The Speedy Army of Execution of the Empire during the Seven Years War:
Infantry Regiment Mengersen

(part two)

Service (1)

The Infantry Regiment Mengersen left Paderborn still incomplete on July 20, 1757. The intention of the Paderborn administration was to provide additional recruits during the regiment's march to its muster in Bonn. The two regimental 4-pounder guns had been sent previously to Münster for repair. The artillery detachment rejoined the regiment in the Thuringian theatre of operations.

The regiment marched via Arnsberg towards the Kurfürst's residence in Bonn. Arriving on August 9, it was mustered during the following days. No sources indicate that the Elector honoured his soldiers by being present for muster. The regiment left Bonn on August 13, marching via Frankfurt/Main to Hammelburg. Upon learning that the Reichsarmee, the Army of the Empire, was already marching from its original assembly area near Nürnberg to the Erfurt area, the regiment had to change its route. On September 16, 1757, it arrived in Meiningen.

Between July 1 and September 5, 1757, the regiment lost 82 men by desertion, i.e. ten percent of its nominal strength. Nevertheless, the French Commander-in-Chief, Prince de Soubise, evaluated it in a report to Paris as being "mediocre"(2). . This evaluation was almost a compliment to the regimental officers and NCOs, taking into account the large number of recruits, and the fact that training was only possible during march rests .

The regiment did not participate in the actual fighting during the battle of Rossbach, November 5, 1757. That day, it was marching from Dornburg, the assembly area of the Reichsarmee's train, to Kösen, a Saale river crossing, together with the two regiments provided by Elector Clemens August from the Bishopric of Münster. After the battle, the regiment fought a rearguard action at Eckartsberga, and suffered significant losses in personnel and material during the chaotic withdrawal of the so-called Kombinierte Kaiserliche Reichs-Exekutions&endash; und Französische Armee, the Combined French Army and Army of Execution of the Empire.

The winter of 1757/58 was spent in Thuringia in the area of Hildburghausen.

The 1758 campaign started for the regiment with the assembly of the Army of the Empire in the vicinity of Bayreuth. The army's basic mission was, as in the 1757 campaign and in all following campaigns, to liberate the Electorate of Saxony from Prussian occupation and to deny the use of that country's resources to the Prussians. In 1758 the campaign plan was to march to Bohemia, to join there with the Austrian corps Serbelloni, to secure as a combined force the Austrian province of Bohemia against Prussian attacks, and to neutralise the Prussian corps of Prince Heinrich, occupying Saxony, by the threat or conduct of an invasion into that country.

On April 14, 1758, Infantry Regiment Mengersen marched from its winter quarters in the direction of Eger via Bamberg and Bayreuth. On May 29, it arrived at the camp of Saaz where the Army of the Empire linked up with the Austrian Corps. On June 13, the regiment, together with the Austrian Hussar Regiment Splényi and the Palatinate Cavalry Regiment, was placed under the command of the Austrian Major-General Luszinsky. This corps was used as a covering force on the left flank of the combined Austrian and Imperial troops until August 28.

That army slowly moved on June 20, from the camp of Saaz, in a general northerly direction towards the Saxon town of Pirna and the Sonnenstein fortress in its vicinity. Pirna was a key position, on the left bank of the Elbe river, for controlling communications from and to the Saxon capital, Dresden. By taking this position, the combined forces would be able to establish and maintain close contact with the Austrian main army under Marshall Daun, currently on the right bank of the Elbe river and looking for options to gain Saxony.

Returning to the main forces of the Army of the Empire, together with the other four regiments of Elector Clemence August, the regiment formed a brigade under Major-General von Nagel from the Cologne contingent. This brigade was part of the reserve corps under the command of Lieutenant-General Macquire. The corps was used to cover the siege of Pirna and the Sonnenstein fortress, which resulted in the capitulation of its Prussian garrison on September 5.

The regiment was already depleted, mainly by the operations within the covering force. During a muster in the camp of Pirna an actual strength of 573 officers, NCOs, soldiers and civilians was counted: 16 in the regimental staff, 531 in the companies, 9 in the Artillery detachment and 17 in the regimental train. However, the campaign was not over yet. On October 15 the regiment marched with the army in a rearward movement towards a camp at Berggießhübel. Hopes to keep the Prussians in check and to control Saxony were in vain. Prussian manoeuvres in Saxony were countered by marches towards Freiberg (9 November) and north of that town. Indeed, the season for campaigning was over. Again, the Army of the Empire left Saxony. It marched to Zwickau (21 November) and separated shortly afterwards into individual units marching to their winter quarters.

Infantry Regiment Mengersen took its quarters in the area of Schmalkalden, just north of the area occupied during the previous winter. A rest was badly needed as in February 1759 the regiment counted only 508 men.

The regiment left Schmalkalden in April when a force from the Allied Army unter Duke Ferdinand of Brunswick reached Meiningen. That corps succeeded in destroying three of the Elector's regiments in its operations. Infantry Regiment Mengersen was forced to conduct a hasty retreat. Consequently, it was so depleted that during the 1759 campaign it was no longer used in the frontline, but to guard the army commander's baggage.

The winter of 1759/1760 was spent in the Franconian area around Bayreuth. Some 300 recruits brought the regiment up to a strength of 682 men by January 1760.

On June 11, 1760, the regiment rejoined the Army of the Empire in the camp of Hof. For that army the most suceessful campaign of the war began. Again, it marched towards Dresden to operate in close cooperation with the Austrian army so as to deny the Prussians the use of Saxony. Dresden was defended by Reichsarmee units when Prussian forces in mid-July laid siege to the city. Infantry Regiment Mengersen, however, did not participate in the successful defence. It was used for security operations in the army's rear area. During August the regiment was part of the army's offensive against the Prussian Korps Hülsen, it was present at the Battle of Strehla on August 20, when the Prussian fortress of Torgau surrendered on September 27, and when the fortified town of Wittenberg was taken on October 14.

However, those victories could not be converted into lasting results at an operational level. After its victory at Liegnitz, August 15, the Prussian main army was able to concentrate again in Saxony and to force the Army of the Empire out of their positions. The communications with the Austrian main army were interrupted. A complete withdrawal from Saxony became necessary after the Prussians won the battle of Torgau on November 3. The regiment marched towards Leipzig and into early winter quarters in the Thuringian area around Schleiz.

The winter of 1760/1761 brought no rest for the regiment yet. French and Prussian attacks, aimed at gaining additional forage from Thuringia, disturbed the Army of the Empire. The regiment was posted in a line of forward positions, in the vicinity of Saalfeld, to guard the Saale river crossing at the village of Schwarza. On April 2, 1961, the regiment was attacked by Prussian forces, encircled, and forced to surrender after a fierce fight lasting five hours. Eight officers and 176 Soldiers went into captivity; only a few escaped. The officers were brought to the fortress of Küstrin, the men were tempted to enter Prussian service, and some did.

The regiment had lost its combat effectiveness. No report has been found about further activities in the field. Some soldiers escaped from Prussian captivity or service and returned. A few recruits were sent to the regiment in 1762. On February 16, 1763, one day after peace had been declared, it fielded 228 men commanded by a captain Tromp.

On April 2, 1763 this captain reported to the Paderborn administration that the regiment had the Commander-in-Chief's permission to leave the army and that it was about to march home. It returned to Paderborn on May 3. Those not willing to serve further in the Paderborn military establishment were given permission to leave on May 9. The regiment had ceased to exist.

However, for the men the fighting was not yet over. High food prices in Paderborn, especially for bread, and the reluctance of the civilian authorities to hand out proper payment to the returning soldiers, caused a riot among the men. This time the Paderborn soldiers were victorious: in the end they got their proper payment.


1 ) The primary source for this description is Colonel von Kleist's 1761 report to the Paderborn administration, explaining (and excusing) the losses of personnel and materiel during the various campaigns: "Erklärung, wo die Leute, Feldrequisiten und sonstige Parzellen nach dem Ausmarsch von Paderborn geblieben". This report was published by G. J. Rosenkranz under the Titel "Das Paderbornsche Bataillon im siebenjährigen Krieg" in: Zeitschrift für Vaterländische Geschichte und Altertumskunde, Vol. 11, 1849, pp. 355-361.

An additional valuable primary source for the 1758 campaign was published by N. Cogswell, Zweybrücken in Command, 1998 (full citation in part one, NPI - No 16, Octobre-Novembre 2000).

A broader picture is given by A. Stoffers, Hochstift Paderborn, 1911 (full citation in part one, NPI &endash; No 16, Octobre-Novembre 2000). Stoffers was able to use the publications of the Prussian Grosser Generalstab for the 1757, 1758 and 1759 campaigns. Under the summary title "Die Kriege Friedrichs des Großen" (20 vols., Berlin, 1890-1913) the Seven Year's War up to the summer campaign 1760 was covered in a third part "Der Siebenjährige Krieg" comprising 12 volumes. Volumes 10 to 12 were not yet published when Stoffers work went into print. These three volumes and an additional volume 13 covering operations until the end of 1760 were used to complement this NPI description. Volume 13 was intended to be printed in 1914. It was withheld, however, due to WW I and went into print by private initiative in 1982 (LTR Verlag, Wiesbaden).

2 ) The source for this rating is the „Memoire raisonné sur l'armée de l'empire", Archive de guerre, Paris, Carton 3433, No. 17, as cited by Brodrück, Quellenstücke, 1858 (full citation in part one, NPI &endash; No 16, Octobre-Novembre 2000), p. 198


Regretfully, no primary source could be found to validate the description of the regimental uniforms or flags.

The Becher-Manuscript "Johann Christian Becher: Wahrhaftige Nachricht derer Begebenheiten, so sich in dem Herzogthum Weimar by dem gewaltigen Kriege Friedrichs II., Königs von Preußen, mit der Königin von Ungarn, Marien Theresen, samt ihren Bundesgenossen zugetragen, Weimar, ca. 1757", preserved by the Stiftung Weimarer Klassik, Signature Q 419, does not contain a Paderborn soldier.

However, the German specialist Richard Knötel, junior, shows this soldier in a series of cigarette-cards, published under the title "Deutsche Uniformen, Album: Zeitalter Friedrichs des Großen" by Sturm Cigaretten, Dresden in or shortly after 1932. Although his source material could not be identified, that picture is shown above.

Starting in May 1978, the KLIO (German Society of Friends and Collectors of Cultural and Historical Tin Figures) Working Group KA 7 produced a two-volume handout "Die Reichsarmee 1757-1763". It shows in a black-and-white drawing a Paderborn soldier and gives a description of the colours. Both match the Knötel picture on the cigarette-card. Regretfully, sources are not given in this handout. As far as the regiment's flags are concerned, this handout, too, states that no information was available.

Neil Cogswell, Zweybrücken in Command, 1998 (full citation in part one, NPI &endash; No 16, Octobre-Novembre 2000), annex, plate 41, prints a uniform chart which confirms those colours shown by the Knötel picture. Plate 42 is the drawing of a regimental flag, but with a warning that it must be taken with caution. Cogswell refers to the works of R. G. Prengel, G. R. Hurt and William S. Biles which I have not been able to consult myself yet.




Harald Howe