1779, Prussia, Frederick II “the Great”. Large Silver Thaler Coin.
Mintage: 398,661 pcs.
Mint Place: Berlin (A)
Reference: Davenport 2590, KM-332.1.
Obverse: Wreathed bust of FrederickII “the Great” right.
Legend: FRIDERICUS BORUSSORUM REX
Reverse: Crowned eagle of Prussia perched on war trophies (cannons and fallen flags). Date (1779) split by mint initial (A) below.
Legend: EIN REICHS THALER / 17 . A . 79
Frederick II (German: Friedrich II.; 24 January 1712 – 17 August 1786) was a King of Prussia (1740–1786) from the Hohenzollern dynasty. In his role as a prince-elector of the Holy Roman Empire, he was Frederick IV (Friedrich IV) of Brandenburg. He became known as Frederick the Great (Friedrich der Große) and was nicknamed der alte Fritz (“Old Fritz”).
Interested primarily in the arts during his youth, Frederick unsuccessfully attempted to flee from his authoritarian father, Frederick William I, after which he was forced to watch the execution of a childhood friend Katte. Upon ascending to the Prussian throne, he attacked Austria and claimed Silesia during the Silesian Wars, winning military acclaim for himself and Prussia. Near the end of his life, Frederick united most of his disconnected realm through the First Partition of Poland.
Frederick was a proponent of enlightened absolutism. For years he was a correspondent of Voltaire, with whom the king had an intimate, if turbulent, friendship. He modernized the Prussian bureaucracy and civil service and promoted religious tolerance throughout his realm. Frederick patronized the arts and philosophers. Frederick is buried at his favorite residence, Sanssouci in Potsdam. Because he died childless, Frederick was succeeded by his nephew, Frederick William II of Prussia, son of his brother, Prince Augustus William of Prussia.
After Frederick had forced the surrender of Saxony in the 1756 campaign, he spent the winter devising new plans for a defense of his small kingdom. It was not in his character simply to sit back and defend.
In early spring the Prussian army marched in four columns over the mountain passes separating Saxony and Silesia from Bohemia. The four corps would unite at the Bohemian capital of Prague. Though risky, because it exposed the Prussian army to a defeat in detail, the plan succeeded. After Frederick’s corps united with a corps under Prince Moritz, and General Bevern joined up with Schwerin, both armies converged near Prague.
Meanwhile the Austrians had not been idle. Though initially surprised by the early Prussian attack, the able Austrian Field Marshall Maximilian Ulysses Count Browne had been retreating skillfully and concentrating his armed forces towards Prague. Here he established a fortified position to the east of the town, and an additional army under Prince Charles of Lorraine arrived swelling the Austrian numbers to 60,000. The prince now took command.
The Austrian army under von Browne had taken up a near invincible position on the Ziska- and the Tabor mountains. The town was on their left flank, with a steep gorge to the north, and to the west by a marshy slope with a brook at the bottom. The two Austrian commanders are in disagreement about the course of action: von Browne wants to attack, but Charles decides to wait for Konigseck, who was defeated at the Battle of Reichenberg but is known to be retreating towards Prague, and possibly even for the arrival of Daun.
On the 6th of May, around 5 a.m., the Prussian army assembled to the north on the Prosek heights, 115,000 men strong, and Frederick sent Keith with 30,000 to the west of the town to cut off any Austrian retreat. The Austrians drew up for battle facing north and east.
Frederick ordered an immediate assault, but Schwerin convinced him to make a reconnaissance around the Austrian right flank. He returned with the information that gradually sloping green meadows offered a better chance for attack at the Austrian rear. The Prussian army started marching around 7 a.m., and succeeded in staying largely out of sight till the Austrian generals noticed the movements around 10 a.m. Field Marshal von Browne shifted six infantry regiments to take up position to the south east.
Schwerin, accompanied by General Winterfeldt, was finally prepared to attack. The attack was led by the infantry of Winterfeldt. The Prussian infantry soon found themselves not in meadows, but in the remains of fish ponds. While they struggled through, Winterfeldt was hit by a musketball. The Prussian infantry wavered and Schwerin rallied them, leading them from the front. He was hit several times by Austrian canister. Frederick, when he heard the news, ordered to press on with the assault.
The Austrian infantry smelled the Prussian confusion and started to press the Prussians back down the slope, opening a gap between themselves and the remainder of the Austrian line still facing north. At this time von Browne was mortally wounded by Prussian infantry fire and carried into Prague.
While King Frederick and General von Zieten reorganised the Prussian infantry in the south for another attack, the generals Hautcharmoy and Bevern spotted the gap in the Austrian line and started to filter infantry into the gap. Austrian Croats had engaged Prussians to the north of the Austrian left flank, but with the gap in the Austrian line being exploited by a steady stream of Prussians he pulled back and formed a new line running south from the west end of the Tabor mountain.
The final phase of the battle started around 3 p.m., with Prussians engaging the still-forming Austrian line and outflanking them from the south. Charles withdrew into the town, the retreat being covered by his cavalry.