The Battle of Münchengrätz

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The Battle of Münchengrätz

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The Battle of Münchengrätz 50.527929, 15.045948 The Battle of Münchengrätz  was fought near Mnichovo Hradiště, modern day Czech Republic, on 28 June 1866 during the Austro-Prussian War. It ended in a Prussian victory over the Austrian Empire.

The Battle of Münchengrätz.

28th June 1866.

Being unable to hold the Iser River line after the defeat suffered at Podol (27th – 28th June), Crown Prince Albert, the overall commander of both his own Saxon army and Clam – Gallas’s Austrian I Corps, had already issued orders for a retreat back to Gitschen, conforming to new directives received from his superior, General Ludwig von Benedek. This fall back was implemented with great haste but in good order, causing Prince Frederick Charles, the commander of the 1st Prussian Army, to miss his chance of overwhelming and destroying the Saxon and Austrian detached units. Much of the reason for not capitalising on the defeat inflicted on the enemy was due to Prince Frederick Charles himself who, instead of pressing on after the success at Podol, closing the gap between his own and the 2nd Prussian Army under Crown Prince Frederick William, while putting 55,000 enemy troops out of action, made elaborate plans which allowed his quarry to slip out of the trap.

Crown Prince Albert had ordered the retreat to Gitschin to commence at 4.00 a.m. on the morning of 28th June, stating his cavalry division off first along the Münchengrätz- Gitschin road. The Saxon infantry marched south to Jungbunzlau, a roundabout route, which eventually took them on to Gitschin. Albert probably wanted to keep the direct road fairly clear to allow the Austrians wagon train and artillery to make good their escape. He left three of Clam’s brigades (Leiningen, Piret and Abele) at Münchengrätz as a rearguard, while the other two brigades (Poschacher and Ringelsheim) followed the cavalry along the main road. Clam – Gallas himself chose to join his two brigades in the retreat, effectively leaving his rearguard to their own devices, which was probably all to the good, since Clam showed a distinct lack of any military ability throughout the campaign.

General Clam Gallas Commander of the Austrian I Corps.
General Clam Gallas Commander of the Austrian I Corps.

General Leopold Gondrecourt (Clam’s second – in – command) had marched on the village of Hühnerwasser, ten kilometres to the west of Münchengrätz, on the 26th June. That gung – ho officer had had crossed the River Iser with two battalions in a rather futile attempt to hold back the advancing Prussian Army of the Elbe, and was roughly handled, falling back over the river leaving almost 300 casualties in his wake. Thereafter the Prussian 16th Division, in advance of the Elbe Army, pushed on towards Münchengrätz, while Prince Frederick Charles, still under the impression that the Saxons and Austrians were sitting tight, swung the 1st Army down the road from Podol.

The Battle of Münchengrätz, 28th June 1866.
The Battle of Münchengrätz, 28th June 1866.

To meet this double advance Leiningen’s brigade was posted with his 32nd Field Jäger Battalion in Münchengrätz and his two line infantry regiments (33rd (Giulay) and 38th (Hugwitz) over the Iser River at Kláster. Piret’s Austrian brigade, 29th Field Jäger Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment (Constantin), 45th Infantry Regiment (Sigismund) was on the right, holding the ground around Musky Hill, overlooking the Podol road, with brigade Abele1  (22nd Field Jäger Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment ( Khevenhüller), 72nd Infantry Regiment ( Ramming) in reserve.

At around 8.30 a.m. the Army of the Elbe’s 16th Division’s advance guard, after a blistering eight hour march down the road from Hühnerwässer to Kláster appeared on the field. It consisted of seven battalions of the 31st Brigade under Major General von Schöler (8th Jäger Battalion, 29th and 69th Regiments). These units soon began to draw the fire Austrian artillery posted on the high ground near the village and on the hill just behind Kláster’s which was used as the Jewish cemetery. As his own batteries arrived on the field Schöler engaged them in counter battery fire, and at the same time sent out two columns of infantry to outflank the Austrian position.

While Schöler took on Leiningen’s brigade on the left, over on the right the advance guard of the Prussian 1st Army ( Horn’s 8th Division) moved to assault the Austrian position around Musky Hill while the 7th Division (Fransecky) began a turning movement to cut the Münchengrätz – Gitcshin road. However, before this envelopment was complete, the Austrians had begun to withdraw, albeit not before many of Piret’s 45th Infantry Regiment, made up of Italians, had surrendered quite willingly to the enemy, while the remainder made good their escape.

As news came of the retreat of their units over on the right, Leiningen’s brigade also began to fall back, eventually joining the other brigades on the main highway, thanks in the main to a spirited defence put up by Abele’s brigade who held the ground around Musky Hill long enough to allow their comrades to get safely away, although the cost had been heavy; 2,000 killed and wounded and 1, 390 prisoners, the Prussians casualties, as usual, were far less at 341, of which 46 were killed.

Source material

This article was taken from the following:

Wawro. Geoffrey, The Austro – Prussian War, Austria’s War with Prussian and Italy in 1866. Cambridge University Press 1996.

Barry. Quintin, The Road to Königgrätz, Helmuth von Moltke and the Austro – Prussian War 1866. Paperback edition. Helion & Company, England 2014.

 

Opposing Forces at Münchengräz.

Austria.

Austrian I Corp.

  • Brigade Commandant Colonel Count Leiningen.
    • 32nd Field Jäger Battalion
    • 33rd Infantry Regiment (Giulay)
    • 38th Infantry Regiment (Haugwitz)
    • One Squadron Nikolaus Hussar Regiment (No 2)
    • One 4 – pounder Field Battery
  • Brigade Commandant Major General Piret.
    • 29th Field Jäger Battalion
    • 18th Infantry Regiment (Constantin)
    • 45th Infantry Regiment (Sigismund)
    • One Squadron Nikolaus Hussar regiment (No 2)
    • One 4 – pounder Field Battery
  • Brigade Commandant Colonel von Abele
    • 22nd Field Jäger Battalion
    • 35th Infantry Regiment (Khevenhüller)
    • 72nd Infantry Regiment (Ramming)
    • One Squadron Nikolaus Hussar Regiment (No 2)
    • One 4 – pounder Field Battery

Prussia.

Advance Guard, Army of the Elbe.

  • 16th Division Lieutenant General von Etzel.
    • 31st Brigade Major General von Schöler
      • 29th Infantry Regiment
      • 69th Infantry Regiment
    • 8th Jäger Battalion
      • 2 Field Artillery Batteries

Advance Guard 1st Army.

  • IV Corps (no General Commanding)
    • 8th Division Lieutenant General von Horn.
  • 15th Brigade Major General von Bose
    • 31st Infantry Regiment
    • 71st Infantry Regiment
  • 16th Brigade Major General von Schmidt
    • 72nd Infantry Regiment
  • 4th Jäger Battalion
    • Thuringian Uhlan Cavalry Regiment No 6
    • 4 Field Artillery Batteries.

7th Division Lieutenant General von Fransecky

  • 13th Brigade Major General von Schwartzhoff
    • 26th Infantry Regiment
    • 66th Infantry Regiment
  • 14th Brigade Major General von Gordon
    • 27th Infantry Regiment
    • 67th Infantry Regiment
  • Magdeburg Hussar Regiment
    • 4 Field Artillery Batteries
    • 4th Pioneer Battalion
  1. This brigade was attached to the Austrian Ist Corps. []