Frederick the Great's victory at Leuthen in December 1757 combined his
earlier victory at Rossbach in November 1757 saved his kingdom, but his situation was still precarious.
Although the Austrian to the south was his greatest threat, Russia to the east was also at war with him. Slow to become heavily involved, in January of 1758, a Russian army under Fermor captured Konigsberg then overran East Prussia. Looking to advance west, the Russians considered combining with the Swedish army on the Baltic coast but instead opted to join up with the Austrians. Advancing through Poland, on August 15, 1758 Fermor's Russian army besieged Custrin on the Oder River, dangerously close to Berlin, which was 50 miles away, and the Brandenburg heartland.
In a complex series of maneuvers, Frederick marched north to face the Russians, followed by the Austrian army, hoping to join the Russians. Frederick moved quickly as he was understandably fearful of being massively outnumbered by a Russian-Austrian combination. Frederick joined up with a Prussian force under Dohna, giving him 37,000 men, and Fermor lifted the siege of Custrin.
Siege of Custrin
Frederick had been imprisoned in Custrin by his father, so the place had many memories for the king. Destroyed in World War II, the Prussian fortress is now being studied and restored.
The Russian infantry line ran approximate through this slight bend in
this dirt road facing the Stein-Busch. Frederick began his
efforts by pushing forward a battery on the far side of the Zorndorf -
Neudamm Road at around 1:00pm. Dohna's infantry supported the
Prussian battery. At 3:00pm, the Russian infantry on the left
side of the Stein-Busch - the area on the left side of the panorama -
moved forward to attack the Prussian battery. Russian cavalry on
the left flank joined in the attack on the battery, but they were
repulsed by Prussian cavalry coming up from the rear - the Alt-Platen
and Plettenberg Dragoons. The rallying infantry of Manteuffel and
Kanitz in the Prussian rear were so skittish that this move by their
own cavalry was thought to be a Russian attack, and they retreated.
Continuing the attack, the Prussian cavalry on the right
flank pushed the opposing Russian cavalry from the field.
By this point, Dohna's units were losing cohesion. At around 3:20pm, Seydlitz brought his cavalry around the Stein-Busch and into the flank of the attacking Russian infantry. In the panorama, Seydlitz attacked roughly from the area between the modern house on the far right and the fields to the right of the Fuchsberg. Seydlitz was halted, but the Russian infantry also fell back to its original line.
Frederick hadn't given up on his planned attack. Dohna's 9,000 men attacked but were repulsed. Then, the artillery on the Prussian left moved northwest of the Stein-Busch to fire at an angle into the Russian left. Dohna attacked again, and there was vicious hand to hand combat. Eventually, at around 6:00pm, the Russian line collapsed, with men fleeing into the Hofe-Bruch and to Quartschen. The Prussian cavalry, however, was too tired and disorganized to pursue.