Seven Years War

Fredericks suffers first defeat in the war
Frederick II after the Battle of Kolin ©Image Attribution forthcoming. Image belongs to the respective owner(s).
1757 Jun 18

Fredericks suffers first defeat in the war

Kolin, Czechia

Frederick II of Prussia had won the bloody battle of Prague against Austria on 6 May 1757 and was besieging the city. Austrian Marshal Daun arrived too late to fight, but picked up 16,000 men who escaped from the battle. With this army he slowly moved to relieve Prague. Frederick stopped the bombardment of Prague and maintained the siege under Duke Ferdinand of Brunswick, while the king marched against the Austrians on 13 June along with Prince Moritz of Anhalt-Dessau's troops.


Frederick took 34,000 men to intercept Daun. Daun knew that the Prussian forces were too weak to both besiege Prague and keep him away from Prague for a longer time (or to fight the Austrian army reinforced by the Prague garrison), so his Austrian forces took defensive positions on hills near Kolín on the night of 17 June. At noon on 18 June, Frederick attacked the Austrians, who were waiting on the defensive with a force of 35,160 infantry, 18,630 cavalry and 154 guns. The battlefield of Kolín consisted of gently rolling hill slopes.


Frederick's main force turned toward the Austrians too early and attacked their defensive positions frontally instead of outflanking them. Austrian Croatian light infantry (Grenzers) played an important role in this. Austrian musket and artillery fire stopped Frederick's advance. A counterattack by the Austrian right was defeated by Prussian cavalry and Frederick poured more troops into the ensuing gap in the enemy line. This new assault was first halted and then crushed by Austrian cavalry. By afternoon, after about five hours of fighting, the Prussians were disoriented and Daun's troops were driving them back.


The battle was Frederick's first defeat in this war, and forced him to abandon his intended march on Vienna, raise his siege of Prague on 20 June, and fall back on Litoměřice. The Austrians, reinforced by the 48,000 troops in Prague, followed them, 100,000 strong, and, falling on Prince August Wilhelm of Prussia, who was retreating eccentrically (for commissariat reasons) at Zittau, inflicted a severe check upon him. The king retreated from Bohemia to Saxony.


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Last Updated: : Thu Aug 18 2022