Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Battle of Zerbst 2. Morning

Dawn, 13 March  1739
Rechburg troops advancing;  Ulrichstein Rebel Infantry
arrivingon the field.
From: Marshal-General Archduke Piccolo commanding
Army of Guarantee of Integrity of Ulrichstein
HQ Near Asper Village (2 days' march south of Zerbst);

To:  His Imperial Majesty Emperor Violoncello VI 
At: Schnitzel.

14 March 1739.

I beg leave to report a victory over the Rebel Army and their Ally the forces of the Herzogtum von Rechburg yesterday.  Though not as decisive as we might have hoped, I believe our success leaves us in a position - with the assistance of the troops of Altmark-Uberheim - to bring the campaign within a few days to a final and successful conclusion.
Rechburg Infanty occupy Asper Village; Cavalry on either
flank.  Ulrichstein Brigades move up.
Yesterday's was two battles in effect: the early ,\morning attempt by Graf Tympani's Horse to overwhelm the Rebel left flank, ultimately unsuccessful despite his victory over the Uhlans of Rechburg; and the afternoon attack by the insurgents upon our line.  That was seen off with serious losses to the rebel cause.
The Imperialist line.  Moorgham Village anchors the Imperial left,
and Graf Tympani's Cavalry surge forward on the right.
The early dawn saw our army approaching the Paisley River - a stream fordable along its length with only moderate difficulty - and passing through the village of Moorgham.  In the distance to the north, we could see the Rechburg troops approaching.  No sign of the Rebel Army, but owing to the determination of the Rechburg approach, it seemed clear that Marshal Noailles's forces could not be far off.
Baron Glockenspiel's command: Imperial troops on the left flank.
(As it transpired the Rebels began 'off table'.  Each Brigade had to roll for time of arrival, with the ETA being Move 3.  The tariff was:
Roll 1: Celerious Commander Brigade arrives 2 moves early (i.e. Move 1);
Roll 2:  Diligent Commander; Brigade arrives 1 move early;
Roll 3: Arrive on time;
Roll 4: Arrive on time;
Roll 5: Unforeseen delays; Brigade arrives 1 move late;
Roll 6: Dilatory commander; Brigade arrives 2 moves late (i.e. at Move 5).

Well, Barry (Marshal Noailles) rolled 3 dice for the infantry Brigades.  Triple 1.  There are times when you wonder if there is a God or Goddess of Wargames - Bellona perhaps.  If so, she has a wicked and capricious sense of humour.  So all the infantry and the guns (I forgot to do a separate roll for the artillery)  arrived on Move 1.  The Horse must have been acting as a rearguard for the army, for they turned up late at Move 4.)
Looking along the Rebel line.

As the Horse, massed upon our Eastern flank, splashed across the stream, our infantry were finding the crossings progressing rather more slowly.  My plan was before the arrival of the rebel horse, to assail the enemy left if I could, anchoring my own left upon the village of Moorgham.  This place was somewhat protected from the west side by a tract of impassible country penetrated solely by the river gorge.  Although a company of Baden-Durlach garrisoned the west face of the village, no attack developed from this sector during the whole day.  The remainder of the regiment formed a front along the river bank together with a battery.  The jagers protected this front for a space, then regrouped for a transfer to the dense woods a short distance from the far bank.

A general view of the battlefield
Meanwhile, the enemy troops were shaking themselves out into a holding position around the Asper Village and the hills and ridges east therefrom.  The Rebel light infantry penetrated the light woods hard by Asper's west side, whilst the Rechburg Heavy Cavalry (identified as the Klutzenputz Cuirassiers) fetched a sweep around the west side of the timber and menaced our left.
A view of the Rebel line, looking northeastwards.
Observing the lack of enemy cavalry to his front - save the lone Schaggenstein Uhlans - General Graf von Tympani hoped by a quick advance to overwhelm the rebel foot and guns.  In this he got rather ahead of his supports, only a single battery being in a position to offer help.  The enemy practice proved far more effective than anticipated.  Nadasti hussars, already much reduced in earlier actions, fell back early.  Khevenhuller dragoons suffered a similar fate, and the gallant charge by Trautmannsdorf Cuirassiers against the overlarge Rebel battery was broken up by canister and grape.  
The Imperialist Horse ride into Artillery Hell.
Nadasti Hussars have already broken  and are disappearing
out of the picture to the left.  Anhalt-Zerbst are engaging the
Uhlans; Trautmannsdorf are preparing to charge the guns
Possibly over-boldened by all this, plus the timely arrival of the Ulrichstein Horse, the Rechburg Uhlans offered battle to our Anhalt-Zerbst Cuirassiers.   Nothing loth, the Cuirassiers at once charged and flung them back with heavy loss at trivial cost to themselves.  But the fact remained that we had incurred very heavy losses overall to our Horse, with The Hussars, Dragoons and Trautmannsdorf Cuirassiers out of action for the rest of the day.  We could no longer count on any superiority in that arm, and still
faced a considerable deficit in terms of foot and guns.  Nevertheless, I saw no reason to suppose the action had yet been decided.

Far to the rear, the Imperialist infantry are still moving up,
unable to help the cavalry.
Confident that the enemy needed a decisive victory more than we did, we continued to offer battle.  For the remainder of the morning, I drew in the cavalry on the right whilst building up a front of foot and guns.  By this time the Rebel Horse had long since arrived upon the field.  In the circumstances, then, it seemed meetest to leave off our own attack, and invite the enemy to try his luck.  By no means were we to accept the repulse of our cavalry as the arbiter of the action.

(Unfortunately, the Archduke doesn't seem to have conveyed a true impression of just how shatteringly effective the rebel gunnery was. The reason for the paucity of pictures at this point was I was so caught up in trying to force home a telling cavalry attack - with few supports - in the teeth of the galling gunfire of 15 guns (5 models), that I forgot about  getting the camera into action. Three cavalry units reduced by more than half - and Trautmannsdorf Cavalry didn't even make it to the guns.  The temptation would be at once to start fiddling with the rules, but one ought not to be over-hasty in this regard.  It would have been equally tempting to concede the palm - I know many wargamers who would have done - but upon reflection concluded the battle was not yet lost.)

After the cavalry action (in the excitement of rapidly unfolding events,
I simply forget to take pictures).  Suffice to say, Kevenhuller dragoons
were shattered under the accurate and massed gun fire and are disappearing out of the picture,
  Trautmannsdorf  broke themselves upon the rebel guns.
Birkenfeld and Anhalt-Zerbst  Cuirassiers cover their retreat.
A lull settled over the field as we made arrangements to form a line.  The jager won the race for the thick woodland, aided by an earlier incident in which the enemy light foot came under accurate fire from our 2nd Artillery Battery near Moorgham.
So effective was our gunnery that the enemy jager retired hastily into the light woodland whence they had emerged.  But it soon became clear that the guns would be wanted nearer the centre of our line.  They were ordered to cross the bridge and deploy in the defile between the wood and the rising ground to the east of it.

At the same time, Baron Glockenspiel, commanding at the village formed his available troops - Baden-Durlach and Arenburg Infantry into a re-entrant, flanked by the impassible ground on the left and the jagers in the woods on their right.
The enemy were finding it difficult to bring their forces in a position to attack.  Nevertheless, the ball was in his court, and time was not on his side.

(The effect of my rule set is to give the whole thing a rather stately feel - it takes time to do things.  This affects both sides, of course.  There are certain things that make life difficult.  I do not allow guns to fire over the heads of friendly troops.  Such a practice was Not Done - for a given value of 'Not Done', of course.  The other is the problem of passage of lines.  I'd give something to know how it was effected, but I suspect the wargamers' interpenetration has the effect - and the credibility - of Star Trek style teleportation).
Within a few hours, our preparations were complete, and we could face with confidence whatever the enemy might attempt to our discomfiture.

To be continued...


  1. your rules do make for interesting games. as for what I think the effect of units marching through the lines of others (is that what you were asking?) I believe that there was a small wait not long to allow every second file to move behind the man to his side (left or right I am not sure) and then this would allow an organised march of one unit through another and then another pause as both units got back into normal formation... I guess you'd be the one to figure out how many cm or units of movement should be deducted for this manouver but I guess better trained units could carry this out quickly.

    quite interesting game so far... I have started working on my ship rules! getting a mathematical formulae for finding the tightest turn possible by ships. I am saying this just incase you would like to know.

    So the duke wins? or is that only this first part? anyway can't wait these are very interesting battles.

    1. actually do you have a version on computer? so that I may give it a try? so that I can have a good solid foundation on which to build upon, for incorperating the marine elemen/naval element?

    2. This was just the morning action. More to come.

      I like your suggestion in re passage of lines. Do you have a source for this? It sounds very plausible (after all, the fire drills of the 30YW were not dissimilar, firing by introduction and extraduction. I might yet fit that into the rules. One unit stays stationary, the other moves, but with a half-move penalty and counts as disordered until the end of the turn.

      The 'passing' unit going forward (introduction) may not shoot; a unit passed through by retiring friends (extraduction) may shoot at the end of the turn but also count as disordered and are penalised according. All that sound reasonable?

      I do have a machine-readable version, yes. Send me your email address and I'll send a copy.

    3. thankyou Ion. My email address is

      Once I have sorted out the rules for ship-ship combat and landing of troops I can email those rules back if you like.

  2. Most times in most rules it causes disorder, skirmish troops are sometimes the exception, I believe it's very difficult even for drilled steady troops.

    1. In my reply above I have suggested something that I could include. I'd like your comments. Up until now I thought the method would be for the one of the lines would form column and the other pass through the intervals between units. That might be just too cumbersome.

  3. I found the rules very interesting and very challenging. The way you have set them up it very much emphasises the preparation for an attack.
    For example at first I wasnt sure how I felt about the "not able to fire overhead" aspect, but within the framework of the rules it fits in very nicely. It means the attacker has to spend time barraging before he launches any attack which may block his field off fire.

    For me because it was my first time out with the rules I played a very conservative game and on reflection using a 2nd rate army with a sprinkling of good troops I believe that was the best option.
    But as I mentioned I like the way your rules force players to think about how to attack rather than simply racing across the board.

    We both had very good die rolls and some horrible ones so I can say in the end quality would have seen a complete Imperial victory, however because it was late in the day both in game terms and real life the game was a tactical victory to the Imperialists, but one that could require some explaining to the Emperor about the diminished number of Cavalry.

    I am really looking forward to the 2nd battle, if a little nervously considering the weakened state of the rebel army.

    In summary excellent rules, brilliant scenario and bloody good game made for a fun day.

    1. Thanks, Barry: I appreciate your comments. This is the first time I've used that particular set against another opponent. Although very similar to my Napoleonics, the slowness of the pace versus the size of the units (an adaptation to my small 6'x4' table because I didn't want to compromise on unit size) gives it a whole different feel.

      It is possible to 'shoot in' an infantry or cavalry attack. You do it from the flanks. But it's not a bad idea to deploy your guns in front of your army - then they don't have to shoot over anyone's head. When your foot advance, then the guns follow, redeploying and shooting when the occasion arises.

      I'm hoping that that's how the next battle will go, though there you will have a good army with a sprinkling of 2nd rate troops. I do hope, though that the gunnery isn't quite so dominating as it was for both sides in the late battle.

      Looking back over these comments you might notice a brief discussion on the passage of lines, with a suggested addition to my rule set. Come to think of it, I ought to check how 'Charge!' and 'The War Game' go about it.

      That the Archduke has claimed the victory is only to be expected from his point of view (and, indeed, I was satisfied with the outcome, though it was less than what I was aiming for). Yet I see no reason why Marshal Noailles would not represent the thing as a rebel success, as he (you) did fight the Imperial Army to a standstill. But his quick one-two strikes haven't quite succeeded in keeping the Imperial-Electoral corps apart. Hence the 'final' battle that will take place at the 'Gates of Zerbst'.

  4. From my records I found the following regarding passage of lines, tho I cannot find where I got it from

    Maneuver Two: “Passage of Lines”

    Background: All 18th century armies fought in multiple lines, and all of them had techniques for passing one line through another. Our brigade has practiced many of these techniques, and arrived at the following as the best. It also happens to be the one most appropriate to those units portraying the 1776-1778 northern campaigns, as we have two primary sources (Sgt. Green and General Brisbane) to tell us that this was the actual method employed in Canada during the Revolution.

    There are at least six other methods, and they all have various merits. This is, however, the one our Brigade has chosen to do.

    This maneuver seems very complicated. It is, in fact, very simple. To practice with your unit, simply practice retiring by files from the flanks, and advancing by files from the center.

    The Maneuver:

    Assume the Brigade is drawn up in two ranks at loose or open order with ranks closed and officers in the ranks. Further assume that one of the Brigade's battalions is in front and the other behind, with their right markers dressed and their lines as even as possible. Each battalion has it's own music and its own command staff.

    The Brigadier orders the second line commander to close up until his line is just ten or so paces distant from the front line. The front line commander prepares to deliver a volley with his entire line.

    The Brigadier orders, “Prepare for Passage of Lines!”
    The front battalion gives fire under the command of its senior officer.
    The brigadier orders, “March!”
    The front battalion retires by files from the flanks of companies (or sections, depending on unit size. NB-the size of sections should be standardized before the action at roughly 12 men per section.) The men must KNOW this maneuver, and not be waiting for their own NCO to order them to retire by files from the flanks.

    The rear battalion advances by files from the CENTER of companies (sections) so that the advancing columns of files pass between the retiring flank files of each company. This is performed company by company down the length of the battalion.

    Both the advancing (rear) battalion and the retiring (front) battalion need to be attentive to their commanders. When they are orders to “Form Front” the advancing battalion forms front by sections, restoring a continuous line which is now the “front” line, while the retiring line forms front by files (still facing the enemy) and thus becomes the second line.

    The former second line commander (now the front) takes command of the situation, ordering his men to give fire as he sees fit-by battalion, by company, by platoon, etc. The rear line back steps to a comfortable distance, dresses, and rests, drinking water, rotating blocks, and seeing to their arms.

    1. I tell you what, such a manoeuvre would be something to see! Clearly the troops would have to be well trained to compass it. But this one has both units on the move. It is also a fire by extraduction manoeuvre, and that will complicate matters because it's giving fire before the manoeuvre. This will take some thinking about to get right.

      Mind you, the methods I have suggested might be entirely analogous to other practices.

  5. A very interesting battle report. Lovely figures, great terrain ... and I am looking forward to reading the concluding part.

    All the best,


    1. Thanks Bob -
      The troops are all mine; as are the buildings and the trees. The rest are Barry's and it is his 7'x5' table we were fighting over. I thought this battle would be the 'make or break' and it could well have been, too. But the Rebellion lives still ... for the moment.

  6. In my experience forgetting to take pictures because the action is too intense is a good thing! It certainly sounds like a classic and absorbing game.

    The only ref I have to hand is from the 19thC so will probably differ. It mentions that battalions may pass through files through each other on the parade ground but this should never be done in the face of the enemy. Instead, the battalion being relieved forms column of 4's by company and retires with the relieving battalion opening up just enough files to let them pass. The section is clear that it is important for the relieving battalion to maintain order with the minimum of disruption while the retiring battalion gets out of the way as fast as possible and reforms in the rear. This is the same whether the battalion in front is retiring and meets supports or if the supports have advanced to a position behind the battalion being retrieved.


    1. This is getting to be a very fascinating topic! Your description is something like what I had in mind as the method to be adopted in the absence of any specific rule - and hence the omission of one. In any event, one feels that such a manoeuvre in the face of the enemy would be hazardous in the extreme. Barry's description was persuasive, though, as in included an element of fire by extraduction (similar to the fire drills of 100 years previous).

      The question does become one of how do you relieve your front line, in attack and/or in defence? That's the trick - and one I'd like to get right - or as nearly right as is feasible on the table.

      Thanks for your input, Ross!

  7. It strikes me no matter how you work this system through it is a maneuver only regular or trained troops would attempt, not something for conscript or 2nd Line units.

  8. actually I think that non-organised troops might have the better of moving through lines... they won't feel compelled to form an organised rank and file deployment on the other side and so can just move through another unit by squeezing passed the soldiers standing there.

    I think it starts becoming a problem when troops are organised or dis-organised troops move through organised ones or vice-versa... and as Ross said there were many different methods even in the 19th century so what happens when 2 organised untis trained in different manvouvers try to pass? thats an interesting idea.

  9. I understand what you are saying and in principle yes I agree the loose formation discipline of "non-organised" troops may make passage easier but in a rule sense would that not mean they would become even less "organised" ie disordered, once having wandered through the other body.

    This is really a very interesting discussion.

    1. that is a good point... once through the body yes, but perhaps it would not affect the movement range of the unit as much as say an organised unit which would have to take time to form-up and then reform?

      yes increadibly interesting! Ion you've hit upon a very interesting topic :-D

  10. Loose troops such as Gowan describes might find the passage easier (a very moot point, though!) but they would be very vulnerable to the disorder caused, and will be less well disciplined in any case. I believe troops will have to be very well drilled in this, as the thing could so easily result in complete confusion. Undrilled troops could well become bewildered and disorganised, wondering what the ding-dong is going on here.

    That is why I do make a unit burst through by routers to become disordered, and stand a pretty good chance of being carried off as well.

    At the moment, 'no change' is getting the inside running, for mine, but something along the lines of Barry's source is tempting, at least for top-notch trained guys.


    1. good point... I do wonder though if there may have been a procedure to allow routing troops though. Then again as there always seems to be in History were there cases of lines of infantry preventing troops from routing? this would be a heart renching thing to do but it did happen, causing the routers to either fight to the death, run another way or get killed by their own allies.
      Not that many generals forced that situation upon their troops, though lest we forget that during many a seige that the defenders would force the non-combatants out, who would then be forced back towards the castle by the attackers but then denied entry by the defenders. if in dire situations like this civilians can be herded and left for dead and even killed by their own soldiers its not that hard to imagine in some situations the same or similar practice was carried out upon routing soldiers.

      By the way I am loving this topic.

    2. Generally speaking, routers would go round formed troops, looking for gaps. I have read of troops presenting bayonets to stop routers bursting through, which again would invite the latter to look for an easier route to get away from trouble.

      That is why troops formed up in successive lines ensured there were wider intervals in the second line - precisely to accommodate the retirement of spent front line troops. That the first line troops had to be counted on to break if things got beyond them is in my view a powerful argument in wargames rules NOT to have troops test morale simply because they are supposed to have 'seen' friends break close by. It is a very moot point indeed whether that sort of thing was so contagious.

      I prefer to leave a great deal in the mind of the player. Given that kind of freedom, you'd be amazed at how many wargamers will jack it in when the going gets tough. I've even heard of one who, faced with a scenario that was clearly going to lead to defeat for his side, from move 1 up sticks and marched his troops off the table.

      I dare say this character hugged himself to sleep that night at how clever a wargamer he was, but his fellow commander (it was a 2-player a side game) never forgot nor forgave that pusillanimity. In the real world, generals were cashiered - even executed - for that sort of thing...

  11. Not sure I buy poorly trained troops being able to pass through except perhaps in cases like the AWI where troops formed with "loose files" or early in the 18thC before the adoption of cadenced marching when armies formed 3,4 or more ranks deep with wide spacinf between files to allow troops to counter march.

    By the SYW troops are adopting close order, literally shoulder to shoulder, one man's sleeve touching the next. There is no way to thread files in an orderly fashion when they are closed (note that Barry states loose or open) hence the need to either double the ranks or open files.

    btw slightky later during the ACW it was not unknown for the troops in combat to lie down and let a units basically just walk over them! Probably pretty messy I would think!

    On a rules note, I think it depends in part on how long your turns are and how much you are willing to blow thing out of strict scale to emphasis them. I would tend to say that there would be a reduction in capability during the transition but that it would not last until the next turn. If using the British method I mentioned above, once the unit if front had cleared the front (blocked LOS) there would only be roughly 5% of the new front unit that was displaced and whose fire would be affected.

    Its similar to the question of 1st fire bonus, something I struggled with for years. Yes it was more effective how much more? 25%? but if a turn of firing is supposed to be 4 or 5 volleys or more, now how much more effective is the whole turn's fire? 5%? One either blows it out of proportion for effect (like Grant) or ignores it (like Lawford & Young). Both ways have their attraction.

    Just 2 more cents worth.


  12. Well, Ross: there's a second topic. Another to bring to the Old School Forum maybe? I'll be doing that when I get a bit more time...
    I do know that the ACW armies were very flexible - which made them very hard to beat decisively (especially for the CSA, which rarely had the numbers). At any rate, 'Fire & Fury' has specific rules for the passage of lines, but I don't well recall them.

    At the moment I'm thinking of having the lead line form a column, about turn and march off to the rear, whilst the second line (possibly) comes forward. I might have to waive the penalty for changing formations, otherwise the thing will take 2 moves to complete. I'll just have to suck it and see upon the parade ground.


    1. Ion, you might be better off with a passage of line rule. I don't know of anyone who tried to form a battalion column to fall back, as opposed to a line of company columns. Perhaps a simple 1/2 move for the one moving and no move for the other if both are in line? That should mean that units need to get close the turn before and then, if left alone, they can do the maneuver.

    2. That was one idea I had in mind, but I've had several. For a friend's Napoleonic Vive l'Empereur rules, I suggested one unit moves the other stays stationary, both use an Initiative Point (IP), both disordered until the end of the turn.

      For my own set, I haven't fully decided how it is to be done, but your suggestion might well be the best compromise between playability and 'realism'. In today's action, a P of L was effected with no one noticing when a unit under heavy gunfire failed its morale, and had to fall back (though still under command and in good order). The following unit, in column of companies, just marched by and took over its place in the line. Sweet.

  13. people marching off the battlefield and not fighting to the death... I was playing a total war game agaist a real opponant, I fought to the last even getting my artillary crews to charge the foes. my general died, and so did many of my men, I also watched as a single soldier from a totally annihalated unit run off the field my last soldier.

    as for a test of moral for routers, I don't think it would be a problem unless the unit was forced by a harse commander to bayonet all who tried to pass through the lines, watching friends run may be unnerving but its not going to affect the whole unit. You are right by not having every unit have to test moral just because some friends are being cowardly.

    as for a forum... are any of you on Benno's figure forum? its my favourite (also has a real time chat system I love) if any of you are on there this would be a great topic to post.

    just my 10 cents worth (thanks to getting rid of the 1c and of coarse recently the 5c)

    1. Not on Benno's figure forum. I think I did have a quick look but don't think I followed up on it. However, I am a member of the Oddfellows Club and the Old School Wargamers Group. Both seem to me idea forums for this topic, as well. But it may be a day or two before I get around to posting it, so brisk has been the exchanges here. I'll probably do some copying and pasting, at that...

    2. ok, I am not a member there and a self imposed ban on joining any more forums means I will not join (I have joined to many and thats a problem) but perhaps I should not bother you too much more as we seem to be making this the longest comment section on blogger I have ever seen and there's only 4-5 of us filling it up.

  14. Ion could you pls send me your rules as well? I am dusting off some SYW figures and I want to try something beside my old Age of Reason rules.
    When I did ACW reenacting in the 1990s I was with a group that liked to skedaddle as opposed to standing bravely in line all day. We felt that cowardice was not adequately represented in reenactments. What we found was that it was surprisingly easy to burst through lines behind us. Mind you, reenacting is all pretend by people who do a fraction of the drill that real period soldiers actually did. We never attempted to pass through formed lines.

    1. Sorry Michael - i just can't figure out how to send a message, despite a heck of a lot of faffing around with the follower lists, friend connect, and what have you. Don't know what the problem is.

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