German Mural of the Great Elector in 1679 Poster
Wilhelm Simmler: "Übergang über das Kurische Haff 1679",painted 1891. Wall mural for the Ruhmeshalle (Hall of Fame) in Berlin. It shows the Great Elector (Der Grosse Kurfürst), as he pursues the defeated Swedish Army away from Prussia, across the frozen Kurischer Haff. The Great Elector governed Brandenburg and Prussia after the horror and destruction caused by the Thirty Years War. He recognised that a strong defence force was necessary to never again allow his country to be the battlefield of Europe. Instead of using ill trained and poorly motivated mercenary troops as all countries did at the time, he set about to be the first to create a permanent professional army using his own citizens. He thus laid the foundation of Prussia's power to eventually reunite all of Germany........................More detailed information on "The Great Sleigh Drive" (German: Die große Schlittenfahrt) as described by Wikipedia is that the "Drive" was a daring and bold manoeuvre by Frederick William, the Great Elector of Brandenburg-Prussia, to drive Swedish forces out of the Duchy of Prussia, a territory of his which had been invaded by the Swedes during the winter of 1678.................. Frederick William had previously defeated the Swedes and driven them from Brandenburg at the Battle of Fehrbellin and now faced another punitive Swedish incursion into his territories. The main body of his army was engaged at the siege of the Swedish-held port city of Stralsund on the coast of the Baltic Sea far to the west, so Frederick marched his army to the small town of Preußisch Holland and engaged a small Swedish force occupying the city. The Swedes, having been soundly defeated at the Battle of Fehrbellin, were hesitant to face Frederick William again and decided to retreat to the coast in order to return to Sweden, having already accomplished their goal of looting much of the province and avenging their earlier defeat..............................Most commanders would have simply allowed the Swedes to depart, but Frederick William was particularly aggressive and came across the ingenious idea of commandeering thousands of sleighs from the local peasantry to transport his army across the snowy terrain of the Duchy of Prussia to cut-off the Swedes' escape route: creating, in effect, some sort of precursor to motorised infantry. Driving over the heavy snow and several frozen lakes, Frederick managed to drive deep into the flanks and rear of the escaping Swedish force, denying them access to the coast and their navy, which would have allowed them to resupply or escape....................................... Frederick's forces managed to ride all the way to Memel, completely cutting off the Swedes from the coast. Although the Brandenburg forces never actually managed to force the Swedes to commit to the field in an open battle as Frederick had wanted, many Swedish troops perished in the harsh winter from hypothermia and starvation, and the Swedish army was effectively destroyed. This victory cemented Frederick William's reputation as a great military strategist................................... Manoeuvre warfare, or as the Germans call it, Bewegungskrieg, was eventually part of a long-standing tradition of the German military. The Winter Campaign of 1678 and the subsequent Great Sleigh Drive appeared in the German military war journal Militär-Wochenblatt in 1929, in which a then (relatively unknown) Major by the name of Heinz Guderian wrote an article commenting about its use of operational mobility as a decisive factor in victory.