Siege of Kolberg (1807)
This page is a soft redirect.Battle of Kolberg]].
The Siege of Kolberg (now the Polish city of Kołobrzeg)[a] took place from March to 2 July 1807 during the War of the Fourth Coalition, part of the Napoleonic Wars. An army of the First French Empire and several foreign auxiliaries (including Polish insurgents) of France besieged the Prussian fortified town of Kolberg, the only remaining Prussian-held fortress in the Prussian province of Pomerania. The siege was not successful and was lifted upon the announcement of the peace of Tilsit.
After Prussia lost the Battle of Jena-Auerstedt in late 1806, French troops marched north into Prussian Pomerania. Fortified Stettin (Szczecin) surrendered without battle, and the province became occupied by the French forces. Kolberg resisted, and the implementation of a French siege was delayed until March 1807 by the freikorps of Ferdinand von Schill operating around the fortress and capturing the assigned French commander of the siege, Victor-Perrin. During these months, the military commander of Kolberg, Lucadou, and the representative of the local populace, Nettelbeck, prepared the fortress's defensive structures.
The French forces commanded by Teuliè, composed primarily of troops from Italy, succeeded in encircling Kolberg by mid-March. Napoleon put the siege force under the command of Loison, Frederick William III entrusted Gneisenau with the defense. In early April, the siege forces were for a short time commanded by Mortier, who had marched a large force from besieged Swedish Stralsund to Kolberg but was ordered to return when Stralsund's defenders gained ground. Other reinforcements came from states of the Confederation of the Rhine (Kingdom of Württemberg, Saxon duchies and the Duchy of Nassau), the Kingdom of Holland, and France.
With the western surroundings of Kolberg flooded by the defenders, fighting concentrated on the eastern forefield of the fortress, where Wolfsberg sconce had been constructed on Lucadou's behalf. Aiding the defense from the nearby Baltic Sea were a British and a Swedish vessel. By late June, Napoleon massively reinforced the siege forces to bring about a decision. The siege force then also concentrated on taking the port north of the town. On 2 July, fighting ceased when Prussia had agreed on an unfavourable peace after her ally Russia suffered a decisive defeat at Friedland. Of the twenty Prussian fortresses, Kolberg was one of the few remaining in Prussian hands until the war's end. The battle became a myth in Prussia and was later used by Nazi propaganda efforts. While prior to World War II the city commemorated the defendants, it honoured the commander of the Polish troops after becoming Polish.
Within two weeks after the Battle of Jena-Auerstedt (14 October 1806), Napoleon's Grande Armée had pursued the defeated Royal Prussian Army to Pasewalk in Prussian Pomerania. The provincial capital Stettin (now Szczecin), one of twenty Prussian fortresses, capitulated on 29 October making Kolberg, which at that time had about 5,000 inhabitants, the province's only fortress remaining in Prussian hands. Pierre Thouvenout was appointed French governor of Pomerania and sent his envoy Mestram to accept Kolberg's expected capitulation and take control of it.
On 8 November 1806, Mestram met with the Prussian commander of Kolberg Louis Maurice de Lucadou (Ludwig Moritz von Lucadou) before its walls. Lucadou's refusal to hand over the fortress came as a surprise to the French generals and the Prussian administration in Stettin, who had already pledged allegiance to the French; it further led part of the defeated Prussian army to take refuge in Kolberg and reinforce the two musketeer battalions of the von Owstien and von Borcke regiments and the 72 guns garrisoned there. Lucadou ordered the Persante (Parseta) river west of Kolberg to be dammed up to flood the area around the fortress, and arranged the construction of Wolfsberg sconce east of the town. Coordination of these measures with Joachim Nettelbeck, representative of the Kolberg citizens, was however impaired by the latter's personal grievances against Lucadou.
Among the Prussian soldiers who had retreated to Kolberg after Jena and Auerstedt was secondelieutenant Ferdinand von Schill, who after his recovery from a severe head injury in the house of Kolberg senator Westphal was ordered to patrol the areas west of the fortress with a small cavalry unit. Supplied with information about French movements by local peasants, he succeeded in capturing a number of French officers and soldiers, gathering food and financial supplies in neighboring towns and villages, and recruiting volunteers to his unit from inside and outside Kolberg.
Schill's victory in the skirmish of Gülzow (7 December 1806), though insignificant from a military point of view, was widely noted as the first Prussian success against the French army - while Prussian king Frederick William III praised Schill as the "kind of man now valued by the fatherland", Napoleon referred to him as a "miserable kind of brigand". As a consequence of these successes and Schill's increasing fame, Prussian king Frederick William III ordered him to establish a freikorps on 12 January 1807, which in the following months defended the fortress against French attacks allowing its defenders to complete their preparations for the expected siege with Swedish and British support via the Baltic.
Time for preparation was needed since Kolberg lacked sufficient defensive structures, manpower and armament to withstand a siege. The defensive works of the fortress had been neglected, only the port and Kirchhof sconce had been prepared for defense when Prussia feared war with Russia and Sweden in 1805 and 1806, but they had been disarmed in September. By early December 1806, the Kolberg garrison numbered 1,576 men, but increased steadily during the next months due to the arrival of Prussian troops and new recruits from nearby areas. Armament shortages were in part relieved by Charles XIII of Sweden, who sent rifle components from which local gunsmiths made 2,000 new rifles. As of late October 1806, a total of 72 guns were mounted on Kolberg's walls: 58 metal/iron cannons (8x 24 lb, 4x 20 lb, 40x 12 lb, 6x 6 lb), six iron howitzers (10 lb) and eight iron mortars (5x 50 lb, 3x 25 lb); in addition, there were four mobile 3-pounder cannons. While a convoy with artillery reinforcements was held up and captured by French forces near Stettin, twelve 12-pounder cannons reached Kolberg from the Prussian fortress of Danzig and the Swedish fortress of Stralsund, who each sent six guns. Since no further artillery reinforcements came in, the Kolberg garrison mounted an additional 92 guns on the walls which previously had been deemed unusable and withdrawn from service; these guns were positioned at the flanks at it was speculated that they might still serve to fire rocks and canister shots at short distances. Six guns captured by Schill's freikorps were also sent to Kolberg.
Claude Victor-Perrin, whom Napoleon Bonaparte had entrusted with taking Kolberg, was captured by Schill's forces in Arnswalde (12 January), detained in Kolberg and later exchanged against Prussian general Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher. With Victor-Perrin captured, the attack on Kolberg was to be led by Pietro (Pierre) Teulié's Italian division, who in February began the march on the fortress from Stettin. Schill's freikorps further delayed the French advance by provoking several skirmishes and battles, the largest of which took place near Naugard (Nowogard). Teulié reached the Kolberg area by early March, and by the mid of the month (14 March) had cleared the surrounding villages of Schill's forces and encircled the fortress.
Mid-March to April
When the French encirclement of Kolberg rendered Schill's strategy moot, Lucadou sent three cavalry units to aid the Krockow freikorps in the defense of Danzig, while Schill departed to aid in the defense of Stralsund in Swedish Pomerania. The suburbs, most notably Geldernerviertel, were burned down as it was customary.
Because of the delay in the French advance, Napoleon replaced Teulié as the commander of the siege forces with division general Louis Henri Loison; Frederick William III replaced Lucadou as the commander of the fortress with major August Neidhardt von Gneisenau after complaints by Nettelbeck and out of considerations for an envisioned British landfall at Kolberg - he feared that a French-born commander might irritate his British supporters, while on the other hand Gneisenau had been in British service during the American Revolutionary War.
In April, Napoleon withdrew the forces of Edouard Mortier from the siege of Stralsund and sent them to take Kolberg, however, Mortier soon had to return when the defenders of Stralsund pushed the remaining French troops out of Swedish Pomerania.
The French siege army was reinforced by troops from Württemberg and Saxon states (Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg, Saxe-Meiningen, Saxe-Hildburghausen and Saxe-Weimar) as well as a Polish regiment. The Saxon and Württemberg regiments were part of the army of the Confederation of the Rhine, which - like the Kingdom of Italy, whose troops were already present at the siege - was a French client. The Polish regiment, led by Antoni Paweł Sułkowski, with a strength of 1,200 had been transferred from the siege of Danzig (Gdańsk) on 11 April and arrived on 20 April; it was the 1st infantry regiment of the Poznań legion raised by Jan Henryk Dąbrowski on Napoleon's behalf, after a Polish uprising against Prussian occupation and French liberation[under discussion] of Prussian controlled Poland had resulted in the creation of a French client state in part of partitioned Poland.
May to June
Throughout May and June, the siege was characterized by heavy fighting around Wolfsberg sconce east of Kolberg.
- the first brigade was commanded by Berndes and included one Polish regiment under Antoni Paweł Sułkowski. Sulkowski in his diaries wrote that Polish soldiers were highly excited about the prospect of taking the city, as it was once part of Poland during the Piast dynasty. He wrote "our soldiers burn with the enthusiasm to move our borders to the pillars of Bolesław", and noted that the chaplain of the Polish soldiers Ignacy Przybylski called upon them Polish soldiers. We are camped under Kołobrzeg. Since the time of Chrobry our regiment formed in Poznan and Gniezno Voivodeships is the first to show its banners here. The brigade also included Württemberg regiments (Seckendorff, Romig);
- the second brigade was commanded by Fontane and included the 1st Italian line infantry regiment (Valleriani) and the infantry regiment Saxe-Weimar (Egloffstein);
- the third brigade was commanded by Castaldini and included the 2nd Italian light regiment;
- the fourth brigade was commanded by general Bonfanti and included the 1st Italian light regiment (Rougier).