Sunday, 30 January 2011

Kloster Kamp

Our most recent game,re-fought the Seven Years War battle of Kloster Kamp (1760). Details (including a map) can be found by following the Seven Years War link on the right, which leads to the excellent Seven Years War website.

Briefly, the forces on the extreme left of the French position, were attacked unexpectedly by Allied forces under Ferdinand, which had carried out a flank march during the night. Action took place on either side of the Fosse Eugenica, which was only crossable at two bridges. The opposing light forces skirmishing in the vicinity of the Kloster Kamp convent, whilst the main action took place in and around the French camp.

This is a general view looking from the French right. On the right can be seen the French camp, with the infantry hastening to their positions, beyond them lie the village and the the Fosse Eugenica. To the left can be seen the convent of Kloster Kamp. In the centre is the first wave of the allied attack, comprising four battalions of Highlanders and Grenadiers. Behind them are the British cavalry, one regiment each of dragoons and light dragoons and 6 battalions of infantry, four Hanoverian and two British. Hampered by the camp, the French infantry had not managed to form into a line of battle before the British were upon them. The first battalion of the Regiment Berry was the first into action, although they were on the receiving end of a telling volley from the 87th (Keith's Highlanders). Almost half the Frenchmen were casualties, but they passed their morale test with elan and bravely held their position. As the French line formed up it became clear that although the British infantry were a threat, far more dangerous were the cavalry, who were manoeuvring to charge the French flank or rear. Some aid to the French came from a battery of light artillery which supported them with fire from their right flank. This fire was sufficient to force Fraser's Highlanders to retreat and thus release some pressure on the French line. Urgent messages had been sent to French headquarters for reinforcements , if the line could hold for another hour the day may be saved.

On the other bank of the fosse the light troops continued their skirmishing. A battalion of the Chasseurs Britannique were advancing on the French chasseurs, supported by Luckner's Hussars. Opposing them were the Bercheny Hussars and a small squadron of Saxon hussars, together with three companies of Grenadiers de France. The officer commanding the grenadiers saw that his opponents 'were not proper soldiers' and decided that he could quickly disperse them. Advancing, the grenadiers received a scattered volley from the allied infantry, accepted this as further proof of their opponents poor quality and moved forward again. The French chasseurs had also moved forward and they began a harassing fire, which caused some wavering in the enemy line. The grenadiers surged forward, confident of an easy victory and were met by a shattering volley from the Chasseurs Britannique. The volley was followed by a spirited counter-charge which completely overwhelmed the French and they took no further part in the action. Artillery fire from allied batteries now began to fall on the French light cavalry and the Saxon hussars were driven from the field. With the advantage of numbers now lying with the Allies, the French light forces fell back hoping to hold their original positions.

Meanwhile the main Allied attack was progressing very well. Half the original defenders of the camp had been dispersed, the baggage train was hampering enemy reinforcements deploying and those reinforcements were widely separated. Here we can see the three brigades of French reinforcements. The Swiss and Saxons beyond the hill, the Irish and Germans approaching the ridge and the French tangled with the baggage train and the camp. The British dragoons are moving over the hill, looking for an open flank, whilst the 15th Light Dragoons are threatening an isolated French battalion, whilst British infantry move on their flank.

Inevitably the fight within the camp became a very confused affair, with the British and French infantry exchanging volleys, but making little progress. The French battalions outside the camp were in a far less happy situation. Caught in the open two were ridden down by the Light Dragoons, one stood and fired a volley, but this had no effect on the cavalry, who plunged into the infantry, sabring left and right. The second battalion seeing this turned and ran, but were caught and butchered. The heavy dragoons had seen that they would be unlikely to make progress against the Irish brigade supported as it was by an artillery battery and so they fell back.

This gave just enough time for the baggage train to depart and allow the French reinforcements to deploy in support of the battered defenders of the camp. All the French cavalry, apart from the hussars was on the far left, nothing in the vicinity of the camp. Not only that, once they arrived the cavalry did nothing, not even moving to support the advance of the Saxon and Swiss infantry. These were faced by three regiments of Hanoverian horse which meant that their progress was very slow. Near the camp a more dangerous situation arose. The British heavy dragoons saw that the gap between the hill and the camp was only held by the baggage guard; here was an opportunity to break the line and cause havoc. They surged forward and dispersed the guard with ease. Seeing this the light dragons, emboldened by their earlier success decided to intervene in the fight in the camp. Regardless of the ropes, tents and sundry gear they charged forward and suffered the inevitable result. Caught in restricted terrain, with no means of co-ordinating their attack, they were defeated, and fled to the rear, taking no further part in the action.

Meanwhile, the heavy dragoons had moved to their right and charged the battery which had deployed on the hill. It had been successfully attacking the Hanoverian cavalry holding the Allied left and its removal may allow for a more active advance. The Irish battalions were unable to help the battery as the dragoons threatened them as well. The battery was overrun, but the dragoons now found themselves isolated from the rest of their army, with no clear way out.

For Ferdinand things were going well. Although outnumbered his infantry had captured the enemy camp, secured the village and when the second division arrived the French reinforcements would be forced to withdraw. He ordered the Hanoverian brigade to advance on the Irish, whose cramped position on the hill meant they were unable to bring their full fire power to bear.
Securing the hill was vital if the threat of the Swiss and Saxon infantry was to be nullified. Even as the Hanoverians began their advance Ferdinand observed that the French general had at last decided to take the initiative and had ordered his infantry forward, although curiously the cavalry remained in position.
Whilst mulling over this odd tactical development, Ferdinand was approached by a courier dispatched by the commander of the Hessian brigade, part of the second division, announcing his troops arrival on the field. However, this good news was tempered by a further statement from the Hessian's commander that the position of the rest of the division was unknown to him.
Looking around the field, Ferdinand assessed the position, he had 5 fresh battalions, (the Hessians would take another half hour to reach the front line), with 5 more reduced to half strength or less. His cavalry were equal in numbers to the French, but had recently come under artillery fire. His own artillery would only reach the line of battle at the same time as the Hessian foot. Opposing him were 8 fresh battalions (4 of them elite), plus 5 others and if his right was pushed back, he was in danger of being surrounded. He therefore ordered the Hessian brigade to take up position to cover the withdrawal of the Hanoverian and British infantry, whilst the Hanoverian cavalry held their positions as long as possible to slow any French advance. The withdrawal was carried out with precision, but one Hanoverian battalion, the most advanced failed to fall back in time and was taken prisoner.
On balance an allied victory. The French camp ransacked, two batteries of artillery destroyed and two brigades (eight battalions) of infantry severely damaged, with the Allies suffering the equivalent of 3 battalions of casualties.

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