Monday, February 14, 2011

Action at Lobrau - concluded.

As the Imperialist infantry advanced towards the hills, Rebel artillery began to take a steady toll upon the fusiliers of Hildburghausen Regiment, whose progress could easily be traced by the trail of dead and wounded they left behind them. Meanwhile, the Imperialist artillery soon dropped into action to their flank, close by the village itself.

The first close action took place in and about Lobrau village. The Rebel commander, Antoine Noailles, hoped to catch the Imperialist horse at a disadvantage whilst debouching from the town, and threw forward VII and VIII Battalions. The former unit was quickly and boldly engaged by the outnumbered Grenadiers of Hildburghausen Infantry, a protracted firefight that was to last for much of the battle's duration. To the right, the Nadasti Hussars deployed into successive lines of squadrons, and swept into the Rebel VIII Bn.
Untrained and inexperienced though they were, the Rebels stood the charge like veterans. Reserving their fire to short range, they emptied many a saddle, then it was butt and bayonet, sabre and pistol, as the horsemen closed.

Although the hussars got the better of the close combat, the Rebels stubbornly refused to admit defeat. Almost a third of the horsemen were hors de combat; slightly fewer than the Rebel losses, but it was the hussars who abandoned the fight and fled. Much diminished in numbers, VIII Battalion held its ground.

On the other flank, Ist (Zerbst) Battalion also advanced with a view to seizing the Hassenhof hamlet. It might have been better to have closed this unit in upon its companion, II Bn, but as it transpired, The Zerbst townsmen were to occupy the attention if the Ulrichstein foot Guards for the remainder of the action.

The flanks now both engaged, the Imperialist infantry gradually closed in upon the Rebel centre. Soon, there, too, both sides were exchanging heavy discharges of musketry, as the action became general all along the line. Having endured for so long a galling rebel gunfire, Hildburghausen Infantry had been eager to try conclusions with the enemy V Battalion. Their opening volleys exacted a fearful vengeance.

Closer and closer pressed the Imperialists, though under effective Rebel fire. The Grenadiers of Arenberg Infantry kept the farm garrison in play, whilst the musketeers of that unit openened a withering fire upon III Battalion, which had moved up betimes.

Meanwhile, the firefight in Lobrau continued unabated, but the Hildburghausen Grenadier Company had early established an ascendancy never relinquished. For all their stout fight, the Rebel fire proved ineffective in the face of their opponents' steady volleys. Grenadier losses remained trivial whilst their opponents were falling in windrows.

On Smallhausen's front, the Guards also continued to press forward. As the Ulrichstein footguards wheeled westwards to drive home the attack into the rear of Hassenhof, Freiherr von Smallhausen could see their right flank being exposed to attack from the hitherto quiescent II Battalion on the hill. There was nothing for it, but to fling in his Guard Hussars.

Already considerably reduced by Rebel gunfire (25% losses), the gallant horsemen flung themselves into the enemy foot. Von Smallhausen himself was astonished by what ensued. The Rebels once again awaited the attack with apparent calm until the Hussars got close. With the assistance of cannon fire to their flank, the Rebel musketry ought to have swept the Hussars away. Nothing of the sort happened. The gunfire went overhead or behind the onrushing light horse; the smallarms fire was too ragged and too high to stop the onrush; then the Hussars were hacking and slashing among the hapless Rebel foot.

In a trice, II Battalion was broken, whereat the disordered surviving hussars swept on to the guns. This time the fire was more deadly. The scant surviving Ulrichstein horse wheeled about and fled from the field.
[This was a mistake on my part, forgetting that disordered though they were, the hussars were too close to the gun(s)for them to react effectively. Too bad]

Back on the Imperialist right, the Khevenhuller Dragoons had been filtering through the town covered by the Hildburghausen Grenadiers' firefight and the Hussars' attack. Now in turn the Dragoons lined up to assault the rebel left. Obviously, VIII Battalion would have been wise to withdraw, but Noailles kept them thrown forward with the view of disordering the Imperialist horse, then sweeping them aside with his fresh troopers. The Rebel infantry gallantly and cheerfully faced their second cavalry charge of the day.

It could not be a repeat of the first. Their numbers much diminished by the first encounter, the musketry of VIII Battalion was hardly felt by the dragoons, who galloped in and straight through them. Comprehensively ridden over and trampled down, VIII Battalion simply disappeared.
[A comment on casualties here. In the first action, VIII Battalion passed quite a difficult morale roll. In the second, they lost the rest of their strength before a morale roll could be taken]

Meanwhile, the Imperialist infantry continued to mount heavy pressure upon the Rebel centre. The farm garrison (IV Battalion) was holding out reasonably comfortably, but the flanking battalions (III and V) were taking fearful punishment.

There was no doubt about it, the Imperialists were feeling the rebel fire - especially Hildburghausen - but they never even looked like cracking under the strain.

Antoine Noailles, standing behind this part of the rebel line could see the carnage being wreaked upon his outgunned foot. Surely it could only be a matter of time before the whole line collapsed. So soon was his dream of leading his country into a Protestant paradise beginning to fade...

Nevertheless, seeing the victorious Imperialist dragoons rallying in the plain near Lobrau, Noailles at once flung in his own horse. This was their chance. Lacking in training as they were, they would have stood little chance against steady horse, but, disordered by their recent attack, the Dragoons presented a target that could not be ignored.

Things didn't quite go as Noailles hoped. The Rebel horse certainly charged effectively enough, but the dragoons stood to it confidently. Many a riderless horse from both sides were seen galloping from the scrimmage. The Rebels even got slightly the better of the encounter, but it was they who were glad eventually to break off the action and drop back. The Dragoons had given up not one inch of ground.

All the same, the Rebel horse had done well. In retiring from the fight, they kept a bold front to the enemy as they resumed their place in the line.

But that line was already beginning to crumble. At last exhausted by their prolonged and ineffectual fight with Hildburghausen Grenadier Company, VII Battalion had already broken and fled up the hill ahead of their own cavalry. The Imperialist grenadiers had almost no loss to show for their victory.
[In fact, they didn't lose a figure; an extraordinary outcome!]
Following up this success, the Trauttmannsdorf Cuirassiers wheeled right across the front of VI Battalion and the 4pr half-company. A glorious target! Enfiladed - and at short range, too! To amazement of all observers, and the chagrin of the Rebels, not one cannon ball, and hardly a musket shot told upon the Cuirassiers as they swept by. VI Battalion immediately found itself under bombardment from the Imperialist 6pr guns, whilst under simultaneous attack by Hildburghausen Infantry, who had already seen off V Battalion. In short order, this Battalion too was falling back in disorder.
The whole left flank was shredding away, on the brink of collapse. IV Battalion continued for the time being to hold out in the farm, but III and V Battalions were broken and fleeing over the heights, VI Battalion joining them.

Obvious that the Rebel army was breaking up, Baron von Glockenspiel urged on his troops to greater efforts. Smash the enemy: ride them down!

After having fought the Ulrichstein foot Guards for so long, Ist (Zerbst) Battalion broke off the action and evacuated Hassenhof, followed by their determined opponents. They, at least, retained a semblance of order.

The Rebel line collapsing everywhere, there was nothing further Noailles could do. There were no reserves in hand with which to restore the rout. I Battalion made off in good order, as did IV Battalion, skillfully evacuating the farm under the very noses of Arenberg Regiment. The rebels also drew off the cavalry and guns.

But with the Imperialists advancing all along the line, their chances of survival were problematical at best. The sun had barely reached its zenith, and the Imperialist Cuirassiers at least had not been engaged. Already climbing the ridges, they were sure to overtake many of the fugitives.

This defeat crushed the rebellion. Though the Allied losses were severe enough - 580 Imperialists and 180 Ulrichsteiners - they counted near on double that number of rebel dead and wounded upon the field of battle. For the rest, the rebel army melted away over the next day or so. Antoine Noailles found himself bereft of all but a handful of followers by the time he made it back to Zerbst.

But the campaign was not yet over. As Glockenspiel and Smallhausen congratulated each other upon their joint victory, a despatch rider arrived at the Ritterhof in Lobrau with evil tidings. An army of the Herzogtum von Rechburg had been assembling on the frontier of Ulrichstein. By now they were probably already across the border.


  1. Stirring stuff and a good day for the cavalry. Glad to see Esci British Hussars giving good service still.

  2. Yep. The Cuirassiers are ESCI as well, modified by tricorne hats. Dragoons are Revell; infantry Airfix. The rebels were just about anything I could lay my hands on...

  3. A great battle report,lovely looking armies and a fine Old School battlefield.

    Thanks for sharing,