Friday, 15 June 2012
We are back with the Schleswig War this week with the action at Sundeved. The Danes had bided their time and waited for the German allies of Schleswig to pull back. The Danes then crossed to the Sundeved peninsula and pushed forward, hoping to defeat the Schleswig defenders in detail, before the supports could come up. The Danes also hoped for some naval support from the Als Fjord.
Here is a general view of the battlefield with Dybbol Mill, the Danish objective, in the far distance. The Danes need to capture the villages to ensure their lines of communication. The main effort was made up the lefthand road, directly towards Dybbol, with a flanking manoeuvre up the righthand road.
At first good progress was made, the 2nd Schleswig jaegers were driven out of the first village along the lefthand road and the flanking force, with artillery support easily captured the village on the right. There was no sight of sails in the fjord, but the main force pushed on towards Stenderup. Their progress was halted by a charge of the Oldenburg Dragoons
Their charge caught the supporting Danish artillery unawares, their shots went wide, and overran a unit of jaegers. They then hit the 4th Infantry Regiment before they could deploy and scattered them to the winds. However, the Oldenburg horsemen were now isolated from the rest of the Schleswig forces and were charged by a regiment of Danish dragoons, this forced them to retire, but they had delayed the Danish attack long enough for the garrison of Stenderup to be reinforced.
Slowly, the main Danish force advanced. By the fjord they faced 4 battalions of Schleswig infantry who carried out a model fighting retreat. Firing a volley as the Danes came in range and then falling back forcing the enemy to advance again. Danish infantry approached Stenderup, whose outer defences were held by a militia battalion. They repulsed the first attack, but were forced to withdraw when flanked by jaegers and fired on at close range by artillery. This left the 2nd Schleswig jaeger as the garrison of the village. Eager to make amends for their earlier retreat they forced a second attack to retreat and seemed invulnerable to close range artillery fire.
The Schleswig cavalry again intervened; the Schleswig dragoons routing a unit of Danish dragoons who were covering the flank of the attack on Stenderup. The Danes did not stop running until they were over the pontoon bridge. Like the Oldenburg Dragoons, the Schleswig Dragoons now found themselves isolated and found themselves surrounded by Danish cavalry. They tried to cut their way to freedom, but very few made it and the unit played no further part in the action. However, the Danes now found themselves under fire and one unit routed, again not stopping until it crossed the pontoon bridges. In front of Stenderup the 6th Danish Infantry had sustained such heavy losses from rifle and artillery fire that it had to retire from action. Two further units also retreated due to losses from the fire of the Schleswig troops covering the area between the fjord and the road.
The Danish commander was beginning to think it was not going to be his day. "Where was the d....d navy? They had promised him support". Unfortunately, contrary winds had kept the navy at its moorings and the army was going to have to fight this battle on its own. At least the flank attack on the right was making progress. A third attack on Stenderup was organised, with troops coming in from three sides. Amazingly the Schleswig jaegers held on. Schleswig artillery stopped the attack from the right and jaeger volleys halted the other two attacks. However, ammunition was now running low and further Danish units were readying for a fourth attack; this one with artillery support. Firing off their remaining ammunition the jaeger fought like demons, but were forced by weight of numbers to give ground.
As they reached the now fully manned Schleswig defences they received well deserved cheers from their comrades.
It was now late in the day and the Schleswig commander believed his men had done enough to halt the Danes. The militia had fought well, making good use of the ground to slow the advance and the cavalry had suffered losses but bought the time necessary to form a defence line. For the Danish commander all he could do was try and hold what ground he had captured. Several of his units would take time to recover from their losses and the officers of those units which had routed would need to be replaced.
This was a classic action where the ground made it difficult to make full use of superior numbers