Sunday, December 16, 2012

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...


  1. I'm on pins and needles. What are you using for smoke, it looks familiar but I can't think of the name for it at the moment.

    1. The 'smoke' is some sort of plastic packing stuff - I don't recall when it turned up here. I keep a small box of it. I find it 'smokier' than cotton wool (my previous 'smoke' of choice). But if you want black smoke, I suggest the stuff you get in Holloween shops that looks like black cotton wool but stretched turns into cobwebs.

    2. I ought to mention that the smoke is not mere decoration (though I agree it looks good!). The smoke generated by a unit's firing can affect its subsequent effectiveness. I don't apply it to skirmishers, as theirs is likely to be a more deliberate fire at visible targets; nor does enemy smoke have such an effect in my rules, on the grounds that the enemy unit - even if only its flags - will be at least partially visible.

  2. Lovely report, the troops and table look great and the narrative is engrossing, I'm looking forward to more.

    1. Thanks, Paul... I have, by the way, added to the above a small paragraph I earlier omitted.

  3. Now that was an excellent battle report Ion, and I have to agree with the others it leaves us wanting more. Table looks great too, if you feel it is small at least it has the advantage of getting to grips with then enemy quicker.
    I am still plugging for the rebels, but things do look a little desperate for them.

  4. very spectacular first part I am off to read part2 :-D

  5. Damn Part 2, you were right.