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Thomas Gray to James Brown, 11 August 1759

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I retract a part of my yesterday's intelligence, having to day had an opportunity of hearing more, & from the best hand.

The merit of Prince Ferdinand's policy & conduct is not a little abated by this account. he had made a detachment of 4 or 5000 Men under the Hereditary Prince of Brunswick, wch had got between the main French army, & the town of Herwart, where their principal Magazine lay. the fear they were under on that account obliged Contades to begin the attack, & he accordingly begun his march at midnight in eight columns. very early in the morning, before the Prince had time to make the proper dispositions, they were upon him. he had only his first line formed, when the Battle begun; & of that line the English Infantry made a considerable part. Contade's troops (join'd by the Duke of Broglio's Corps) amounted to near four-score thousand: the Prince had only 40 Battalions with him, half of wch only engaged (as I said) for want of time. the French Artillery at first did terrible execution, & it was then our four Regiments suffer'd so much, 68 of their Officers (all, I think, below a Captain in degree) being kill'd or wounded, 267 private Men kill'd, & above 900 wounded. the rest of the line were Hanoverians (who behaved very bravely) & as their number was much greater, it is likely they suffer'd still more, but of their loss I have no particular account. in the village of Tonhausen near at hand were all the Hessian Artillery, wch, being now turned upon the French, soon silenced their Cannon, & gave an opportunity to come to closer engagement. the conflict after this lasted but an hour & quarter; the French made a poor & shameful resistance, & were dispersed & routed on all sides. the Marshal himself (having detach'd a body of Men to try, if they could save or burn Herwart) retreated along the Weser toward Rintelen & Corvey, but wrote a letter to the Prince to say, 'that as Minden must now soon fall into the hands of his victorious troops he doubted not, but he would treat the Wounded & Sick (who were all lodged there) with his usual humanity.' accordingly he enter'd Minden the next day. 8000 only of ye French were slain in the field, 20 pieces of Canon (16 Pounders) taken & 12 Standards. the number of prisoners, & the slaughter in the pursuit, not so great as it might have been, for the English Horse (tho' they received orders to move) stir'd not a foot, nor had any share in the action. this is unaccountable, but true; & we shall soon hear a greater noise about it. (Ld G: S:)

The Prince of Brunswick fell in with the party sent towards Herwart, entirely routed it, took 5 pieces of Cannon, the Town, & all the Magazines.

The loss of ye Russians is not what has been reported: their march toward Silesia however was stop'd, & the King of Prussia is gone in person to attack them.

The story of Durell is all a lye.

Ld H: is blamed for publishing G:l Yorke's & Mitchell's letters so hastily.

Don't quote me for all this Gazette. the Prussians have had a very considerable advantage over Gen: Harsch.

Letter ID: letters.0345 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 42
Addressee: Brown, James, 1709-1784
Addressee's age: 50[?]


Date of composition: 11 August 1759
Date (on letter): Saturday.11 Aug. 1759
Calendar: Gregorian


Place of composition: [London, United Kingdom]


Language: English
Incipit: I retract a part of my yesterday's intelligence, having to day had an...

Holding Institution

Henry W. And Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature, Humanities and Social Sciences Library, New York Public Library , New York, NY, USA <>
Availability: The original letter is extant and usually available for academic research purposes

Print Versions

  • The Correspondence of Thomas Gray and William Mason, with Letters to the Rev. James Brown, D.D. Ed. by the Rev. John Mitford. London: Richard Bentley, 1853, letter XLVII, 188-192
  • The Letters of Thomas Gray, including the correspondence of Gray and Mason, 3 vols. Ed. by Duncan C. Tovey. London: George Bell and Sons, 1900-12, letter no. CXCI, vol. ii, 96-99
  • Correspondence of Thomas Gray, 3 vols. Ed. by the late Paget Toynbee and Leonard Whibley, with corrections and additions by H. W. Starr. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971 [1st ed. 1935], letter no. 299*, vol. ii, 634-636