Monday, December 13, 2010

Kesselsdorf 1745 Order of Battle

Nine out of ten professional historians are willing to settle for less, and that's why I prefer to look at what the amateurs can do. An old lady at the local historical society is worth more than a random selection of university types in interest and accuracy, as well as in judgment, as three is to one.

When it comes to OBs for battles, here is a good place to start. We haven't got an old lady but George Nafziger has done stellar research work, and much of it although not exclusively with OBs, as well as translations and publication of obscure foreign works. I recommend that persons interested in these subjects also look into him by searching on his name.

George Nafziger Collection OBs
Here are the George Nafziger Orders of Battle for the Saxon Army at Kesselsdorf, and then for the Prussian Army at Kesselsdorf, on December 15, 1745, for our commemoration of the 265th anniversary of the battle.

First the Saxons, a 2-page pdf

And the Prussians  

                                             *            *              *

 Appreciation, Gratefulness and Constructive Criticism

Although it is possible and even advisable to constructively criticize these and many other OBs from the Nafziger Collection, and any other sources,  it is also possible and advisable to appreciate them, and I would push for that emotion of gratefulness most strongly. A double thank you to George Nafziger, q.v.

There are many books and articles on battles with a lot less than this, for one thing, and further, these OBs have only very recently become available freely for interested persons.

I could also pass similar judgments on wikipedia, both the positive and negative, and incidentally cite it as part of the proof of my assertion that nine out of ten historians will settle for less. Also any number of books can be put forth the same way, and more so as the field of history has become the ken of the so-called professional.

In future episodes, we will go ahead and specifically constructively criticize, however, because that is what one does with an OB, after spending perhaps centuries, not just years or decades, trying to find one.

And for the anniversary itself on Wednesday the 15th December, a Saxon view of the battle. Kesselsdorf is in the western suburbs of Dresden, a few miles out of the  city center. Shortly after the battle the Prussians came in and a peace was made in time for Christmas. The big wigs could celebrate in Dresden, and outside the quiet people had a chance to get a few days' work.

Ein Paar Groschen
For ein Paar Groschen or a few pennies one could get a job burying and liming the dead, since the Prussians would not help, if one was willing to hack at the frozen ground and help the animals to get the cart up the hill, with the snow and all. They didn't have enough gloves.

I used to work at a racetrack, and I can remember trying to figure out where to lay hands on a dead horse--the tail, the ear, the side, maybe the leg, no, that's not the heavy part--it's not a pleasant thing to remember, but I have done it more than once. There were 1400 dead horses on this field. The answer for them was to burn them on the spot.
Somebody's gotta do it.
                                          *          *           *                

A part of the problem in the English language, historically, the reason why we cannot obtain this type of information in anywhere near the level needed to satisfy demand, has to do with marketing, demographics, and cost-effective publishing. All that is in a process of change for the better with the advent of the Internet.

Similarly, what information we do have is also affected by such factors, so that certain subjects over and over receive the lion's share of attention. For example, most of our accounts of such battles as these have focused either on the person of Frederick the Great, or even more so characters a bit later like Napoleon, Wellington, and Nelson. Or the Duke of Marlborough, maybe Louis XIV, else it's on to George Washington. So...

That explains why Kesselsdorf is neglected, especially in English,  because Frederick the Great could not get there in time. He came up with the reinforcements a couple days later, and looked over the field where the farmers must already have been getting started with shovels, carts, and loads of lime.

The Old Dessauer, or der Alte Dessauer
It was Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Dessau who got the credit, and the glory, of scoring the victory, and Frederick had to simply look it over and approve, and get on with taking the town and seeing to the details of the peace. He didn't really like the old prince with the rare moustache, he was really an old friend from way back of Frederick's father. But there was no doubt about the victory. Leopold is known by his nickname, the Old Dessauer, or the Alte Dessauer. It helps distinguish him from his sons who also figure in the stories.

Since our books that even come close to talking about Kesselsdorf are frequently based on Frederick and his career, and he was not quite there, that's why even the good books skim quickly over this battle. He was close, though, and coming up quickly. So were others.

The Austrians were mostly in town sleeping in relatively warm beds, and that was a big part of why things went as they did. Prince Charles was right there in Dresden with 18,000 men, and did not see fit to come out and help the Saxons before or during the fight. It was all over in two hours, but the aftermath. The decision was done.

Actually it was really something, at the time, and was important for the Saxons. Considering what their leaders were actually up to at the time, it was important for the Prussians as well. For the overall War of the Austrian Succession, it was another episode among many.
                                                     *               *               *
I've got a frozen car to try to start, to get to the Salt Mines.  It's about eight below, wind chill factor, with snow and ice caked all over it no doubt. Need my groschen.


  1. Thanks for commenting, it feels like talking to yourself otherwise. I drifted into some PTSD I guess, but the burial details will be in this Saxon account coming up. Anyway it adds color to hear it firsthand.

    For the horses we'd get a winch and have to get the belt under the horse, then move it. A truck would come, and their logo was "Big or Small,
    We Haul 'em All."