The Rhine War of 1855 – Prelude to the Battle of Auenwald

Following their hard-won victory at Weinstadt, the allies under Marshal Canrobert received some unwelcome news. While the Prussian’s 1st Korps was still re-fitting at Frankfurt, their recently assembled 2nd Korps had left Wurzburg, crossed the River Maine, and was marching for the Wurttemberg capital, Stuttgart.

Leaving a British brigade behind to watch the retreating Bavarians, Canrobert ordered his army to about-face and move to intercept the Prussians before they reached their objective. He had the advantage of operating on internal lines, which was all well and good as long as his troops could stand the pace.

By the morning of the 8th July the allies were on the road north from Stuttgart, aiming to confront the Prussians as they descended from the hills south of Swabisch Hall. Canrobert would have preferred to have his entire Corps with him but news that the Austrians were finally beginning to stir from Lindau forced him to maintain a strong watch on the Danube.

On the Prussian side Prince Karl, commanding 2nd Korps, had been surprised to cross into Wurttemberg without meeting any opposition. Fearing a trap, and not being a particularly bold or dashing leader, he had moved somewhat cautiously south and was running about a day behind schedule. Would this delay prove to be a missed opportunity?

On the morning of the 8th, his advanced guard reported Wurttemberg cavalry patrols at Auenwald, a small town along the route he’d chosen for the final stage of his march to Stuttgart. Suddenly anxious to avoid being trapped in the passes, he ordered his men forward to capture the town…

The Rhine War of 1855 – The Battle of Weinstadt, part 2

The battle was heading into its final stages and, with heavy attrition around Weinstadt, it appeared to be turning into a race between the British landing their blow from the flank, and the Bavarian reserve cavalry arriving in time to intervene.

Fighting continues around Weinstadt, the village itself remaining relatively untroubled
Losses mount up among the attackers
Fighting intensifies for the road junction

The first of the British to appear on the south side of the river were the Rifles, who led the way over the bridge. Although they were forced to retire after taking canister fire from enemy artillery, they had successfully cleared a path for the following battalions.

The Rifles cross the bridge and engage the defending Bavarian horse battery

To the east, the Bavarian cavalry reserve was just coming onto the field, cantering forward to try to turn the tide.

To the relief of the Bavarian commander, his cavalry division finally arrives
The British infantry have crossed the bridge and form up for a flank attack
The redcoats charge! It’s too much for the Bavarians who give way
Too late, the Bavarian cavalry reach the action. Their main role will be to act as rearguard to cover the retreat of the Corps

On the other flank the French had launched several assaults on the south side of Weinstadt’s hill, being thrown back each time. Finally, a combined arms attack from two sides overcame the defenders who were forced to retreat through the streets and down through the camp below the town.

French cuirassiers prepare to charge again, supported by infantry
The battlefield at the point the Bavarians’ moral crumbled

So, the Battle of Weinstadt was a victory for the allies, who had managed to shore up the eastern approaches to Stuttgart before the full weight of the enemy could combine against them. The Bavarians, having now fought 2 battles, had been sent packing and would need some time to recover.

The Rhine War of 1855 – The Battle of Weinstadt

Following the Bavarian victory in the opening battle at Schorndorf, the allies feared that they would be hotly pursued back to the Wurttemberg capital, Stuttgart. However, to their surprise (and relief) they were left in peace to rally by a complacent enemy who clearly felt they’d done enough.

Campaign Map, with an Allied army coming together to confront the Bavarians.

After his impetuous start to the campaign, the Bavarian King had decided it was time for his allies to do some fighting, and he ordered his army to enjoy the fruits of their labour in enemy territory. With the Austrians still far off (their advanced guard was believed to have made it as far as Lindau at best) the Bavarian army only moved forward a few miles to Weinstadt where they settled down to forage and make good their losses from the recent battle.

The field of battle viewed from the west, with Weinstadt and the Bavarian camp top-right and the river and bridge on the left.
The reverse angle.
Reveille, and unwelcome news from the pickets.

However, far from being beaten the Wurttemberg-British force was about to be reinforced. Marshal Canrobert, commander of the French I Corps, had heard the news of his compatriots in II Corps’ saving the day at Sprendlingen and was determined to have his share of the glory. He’d dispatched his 1st Division and Cavalry Division south toward Sigmaringen and the Austrian border as flanking cover, and had himself taken 2nd Division via Stuttgart (where, most gratifyingly, the French were met with great appreciation and applause) so as to join up with the Wurttembergers a little to the east.

After a brief council of war, where the allies (even the British) agreed to Canrobert taking command, it was decided that a counter attack was in order. Striking camp at dawn on the 5th July, the combined force marched east. It was decided that the British contingent would be on the left, on the other side of the river, so as to make a flank attack while the French and Wurttemberg Divisions attacked the Bavarians frontally. Conveniently, this meant that the British would be operating somewhat independently, which overcame any underlying reluctance to take instruction from their old enemy. A 3-way alliance, with old adversaries working together within a complicated tactical plan. It was sure to succeed.

The British contingent make their way unseen along the northern river bank.
The British objective, lightly guarded by just a cavalry brigade.

By late morning the Wurttemberg advanced guard had gotten to within a mile of Weinstadt before encountering and driving in the slack Bavarian picket line. Shaken from their rest period, the Bavarians prepared for battle. A jager battalion was sent forward to delay the enemy while the 3 infantry brigades and Korps artillery reserve began to assemble.

By the time they’d formed up in and of either side of Weinstadt the leading Wurttemberg and French brigades had deployed from march column and were ready to attack.

The attack begins. Wurttembergers on the left, French on the right.
Infantry assault, straight up the road.
Their arrival slightly delayed, the French 2nd Brigade hastens to catch up.
Firefight between opposing infantry.
The British rifles are the first to reach the bridge. With their brigadier elsewhere, the hesitant Bavarian Chevaulegers are about to be driven off by accurate fire.
… and there they go!

The main attacks went in, and casualties soon mounted up on both sides. Numerous artillery batteries added to the carnage.

The Bavarian commander had sent orders to his absent (but nearby) brigades (1 each of infantry and cavalry) and he hoped they were on their way. The British left hook was taking time to develop despite the light opposition, and the allies needed their attacks to pin the Bavarians in time for its arrival. The battle was therefore finely balanced.

Part 2 to follow…

The Rhine War of 1855 – The Battle of Sprendlingen

Caught on the hop by Bavaria’s impetuous attack in the south, Prussia felt herself compelled to act too. Although only the 1st Korps was assembled (at Frankfurt), Wilhelm IV directed it to cross the River Main and invade the Grand Duchy of Baden. Once over the river the two divisions took parallel roads south through the forested hills towards the important town of Darmstadt.

The Prussians attack in the north, crossing the River Main and driving in 2 columns on Darmstadt. The weak Baden force stands in their way, but the first of the French are about to arrive…

On the morning of the 3rd July, the 1st Division encountered a few companies of Baden Landwehr Jager a mile to the north of the town of Sprendlingen, which had been occupied that very day by the rest of the Grand Duke’s army. Although he had orders to watch the border, the Baden commander, General Kimpfen, was a man known for his love of comfort. When he arrived in Sprendlingen the day before and saw its fine hotel, he had declared the march complete and ordered encampment for his men, and a large dinner for himself.

On hearing sporadic fire from the north, the Baden troops stood-to and prepared for battle. The Landwehr Jager played for time, retreating slowly, until a regiment of regulars joined them on a small hill blocking the Prussians’ advance. Out in front of their main force, the lone regiment lacked support but was determined to hold its ground.

Breakfast is rudely interrupted by 15,000 noisy Prussians. The Baden troops form up as the first artillery rounds hit the town.

Within half an hour the Prussians had formed up from their column of march and launched a brigade-sized attack on the hill, while the other brigade and the artillery marched around to approach the town head-on.

Despite their numbers the Prussians wilted in the face of the defenders’ fire, and were repulsed from the hill. Their Brigadier was wounded while leading from the front. As they reformed and prepared for a second attack, the division’s 2nd brigade assaulted Sprendlingen itself.

The Prussian second attack captures the hill, but the assault on the town is meeting heavy resistance

With a 4,000 man garrison and 2 batteries of artillery, the town was a very tough nut to crack. Despite its own artillery support, which was later augmented by the 24 guns of the Korps reserve, the Prussian charge was stopped at the edge of town and thrown back. A second regiment followed up, and made some ground, but the defenders held and once again the Prussians fell back in disorder.

The Prussian reserve artillery concentrates its fire on the town, but it’s not enough

To their left the small hill was the scene of further dramatic action as the assault intensified. Both sides threw in their respective cavalry brigades but, despite their casualties, eventually Prussian numbers prevailed and the high ground was theirs. Despite his earlier wound, their brigadier led the subsequent attacks and fell at the moment of success. Similarly, the Baden infantry and cavalry brigadiers were killed in the fierce fighting. With the troops of both sides in disarray, and largely leaderless, the action in this sector of the field was to die down for a time.

Despite their courage, the Prussians aren’t able to fight their way into Sprendlingen
Baden’s slender cavalry force is flung at the hill in an attempt to halt the Prussians

While the fight for Sprendlingen settled into an artillery duel, events to the west began to give the battle a new dimension. Arriving a little later than the 1st Division, the Prussian 2nd Division had been held up by another small contingent of Baden Landwehr Jager. A battalion of line infantry had to deploy in support of the Division’s own Jagers, to ensure the offending picket line was swept away as efficiently as possible. Although accomplished in a text-book manner, it all took time and resulted in 10,000 men halted in depth along the road. When the Prussians finally resumed their march there was some further disruption due to units becoming inter-mixed. As they fled south, the surviving Badeners could at least congratulate themselves on achieving their orders to delay any invaders.

The Prussians picked up their pace again but soon became aware of a new enemy ahead of them. The fast-marching French from the 1st Division of II Corps, had arrived and were taking up defensive positions on the left flank of their Baden allies. A direct clash was inevitable and once again the Prussians would be attacking uphill.

Always best to check your flank before forming for an attack!
Things are not looking too pretty for the Prussians

The Prussians attempted to combine a frontal attack with one from the flank, but the French managed to pre-empt them and their 2 regiments of cavalry sent an entire Brigade of infantry tumbling back. The frontal assault, left to attack on its own, continued valiantly but suffered severe losses. Further fighting took place but the Prussian 2nd Division was a spent force and the French had successfully shored up the allies’ left flank.

The French hold the hill and manage to outflank the Prussian reserve

Meanwhile, on the other side of the battlefield the Prussians gathered themselves for one last attack and managed to drive off the remnants of the Baden right flank. Now somewhat isolated, the Sprendlingen garrison was subjected to concentrated Prussian artillery fire and losses started to mount. However, the Prussian Korps commander, General Zonhoff, realised that with his infantry in no fit state to attack again on either flank it was time to pull back.

View across the field, hit markers everywhere!
The final positions before the Prussians withdrew

Casualties had been heavy all-round, but for now Darmstadt was safe. Both sides would now have to decide whether to take a bit of time to gather their forces for a more measured campaign, or to try to seize the initiative while the enemy was still relatively unprepared.

More soon…

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

Campaign background here:

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:

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


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.


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.


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


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.


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…

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.

Recent Games 3 – DBN

A couple of weeks ago I played in a very enjoyable 4 player game of DBN. The figures were 10mm, mostly using Goat Major’s lovely 1809 collection, but with a Corps of Prussians from Andy and a very small contribution from me (Austrians and Bavarians).

It would have been a bigger contribution but I have to admit that I struggled with painting these figures, especially at first. These Pendraken figures are too detailed to get away with a rough ‘6mm style’ of painting, but small enough that everything is fairly tricky. After a few elements’ worth I started to get the hang of them, but I didn’t get as many done as I’d intended.

My Bavarian General:

The beauty of DBN is that although we clustered round a very small (3 foot by 2 foot) board, we played a proper Napoleonic battle with the equivalent of 2 Corps per side. The rules work very well and the figures and scenery looked good. Goat Major and I just about held on in a fairly bloody affair.

Some of Andy’s splendid Prussians:

I have continued (slowly) painting some more figures for this and will aim to finish my intended Austrian and Bavarian Corps for future games. Despite over 30 years in the hobby these are the first proper Napoleonics I’ve collected, which probably puts me in a tiny minority of gamers. I do, however, already understand the collecting megalomania that can follow, along with the desire to play in bigger and bigger games!



Recent Games 2 – Rangers of Shadow Deep

This continues to be an entertaining and challenging game. A recent 2-player session, with a ranger and small posse each, saw us rattle through 5 of the scenarios from the main rulebook. Casualties were relatively light, but brushes with death commonplace!

Next time round we’ll start on the Convent Mission.

The bridge guard game, Orcs substituted for Gnolls:


The stairway down, fly holes and difficult ground to negotiate: