Sunday, 29 January 2012


Well, this week we managed to finish off the battle of Paltzig and a bloody affair it was too. The background can be found on the Kronoskaf site.
Wedel had taken over command of the Prussian army from Dohna, who was considered too passive by Frederick. The King's instructions to Wedel were simple, attack, attack, attack! Unfortunately, neither appreciated the fact that the Russian army, commanded by Saltykov was at least twice the size of their own and had an even bigger advantage in artillery.

An attack on the Prussian centre was impractical. A marshy stream barred the advance and was crossed by a single bridge. This bridge was covered by artillery in a redoubt and three brigades of infantry. Wedel decided to move to his left and attack the Russian flank. Saltykov had anticipated such a move and had concentrated his artillery and grenadiers to block the Prussian attack. A further handicap for Wedel was that his artillery were not well placed to support his attack, being
positioned in the centre. Nevertheless, with his king's orders in his pocket Wedel ordered the attack and the brigades of Manteuffel and Hulsen moved forward flanked by grenadier battalions. Behind them the cavalry formed up to cover the infantry's flank and the infantry reserve under Flemming took up position in the rear.
The Prussian infantry soon came under artillery fire, but pushed on in spite of the losses. As they neared the low ridge on which the Russian artillery were placed the fire slackened, but only because the Russian grenadiers were in the way. Now it was musketry volleys which plagued the determined Prussian infantry. However, the accuracy of the grenadiers' fire was not to the liking of their generals; the Prussians halted dressed their ranks and returned the compliment, causing heavy casualties amongst their opponents.

In the centre the Prussian artillery had had some success against the Russian infantry, causing battalions to retreat because of casualties. Saltykov saw that the Prussians were bringing forward their howitzer battery to assist the infantry attack and decided to counter this threat with one of his Pandour units. The central Russian artillery battery gave assistance by targeting the weak brigade supporting the Prussian guns. This comprised garrison and Frei Korps troops and they quickly demonstrated that they had no appetite for standing under artillery fire and fell back to the lee of the ridge in the Prussian centre. This left the howitzer battery vulnerable to sniping fire from the Pandours, but fortunately the gunners spotted the threat and managed to drive off the Russians with a salvo of grape. After this events in the centre were limited to exchanges of artillery fire.

Seeing the Prussian attack develop, Saltykov began to move troops to his right, particularly his cavalry as the Cossacks and Hussars originally stationed on that flank were over-matched by the Prussian dragoons and cuirassiers now advancing towards them. In the van were the von Schorlemmer (or Porcelain) Dragoons. The Russian light cavalry did an excellent job slowing the Prussian advance and just in time the lead regiment of Russian horse grenadiers moved into the line covering the flank of the grenadier brigade. This marked the 'high water mark' of the Prussian advance. Against the odds the Prussian infantry were gaining the upper hand over the Russian grenadiers, though at fearful cost. One of the Russian Observation Corps regiments had been driven off by the right flanking Prussian grenadier battalion and a battered battalion of the Itzenplitz regiment was taking on the artillery fusiliers who were the last line of defence for the Russian batteries.

The Horse Grenadiers and Dragoons smashed into each other and the Prussians lived up to their nickname, being broken and fleeing to the rear. A second regiment of dragoons tried their luck, but they too were trampled underfoot by the Russians. The cuirassiers fared no better, they were also defeated and had to retire to reform. Von Schmettau and Von Normann struggled to cobble together forces to oppose the seemingly invincible Horse Grenadiers; it was vital to try and hold the ground in order to protect the infantry. Eventually, perhaps more by good luck than management, the Von Buddenbrock Cuirassier managed to attack the flank of the Horse Grenadiers and drive them off. However, there was not time to celebrate, as Buddenbrock were in their turn hit in flank by a supporting Russian Dragoon regiment.

Wedel could see the remnants of his infantry attack falling back off the ridge; he sent an aide requesting Von Flemming to advance to support the attack. It was too late, Manteuffel and Hulsen between them had only four battered battalions in the line and these were under strength. The final Prussian cavalry units were driven from the field by the Russian reserve cavalry and a fresh unit of Horse Grenadiers charged Von Flemming's line. One of his battalions broke and the cavalry surged through. Ahead lay the broken Prussian infantry units heading for the pontoon bridge across the marshy stream, all was lost for the Prussian army. Those units which could closed ranks and slowly moved off the field. For Alt Dohna, still fighting the grenadiers there was no escape, the cossacks saw to that.

The Prussians also lost their general. Wedel, waiting for the supports saw some infantry moving towards him from the ridge. He moved to rally them and was taken prisoner by the Pandours he had mistaken for Prussians.
At supper that evening with his victorious opponent he confided that "war is a horrid business, but murder is a good deal worse and that is what my orders today amounted to".

Saturday, 21 January 2012


As you can see from the title, the conclusion of the SYW battle of Pfaltzig has been held over for another week. We decided to dust off the medieval figures and try out a scenario using the WAB Armies of Chivalry supplement. Prince Abel of Denmark had raised an army to extend the Danish influence within the borders of the Holy Roman Empire. Poptkopf Von Gissenheim had, at the request of the Emperor, assembled a force to resist this unwanted intrusion and this was camped under the walls of Pfalzdorf.
With the confidence of youth Prince Abel decided to attack. His force contained militia infantry raised from Kefeld, Wissemburg, Magdeburg, Speyer and Bartenstein (crossbows), plus some mercenary archers. In addition to a unit of knights led by his second in command Gottfreid von Alderhelm, he had a unit of mounted men-at-arms. Poptkopf had used the influence of the emperor's name to hire mercenaries from Bohemia (crossbows and foot) together with militia foot from Mainz and Hagenau. In addition to knights led by the warrior bishop of Wissengen, many minor gentry had responded to the imperial 'request' and so Poptkopf had two units of mounted men-at-arms.

The action opened with both sides advancing. Poptkopf, keen to exploit his advantage in men-at-arms, moved one unit to his left, by the town walls, threatening the Magdeburg militia on Abel's right flank. The archers to Magdeburg's left were busy responding to the fire from the opposing Bohemian crossbowmen and so were unable to fire at the advancing men-at-arms. Un-nerved by the approaching enemy the Magdeburg militia took to their heels opening up Abel's right flank. Fortunately, Gottfried was able to move his knights over to counter this threat and a prolonged melee began.

On the opposite flank the Krefeld militia advanced against Hagenau, whom they outnumbered 2 to 1. Hagenau's supporting archers were involved in the same sort of exchanges as on the other flank with the Bartenstein crossbowmen. As the two bodies of militia came together Hagenau managed to hold their ground and a slogging match developed.

In the centre Mainz and Wissemburg clashed and although the Mainz contingent had the advantage of numbers they too were held.

However, Abel had spotted an opportunity for his mounted men-at-arms. The Hagenau archers were blocking the advance of Poptkopf's second men-at-arms unit and were also vulnerable to attack. The archer's attempt to disrupt the men-at-arms advance with arrows was ineffective and the mounted men crashed home. In spite of 25% casualties the archers held, but Poptkopf could do little to help them in their unequal struggle. As the men-at-arms broke into the archers' formation order disintegrated and they broke. As the archers ran for the temporary security of the town Poptkopf's men-at-arms moved to oppose their victorious enemies.

On his right, Abel had managed to rally the Madeburg militia and now they advance to join in the melee between Gottfreid's knights and the men-at-arms. Initially they exerted no influence, but slowly they began to increase the pressure on their opponents and suddenly the men-at-arms broke. As they turned their backs Gottfreid's knights attacked with impunity and pursued the remnants as far as the town walls.

However, in the centre Poptkopf had had some success. Mainz had at last overcome the militia from Wissemburg and bishop and his knights had moved forward and attacked the militia from Speyer. The Bohemian troops had attacked the mercenary archers and although the foot had been pushed back, the crossbowmen had been very effective.

The battle looked evenly poised, but lady luck now played her hand. On Poptkopf's right, the Hagenau militia after a valiant fight, broke. His men-at-arms also broke and seeing this the Mainz militia fell back. On his left the remnants of the Bohemian militia were charged by Gottfried's knights and fled. This meant that he only had the Bohemian crossbowmen and the bishop's knights as functioning units. With enemy horsemen bearing down on him, Poptkopf sought the security of Pfalzdorf's walls; the day was Prince Abel's.

This action was very much an experiment with the WAB rules. They are fairly easy to follow and have their own distinctive feel. I found it odd that you can throw bucketfuls of dice and nothing happens for two or three turns. On the other hand if things go badly then they go bad very quickly. Both of Poptkopf's men-at-arms units lost their respective melees by only one casualty but then failed the command test and broke. The main cause of their demise was the low rout dice (a total score of 8 on 3 d6)which was fairly easily surpassed by their pursuers and resulted in the men-at-arms being overun and eliminated. On another day they may well have been a different result.

The town walls which feature in one of the photographs are from the collection of that well-known wargamer Phil Olley. Thanks very much Phil!

Saturday, 14 January 2012

New recruits

For our first gathering of the new year we returned to the Seven Years War and a scenario based on the battle of Paltzig, an action between the Prussians and Russians a few weeks before the major battle at Kunersdorf. We had intended to finish the game this week, but in the event it was held over to next week. A full report should appear in the next blog, but here is a general view from the right flank of the Russian position prior to the battle.

Over the last couple of months I have been painting up some figures I purchased from ebay. They represent one of the provincial streltsy units rather than the Moscow ones which usually feature in the main Russian army.

The flags, supposedly representing Suzdal, are pure invention I am afraid, but they do add a bit of colour. The huts in the background are from Pegasus and could be used for battles in eastern europe over quite a wide range of periods. As I was basing the streltsy another lot came up on ebay and I was lucky enough to win it. These Hinchcliffe figures will form a unit of levy infantry raised by one of the great Boyars alongside the feudal cavalry. In the background is a unit of mercenary 'German' foot, together with their command stand. Again, the flag is pure fiction; this time courtesy of a wine bottle label!