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Örjan Martinsson

Campaigns of the Saxon Army

 

It was not until 1681 when Saxony created a standing army, but this had already reached the respectable size of over 18 000 men when it started the Great Northern War in 1700 with an attack against the Swedish city of Riga. It would then expand to about 30 000 at the end of the war. It was an army which enjoyed a good reputation and its regiments were highly sought after by great powers in need for auxiliary troops in their wars. Saxony had participated in the Great Turkish War (1683-1699) and its ambitious elector Augustus the Strong had even become commander of the Imperial forces in 1695 by sending 8 000 Saxon troops as auxiliaries to the Holy Roman Emperor. The following year this force was increased to 12 000 men. But in contrast to the quality of his soldiers, Augustus the Strong was a mediocre commander and had no luck in the battles against the Turks. It was to the relief of the Emperor that he in 1697 left his position as commander and instead turned his eyes to the Baltic. Saxony would however continue to raise revenue by hiring out auxiliary troops to the Emperor and later also to Holland and Great Britain. This occurred during the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1713) even though Saxony had their hands full fighting their own war against Sweden.

It was with support from the Emperor and Russia that Augustus the Strong was elected king of Poland in 1697. Based from this country he intended to use his battle hardened Saxon army to conquer the Swedish provinces in the Baltic (even though Poland itself remained neutral). The war was supposed to be fought on three fronts as Saxony had signed alliances with Denmark and Russia before they launched their surprise attack on Riga. The attack failed however and Augustus' allies fared even worse. Augustus was then unfortunate to be the primary focus of the Swedish war effort. Led by the young king Charles XII the Swedes were determined to depose Augustus as king of Poland. And despite of the good reputation the Saxon regiments had earned as auxiliaries in both the Turkish war and in the War of the Spanish Succession, the Saxons proved to be no match to the numerically inferior Swedish field army. The Saxons lost battle after battle against the Swedes at Düna 1701, Kliszow 1702, Pultusk 1703, Punitz and Posen 1704, Warsaw 1705 and finally the worst defeat of them all when a twice as large Saxon -Russian army was almost annihilated by the Swedes at Fraustadt 1706. Augustus lost his Polish throne and was forced to sue for peace in 1706 when Saxony was occupied by Charles XII's army. Ironically it was right after the peace treaty was signed that Augustus experienced his first victory against the Swedes when a Saxon-Russian army defeated a greatly inferior Swedish force at Kalisz.

Augustus was however not yet ready to give up his ambitions. Once the Swedish army left Poland for the Russian campaign he began talks with his former allies to re-enter the war and with Russian help he was reinstated as Polish king in 1709 after the Swedish defeat at Poltava. Saxony participated in the anti-Swedish coalition the following years, but he was not much successful this time either and his war aims were successively lowered until it was just about keeping his Polish throne. Saxon cavalry regiments reinforced the Danish army in the battle of Gadebusch 1712 but it was not enough to prevent its defeat to the Swedish army led by Magnus Stenbock. However, in the following year Saxon troops participated in the Danish-Russian siege of Tönningen which forced Stenbock's army to surrender. Though when the remaining Swedish possessions in Germany were occupied in 1715-16 Saxony ceased to take an active part in the Great Northern War. The Saxons did not get a share of the occupied Swedish provinces and had when the war draw to a close in 1719-21 become so irrelevant that no formal peace treaty was signed between Saxony and Sweden. It was not until 1729 that the two countries signed a convention in which they declared that the friendship between them was restored.

The table below shows all the campaigns each Saxon regiment participated in. Because the Saxon regiments usually were named after their colonels, several of them were known by different names during the course of the war. Every name of those colonels are included (in italics) in the table. The only exception is cavalry regiment No. 10 which had so many colonels that the space was not enough. The letters represent battles (normal style) and sieges (italics), and the colours show which theatre of war the regiment was located in any given year according to the following system:

Anglo-Dutch Service Austrian Service Germany Denmark The Baltic Poland ?
D = Düna
F = Fraustadt
G = Gadebusch
K = Kliszow (1702), Kalisz (1706)
P = Pultusk (1703), Punitz (1704), Prosna (1716)
Po = Posen
S = Stralsund (1715), Sockel (1716)
Sa = Sandomir
S S = Stralsund and Stresow
T = Thorn (1703), Tönningen (1713)
W = Warsaw
 

  Infantry

1700

1702 1704 1706 1708 1710 1712 1714 1716
1  Polish Guard   D K T Po P   F                    
2  Saxon Guard   D K T Po P   F             T      
3  Kurprinz   D K   Po P   F                 S S  
4  Königin (Queen)   D K   Po P   F                 S S  
5  Benkendorf - Egidy                                  
6  Röbel - Steinau     K                            
7  Tiesenhausen - Thielau   D     Po P                        
8  Neitschütz - Pistoris - Goltz     K T                          
9  Sacken         Po P                        
10  Venediger und Biron       T     F                    
11  Fürstenberg - Kaiser         Po P   F             T   S  
12  Görtz     K                            
13  Beichlingen - Wackerbarth - Friesen     K   Po P                 T   S  
14  Reuss       T     F                    
15  von Bieberstein                                  
16  Löwenhaupt - Reibnitz       T     F                    
17  Rothenburg                                  
18  Zeitz - Schulenburg     K T Po P                        
19  Weimar - Kanitz       T Po P                        
20  Tromp - Droste       T Po P   F                    
21  Flemming/Mannig/Seidlitz grenadiers     K                            
22  Heyne - Nehmitz (grenadiers)                                  
23  Wostromirsky - O´Gilvy - Goltz         Po P   F                 Sa  
24  Martiniére/Joyeuse (grenadiers)             F                    
25  Malleraque             F                    
26  Wolfenbüttel                                  
27  Weissenfels                               S S  
28  Seiffertitz                                  
29  Ansbach-Bayreuth - Seckendorff                              

S

 
30  Seissan - Flemming                              

Sa

 
31  Seydlitz                              

Sa

 
32  Flemming - Wackerbarth                              

Sa

 
33  Ansbach-Kavanagh                               S S  
34  Ansbach-Castelli                               S  
35  Dresden Garrison Battalion                                  
36  Janissary Corps                                  
  Cavalry 1700 1702 1704 1706 1708 1710 1712 1714 1716
1  Leibgarde- Garde du Corps     K     W F K                    
2  Chevaliergarde             F K                  

 

3  Leibregiment zu Pferd   D K   Po W K             T   S

 

4  Kurprinz   D K   Po W K           G T      
5  Banér - Jordan     K                            
6  Steinau - Damitz - Johnston - Zühlen     K P   W             G T  

Sa

 

7  Königin (Queen)  

D

K P   W K           G T  

Sa

 
8  Reichenau - Eichstädt - Wolffersdorff     K   Po W K            

T

 

S Sa

 
9  Beust - Moritz von Sachsen       P P   F K            

T

 

Sa

 
10  Tiesenhausen among others       P Po W K                

Sa

 
11  Flemming - Prinz Alexander             K           G T  

Sa

 
12  Sachsen-Meiningen                              

Sa

 
13  Wiedemann                                  
  Dragoons 1700 1702 1704 1706 1708 1710 1712 1714 1716
1  Leibregiment Dragoner   D K P   W

K

               

S

 
2  Kurprinz     K                            
3  Wolfenbüttel - Milkau  

D

K P   W K                  

S

4  Sanosky - Goltz - Flemming - Bielke     K P   W F K                  

P S

5  Stammer                                  
6  Brause       T   W K          

G

T    

S

7  Schulenburg - St. Paul       P   W K             T    

S

8  Brandenburg-Bayreuth         Po P   F           G T    

 

9  Oertzen - Dünewald - Weissenfels         Po P   F           G T    

S

10  Wrangel - Baudissin             F           G T      
11  Flemming           W

F

                   
12  Fürstenberg             F                    
13  Jordan             F                    
14  Winckel             F                    
15  Ansbach-Feilitzch - Ansbach-Flemming                          

T

  S S P
16  Ansbach-Schmetten                              

S

P
    1700 1702 1704 1706 1708 1710 1712 1714 1716

The poor state of Saxony's economy forced Augustus the Strong to raise revenue by sending auxiliary corps to Austria and the maritime powers (Holland and Great Britain) to serve in the War of the Spanish Succession even though he was fighting a losing war of his own against Sweden. The table above however does not give the complete picture of the Saxon contribution to the War of the Spanish Succession. The regiments shown to have been in Austrian service in 1703 were actually hired from November 1702 to May 1704. The next contingent sent to Austria served according to the table as auxiliaries in 1705 and 1706 but were actually there from August 1705 to December 1707. The infantry regiments shown to have been in Anglo-Dutch service in 1707-1713 only sent one battalion while the other remained in Saxon service.

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