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: 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.

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.

Welcome to the New Version of the Blog

After the recent photobucalypse I’ve taken the opportunity to change hosting and other arrangements for my blog. This wouldn’t have happened without Andy’s help and generosity – so a big thanks to Count Belisarius for everything, you’re a star!

Hopefully the re-direct is working from the old Blogger-based blog.

Apologies to those people who were very kindly following the blog, but it’s not been possible to migrate you across to here. I hope you will continue to follow now we’re set up here on WordPress. Everything else has been expertly migrated by Andy, although if any pictures fail (they should be working at the moment) that’ll be my fault for not getting them all re-linked yet.

While I’ve tried to take advantage of the good things available in WordPress, I’ve also been conscious of not hacking about too much with the basic format. It’s still a blog about my hobby efforts, and I don’t have big ambitions to turn this into a full-on website. I may add some new bits as we go though, once I’m more familiar with how things work.

I’ve got a bit of catching up to do so there will be some posts to follow shortly.

So, thanks for visiting, and if you’ve stumbled in here by accident, I’m sure you’ll find an escape route!

Cards for Sharp Practice

As I’m just about ready for a first solo game of Sharp Practice I thought it was time to get a key component sorted – the cards. The game requires quite a few, in two decks. The Bonus cards are generally for random events and national characteristics, and I’ve generally done those with simple text on a white background.

The Game deck is more interesting as it has specific cards for each side, the key ones being those that activate each Big Man (named leader). For these I’ve nicked an idea I’d seen previously – putting a picture of the associated miniature on the card so it can be easily identified during the game. The last thing you want is constantly having to check which figure is ‘blue big man no.3’. So all my leader figures have been to a photo shoot and had their images pasted into a national colour-specific card containing important information about the character.

All the cards are printed from computer (prepared in Excel as you can format things with quite a lot of freedom) and put into card trading game wallets for protection, and so they can be shuffled, etc.

A Visit to Campaign Headquarters

This weekend I had the great pleasure of visiting the renowned wargamer and figure sculptor John Ray at his home, and more specifically in his tremendous wargames room; to meet him for the first time, be introduced to his post Seven Years War campaign (which he’s kindly invited me to join), see the mighty collection – all sculpted by John himself, and natter about wargaming for several hours.

The company and hospitality were first class, and we discussed all aspects of our shared hobby – and our respective approaches to it. The figure collection was everything I’d expected it to be and more, with gorgeous units filling the display cabinets. As a big bonus, John had thoughtfully laid on a ‘small’ game (a tiny percentage of his armies but enough to represent an interesting tactical challenge) with which to illustrate how his rules work, and contribute a small piece to the overall campaign picture. I enjoyed the game very much and was impressed by the smooth simplicity of the rules, which belied their subtle cleverness and suitability for the mid-18th century period. I think my Wurttembergers made a sufficient showing at the border against the Prussian invaders to ensure that honour was served, before pulling back to preserve their strength for another day.

John also shared with me some of his plans which follow on from his book (A Military Gentleman – if you haven’t got a copy already, get one now before they’re all gone!), which sound very interesting indeed. I for one am looking forward to these developments, and the campaign is clearly going to be a fascinating experience.

All in all I had a superb day in the company of a true Wargaming Gentleman and came away inspired to keep working on my own 18th century collection while I look forward to my next visit.

A Handy Gadget?

Wargamers will make use of almost any household item for modelling or playing, and I think it’s fair to say that most of us are sub-consciously on the lookout for possibilities as we go about our daily lives.

Which brings me to a new item, received by my wife as part of a corporate gift set at work (odd I know!): a triple timer for soft, medium and hard boiled eggs.

I have now acquired said egg timer and my initial thought was using it in games for time-restricted moves. How about 3 minutes to carry out your moves and decisions if your on-table general or sub-commander is rated Poor, 5 minutes for Average and 8 minutes for Exceptional? Got to be fun!

Any other ideas?