Battle of Fehrbellin - Prelude

Prelude

Prior to the battle the Swedes and Brandenburg had been allies in various wars against the Kingdom of Poland. However, when Elector Frederick William during the Franco-Dutch War had joined an allied expedition with Emperor Leopold I to Alsace against the forces of King Louis XIV of France, the French persuaded Sweden, which had been increasingly isolated on the continent, to attack Brandenburg while her army was away.

When Frederick William, encamping at Erstein, heard of the attack and occupation of a large part of his principality in December 1674, he immediately drew his army out of the coalition but had to take winter quarters at Marktbreit in Franconia. Leaving on 26 May 1675, he marched 250 kilometres (160 mi) to Magdeburg in only two weeks. This feat was considered one of the great marches in military history. He did it by abandoning his supply wagons and leaving large parts of the infantry behind, having his army buy supplies from the locals, but forbidding pillaging. The Swedes did not expect him to arrive that early.

Once he returned to Brandenburg, Frederick William realized that the Swedish forces, occupying the swampy Havelland region between Havelberg and the town of Brandenburg, were dispersed and ordered Derrflinger to take the central town of Rathenow in order to split them roughly down the middle. The elector bribed a local official loyal to him to hold a large and elaborate banquet for the Swedish officers of the fortress in order to get them drunk before the assault began in the night of June 14. Derfflinger then personally impersonated a Swedish officer and convinced the guards to open the gates of the town by claiming that a Brandenburg patrol was after him. Once the gates were opened for him, he led the charge of 1,000 dragoons against the city and the rest of the army soon followed. He was 69 years old at the time.

Once Derfflinger had expelled the Swedish garrison from Rathenow, this made the Swedish lines vulnerable. On June 17, the Brandenburgian troops reached Nauen. The Swedes, who had planned to cross the Elbe river in order to join forces with Brunswick troops, were forced back to their last position at Fehrbellin.

Read more about this topic:  Battle Of Fehrbellin

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