20 July 2016

My 7YW French 8 inch Howitzer model plus my new French ammunition cart models

Finally, 3 years after presenting my research on the single French design howitzer construction of the SYW period, I managed to do my own scratch built model of the piece.
Its a heavy battery gun, not likely to see employment in a moving engagement. Its certainly not a field gun. 



At the 1:55 scale for my 30 mm flats or 1:56 for 28 mm 3D miniatures, the bore of this piece arrives at approx. 4 mm by scaling this pieces bore of 8 inch 3 lines or 8.25 inch down.
Close-up view of the barrel, which is a conversion of a model supplied by MiniFigs I purchased many yeas ago. I added sculptured dolphins and 2 rings on the chase using ‘green stuff’, based on my earlier illustration of this piece seen below.
MiniFigs did a rather good job, as their take of what should be an 8 inch howitzer is a rather dead-on-target match to the French model. I believe their template was either the French Gribeauval M 1767 or a similar English model of the same period. Anyway, the barrel is rather dead on with the earlier French construction as can be seen below with my print-out to scale.
An earlier scratch built howitzer model of mine wasn't all that bad as well. I will use this one to turn it into an Hannoverian 30-pdr howitzer, which is likewise a 8 inch class piece. The bracket cheeks will be replaced by a Danish design of this period. My gut instinct says, Hannoverian designs may have been rather similar.

There is also another interesting source illustrating a French howitzer, unfortunately incomplete.
The afore illustration along with some rather interesting information about French artillery material, actually being fielded during the SYW in Germany derives from an appendix found with the German 1766 published translation of the French original book by Le Blond, L'Artillerie Raisonnée, etc., first published Paris 1761. The appendix is the German editor's/author's add on, missing with the original French edition. The author was a certain Johann Wilhelm Jäger, Ingenieur Capitaine-Lieutenant and appointed Master of Ordnance of the Burghers Arsenal of the City of Frankfurt/Main. His illustrated barrel is a 6.5 inch piece, as per its caption. The somewhat cropped line should read 6 1/2 Zoll, to my understanding. Thats interesting. Apart from the 8 inch model, I have read only of 16 pounder models fielded in 1760. This 6.5 inch piece would be a 12 pound stone class of howitzer, rather then 16 pound stone. Possibly this isn't a French manufactured piece, but an import. Possibly purchased from Nuremberg?!?. In any case, I will try to get copies of the entire foldout sheets from the library which keeps the original book.

Next, I also did 4 ammunition carts for my French artillery. 

The below draft served as template for my three French carts.

Source: copyright restricted
Digital Collection
Württembergische Landesbibliothek, Stuttgart, Germany.
It is published here for purely academic use without any commercial intention.


The wonderful draft gave me the dimensions. The two models with the red coloured wax cloth covers were done according to the draft, more or less. The other with a wood construction cover I did according to the carts seen in the right background on the below oil painting. It has the drafts recommended dimensions with the ammunition container measuring 2h x 6l x 3w feet and the cover with a height of 1 foot. The two earlier ones with the wax cloth cover are slimmer with a width of only 2 feet. 3 feet lookod odd to me in the beginning, but now I believe 3 feet is just right.
There was also a 4-wheel construction found as per the below draft.
Source: copyright restricted
Digital Collection
Württembergische Landesbibliothek, Stuttgart, Germany.
It is published here for purely academic use without any commercial intention.

Also interesting is the below drawingalbeit incomplete and somewhat more scetchyit is rather similar to the above construction. It also provides a view to the way the ammunition was stored inside. This sheet is also found in the afore mentioned Jäger appendix.
Most oviously, this 4-wheel construction was used with the French ‘Swedish’ light 4-pounder battalion gun, for it also carried a share of musket rounds, stored in 50 round packages, in the centre box of the wagon. As per Jäger's caption it held 70 container boxes for an equal number of cannister rounds in the front part, and apparently the same number of boxes for shot cartiges in the rear, or a total of 140 cannon rounds, not including the ready ammunition stored in a coffre carried on the pieces limber (unfortunately undisclosed with the google library copy). This caisson entitled wagon is illustrated with a cover made of thin zinc plate instead of the former custom wax cloth, to provide better protection against fire. During an action somewhere near Cassel, Jäger explains, an Allied howitzer shell exploded near one of these caissons with the shells burning fragments setting the caisson aflame resuting in it exploding and killing a many men from among the nearby standing infantry battalion. Most apparently, this story does allude to the elsewhere documented incident at Korbach, 10 July 1760, were precisely this happended to a battalion of the regiment Auvergene. Seen from Frankfurt, Korbach is indeed ‘somewhere near’ Kassel. Therefore I would assume this sheet metal cover caissons must have first seen servive with the 1761 campaign. I think I will do 1 or 2 of these caissons as well. 
Source: image gallery of Kieler Zinnfiguren foundry at http://www.kieler-zinnfiguren.de/Listen/siebenj-Krieg.html

Above miniatures are from a wonderful series of casts of French train wagons and draught horses. I hope Kieler Zinnfiguren still sells them. I will need a whole load of them.

29 June 2016

The Action of Volkmarsen*** 24 July 1760 – The Day of the Light Troops

Here is my next game – another Scenario, based on my 1760 Summer Campaign in Lower Hessen with its French versus Allies historic unfought ‘Near Battles’ being fought. I must say, so far, my project has turned into a nice ‘scenario generator’ producing great games in multiples. This time it’s the Action at Volkmarsen on the Twiste rivulet. 

The French army passes the village of Külte.

The French army closes in on Volkmarsen, the walled town seen on the banks of the Twiste rivulet.
I simply follow French maréchal Broglie’s plan to tour the landscapes or regions of the Grimm Brothers fairy-tales with his 1760 summer campaign. I do not want to detract from the great work of the Brothers Grimm, but I find it so compelling to add my own imagination in the wake of Broglie's progress within the lands Grimm's fairy-tales. The Hesse-Waldeck region really is the home of the Snow White tale. The historic Snow White is believed to be based on the story of an ill-fated love affair of a young exceptionally pretty and brilliant Waldeck princess with young Habsburg/Spanish prince Phillip – later Phillip II – at the court of Brussels. She simply wasn’t a match adhering to standards, and was poisoned in the event just to avoid improper Habsburg-Waldeck marriage then.


The combat of Volkmarsen isn’t based on a near – but a real historic action. All the French troops listed on my above orbat sheets were the ones that took part in the affair, really. Also the historic order of battle for the Allied corps of general Spörcken is authentic as well has the troops under Wangenheim and Oheimb deployed to support him.

The scenario is based on the same 24 July operation that also my earlier Saxenhausen battle further below is based on. What makes it so interesting to me is the rather unusual vast number of light troops committed in this battle. More then 50% of the French total Lights of the Army took part here, and also a good part of the Allies Lights were involved. I never played a SYW game with so many light troops involved. I’m curious how it will play. 


The odds in numbers in favour of the French should be somewhat offset by the nature of the terrain, with the Allies found well concealed by a number of mostly marshy banked streams or rivulets, crossable at the bridges and marked fords only.
General Chabot's command of about 7,000 light troops closing in on Spörcken's position
The Kugelsburg ruin ontop Kugelsberg hill, occupied by parts of Spörken's light troops. As I don't have the Légion Britannique, my lights are substituted by Highlanders, Jägers, and Hussards

Spörcken with his forward troops near the walled town of Volkmarsen

Spörckens camp ontop the Scheid high ground


From all I was able to collect, the real historic action was fought for the most part as a mere cannonade, with only some of the light troops actually being committed. That’s why it is found below the horizon of most of the available history accounts, I believe. And it is also the reason why it cannot be entitled a battle. Neither were the 2 armies main forces involved, nor did the action end up in a general engagement of most troops present. The newly raised Légion Britannique had its ‘baptism of fire’ that day as it engaged in a smart fight for the contest of its advanced position around the village of Külte. This part of the historic action, I have not included with my scenario. I start with the French being master of Külte and at the point to advance on Volkmarsen. The troops told to support Spörcken never did so, but were either found committed by the force of general Clozen, or the force of the grenadiers of general St.Pern with that days general attack of the entire French army. The minor changes I did to turn it into my Scenario are 1st: the supports of Wangenheim and Oheimb really being in support as off table reserves, & 2nd: as a result of it, the French force of Clozen told to prevent this will also engage. I assumed, old general de St.Pern either was found lost – as at Krefeld in 1758, or lacked the required determination to beat or at least tie his opponents – as happened with his somewhat screwed attack at Bork (Westphalia), 29 Sept. 1758. General Kielmansegg’s few troops as part of Wangenheim’s command were enough to tackle him, and the remainder managed to march off to support poor pressed Spörcken at Volkmarsen. 

The report on how the game went will follow once it has being played.

Finally, 18 June, it has been played. See the below for more details of the scenario settings and AAR.

Playing the Action of Volkmarsen
Terrain
All streams, except the Wetterbach, are marshy banked and are impassable for artillery of any kind. All line infantry crossing will loose their battalion guns. Artillery can cross at the existing bridges and the fords found at Billstein Mill, Roden, and Külte.
Between Volkmarsen and Billstein Mill, the Twiste is edged by orchards blocking line of sight and providing some cover for light infantry, but will also disorder formed troops while moving through. All other wooded areas are treated as dense, or as forests in V&B terms.
Special Scenario Rules
As can be seen on my orbit sheet, all French dragoons are treated as light cavalry, in this game based as cavalry skirmishers. In addition, they may dismount and fight as light skirmishing infantry.
All the line cavalry based on massed stands is considered heavy, regardless whether it is dragoons, horse, or cuirassiers
Engineering
As an additional scenario rule, the French principal force of Du Muy is assumed to have light bridging material marching at the head of its two columns. They receive 2 such bridges which they are allowed to jet across the Twiste Stream at a point of their choosing. Any French unit of Du Muy's Corps may simply be moved to the desired spot at the Twiste Stream, and the bridge construction will commence with the next turn at this chosen spot. It takes 3 hours/turns to complete the construction of such a bridge (here I follow the time scale of the Austrians crossing the Lohe stream at the Battle of Breslau, 22 November 1757. Under the cover of several heavy batteries they managed to throw 7 such column bridges across the Lohe in precisely 3 hours 15 minutes, and within sight of the Prussians! The Austrians took good advantage of the dense morning fog found during this time of season, while its batteries silenced all threatening Prussian guns within a matter of an hour as the weather cleared. To give the French a chance to accomplish something similar without the support of the Austrian siege artillery at hand that day, I decided to cover the Twiste Stream with orchards, extensive enough to conceal it from other but close range vision.)
Victory conditions
The French attack and move first. The game starts with the 9 a.m. turn and ends with the 9 p.m. turn, or earlier if the one or other side is found defeated before. To win, the French must seize either Volkmarsen or the Kugelsburg ruin in combination with the Watchtower on the ‘Scheid’ high grounds (with this game treated as a village). The Allies win if the French fail to archive their objective till nightfall.
Initial deployment
French
All French troops are deployed on table except the detachment of general Clozen, who will arrive only the turn after the last Allied reenforcement has entered the table (see afore sketch). With our game, all French entered in my simplified house rule cross country march column with all units found with a depth equal the unit frontage if deployed, except artillery, which is found with doubled depth of its bases depth. Du Muy enters in two columns with the lead elements already past Külte and closing in on Volkmarsen. Maréchal Broglie's younger brother's command enters in a single column with the lead elements already near Billstein Mill. Chabot's light troops may deploy formed anywhere within 10 inches/thousand yards of Wieberkirch on the East side of the Erpe Stream.
Allies
General Spörken's principal force deploys on the ‘Scheid’ high ground were it was found encamped. Its left aligning towards Lütersheim and its right stretching past the ‘Watchtower’. The light troops of the Légion Britannique may be placed anywhere along Spörken's side of the Wetterbach, Twiste, and Erpe streams. Also the Kugelsburg ruin and the woods to its north may be occupied. In addition, 1 grenadier unit of Spörken's main force may occupy Volkmarsen.
The command of general Oheimb will enter on the South edge of the table between Lütersheim and the Erpe Stream with the 1 p.m. turn, and Wangenheim with the 2 p.m. turn immediately behind Oheimb.

Well then, how did it play?
Saturday 18 June – Kolin & Warterloo Day – we finally managed to gather and play the Action of Volkmarsen. Two players on the French side, including myself, and once more M*** playing the Allies. Possibly not such a good decision with regard my continued desire to see the French victorious. M*** defended his position most brilliant and in combination with his notorious lucky dice – believed to be secretly blessed at Santiago de Compostella – he left the French without a chance.

Initially, all went fine for the French. In two columns Du Muy's Corps passed Külte and neared on Volkmarsen. The first or right column under my command, comprising the artillery and the infantry of the first line, started to form behind the Twiste to the west of Volkmarsen and with the second turn the construction of 2 bridges commenced right in front of them. 
Below see another image of one of my newly scratch build wooden bridges. This image was done at my earlier solo play-test game. For once, those Pionnier miniatures that had spent all their life in my shelf were found with a ‘real’ mission in a game.
L*** commanding the second or left column comprising Castries cavalry and the infantry of general Travers opted to cross the Twiste at the bridge near Volkmarsen.
Here, they met determined opposition. The light troops of Chabot headed for the Kugelsburg hill in an attempt to get into the rear of the enemy.

They met little opposition. M*** let them close in cold blooded by calculating his reinforcements could deal with them at a later stage of the affair.
On the French right, the command of the comte de Broglie closed in on Billstein Mill in an attempt to tie as many Allies as possible in order to prevent them to spoil the construction of the bridges. M*** concentrated most of his artillery against Broglie inflicting heavy loss to the French.

In my game, Broglie's command was represented by my Saxons under Lusace. Note my new scratch build Saxon ammunition cart on the right, that came along with the Saxon Quick Firer guns. The troops instantly decided to entitle it "le Saint Arche d'Alliance" – apparently as a result of its somewhat odd boxy design. Below see a closer take of my new French and Saxon ammunition carts. I'm rather fond of them, though, the Saxon model ended up too large. It should be smaller, now that I see it next to the others.
Broglie's command (my Saxons) were eventually fought down and exhausted before the bridges were completed. At around the same time the Allies reinforcements arrived in the rear of Spörken's force, the bridges were completed and the French infantry started to cross the Twiste. I guess I was too eager to get as many troops across that bloody stream as possible.

The result of it was a rather dense mass of disordered French assembling behind only a light screen of formed troops. Too light, as it turned out. M*** saw the moment to strike and threw in all his cavalry and more infantry at close hand to deliver a most violent and determined blow. The French first line was thrown back causing multiple routs among the disordered troops in the rear. This major accident decided the day. All of Du Muy's first line infantry was smashed in a single strike. The French continued to press forward with all that was left, but with the meanwhile engaging Allied reinforcements, Spörken had more troops then needed to see off any following French attacks. All French objectives remained in Allied hands. A clear Allied victory once more.

 

14 April 2016

The Battle of Hastenbeck, 26 July 1757 – refought

On 2016 Easter Friday, our group played a refight of the battle of Hastenbeck. Originally we were supposed to be 5 players, but two fell sick the days before, so that we were left with only 3 players. Two on the French side, including myself, and one for the Hannoverian Army. I was also not feeling so well and got struck by a flu for the remainder of the Easter Holidays. That's one of the reasons why this AAR is published only now.
I always believed Hastenbeck is anything but a perfect wargame scenario, as a result of the odd terrain and the considerable French superiority in troops and artillery. As said in my previous article below, that's why it took me 12 years from my extensive research done on this battle to making it a game. How mistaken I was! The game played really well with everybody having a great time. As said in my previous article, the game was played with Volley & Bayonet rules and the scenario was based on Frank Chadwick's "Battle's of the Seven Years War", vol. 2: "The Strategic Flanks". A great scenario to play, and likely to supersede Minden as my favorite SYW French vs. Allies battles. I converted his orbats into my preferred visual layout play sheets with inserting my troops and some non-historic generals in order to minimize re-labeling.

The battle evolved somewhat different as the historic one as a result of the Hannoverian Army's somewhat altered deployment.


According to the scenario, the Allies deployed first anywhere behind a line running East-West between the South edge of Hastenbeck village and North edge of Voremberg, which remained unoccupied to the front of their position. As in the historical battle the Hannoverian's placed their batteries in field works to command the bottleneck between Hastenbeck and the wooded Schrecken heights with the Obensberg hilltop, but also deployed troops to the East of the hills. Strangely, also a cavalry division was placed to the South of the Haste Stream between Hastenbeck and the Weser River, which marked the West edge of the table. Not such a good idea, as it turned out. Most of the superior numbered French cavalry of the left wing fell upon them & the Hannoverians were eliminated in the first turn. Below see the end result of this French 1st turn assault. The Hannoverian horse was found eliminated with a single strike, thanks to the French light horse that managed to move into the rear of the enemy, thus, denying them to fall back across the bridge across the marshy banked Haste Stream. A good start for the French. I instantly went off to my fridge to arrange for our Victory Champagne ice cool – for cheering to this certain French arms day of glory.
The French initial deployment and general plan of attack was otherwise not so different from the historic plan. The terrain simply left us with little alternatives.
The French left wing infantry gets moving forward.
So does the French right under my command. A many photos were done during this game. It took me a while to sort out the best selection for a good narrative. That's another reason for the delay of this AAR.
Meanwhile the Hannoverian Army of Observation was ‘observing’ the French initial moves.
Above see a close-up of Cumberlands Grenadiers under Hardenberg securing the batteries.
The French right wing was reenforced by most of the French cavalry of the right as a result of the entire force of general Oberg to the East of the Schrecken heights. Oberg soon realized that he was opposing far superior numbers of French and withdrew his troops onto the high ground to his rear forming a line along the edge of the woods. Now the battle started in earnest with Cherverts' men executing its flank turning movement. Supported by cavalry he now closed in on Obergs' division that had formed an angle to Cumberland's main position West fo the Schrecken high ground. At the same time Broglie, on the French left, closed in on Hastenbeck supported by the French heavy artillery. 
The French left under Broglie attacking Hastenbeck village
 D'Armentière's Corps of the right closing in on Cumberland's left wing batterie.
Broglie's light troops seize Hastenbeck.
 D'Armentière's guns target Cumberland's batterie.
Chervert's Corps of the far right closes in on Oberg's division.

Close-up of the contest between Chervert's and Oberg's men for the Schrecken high ground securing the flank of Cumberland's position.
Gradually, the French pushed forward taking every Hannoverian strongpoint one by one. First, the Obensberg hilltop was seized by French light troops, next fell Hastenbeck, and the two right hand batteries were captured and its guns silenced.

The brave lads of regiment Piédmont attack the batterie of the centre.
 The guns were silenced…
…and Piédmont seizes the batterie.
The Hannoverians defended every inch of their position like lions, resulting in heavy loss on both sides.

The French cavalerie of the left continued to threaten Cumberland's far right by signalling to pass the stream. General Imhoff's entire division was needed to secure the Haste stream.
 After the batteries had all been taken by the French, they now pushed forward through the defile between Hastenbeck village and the Obensberg hilltop.
The aftermath from the contest for the Schmiedebrink highgroud seen, after the French pressed on forward. A fine example oncemore prooving the old German miniature collectors saying: "Its the dead and dying that'll make your scenery look alive".

In came now Cumberlands revenge. The Hannoverians had been pushed back to their Alamo Position. With their backs to the wall, they were unwilling to accept defeat and decided for one final all-out attack on Contades Corps of the Centre.


My Co-Player V*** failed about every single morale check resulting in a super disaster. Contades Corps was smashed in a single turn, including our so valuabble heavy guns. This accident decided the day, as by that time also Cheverts Corps of the right along with the right wing cavalerie had been fought down into exhaustion. The French started to run out of troops, and it was only two or three turns to go till nightfall.
Above you see about the final stage of the battle. The Hannoverians somehow managed to form a last final line, that the French were unable to crush. The battle was lost to the French as the French cavalerie attack – most desperate – accross the Haste stream was also a total falure. I knew that happening before, but was unable to prevent V*** from doing such a silly thing.
A great game it was, that we will surely play another time sometime in the near future.