Thursday, August 30, 2012

Somewhere in the Netherlands...Battle of Grosflachfeld

Last Saturday we got together for an "small" game and ended up with an ad-hoc France vs Austria in the 1740s.

But first some photos I had intended to post from the game before, just some quick shots of the latest productions from our resident brush for hire.  Hopefully they will get to take the field this labor day weekend and eat some Romans.

And back to the main attraction a see-saw, nail-biting slugfest between an All-Austrian (on the side of Truth, Freedom, and the "Enlightened" Imperial jackboot of Maria Theresa) force and a largely mercenary "French" force (on the side of Liberte, Fraternite, Egalite, on the side of  Foppery, Wigs, Peasant Oppression, and the Unenlightened Aristocratic Slipper of Louis XV).

The Austrians, led by the infant Feldmarschall Johann Kollowrat (1748-1816), intrepidly attacked a French column under the Duc de Broglie at Grosflachfeld in the vicinity of Masstricht.  The French column consisted of 10,000 men (7,500 Infantry and 2250 Cavalry) and two heavy field batteries, two medium batteries and lighter divisional artillery.  The Austrians fielded 7,500 men (5,500 Infantry and 2000 Cavalry) and two heavy batteries along with light divisional artillery.

The French set-up to receive the Austrians with cavalry on their flanks.  On the French left the German brigade formed lines with a large portion of the French artillery... eight 12-pounders, four 8-pounders and four light howitzers. In the French center the regulars and veterans of the Irish Brigade.  On the French right the veteran Auvergne Regiment, some of the few Frenchmen in the French column to take the field.  The time is two o'clock.  De Broglie seizes the initiative and pushes forward some cavalry to scout for the Austrians. 

French Right

French Left

French Center, with what appears to be the possibly humanoid brigadier of the Irish Brigade

Kollowrat, on the other hand, has already reconnoitered the French position and draws a line straight back to the Miltiades and the Athenians at Marathon.  The Austrian force is to deploy in depth on the flanks and charge with utmost dispatch! 

The Austrians left flank is covered by the Lowenstein and Savoyen Dragoons.  The attack on the left is given to the Wallonian Brigade. The green troops of IR 30 Sachsen-Gotha leads the attack followed by Los Rios (IR 9) and Ligne (IR 38).  If the Wallonian Brigade fails, the combined grenadier brigade surely will not! The grenadiers form the final line in the Austrian left.  On the far right the pandours and Freikorp hold the woods.   The Austrian right attack axis is lead by the Niederlander Freikorp in a thin yellow skirmish line, screening the advance of the veteran IR 14 Salm-Salm and the crack troops of IR 4 Deustchmeister.  The Austrian center seems to be hanging in the air.... its held by 150 artillerymen with eight 12-pounders and eight light guns.

The Austrian Right Axis of Attack (Deustchmeister)
The Austrian Left Axis of Attack (Wallonians)

 The Austrian dragoons on the left catch the scouting French cavalry at unawares and send back 60 empty saddles to begin the battle.  But the French quickly reply with their cannon. Teutonic courage faltered and the 2nd battalion of Salm-Salm and the 2nd battalion of Sachsen-Gotha both run for the rear despite taking little to no casualties.  Both attack axes are now one battalion lighter.  One of the heavy 12-pounders in the center has been destroyed by counter-battery fire, but not before forcing Berwick's battalion from the Irish brigade to retire.

Dragoons catch the French Scouts!
  The Austrians press on and make contact on the left.  The Lowenstein Dragoons begin a bloody melee with the Royal Cuirassiers.  Sachsen-Gotha braves canister to close with Auvergne and their supporting 8-pounder.  On the right, the thin yellow line of the Niederlander Freikorp successfully screens much of the incoming hail of shot and shell and, with Fortune and Right on their side, managed to whether the storm with only light casualties.  In the Austrian command staff it was much remarked that the cannon fodder, errr.... honorable mercenaries... were doing surprisingly little dieing today.  The French may bluster about the "final argument of kings" but they apparently don't spend much time training their gunners!

Seen from the Austrian Left
From the Austrian Right

Close-up of the thin Yellow Line

Melee developing on the left

Lowenstein Dragoons and Royal Cuirassiers trading blows

The Austrian Dragoons carve their way through two regiments of Cuirassiers but in the end are forced to fall back as they are counter-charged by a third regiment of French heavy horse.  In the process however, the Chevalier de Maurice, commander of the Cuirassiers took a blow to the head and fell from his horse wounded. The Royal Cuirassiers enraged by the great loss on the French side break formation into a disordered mob as they attempt to follow the retreating dragoons.  The combat was bloody, 530 men and horses litter the field adding to the disruption of the Cuirassiers.

The 1st battalion of Sachsen-Gotha breaks but not before making an impression on some of the Auvergnese.  Los Rios follows up the attack and force the leading battalion of the Auvergne regiment back and bayonet the stubborn gunners of the 8-pounder battery to a man.  The Austrians lose cohesion and breaking into a mob as they attempt to close with the rest of the 2nd battalion of Auvergne and fail to make it. The Irish brigade performs well and forces the 2nd battalion of Los Rios to fall back in disorder.

The time is 3 pm. The French look to be in the ascendent.  On the Austrian left they have the chance to drive their heavy cavalry into the flanks of the Austrians and roll up the line.  The veterans of the Auvergne regiment are deployed in depth and ready to charge the disordered Austrians.  In the center there is little to prevent the Irish brigade from attempting to turn the flanks of either axis of attack.  And on the right the 12 heavy French guns are ready with a hail of canister and behind them the German brigade. The outnumbered Austrians will need to seize the initiative if they are to survive the next hour.

The Austrian Left
Fortune favors the bold and it favored the outnumbered Austrians this day.  The Austrian commanders sensing the urgency of the situation acted with alacrity and competence.  The Dragoons of De Ligne swung around to face the disordered Royal Cuirassiers.  The much reduced Lowenstein dragoons took their place holding the French light cavalry.  The first battalion of Los Rios manages to reform under heavy fire from the Auvergenese and stands when the Frenchman close to charge.  The second battalion of the Ligne in the Wallonian brigade closes with the Irish.  On the right a brilliant stroke is laid by the commander of the 1st battalion of IR 14.  The commander manages to time the heavy battery's fire on the Niederlander skirmish line and close with the batteries while taking only 5% casualties. "Ultima Ratio Regum" meets "Furor Teutonicus".  The dishonor of the 2nd battalion of regiment Salm-Salm's ignominious rout at the opening of the battle is wiped away and soon to be repaid with interest as the melee ensues.

De Broglie accepts the Austrian challenge and orders an advance along his entire front.  Auvergne charged the Austrians right attack axis. The Irish brigade advances in the center towards the Austrian guns. Clare's battalion even manages to threaten the flank of the advancing regiment De Ligne on the Austrian left. The German brigade stands ready to receive the Austrian charge, while on the flanks Saint-Dampieres cavalry regiment moves into position to charge the flanks of the Austrian infantry. The Royal Grenadiers, newly raised from militia units, pour out of the house they were "liberating of contraband" and charge the Pandour skirmish line followed by two battalions of the regiment De Saxe in columns.  The Austrians tide has risen high, but in another 30 minutes the Austrians may soon be split in the center and each axis of attack caught in a tough double envelopment by a resurgent France if De Broglie has his way.

Saint-Dampiers retreating; De Saxe and Royal Grenadiers charging Pandours to bottom right
But its been a bloody day and the true Frenchman on the French right seemed to think the mercenaries should be the ones doing the dieing....  The last of Royal Cuirassiers were caught trying to reform their lines by the Dragoons of the De Ligne were routed off the field.  The battalions of the Auvergne regiment acquitted themselves well, but at the critical moment they choose to let someone else carry the day for France.  The localized numerical superiority of the larger Austrian battalions was too much.  The II/Auvergne crashed home into the 1st battalion of the Ligne and were forced to run for the rear.  The third battalion of Auvergne cracked the veterans of the Ligne and forced them to fall back, but were mercilessly butchered by as they hit the well formed lines of the converged grenadiers of the Wallonian Brigade.  The III/Auvergne ran for the French camp.  The fresh IV/Auvergne struck home and although they managed to make an impression on the Grenadier line, their morale broke with increasing casualties and they followed their brethren off the field.  The story repeated itself further up along the battlefield.  The flanked Austrians of the II/Ligne caused some casualties amongst Bulkeley's battalion but were forced to fall back, which they managed in good order.  The Irish charged forward only to break themselves on the bayonets of the IR4 and IR14's grenadiers.  The French right flank had collapsed.

Royal Curiassier charged while reforming

French right flank at 3:30pm
In the center the Irish brigade advanced on the 150 artilleryman and the Austrian heavy guns.  Dillon's regiment wipes out an Austrian 3-pounder battery but takes 15% casualties in the process.  On the right, Salm-Salm butchered the gunners and was forced to retire.  The defenders of the German brigade were broken on the bayonets of the two battalions of IR 4 Deustchmeister as they split the French lines.

High Water Mark of the Irish Brigade's Advance.  Dillon's Regiment is left foreground.

The only remaining French between IR/4 "Deutschmeister" and the French Camp!
Cannon fire and a counter-charge forced the Saint-Dampiers cavalry regiment to run.  In the woods on the right flank the Pandours stood firm and gave as good as they got forcing the Royal Grenadiers to like wise run for the rear.  The Germans of regiment De Saxe forced them Pandours to fall back in disorder, but this success would soon be their own undoing.

The Austrian Left

The Austrian Right
De Broglie sounded a full retreat for the French. Most of the remaining French were able to make it off the field, however the two battalions of regiment De Saxe was now surrounded by 3 fresh hussar regiments, 4 light guns, and a battalion of angry pandours supported by the 1st battalion of Salm-Salm reforming in the rear.... the odds were not good and the Germans surrendered their colors and arms.  Dillion's battalion in the center met a similar fate, surrounded by two line battalions and two heavy batteries with a regiment of fresh hussars threatening their flank or rear if they too were forced to lay down arms and surrender their colors.
The battle "front" showing the over-extension of De Saxe and Dillon
It was a bloody battle, with Fortune and Victory playing a fickle dance at every turn.  The Austrians lost 940 men (13%) and the French lost 1,300 casualties (14%) and 1050 captured (10%).  Almost one out of four French were either killed or captured!  The veteran heavy/medium cavalry of both sides suffered especially high losses trading men at a near one to one ratio.  In addition the Austrians captured six colors and seven 12-pounders, four 8-pounders, and 8 light field pieces.  The battle of Grosflachfeld is a resounding defeat for the minions of foppery and the unenlightened slipper-wearing Louis XV!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Slugfest at Wendt's Crossing

Its been a busy time for me so I just haven't gotten around to the posting lately.  This battle report is going to be somewhat skeletal, though there isn't much to say.  (Its been awhile and I've lost some of my notes, so I mostly remember the Prussian units involved).

On July 28th we got together for a bit of lead therapy.  Somewhere in Northern France in 1815 approximately 11,500 French stumbled upon 16,500 Prussians near a farm house and road intersection that was barely a speck on a few maps called Wendt's Crossing.

The French arrived to find the Prussians in position and resolved to take the crossroads.  The action began at 1:30, the French opted for a frontal attack.  Three brigade attack columns formed up and charged the Prussian lines along with the 2nd and 3rd Cuirassier on the right. 

The French take the field

Prussian Lines.  In the foreground is the 12th Line and farther back the 25th Line formerly Lutzow's Legion.

French Center


Prussian Right.

French Cuirassiers on the French Right
The columns charge.  Skirmish fire scores some lucky hits, cannon fire disorders some of the battalions.

The 12th line on the left and 25th on the right receive the French attack.

Cavalry melee... the French Cuirassier break through but at great cost.

More of the attack
Two of the three battalions in the center attack column are driven off by the 25th.  The third battalion breaks through.  Further to the Prussian left, the front attack column has routed after successively meleeing and breaking through two battalions of the 12th line.  The final attack column follows up and penetrates the breach. The cavalry duels on the far left has forced one regiment of French Cuirassier back with almost 50% casualties.  The 1st Silesian Hussars hold the field in good order, but likewise having lost 50% of their regiment.

French breakthrough on either side of the central heights... but the Prussian artillery is still in good order.

The Prussian artillery did not get to shoot any defensive fire during the attack.  Luckily the Prussians now had the initiative.  Fifteen minutes have passed since the French took the field. The Prussian artillery swing around...... and start spraying canister into the flanks and rear of the penetrating columns.

The Artillery's turn....

The aftermath of the artillery round: 2 French battalions Panicked and unrecoverable, 3 battalions routed, 1 forced to stop in a general mob and 2 disordered and stubborn battalions holding on to the ground they gained.  On the far left, the French cavalry commander has brought up his horse artillery to blast away the remaining resistance. 
The Prussians consolidate their positions and the French fall back--30 minutes after the French arrived.  In those 30 minutes the French took 13% casualties (1,500) and the Prussians 6.5% (1,080).