The Second Silesian War

George II at the Battle of Dettingen
George II at the Battle of Dettingen

The Second Silesian War started in 1743. Britain had agreed to an alliance with Maria Theresa. The British had joined in the alliance because they wanted to fight the French, whom they had been fighting back in the colonies. King George II of England was worried  about the French threat to Hanover, to which King George II was the elector. Now she could carry on the war against the French and the Bavarians. She created the “Pragmatic Army” which was made up of 16,000 British troops, 16,000 Hanoverians, and 8,000 Hessians and Austrians. The army's grand total was of 40,000. A very decisive battle would be fought at Dettingen in Belgium on June 27, 1743.

As the Pragmatic Army marched towards Dettingen, the French were occupying the village. During the night the French, commanded by the Duc de Grammont, had crossed the river using bridges of boats, and now held the marshy ground between Dettingen and the hills. Duc de Noailles, another French general, had a plan to take his troops through the southern bank, cross the river, and then go through Aschaffenburg to the enemy's rear while Duc de Grammont's troops remained defending the marsh. The total of the French troops at the battle was 70,000. It was the French troops that started the battle with their cannons firing at the British on the North Bank. Grammont, though he said that his goal was to have the Pragmatic Army attack him, did just the contrary. The Maison du Roi, a French Cavalry regiment, attacked the British cavalry at the river but were routed with significant loses. As the British prepared for the attack on Dettingen, they noted de Noailles's troops marching towards Aschaffenburg. The British sent some Foot Guards to the area. De Noailles was defeated. Simultaneously, the French were coming out of Dettingen. They appeared to be in a bit of a panic and they were routed.

In another three months, a new alliance was formed consisting of Austria, Great Britain, Holland, Saxony, and Sardinia. Now Frederick knew that the Austrian success at Dettingen and the new alliance required him to defend his position in Silesia. He now raised a huge army of 140,000 men. On May 22, 1744, Frederick formed the Union of Frankfurt to conquer Bohemia and return Bavaria to Charles VII. Most German princes were suspicious of Frederick's motives so only two joined him. Frederick the Great now got involved in war again. He signed the Treaty of Paris with Louis XV in which the French agreed to invade both the Upper and Lower Rhine in Germany while the Prussians would invade Bohemia. On July 15, 80,000 Prussian troops invaded Bohemia. They reached Prague on September 16. Since Austria's troops were spread out, Maria Theresa had to watch helplessly. It seemed that Frederick would be victorious. However, luck was not on his side. Frederick planned to push south into Bohemia and trap the Austrians from the Rhineland. However, his French and Bavarian allies had deliberately stopped. Frederick was getting a taste of his own medicine: that he had done the same thing to them in the First Silesian War. Frederick now planned to fight alone. However, the Catholic natives of Bohemia were hostile to the Lutheran invaders, thus they would not supply food. Short of both food and men, Frederick retreated from Bohemia.  On January 20, 1745, bad news came to Frederick. Emperor Charles VII had died in Munich. Now his son, Maximilian Joseph would follow the advice of his father to make peace with Maria Theresa. He signed the Peace of Fussen which guaranteed that Austria would restore all conquests of Bavaria. Now Maximilian gave up his claim to the throne and promised to vote for Archduke Francis Stephen at the imperial election. Now, Frederick was not fighting as the champion of the Holy Roman Emperor. Even worse news came. On January 8, 1745 the Union of Warsaw made a new alliance of Saxony, England and Holland against Prussia. However, Maria Theresa made a mistake. She entrusted her campaign with Prince Charles, whom had lost at the Battle of Chotusitz. The Pragmatic Army would lose at the Battle of Fontenoy in Belgium on May 11, 1745, becoming the French's revenge for the defeat at Dettingen.

The Battle of Fontenoy was a victory for the French under Marshall Saxe. The French had been besieging Tournai. The Duke of Cumberland, the favorite second son of King George II, had been appointed to the command of the Pragmatic Army. King George II set his army in motion to relieve the Dutch in Tournai. This is where the battle would take place. Saxe doubted whether French troops could stand against English and Austrians in open battle. So, he prepared redoubts on a hill. Two of these redoubts were in the villages of St Anthoine and Fontenoy at the top of a sloping incline. The third was on the edge of a wood. The Pragmatic Army approached the base of the incline through villages that had been set ablaze by French skirmishers. The British could see that the French were occupying St Anthoine and Fontenoy but the whereabouts of the rest of the French army was uncertain. English cavalry ventured onto the incline and came under cannon fire. The general of the cavalry was killed and the cavalry refused to fight during the rest of the battle. The army camped on the incline and the next morning formed up for the attack. Two columns of English Foot were formed. Their task was to advance up the incline and assault whatever lay over the brow. Fontenoy could be seen on the left and opened fire with its cannon on the foot. Then the unnoticed forest redoubt to opened fire. The British wanted to take the forest redoubt before the columns attacked, but they prevaricated and called for artillery. In spite of increasingly peevish directions from His Royal Highness, the columns failed to move. Finally  two columns were ordered to advance even though both fortified positions remained intact, one on each flank subjecting the columns to damaging cannon fire. The two English columns of foot reached the top of the incline and found the whole French army arrayed before them on the plateau. The English were destroyed with ease. The results of this are similar to the results on the attack of the American palisades in the War of 1812. The British would not be able to be involved in the rest of the war due to the Jacobite Uprising in Scotland.

On June 3, 1745, another decisive battle took place. This was at the Battle of Hohenfiriedberg. At 4 A.M., the Prussians surprised the half-asleep Saxons. The Austrians had thought that the noise was the Saxons beating the  Prussians. However, the Prussians destroyed them within a few hours. Now the Austrians were surprised and were defeated. The Austrians tried again to defeat the Prussians at Soor, but the Prussians won again with an uphill charge. Now Maria Theresa was frustrated because she was deprived of her British and Saxon allies. She now made peace with Frederick. On December 25, 1745, the Treaty of Dresden was Signed. Frederick the Great was to recognize Francis I as the Holy Roman Emperor and Saxony was to pay Prussia 1,000,000 thalers. Thus ended the Second Silesian War.


[1] Frederick the Great: Prussian Warrior and Statesman by Louis Leo, Snyder

[2] Encyclopedia Britannica

[3] Encarta Encylcopedia

[4] The Battles That changed History by Geoffrey Regan