Saturday, 10 March 2012

First Schleswig War 1848-1851

This is a new departure for us. We used 15mm figures and adapted a set of AWI rules with which we were familiar. This rules set is particularly appropriate as the Schleswig army was a mix of units of differing military training, very similar to the American forces in the AWI. Unusually for us, they are computer moderated, so generals have no idea of the status of units once they have been in action for a short time.

We started with the action at Bov. A force of Schleswig troops had invaded Denmark before the promised Austrian, German and Prussian troops arrived to help them. The Danes seeing an opportunity to eliminate the Schleswig army quickly moved forward and caught the Schleswig forces before they could retreat. One force advanced from the north, a second was landed to the east and moved towards Flensburg, hoping to block the line of retreat and a cavalry force moved around the western (left) flank.
Naval support was also available to the Danes, as they had ships in the sound on the Schleswig right which covered the road leading back to Flensburg.

The Schleswig army took up position behind a small river which was fordable to all but artillery. Two bridges crossed this river and they were covered by the artillery. Two line battalions and a jaeger battalion covered the coast road; three battalions and a jaeger battalion the road inland. The two cavalry regiments were placed in the centre.

The Danish commander concentrated his cavalry on his right and the two infantry brigades (8 battalions plus two jaeger battalions) initially pushed forward to force a crossing by the bridges. To the east of Flensburg, two battalions plus a jaeger battalion moved to attack the sole Schleswig battalion garrisoning Flensburg.

At first the Schleswig defence had some success, particularly at the inland bridge, as the 1st Danish line regiment, which led the advance, was routed when charged by the defenders. On the coast road, the first line of defence (militia) crumbled when charged by the lead Danish unit, but the second line held, bottling up the advance. The naval guns then lent their weight to the Danish attack, softening up the defenders before a second infantry push. The line held long enough for the Schleswig general to rally the militia, before it had to give ground, pounded by naval guns and outnumbered by the Danish infantry. They then routed, leaving the militia to hold the Danes back.

Over on the Schleswig left the Danes were enjoying more success. The cavalry crossed the river and although the Schleswig dragoons charged forward to hold the line they were defeated in a tough struggle with the Danish 3rd Dragoons. Skirting the Schleswig defences the Danish cavalry pushed forward. After sending an aide off to request assistance from the 2nd Schleswig Dragoon regiment, the commander of the 1st dragoons moved his men forward again, hoping to delay the enemy advance.

In Flensburg the situation was deteriorating. The garrison battalion were doing their best, but being only part-trained they struggled to hold the Danish jaegers back. When the skirmishers were reinforced by two line battalions the writing was on the wall. With most of their officers wounded, the militiamen were unable to stand when they were charged and routed back through the Flensburg streets.

For the Schleswig commander the day was lost, all he could do was try and extract as much of his battered army as he could. He ordered the 1st Dragoons to charge the Danish horse and the left wing infantry to hold the line long enough to enable units to move over from the right. On the coast road the militia continued to fall back under fire from the Danish fleet. The routers on the road ran straight into the arms of the Danes in Flensburg, for them the war was over. In the centre the initial success was eclipsed by a second Danish advance which was supported by artillery. The defenders again failed to stand and fight and routed back towards Flensburg, where they too were captured. The 1st Dragoons tried to buy time for the infantry, but their charge was easily defeated by their opponents and then the Danish cavalry moved to attack the rear of the remaining Schleswig infantry in the centre. A brave, but futile attempt by the jaegers to stop the cavalry resulted in them being overrun and few escaped to rejoin the army the following day. Assailed from the front by infantry and from the rear by cavalry the remaining infantry and artillery recognised the inevitable and surrendered. Only 4 out of the original 10 battalions made it back to the German lines, to be joined over the next few days by dribs and drabs of fugitives.

The only thing stopping a complete Danish victory was the sight of the Austrian, German and Prussian forces barring their way. The Danish commander was reluctant to take on twice his own number, especially as the political situation was unclear.

After the war, Lord Palmerston is reported to have said

"Only three people have ever really understood the Schleswig-Holstein business; the Prince Consort, who is dead; a German professor, who has gone mad; and I, who have forgotten all about it"


  1. A cracking battle report of a little played period. More please!

  2. nice report. I am starting up this period. I like the small engagements and the manageable size of it all.