Battle of Fraustadt, 13 February 1706

The battle of Fraustadt was one of the most one sided Swedish victories of the Great Northern War (1700-1721). A Swedish army 9,000 strong under Karl Gustaf Rehnskiöld attacked and defeated an allied Russian and Saxon army 18,000 strong under Johann Matthias von Schulenburg. The Saxon force was largely made up of French, Bavarian and Swiss mercenaries with a core of Saxons.

The allied army had been deployed carefully. The army was lined up between two villages, which protected its flanks. On each flank a battalion of infantry was turned to face outwards in case the Swedes did manage a cavalry attack. The line was protected by Spanish Riders – wooden spikes driven into the ground in front of the army to stop cavalry. Their precautions did not stop protect them.

Swedish infantry at this period was unusual in that it relied more on the sword than the musket. Swedish tactics emphasised the value of the attack on the charge. Muskets of the period might have been able to fire five or six volleys at incoming infantry, but most of them would be at extreme long range for the musket. The advancing Swedes might fire once during the charge, but would not stop to reload and fire again.

At Fraustadt the Swedish cavalry attacked on both flanks, drove off the allied cavalry and then attacked the allied centre. Meanwhile the Swedish infantry advanced on the charge, receiving three rounds of artillery and one of musket fire before reaching the allied lines. The Russians and Saxons were effectively surrounded. The result was a massacre. After fifteen minutes of combat, the allied lines broke and attempted to flee. Between 7,000 and 8,000 men were killed, many after surrendering. In all over 14,000 men were killed or captured at Fraustadt.

The defeat forced Peter the Great to evacuate Grodno. Charles XII was able to invade Saxony, and even to briefly depose Augustus of Poland. This was the high point of the war for the Swedes. At the start of 1708 Charles turned back towards Russia, suffering a defeat at the Battle of Poltava that forced him into a period of exile in the Ottoman Empire.

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (28 July 2007), Battle of Fraustadt, 13 February 1706 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_fraustadt.html

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