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The Napoleon Series > Book Reviews > Books on military subjects

Prussia's Glory: Rossbach and Leuthen

Duffy, Christopher. Prussia's Glory: Rossbach and Leuthen, 1757. Chicago: Emperor's Press, 2003. 208 pages. ISBN# 1883476291. Hardcover. $33.

Prussia's Glory: Rossbach and Leuthen

Noted military historian Christopher Duffy has written on various subjects over the last three decades. This recent work concentrates on the famous Prussian King Frederick the Great and his 1757 Campaign. Frederick the Great holds a unique place in the military history. An enlightened despot, he redrew the map of Europe and laid the foundation for the strong Prussian state. His campaigns against Austria and France became classics of European warfare. The campaign of 1757 is particularly interesting in this respect since Prussian victories at Rossbach and Leuthen had important consequences for the French and Austrian armies as well.

Author starts the volume with concise and informative overviews of the belligerent powers and their armies. He stresses the developments and peculiarities in the French, Prussian and Austrian armies and characterizes their commanders. The second chapter of the book deals with the operations in early 1757 leading to the battles of Rossbach and Leuthen. In just eighteen pages, author masterly outlines positions, movements and developments on both the Prussian and Allied sides, setting the stage for the battle of Rossbach. Two chapters, the third and fourth, describe the Battle of Rossbach in remarkable detail. The narrative is precise and enlightening, allowing reader to easily follow events. The battle description itself is subdivided into several sections; it starts out with the review of battlefield terrain, and then proceeds to the Allied flanking movements, the Prussian response, cavalry actions, infantry combat and the Allied retreat. Author ably uses citations from many memoirs to present a vivid picture of the battle in action. He provides detailed review of the losses on both sides in this battle that Frederick considered "as the most economical, but at the same time the most remarkable and rewarding ever attained by his arms."

Although he gives Frederick due credit for his success at this battle, Duffy also observes, "at Rossbach, Frederick eliminated an annoying diversion. The forces he defeated there did not have a single passage of arms to their credit, and were walking pathological specimens of every ill that is capable of infecting a military organism." Therefore, in Chapter Five, Duffy explains merits and weaknesses of the Austrian army and their response to the Rossbach. He discusses action at Moys on 7 September 1757, which despite its "tame conclusion," was still regarded as a "turning point in the conflict."

The following pages also describe on of the most famous episodes of the war, Lieutenant General Andreas v. Hadik's raid on Berlin in October 1757. Duffy describes in detail preparations to the raid and its implementation by Hadik on 16 October 1757. With only some 7,200 men, Hadik made a lightning raid from the Elbe River to Berlin, where he surprised the city and demanded a contribution of some 500,000 talers. Terrified by the Austrian attack, Berlin delivered 200,000 talers within eight hours. Before leaving the Prussian capital, Hadik requested two dozen pairs of ladies' gloves, stamped with the city coat of arms so that he could make a present them to his Empress. On a humorous note, Duffy observes that, according to legend, the Prussians "gained a kind of revenge [on Hadik] by making sure that all of the Empress's gloves were for the left hand."

To provide transition for the narrative on Rossbach and Leuthen, Duffy spends some fifteen pages on the various minor actions and sieges in October through November 1757. He concentrates on the sieges of Schweidnitz (26 October-12 November) and Breslau (22 November) and provides detailed accounts of these actions and their importance for the subsequent military operations.

Chapter Six sets the stage of the Battle of Leuthen and starts out by describing positions and movements of opposing sides followed by detailed examination of the strength of the Prussian and Austrian armies. The battle itself is describe in same manner as Rossbach. Author starts with a review of battlefield terrain and skirmish at Borne on 5 December 1757. He then follows Austrian deployment for the battle, Prussian flanking march and the subsequent developments in the battle. The battle account is well organized and skillfully guides the reader through the battle. Once again, Duffy intertwines memoirs and reports in his narrative to create a dramatic depiction of the battle.

In Chapters Seven and Eight, author brings his discussion to a close and stresses the consequences of the 1757 campaign for both Prussia and Austria. He describes events in Silesia and Bohemia and then follows the fate of commanders in the Austrian army. The final section of the chapter deals with the perceptions of Rossbach and Leuthen in the succeeding generations.

The author discusses responses in France and German states and the antagonism between these nations. He noted that "At Rossbach, [Prussian soldiers] had taken their revenge on the nation which, in the imagination of Protestant Germans, had for generations launched its armies through their lands, and treated Germans as its cultural inferiors." This antagonism further increased after the devastating campaign of 1806-1807, when the French armies under Emperor Napoleon shattered the Prussian forces. Duffy observes that after the battle of Leipzig in 1813, officers in General Yorck's corps commissioned a monument with inscription: "In Commemoration of the Battle of Rossbach, 5 November 1757. Re-erected on the 23 October 1813 By the Prussian warriors of the Third Army Corps, On the March after the Battle of Leipzig, The Liberation of Germany." On final pages, Duffy also examines the use of the myths of Rossbach and Leuthen for political propaganda purposes during the First and Second World Wars.

A look at the notes reveals a thorough research author undertook for this volume. He consulted numerous documents from the Kriegsarchiv and Haus-Hof und Staarchiv in Vienna as well as French military records at the Chateau de Vincennes. Emperor's Press did a wonderful job with this volume. The book is well illustrated with numerous black-and-white pictures throughout the narrative. Many of these images are pictures taken by the author on the battlefields and at other locations that demonstrate the terrain and historical landmarks. This book also contains excellent maps by Paul Dangel, who previously contributed to Duffy's volume on 1799 Campaign in Italy and Switzerland. These maps are simply superb - well drawn, precise and clear! There are maps for most actions described which greatly facilitates understanding of events.

In final analysis, this is a very useful and informative book that anyone interested in the 18th century warfare or general military history must have.

Reviewed by Alexander Mikaberidze, FINS
Placed on the Napoleon Series: June 2004