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
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
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
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.
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. 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.