Donnerstag, 17. September 2020

Bassignana 27. September 1745 Teil 1 / part 1


Einleitung

Diesmal gibt es wieder eine kleine Premiere hier auf unserem Blog, da ich eine eher unbekannte Schlacht vorstellen werde, die in Italien stattgefunden hat. Außerdem war das anschließend hier präsentierte Spiel, das erste hier auf dem Blog, welches überwiegend per Play by Mail ausgetragen wurde. Das heißt, dass die meisten Spieler schriftlich einreichen konnten wie ihre Truppen bewegt werden sollten und auch ihre Kommunikation schriftlich ablief. Ein paar Einblicke in das Prozedere gibt es weiter unten. Eine wesentliche Motivation für mich ist es den Österreichischen Erbfolgekrieg ein bisschen mehr ins Bewusstsein zu bringen. Die Resonanz unserer Berichte der Schlachten vor allem von Pfaffenhofen[1] und Fontenoy[2] zeigen, dass es recht gut ankommt.


Introduction

This time we have again a small first run on our blog, because I want to present a mostly unknown battle, which happened in Italy. On top of that the here presented game was the first one on the blog which we executed mainly as a play-by-mail. That means that most of the players could only declare in writing how their troops would move and their communication was in written form only. Some impressions of the procedure you can see below. One essential motivation for me is to bring the war of the Austrian succession more into the focus of our readers. The response on our reports of the battles of Pfaffenhofen[1] and Fontenoy[2] was demonstrating that it was very well received.   

In unserem Spiel haben sich vor der Schlacht ein paar Einheimische an einer Kapelle in Fiondi eingefunden. - In our game some locals were at a chapelle in Fiondi.

Der Feldzug und die Schlacht

Bis 1745 war der Krieg in Italien wechselhaft gewesen. Die Franzosen konnten sich nicht dauerhaft in Norditalien festsetzen. Eine von Seiten der Österreicher unternommene Offensive gegen das von Bourbonen regierte Neapel war u.a. in der Schlacht bei Villetri (12. August 1744) gescheitert. Der Krieg in Italien war vor allem von zwei Faktoren geprägt. Zum einen wollte die spanische Königin Elisabetta Farnese (1692-1766) eine Krone für ihren Sohn, den Infanten Felipe (1720-1765), erreichen. Auf der anderen Seite trachtete Maria Theresia nach einer Rekompensation für den Verlust Schlesiens. Das Jahr 1744 war einerseits vom taktischen Sieg der bourbonischen Kräfte bei Madonna dell’Olmo (30. September 1744) andererseits durch den erzwungen Rückzug über die Alpen geprägt. Diesmal wollten die Befehlshaber de Gages (1682-1753) und Maillebois (1682-1762) alles besser machen. Tatsächlich drangen die alliierten bourbonischen Truppen weit vor.

Statt ihre Heere zu konzentrieren befand sich der österreichische Oberbefehlshaber Ludwig von Schulenburg-Oeynhausen (1699-1754) viel zu weit entfernt, um dem König Carlo Emanuele III von Savoyen (1701-1773) rechtzeitig beizustehen. Möglicherweise unterschätzte der König auch den niedrigen Wasserstand des Flusses Tanaro hinter dem er seine Armee postiert hatte. Die nummerisch deutlich unterlegene Armee von 30.000 Piemontesen sollte einen Abschnitt von 6 Meilen Länge von Pavone bis Bassignana abdecken. Maillebois und de Gages hingegen verfügten über etwa 50.000 Mann[3]. Insgesamt gehen die Zahlenangaben zwar auseinander[4], aber eine deutliche Übermacht auf Seiten der Franzosen und Spanier scheint Fakt. Laut Browning war Bassignana seit Parma 1734 die größte Schlacht auf italienischem Boden für ziemlich genau eine Dekade[5].

Die Disposition der gegenüberstehenden Truppen am 26. September 1745 kann man auch einer zeitgenössischen Karte entnehmen[6]. Diese kartographisch recht exakte Darstellung wurde auch Grundlage für meine eigene Karte. Die Karte zeigt deutlich die Anmarschwege der französischen und spanischen Kolonnen und vor allem eine Pontonbrücke nahe Bassignana über welche von Schulenburg hätte den Po überschreiten sollen, um König Carlo Emanuele zur Hilfe zu eilen. Die Karte bildet einen Höhenzug auf der Seite des Tanaro ab, auf welcher die Piemontesen standen, während das Gelände auf der südöstlichen Flussseite so flach war wie bei Marengo[7]. Diese Höhen scheinen aber – wie der Schlachtverlauf zeigte – keine nennenswerte Rolle für die Schlacht gespielt zu haben.

Ohne größere Hindernisse überquerten die Angreifer den Tanaro. Maillebois kommandierte die linken Kolonnen, de Gages die rechten.

Obwohl die Linie der Piemontesen viel zu dünn war und die heran gerufene Verstärkung Schulenburgs ausblieb hielten sich die disziplinierten piemontesischen Truppen für eine Weile. Der König verfügte über keine Reserven um auf den zunehmenden Druck zu reagieren[8]. Immerhin brachte die exzellente piemontesische Kavallerie fertig dem Gegner lästig zu werden[9]. Schließlich schlug die bourbonische Kavallerie die piemontesische zwischen Bassignana und Rivarone[10]. Dies zerteilte das piemontesische Zentrum[11]. De Gages selbst hatte die rechte Kolonne gegen Bassignana geführt und die dortigen 3 österreichischen Bataillone hinaus geworfen. Als Schulenburgs Vorhut ankam wurde die Brücke über den Po von de Gages zerstört[12]. Da der König nun sicher wusste, dass er keine weitere Verstärkung durch Schulenburgs Österreicher erwarten brauchte, gab er die Schlacht verloren und befahl einen geordneten Rückzug. Der König, der in Montecastello sein Hauptquartier hatte, war zuvor knapp einer Gefangennahme entgangen, da der Befehlshaber einer bourbonischen Kolonne den Angriff zu früh abgebrochen hatte[13].

Zwar hatten Maillebois und Gages somit die Chance verpasst noch mehr zu erreichen, da zwei Kolonnenkommandeure eine Verfolgung geraten hatten, aber der Sieg war doch auch in den Verlustzahlen recht deutlich. Die Gallispans hatten 1.000 und ihre Gegner immerhin 2.500 Mann eingebüßt. Wie Reed Browning es ausdrückte: „Of all the large battles of the war, Bassignana was the least sanguinary.“

Dies heißt aber nicht, dass sie nicht bedeutend gewesen wäre. Denn Carlo Emanuele musste sich nach Giradole zurückziehen. Nicht nur war Bassignana selbst in die Hände der Invasoren gefallen, auch Alessandria wurde nach kurzer Belagerung bereits am 12. Oktober eingenommen. Mailand und Turin waren auch nicht weit weg und wenig was die Sieger von Bassignana ernstlich aufhalten konnte[14].


Bassignana ist durch ein paar Aspekte trotz der offensichtlichen Übermacht der bourbonischen Armeen ganz interessant. Beide Seiten verfügten beispielsweise über leichte Infanterie wobei die spanische (Miquelets) der piemontesischen (Vaudois) überlegen gewesen sein soll, da erstere gezogene Gewehre hatten. Eine eher spekulative Frage ist, was geschehen wäre, wenn die österreichische Vorhut rechtzeitig den Po überschritten und eventuell Gages Kolonne angegriffen hätte. Anders als in anderen Schlachten dieses Krieges (Madonna dell’Olmo, Fontenoy, Laffeldt) spielten die zahlreichen Ortschaften scheinbar keine entscheidende Rolle für den Schlachtverlauf. Sollte der in militärischen Dingen so erfahrene König von Savoyen nicht in Erwägung gezogen haben wie bei Guastalla seine Stellung durch Erdwerke zu verstärken[15], insbesondere da der Tanaro kein Hindernis darstellte?

Leider hat scheinbar der Ausbruch des 1. Weltkriegs das Erscheinen eines 10. Bandes der ausgezeichneten Reihe des K.u.K. Kriegsarchives verhindert, welcher wahrscheinlich den Krieg in Italien ab 1745 beinhaltet hätte[16]. Immerhin erscheinen zunehmend mehr Bücher zum italienischen Kriegsschauplatz[17] und den Österreichischen Erbfolgekrieg insgesamt.

Zuerst musste ich mich durch zahlreiche Briefe der verschiedenen Befehlshaber arbeiten. Einer der französischen Unterkommandeure schrieb weder Befehle noch Briefe, was ich schließlich auch in unser Spiel einbaute. Maillebois reagierte auf keinerlei der von ihm empfangenen Nachrichten, nicht einmal auf die von de Gages. / First I had to work through many letters by the different commanders. One French subcommander didn't write orders or letters. I included this aspect into our game. Maillebois didn't reacted to any messages - even to de Gages!

The campaign and the battle

The war in Italy was very changeable until 1745. The French could not durably get a foothold in Northern Italy. On the other hand an offensive from the Austrian side against the Bourbon ruled Naples failed in the battle of Villetri on August 12th 1744. The war in Italy was very much influenced by two factors. One was the request of the Spanish queen Elisabetha Farnese (1692-1766) to get a crown for her son infant Felipe (1720-1765). On the other side Maria Theresia strived for a compensation for the loss of Silesia. The year 1744 was embossed by the tactical victory of the Bourbon forces at Madonna dell’Olmo on September 30th and on the other hand by the forced retreat of the Bourbons over the Alps.

But for this time the commanders de Gages (1682-1753) and Maillebois (1682-1762) wanted to make everything better. Indeed they managed to advance deeply in the enemy’s territory.

Instead of concentrating the armies the Austrian commander in chief Ludwig von Schulenburg-Oeynhausen (1699-1754) was too far away to support the king Carlo Emanuele III. of Savoy (1701-1773) in time. Maybe the king underestimated the low water level of the Tanaro River behind which he had positioned his army. The numerical very much inferior army of 30.000 Piedmontese should defend a sector of a length of 6 miles from Pavone to Bassignana. Meanwhile Maillebois and de Gages could order roughly 50.000 men[3]. Overall the numbers diverge very much[4], but a significant superiority on the French and Spanish side seems to be a fact. According to Browning Bassignana was the largest battle on Italian soil for a decade since Parma in 1734[5].

The disposition of the opposing troops on September 26th 1745 is visible on a contemporary map[6]. This cartographically quite exact depiction was the base of my own map. The map shows clearly the approach way of the French and Spanish columns and on top of that the pontoon bridge near Bassignana which Schulenburg should quickly pass crossing the Po to reinforce king Carlo Emanuele. The map depicts a mountain range on the Piedmont side of the Tanaro, while the terrain on the South eastern side of the river was as flat as it is near Marengo[7]. Although it seems that this range played no role for the battle to speak of.

The attackers crossed the Tanaro without much of trouble. Maillebois commanded the left columns while de Gages was commanding the right.

The disciplined Piedmont troops hold their ground although their line was too thin and Schulenburg’s reinforcements failed to appear. The king didn’t have reserves to react to the increasing pressure[8]. At least the excellent Piedmont cavalry could harass their counterparts[9]. Finally the Bourbon cavalry defeated the Piedmont horse between Bassignana and Rivarone[10]. Consequently the Piedmont center was divided[11]. De Gages had led the right column against Bassignana in person and kicked out three Austrian battalions. De Gages destroyed the bridge over the Po when Schulenburg’s vanguard arrived[12]. The king knew now surely that he could not hope for further Austrian reinforcements by Schulenburg. Therefore he decided to give up the battle and commanded an orderly retreat. The king himself who had his headquarters at Montecastello escaped capturing shortly before only because the Bourbon column had broken off the attack too early[13].

Although Maillebois and de Gages missed the chance to achieve even more – the commanders of two brigades appreciated to continue the pursuit – but observing the numbers of losses of both sides we can realize that the victory was obvious. The Gallispans lost 1.000 men while their counterparts lost 2.500. Or how Browning pointed it out: „Of all the large battles of the war, Bassignana was the least sanguinary. “

But this doesn’t indicate that the battle was not important. Carlo Emanuele had to retreat to Giradole. Not only that Bassignana fell in the hands of the invaders but Allesandria was captured after a short siege already on October 12th too. Milan and Turin were not far away and there was not much to hinder the victors of Bassignana[14].


Bassignana is interesting despite the fact that the Bourbon forces were very superior in numbers. Both sides for example could rely on light infantry. The Spanish (Miquelets) should have been superior to the Piedmont (Vaudois), because the former had rifled guns. It’s a more speculative question what could have happen if the Austrian vanguard would have been faster and could eventually attack de Gages’ column. Differently to other battles of the war (Madonna dell’Olmo, Fontenoy, Laffeldt) the villages didn’t played a significant role for the progress of the combat. Should the very military experienced king of Savoy not have contemplated about the possibility to fortify his position with earthworks as he had done at Guastalla[15] especially noticing that the Tanaro was no real obstacle?

Unfortunately the outbreak of World war 1 prevented the publication of a 10th volume of the excellent series by the K.u.K. Kriegsarchiv, which most probably would have reflected the war in Italy from 1745 to 1748[16].  At least there are increasingly more books about the war of the Austrian succession and even about the Italian[17] war theatre.

 
Ein Brief von Maillebois für unser Spiel, der in piemontesische Hände gefallen ist. - A letter from Maillebois in our game fallen into Piedmont hands. (photo: André Hanselmann) 

Das Szenario.

Die Spieler der bourbonischen Armee durften miteinander per Brief kommunizieren[18]. Die entsprechenden Nachrichten habe ich mittels meiner beschränkten Französischkenntnisse von Hand aufgeschrieben, dann zugeteilt oder auch nicht (bei einer 6 mit einem W6 fiel der Brief in piemontesische Hände) und dann in die vom Spieler verwendete Sprache zurück übersetzt. Das war ein ziemlicher Aufwand. Da sich das Prozedere aber über 2 Monate hinzog, war es doch machbar. Für einen kleinen Eindruck seht ihr hier einen Brief, der in die Hände des Königs von Piemont gefallen ist, der sich entsprechend auf den Angriff vorbereiten konnte.

Neben der Möglichkeit den Unterbefehlshabern Befehle zu übermitteln, konnten De Gages und Maillebois auch selber Truppen anführen.

Die Spieler konnten mir vor oder nach dem Briefwechsel ihre Instruktionen zukommen lassen wie sich effektiv ihre Truppen bewegen sollten. Das hat schon in unserem Quistello-Spiel sehr gut geklappt, wo ich wirklich beinahe schaffte alles umzusetzen.


The scenario.

The players of the Bourbon army were allowed to communicate per letters only[18]. The messages were translated by myself using my totally inadequate knowledge of the French language and converted in real letters written down on paper. These letters were send to the addressed generals or not – on a 6 on a D6 the message could fall into the enemy’s hands. Then I showed the scanned letters and translated them into the language of the recipient. That was a lot of work. However it was manageable as I had 2 months of time. For a small impression I show you one of the letters, which was catched by the outposts of the king of Savoy, who now could use the information to prepare dealing with the attack.

Besides their chance to send orders to their subcommanders, de Gages and Maillebois could lead some troops in person as de Gages had done in the real battle.

The players could send me their instructions before or after delivering their letters how I should move their units on the table top. That worked very well before in our Quistello-game where I could transpose nearly every order on the table.




Hier nun meine Ordre de Bataille / My order of battle


PIEMONTESEN & ÖSTERREICHER / PIEDMONT & AUSTRIANS

CinC Carlo Emanuele (Dash.)

Kann sich in Runde 1 bewegen nach den Bewegungen von A und B / Can move in turn 1 after the moves of A + B.


1) Right wing: Liguane[19] (Dep.)

2 x dragoons


2) Center: D’Aix (Dep.)

1 x grenadiers (superior)

1 x infantry

1 x guards (superior)

1 x light artillery


3) Left wing : GL de la Chiesa (Dep.)

1 x infantry

1 x militia

1 x light artillery


4) Independent - Piedmontese

1 x cavalry


5) Independent - Austrians

1 x infantry


CinC Ferdinand Ludwig von Schulenburg-Oeynhausen (Dep.)


6) Neuhaus (Dep.) - Austrians - arriving near Bassignana on a 5-6 (turn 5), 3-6 (turn 6), 2-6 (turn 7)

2 x infantry

1 x light artillery


7) Vogtern (Dep.) - arriving near Bassignana on a 5-6 (turn 5), 4-6 (turn 6), 3-6 (turn 7)

2 x cuirassiers


8) Independent Piedmont light infantry (deployed invisible)

1 x small light infantry


BP: 4,5 / 6,5 (wenn Schulenburg eintrifft / when Schulenburg made it on the table)


FRANZOSEN & SPANIER / FRENCH & SPANISH

CinC Duc de Maillebois (Dep.) & De Gages (Dith. – attached to the right column)


A) De Gages (Dith.) – move first - Spanish

3 x infantry (small)


B) Pignatelli (Dep.) – move second - Spanish

2 x cavalry (small)


C) Aramborou (Dep.) - Spanish

3 x infantry (small)

1 x cavalry (small)

1 x light artillery


D) Marquis de Montal (Dep.)

2 x infantry

1 x medium artillery


E) Le Marquis de Senneterre (Dep.)

2 x infantry

1 x light artillery


F) Comte de Danois (Dep.)

2 x Cavalerie


G) MdC de Grammont (Dep.)

2 x infanterie


H) Chevert (Dep.)

1 x Cavalerie

1 x Dragons


I) Independent – Miquelets (deployed invisible)

1 x small light infantry (rifles)


BP : 7

Mittwoch, 2. September 2020

Der Rheinübergang bei Breisach 1743 / the Rhine crossing at Breisach in 1743



Seit spätestens unserer „Anno Domini 1743“ Veranstaltung 2018 im Hohenloher Freilandmuseum[1][2] lässt mich das Thema Österreichischer Erbfolgekrieg nicht mehr los und die zahlreichen Ereignisse hier in Freiburg quasi vor der Haustüre tun ihr übriges. Es war beruhigend am Beispiel von Gustav Stadelmann (1896-1991) über jemanden zu lesen, der auch so fasziniert von diesem Konflikt war[3].
Zuerst bin ich in dem Buch über Stadt und Festung Freiburg auf dieses Ereignis gestoßen, da dort zeitgenössische Karten der österreichischen Stellungen 1743 abgebildet sind[4]. Die großformatigen Karten beinhalteten auch die Festung Freiburg. Eine ausführliche Schilderung der Ereignisse im August/September 1743 liefern wie gewohnt Porges und Rebracha[5]. Zusätzlich hatte ich mich mit unserer Bekannten Kim Krawiec im März 2019 nach Breisach begeben. Leider hat sich die Landschaft rund um den versuchten Rheinübergang des Prinzen Karl Alexander seither extrem verändert[6], so dass man kaum mehr etwas vor Ort finden kann, was damit zu tun hat. Dennoch sollen einige von uns gemachte Fotos aus Breisach ein paar Einblicke gewähren.
I’m very much connected with the War of the Austrian Succession since at least our event “Anno Domini 1743” in 2018 in the open air museum Wackershofen[1][2]. The numerous events here in Freiburg and virtually on the doorstep are influencing me on top of that. It was very reassuring to read the example of Gustav Stadelmann (1896-1991)[3] – to read about somebody who was similarly fascinated by this conflict.
First I became acquainted with the event studying the book about the city and fortress of Freiburg, because there are contemporary maps of the Austrian positions of 1743[4]. Porges and Rebracha are offering a very detailed description of the events of August and September 1743[5]. Additionally I visited Breisach together with our acquaintance Kim Krawiec in March 2019. Unfortunately the landscape around Prince Charles Alexander’s Rhine crossing changed dramatically. Therefore it’s difficult to find the original places there today. Nevertheless I want to give you some impressions showing photos we have made at Breisach.
Karte der Stellungen beider Seiten. Dargestellt ist auch massierter Artillerieeinsatz während der Kampfhandlungen. Rot dargestellte Orte waren bedeutende Festungen. (Karte: André Hanselmann - bitte nicht kopieren) - A map of the positions of both armies. The map Shows the massive use of artillery during the fightings. The red places are important fortresses. (map by André Hanselmann - please don't copy the map)


Prinz Karl Alexander von Lothringen (1712-1780) installierte sein Hauptquartier ebenso wie ein Jahr später König Louis XV in Munzingen[7]. Das Dorf liegt etwa 12 Kilometer entfernt von Breisach am Fuße des Tunibergs. Ein Hauptproblem war die mangelnde Versorgung seiner Armee, wozu er sich finanzielle Mittel bei den vorderösterreichischen Ständen und in Basel leihen musste. Ende August rückten die Truppen ab, welche nördlich und südlich ebenfalls den Rheinübergang vortäuschen oder nur mit geringeren Kräften durchführen sollten.
Der damals bereits berüchtigte Pandurenanführer Trenck ging zu kleineren Unternehmungen über den Rhein.
Bis dato hatte der spätere Maréchal de Saxe (1696-1750) über die am Rhein postierten Trümmer von Broglies Armee den Befehl geführt, wurde dann aber durch den Maréchal de Coigny (1670-1759) ersetzt. Coigny hatte etwa 10 Jahre vorher an den Schlachten bei Parma und Guastalla (1734) eine wesentliche Rolle gespielt und den Marschallsstab erworben. Der alte Feldherr verfügte nun über 51 Bataillone Infanterie, 12 Milizbataillone und 98 Eskadrone.
Ein Sponton - eine zeitgenössische Waffe im Museum für Stadtgeschichte in Breisach. - A spontoon - a contemporary weapon in the Museum for the history of the town at Breisach.


Prince Charles Alexander of Lorraine (1712-1780) installed his headquarters at Munzingen like king Louis XV one year later. The village lies approximately 12 kilometres from Breisach at the foot of the Tuniberg.  A main problem was the defective supply of his army. Therefore he had to lend money from the states of Further Austria and in Basel. In the end of August the troops started marching to their position, which had to faint a crossing or try the Rhine crossing with small forces.
The infamous pandours’ leader Trenck passed the Rhine for small skirmishes.
Until now the later maréchal de Saxe (1696-1750) had commanded the debris of Broglie's army at the Rhine. He was replaced by the maréchal de Coigny (1670-1759). Coigny had played a major role during the battles of Parma and Guastalla (1734) and got the bâton there. The old army leader had now 51 battalions of regulars, 12 batallions of militia and 98 squadrons under his orders.
Berlichingens (1682-1751) Aufgabe die Franzosen durch seinen Aufmarsch bei Burkheim[8] lediglich zu täuschen, wurde von Clermont-Gallerande (1682-1756) durchschaut.
Der gleichzeitig zum Hauptübergang bei Breisach unternommene Versuch des FZM von Waldeck bei Rheinweiler[9] scheiterte desaströs in einem Blutbad. Der Angriff am 4. September wurde letztlich durch Verstärkungen der Franzosen unter Balincourt (1680-1770) im Keim erstickt. Typisch für die damalige Zeit hatte man versucht zuerst Grenadiere und leichte Infanterie auf Booten überzusetzen. Von den 2.000 Mann wurden 400 getötet oder verwundet. Einige ertranken „in den Fluthen des Rheins[10]. Diesmal hatte sich erwiesen, dass vorgeschobene leicht besetzte Schanzen gut zu verteidigen waren, wenn die Angreifer einerseits wegen Nebels von den Artilleriebatterien kaum Gebrauch machen konnten und andererseits rasch Unterstützungen bei der Hand waren.
Berlichingen’s (1682-1751) job to just delude the French by his deployment at Burkheim was comprehended by Clermont-Gallerande (1682-1756).
FZM Waldeck tried to pass the river near Rheiweiler simultaneously with the main crossing at Breisach and failed disastrously in a bloodbath. The attack on September 4th was ultimately chocked by the French reinforcements under Balincourt (1680-1770). It was typically for the period that they tried to first send grenadiers and light infantry in boats across the river. 400 of 2000 men were killed or wounded in the fighting. Some drowned “in the floods of the Rhine”. For this time it has proven that advanced lightly manned redoubts could be well defended, if the attacker can’t make a use of their artillery batteries due to the fog and on the other hand if reinforcements were ready to support the attacked outposts.
 
Eine Tafel am Eckartsberg zeigt heute (2019) eine alte Darstellung Breisach mit einer damaligen Rheinbrücke. Man erkennt eindeutig die starken Verschanzungen am Eckartsberg im Vordergrund und das völlig andere Flussbett damals. - A nice plate shows today (photo from 2019) an old Picture of Breisach with the then Rhine Bridge. Note the strong fortifications at the Eckartsberg in the foreground and the completey different river bed.
Auch bei Breisach verfügten die Österreicher über ausgezeichnete erhöhte Stellungen für ihre Geschütze.
Die Festung war gleich nach dem Regierungsantritt Maria Theresias von österreichischer Seite bereits teilweise abgebrochen worden. Dennoch zeugen bis heute bedeutende Reste der Festungsanlagen von der großen Bedeutung derselben.

Bauliche Strukturen auf dem Eckartsberg heute. - Some builded structures on the Eckartsberg today.


Ein Blick über den Eckartsberg. Man erkennt, dass hier viel Platz ist um Artillerie zu postieren. Rechts der Rhein mit der modernen Rheininsel. - A view over the Eckartsberg. Note that there is a lot of space to post artillery pieces. On the right you may see the Rhine and the modern Rhine Isle.

Mittwoch, 19. August 2020

The combat at Grimbergen on August 23rd 1745


The combat at Grimbergen August 23rd 1745


I continue my series about the campaign in Flanders 275 years ago. (The post is online a little too early because I'm offline 23 August 2020.) 


The background

The maréchal de Saxe thought that his army had done enough for the year 1745[1]. However as before he could not go into his quarters in summer. The fall of Dendermonde on August 13th changed the situation dramatically as he lost the excuse to stay in his camp only observing the enemy. The maréchal was convinced that he had to conserve the area on the Western banks of the Dender, because he wanted to get his winter quarters there. Therefore he decided to cross the Dender and move towards the Senne. The operation started on August 17th and the army reached the new position between Lippelo and Merchtem. It was difficult to get foot and fodder in this area. The opponent’s raiding parties were preventing the inhabitants to bring foot to the French. Especially Grimbergen seemed to be a centre of allied harassment. Therefor the maréchal ordered the Liéutenant Général Danois[2] to take the locality on August 22nd[3].

The combat at Grimbergen

Danois had an impressive force of 12 battalions (regiments du Roi, Picardie, Touraine, Royal-Écossais), 20 companies of grenadiers, 250 men from the Maison du Roi, 500 gendarmes, 500 carabiniers, 4 twelve-pounders and 16 four-pounders departing on the evening of August 22nd from the camp at Lippelo[4][5].

The Hanoverians have given up the Podenburg Castle early before the fighting. (They were on the table for more historical ambience only - leaving the table quickly.)



Danois was facing only little resistance, when he arrived on August 23rd at 6 o’clock a.m. There were two castles nearby. Both were crewed by troops of the Pragmatic army and both were enclosed by a moat. One of them occupied by 100 Hanoverian soldiers and 3 officers capitulated immediately[6].

Now I had to research which castle this could be. There are many very helpful contemporary maps online from the Moll collection[7]. Problem was that the landscape changed dramatically since the 18th century as most of the area around Brussels is covered now by buildings and little is visible of the topographic features. Nevertheless Grimbergen is still well known for numerous very nice castles in the area[8]. Another problem was that the maps didn’t show roads and hills. Therefore I had to use the works by Le Rouge[9] and Seutter[10] to locate the hillsides and the map by Visscher[11] to learn about the historical road course. Coming from Lippelo and assuming that the smaller castle lies near Grimbergen, it seemed to me the most probable option that the “Podenburg”-castle[12] was attacked first.

Danois had sent his gendarmes as an outpost on a ridge towards the Brussel-Scheldt canal. The garrison of the bigger castle - 60 men of British free companies under the command of captain Ferron - refused to give up[13].

I played the French for this game, while the allied command was shared by a real Englishman as Cumberland and Cecilia as the commander of the allied horse.
The French have just positioned some light artillery against Grimbergen Castle defended by Ferron's redcoats.

I suppose that the bigger castle lay more closely to the ridge and therefor behind Grimbergen, just because the carabiniers on the ridge south-eastwards are making more sense in this way. The closest castle on the Southern bank of the river Kelkebeek is the castle of Grimbergen[14]. Although today ruined, the castle still is an impressive architectural structure. The towers are bigger than those of the Podenburg-castle and an 18th century engraving of the castle dated from 1770 gives a good impression of the size of the moat and the towers[15].

The French grenadiers prepared for an assault on the castle. Danois’s troops brought artillery forward to shoot a breach into the walls.

The French fusiliers are marching through Grimbergen and along the Kelkebeek. Cumberland's force is just arriving on the heights.

However meanwhile the duke of Cumberland had learned about the French advance to Grimbergen and decided to bring help. He personally led a small detachment of elite troops 2.000 men strong to relieve his outpost. Cumberland used the road via Vilvoorde. He had 3 battalions of British guards, 1 battalion of Highlanders, 3 squadrons of Lifeguards, 3 squadrons of Dutch cavalry, 50 men of pickets, 2 six-pounders and 4 three-pounders[16]. It’s remarkable that he didn’t chose light troops like hussars as his colleague the Prince of Waldeck did on August 12th[17].  Besides we can notice the same absence of light troops in Danois’ detachment too. The high quantity of artillery surely hindered a fast movement. Maybe both commanders wanted to be more prepared for a serious larger engagement.

Cumberland is arriving and facing Danois' vanguard formed by the gendarmarie.

Cumberland attacked the gendarmes when he arrived on the ridge. The carabiniers fled to Grimbergen. The British positioned their artillery on the ridge line and commenced firing on the French infantry. The artillery fire and the rout of the gendarmes caused panic among the infantry in Grimbergen. The French ceased their fire at the castle and retreated in bad shape[18].

In our game Cumberland started the fighting with a bombardement on the French gendarmes (represented by Pons cavalerie). Cumberland obviously planned to attack my column with his cavalry before my fusiliers could change formation.
Meanwhile canister fire against the defenders of Grimbergen castle is inflicting some losses.

Montag, 3. August 2020

The combat at Assche August 12th 1745


An meine deutschen Leser: dieser Beitrag erscheint wieder auf Deutsch, da ich mit all den zweisprachigen Blogeinträgen einfach nicht hinterher käme mit meiner 275-Jahr-Serie. Es sind dafür auch noch ein paar zweisprachige Beiträge in der Vorbereitung und erscheinen Ende August oder im September, die dann größere Ereignisse wie die Schlacht bei Bassignana 1745 betreffen.


My dear readers,

I want to continue my series about the 275th anniversaries of the War of the Austrian Succession. As in my Melle-report[1] I will write a small account of the combat with some notes on the campaign and show a selection of photos from our wargaming-experience to illustrate the event. I don’t include a map, because I just have too little information on the subject to make a map seriously.

 
Supported by horse the French infantry moves to their future engagement.

The campaign

After the fall of Gent the maréchal de Saxe continued his campaign overrunning the Austrian Netherlands. In August 1745 he had achieved a lot of his goals. He had detached some troops to besiege Dendermonde, Ostende and Nieuwport. These three important towns fell one after the other – Dendermonde on August 13th[2],  Ostende on August 23th[3] Nieuport on September 5th[4] .

Both sides had some problems. The Pragmatic army suffered under their different opinions about the continuation of the campaign. The British felt nervous after the fall of Gent and wanted to at least ensure their communication with Antwerp. On the other side the Dutch wanted to cover Maastricht and the Austrians naturally were focused on the defence of the capital of their province – Brussels. The Pragmatic forces were outnumbered by the French already and could not detach too many troops to defend all those places effectively.

However de Saxe had different problems. He didn’t want to attack the allies in their fortified position near Brussels. Every bold advance seemed risky because the light troops of his opponents were very much superior then his own. De Saxe knew that the numbers of his critics were growing if he stayed in his position opposing the allies and hoped that he at least could do so as long as he still besieged Dendermonde. He could send some raiding parties towards the channel, which covered the Pragmatic army under Cumberland’s command.

Some smaller encounters occurred as a result of this decision of which the combat at Assche was one of the larger ones and with a greater effect then the others.


The combat at Assche[5]

On August 12th the French had send two larger detachments – 2.000 men strong – from their wings along the Scheldt to Assche. The prince of Waldeck, commander in chief of the Dutch forces within the Pragmatic army, personally led 800 men to react on this enterprise.

 
The French are entering Assche with their infantry in our game.

Von le Beau and von Hödl[6] don’t mention the composition of the French forces for this action although they tell us about cavalry and infantry involved. I assumed that at least some light troops are highly probable; although in later engagements the composition of the French detachments for such Kleinkrieg combats were very uncommon as at Grimbergen on August 22nd 1745[7] and Ramillies in 1746[8].


The Pragmatic forces were a mix of light and regular troops. The sources don’t specify the name of the light units and the organization. Waldeck had 400 cavalry and 400 infantry and a free company (so called vrij compagnien[9]) as Hödl/Beau tell us.

At least we know that the infantry of Waldeck’s rearguard under the lieutenant colonel included the grenadiers of the Dutch guards and a piquet of the 2nd battalion of Waldeck’s own regiment of infantry[10]. Waldeck’s vanguard included hussars only. These hussars maybe were lend by the Austrians, as the Dutch incorporated Bavarian hussars not until 1746 (regiments Ferrari and Frangipani with a strength of 642 and 511 troopers[11]). An Order of Battle of the allied army in Flanders from 13th of June 1745 shows 5 squadrons of Austrian hussars under the command of GM Forgách[12].

 
In our game the French had 4 battalions - here still passing through the town.

The prince of Waldeck learned about the French occupation of Assche when he passed through Brussels[13]. He ordered his hussars to advance for reconnaissance.

His infantry took position 2 kilometres from Assche. He used the rest of his cavalry and his light infantry to continue his forward movement. The prince managed to drive out a strong French outpost from the nearby road.

The first fightings from a French perspective. The French cavalry is attacking Waldeck's vanguard of some hussars (2 small units in our game). Meanwhile the light infantry of both sides are fighting each other with little effect. Waldeck however hopes to deal with the French on the road first and turn then towards the arriving infantry column.

Meanwhile the French main force noticed Waldeck’s arrival and started attacking him after getting some reinforcements. However they could not force Waldeck’s advance troops to retreat behind his infantry until the French cavalry could put Waldeck’s flank into danger.

Waldeck decided to launch an attack with his cavalry, when the French tried to fight his infantry.  He defeated his opponents. The French infantry became disorganized and fled behind the city of Assche.

Using the cover of his strong rearguard und lieutenant colonel Cornabé, which was composed out of a piquet of Dutch infantry, Dutch grenadiers and 30 horsemen, Waldeck could retreat towards Brussels in good order.

It seems to me, that Waldeck had fulfilled his intention to show that his troops had no fears facing a larger French force, although we don’t know if he could prevent the French from fouraging in Assche. Maybe he could rely on better troops for such a skirmish. We read more often about the Pragmatic army using the famous pandours or croats for these engagements. But Trenck’s corps had not arrived in Flanders already but served under Minsky against the French army at the river Rhine[14].


I hope that you enjoyed my reflections about the small combat at Assche[15] and will continue the series soon.

The Austrian hussars are no match for the French horse and are routed soon. At least halve of the French cavalry has to retreat.
 
Influenced by earlier success the French commander orders his leading battalion and his remaining cavalry to charge.
The French infantry is routed. However not all is lost, because Waldeck prefers to save his skirmishers and the cavalry under his personal command.  The French charging cavalry will have to rally.
The prince of Waldeck is convinced that he needs more time and orders a charge by his Dutch cavalry under his own command towards one French battalion which had a chance to outflank the Dutch free Company. The whole deccission is a great success. The attacked French infantry has to fall back towards Assche to rally. Meanwhile the French infantry facing Waldeck's largest line of infantry is suffering badly under Dutch volleys. The French firing is too old School to really have some effect. 
Cornabé shows no mercy. His Grenadiers are attacking the rallying French fusiliers and are routing them immediately. The French commander has lost 2 battalions now but could hope that his now rallied cavalry could compensate the disaster of his foot units.


Caution obviously is not one of the talents of the French commander, who ordered his last line infantry which is ready to charge the opponent. They are defeated and have to retreat. At the same moment the French horse clash with the allied cavalry nearby.  


The French horse has a similar fait. One unit can rout Waldeck's last hussars. But the other suffer too heavy under crossing fire. The frustrated French commander is captured now.
The extremely motivated Dutch battalion now charged itself overrunning both French battallions, because the routed first line brought too much confusion in the second line.

The French cavalry has no chance but to get the same result isolated and cut of from any support.
The French have lost all units except their light infantry still Shooting at the Dutch freecompany. The French detachment cease to exist. But the Dutch force under Waldeck is broken too, runnig back to Brussels.
(In HoW-terms however the French had -2,5 Points and the allies 0 Points left.)


Text: André Hanselmann

Photos: Cecilia Hanselmann




[2] For more details about the siege: Aurel von le Beau, Rudolf von Hödl: "OESTERREICHISCHER ERBFOLGE-KRIEG 1740-1748. Nach den Feld -Acten und anderen authentischen Quellen bearbeitet in der kriegsgeschichtlichen Abtheilung des k. und k. Krieg s - Archivs" Band 9, Seidel & Sohn, Wien, 1914, p.164-168
[3] Beau/Hödl p. 168-171
[4] Beau/Hödl p. 172-173
[5] I’m using the old spelling of the town. Today the town is called Asse.
[6] Beau/Hödl p. 175-176
[7] More about  it in a future post.
[8] Beau/Hödl p. 347-349
[9] I recommend looking for Marc Geerdink-Schaftenaar’s work of research about Dutch troops from this period. He shows and discusses a lot of his finds on the internet.
[10] The regiment had 2 battalions in the army, while others had only one. Check the link below.
[11] Relying on the „Haupt-Standtabelle“ in March 1745. Source: Friedrich Münich: “Geschichte der bayerischen Armee seit zwei Jahrhunderten” Lindauer, Munich, 1864, p. 71
[12] Anonyumus author: « Ordre de Battaille de l'Armée Alliée en Flandres le 13.me Juin Anno 1745. / [under the command of] S.A.R. Le Duc de Cumberland » Royal Collection In. 729118 (https://militarymaps.rct.uk/war-of-the-austrian-succession-1740-8/order-of-battle-of-the-allied-army-in-1 )
[13] The following account relies completely on Beau/Hödl p. 176
[14] Anonymus Author: « Ordre de Battaille de l'Armée des hauts alliés commandée par son Altesse Royalle Le grand Ducde Toscane 1745. » Royal Collection In. 729122
[15] Assche was a fortified town on the main road from Brussels to Alost. The map by Rouge gives a fine example. Georges-Louis le Rouge (1740-1780) "Carte contenant le Pais entre Nieuport l'Ecluse Anvers Ypres et Bruxelles" out of ""Carte de Pais Bas: Contenant la Flandre, le Brabant, Pais de Liege, et de Namin, le Boulonnois, le Haynaut. et Partie de la Picardie" Chez l'Auteur rue des Augustins, Paris, 1744, Today online on the Moll-collection.