Saturday, 29 October 2016

Somewhere In Lowest Germany (continued)

Von Arlitz, anxious to make some pretence of aggressiveness, ordered a general advance.  A more inappropriate order is hard to see: the close terrain in front of him made such a movement with all the troops at hand impossible.  Although he correctly recognised the importance of the woods in the centre, and directed his two companies of Croats to converge upon it, they were blocked from so doing by the movements of friendly units and so a company of Free Battalion Le Noble was able to occupy it.  From this vantage point they maintained a destructive fire on von Arlitz's troops for the remainder of the battle. The second company of Le Noble found similarly good cover in woods on their left flank, although from here they were able to make only some slight nuisance of themselves because of distance and terrain.

Von Arlitz's Gensdarmes moved forwards in accordance with his initial orders and then, finding no good place to go, moved across the front of the Reichs infantry battalions in the centre.  By doing so they presented a target for the light infantry in the woods and blocked the advance of the infantry. They would have been far better left at the rear building 'battle moves' for later in the battle when they might have found useful employment. Van Erp  made a similar error with his regiment of dragoons moving first to his right flank and then back again and to his left.  However, as they performed these evolutions to the rear of the rest of his army no great harm was done.

A Illconceived General Advance

Having disentangled themselves, the Croats attempted to fight their way into the woods.  But first one company and then the second was swiftly seen off by a few volleys fired by van Erps light infantry who took few casualties in return. These then turned their  attention on the confused ranks of line infantry and cavalry behind, inflicting serious casualties as they sorted themselves out.  An advance by the sorely tried line infantry to within close range where they could return effective fire on the woods resulted in sufficient casualties to bring the lights  perilously close to breaking, but at further cost to the line infantry.

Le Noble Holds The Woods

At this point van Erp rose in his stirrups and waved his tricorne.  The younger officers on his staff have suggested many reasons as to what this signified.  Those of a gloomy disposition have suggested he was being bothered by a horse fly.  The amorously inclined opine that he was seeking to attract the attention of a troop of actresses who had come to view their hero in his martial glory.  Van Erp himself insists that  his seasoned eye had detected a wavering of the enemy line, and he had judged it was now time to deliver the decisive blow.  We are inclined to  accept the general's own explanation: the word of a gentleman is not lightly set aside, especially when he has a few battalions at his call.  But  what is certain is that his two battalions in front of him now advanced against the wilting Reichs infantry.  The fire of these, supported by  the depleted - but still game - light infantry took a steady toll of their opponents.  

Von Arlitz desperately countered with his cavalry, the Gensdarmes crashing into the infantry's right.  One battalion was routed and destroyed: the Gensdarmes, who had lost several officers to fire from the light infantry, pursuing them with no regard for the exposure of their own position.   Van Erp in turn threw in his Dragoons.  Although these had first wandered over to one flank and then over to the other, van Erp claims this was always part of his master plan: certainly they were now well placed to destroy the Gensdarmes with their counter blow.  The Reichs infantry had already lost one battalion to musketry and their second battalion, now isolated, inevitably succumbed to the same fate.  Von Arlitz's centre and right flank  had collapsed. 

This left the armies with one unengaged flank.  Both sides had viewed the terrain here as too difficult to attempt.  The Rheinfellers were happy to limit themselves to an ineffectual bombardment, while their targets found good cover with which to frustrate it. 

Von Arlitz now called for a retreat: his dreams of emulating the great Frederick William frustrated for another day.  Alas, it seems any  resemblance to the king is limited to a certain shabbiness of dress.  All credit to Van Erp who correctly divined the nature of the battlefield and took measures to exploit it.  Whereas I condemned myself to a well deserved defeat with my initial orders which were impossible to achieve in the limited space available for the troops to move in.

With a shortage of free time at the moment I continue to add a few troops to my army.  But I have neglected to make enough terrain for them to be comfortably employed.  That is something I must correct before the next engagement.  A town, a village, and a decent sized hill are needed as part of any Sittangbad refight so I will be concentrating on these.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Somewhere In Lowest Germany

A Small Matter Of Supply

Jim Wannop lay on his couch beside his swimming pool. He frowned: there was surely something he had meant to do. For a while he pondered and then it came to him: "I have not given my friend Andy a good thrashing at a Seven Years War battle for some time". The scantily clad maidens attending him were dismissed, a mobile phone handed to him by his PA and arrangements made. I wasn't an eyewitness, so details may be slightly in error: any well read wargamer will be aware that, as the authorities tell us, such remarks must be taken "cum grano salo by the discerning reader".

...Following his last great victory Gouert van Erp's army seemed poised to overrun all of Hesse- Rheinfels. The Emperor, alarmed, wrote letters to the Diet. The deputies met, speeches were made, resolutions passed, motions carried: by some small miracle reinforcements and even some funds were found. Meanwhile, the victorious van Erp remained quiescent: his train had broken down. He had looted the botanical gardens at Gottingen of its finest specimens and so many wagons had been sent north with the booty to his newly acquired Dutch estate that his army was bereft of supply and the means with which to move it. This inactivity angered the Prince who, ignorant of both cause and consequence, demanded a resumption of the offensive. In response van Erp blamed and fired a few members of the commissariat whom he had found to be tiresome on matters of fiscal probity, and once some transport had returned, made his excuses and ventured to move forward.

It was time to set up a battle and this I did by placing terrain pieces in all the worst places, and then deploying two armies in no sensible order. Jim, when he arrived, indulgently refrained from comment on the dispositions so made and threw a dice to determine which army he would play: as this turned out to be the Hesse-Marburg army my narrative could proceed without difficulty.

Initial Positions

Army of Hesse-Marburg (Gouert van Erp)

Dragoon Regt. v Platen
Garde Grenadiere
Fusilier Regt. Graf von Wied zu Neuwied
Infantry Regt. v Finck
Infantry Regt. Prinz von Preussen
Free Battalion Le Noble

The Hesse-Marburg artillery were not present, their horses being engaged in the transport of tulips at the time of battle.

Meanwhile, von Arlitz had only retained command of the Hesse Rheinfels army by virtue of that elderly Prince's inability to find a general who understood 'the proper use of the pike'.  A consignment of that antique weapon arriving at camp was sufficient impetus for the remaining Rheinfels infantry to desert at first in ones and twos, then by company and by regiment, until  von Arlitz found himself left with only Imperial infantry.

 Army of Hesse-Rheinfels (Graf von Arlitz)

Hohenzollern Cuirassiers
Reichs Infantry Regt Furstenberg
Reichs Infantry Regt Wildenstein
2 coys Karlstadter Oguliner Croats
2 guns Hesse Rheinfels artillery.

Grant rules were to be used, As usual, neither of us had read them before the battle so we were relying on our faulty memories and the recently published summary of the rules. We agreed, for the sake of simplicity, that only light infantry could enter woods as neither of us was entirely sure how other unit types interacted with bad terrain. Our excuse is that woods would be too a severe obstacle to troops as badly trained as ours, whose formations would be likely to break down completely if they had to negotiate it. Always suspicious of templates, we used Charge! rules for the artillery, but with 8" range intervals rather than the 12" intervals of the original to reflect artillery of the second grade.

...confident that their enemies were in disarray van Erp's army lunged forward with little thought of fighting an action, minding the more attractive pursuits of exacting contributions and finding comfortable billets. Van Erp was therefore fortunate that his opponent the Graf von Arlitz was preoccupied with reforming and recruiting his battered regiments. It seems that both sides neglected to send out the necessary scouts and thus, by accident, one army was able to blunder into the other while neither were in any sort of order.

 to be continued....