the battle had some correlation with our encounter at Übrigshausen in 1743).

As most of you maybe had recognized we added more and more information about the 17th century period, because there is very much to research about that period since we organize an event yearly in the highly interesting open air museum Wackershofen.

But now to something different. I noticed two stones with dates engraved in Freiburg. One example is next to the Schwabentorbrücke.

What happened here in 1609?

The other stone is in the Augustinergasse in the old town of Freiburg. The canonball (?) beneath the stone with the date is especially remarkable.

The remnant of an archway of 1619?

Which context we will find?

To use contemporary pictures sometimes are problematic. Therefore we will maybe use pictures with model figures to illustrate historical incidents like the march of the Spaniards through Swabia.

What do you think of my idea to use figures and tabletop?

Text: André Hanselmann
Photos: André Hanselmann