The Battle of Bergen, 13 April 1759
In April 1759, the Franco-Saxon army commanded by Lieutenant-General Duc de Broglie established a fortified camp at the Berger Warte watchtower near Frankfurt on Main. The city of Bergen was garrisoned by troops, and secured by an abatis of felled trees in front of the Obertor city upper city gate. 45 French guns were deployed in the sunken road section of Vilbeler Landstraße, well protected by earthen embankments, and with an excellent field of fire across the Vilbeler Wiesen meadows. The partially swampy terrain of the Vilbeler Stadtwald forest borders the battlefield in the north. There is a steep slope from the Vilbeler Wiesen meadows and the Vilbler Landstraße road into the Vilbeler Stadtwald.
The fortified camp at Berger Warte, located on Frankfurt’s highest peak at 212 m, was perfectly situated to repel an attack. Nevertheless, on 13 April 1759, Hanoverian, Brunswick, Hessian, British, and Prussian troops were seen to be approaching from the east near Bischofsheim, and the Battle of Bergen ensued, in the course of which the allied army commanded by Prussian Generalfeldmarschall Ferdinand von Braunschweig was defeated.
The picture above shows the Berger Warte watchtower with the spiral staircase which was added much later as a visitor entrance. Originally, the small entrance on the second floor of the watchtower could only be reached by a ladder which was then pulled into the tower and stowed there. There was a v-shaped drainage ditch around the tower. Next to the tower stood the Berger Galgen gallows.
- Lieutenant général Victor François, Duc de Broglie
- Lieutenant général Prince Xavier de Saxe, Comte de Lusace
- Franco-Saxon Army
- Generalfeldmarschall Herzog Ferdinand von Braunschweig
- Allied Army
- Great Britain
The fortified camp at Berger Warte was a perfect defensive position for the Franco-Saxon army. The heights provide a clear view and excellent field of fire across the Berger Wiesen meadows, which slope down toward the east like a fortress glacis, offering an attacker no cover. The sunken road section of Vilbeler Landstraße borders the entire western edge of the meadows, providing enough room and excellent cover for heavy artillery deployed there. The right flank was anchored on the walled city of Bergen which had been fortified by an extended abatis in front of the Obertor gate. The left flank anchored on the swampy Vilbeler Stadtwald forest which borders the battlefield in the north, and which could only be traversed by light troops in open order. The terrain slopes down very steeply from the Berger Wiesen und der Vilbeler Landstraße into the Vilbeler Stadtwald. The Saxon troops on the left flank of the line stood on a natural rampart along Vilbeler Landstraße, six to eight meters high, which would have disordered any attack coming out of the woods.
The road from Bergen to Bad Vilbel passes just east of the Berger Warte watchtower. If you follow the road to the left flank position (9) near Vilbeler Stadtwald, you will find an area map showing the key positions of the battlefield: Berger Warte (1) watchtower, Vilbeler Landstraße (2) road, Vilbeler Stadtwald (3) forest, Berger Wiesen (4) meadows, Bergen (5), the Obertor gate in Bergen (6), the road from Bischofsheim am Main (7), the crossroads at Berger Wiesen and Vilbeler Stadtwald (8), and the left flank (9), which was defended by Saxon troops under the command Lieutenant-General Prinz Xaver von Sachsen, Graf von der Lausitz.
Pictures of the Battle of Bergen
View from Vilbeler Landstraße road (2), looking east: the side of the road has earth banks which form a natural breastwork for artillery.
View from Vilbeler Landstraße road (2), looking east: Berger Wiesen meadows east of Vilbeler Landstraße offer a clear field of fire similar to a fortess glacis.
View from Vilbeler Landstraße road (2), looking east, down the hill and into Bergen.
View from Vilbeler Landstraße road (2), looking north, down into the Vilbeler Wald forest.
View from the left flank (9), looking northeast, along the position of the Saxon infantry.
View from the left flank (9), looking northeast, down the natural rampart.
View from the left flank (9), looking east, down the natural rampart.
View from the left flank (9), looking east, through a clearing east of the rampart.
The old city hall in Bergen (5), now home of the history museum.
The protestant church and the white tower in Bergen (5), one of ten towers along the city wall.
City wall near the protestant church in Bergen (5).
View from Berger Wiesen meadows (4), looking west, across the fields in front of Berger Warte.
View from the crossroads (8), looking northeast, down into Vilbeler Stadtwald forest.
View from the crossroads (8), looking north, following the trail into Vilbeler Stadtwald.
History has shown that the fortified camp at Berger Warte cannot be taken by assault, and many wargame simulations of the battle confirm this. If the city of Bergen is garrisoned, and the left flank of the line is anchored on the Vilbeler Stadtwald forest, the only avenue of attack is up Berger Wiesen meadows in the centre of the battelfield. The gentle slope up to Berger Warte watchtower and to the sunken road in front of it, acts like the glacis of a fortress, it offers no cover against roundshot and cannister fire.