Without the customary Austrian dithering, General von Blomberg went straight into the attack, ordering his lead battalions to form up for an immediate assault on the French position.
With only a shallow stream to cross, the cavalry peeled off to the left to find a way to outflank the French.
As their attack on the inn was about to start, the Austrians were alarmed to see a French regiment approaching at speed along the other side of the stream. Fortunately the reserve battalions were still in column and were able to be quickly diverted onto the high ground overlooking the waterway, and the newly arrived enemy.
The Austrian attackers stubbornly ground forward, and after half an hour of fierce fighting they ejected the French from their original position.
The 2nd French regiment pulled back to maintain contact with the retreating units and, believing this was their moment, the Austrians pursued off the hill and across the stream. It was a rash move, and brought them under intense fire from two sides. Having suffered heavy losses, they were ordered to withdraw and were a sorry looking lot when they finally made it back to the high ground.
Elsewhere the French had received further reinforcements in the form of another brigade of infantry, and one of cavalry. The infantry shored up the line and counter-attacked at the inn, only to be eventually repulsed. The cavalry were charged by their Austrian counterparts and honours were largely even in this melee – until the French brigadier was killed, causing disruption and a command vacuum on this flank.
From his vantage point, Von Blomberg took stock of the situation. Although victory appeared close, with the sudden the loss of one of his brigadiers, heavy casualties to his infantry, and his cavalry out of position, he realised that he could not risk prolonging the battle. The bridgehead across the stream was isolated, so he reluctantly he gave the order to withdraw. The relieved French gladly let them go. Both sides would need time to recover and their commanders were soon to be writing hasty dispatches to headquarters asking for orders and reinforcements.
The Austrian invasion in the south was halted, for now.
With drums beating and much fanfare the Austrians finally marched into the war. Baron von Blomberg’s Division had set off from Ravensburg 2 days earlier and, after crossing the Danube at Blochingen, his cavalry patrols reported French troops covering a river crossing just short of Sigmaringen.
The French were a regiment and one battery from General Epinasse’s 1st Division of I Corps, which had been ordered to guard a bridge on one of the Danube’s tributaries. Sensibly, the French were bivouacked around the inn conveniently situated beside the bridge, and their officers had been enjoying a most comfortable stay while their men camped outside.
Alerted by the sighting of the Austrian scouts the Colonel assembled his men and messengers were sent to the rear and along the river in both directions, calling for reinforcements. Before any help arrived, the first Austrian infantry could be seen marching down the road towards the bridge…
With the Prussians and Bavarians sent tumbling back by a resilient defence in the north and east, it was the turn of the Austrians to make their own isolated and unsupported attack. On 9th July the commander of 1st Korps’ 1st Division, Baron von Blomberg, was ordered to cross the border and scout for the enemy around Sigmaringen. The rest of the formation would be assembling behind them and would follow as soon as possible.
Taking the Korps Cavalry brigade with him he left Ravensburg and crossed the Danube, seeing no sign of any enemy activity. Perhaps Wurttemberg had no troops left to watch their southern border due to all the fighting to the north?
Following on from the pre-amble in the last post… with the two armies approaching in column of march, the allies from the south and the Prussians from the north, a head-on clash was inevitable.
Orders of march were established and the first turn saw each side’s lead infantry brigade appear, heading for the town.
Note on rules: As each turn starts, a roll is made for formations due to arrive that turn. On a 2-5 they arrive on time, on a 6 they arrive and get a bonus move (as though they’d arrived earlier than expected), and on a 1 they don’t turn up. They can roll again next turn, but of course it means that plans may be delayed – and of course all formations behind them on the same road are also held up. In this game there were a few 1s rolled, the first being the 2nd Prussian brigade, which left the first arrivals somewhat isolated at the start of the battle.
As the battle developed, both sides were anxious for their reinforcements to reach the field. Unfortunately for the allies, the British brigade managed to roll 1 on two consecutive turns and arrived an hour late – resulting in cries of “Perfidious Albion!” from the embattled French!
The difficult terrain presented deployment challenges to both sides, with hills and woods pretty much in all directions as soon as you left the road. Nevertheless, it was possible for fresh troops to make progress and by early afternoon the battle had extended 1-2 km to either flank.
Seeing an opportunity to pin back the allied left flank, the Prussian commander unleashed a cavalry charge down the valley alongside the road. Preceded by horse artillery to draw the enemy’s fire, 4 regiments were ordered to attack the French guns deployed on the low rise to the west of the town. Only 3 managed to assemble in time, the slopes beside the road impeding the cuirassiers’ attempts to form up. Dashing along the valley floor and past their own guns, the Prussian uhlans reached their objective and a desperate struggle took place around the cannon. Both sides showed great courage and stayed in the fight despite growing losses.
The late-arriving British shook themselves out into fighting formation with admirable speed, and went in with the bayonet. Despite putting up a tough fight, the uhlans were sent packing and the gun line was secured. There was barely enough time to catch their breath before the doughty highlanders came under heavy artillery and infantry fire as the Prussians brought up more troops. Under a rain of fire and, towards the end of the battle, a final Prussian infantry assault, the British losses mounted but they held their ground. The left flank was secure.
Across the field brigades of cavalry stood back in reserve while each side’s infantry tried to gain some advantage among the fields and woods. In the end, despite some successes, the Prussians failed to dislodge the French and Wurttemberg troops. Their Divisional commander was killed leading an uphill charge and his men’s morale faltered. In the centre, the 1st Prussian Division, engaged since the start, eventually crumbled and was driven back the way they’d come, covered by the reserve artillery. Prince Karl ordered a general withdrawal back into the hills.
The allies had won an important victory, their second in 3 days, and a fitting reward for their hard marching. The Prussians would have to think again, both Korps now having recoiled from their attempted invasions. Both armies now had some time to re-group and prepare for the next stage of the campaign.
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 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.
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.
To the east, the Bavarian cavalry reserve was just coming onto the field, cantering forward to try to turn the tide.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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…