Combat of Schweinschadel, 29 June 1866

The combat of Schweinschadel (29 June 1866) saw the defeat of the last major Austrian attempt to retain a foothold east of the Eble, and completed the series of operations that brought the Crown Prince of Prussia's 2nd Army across the mountains into Bohemia.

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

At the start of the invasion of Bohemia (Austria-Prussian War, 1866) the Prussians operated in two widely separated wings. In the west the Army of the Elbe and the 1st Army advanced towards the River Iser. In the east the 2nd Army (Crown Prince Frederick William) had to cross the mountains through three passes and reach the Elbe. The Crown Prince had the more difficult task, as the main Austrian army was concentrating around Josephstadt on the Elbe, just to the south of his route of advance.

At the start of the campaign the Austrians could easily have concentrated against the Crown Prince, but General Benedek, the Austrian commander, decided to focus on the two western Prussian armies instead. A smaller force would be left to watch the Crown Prince.

This plan soon collapsed. The Prussian 2nd Army crossed the mountains in three columns, with V Corps on the left, the Guards Corps in the middle and I Corps on the right. The Austrians failed to defend the narrow passes, and the first battles were fought on the western edge of the mountains. The fighting began on 27 June. On the Prussian right I Corps suffered a defeat at Trautenau, and was forced back to its starting point, but on the Prussian left V Corps won a victory at Nachod, defeating an Austrian attempt to force them back into the mountains.

On 28 June the Guards Corps, which hadn’t fought on 27 June, attacked the victors of Trautenau and defeated them (battle of Soor or Berkersdorf, 28 June 1866). At the same time V Corps pushed west from Nachod, and defeated a second Austrian corps at Skalitz (28 June 1866).

On 29 June the Guards Corps continued to push towards the Elbe, and captured the river crossing at Königinhof. V Corps was ordered to continue to advance west from Skalitz towards the Elbe, with the aim of closing up with the Guards Corps around Königinhof. This would allow the Crown Prince's army to open up communications with the 1st Army, advancing east from the Iser. Their target was Gradlitz.

Their advance was opposed by the fresh Austrian 4th Corps (General Festetics). He had three brigades around Skalitz, with troops stretched out west from Trzebeschow towards Schweinschadel.

General Steinmetz decided to turn the left flank of the Austrian position. His main body was to move north to Ratiboritz, then turn west to move to Wetrnik, along a road north of, and parallel to, the Austrian position. A flank guard, made up of part of the 20th Infantry Brigade (Wittich) and Wnuck's Cavalry Brigade, was to advance on the Prussian left, marching west along the road towards Trzebeschow, then turning north towards Miskoles.

The Prussian advance began at around 2pm. The plan to avoid soon collapsed when the flank guard ran into the Austrians at Trzebeschow. At about the same time some Austrian artillery opened fire on the main Prussian column, which had reached Wetrnik. The Prussians advanced south-west to Miskoles, and prepared to attack Schweinschädel. The Prussians captured Schweinschädel, and then pressed on towards Dolan, but General Steinmetz was aware that this was taking him away from Gradlitz and the rest of the army. He ordered the attack to end, and the his corps resumed the march west/ north-west towards Gradlitz. This allowed the Austrian 4th Corps to escape across the Elbe and take shelter under the guns of Josephstadt.

The Prussians lost 394 men during this fighting. Austrian losses were heavier, although sources differ widely on the totals, from a low of 1,450 including 550 prisoners to a high of 1,484 killed and wounded and 3,400 unwounded prisoners.

By the end of the day the Crown Prince's army was concentrated on the eastern side of the Elbe, and controlled several crossings of the river. The Austrians had missed their chance to concentrate against him, but at the same time had seen several of their corps suffer heavy losses. The scene was now set for the decisive Prussian victory at Sadowa or Königgrätz (3 July 1866).

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (17 August 2015), Combat of Schweinschadel, 29 June 1866 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/combat_schweinschadel.html

Delicious Save this on Delicious

Help - F.A.Q. - Contact Us - Search - Recent - About Us -  Subscribe in a reader - Join our Google Group - Cookies