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

2 Kommentare:

  1. Interesting account of the siege and use of light troops. Nice photos. So interesting to read that you live in this fine, old city.

  2. I'm glad that you like it. Please check out the next postings. More photos and maps to see.