The Battle of Emsdorf
War: Seven Years War
Date: 14th July 1760
Place: Central West Germany in modern Hessia
21st and 15th Light Dragoons
Six battalions of Hanoverian and Hessian infantry, some
irregular cavalry under Luckner, jägers and the newly raised
British 15th Light Dragoons. The French units were five
battalions of the Royal Bavière and the Anhalt regiments, German
mercenaries, and a regiment of hussars, which at that time would
have been recruited from Hungary.
The Erbprinz of Hesse-Kassel against Marechal de Camp Glaubitz.
Size of the armies: The two forces were roughly the same size at
around 3,000 men.
Uniforms, arms and equipment
All regular European soldiers of this time fought in a knee
length uniform coat, turned back at the skirt, cuffs and lapels to
reveal a distinctive regimental lining colour. Headgear was a black
tricorne hat with a lace brim, except for grenadiers who wore a tall
mitre cap. The uniform was white for the majority of French
regiments but the foreign infantry regiments in the French service
wore red coats or, as in the case of the German regiments at Emsdorf,
dark blue. The troops of Hesse-Darmstadt followed the Prussian
tradition and wore blue. The British and Hanoverians wore red. The
light dragoon regiments were a departure for the British army,
wearing a standard red dragoon uniform coat, but with a novel
Roman-style crested leather skull cap.
Winner: Resoundingly the Erbprinz’s force.
The 15th Light Dragoons: later the 15th King’s Royal Hussars,
then the 15th/19th King’s Royal Hussars and now the Light Dragoons.
The 15th had only recently been formed and had seen no action as a
regiment. Its colonel was Augustus Elliott, subsequently to gain a
considerable reputation as the governor of Gibraltar during the
siege in the American War of Independence. Many of the recruits to
the 15th are said to have been tailors who were on strike when the
regiment was being raised.
Prince Ferdinand’s army with 66,000 men was seriously threatened
in North West German by the Duc de Broglie’s army of the Rhine with
130,000 men. Broglie threatened to envelope Ferdinand’s right flank
and to cut him off from Westphalia. Rather than fall back across the
Diemel, Ferdinand decided to raid Broglie’s rear depot at Marberg in
the hope that this would force Broglie to withdraw to cover his line
Map of the Battle of Emsdorf
The Erbprinz assembled his force at Fritzlar and set off towards
Marburg on 15th July 1760 in hot weather. The next day the Erbprinz
arrived at Speckswinckel where he received information that Glaubitz
was in the next town, Emsdorf. The Erbprinz personally reconnoitred
the enemy and found that they were about to eat their midday meal,
entirely unsuspecting that there were enemy anywhere nearby.
The Erbprinz with five of his battalions and the jägers marched
round the enemy in Emsdorf to Burgholz and attacked out of the woods
from the rear. Glaubitz led his men out of Emsdorf to the attack.
As soon as the firing started the 15th Light Dragoons advanced
rapidly down the main road to Langenstein cutting Glaubitz off from
his base at Marburg. Finding his way blocked Glaubitz headed across
country to Niederklein further to the South, abandoning his guns in
the difficult terrain on the way. As they emerged from the woods at
Plausdorf the French troops were charged by the 15th Light Dragoons
who captured some prisoners.
The remainder of Glaubitz’ force
continued into the trees heading South. The 15th circled the wood
and attacked again suffering considerable loss. The surviving French
infantry headed for the next forest. The 15th formed again for the
charge and Glaubitz surrendered his men to the officer commanding
the 15th, Major Erskine. 1,655 men surrendered to the 15th Light
A Light Dragoon at Emsdorf
One of Glaubitz’s battalions had been sent back to Marburg at the
beginning of the engagement so that it was highly likely that the
town would be ready for any attack and probably reinforced, as was
in fact the case. The Erbprinz withdrew to Fritzlar. Casualties
The French force appears to have lost some 2,600 casualties of
which some 1,600 were prisoners. The Erbprinz’s force suffered 186
casualties of which the 15th Light Dragoons suffered 125 with 168
horses killed and wounded. 6 soldiers died of heat stroke.
15th Light Dragoons at
the Battle of Emsdorf
Regimental anecdotes and traditions
- The engagement at Emsdorf caused a sensation in Germany and
Britain and consternation in France. In addition to its casualties
the French force had lost some 9 infantry colours and 5 guns, mainly
to one British light dragoon regiment. The 15th Light Dragoons were
ordered to wear the title “Emsdorf” on their light dragoon helmets,
the first award of a battle honour and the beginning of the present
- Captain Robert Hinde, the author of “The Discipline of the
Light-Horse”, an authoritative work that influenced the introduction
into the British Army of corps of light dragoons, fought with the
15th Light Dragoons at Emsdorf, although serving in the 2nd Troop of
Horse Guards at the time.
- Another officer with the 15th Light Dragoons at the battle was
said to have been John Floyd, aged 12 years.
- As a result of Emsdorf the regiment acquired the nickname of “The
- His Britannic Majesty’s Army in Germany during the Seven Year
War by SavoryyFortescue’s History of the British Army