However, having won the general battle, Apraksin did not develop success. He stopped the troops, camped and was inactive. This allowed the Prussian command to quietly withdraw the troops and bring their order. Moreover, in September, Apraksin suddenly retires to the other side of the Pregel and starts hasty, as if he was defeated, and not the Prussians, retreat to the Neman. Having recovered from the Prussians, having learned about the departure of the Russians with a delay of a week, from that moment they were pursuing the Russian army on their heels all the way to the Prussian border. The reasons for such a shameful action of the Russian commander in chief are controversial to the present. There is an opinion that they are connected with the domestic political situation in Russia itself - Elizabeth was seriously ill, could have died, and the throne was supposed to be inherited by Prince Prussian king Frederick Prince Peter. Therefore, Apraksin, relying on the victory at the St. Petersburg court of the party of Tsarevich Peter, was afraid to develop an offensive so as not to fall into disgrace under the new sovereign. As a result, the success of the general battle was not used, the campaign next year had to start from scratch. Apraksin himself was removed from office, put on trial, and without waiting for the trial, died.
Thus, the Russian army had every opportunity to inflict a decisive defeat on Prussia and to complete the campaign in the 1757 year. However, due to indecision and mistakes of the high command, which was more busy with court intrigues than with war, this was not possible, and the chances of a quick victory were lost.
The Seven Years War (1756-1763) is one of the biggest conflicts of the New Age. The war went on both in Europe and overseas: in North America, in the countries of the Caribbean, in India, in the Philippines. All the great European powers of that time, as well as most of the middle and small states of Western Europe, took part in the war. Not surprisingly, Winston Churchill even called the war "World War I".
The main prerequisite of the Seven Years' War was the struggle of France and England for hegemony in European civilization (the western project) and, accordingly, world domination, which resulted in the Anglo-French colonial rivalry and the great war in Europe. In North America, border clashes took place between British and French colonists, involving both sides of the Indian tribes. By the summer of 1755, the clashes turned into open armed conflict, in which both the Allied Indians and regular troops began to participate. In 1756, Britain officially declared war on France.
At this time, Western Europe, a new great power - Prussia, which violated the traditional confrontation between Austria and France. Prussia, after coming to power in the 1740 year of King Frederick II, began to claim a leading role in European politics. After winning the Silesian Wars, the Prussian king Frederick took Austria’s Silesia, one of the richest Austrian provinces, from Austria, significantly expanding the kingdom’s territory and population more than doubled from 2,2 to 5,4 million. It is clear that the Austrians were eager for revenge, not intending to give up leadership in the then fragmented Germany to the Prussians and wanting to recapture rich Silesia. On the other hand, London, starting a war with Paris, needed “cannon fodder” on the continent. The British did not have a strong land army and concentrated the available forces on the colonies. In Europe, for England, where she had her own territory - Hanover, the Prussians had to fight.
Thus, in January 1756 of Great Britain concluded an allied treaty with Prussia, wishing thereby to secure itself against the threat of a French attack on Hanover, the hereditary possession of the English king on the continent. Prussian king Frederick, considering the war with Austria inevitable and aware of the limited resources, made a bet on the "English gold". He also hoped for the traditional influence of England on Russia, hoping to keep Russia from actively participating in the upcoming war and thus avoid war on two fronts. With this he miscalculated. Russian Chancellor Bestuzhev considered Prussia the worst and most dangerous enemy of Russia. In Petersburg, the strengthening of Prussia was perceived as a real threat to its western borders and interests in the Baltic States and in the north of Europe. Moreover, at that time Austria was a traditional ally of Russia (they fought with the Turks together), the allied treaty with Vienna was signed in 1746 year.
It is worth noting that, in general, this war did not meet the national interests of Russia. In this war, the Russians acted as the “cannon fodder” of Vienna, defending its imperial interests. Prussia, who had strong enemies, did not pose a strong threat to the Russians. Russia had more pressing tasks, in particular, the need to return the Black Sea coast with the Crimea and the Russian lands as part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (Poland).
The conclusion of the Anglo-Prussian Union pushed Austria, thirsting for revenge, to come closer to its traditional adversary, France, for which Prussia now also became an enemy. In Paris, they were outraged by the Anglo-Prussian Union and went to meet Austria. France, which had previously supported Frederick in the first Silesian Wars and who saw Prussia as just an obedient tool for fighting Austria, now saw Frederick as an enemy. A defensive alliance was signed between France and Austria at Versailles, which Russia joined at the end of 1756. As a result, Prussia, blinded by English gold, had to fight with a coalition of the three strongest continental powers, joined by Sweden and Saxony. Austria planned to return Silesia. Russia was promised Eastern Prussia (with the right to exchange it from Poland to Courland). Sweden and Saxony were also seduced by other Prussian lands - Pomerania and Luzation (Lusatia). Soon almost all German principalities joined this coalition.
The outbreak of war
Frederick decided not to wait until enemy diplomats divide his lands among themselves, the generals prepare the armies and launch an offensive. He attacked first. In August, 1756, he suddenly invaded Saxony, which was allied with Austria, and occupied it. 1 (12) September 1756, the Russian Empress Elizaveta Petrovna declared war on Prussia. On September 9, the Prussians surrounded the Saxon army, which was camped near Pirnoy. October 1 went to the rescue of the Saxons, the Austrian army under the command of Field Marshal Brown was defeated at Lobozitsa. Caught in a stalemate, the Saxon army capitulated on October 16. The captured Saxon soldiers were forcibly recruited into the Prussian army. King of Saxony Augustus fled to Poland (he was also the Polish ruler at the same time).
Thus, Frederick II knocked out one of the opponents; got a convenient operating base for invading Austrian Bohemia and Moravia; moved the war to the territory of the enemy, forcing him to pay for it; used the rich material and human resources of Saxony to strengthen Prussia (simply looted Saxony).
In 1757, three main battle theaters were defined: in West Germany (here the French were the opponents of the Prussians and the various German contingents of the Imperial army), the Austrian (Bohemia and Silesia) and East Prussia (Russian). Counting on the fact that France and Russia will not be able to enter the war before the summer of 1757, Friedrich had planned to defeat Austria before this time. Frederick did not care about the appearance of the Swedes of Pomerania and the possible Russian invasion of East Prussia. “The Russian crowd of barbarians; should they fight the Prussians! ”said Friedrich. At the beginning of 1757, the Prussian army entered Austrian territory in Bohemia. In May, the Prussian army defeated the Austrian army near Prague under the command of Prince Charles of Lorraine and blocked the Austrians in Prague. Taking Prague, Frederick was going to go to Vienna and destroy his main enemy. However, the plans of the Prussian Blitzkrieg did not come true: the second Austrian army, commanded by the talented Field Marshal L. Down, came to the aid of the Austrians besieged in Prague. 18 June 1757 of the year in the vicinity of the town of Kolin, the Prussian army was defeated in a decisive battle.
Frederick retreated to Saxony. His position was critical. Prussia was surrounded by numerous armies of opponents. In the spring of 1757, France entered the war, whose army was considered one of the strongest in Europe. In the spring-summer, the northern 70 of thousands of French army under the command of Marshal Louis d'Estre occupied Hesse-Cassel and then Hanover, defeating the 30-thousandth Hanover army. The Prussian king entrusted the Duke of Beverna with defense against Austria, while he himself left for the Western Front. Having from this point on a considerable numerical superiority, the Austrians are winning a number of victories over the generals of Frederick and seize the key Silesian fortresses of Shveydnits and Breslau. The volatile Austrian squad even temporarily captured the Prussian capital in October.
The northern French army was headed by the new commander-in-chief, Louis Francois, duke de Richelieu. He belonged to the party of resolute opponents of the rapprochement of France with Austria and sympathized with the party of Frederick's supporters at the French court. According to the military historian A. A. Kersnovsky (“History Russian army ") Frederick just bribed Richelieu. As a result, the northern French army, which, after defeating the Hanoverians, opened its way to Magdeburg and Berlin, was in no hurry to continue the offensive. Meanwhile, Frederick, taking advantage of the inaction of the northern French army, on November 5, in the vicinity of the village of Rosbach, utterly attacked the second army of the French and Imperials. After that, Friedrich transferred his army to Silesia and December 5 won a decisive victory over the Austrian army, which had a large numerical advantage under the command of the Prince of Lorraine under Leuthen. The Austrians were crushed to smithereens. Prussians beat off Breslau. Almost all of Silesia, with the exception of Schweidnice, again falls into the hands of Frederick. Thus, the situation that existed at the beginning of the year was restored, the “combat draw” was the result of the 1757 campaign of the year.
Russian army campaign was announced in October 1756, and during the winter Russian troops were to concentrate in Livonia. Field Marshal Stepan Fedorovich Apraksin was appointed commander-in-chief. He began military service in 1718, a soldier in the Preobrazhensky regiment and in the reign of Peter II was already a captain. Thanks to the patronage of his stepfather, the head of the Secret Chancellery A. I. Ushakov (this cunning man was able to lead the Secret Chancellery under five monarchs) and B. Minich made a quick career, although he did not possess any talents.
Apraxin loved luxury. He was always richly dressed and studded with diamonds. The Russian historian, prince M. M. Shcherbatov wrote about Apraksin: “... little-aware of things, sly, luxurious, ambitious, always had a great table, his wardrobe consisted of many hundreds of different rich caftans; in a campaign all calm, all pleasures followed him. The tents with its size made the city, its wagon train more than the 500 horses aggravated, and for its own use the 50 were with lively, richly decorated horses ”. At the same time Apraksin was able to find high patrons. Arrogant and arrogant with his subordinates, Apraksin did everything to maintain his influence at court. So, he became a friend of Chancellor A. Bestuzhev-Ryumin. As a result, Apraksin's movement in the service went even faster: in 1742, he was a lieutenant colonel of the guard and a lieutenant-general, in 1746, a general-in-chief, with no talent for management, he became president of the Military Collegium. In 1751, he was awarded the Order of the Holy Apostle Andrew the First Called. When Russia concluded an alliance with Austria against Prussia, the Russian empress Elizaveta Petrovna granted Apraksin to field marshals and appointed the army commander in chief.
Field Marshal S.F. Apraksin
Here is such a seemingly powerful, but inside empty, rotten man became the commander of the main Russian army. Apraksin himself tried his best not to take any drastic steps. In addition, it was closely dependent on the Conference - a kind of supreme military council that borrowed from the Austrians - a degraded copy of the Gofkrygsrat. The members of the Conference were: Chancellor Bestuzhev, Prince Trubetskoy, Field Marshal Buturlin, Shuvalov brothers. At the same time, the Conference immediately fell completely under Austrian influence and, “commanding” the army for many hundreds of miles from St. Petersburg, was primarily guided by the interests of Vienna.
In the winter and spring of 1757, the Russian army completed its concentration in Livonia. The army was a significant shortage, especially in command personnel. The unsatisfactory situation was with the supply of the army, its administrative and economic part. In addition, the situation was bad with the morale of command. The Russian army lost its high fighting spirit, which had been since the victories of Peter the Great, but the Russian soldier, fighting with the Swedes and the Ottomans, repeatedly showed his high fighting qualities. Russian soldiers needed only commanders with the "Russian spirit". But there were problems with it. In Russia there were four field marshals: Count A. K. Razumovsky, Prince Trubetskoy, Count Buturlin and Count Apraksin. However, all of them were not real commanders, they were rather experienced courtiers, not warriors, “field marshals of the world, not wars,” one of them, Razumovsky, said about himself.
Prussians were afraid, considered almost invincible. Since the time of Peter the Great and Anna Ivanovna, the German order was a model for Russia, the Germans - teachers and bosses. In Russia, the Romanovs had a nasty habit of belittling themselves compared to foreigners (now this disease is again very common in Russia). And the army of Frederick beat the Austrians, the French. After the first skirmish on the border, when the three Russian dragoon regiments were overturned by Prussian hussars, the whole army was mastered by “great shyness, cowardice and fear” - said the participant of the war, Russian writer A. Bolotov. At the same time, this fear and cowardice at the top was stronger than among ordinary Russian soldiers. The Russian elite, the nobility and the officers followed the path of Europeanization (Westernization), that is, they extolled all Western, European (including military), compared to Russian.
Frederick II dismissively referred to the Russian army: “Russian barbarians do not deserve to be mentioned here,” he noted in one of his letters. The Prussian king had some idea of the Russian troops from his officers, who had previously been in the Russian service. They rated the highest command of the Russian army not too high. Frederick left for the defense of East Prussia an army under the command of old field marshal Johann von Levald - 30,5 thousand soldiers and 10 thousand militiamen. Levald began his military career back in 1699, distinguished himself in several battles, and in 1748 he was appointed Governor-General of East Prussia. At the beginning of the Seven Years' War, a brave and experienced Prussian commander successfully pushed aside the Swedish corps, who tried to attack Stettin from Stralsund. Frederick had no doubt that in the first general battle the Russian “barbarian army” would be defeated by the valiant Prussians. He even prepared a draft peace agreement with Russia, planning to divide Poland with the help of the Russians.
Prussian Field Marshal Johann von Levald
In May, Apraksin's army of 1757, numbering about 90 thousand people, of which about 20 thousand irregular troops (Cossacks, non-combatant, armed with bows and cold weapons Kalmyks, etc.), marched from Livonia towards the Neman River. The Russian commander in chief was himself mediocre, and he was entirely dependent on the Conference. He had no right to make important decisions without the consent of St. Petersburg. For any change in the situation, even for every little thing, the commander-in-chief had to communicate with Petersburg. At the beginning of the campaign, the Conference ordered him to maneuver so that he could go to Prussia or through Poland to Silesia. The aim of the campaign was the seizure of East Prussia. But Apraksin until June believed that part of his army would be sent to Silesia to help the Austrians.
June 25 (July 6) 1757 20 thousand auxiliary corps under the command of General-General Fermor with the support of the Russian fleet took Memel. This served as a signal for a decisive offensive by the Russian army. Apraksin with the main forces headed towards Virballen and Gumbinen. Combining with Fermor's corps, on August 12 (23), the Apraksin army headed for Allenburg. All this time, Levald was located in a well-defended position near Velau, limiting himself to sending an observation detachment. However, learning about Apraksin’s movement to Allenburg, in a deep detour of the position of the Prussian army, Levald went to meet the Russians, intending to engage in decisive battle.
To be continued ...