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 nicht 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 Juin Anno 1745. / [under the command of] S.A.R. Le Duc de Cumberland » Royal Collection In. 729118 ( )
[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.

Sonntag, 2. August 2020

Historiker von nebenan mit Lukas Fischer - historians alongside with Lukas Fischer

Da wir derzeit durch die Corona-Problematik keine Veranstaltungen haben werden, will ich im August meine Reihe zu Historikern und anderen Weggefährten fortsetzen.

Diesmal habe ich Lukas Fischer interviewt. Schon während seiner ersten Ausbildung hat sich Lukas mit historischer Bausubstanz beschäftigen dürfen. Dann hat er noch eine Ausbildung zum Grabungstechniker in Münster oben drauf gesetzt. Über mehrere Jahre hat er als Grabungstechniker an verschiedenen Orten in Deutschland gearbeitet. Heute entwickelt Lukas Fischer beispielsweise 3D-Gesichtsrekonstruktionen und arbeitet teils freiberuflich für die Erstellung von Ausstellungen. Daneben ist er in der Living-History-Szene sehr vielfältig aktiv. Vor mehr als zehn Jahren bin ich ihm auf einer Veranstaltung im Freilichtmuseum Roscheider Hof[1] erstmals begegnet. Vor allem seine intensive Recherche für seine Rollen aber auch für seine heutige berufliche Tätigkeit hat mir immer sehr imponiert.

Lukas Fischer (rechts) macht Musik zusammen mit Leonard Dorn auf unserer Anno Domini Veranstaltung 2011 - Lukas Fischer is making Music (on the right) together with Leonard Dorn on our Anno Domini Event in 2011. (Photo: Michael Paulick)

As we don’t have any events due to the corona-crisis, I want to continue my series about historians and other companions in August.

For this time I have talked with Lukas Fischer. Even during his first apprenticeship he could occupy himself with historical buildings. Then he had added training to the qualification as an excavation technician in Munster. He worked as an excavation technician for years at different places in Germany. Today Lukas Fischer is developing for example 3d-facial reconstructions and works partly as a freelancer for the creation of exhibitions. Besides he is active within the living-history-society in diverse ways. I met him more than ten years ago on an event in the open air museum Roscheider Hof. I’m especially impressed by his intensive research for his roles and by his today professional work.

(English translation of the interview below!)

1. Hallo Lukas. Wir sind uns ja schon – wenn ich mich recht entsinne – in mindestens vier verschiedenen Zeiten über den Weg gelaufen[2]. Ich weiß aber auch, dass Du noch viel mehr über die Jahre gemacht hast. Ich erinnere mich, dass Du mal sagtest, dass die Darstellung von ottonenzeitlichen Deutschen eher ungewöhnlich ist. Kannst Du kurz umreißen wieviele verschiedene Zeitepochen Du als Darsteller schon erlebt hast und was Du eventuell nicht mehr machst?

Hallo André!

Es hat mir immer sehr viel Spaß gemacht in neue Themen einzutauchen. Daher habe ich viele Darstellungen begonnen und an unterschiedlichsten Veranstaltungen teilgenommen. Hier ein chronologischer Ausschnitt:

Das früheste war die Schlacht gegen Varus‘ Legionen um 9 n. Chr. In der Merowingerzeit war ich auf der Funkenburg und in der Ottonenzeit in verschiedenen Heerlagern. In Trelleborg habe ich mit Harald Blauzahn gegen seinen verräterischen Sohn Sven Gabelbart gefochten. Ende des 13. Jahrhunderts habe ich an der Belagerung der Brandenburg teilgenommen. 1356 ging es dann als flämischer Söldner in die Schlacht von Casorate (Morimondo), 1618 habe ich in Wackershofen feinstes Westerwälder Steinzeug verkauft, 1759 war ich Fähnrich des Regiment Itzenplitz in der Schlacht bei Minden. An der Völkerschlacht 1813 habe ich als Gast der 22er teilgenommen[3] und ins spätere 19. Jahrhundert habe ich, nur das Tanzbein statt dem Degen schwingend, mal an einem Ball teilgenommen.

Auf einer Veranstaltung im 1. Jh. - on an Event in the first century AD.

2. Viele von unseren Darstellern in Wackershofen sind ja Historiker. Aber ich glaube, keiner von ihnen beschäftigt sich so beruflich vielseitig mit Geschichte wie Du. Gibt es einen beruflichen Zugang zur Geschichte, den Du besonders toll fandest?

Wahrscheinlich ist mein größter Traum tatsächlich durch die Zeit reisen zu können. Kleine „Zeitreiseerlebnisse“ hatte ich im Reenactment immer wieder. Aber auch in der Archäologie und in meinem aktuellen Beruf, beim Visualisieren der Vergangenheit ging es mir um das Erleben anderer Zeiten. Auch bei der 3D-Rekonstruktion taucht man in andere Epochen ein. Insbesondere die VR-Erlebnisse, die wir bei TimeRide[4] in mittlerweile 5 großen Städten in Deutschland anbieten, machen mir großen Spaß. Dort bin ich mittlerweile Teamleiter für die historische Recherche und darf an der Konzeption unserer Zeitreisen mitwirken. Das spannende ist - ganz ähnlich wie im Reenactment, dass man viele Alltagsfragen der Vergangenheit überhaupt erst stellt und sich dadurch stark in die Epochen einfühlen kann. Das macht mir wahnsinnig viel Spaß!

3. Ich kann mich an all die vielen Museen von denen Du mir schon Fotos gezeigt hast ganz grob erinnern. Hast Du da einen Favoriten?

Ich nehme an, es geht um Freilichtmuseen? Es gibt viele schöne Freilichtmuseen in Deutschland. Mich hat das Museum in Bärnau[5] besonders beeindruckt. Dort wurde mit sehr viel Liebe zum Detail und einem sehr guten wissenschaftlichen Konzept eine kleine mittelalterliche Welt aus dem Boden gestampft. Soweit ich weiß, können dort Mittelaltergruppen Hauspaten werden. Während andere Museen eher baukundliche Sammlungen mit ein wenig Heimatgeschichte sind, hat es Bärnau irgendwie geschafft ein lebendiges Dorf zu werden.

4. Du hast ja viel als Darsteller wie beruflich mit Museen zu tun gehabt. Kannst Du Dir vorstellen mal in einem Museum zu arbeiten? Manchmal träumt man ja davon, sowas wie in den USA als angestellte Darsteller wäre auch in Deutschland möglich…

Ja, ich bin immer sehr offen für solche Gedankenexperimente und verfolge auch die spannenden Konzepte beispielsweise Colonial Williamsbourgh oder Jamestown. Ich frage mich immer wieder, warum unsere Museen in Deutschland oft unbewohnt wirken. Manche sind zugestellt mit modernen Tafeln und Vitrinen. Keine Multimediastation ist so gut wie ein Mensch, der eine Rolle verkörpert. Wenn das beherzigt würde, könnten die Besucher, die bisher noch lieber in einen Freizeitpark gehen, auch bald zu Museumsfans werden.

5. Du bist ja auch auf archäologischen Ausgrabungen immer wieder auf spannende Funde gestoßen. Konntest Du da auch was an Inspiration für die Hobby-Darstellung entnehmen?

In meiner Zeit als Grabungstechniker habe ich immer wieder auf spannenden Ausgrabungen gearbeitet. Mein größtes Highlight war die Ausgrabung eines alten Flussarms der Emscher bei Castrop-Rauxel. Dort war im 4. Jh. eine Bootsanlegestelle neben einer einheimischen Siedlung. Wir fanden dort erhaltene Holzpfähle, Metallfunde und viele römische Exportgüter, die es nach Germania Magna geschafft hatten. Es ist ein unbeschreibliches Herzklopfen, wenn man einen besonderen Gegenstand findet. Mein erster solcher Fund war ein reich verzierter Knochenkamm. Kaum vorstellbar, dass jemand seinen Luxuskamm hier vor 1600 Jahren im Schlamm verloren hat. Diese Handwerkskunst in den Händen zu halten, hat mich stark inspiriert alle möglichen Handwerke auszuprobieren.

Auf einer mittelalterlichen Veranstaltung im 14. Jahrhunderd - on a medieval Event in the 14th century.

6. Ich weiß, dass Du auch früher immer sehr strukturiert für Deine Kleidung als Darsteller recherchiert hast. Aber auch, wenn Du eine neue Darstellung wie ein Handwerk angefangen hast, kam mir das immer sehr professionell vor. Kommt das auch ein bisschen daher, da Du beruflich mit wissenschaftlicher Vorgehensweise vertraut gewesen bist?

Bevor ich in der Denkmalpflege gearbeitet habe, war es sehr mühevoll herauszufinden, wie man an das nötige Wissen gelangt. Ebenso schwierig kann es auch mit Handwerkerwissen sein, das vielleicht auch einem Wissenschaftler fehlen kann. An beides muss man sich als Laie herantasten. Dabei habe ich immer unheimlich viele Fehler und Kompromisse gemacht. Mehr als die wissenschaftliche Vorgehensweise hat es mir geholfen Experten zu fragen. Da ich selbst stundenlang beispielsweise über die Unterwäsche des 14. Jahrhunderts referieren könnte, weiß ich, dass es vielen Spezialisten genau so geht. Ich habe immer gerne die Menschen, die etwas besonderes können oder wissen, angesprochen oder angeschrieben und es wurde immer herzlich darauf reagiert. Man sollte keine Scheu haben, sich gegenseitig zu helfen. Und auch wenn da auf dem Mittelaltermarkt jemand eine Klamotten aus fünf verschiedenen Jahrhunderten trägt. Vielleicht kann er mir etwas spannendes über Metallbearbeitung erzählen und ich kann ihm im Gegenzug etwas über mittelalterliche Mode mit auf den Weg geben.