I love it when a plan comes together - as I seem to remember Hannibal Smith of the 'A Team' saying annoyingly frequently. In my personal experience long-laid plans rarely do come together, but this one did. The battle against my old school friend Jim Wannop - almost 30 years since we last locked horns - took place. This post will relate the events. Photos of the battle were taken by Jim, so are of a rather higher standard than is normal for this blog.
The order of battle we used was pretty close to the original: 3 coys of infantry and one squadron of cavalry (36 infantry, 8 cavalry) and one gun on the Electoral side (or in this case Marburgers), commanded by Soubise. Quite what Soubise was doing fighting for the Northern Protestant side is anybody's guess: from his energy on the day of battle it's quite possible that this was a different Soubise who led the French at Rossbach.
Marburg initial position
The opposing Imperial (Rheinfeller) side had 2 coys of infantry and 2 squadrons of cavalry (24 infantry, 16 cavalry) and one gun, under the command (of course) of General Kornberg.
Rheinfels Starting Position
We used the elementary rules as in Charge!, although it must be remarked that neither of us had read the rules before battle commenced. So some deviation from these rules may have unwittingly occurred. However this did not occasion any argument as neither of us was worried about winning or losing.
Soubise won the toss and moved first. His army moved forwards, inclining to the right so that a second company could come into line on the near bank of the stream. Kornberg responded by a general advance, sending both squadrons of his cavalry across the stream, and following its banks with the rest of his army.
Soubise now showed his natural inclination towards the defensive. He refused his right flank to protect it against the mass of cavalry that was clearly directed at it. His infantry on the left flank continued their advance. He halted his artillery to fire at the enemy cuirassiers, but missed, rolling a four when a five or six would have been required to hit.
Kornberg was unimpressed by the ranging shot and continued his advance, his cavalry being held a little back. By giving up the opportunity to return fire, his gun now reached a commanding position, with its right flank protected by the Rheinfeller infantry, its left and front by the stream.
A commanding position
The Battle Develops
Soubise's staff was now in heated debate about what to do. The leading infantry companies were in easy range of the Rheinfeller artillery, and were masking their own gun from returning fire in that direction. Those who argued for a slight retirement were overruled by Soubise who was inclined to more aggressive action. The dragoons now advanced on the right flank, one infantry company moving to their support. In the centre the artillery moved forwards, Soubise having decided that their gunners were clearly not up to long range firing. One company on his left crossed the stream, the other remained close to his gun.
Kornberg now prepared his stroke. The cavalry moved forwards at a measured pace, its officers keeping the horses fresh until within charge range. The rest of his army remained stationary and the gun took aim at the infantry company opposite it. Only a two was needed to hit, and a two was gotten. Kornberg grinned as he threw for effect. A one, great was the cursing from the Rheinfeller side as a single infantryman was removed. Ignoring their general's discomfort the Rheinfeller infantry fired at the Marburg infantry that had crossed the stream and shot down the four that hadn't gotten into cover.
Soubise now prepared for the charge that was clearly to come. The outnumbered Dragoons were somewhat comforted as their supporting infantry company moved up onto their left. His right flank secure, Soubise now moved his gun forwards again to reach within canister range of the Rheinfellers. His infantry in the houses continued their advance and now took up a position where they could fire upon the Rheifellers without any effective reply. Return fire from those previously caught in the open killed a single Rheinfeller.
Kornberg charged with his cavalry. His gun fired again at the enemy infantry, and despite the close range, somehow managed to miss (he rolled a one on the 'to hit' roll). An irate Kornberg could be seen spurring his horse fowards and belabouring the unfortunate battery commander with the flat of his sword.
The cuirassiers charge
The Marburg infantry now fired on the oncoming Cuirassiers, two of them falling from their saddles. Soubise's gun fired at the Rheinfeller gun: if this could be put out of action, then the need to advance on the strong Rheinfeller position facing his left would be removed. A hit has duly acheived and two gunners fell. The final activity on this turn was to resolve the melee. The Dragoons, despite their secure position, managed to lose one trooper while failing to inflict a single casualty in return. The infantry, who had risked so much to support them, lost three men: again for no return. Both sides fell back.
Kornberg had now lost control of the battle, occupied as he was in chastising his artillery commander. This seemed to be no real loss to the Rheinfellers, and their cavalry charged again. His right flank infantry wheeled left and lined the bank of the stream, putting the infantry in the houses at long range. Meanwhile, a battle-scarred bombardier had taken over command of the gun, and took long and careful aim at the Marburg infantry. This time there was no error and a six for effect was rolled. Six of the Marburg infantry were removed, a heavy loss.
Soubise noted that his casualties were becoming severe, and urged his army on. The infantry in the house charged the Rheinfellers in the rear. On the opposite flank the remnants of the infantry company there fired upon the oncoming cuirassiers, killing another two troopers. The Marburger gun then fired again on the Rheinfeller artillery. A decent roll here would have reduced it to firing only once every second turn. Sadly it was not to be: a one was rolled for effect, and that was negated by a 'half owed' from firing at the cuirassiers. The advantage in the right flank melee this time went to the Marburgers, the Dragoons killing two cuirassiers for only one loss, the infantry losing three men.
Kornberg saw that his cavalry were blown. He now allowed them time to rest and reorganise. But in the centre his artillery spoke again, throwing another six for effect. The remnants of the Marburger infantry company guarding the gun were blown away. The desperate infantry melee at the bridge was easily won by the isolated Rheinfels infantry company. these devoted warriors killing five men while losing only one of their own, and bundling many of the survivors into the stream.
The Final Bayonet Charge
Too late: the battle was over. The losses to grape and canister had been too much for Soubise's army, which was now understrength. Covered by the Dragoons, it retired from the battlefield, Kornberg being too involved with thrashing his artillery commander to organise a pursuit.
Dr J Evans Mudd, the noted military historian (now based at the University of Geneva), notes that the battle seems to have been won by the skill of a single artillerist, rather than by the tactical ability of Kornberg. The Marburg army had been savagely mauled and was out of action for many months to come. When the news came to the attention of Ferdinand of Brunswick he sent a detachment under Ysenburg to Marburg.