This rare and fascinating broadside showcases the Battle of Lobositz / Lovosice, Bohemia, fought on October 1, 1756, which has the distinction of being the first major European land battle of the Seven Years’ War (1756-63). During this complicated, global conflict, King Frederick the Great’s Prussia was aligned with Britain and various lesser allies against an alliance of Empress Maria Theresa’s Austrian Habsburg Empire, Saxony, France and various other powers.
Frederick II “The Great” of Prussia (ruled 1740-86), having bettered his adversaries in previous conflicts and having trained his army to near perfection, was determined to open the Seven Years’ War with on an aggressive posture. He essentially ran his army straight through Saxony, determined to take the fight directly to his arch-nemesis Austria, by invading Habsburg Bohemia. This was a daring move as it ensured that Frederick would be outnumbered at an ‘away game,’ and it was done against the ardent advice of his British allies.
The town of Lobositz (Lovosice) occupied a strategic position, as the natural northwestern gateway to Bohemia, sitting on the banks of the Elbe River, just as the Ore Mountains (Krušné hory) descended towards the Bohemian Lowlands.
However, the Austrian army was prepared, as they were already encamped at Budin, just to the southeast of Lovosice. Saxon spies had alerted its commander, Field Marshall Count Maximilian Ulysses Count von Browne, that Frederick intended to descend into the Bohemian Lowlands at Lovosice. Browne knew that failure to stop Frederick there would likely mean that Prussia would be able to seize Prague, which was a relatively easy 3-4 day march beyond.
On September 28, 1756, Browne marshaled all of his forces in the region, totaling 33,000 men, and moved to Lovosice to ambush Frederick’s force of 28,000 strong. They took up their positions along the slopes of an extinct volcano and waited.
The morning of October 1, 1756 was thick with fog as Frederick’s army approached Lovosice, completely unaware of Browne’s design. At first, Frederick’s advance guard skirmished with what appeared to be a small Habsburg force, attacking them under the assumption that they could be easily overcome. However, this lured the Prussians further into a spatial trap, deeper into the valley.
The Prussian General Gessler, without informing Frederick, ordered a full-scale cavalry charge upon the Austrian positions. A shocked Frederick exclaimed “My God, what is my cavalry doing! They're attacking a second time, and nobody gave the order!”. The Prussians were promptly mauled by the Austrian artillery. By this point they were aware of the sheer magnitude of the trap they entered, with Frederick realizing that the battle was lost. The only hope was to escape without any further losses, with the Prussian officers remarking “These are no longer the same old Austrians” (like the ones that they had throttled in previous battles).
Fortunately for Frederick, Browne was unwilling to chance the decimation of this own army, and so after the fighting halted upon nightfall, he decided to withdraw his army to Budin. Browne’s withdrawal allowed Frederick to save face by calling what was a strategic defeat a technical victory. Frederick was compelled to scrap his planned invasion of Bohemia, so granting the Austrians their strategic objective. The onset of winter would place the war in the region on hold, however, great drama was to unfold in the 1757 season.
News of the Battle of Lobositz / Lovosice spread all across Europe, as people clamoured to learn details of one of the year’s two great European military events (the other being the Siege of Minorca). The present broadside is one of the most attractive and interesting of the many contemporary publications that were made to showcase the event.
The maker the present broadside is anonymous, with the inscription ‘Dessiné sur les Lieux par C. F. v. P. Off. du C. In. de P.,’ located underneath the engraved view, being the only clue. That being said, owing to the broadside’s style and content, it was almost certainly printed somewhere in Germany.
The action-packed view of the battle, which comprises the upper third of the broadside, is explained in detail (in German) by the letterpress text below describing 17 key aspects of the event.
The survival rate of 18th Century broadsides is very low, and the present piece is rare. We are aware of no other examples appearing on the market during the last generation and can trace only 4 institutional examples (all in Germany).
References: Drugulin, Historischer Bilderatlas, vol. II, no. 4546 (p. 390).