Action of Podol, 26-27 June 1866

The action of Podol (26-27 June 1866) saw the Prussians defeat an Austrian counterattack which was designed to expel the Prussians from their footholds across the River Iser. Instead the battle ended as a Prussian victory which saw them gain control of another major river crossing over the Iser.

Battles of the Austro-Prussian War 1866: Bohemian Front
Battles of the
Austro-Prussian War 1866:
Bohemian Front

At the start of 26 June the Prussian 1st Army was centred around Reichenberg, to the north of the Iser, while the Saxon and Austrian forces were based around Münchengrätz. The Austrians had some troops across the river, with a cavalry force at the village of Liebenau, half way between the Iser at Turnau and the Prusisans at Reichenberg. Clam-Gallas had argued against defended Turnau, and so the river crosses there and further south at Podol were unguarded.

On the morning of 26 June the Prussian 8th Division (von Horn) had advanced south towards Turnau and run into the Austrian outposts. The resulting Combat of Liebenau was the first significant combat of the campaign and saw the Austrians forced to retreat by weight of numbers. The Prussian 7th Division then reached Turnau, and established a foothold across the Iser, while von Horn's 8th Division moved south towards Podol.

On the afternoon of 26 June the Crown Prince of Saxony and Clam-Gallas received orders from General Benedek to hold the line of the Iser, and in particular to defend Turnau and Münchengrätz. When these orders were sent Benedek was planning to concentrate his efforts against Prince Frederick Charles, and intended to move his main army west.

Clam-Gallas and the Crown Prince decided to try and restore the situation by launched an immediate counterattack towards Turnau, and to occupy the hills west of the Iser. If this plan had succeeded it would only have placed the Austrians in further danger, for the Prussian Army of the Elbe was advancing from that direction.

Two major bridges crossed the Iser at Podel, carrying the railway and the main road from Türnau to Münchengrätz across the river. The railway crossed on an iron bridge, the road on a much lower wooden bridge linked to a causeway across the low meadows alongside the river. These bridges are about 200 yards apart.
 
The Prussians sent part of the 8th Division along the north bank of the river to occupy Podol. They reached Preper, a couple of miles to the east, at 6am, and sent patrols west towards the village. At this stage an Austrians had a small garrison in the village, and a fight broke out between them and a company of Jägers from the 4th Battalion. The Austrians were forced out the village, their barricades cleared, and the Prussians captured the river bridges.

The Austrians soon counterattacked. Troops from Poschacher's Brigade pushed the Prussians back across the bridges. More Austrian troops were detected coming from the west, and so the local Prussian commander, Major Flotow, decided to retreat. However General von Bose, commander of the 15th Brigade, could hear the firing from Preper, and advanced towards the sound of the guns with two battalions of infantry.

Bose decided to attack into the village, despite the superior Austrian numbers. The Austrians made a series of attacks in columns, but these were repulsed by volley fire from the Prussian needle guns. The Prussians then attacked the bridges. Their first attack was repulsed, but General Bose led from the front, and a second attack succeeded.

By this point Clam Gallas had arrived at the battlefield. He made a series of uncoordinated attacks using parts of Piret's and Abele's brigades, but these were repulsed with heavily losses. Finally, at about 1am on 27 June, the Austrians withdrew.

The Prussians suffered 130 casualties during the battle - 12 officers and 118 men, with 32 dead, 81 wounded and 17 missing.

The Austrians suffered much more heavily. They lost 6 officers and 537 killed and wounded (11 dead and 432 wounded), and another 509 prisoners (5 officers and 504 men). Many of these prisoners were taken after the fighting in Podol village - the Austrians had made good use of the village buildings as impromptu strongpoints, but many of these troops were then trapped as the Prussians advanced past them.

The victory at Podol left the Austrians and Saxons in a very vulnerable position. The Prussians now controlled the quickest route to Gitschin, and could have cut the communications between the two separated wings of the Austrian army. Instead Prince Frederick Charles wasted 27 June planning for a formal assault on the Austrian position at Müchengrätz, to be carried out by both of his armies on 28 June. This was based on an assumption that his opponents would stay in place, but Crown Prince Albert realised that his army was in grave danger, and ordered a retreat, to begin early on 28 June. When the Prussians did attack the resulting battle of Müchengrätz (28 June 1766) was more of a rearguard action than a major battle, and most of the Austrian and Saxon forces escaped to relative safety.

The Road to Königgrätz: Helmuth von Moltke and the Austro-Prussian War 1866, Quintin Barry . Looks at the events of the war that saw Prussia become the dominant power in northern Germany, a key step on the road to German unification. Focuses on the military campaigns, the role of von Moltke in the war, the Austrian reaction and the clashes between the Prussian military and political establishments. [read full review]
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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (19 June 2015), Action of Podol, 26-27 June 1866 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/action_podol.html

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