The Surrender at Maxen
21st November 1759
Letter from General von Finck to Frederick the Great,
and Frederick`s reply
(Letters with German Text, with English Translations,
also Notes on the Circumstances)
Following the Battle of Kunersdorf (12th August 1759) Frederick the Great faced the prospect of being overwhelmed by his enemies. However due to a combination of discord among the allies, the effects of the heavy losses suffered by the Russians at Kay and Kunersdorf (some 23,000 of an initial total of 100,000) and effective manouevring by Prince Henry against Daun, the threat did not materialise and Frederick was able to rebuild his army. After the Russians marched away to winter quarters on 24th October the focus of the action moved to Saxony. Here the Reichsarmee had made considerable progress, and after taking Dresden the commander, Feldmarschall Pfalzgraf Friedrich Michael von Pfalz-Zweibrücken had been given the honorary title of "Liberator Saxoniae". Daun`s army near Dresden had been kept in check by Prince Henry, and after Frederick arrived he set out to drive Daun into Bohemia for the winter. To encourage him to depart Frederick ordered General-Lieutenant von Finck to take a detachment of 10,000 infantry and 3,500 cavalry to Dippoldiswalde, south of Dresden and in the rear of Daun`s army. At this stage Daun had 65,881 men (74 battalions of line infantry, 73 grenadier companies, 19 mounted carabinier companies, 93 squadrons, 14,000 Croats and hussars), more than the Prussians were able to deploy against him in front, flank and rear. Finck himself objected to the orders, but was overruled; interestingly, Frederick himself had written to Prince Henry earlier warning against sending out isolated detachments as Daun, under pressure from Vienna, would move to overwhelm them. Now with his confidence restored after the setbacks of the summer, Frederick sent Finck out. Instead of being held in position by Frederick to his north, or beginning a withdrawal to Bohemia, Daun deployed 32,000 men against Finck, who had taken up a position at Maxen; Finck was surrounded, the Austrians and Reichstruppen attacked on 20th November, and on the 21st Finck surrendered what was left of his force. Efforts to get the Prussian cavalry out failed.The loss of Finck`s force was a very heavy blow to the Prussians. The Austrians captured 9 generals, 6 colonels, 3 lieutenant-colonels, 32 majors and Rittmeister, 92 captains, 258 subalterns, 14,522 ncos and men, 96 flags, 24 standards, 4 pairs of kettle drums, 71 guns, and 44 ammunition carts. The Austrians were no longer prepared to exchange prisoners, and as such the units simply disappeared from the Prussian order of battle. The officers represented some ten percent of the entire Prussian officer corps. Austrian and German losses totalled 984. It was not the first occasion during the Seven Years War on which Frederick misjudged Daun.
Frederick subsequently held the regiments involved in permanent aversion; Finck himself was put in front of a court-martial after the year, cashiered and sentenced to one year of fortress arrest. He subsequently served as a general in Denmark.
Brief von General-Lieutenant von Finck an König Friedrich II.
betreffs der Capitulation von Maxen
21. November 1759
Dresden, 21. November 1759
Es ist mit der grössten Chagrin, dass ich Ew. kgl. Majestät allerunterthänigst melden muss, dass, nachdem ich gestern von drey Seiten bin attackiert worden, ich endlich nach einer hartnäckigen Gegenwehr bin geschlagen worden; der Rest des Corps sammelte sich in der Nacht Nacht bei Bloschwitz. Ich tentirte zwar, um in der Nacht die Cavallerie noch suchen durchzubringen;es war aber alles Vergeblich. Nachdem ich nun erst die völlige Artilklerie verloren hatte, es mir auch an Munition gebrach, so bin ich leider gezwungen worden, mich mit dem Rest heute Morgen zu kriegsgefangen zu ergeben. Euere königliche Majestät seynd viel zu gerecht, als dass Höchstdieselben wegen diesem betrübten Vorfall mir einige Ungnad zuwerfen werden, da ich mich dann der allerstrengsten Untersuchung unterwerfe und in tieffster Devotion ersterbe.
Antwort von König Friedrich II. an General-Lieutenant von Finck
23. November 1759
Wilsdruff, 23. November 1759
Euer Schreiben vom 21. dieses ist mir eingeliefert worden. Es ist bis dato ein ganz unerhörtes Exempel, dass ein preussisches Corps das Gewehr vor seinem Feind niederlegt; von dergleichen Vorfall man vorhin gar keine Idee gehabt. Von der Sache selbst muss ich annoch mein Judicium suspendiren,weil ich die eigentlichen Umstände, so dabei vorgegangen, noch gar nicht weiss.
Letter from General-Lieutenant von Finck to King Frederick II.,
reporting the Capitulation at Maxen
21st November 1759
Dresden, 21st November 1759
It is with the deepest regret that I must humbly report to Your
Majesty that after being attacked from three sides yesterday, I was defeated after
a determined defence. The remanants of the corps gathered at Bloschwitz during the night. I had intended to try
to get the cavalry through during the night, but it was all in vain. After I had first lost my entire artillery and then ran low on ammunition,
I was unfortunately compelled to surrender myself and the remains
of my corps as prisoners of war this morning. Your Royal Majesty are too just to look on me with disfavour over this unfortunate
event, if Your Majesty does so I will submit to the most thorough examination on the whole matter and die in the deepest devotion.
v. Finck Reply from King Frederick II. to General-Lieutenant von Finck Wilsdruff, 23rd November 1759 I have received your letter of the 21st. It is to date unheard of for a Prussian corps to lay down its arms to an enemy;
until now there has been no concept of such a thing. I must suspend judgement on the matter, as I do not yet
know the details of what has occurred.
Frederick See also Prussian Losses at Maxen, 21st November 1759- Generals, Units, etc. Return to top of Page Return to Contents Website "The Seven Years War 1756-63"
23rd November 1759
©Martin Tomczak 2005
Reply from King Frederick II. to General-Lieutenant von Finck
Wilsdruff, 23rd November 1759
I have received your letter of the 21st. It is to date unheard of for a Prussian corps to lay down its arms to an enemy; until now there has been no concept of such a thing. I must suspend judgement on the matter, as I do not yet know the details of what has occurred.
See also Prussian Losses at Maxen, 21st November 1759- Generals, Units, etc.
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Website "The Seven Years War 1756-63"