Part 1: Walk the Line
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‘It would require a greater philosopher and historian than I am to explain the causes of the famous Five Years’ War in which Europe was engaged; and, indeed, its origin has always appeared to me to be so complicated, and the books written about it so amazingly hard to understand, that I have seldom been much wiser at the end of a chapter than at the beginning, and so shall not trouble my reader with any personal disquisitions concerning the matter.’

-William M. Thackeray, The Luck of Barry Lyndon (1844)

Part 1: “Walk the Line”
The Battle of Krefeld

Excerpt from The Five Years War in Europe, 1756-1761, by Franz A.J. Szabo (2008):

[...] It was at the battle of Crefeld that the French saw renewed success. On the morning of 22 June Clermont [1] reported that enemy forces were occupying various towns north of his position, believing that they were in no position to engage in offensive action. That same afternoon, news finally arrived. That same afternoon the news finally arrived from Belle-Isle that the order for Soubise to march up the Rhine to Düsseldorf had been recalled. Clermont was now expected to attack Ferdinand [2] on his own as soon as possible.

Having noticed that Clermont had entrenched himself in a defensive position behind the Landwehr, Ferdinand opted to go on the offensive. In the early morning hours of 23 June, his forces were on the move. As usual, Ferdinand had been very secretive about his plans, not informing his generals of the details until 2.00 a.m. on the 23rd. It was only then that they discovered that their commander intended to launch a diversionary attack on the French front along the Landwehr but to have the bulk of the army execute a flanking march south-westward in order to take the enemy on their left and rear. Ferdinand’s forces were divided into five columns. On the extreme left a force under Spörcken was to menace the French right at one of the Landwehr crossings just south of Crefeld. A second column under the command of Lieutenant-General Christian Ludwig Oberg was to assault the French centre and left at Landwehr crossings at the villages of Am Stock and Mai. The remaining three columns began their long march towards the town of Berschelsbaum, the next crossing point of the Landwehr west of the French position.

However, the French had managed to take notice of the crossing [3], with reports of the crossing to Berschelsbaum reaching Clermont by 9.30 a.m. By 10.00 a.m. Clermont recognised the danger, deploying infantry and cavalry on his left flank, facing a great ditch that ran into the Landwehr well east of Berschelsbaum and made up the southern perimeter of his position. For a while, Clermont remained fixated on the attack forming on his northern front along the Landwehr, but once the flanking assault became evident much of his attention shifted to the left flank and the great ditch. 14 squadrons of French cavalry were called to action, attacking the Hanoverians attempting to break the southern perimeter. The Hanoverians were thrown back across the great ditch and are duly beaten back. Failing to remove the French from their positions, and with Clermont establishing new positions north of the great ditch at Holterhöfe, Ferdinand realised he had to abandon the assault on Clermont’s southern flank. However, with infantry assaults on the northern front beginning to falter, and as darkness began to creep onto the battlefield, Ferdinand would ultimately make the choice to abandon the entire position and retreat northward to Noer. There was no pursuit and the Hanoverians withdrew in good order. [...]

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The Battle of Krefeld



Excerpt from Fall of the Fatherland: A Modern Historiography of Frederick the Great, by Tim Blanning (2016):

[...] the fallout from Krefeld is much understated. The enterprising Ferdinand of Brunswick’s campaigns, which had sent the French reeling back about 300 kilometres across western Germany to the Rhine had been countered by the French. Ferdinand’s army retreated north toward Moers, opening the door to another French invasion of Hanover. Emboldened by the success, Soubise’s army is given orders to invade Hesse, while Clermont’s army gives chase to Ferdinand. Cassel is occupied by the end of July, causing Ferdinand’s retreat across the Rhine, just as the French had intended. By mid-August, Clermont’s army completes the crossing as well, as Soubise begins a second Hanoverian campaign by occupying Göttingen on 22 August. Despite the French advances, Frederick’s strategy remained as it had been the previous years: strike hard and fast at Austria. In 1757 the Russians had overwhelmed a small Prussian army at Gross-Jägerndorf in East Prussia at the end of August, but very soon afterwards had retreated east into winter quarters.

Although the Russians had not gone far away, to their winter quarters in Courland and Livonia, Frederick could assume that it would take them many months before they reached the Prussian heartland. The same was assumed for the French in Hanover, with Frederick believing that the capable Ferdinand would be able to repel further advances by the French. An inconclusive engagement at Bantorf would give hope towards ousting France from Hanover but would nevertheless remain inconclusive. For now, Frederick was much more occupied with his eastern enemies. Despite the consistency in strategy, his main thrust towards the Austrians shifted east. Instead of invading Bohemia from Saxony, this time he invaded Moravia from Silesia. [...]

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Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick during the Battle of Krefeld, Emil Hünten


Excerpt from an account of the battle by Lt. Pelot d'Hennebont of the Condé Infanterie Regiment, to his mother (23 June 1758):

[Translated from the original Breton]

[...] Near the beginning of the action I was nearly knocked off my legs by three of my right-hand men, killed and drove against me by a cannon ball. That same ball also killed two men near Saint-Albin, whose post was towards the rear of the platoon, and in this place I assure you that he behaved with the utmost bravery, which I suppose you will make known to his father and friends. Soon after, our cavalry charged towards the Germans across the great ditch, pushing them back. [...]

[...] our line facing the Germans. My final misfortune, and the greatest of all, fell to my poor old coat for a musket ball entered into its right skirt and made two holes. I had almost forgotten to tell you that my spontoon was shot a little below my hand, but a German one now does duty in its place. The consequences of this affair are very great, we found by the papers, that the world began to give us up, and the Germans had swallowed us up in their imaginations. We have now pursued them above 100 miles with the advanced armies of the Count of Clermont, of whose success in taking prisoners and baggage and receiving deserters, Querisouet will give you a better account than I can present. They are now entrenching themselves at Moers, and you may depend on it they will not show us their faces again during this campaign.

I have the pleasure of being able to tell you that Captain De l’Hervec is well; he is at present in advance with the Grenadiers plundering German baggage and taking prisoners. I would venture to give him thirty livres for his share of prize money.

I have now contrary to my expectations and in spite of many interruptions written you a long letter, this paper I have carried this week past in my pocket for the purpose, but could not attempt it before. We marched into this camp yesterday evening and shall quit it early in the morning. I wrote you a note just informing you that I was well the day after the battle; I hope you will receive it in due time. Be pleased to give my most affectionate duty to my father, my cousin and my friends [...]




Excerpt from The Five Years War in Europe, 1756-1761, by Franz A.J. Szabo (2008):

[...] The Battle of Crefeld was hard-fought. Clermont’s army had defeated the smaller army of Ferdinand of Brunswick and forced it to retreat northwards, despite some 4,200 casualties to Ferdinand’s 2,400. For the French, the defeat came as a sudden reversal of the series of ignominious setbacks since Rossbach, quelling Bernis’s fears that the war was hopeless. By the beginning of July, the French Army of Westphalia had seen its first success since the signing of the Convention of Kloster Zeven. If elation was the order of the day in Versailles, consternation reigned in London. The idea of British troops taking action on the continent further deteriorated in popularity. Before news of Crefeld arrived, Pitt had performed a dramatic about-face by proposing that 6,000 men from the St Malo expedition should upon their return be dispatched to Germany. Now the offer had to be rescinded. This greatly dissatisfied the king and Newcastle, who believed that operations in Germany were ‘the only true solid ones, from whence any great and real advantage can come,’ Frederick’s repeated request for British troops on the continent was left hanging, and would ultimately never be fulfilled. Certainly, as the month of June drew to an end, prospects for an early end to the war, and a peace favourable to the Allies had now been thrown into question. [...]

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Louis, Count of Clermont (Oil on canvas, 1771)



Notes

[1]: Louis, Count of Clermont and commander of the French Army of Westphalia
[2]: Ferdinand of Brunswick, commander of the Hanoverian Army of Observation
[3]: This is the Point of Divergence for the timeline. In reality, all three columns were able to make the crossing without detection by the French. This, along with some other factors, led to Ferdinand’s victory here and further humiliation of the French Rhine Campaign beyond recovery.

Postscript: An Introduction

Hello all, and welcome to the timeline. It’s the culmination of months of brainstorming, writing, and researching a whole bunch of historical events and details. The TL has gone through quite a few odd transformations, though at its heart it’s always been about a hypothetical French victory in the Seven Years’ War. Timelines of the sort are around, and thus I will try my best to make this one unique and engaging.

My work in terms of AH has been limited to graphics and mapmaking, none of which I’ve shared on the site though. The first PoD was the usual one at Kunersdorf (no Miracle of the House of Brandenburg), yet after some recommendations, it’s been changed to the one detailed above.

While seemingly insignificant, the ramifications of the PoD will be vast. The Seven Years’ War was a crucial turning point in the histories of many nations, and the effects of the changes I detail will be explored as the TL continues. The butterfly effect will take centre stage here and I’ll try to keep plausibility in mind, though any suggestions or concerns will gladly be taken.

It’s rather exciting to be launching my first proper TL and will be as much of a journey for me as it I hope it will be for you readers. My biggest inspirations have been Assouf’s The World of Tricolors and Traditions (whose influences can clearly be seen in the way this TL is gonna be formatted), Direwolf22’s Disaster at Leuthen, and Drex’s Ventis Ferrum. Do give these timelines a read, as I wouldn’t be inspired to start this one without their influences.

Thanks for checking out the TL!

-MrMano
 
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For anyone interested in the TL, it might take a week for me to post a second part as I'll be fairly busy IRL.
 
One of those is dead and another is Spain, only with a colonial empire, not much seems to change because history seems to repeat itself.

Although if you know more let me know.
Osman Reborn has a Spain that is able to expand its holdings in Africa after joining the Allies against Germany in an alt-WW1.
The Revenge of the Crown, Una diferente Plus Ultra, After the Forest of Foixá, America - Albion's Orphan, The Spanish Heir and Nobody Expects the Spanish Revolution also have a stronger Spain. More to the point, it's up to the author to decide what fate they prefer for Spain.
 
It doesn't need to be a Wank, it could just be a PoD that kills Carlos along with Fernando as a youth and leaves Gabriel as heir resulting in Spain being a much more useful ally for France than OTL.

PS: If in any case we go down the path of the disintegration of the empire, it would be interesting a scenario where the Rio de la Plata is not created but instead we have a Mega-Peru that after a while becomes its own kingdom.
 
Part 2: Come all you brave Britons
“Many historians, including myself, consider Crefeld a critical turning point in the course of the war. The connexion between victory at Crefeld and further French campaigns cannot be overstated. Had Ferdinand caused a rout along the lines of Rossbach, France’s Westphalian Army would have very likely not been able to recover. Perhaps history would have been kinder to Prussia…”

-Basil Williams, The English Historical Review (Jul. 1900)

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Part 2: “Come all you brave Britons
The French Rhine Campaign [1]

Excerpt from The New Cambridge Modern History, Volume VII by W.H. Auden (1912):

[...] It seemed as though Ferdinand was clearing through Westphalia, Hanover, Brunswick, and Hesse from the French with ease. He captured Minden (14 March) and drove the French over the Rhine at Emmerich (27 March), however, his streak of advances came to an end when facing the new French commander, Clermont, at Crefeld (23 June). Forced to retreat, Ferdinand was forced to abandon all of his gains. Clermont’s army would enter Düsseldorf (3 July) before finally giving chase to Ferdinand in the early weeks of July. Very much emboldened by the Allied retreat, Soubise would receive orders from Paris to advance into Hesse and occupy the principality before marching into Hanover and Brunswick. The early aim of these campaigns was clear as day; to force Ferdinand’s retreat back across the Rhine and to open the doors to an offensive into Hanover. The occupation of Cassel and a small victory by a force under Broglie at Sonderhausen (23 July) ultimately forced the decision to be made by Ferdinand by the start of August. It was not without any effort to delay French advances, however. Ferdinand ordered the burning of all his bridges, stalling the French for about a week. Alas, Ferdinand was losing his grip on Hanover and Westphalia, while France had been reinvigorated. [...]



Excerpt from The Five Years War in Europe, 1756-1761, by Franz A.J. Szabo (2008):

[...] Soubise would first occupy the city of Göttingen on 22 August, and advance a corps up to Calenberg, capturing the city on 24 August. Meanwhile, the army of Clermont would see its first engagements with Ferdinand after crossing the Rhine near the town of Minden. This time, it would be Clermont who would go on the offensive. Ferdinand had chosen his defensive positions by the fortified town well, and by the evening of 17 August, Clermont had informed his generals of his decision to attack by the next morning. In the early hours of 18 August, some 50,000 men would move across the Bastau stream in silence, poised to attack Ferdinand’s positions at the village of Hahlen and the plain of Minden.

Throughout this period it was evident that Ferdinand was suffering a crisis of confidence. He had already written to George II requesting instructions and urging that ships be made ready for a possible evacuation of the garrison at Emden. He consulted his senior officers but seemed at a loss to decide when their advice differed. Above all, his letters to Frederick of Prussia painted a bleak picture of the situation and implicitly asked for suggestions. Frederick was hardly sympathetic. ‘It seems to me,’ wrote the king, ‘that you are still smitten by your last setback at Crefeld… One thing I can tell you for sure is that if you cross the Weser you are lost beyond recall… For the love of God, don’t be dismayed and don’t see things in such black terms: the first step of a retreat makes a bad impression on an army, the second step is dangerous, and the third step is fatal.’ [2] By late August Ferdinand had already decided he could not afford to retreat any further and that a major battle with Clermont was unavoidable. [...]

[...] It seemed as though French plans had gone sour. For all its bravura, the charge of the French horse was shattered by well-disciplined and effective infantry fire, and a second charge met the same fate. This opened up an opportunity for Ferdinand’s own cavalry to counterattack and exploit the gap in the French centre. Unfortunately, Ferdinand’s orders to his cavalry commander, the Prince of Holstein-Gottorp, were insufficiently clear and explicit, so the latter hesitated to carry out the charge. In the meantime, Clermont deployed 17 regiments of his infantry to dislodge Spörcken. Despite the possibility of victory just within Ferdinand’s grasp, Clermont had managed to break his lines. By 2.00 p.m. the Hanoverian lines had collapsed and its remnants retreated towards the city (Hanover) itself.

The loss of Minden was a humiliation for Ferdinand, whose morale further deteriorated. To the King of Prussia, it seemed clear that Ferdinand had allowed himself to be intimidated by these French successes. At the rate he was going, Frederick wrote, he was going to lose everything with an army that was ‘bigger and better than the one the Duke of Cumberland had.’ Ferdinand, his former royal master opined, ‘seemed to have made it [his] task to imitate all his [Cumberland’s] bad manoeuvres.’ He should rather take an example from the king’s own self-confessed brilliant capacity to hold off enemy forces twice the size of his own. Frederick had still failed to see the French as a serious threat, a fact that he would later come to regret as Prussia’s position began to falter [...]

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The Battle of Minden



A letter from Col. Charles von Breitenbach of the Hanoverian Main Army to his wife (20 August 1758):

[Translated from the original German]

My love,

We have been marching for the past two days. It is only now that I find the time to write to you. The French have beaten us back, we were unable to hold Minden. We’ve encamped near the city (Hanover) itself, gathering supplies and consolidating our men. I fear it may be over for us, rumours have begun to spread that the Prince-Elector [3] seeks to withdraw Hanover from the war, for good this time. The French have brought the fight to us and won. I managed to get a glimpse of Commander Brunswick, he seems to be in great distress. I suppose that the good news is I’ll soon return to you. How is our darling Elisabet? I hope she is well. Send my regards to my mother and father, and similarly to your parents as well. Before I forget, our dear friend Emil was killed in the fighting at Minden. I suppose you should let his parents know. He fought with honour and conviction, that I can assure you. Lastly, of course, I would not forget, how are you, my love? I hope my parents have taken care of you and Elisabet well […]




Excerpt from A Modern History of Germany by Alfred Tannenau (1905):

[Translated from the original German]

[...] Frederick indeed remains an interesting figure, one whose story has often been muddled by his detractors. His two-decade rule is one that many historians have analysed with a broad spectrum of conclusions… [...]

[...] The Battle of Zorndorf had ended inconclusively, with casualties totalling nearly 30,000. While his focus fixated on his eastern enemies a new threat had come to rise in the West. The French, under their commander the Comte de Clermont, had successfully driven Ferdinand’s Hanoverian army out of Minden on 18 August. Hanover was now vulnerable to French invasion, as it had been in 1757. Threatened with French armies to the west and to the south, Ferdinand would order a detachment under General von Oberg to march to Paderborn to threaten Cassel. Yet despite this, Soubise would make the daring choice to remain firm at his position near the town of Einbeck. In the month of August France would also finally send reinforcements to their Austrian allies. Daun would take delight in the new French forces he received under his command. [...]

[...] Clermont’s advance continued onwards. A small engagement at Bantorf (7 August) had managed to stall the French advance for some time, yet no attempts at a counter-attack could be made. Clermont would march up to the town of Springe on 13 August where he would meet with MM. de Stalen and d'Ardemberg, deputies of the City of Hanover, who had negotiated the city’s capitulation with Richelieu a year before. Similar terms were agreed upon, that being protection for the city. On 16 August, the French army would encamp itself at the town of Pattensen just south of Hanover. The town was not far from where Richelieu had encamped during the first invasion. Unlike the first invasion, Hanover would soon withdraw from the war for good. Ferdinand was given authority by George II to negotiate the neutrality of Hanover with Clermont. The army would remain encamped at Pattensen for nearly two weeks before Clermont would continue sweeping across Hanover. The cities of Brunswick and Wolfenbüttel would capitulate on 20 August, while Clermont would capture the cities Verden (30 August) and Emden (2 September) without much resistance. News of the events out west soon reached Frederick, who would detach a number of his troops to reinforce the garrison of Magdeburg. In a letter written on 20 August from King George II, he had this to say to Frederick. ‘I am a victim of my good faith and of fidelity to my commitments. Your Majesty should know Himself that I have poured my resources into freeing my faithful allies and poor subjects from the oppression they face by the recalcitrant actions of France, always the enemy of my house. And Your Majesty should judge by Himself the base ingratitude of the House of Austria.’

On 16 September, it was agreed upon at Stade that Hanover would maintain neutrality through the course of the war. The Convention of Kloster-Zeven was reimposed, with the additional clause that Allied troops surrender their arms. The permanent exit of Hanover from the war would be a devastating blow to Prussia. The British government would shift its efforts towards naval action and combat in North America. Furthermore, the government would withdraw their subsidies of 200,000 pounds to Prussia. Prussia's position was now as vulnerable as it would ever be, something that her enemies would hastily take advantage of… [...]

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Ferdinand of Brunswick (1762)



Excerpt of the terms of the Convention of Kloster-Zeven (Written September 1757, modified September 1758) [4]:
  • The French Army retained all conquered territories and would remain master of the Duchies of Bremen and Verden;
  • Hostilities had to cease within 24 hours;
  • Hanoverian troops should retire to Stade and beyond the Elbe River in the Duchy of Lauenburg;
  • Brunswicker, Sachsen-Gotha, Bückeburger and Hessian troops could return to their respective homelands without being considered prisoners of war;
  • Allied troops would not take part in the conflict until the end of the war;
  • Allied arms are to be surrendered to the French Army.
Addendum: Prisoners of war, save for Prussians, are exchanged.



Excerpt from a letter between Ferdinand of Brunswick and Frederick II of Prussia (26 September 1758):

[Translated from the original German]

Letter
From Duke Ferdinand of Brunswick to the King of Prussia.

Sire,

Our ally has fallen into French hands, and I have orders to evacuate Hanover. I have failed you sire, and know that as the situation develops it becomes ever more dire. I have given up my command of the Army of Observation and am making my return to Prussia. France’s armies number in the thousands and already begin preparations to reinforce the Austrians in Saxony as well as campaign into our fatherland. I have prepared no excuse for you sire, my errors are fatal. It is impossible that the Zeal, which animates me to serve Your Majesty and the Fatherland, can receive the highest degrees of it, but I am penetrated by it, with the deepest of regrets. [...]




Excerpt from The Reign of Louis XV by Antoine de la Rocque (1882):

[Translated from the original French]

[…] By September, Hanover was out of the war, and the French alliance was rearing its head to strike against Prussia. The armies of Soubise and Clermont would receive new instructions. Soubise received orders to effect a junction with the Reichsarmee in Bohemia where he would place himself under the command of Marshal Daun. Clermont was to establish a new headquarters near the border of Prussia, consolidating his forces and gathering supplies to prepare for an offensive into the Prussian heartland once spring began.

In Versailles, the mood was ecstatic. Bernis’ peace party had long since been silenced by the victory at Crefeld. In the meantime, Bernis had received a cardinal’s bar. However, the King had gotten fed up with his clamouring for peace (as well as the fact that he’d very much fallen out of favour with Mme. de Pompadour) and sent Bernis a letter of cachet employing him to go into exile in one of his provincial abbeys. Bernis, of course, would oblige and the role of Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs would fall to the mastermind of the Austrian alliance and confidant of Mme. de Pompadour, the Duke of Choiseul. Using his newfound influence, Choiseul would encourage the King to appoint his friend the financier Jean-Joseph de Laborde court banker, to manage the main economic and commercial functions of the Kingdom. Once again the King chose a minister who pleased his mistress, and once more he would rely on this minister to govern… [...]

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Étienne-François de Choiseul, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (1758-1766)



Notes
[1] The French campaign following the victory at Crefeld is completely ahistorical.
[2] These are real excerpts from Frederick II’s writings to Ferdinand, though they preceded the OTL Battle of Minden, which occurred nearly a year after TTL’s, and had a radically different outcome.
[3] George II, for anyone confused
[4] All of these terms are OTL, and the Convention is an often forgotten-about thing that happened early into the war. The additional clause does have a basis in reality, as Versailles disapproved of the terms of the Convention in 1757, wanting a clause for Allied troops to surrender their arms.

Postscript
Well, managed to find some time to write up Part 2 early. Enjoy!
 
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Part 3: Drink a health to brave Prussia, who’ll conquer or die
'Prussia was hatched from a cannon-ball, and with cannon fire would it fall.'

-Napoleon Buonaparte, French General (unknown provenance) [1]


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Part 3: 'Drink a health to brave Prussia, who’ll conquer or die’
The Invasion(s) of Prussia

Excerpt from A Wealth of Nations? Britain 1707-1800 by Linda Colley (2022):

[...] The exit of Hanover from the war yet again had thrown the domestic politics of Britain into chaos. Although this neutrality greatly alarmed British ministers, it alone was far from responsible for the difficulties facing British foreign policy in the Five Years War; and, indeed, the vulnerability of the Electorate was not the only problem stemming from the Hanoverian connection. Instead, there was a more general difficulty with the direction of post-1748 British policy, one that owed much to royal concerns. George II had no hesitation in making these clear. In an instructive letter that underlined the importance of clear royal support for policy, Newcastle had sought, in 1753, to reassure Britain's Dutch allies about George's commitment to getting Austria to meet Dutch goals:

'The King's view is to lay before the Court of Vienna the fatal consequences which must necessarily arise to them, and the whole alliance, if they do not determine to give satisfaction to the Maritime Powers [Britain and the Dutch], upon the two great articles of the Barrier and the commerce of the Low Countries; and His Majesty has chose to do this previously, and by himself, that the Imperial ministers may see that these are the King's own thoughts and that His Majesty is determined to act pursuant to them.'

The 'Old System' - Britain's alliance with Austria and the Dutch, served royal and Hanoverian ends by essentially acting as a military deterrent to Prussia, while appearing also as an anti-French step, thus matching the assumptions of British politicians. The clash between hostility to France and opposition to Prussia had led to significant political and diplomatic difficulties during the War of the Austrian Succession, but the coming of peace in 1748 permitted the shelving of the apparent differences between the two goals. However, securing the peace by restraining France and Prussia through a collective security system, made Britain dependent on her partners, left it unclear whether France or Prussia was the major challenge, and made it uncertain whether, in the event of war, intervention could surmount the problems of Hanoverian vulnerability and British political ambivalence towards the Electorate, and win success.

The ardent continentalism of Newcastle had, very simply, outright failed. Meanwhile, the naval descents, a brainchild of Pitts’, had been middling in success for the most part. The most recent raid on Cherbourg had proved successful, with the fortifications of the town having been destroyed and ships and munitions burned. However, the failure to do the same at Saint-Malo on 11 September ended up in a British withdrawal with heavy casualties. Indeed, the raid on Saint-Malo and the subsequent Battle of Saint Cast would prove to be the final instances of military action by Britain on or around the continent. With the failure of a continent-minded policy for the second time in just a year, George II would have to contend with a complete shift in strategic thinking and policy outlook. Despite the failures on the continent, the Pitt-Newcastle ministry was in no real danger as many feared a repeat of the first two years of the war and the ‘rudderless’ direction of those ministries.

Many Parliamentarians would indeed see the benefits of not being chained down by the restrictions of subsidies to the continent, and the British withdrawal would be seen as a victory by the Prince of Wales and the Tories, as well as Pitt who in the meantime enjoyed Tory support (yet was faced with enmity by the Prince of Wales). Indeed, the biggest loser in all of the developments surrounding Britain’s withdrawal from the continent would be Newcastle and his Pelhamites. Pitt would draw up new plans for Britain’s wartime policy right away. With the success seen in the North American theatre with the capture of Louisbourg in July, Pitt would dedicate further British efforts towards the colonial theatres of war, with considerable numbers of British troops being shipped off to the American colonies. The argument for this shift in strategy, one that Pitt had long been aiming towards with his imperialistic tendencies, was rather simple. If Britain had failed to tie French hands down in Europe, it should instead attempt to completely remove the French presence in North America. Plans would soon be drawn up for further offensives into Canada, as well as the capture of New Orleans and Louisiana [2] [...]

suIkWZEREbrUOSciShacYmzBX7bGPmw8n-_g0sR6a-D9Ws6eBni6wiAYN7FnOinRKCKk5Xqg70a8N-KdhGmDy4O-84-gbUsWHvmysOLtl2HbMtk8h0K3LmpP3lLRGDMycVrB6X27lEOfbkCQDSmYya8

Map of the North American Theatre c. 1758



Excerpt from Forgotten Ambitions: The Reign of Frederick II by John Marston (1990):

[...] The successful implementation of the Convention of Kloster Zeven by the French meant one thing to Frederick: Prussia’s western flank was now wide open. The departure of Britain from the European front also proved to be an immense blow to Prussian morale. Prussia was now alone, surrounded by her enemies, and without any subsidies. It was in October of 1758 that Frederick saw he was now fighting a losing battle.

News of Hanover’s withdrawal would reach France’s eastern allies just a few days after the terms had been settled. Yet before any action could be taken Marshal Daun received intelligence that Frederick had moved with a considerable amount of his forces westwards, while he would simultaneously march west to affect a junction with Prince Soubise. It was clear to both parties that Frederick hoped to recreate the successes he’d enjoyed the previous year such as at Rossbach. Daun would effect his junction with Soubise on 7 October, at Jena, after capturing the cities of Erfurt and Weimar. Frederick would divide his army into two corps, and despite his failures in command of the Hanoverian army, entrust command to Prince Ferdinand once more. He delivered explicit orders for Ferdinand to take defensive positions northwards against Clermont’s army, while the corps under his command would stay in western Saxony. [...]

[...] Frederick would receive confirmation of a corps from Clermont’s army entering the Prussian heartland on 20 October. The French Westphalian Army would face combat with Ferdinand’s corps on 22 October, by the Huysburg Priory near Halberstadt. Ferdinand would use the hilly terrain to his advantage, using the hills to hide large numbers of his entrenched troops from the French on the offensive. [3] Fighting would begin around noon. By 3 o’clock, Clermont would send waves of cavalry downhill against the Prussians, who without fail would manage to repel their charge. By 5.00 p.m. Clermont’s troops would be exhausted and begin to go on the retreat. While not a complete rout, the retreat of the French Westphalian Army would be disorderly with a number of deserters and large amounts of confusion. In the end, the French would take nearly 6,000 casualties while Ferdinand would suffer a mere 1,500. The humiliation would ultimately lead to Clermont’s dismissal and replacement with the Marquis of Contades by Versailles. The Westphalian Army would retreat to its winter quarters by the city of Brunswick. The news of Ferdinand’s victory considerably eased Frederick’s mind, to a dangerous degree of carelessness. Frederick would make the grave mistake of underestimating the Franco-Imperial capacity for action.

The Franco-Imperial army would take up defensive positions near the town of Bad Sulza on 25 October. Frederick would form his own camp around the village of Grossheringen in such a manner as though inviting an attack. However, it was here on 31 October that he was well and truly caught napping. Once again his intelligence had proved lamentably inadequate. Ably advised by his enterprising chief of staff, Count Lacy, as dawn broke Daun and Soubise launched an attack which took full advantage of their massive numerical superiority (c. 100,000). Anxious Prussian staff officers had difficulty in getting Frederick out of bed and even then he dismissed the sounds of combat as the usual early-morning skirmishing with which the Croatians liked to start the day. It was his generals who tried to organise resistance. It said a good deal for the fabled discipline of the Prussian rank-and-file that they did not collapse altogether. Even so, the slaughter was terrible. By 10.00 a.m. it was all over. The Prussian survivors had withdrawn to the northwest, leaving behind more than 9,000 comrades. The retreat was organised by Zieten and Seydlitz, who had ignored Frederick’s instructions and had prudently kept their horses saddled all night.

Frederick was badly shaken by Grossheringen, not so much by the military consequences, for Daun failed to follow up on his brilliant success, as by the knowledge that he had been solely to blame for the defeat. [...]



Excerpt from an interview with historian John Marston, for the docuseries ‘A History of Warfare’ (2018):

Marston: I do believe the man [Frederick] to be a complex character. His genius and ability cannot be denied, as well as his skilled policymaking and governing. Yet, just as many historians underestimate his role in defining the warfare of the cabinet era, it was his underestimation of his enemies that led to his downfall.

Interviewer: Absolutely.

Marston: I mean, if he’d managed to repel the French and Austrians and Russians, who knows what that’d entail! (laughs) Maybe Brandenburg-Prussia’d have an even bigger role to play in history than it did, though that's not to say it stopped being a significant force after the war, because god knows it didn’t. Counterfactuals are a lot to think about [...]

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Frederick II of Prussia (Oil on Canvas, 1746)


Excerpt from A History of Brandenburg-Prussia by Joachim von Richthofen (1900):

[Translated from German]

[...] After toying with Austrian requests for a further initiative, the Russians had gone back to their winter quarters beyond the Vistula. Further advances after the victory at Grossheringen would be of inconsistent success, leading to Soubise and Daun to withdraw to their winter quarters by the middle of November.

Vigorous recruiting by the King [Frederick] would mean that he would face the new campaign season of 1759 with an army roughly the same size as he had the previous year; about 163,000. Whether the soldiers were of the same quality was a different matter. Even the veterans among them could stand only so much exertion and slaughter. The main problem, however, was the growing numerical disparity, as the Russians in particular began to make their superiority in manpower resources felt. There was also the very real fear that at long last the various allies might start to coordinate their war efforts. As Frederick wrote to d’Argens from Zuckmantel on the Bohemian frontier: 'My great difficulty is this: in previous years, our enemies have failed to act together, so that they could be fought one after the other. This year they intend to act simultaneously.'

For a long while the western theatre had merely been a sideshow for the combatants in the east. Following the French victory at Minden, it had all changed. Frederick now faced the convergence of enemies from four different directions. To his southwest, a combined army of imperialists, Austrians and French were to advance into Saxony; to the south and southeast, there was Daun and the main Austrian army, with orders to retake Silesia; in the north the plan was for the Swedes, reinforced by a Russian corps, to advance on Berlin; in the northwest, there was the French, keen on marching into Brandenburg and joining the Swedes at Berlin; in the east there was the lowering presence of the Russian hordes. When they all met in the middle, Frederick would be crushed. His only chance was to strike quickly and repeatedly at his individual enemies. As he told Prince Ferdinand at the end of March,
his strategic situation was 'extrêmement embarrassante,' his only hope being to score so decisive a success against one of his tormentors as to allow him a free hand to deal with the next.

The enterprising Prince Henry got this off to a good start by first destroying Austrian supply depots in northern Bohemia, and then swivelling west to raid deep into Franconia, seizing recruits and supplies and disrupting the plans of the Franco-imperial army to advance on Saxony. A second Prussian detachment, under General Heinrich August de la Motte-Fouqué, inflicted the same sort of damage on Austrian depots in Upper Silesia around Troppau and Jägerndorf. The Austrians were in no hurry anyway, waiting in northern Bohemia until the time was ripe. They certainly had no intention of descending to the Lower Silesian plains and giving Frederick the chance to score another Hohenfriedberg or Leuthen. It was their Russian allies who got things moving. On 25 June they began their march to the river Oder from Posen, where an army of 60,000 under a new commander, Prince Nikolai Ivanovich Saltykov, had concentrated during the early summer. From Silesia Frederick sent
General Carl Heinrich von Wedel and a modest army of 28,000 to arrest the Russian advance. They were not enough, although Wedel’s boneheaded aggression did not help. At the Battle of Kay near Züllichau east of the Oder they were crushed, losing 8,000 casualties. On 1 August Saltykov occupied Frankfurt an der Oder [4].

The French in the northwest soon made their own advances following those of their Russian counterparts. They too were under the new command of Marquis Louis Georges Érasme de Contades, leading an army of similar size as well (60,000 men). On 28 July they arrived at the fortified city of Magdeburg, fighting a vicious battle with Ferdinand’s army. Despite the massive loss of life on both sides, Contades managed to pull through and secure victory for France. With the road to Berlin now open in the east and west, Frederick had to take a hand himself. He was fortunate that the ever-cautious Daun had detached only 24,000 under Laudon to join Saltykov. Together they had about 64,000. Just as before Zorndorf the previous year, Frederick marched his army up the west bank of the Oder, crossing near Küstrin and then marching south. The two armies met at Kunersdorf, to the northeast of Frankfurt an der Oder, on 12 August. What followed was Frederick’s greatest military
disaster and 'the greatest Russian feat of arms of the eighteenth century.' Immediately after the battle, Frederick wrote to his minister Finckenstein:

'My coat is riddled with musket balls, and I have had two horses killed beneath me. It is my misfortune to be still alive. Our losses are very great, and I have only 3,000 men left out of an army of 48,000. At the moment that I am writing everybody is in flight, and I can exercise no control over my men. At Berlin you ought to be thinking of your safety. I shall not survive this cruel turn of fortune. The consequences will be worse than the defeat itself. I have no resources left, and, to speak quite frankly, I believe everything is lost. I shall not outlive the downfall of my fatherland. Farewell forever! [5]'

As this suggests, a lot had happened during the past fortnight. After plumbing the depths of despair after the battle to the extent of contemplating suicide, Frederick quickly pulled himself together and set about rounding up the survivors. It says a great deal about the discipline of the Prussian soldiers that the survivors were a fighting force again within a couple of days. A week after the battle Frederick could put together an army of about 28,000 at Madlitz, a few kilometres west of Frankfurt an der Oder, covering the road to Berlin. If the allies wanted to reach his capital, they would have to fight him for it. On 10 August, Prince Henry made a desperate attempt to rout the French army at the city of Brandenburg. Ultimately, he proved unsuccessful. To the east, the Prussians were faced by the combined forces of Saltykov and Laudon, as well as Daun, who had just met up after marching north. To the west, they faced Contades’ Army. After regrouping, the anti-Prussian coalition prepared for their final coordinated assault on Berlin. [...]



Excerpt from The Third Silesian War by Alfred Tannenau (1912):

[Translated from German]

[...] Frederick retreated with his some 30,000 men to Berlin, where they prepared to make one last stand. The situation was grim. Following Kunersdorf, Frederick had named Prince Henry generalissimo and insisted on his generals swearing allegiance to his 14-year-old nephew Frederick William. It seemed as though he was ready to die for the fatherland. The siege of Berlin began a week after the defeat at Kunersdorf, on 20 August. The Russians, Austrians, Imperialists and French managed to overrun the suburbs of the city in the first few days of the siege. Yet despite their overwhelming numerical superiority, the Prussians still managed to hold out against them. The anti-Prussian coalition would bring up heavy guns to target inside the city walls on the third day of the siege. One fatality of the fighting would be the second Berlin Cathedral, having just completed construction in 1750. It would be destroyed by the French bombardment on the fifth day of the siege. The tenacity of the Prussian army was on full display throughout the ten or so days in which the siege occurred. One of the streets in Berlin was known therein as ‘Blood Alley’, after the river of blood that poured down the gutters from bodies so densely packed together that the dead could not fall down. The massive amounts of damage to the city and indiscriminate destruction would scar a generation of Berliners and cost Frederick William II to spend thousands on the city’s reconstruction during the first few years of his reign.

30,000 Prussians could never hold against an army 100,000 strong. The fact that they had managed to hold for ten days alone is a miracle in and of itself. The official surrender of Prussia occurred on 30 August. In the immediate aftermath of the siege, Frederick was discovered among the dead. His death in defence of Berlin would finalise his ascent to martyrdom, the great warrior king who died for his fatherland. Yet for now, there was no time for mourning. The King of Prussia was now a 14-year-old boy, and negotiations would be stalled until the commotion surrounding the state’s leadership was settled. Prince Henry, now generalissimo of the Prussian Army and regent of the King of Prussia, would meet with negotiators from the Austrian alliance in Mainz two weeks after the end of the siege. It would take two more weeks for the negotiations to finally settle on terms. While the allies held most of the bargaining power, Henry would not go on without trying. Alas, the terms agreed upon at Mainz overwhelmingly favoured the Austrians and her allies. Prussia would never truly recover. The young Kingdom, born out of warfare, would fittingly end in the same manner.

Britain would look on at the fall of her continental ally with little remorse spared… [...]

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Russian troops in Berlin 1759 (Oil on Canvas, 1849)



Notes
[1] Yeah yeah, he’s around
[2] As far as I’m aware OTL the British had never gotten around to considering taking NOLA, yet as far as I’m concerned with the continental front out of the picture the Brits sure as hell wouldn’t give up the good money that’d come from NOLA and control of the entire Mississippi.
[3] A nod to the Battle of Waterloo-ish.
[4] This is a rather famous letter from Frederick, the same as OTL.
[5] I honestly don’t believe the dates of battles out east would change all that much, so the French are kinda just a force that pushes the Austrians and Russians to capitalise off of Kunersdorf (though they hold their own in the west).

Postscript
And so falls the Kingdom of Prussia. This is the first really monumental event, and the terms of the Treaty that follows will be discussed in the next part, along with the North American front. As always, enjoy reading!
 
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Good chapter, interested in seeing how will the peace treaty will turn out, especially because it could mean a Prussia that focus more on assimilating Poland after carving it up amongst it's neighbors
 
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