Sunday, December 30, 2012

An interlude in Zerbst

The sight that greeted Marshal-General Antoine Noailles as he rode, accompanied by his small escort, into the city square of Zerbst, was not one to calm a temper irritated by the cares and difficulties of active campaigning.  Along one side of the plaza had been erected within the week of his absence a long gallows already adorned by a half-dozen wretches left to hang.  Noailles stopped and for several moments surveyed the terrible sight before him.  Silence fell.
Marshal-Genral Antoine Noailles as depicted in the
Zerbst Daily Zeal journal.

'Cut them down!' the Marshal-General turned to the Captain of his escort, 'and make sure they are given a decent burial.'  The captain saw that the look on his commander's face brooked no demurral.

'Jawohl, Herr Marschal!'  hurrying off with several of his escort, the Captain set about his grisly task.  At the same time an officious city individual, accompanied by an armed bodyguard of his own, approached the Marshal-General himself.

'Herr Marshal-General,' piped up this rather scrawny looking fellow dwarfed by his burly escort, ' I am Monseer Stanislaus Snivl, Secretary and Envoy of their Worships the Burgomeisters of Zerbst and the Republicke of Godde.  I bring you this...' he handed over a sealed paper. 'You are summoned to the Rathaus to answer certain questions in respect of your handling the war- ...'

'Indeed,' several of his remaining escort, recognising at once from the Marshal-General's drawl that a slow burn had been ignited, drew back slightly. '"Summoned", eh?'  He glanced through the missive.  'Well, sirrah! We can not leave the good burghers of Zerbst waiting, can we?'

The Rathaus at Zerbst
'You must cease removal of those criminals from the gallows,' the Secretary and Envoy said.  His failure to observe the signs proved his undoing.  The Marshal-General's hand shot down, seized the messenger by the lapels of his coat, and with a single heave hauled him up to eye level.  Whether the armed townsmen would have rescued their leader was rendered moot in the face of several swords and pistols facing them from Noailles's escort.

'Criminals, were they?' The words came grinding, heavily punctuated by the aroma of the Marshal-General's favorite garlic, from between clenched teeth into the hapless secretary's face, 'They were not criminals a week ago. They were not traitors.  What charges were laid?  Who laid them?  Was there a trial?  Confession?  Extracted under torture I have no doubt.  Witnesses?  Evidence?  Testimony?  Aye: I'll wager these were produced... Those people there will be given a decent  burial, prayers and a proper funeral service, forthwith, immediately and at once.  At the town's expense.  Or I shall want to know the reason why.  You hear me?  Do I make myself clear?  You will supervise this work, and report to me, personally, when it is done.'

'But they were traitors, Catholics-!'

'Know, sirrah, that at least two of those people were friends of mine - personal friends and colleagues.  Both were Catholics, granted, but neither did anything to harm our cause, and one even supported it with money and recruits.  I dare say those others were in like case.'  The Marshal-General turned to one of his staff officers. 'These four likely looking lads will make fine recruits for the army - just the sort we need to make good our losses.  See to it!'

Debates and trials in the Rathaus.
  Are the Revolutionaries starting to count their chickens...?
As the four townsmen were hustled off, and secretary Snivl wittered about ignored, the Marshal-General cantered off with the half dozen that remained of his escort  straight to the Rathaus, off the main square.  The burgomeisters of Zerbst were about to discover that it was no light matter to summon the Commander of the Army.  Suppose the Commander of the Army complied.  Then what?

To be continued:  A Debate in the Rathaus.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

New Years' Greetings...

Marshal-General Ignatius Ignatievich Smirnov
in the service of the Grand Duchy of M'yasma 

Just to take a break from the Ulrichstein Campaign to thank the readers and followers of this blog, and to wish you all a happy and prosperous 2013.  Until the next instalment of the story, I'll leave you with a couple of images of Shakesburg...
A park in sunny Christchurch.
An abandoned factory in sunny Christchurch.  I do find this
urban art form attractive and intriguing.

A closer view...
Ion (Archduke Piccolo) Dowman

Friday, December 21, 2012

Ulrichstein Campaign: Battle of Zaltpig concludes...

General view, late in the action.  The Rebel 1st Brigade has been  wrecked completely, but Winterfeldt Infantry
under pressure from front and flank, is showing signs of exhaustion.  To the south, General Trumpeter has in desperation thrown his entire heavy cavalry into a last ditch effort to stem the Electoral advance.
Having absorbed for well over an hour the punishment meted out by the Electoral forces, seeing the last vestiges of 1st Brigade flung back with the rest, observing their Horse barely holding their own against the Electoral Cuirassiers, it seemed to the rebel staff and civilian observers surrounding Marshal Noailles that the end must come soon. Surely the Rebel army must be on the brink of dissolution.  Surely, thought they, this must be the end of the 'Republicke of Godde' upon this earth.

A few such gentry were seen to edge their way to the rear, to take cob, cart or carriage, and hie themselves off to Zerbst. One such notable, a certain Reverend Warisburg (of whom more anon) noted for the most virulent imprecations against Bishop ter Plonck in recent times, and muttering about 'continuing God's work',  was among the first to go,
The last throw of the rebel horse.
Yet the Marshal himself showed no such apprehension. He knew as well as did the enemy commander across the river, that Altmark-Uberheim had shots its bolt. Its flank guard vanished, Winterfeldt Regiment could barely hold its ground against the rebels to its front.  What could it do about the battalions approaching its right flank?  Ninth Battalion was pushing resolutely forward through a telling flanking gunfire in its eagerness to bring their muskets in range.  
Last throw of rebel horse.

On the south flank, with the last battalion of 1st Brigade fleeing in rout alongside the defeated hussars,  General Trumpeter, commanding the horse, threw in his rallied heavy squadrons of heavy horse in one last throw. Whilst the 2nd Squadrons of both regiments flung themselves once more upon the Electoral squadrons on the hill,  the 1st Squadrons at once charged the advancing fusiliers. Victorous from the infantry fight, Diericke Fusiliers were still blinded by smoke. Their musketry proved woefully insufficient to stop the rebel horse, who were swiftly among them with pistol and sword.  
Half-blinded by the smoke, Diericke Fusiliers' musketry
has too little effect to stop the rebel horse.

Bayonet and musket butt proved deadly enough in defence, and the horsemen of 1st Cavalry were soon for the second time that day seen in headlong retreat. Yet the Rebel cavalry had done its work. At last the Fusiliers were forced to give way. Showing a bold front, withal, they fell back as far as the river bank. There would no further advance from them this day.

The desperation of the rebels in the hill-top cavalry fight must have lent strength to their sword arms.  Although 2nd Cavalry lost heavily, they inflicted worse upon their opponents.  The fresh Hussar Squadron was as surprised by the vigour of the enemy cavalry charge.  Both Electoral squadrons fell back.  Having lost 60 troopers themselves (3 figures) the Rebels had killed or wounded well over a hundred (6 figures in fact).  The hill, fought over for well over an hour, was theirs at last.  
The Rebels Cavalry victorious at last!
Covered by the last reserve squadron of the Black Hussars, the Electoral cavalry fell back, and began to recross the river. So abruptly had the seemingly irresistible Electoral forward sweep become a retrograde move across the whole front, like the surge and ebb of a wave upon the shore. The uncomprehending civilian observers felt the sudden flood of relief, but had no explanation for what they had seen.  A miracle; it must have been a miracle.  God's Hand had been revealed, with blessings upon the Rebel cause.
The Electoral Army falls back: still under command
and control (no routers here), but their attack has
failed for good.
For their part, too, the Winterfeldt Infantry began to fall back in the face of superior numbers, and the advent of the enemy 9th Battalion upon their flank. The retreat becoming general, it was fortunate that the rebels were in no condition to pursue. Exhausted as were the Electoral soldiers, the rebels at hand were just as tired. The defeated Electoral army made off unmolested across the river to the east bank. With rebels across the river in strength to the north, it behoved Plodt to abandon Zaltpig, and retreat down the road towards Seehausen.
Winterfeldt Infantry, looking near to breaking, fading back
towards Zaltpig.   They break off from the enemy 11th and 4th battalions to their
front, but 9th battalion has approached within musketry range.
In turn, that unit is coming under an enfilading gun fire from across the river.
Jubilation in Zerbst at the Rebel victory expressed itself in cannon salutes, fireworks, street demonstrations and, surprisingly - perhaps disquietingly for the discerning - the opening of certain grain storehouses about the town. The task was still to do of course. The Electoral Corps had not been completely knocked out of the reckoning, and the victory just gained had been a very costly one - some 900 killed and wounded.  Marshal Noailles doubted that the enemy casualties much exceeded 700, and of those some 180 prisoners of war were under guard.   

There was still the Imperialists to face. If their commander, young Archduke Piccolo, was as yet something of an unknown quantity, there was one redoubtable general there whose capacity for hard fighting one could never disregard: Baron von Glockenspiel.

The Ulrichstein Campaign continues with an interlude and political debate in Zerbst.  Reverend Warisburg announces his programme...

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Ulrichstein Campaign: Battle of Zaltpig, Part 3.

Whilst the Electoral forces seemed to be carrying all before them to the west of Zaltpig town, the lonely Pandour company garrisoning Stumpy, far to the north, was coming under increasing pressure in its own private battle. During the course of the day, the Pandours would face up to six times its own numbers.  With nearest friends at least half a mile off, their sense of isolation was complete.

The village of Stumpy.  The Pandour garrison in firefight
with the rebel 7th Jagers.  Tenth battalion moving up
prepare to storm across the bridge.
Getting the worse of the firefight against this garrison, the Jagers' call for help was answered by a column of 10th Battalion, which dashed over the bridge and into the hamlet. At once the roar of battle intensified, as the rebel column, narrowed owing to the defile through which it had to pass was met in  the barricaded village street by a half-company of Pandours. 
The village of Stumpy.  The 10th Battalion assault.

Having reinforced the attack on Stumpy, General Arnim of 3rd Brigade directed the other two battalions, 5th and 6th, to swing to their right to join 2nd Brigade's 9th Battalion in enveloping the right flank of the main Electoral army. However, Marshal Noailles felt the moment propitious to countermand the order to 6th Battalion, and directed that unit also towards Stumpy. Time would tell if that decision was a wise one.  
The Rebel left.   In the distance the fight against Pandour
skirmishers and Winterfeldt Infantry.
  Ninth Battalion of 2nd Brigade, and  5th Bn or 3rd Brigade
move up to envelop the Electoral flank.  In the foreground,
6th Battalion has been diverted towards Stumpy.

What led the Rebel commander to it?  His right and centre were still under intense pressure, losses had vastly exceeded his opponent's, the enemy was gaining ground, albeit slowly; yet he gave an air of confidence that assuaged the agitated anxiety of his largely civilian staff.
The rebel centre.  The Electoral forces make
slow progress, but are advancing yet.  But Winterfeldt
in particular is beginning to look very tired.  Standing on
the hill near the gun battery, Marshal Noailles found this
The fact was, the Electoral army was showing signs of tiring.  The smaller fighter, it was running out of stamina.  Having driven back 11th battalion, and almost destroyed the 8th that took 11th's place; having helped see off the gun battery to its left front, Winterfeldt still found itself beset by two battalions from the Rebels' 2nd Brigade and the return of the 11th.  The Pandour Company, too, was feeling the gunfire to its right.  And not far off the last battalion of 2nd Brigade (the 9th) could be seen drawing closer.

The rebel centre.  The remains of 1st Battery making off
with its guns.  The electoral infantry are doing well enough,
but are becoming aware of the approach of  fresh
enemy troops on their right.
To the south, Diericke Fusiliers had just about destroyed the enemy's 1st Battalion, and saw off the counter-attack by 2nd Battalion in almost as brusque a fashion.  Yet it seemed to the Electoral troops that their efforts to advance were being stymied by numberless hordes of armed rebels coming the other way. The cavalry were even more frustrated. At last the 1st Squadron of Prittwitz Cavalry was forced to give way. As the heavies fell back to the river, the lead squadron of the Black Hussars surged up the slope hoping to catch the rebel troopers still disordered. In this they were not quite successful...
The rebel right.  The unequal firefight between Diericke Fusiliers
and 2nd battalion ends with the rout of the latter.  Meanwhile the
cavalry fight rages on undecided.

In the circumstance, Marshal Noailles thought it very desirable that Stumpy hamlet be taken, lest the enemy, breaking off the action, established himself firmly on the far bank of the Binge.  There he might remain a menace to the rebel cause sufficient to induce him to leave behind a force to contain him when he set off to try conclusions with the Imperialists.  If he could, he was going to take his whole army.  That meant having to eliminate from the reckoning, at least for the time being, this whole Electoral corps.
Stumpy village.  The hand-to-hand fight in the street.
 The garrison see off their assailants, but are themselves
forced to abandon the village.
It was as well 6th Battalion was marching to support the 10th. The latter unit stormed across the bridge whilst the Jager poured in a supporting musketry. In rushing the bridge, the 10th lost some 40 men (2 figures), not enough to stop them closing right up to the barricades. Yet the half-company detailed to defend the barricades had little difficulty in seeing off the enemy. Though giving as good as good as they received in the hand-to-hand struggle (20 men, or 1 figure each), the rebel morale cracked (having lost 60 men overall in the encounter), and 10th Battalion fled back to the west bank.

Stumpy village.  As the Jagers swarm through, 6th battalion
follow up.  There will be no recapture of the place.
For the Pandours, however, it was all too much. Having themselves lost 40 men (2 figures) to the Jagers' supporting fire and a further 20 (1 figure) the fight in the street - a third of the 180 men they began with, the Pandours incontinently abandoned the village. At once the Jagers could been seen swarming through the main street, the enemy 6th Battalion not far behind.
Stumpy village. Though forced out of the hamlet,
  the Pandours remain perky enough to present a bold front to
the superior enemy numbers.

Although the fall of Stumpy was no serious matter - indeed, General Plodt had counted upon the enemy's devoting a considerable proportion of his strength in carrying the place - nevertheless it seemed to signal a change in the fortune of battle. For all the damage wreaked upon the rebel battalions, more and fresh troops were coming up and taking the fight to the Electoral forces. Themselves weakened by earlier encounters, the latter were finding it harder each time to fling them back so peremptorily. Under gun and musketry fire, their right flank in the air and approached by strong enemy forces, the decimated Pandour company fell back to the river line. Few rallied to the trumpet call at the end of the day.
The view from the east bank of the Binge.  The situation
does not look very encouraging for General Plodt.  
The Pandour company has fallen back to the river
with terrible losses (80%).
Despite the enfilading gunfire from across the stream, 9th Battalion  is
pushing resolutely forward to engage the Winterfeldt right flank.
Yet, further to the south (just out of the picture at left) 2nd battalion went the way of the 1st, and for the moment it seemed that perhaps the Electoral troops were on the verge of destroying the rebel right, and securing a famous victory. Although the survivors of 11th Battalion had rallied betimes and were once more in the fight against Winterfeldt, they were pretty much all that was left amid the wreckage of 1st Brigade.  As for the rebel Horse, they were down to their last reserves, and had not only the Electoral cavalry still to face, but also the victorious Diericke Fusiliers...

To be concluded...

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Ulrichstein Campaign: Zaltpig, Part 2

 The above sketch map depicts the opening action of the particularly sanguinary battle of Zaltpig.  East is at the top of the sketch.  Having formed up in lines upon the west bank of the Binge River, the Altmark-Uberheim troops found themselves almost at once assailed by the first line of rebels.
The knowledgeable reader will no doubt have observed in this map, if not in the earlier pictures, a marked similarity to the field of Paltzig, fought in Prussia in 1759.  This is no coincidence.  In  my thinking about what sort of action to be fought, this 'scenario' came to mind...
The cavalry fight begins, with honours even.  However,
the Rebel Cuirassier squadron panics and breaks.
 Upon the ridge south of the town, the rebels gave as good as they got, the hussars in particular fighting their heavier and better trained opponents to a standstill.  Yet the Rebel heavies gave way to a needless panic, broke, and fled to the rear.  The second squadron was quickly on hand to take up the fight, but not so quickly that the Electoral Horse were unable to rally betimes.  Meanwhile, the hussars' fight continued on.
(Readers will also note that the cavalry action on the ridge turned into a protracted affair.  For the sake of interest, I elected to fight the action using squadrons (two per regiment) as the tactical unit.  The narrowness of the front, which could accommodate just two squadrons at a time, and the time it took to bring reserves up, meant that instances were rare in which squadrons were caught still disordered from the previous combat.  I'm inclined to think that maybe that was indeed how cavalry actions were conducted.)
The cuirassiers' 2nd Squadron takes up the fight.
 The infantry fight became at once a vicious close range duel in which casualties on both side mounted at a rate to concern both commanders.

Heavy losses on both sides
 Having with the help of the gun battery to their left considerable losses to the Diericke Fusiliers, 1st (Lobrau) Battalion lost at least as heavily in the first moments.  But confused and bewildered by the smoke and noise of battle, their effectiveness fell away, blazing away aimlessly into the murk.  Not so the Fusiliers, whose musketry continued with horrible effect, reaping a deadly harvest among the brown-coats, and taking a toll upon the rebel gunners as well.
First (Lobrau) Battalion in a deadly duel with
Diericke Fusiliers.
 In the centre, 11th battalion had fallen back with heavy loss in the face of Winterfeldt's disciplined platoon fire.  Quickly advancing to fill the gap, 8th Battalion received a rough welcome to battle, losing perhaps 60 men  (i.e. 3 figures) before firing a shot.  Fortunately their high morale kept them in the line.
11th Battalion having fallen back, 8th Battalion comes under
heavy fire as it tries to plug the gap in the rebel line.

The lead battalion of 2nd Brigade, the 3rd, were finding the Pandours difficult targets to hit, and were also barely maintaining themselves in the fight.  Fortunately, it was the effective canister fire from the 2nd gun battery to their left rear that evened up the fight.
3rd battalion barely holding its own against the swarming
Pandours.  The 2nd Field coy sustains them in the
unequal fight.
 The Electoral guns, on the other hand, might have been better employed on the west side of the river.  Where they stood, they gave little enough assistance to the infantry on the far bank.   But General Plodt had had to apprehend the possibility of a rebel envelopment from the north, where he had only the Pandour company in the Stumpy village to oppose a crossing.  
A rare 'hit' by the Electoral guns.

The guns remained where they were to cover Zaltpig town and its river crossings from the north.

The garrison at Stumpy: a company of Pandours in a popping
musketry contest against 7th Jager.

There the Pandours were actually doing quite well for the time being, firing from the cover of the buildings, wall and fences, and making life difficult for the Jager Battalion, despite the latter's two to one odds.

 In the centre, the electoral infantry continued to edge forward as the rebel line crumbled before them.  For the next hour it seemed to Marshal Noailles that the ratio of losses were showing a worrying trend in his opponents' favour (In fact, the second (23-8) and third (20-6) bounds of shooting cost the Rebel Army three times the losses the Electoral Army was taking, and they were heavy losses, too: more than two battalions' worth).  

 His troops were feeling it, too.  The leading Hussar squadron broke and fled the field,  and the pitiful remnants of the once-proud 1st Battalion made off as best they could under fire.  The rebel gun battery that had done much to support 1st Brigade, suddenly found the enemy had pushed right up the muzzles of their cannon.  Gunners began to fall at an alarming rate.  Just barely in time, the remaining gunners hitched up the guns and made off.

  Yet for all that, the rebels continued to maintain a front on the south flank.  The Cavalry commander, General Maxim Trumpeter, flung in the reserve squadrons.  Not yet were the Prittwitz  Cuirassiers able to advance off the hill.  Second Battalion also took up the fight 1st Battalion had begun so well but failed to maintain.  Though taking heavy losses almost at once, they were to frustrate the Diericke Fusiliers for another half-hour.
To be continued...

Ulrichstein Campaign: The Rebels clash with the Army of the Elector.

Marshall Noailles's sketch map of the strategic
situation in Northern Ulrichstein in early March 1739.
As the the forces of the Herzogtum marched south to face, and with luck, perhaps to stop or at least delay, the Imperial Army, the main Rebel forces - the Army of the Republicke of Godde - went east to try conclusions with the corps of Altmark-Uberheim troops at Seehausen.  For his part, the Electoral General Plodt chose not to wait, but directed his army west towards the seat and sole possession of the 'Republicke', the town of Zerbst.  The sooner the revolt could be defeated, the sooner his troops could go home.

Rebel army
 Owing to the heavy traffic that had been allowed to continue between Zerbst and Seehausen, both sides had a fairly exact appreciation of the troops available to each other.  In raw numbers the rebels were fielding double Electoral strength, and double the guns, too.  But the lack of training was a source of worry to Marshall Noailles.  The numbers of Electoral horse almost matched his own.  He would have to hope that his relatively unskilled horsemen count account for themselves sufficiently well largely to neutralise that threat.  For the rest, he would place his reliance upon his great superiority in foot and guns.
Electoral Corps

General Plodt, for his part, was aware that the superb discipline and training of his troops would multiply his slender numbers.  The question remained, however: by how much? As his Army marched west, a mere 2700 (135 figures) strong, he sought out a position in which to make a stand. But time was enemy to both sides in this campaign. Although in ordinary circumstances he would wait for the enemy to come to him, such a policy could not prevail in a hostile country in which anyone he met could prove an enemy.  Further, there was the danger that the Rebels could slip away, and with a day's start, strike at the Imperial Army before he could intervene effectively. Besides, his Master the Kurfurst expected him to show aggression, and to carry the fight to his opponent...
The general situation as the battle of Zaltpig opens.  The view looks
from behind the Rebel left flank towards the south-east.
Approaching the small river town of  Zaltpig, Plodt saw a chance where an attack might succeed.   To the offer of battle along the swampy Binge River, Marshal Noailles deployed in two lines of infantry facing eastwards along a line of ridges, with all his cavalry on the southern flank plain. His Jager Battalion - the 7th - swarmed over the north end of the ridge toward the Stumpy Hamlet river bridge.  Within the Hamlet lay a company of Pandours, forming a kind of prolongation of the Electoral line, or perhaps a species of flank guard.
Action about to be joined on the south flank
General Plodt had indeed refused his centre, leaving his battery firing over the river from an eminence north of Zaltpig itself. For the rest, his horse and foot were marching as quickly as they might over the town's river bridges. Plodt's purpose was not passive defence. His battle line forming before the rebels could effectively intervene, he planned to crush the enemy right,  and roll up the line from the south. If his cavalry threw back the enemy, well and good, but he would be satisfied with neutralising the rebel horse to let his infantry tackle the 'rolling up.'

A cavalry fight and opening volleys: the blood letting
So eager were both sides to come to grips, battle was quickly joined. Prittwitz cavalry clashed with the leading squadrons of the rebel 1st Cavalry and 3rd Hussars on the ridge south of the town. The cavalry fight would rage there for the rest of the action in charge and counter-charge, both sides feeding their reserves into the fight. Meanwhile, the Lobrau heroes of 1st Battalion drew so close to the line of the Diericke Fusiliers, that their respective first volleys blasted in each other's faces. Considering the numbers, the Rebel battalion delivered almost as thorough a mauling as it received.  Both sides stood fast through the carnage of the first few moments, though it seemed clear to observers, 1st Battalion couldn't possibly stand much more of it, even supposing the Fusiliers could.
Rebel 3rd and 11th Battalions engage the Pandours and
Winterfeldt Infantry.  The rebel guns offer more effective
support than their counterparts east of the river.
With the immediate support of their 1st Field Company, the leading Rebel battalions, 1st, 11th and 3rd were all able pretty much to hold their own.  The Electoral 1st (Winterfeldt) Infantry had, in its hurry to reach its position, been forced to 'march by the left flank; that is, with its Grenadier Company at the rear.  Lacking space to deploy fully, half the Grenadier company had to be left out of the line - a marked diminution of its firepower.  
(Actually, this was an absent-minded error, but if the unit had been deployed along the river line to induce the rebels to deploy, then in the interests of speed its marching by the left would have been altogether appropriate).
Nor was the Electoral gunnery from across the river much help to their infantry.

General action along the southern half of the rebel front.
So far they are giving a very good account of
themselves.  But though 11th Battalion's volley
(9 hits) is damaging, Winterfeldt's 13 hits
proves devastating...
In a trice, the action spread along the front from the cavalry fight in the south through to the Rebel centre.  The Electoral regulars advanced steadily into the teeth of Rebel musketry and gunfire seeking to break the smaller and less trained rebel battalions and squadrons. The 2nd Company of the Pandour Battalion, having crossed through the swamps, fell into action on the Winterfeldt flank to keep off the rebel 3rd Battalion. For their part, once in action, the rebels found themselves in a desperate struggle just to hang on.

11th Battalion's opening volley was damaging enough, but the blistering reply decimated the rebels. Leaving over 40% of their number littering the field, the Battalion fell back - in surprisingly good order - leaving a gap in the line.
The opening cavalry fight.  The early honours are evenly shared...
This was to become a battle of marked ferocity, much of it fought at close ranges, and with casualties heavy on both sides. Could the Altmark-Uberheim corps gain a victory against overwhelming odds and bring the Rebellion at once to a close?  Or would the rebels crush the Electoral corps, and free its troops to settle accounts once and for all with the Imperial Army? The issue would remain long in doubt...

 To be continued...

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Ulrichstein Campaign: Battle of Schlangewasser

His attempt to penetrate the Rechburg cavalry screen having failed, the Imperialist commander Baron  Glockenspiel was not unduly disappointed.  It had been a 'try-on' - risking a minor defeat in order to gain intelligence of enemy whereabouts, but also to gain some time.  The rebuff he had received did nothing to slow down the advance of his Corps.  Only one day later he ran into the Rechburger army, drawn up waiting across the Zerbst road.

Count Raunchfester had chosen a fine defensive position.  The road north swung slightly eastward to avoid and loop around a bluff beneath which flowed the wide but shallow stream, the Schlangewasser.  The Gimmeitor-Oels Infantry Regiment could be seen spanning the gap between the rising ground on either side of the road, but Glockenspiel knew for certain that here was where the Rechburgers had determined to take a stand.  He decided that he would cross the river on both sides of central ridge, but also have Alt-Colloredo Infantry scale the bluffs at the same time.  The hope was that by so doing the Rechburgers could not concentrate for a blow against an  Imperialist wing isolated by the difficult river crossing.

 In this Glockenspiel had at least in part divined Raunchfester's intent.  The Count was hoping that the difficulty of forcing this position would give the Imperialists pause, and that they would await reinforcements. Who knew when they would arrive?  Having discovered thereby the Imperialist strength, he could fall back towards Zerbst and there join up with  the rebel army newly victorious (he hoped) over the electoral army to the east.
Whilst setting this game up for a solo game, I was visited by a friend, Brent Burnett-Jones, who ended up pretty much playing the Rechburger side.  I had just about decided upon the Rechburg dispositions, when Brent suggested how he would set up. My response was 'Why not?  Let's give it a go!'  It wasn't too dissimilar to what I had in mind, as it happened.
 As the Imperialists closed up upon the stream, the Rechburg artillery tried long shots against the Nadasti Hussars screening the right front of the Imperialist advance, drawing first blood as a file of troopers was bowled over. 

 The difficulties of the river crossing soon presented themselves.  As it swept beneath the bluffs, the river formed an awkward angle, so that Alt-Colloredo Infantry tended to mask the guns intending to protect the crossing.  Surging forward from behind the ridge crest, Ewige-Blumenkraft Infantry delivered an effective volley across the river.  The grenadier company Alt Colloredo had to fall back to enable the guns to fire.  That fire proved sufficiently effective.  Eighty men the poorer (4 figures) the Rechburg infantry fell back behind the crest.  The Imperialists, however, were loath to follow.

On the right, the regiments of Arenburg and Hildberghausen were finding the river crossing disrupted by the presence of the bridge forming an angle.  Both regiments had to drop a company out of the line, and the Rechburg artillery was taking a steady toll  upon the Hildberghausen infantry.  The latter, however continued to advance under heavy fire, its morale still high.
My rule set tests morale only if 10+% losses are incurred in one turn.  The losses to Hildberghausen, though heavy, were rather more gradual, only twice forcing a morale check, both passed comfortably.
 On the other flank, the Trautmannsdorf Cuirassiers quickly crossed the stream and awaited the arrival of the Dragoons.  During this time, the Imperialists more than half expected an immediate counter-attack by the  Rechburg horse, but their intent, it transpired, was to draw the Imperialists further on.
 That the intended trap failed was due to the Trautmannsdorf Cuirassiers' headlong charge that broke the spring.  To keep off the Uhlans, the Cuirassiers' right hand troop swung off to the right, where they faced nearly treble their numbers.  The remaining troopers smashed into their Rechburg counterparts, and exacted within moments a fearful vengeance for their defeat of the Khevenhuller Dragoons the day before.  However, in combat against the Uhlans, numbers proved decisive, and scarce a quarter of First Troop survived.

Contrary to the day before, this time numbers did make a difference.  The Cuirassiers got one die with a Die Range of 4; the lighter Uhlans, 2 dice with a Die Range of 3.  The Cuirassiers rolled a 5 - too high, so no hits.  The Uhlans rolled 3,4 the 3 counting 3 hits, the 4, nothing.  Three hits resolved into 3 casualties, and a heavy defeat for the lone troop of Heavies.

 However, with the Imperialist Dragoons following up rapidly, the Rechburg horse were driven back.  The Klutzenputz Cavalry rallied for a second encounter with the Imperialist Cuirassiers, and even got slightly the better of it, but the cost was too great.  Reduced to less than half their original numbers, the Rechburg heavy horse fled the field.  In the meantime, Raunchfester had ordered Ewige-Blumenkraft Infantry to pull back and drive off the Imperialist horse.  Khevenhuller Dragoons came under a galling flanking fire as they pursued the hastily withdrawing Uhlans, but it was clear that the Imperialists on this flank were well established on the Rechburg side of the stream.

 The Ewige-Blumenkraft infantry having disappeared behind the crest of the ridge, the Imperialist foot felt emboldened to try crossing the stream and scaling the bluffs.  Steep as they were, this took some time.  The detached company of Arenburg infantry was brought across to help, but the commander of Alt-Colloredo decided it were better to hurry on ahead with his grenadier company rather than wait for the rest of the regiment to reach the top of the bluff.

 On the right, the infantry were still making progress but the Rechburg artillery was exacting a fearful toll in payment for the river crossing.  Hildberghausen, still manfully engaged in an unequal duel with the guns, was approaching the end of its tether, having incurred well over 40% casualties.  Fortunately, the supporting Rechburg infantry, when tickled up by the Imperialist guns, had proved more sensitive to artillery fire, and fallen back to the farm some distance to their rear.  Left isolated, Rechburg gunners began to fall to Imperialist fire. 
 It was high time for them to quit the scene as well.  As the day closed the Imperialists had forced their way across the stream along the entire front, in the teeth of a most determined and deadly resistance.    The last action of the day cost the Imperialists further needless losses, serious enough as they already were.   Ewige-Blumenkraft Infantry having intervened as best they could into the cavalry fight on the western flank, found itself in a parlous case, with enemy dragoons between them and safety, Imperialist hussars to their front, and Imperialist infantry coming over the ridge behind them.  The grenadier company from Gimmeitor-Oels was contesting the Imperialists there but could not be expected to do so for long.
But the hot-headed hussar commander ordered the charge.  The hussars didn't even make contact.  Even at long range, the infantry fire emptied too many saddles for the hussars to stomach, the morale check was an abject failure, whereat the horsemen incontinently fled (the only failure by the Imperialists all day, apart from one that forced Hildberghausen to halt and enter the firefight with the enemy guns).

All the same, it was the signal for the Rechburg corps to abandon the field.  The battle ended with the Rechburgers making off, the Imperialists resting upon the hard-won battle ground.  There was no pursuit.

Both sides claimed the victory.  Both sides had good reason.  Baron Glockenspiel might have waited a couple more days until the Archduke Piccolo arrived in which case the Rechburgers would have been forced back with ease.  But what might two days cost?  Count Raunchfester having thrown down the gauntlet, the Baron had no hesitation in picking it up and taking the fight to his opponent.

But if driving the defenders from their position is one criterion for victory, the butcher's bill is another.  The fact remained that the Rechburgers had given the Imperialists a thorough mauling all across the front.  Nadasti Hussars had been reduced to a mere squadron; Hilberghausen Infantry had endured casualties approaching 50%, and overall the Imperialists admitted losses (53 figures), more than double their opponents (24 figures). 

Although these are the battle losses, my own campaign rules suggest that the lost figures represent as much stragglers, lightly injured, men helping wounded to the rear, the usual 'non-casualty' casualty, as dead and wounded.  Who holds the field of battle at the end of the day gets back half his losses in figures; the side that retreats receives back one-third, with one-sixth counting as captured.  So the Imperialists' net loss becomes 26 figures, the Rechburgers lose 16, of which 4 are POWs.  Naturally there will come a time when prisoners of war will be exchanged under cartel - a further hedge against the rapid attrition suffered by wargames armies on campaign!

This was not an attrition rate that could be long sustained by the Imperialist Army.  Yet the result was one that would concern the Rebel cause not a little.  The Imperialists had lost only the time taken to win the field - not the day or two the Rebel Alliance hoped to gain.

Meanwhile, ferocious though the action at Schlangewasser had been, during its few moments of quiet, both sides could hear, far to the east, murmuring thunder of gunfire.  How was Antoine Noailles's 'Army of the Republicke' faring?

More anon...