The Rhine War of 1855 – Opening Shots: The Battle of Schorndorf

Campaign background here: https://themedetianwars.org.uk/2020/06/the-rhine-war-of-1855.html

Reluctant to wait for their Prussian and Austrian allies to take the field, and fearing that delay would only lead to more time for Wurttemburg to prepare its defences, Bavaria launched its attack ahead of schedule. Crossing the Danube between Ulm and Donauworth, the Bavarian Korps paused briefly at Heidenheim before crossing the border at noon on 1st July 1855.

General position on 1st July 1855: Bavarians about to encounter a significant roadblock, French rushing through the Black Forest and Prussians concentrating at Frankfurt.

With I Korps’ full complement of 24 battalions, 8 squadrons and 12 batteries, plus a further 16 squadrons and 2 batteries in the accompanying cavalry division, the Bavarian army mustered over 24,000 men. Marching as a single body, by mid-afternoon they were approaching the Wurttemburg town of Schorndorf, almost half-way to the capital, Stuttgart.

With lamentable scouting by their cavalry, the Bavarians were somewhat surprised to find their way blocked just short of the town. A division of Wurttemburgers in field defences, though unpleasant, should in hindsight have been expected. However, a contingent of British troops, newly arrived and ready for a fight, was a complete shock!

Bird’s eye view from the Bavarian perspective. The river is shallow and known to be easily fordable. The main road leads NW to Schorndorf.

Although he managed to prepare some field defences at the bridge and likely crossing points, the Wurttemburg commander tried to cover all the options which resulted in him spreading his forces thinly along the river bank. Grateful for the timely arrival of a brigade each of British infantry and cavalry, he deployed them in the centre and as a general reserve. With veterans of the Iron Duke’s battles among the general’s staff, the British cannily took up positions on the reverse slope of the ridge to which they’d been assigned.

The main road, with its bridge, to the left, guarded by Wurttemburgers. British to the right, cavalry to the rear where they will hopefully avoid any impetuous urges.
More defences on the left flank
The view along the river line from the defenders’ right flank
View from behind the lines, as they wait for the enemy’s arrival. Scots Greys not exactly stealthy in the afternoon sun.

By mid-afternoon the Bavarian columns had begun to sort themselves out into assault formation, one division aiming straight up the road to the bridge and the other manoeuvring to threaten the defenders’ centre and right. Despite some reasonably heavy exchanges of artillery fire, this was to be an infantryman’s fight. The river proved to be a minor obstacle and cornflower blue-coated hordes were soon splashing across and into a hail of musketry and cannister. The initial attacks were repulsed but the defenders had suffered casualties too, and as the assaults were renewed, the invaders’ superior numbers began to tell.

Two Highland battalions, supported by the Rifles and artillery, stand firm against the Bavarian assault
The Reserve awaits orders. Unfortunately when they came, they were to result in muddled and ineffectual counter-marching. Oh dear.

Meanwhile the fight for the bridge was intensifying, as 6,000 Wurttembergers attempted to withstand an enemy that outnumbered them two to one. Twice, though, they threw them back over the river, before eventually the defences began to buckle. The invader’s lead brigade lost their commander in the third charge, but they pressed on regardless. Losses were heavy on both sides and the defenders held on tenaciously.

“Here they come again!”
The Bavarian brigadier about to be shot down while crossing the river alongside the bridge

In the final stages of the battle the British cavalry made some limited charges which had success in slowing the attackers down. The Wurttemberg left flank regiment also managed to wheel and put in a spoiling attack too. With the defences around the bridge on the verge of giving way, time was up for the allies.

The overall scene as the defenders, pulled out of position by multiple attacks all along the river line, begin to fall back
Relatively fresh British reserves form a rearguard as their battered compatriots and Wurttemberg allies retreat from the field.

With casualties mounting the defenders decided they’d done enough and began to retire. Although in the end it was successful, the Bavarian’s last attack ran out of steam and there was no possibility of an aggressive pursuit. Satisfied with the day’s work, their commander ordered them to make camp on the field of victory. Grateful to be allowed to re-group under no real pressure, the Wurttemberg-British force was therefore able to remain between the invaders and the capital…

Game notes:

Rules are a lightly modified version of Realtime Wargame’s Wars of Empire series. Figures are Heroics & Ros 6mm.

I have a combined Wurttemburg-Baden division (loosely based on their 1870 contingents) which I’ll be re-using as each state’s own force, plus that of Hesse-Darmstadt. A brigade of cavalry has just been painted, but arrived too late to participate in the battle. They’ve been sent on scouting duty to Crailsheim to watch the NE border.

The British division is currently lacking half its infantry, which have yet to make it to the top of the painting priority list. Therefore they were ‘still assembling’ in a rear area for this game.

The Rhine War of 1855

Not a real conflict obviously, but a fictitious one I’m intending to fight using my mid-19th century 6mm armies. This is a follow-on to the approach I described here: https://themedetianwars.org.uk/2019/08/6mm-19th-century-battles.html

Most games will be played solo, but hopefully I’ll be able to have the occasional guest appearance by a visiting general. Most of the forces are painted and ready, and where they’re not they will be fed into the campaign as they become available. I’ll describe force compositions, and the lightweight campaign rules I’m using, as I go.

The situation at the point where diplomacy (what little there had been) failed:

The map is an extract from the superb Murat collection, used with kind permission from their creator Malcolm McCallum. This point-to-point mapping has towns one day’s march apart, and national borders in pink. I am representing each infantry or cavalry division, and each Corps reserve, with a map counter. Occasionally smaller detachments, generally representing a brigade, will be be marked with just a simpler national flag.

Background and the lead-up to war.

With war in the Crimea being narrowly averted the year before, the Great Powers are free to turn their attention to other matters and, somewhat inevitably, diplomatic strife soon rears its head elsewhere. Several of the Southern states of Germany, growing increasingly uncomfortable with the domineering approach of the German Confederation, decide to resign their membership. Unwilling to accept this disruption and the dangerous precedent it sets, the recently re-established Confederation decides to force the rebellious states back into line. Prussia, Austria and Bavaria assemble forces and prepare to invade Baden and Wurttemburg and Hesse-Darmstadt. These states invoke their secret mutual defence pact with France and mobilise to defend their borders. Despite prevarication and calls to seek a peaceful outcome, Britain reluctantly decides to support France when it becomes clear that the German aggression represents a significant threat to the continental order.

Therefore, as the campaign begins the opposing sides are composed as follows;

  • The French-led Alliance, comprising Baden, Wurttemburg, Hesse Darmstadt and Britain
  • The German Confederation comprising the forces of Prussia, Austria and Bavaria

The defending forces must hold on against more numerous attackers, while allies march to their assistance. The campaign opens with frontier clashes as the invading German armies attempt to co-ordinate their movements against a number of smaller forces defending their own lands.

Forces of the Confederation

Austria

As the most influential member of the Confederation, Austria sees any reduction in its membership as a sign of her own decreasing authority, and therefore as a direct challenge. In response, the Emperor has sent a powerful contingent of two full army Korps as well as 2 independent cavalry divisions; a total of 51,400 men. Marching piecemeal from all across the Empire, the Austrians are slowly assembling in Lindau close to the Wurttemburg border.

Prussia

Concerned about Russia’s intentions, Prussia is unwilling to dispatch the majority of its army to the west. However, Prussian forces still comprise two powerful formations, each totalling 25,700 men made up of an Army Korps and a cavalry division. These formations are gathering at the fortresses of Frankfurt and Wurzburg respectively, from where they will be ideally placed to invade the rebel states.

Bavaria

Although the junior partner, Bavaria is eager to make a good showing and has deployed a considerable proportion of her strength. A full Korps, accompanied by a cavalry division, together comprise a total of 24,200 men. Bavaria’s army is assembling at Augsburg, close to the Wurttemberg border but behind the Danube, from which it will have the option of several invasion routes while its flank is protected by the fortress city of Ulm.

Forces of the Alliance

France

With war about to erupt on her doorstep, France has strengthened her border forces and assembled a substantial army. It comprises two full Corps plus two cavalry divisions and one division each of infantry and cavalry from the recently re-established Imperial Guard, for a total of 66,000 men.

Baden, Wurttemberg, Hesse-Darmstadt

In defence of their homelands, these small German states have raised what forces they can, resulting in each being able to put into the field a division of 12,000 men. Baden’s troops are assembling in Karlsruhe, Wurttemberg’s in Stuttgart and Hesse-Darmstadt’s in Mainz.

British

With her traditional priority being command of the sea, Britain has committed only a modest force to this continental campaign. A single division of 12,000 men has been shipped to France and set off on its march to the Rhine. Uncharacteristically, it has been well-planned and executed, resulting in the British force reaching Stuttgart ahead of its anticipated arrival.

So, that’s the situation as hostilities commence.

Next post – Bavaria Attacks! Unwilling to wait for his allies, Maximillian II attempts to grab the glory by a precipitous invasion of Wurttemburg…

First Ever ACW

A mate and I have been talking about a 15mm ACW project for quite a while and, like you do, we finally took the plunge when Peter Pig had a sale last year.

The intention, when we finally get round to playing any games, is to have a couple of small, flexible, forces that we can use with both Sharp Practice and Osprey’s Rebels and Patriots. This means a starting point of about 50 infantry, a dozen or so cavalry and a couple of guns, plus some leaders.

Although my opponent intends to do both sides for himself in the long run (which I won’t be), we have initially chosen to do one side each. Union for me, Confederate for him. We’ve admired the 3-2-1 basing pioneered on Dalauppror’s blog but hadn’t quite brought ourselves to use it for any projects up to now. As these forces will generally be deployed in units of 6, 8 or 12, it finally seemed appropriate to give it a go. Cue the hunt for appropriate sized washers!

ACW is one of those periods where you can spend a lot of time trying to find the right paint colours (mentioning no names Andy). I got bored after a few internet searches and poring over google images of paintings, painted figures, painting guides, etc. Therefore Vallejo’s Prussian Blue and Pastel Blue will do for me. I haven’t exactly made a big start, but here is my initial sample unit:

As with every other project I have, there’s more to come…

Legion de Fleurie Grenadiers

Since starting them a mere 6 years ago, I have finally finished my Grenadier battalion for the (fictitious) Legion de Fleurie. Back in 2014 I painted the first half dozen figures and the mounted officer, but then my focus strayed to other projects. One of my goals for this year’s Ayton weekend was to get this unit, the first battalion in this scale and period I’ve painted myself in 6 years, ready for battle. Even though the event isn’t happening now, I wanted to get the unit done.

The figures are RSM Austrian Grenadiers, plus a couple of Minden/Fife & Drum standard bearers. The standards themselves were painted to order by Mark Allen (there you go Robbie!) and it’s great to finally see them on the table.

Mark Allen’s wonderful brushwork:

Very Small Scots Greys

My 6mm mid-19th century forces get expanded from time to time and I’m intending to add a British division (mixed infantry and cavalry) for variety, and to add a bit of colour. I recently made a start with a first unit.

These are the Scots Greys, in an approximation of their Crimean uniform. They’re actually Heroics & Ros Napoleonic French Imperial Guard Horse Grenadiers. About half the infantry I have planned happen to be Scots regiments, so there’ll be a bit of an unintended theme there.

Medetian Re-Basing Programme

As mentioned the other day, I have some 18th century units to re-base. Most of these are in progress at various stages, and it’s been the usual messy, time-consuming slog. It’s a good reminder that re-basing should never be undertaken lightly!

The first unit I’ve finished is the one that required the least effort, naturally. This is the Vantua Regiment, a standard musketeer unit of 30 figures plus a battalion gun. The figures are now on 45mm squares instead of 50s, and the flags have had a bit of edging bling added to brighten them up.

Within a minute of taking this picture I managed to break a bayonet. FFS.

Now onto the next one!

Some Sci-fi Basics

Always in the background, or perhaps on the back-burner, my very slowly developing 15mm Sci-fi collection gets a bit of attention from time to time. Until discovering the simple joys of using Dragon Rampant for platoon-sized skirmishes this ‘project’ was just drifting. It’s still drifting, but now with more purpose!

I’ve been meaning to make some hard-standing bases for a while and finally got around to it at the weekend. Took about an hour altogether. Easily repeatable, I intend to make some more soon. ‘Soon’ being a timeframe that’s subject to drift of course. They are made from 4mm cork sheet, painted and dry-brushed to a lightish grey. I cut out a quick card stencil and applied a simple pattern with roughly applied yellow paint.

These bases represent man-made or pre-fab surfaces laid down in normal/rural terrain as support for buildings, machinery, vehicle parking, etc. Short of making entire terrain tiles of it (which I still could I suppose) this seems to provide a decent look for military or research facilities in the types of games I play. I’m not aiming for urban settings or major structures, just low-key scenery for small missions and skirmishes.

Hard-standing pieces placed under buildings and other features. A couple of scratchbuilt card cargo pallets on the right too.
About as simple as you can get with a piece of painted cork sheet.

Not Gone Anywhere (well who can at the moment?)

It’s been a good while since I’ve posted here, but now seems as good a time as any to get going again. As the current virus situation dominates most conversations and online activity I will happily aim to steer clear of it on this blog.

So, has there been any hobby stuff going on in Medetia? Yes, quite a bit! Not lots of gaming, although there’s been some, but I’m making some steady progress with a number of projects. One priority was preparation for this year’s Ayton weekend with the LAW group, now sadly postponed. Still, I am keen to finish off what I planned, and hopefully get a bit more done too. This year was to be another outing for the 28mm 18th century armies, in my case a combined force made up of my Medetians and Fleurians.

Most of the effort has focused on re-basing infantry battalions, going from 36s with 2 command stands, to 30s with a single command stand. The 6-figure bases are being reduced from 50mm squares to 45mm squares. A small difference, but an improvement I wanted to make.

I am also taking the opportunity to add a bit of flexibility that might be useful in the future. 2 Battalions per side are going be made up of single figures mounted on magnetic group sabots/trays. This will allow them to be used as normal big-battle battalions alongside the rest of the collections, and also for skirmish games – Sharp Practice in particular. This will give me 48 musketeers per side, enough for most games. Leaders and characters can be added later, and my artillery crews, light infantry and light cavalry are all on single/sabots already.

Here’s the test base, in between the old size on the left and the new on the right:

Getting ready to dash about in a skirmish game:

Not a perfect solution but I think it’s going to be a reasonable compromise between aesthetics and practicality.

6mm 19th Century Battles

Having recently placed all my 6mm 1859 and 1870 units on sabot bases to make them easier to handle, last weekend was the first opportunity to give the armies a run out.

Jase and I chose Prussians and French respectively, with a few allies for added flavour. Although I am still happy to play specific 1859 Italy and Franco-Prussian War scenarios, I am also interested in playing games in a general mid-19th century European setting without being concerned with the differences between Chassepots, Needle guns, Krupps and the need to replicate campaign-specific orders of battle. More of a general horse, foot and guns experience really.

That’s what I call an occupied hill!

We played a couple of Corps-sized games over the weekend, both encounter battles. They were very enjoyable, and very tactically challenging, with lots of manoeuvre, cavalry charges, artillery duels and storming of villages.

French and Prussians go toe to toe

We considered some possible additions to the command and control rules but in the end felt that the core set (Wars of Empire by Realtime Wargames) provided plenty of scope for friction and blunders!

The main clash in one of the games, before exhausted units started to melt away
Chasseurs lead the assault
New Austrians getting their first game, and actually not doing too badly
Before the storm

I have plenty more figures to paint, and will continue to chip away at them. It might be nice to try a bigger battle next time.

Recent Games 4 – Multi-player Swashbuckling

Another recent game that provided a lot of fun was a 4 player game set in the Three Musketeers era. A fictional island saw each player’s force come ashore to plunder a stricken ship and steal the King’s pay chest.

Everyone took potshots at each other, and various locals waded in too on occasion. Each player was allowed to hide a few figures beforehand as an advanced party, which could make a sudden appearance to add to the mayhem.

Ali Bitchin (named after a real Barbary Corsair of legend) is besieged in the chapel, after discovering that the chests he’d fought so hard to possess were empty:

Meanwhile, the sneaky Medetians, with Essex Boy in command, conduct a fighting withdrawal having gotten their hands on the real loot that had been hidden in the tavern:

It was nice to give this collection another run out, and as always the GW Lord of the Rings/Legends of the High Seas rules gave a quick and exciting game.