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.

At the 5th of November when most of the Austrian artillery was destroyed and especially the fortress at the Schlossberg was demolished. FML Damnitz decided to negotiate with the French. The negotiations lasted for several days because Damnitz was the commander of the town but not of the fortress at the hill and feared that he could not give up the later too, although most of his staff agreed that they had no chance to defend the ruined castle. Therefore he asked Vienna for advice. When the letter from Vienna arrived it was all too late and the courageous commander and his staff had to become prisoners of war. At the 5th November the situation of negotiations was a lot better but after the retreat on the top of the Schlossberg and the French occupation of the town from the 28th of November to the 30th of November the garrison of the fortress had to lay down arms, flags and drums at the Predigertor and marched to Alsace. The letter from Maria Theresia showed that she had no idea of what her subjects suffered as she ordered Damnitz to defend the town at all cost.

The Austrians lost the garrison of Freiburg: 4570 were left to become prisoners. But the French lost 7350 dead and 9226 wounded more than in many major battles of the entire war[2].

French wounded - reenacted on our event "Anno Domini 1743 - Freud und Leid".
Photo: 2018

Text: André Hanselmann
Fotos: Cecilia & André Hanselmann, Stefan Winter 

[1] Porges/Rebrachta p. 567-568
[2] Porges/Rebrachta p. 591

6 Kommentare:

  1. Many thanks, Jonathan. Unfortunately the room is very dark and the diorama is old and maybe dusty.

  2. Glad to see these informative and nice pictures of Freiburg!

  3. Very interesting account of the siege

    1. That was one of the largest sieges of the year 1744 (although pointless from an Austrian perspective as there never was a Chance to reinforce the defenders). I'm glad that you found our older postings and like it.