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 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.

4 Kommentare:

  1. Good stuff, Andre'! I think you have done it. You have pushed me over the edge to begin building a French force for the SYW (and WAS). For the French coat, what is the evolution of turnbacks vs no turnbacks? Old Glory 15s, for instance, offers French with no turnbacks, front only turnbacks, and front and back turnbacks.

    1. Difficult to answer. The normal line infantry had no turnbacks, but you will find turnbacks even on earlier uniforms when you are looking for foreign regiments.

  2. G'Day Andre, good report on the actual battle and the game. I am tempted to build up a French force but I'm thinking 7YW rather than WAS and putting them up against a British / Portuguese force on the Spanish border. The Guerre Fantastica 1764. Cheers Greg

    1. Many thanks for your comment.
      I think that the Guerre Fantastica is very exciting and the Spanish army very much underrated in our hobby, although looking very similar like the French army. I'm looking forward to the start of your project. SYW is so much easier to do thanks to kronoskaf and Co..