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.