TODAY – November 5, 1757: Battle of Rosbach, Prussian speed and daring


Prussian troops defeat Franco-Austrian forces, taking the initiative and eliminating France from the conflict of the great Seven Years’ War in 18th century Europe.

Although the war began as a conflict between France and Britain with the former’s possessions in North America (Canada) as a prize, the complex system of alliances that bound European kingdoms and empires together acted as a slow-burning fuse that lit the fire of war throughout the continent.

Envisioning a better border settlement, Prussia, Britain’s strongest ally in continental Europe, made a surprise attack and occupied Saxony, which was under the protection of Austria. The latter requested and received the support of France. Soon, Sweden and Russia also turned against Prussia, the former because she feared for her ports in the Baltic if the ambitious King Frederick turned that way and the latter because Prussia was getting stronger and this would harm Russian plans. Thus Prussia suddenly found herself fighting almost alone in a pan-European war.

In September, the Austrians achieved some important victories against the Prussians, who, with Frederick at their head, were turning their attention to the east of their country where they were being invaded by a powerful Russian army. The situation worsened in the following weeks when the French army invaded Prussia and was joined by a detachment of the Austrian army converging at the same time on Breslau, where the bulk of the Austrians were. If these forces joined, Frederick would face a combined allied army of 70,000 French and Austrians in the West and 75,000 Russians in the East. His powers were not sufficient for even one of these gatherings.

So he decided to face the enemy armies before they could unite. In the spirit of his great-grandfather, Elector Frederick William I, that “the speed of an army is determined by its slowest moving part,” Frederick abandoned his supply wagons and sent detachments of logistics to requisition or purchase supplies on the way to he advanced, covering 22 km per day.

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