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Bad news for the French

March 19, 2010

Fois-Gras looked at the messenger with the kind of concerned, yet disdainful look that only an aristocrat brought up on the finest truffles could give.

‘Merde!’ he cursed in a foppish, yet decisive way. The message itself, hurriedly scribbled on the back of what looked like a musical score-sheet, bore bad news. Reinforcements from the King of Bavaria had arrived only a day ago, but now a force of Imperial troops had appeared at Grenzschafen. Fois-Gras’ plan to move over to the offensive against Pritzwalk and his forces had been completely foiled.

Looking at the map rolled out on the camp table in front of him, held down by two half empty and two fully empty glasses of brandy, a deep thought creased his forehead. If he could establish a line between the Klein-Rhein and the Khutzewald that could be defended lightly, he would force march his best troops east and deal with the Imperials in a surprise attack. Should the maritime powers be bold enough to attack, a second line was to be constructed by the peasants of Frankenberg outside Dolfstein. The holding force would retire upon these lines.

Taking another gulp of Brandy, and patting his faithful dog, Malodorant, Fois-Gras signalled to his aides-de-camp.

‘Get ze Garde, ze Gendarmerie, ze La Marck Regiment and ze Villequier regiment readee. We marsh in sree ow-ers.’  Oh, and ze Bavieres aussi. Tout de suite!’ (translation for those ungentlemanly enough amongst you to be ignorant of the universal tongue of Europe: ‘Hurry it up, we’re going in three hours.’)

Monsieur le Marquis de Fois-Gras outside Dolfstein, with his dog Malodorant and assorted aides-de-camp.

Second Battle of Rheineck

January 13, 2010

On the 21st May 1707 the Confederate forces received reinforcements and a new general, the Prussian Wilhelm von Pritzwalk. He immediately set about organising his forces for a flank march to turn the French position at Rheineck. Leaving a Brigade to spread out in front of the French lines and ordering them to light extra campfires at night, he constructed pontoons northeast of Rheineck and crossed the rest of his force to the right bank of the Frank river. His plan was to march down this bank and bridge the river again behind the French position. It called for speed and guile, and the wily Prussian had both. He set up the new pontoons on the early morning of the 26th May.  French piquets had spotted dust clouds on the northern bank, and Fois-Gras immediately realised the situation. Ever aggressive, his immediate thought was to defeat the weak screening force that must be holding the Allied position opposite his lines. Then he decided that time was against him and concentrated his forces for a withdrawal.

Meanwhile, the first elements of the Allied forces were crossing the Frank in a hurried fashion. The scene was set for a battle where reserves would arrive piecemeal and advance into battle.

No artists were present at the battle, it being far too hurried an affair for any lazy bohemian to keep up, and it would be insulting to publish here any of the wildly inaccurate engravings that were produced in later years.  Instead, the author has walked the ground and found it remarkably unchanged. Upon a satellite map he has indicated the general movements of the troops as best as he can make out.

Although the epic cavalry clash on the Left wing of the Allied position was technically a victory for the Maritime powers, the ability of Fois-Gras to marshal the Gendarmerie,  reposition it in his centre, and help batter his way through Lord Maykitt’s English brigade proved vital. After a hard fought encounter, the French opened the road to Frankenberg and escaped.

Noteworthy was the defeat of the Gardes Francaises, after an appallingly disordered advance they received a volley point blank and broke to the rear. The First Foot Guards was the regiment responsible, and the meeting of the guards at Rheineck is a renowned moment in the Wurst war, and indeed in the whole of the wars of the Spanish Succession.

Of all the Allied foot regiments in battle, Churchill’s foot was the most important, continuing to attack even as the rest of the Allied army withdrew to defensive positions at the pontoon bridgehead.

As night fell, the Allies attempted to reorganise their battered army around the bridgehead, but it was in too parlous a state to renew the offensive as the French army manning the lines at Rheineck slipped east, covered by the Gendarmerie, full of fighting fettle following their splendid battlefield performance.

Having won the strategic victory of forcing the lines of Rheineck, Pritzwalk retired to his tent to imbibe some schnapps and prepare his next move. Fois-Gras, hurting from being outmanouevred but pleased that his small force had acquitted itself so well twice in the space of a fortnight, sipped brandy and contemplated the map for his next move. At 2am he was reached by a rider with good news – reinforcements had entered the Archbishopric!

Nate

First Battle of Rheineck, 15th May 1707

December 26, 2009

Having quickly occupied Beckstein, the Allies were confident of a swift capture of Frankenberg itself. However, the French commander Le Comte de Fois-Gras had not been idle. He had constructed a fortified line along the River Klein-Rhein (a tributary of the River Frank), and garrisoned it with a strong force. On the 14th May the Allies, consisting largely of British troops under Lord William Maykit (Willie to his friends) camped in the shadow of the Rheinberg hill, in preparation for an advance over the Klein-Rhein the following morning. Maykit was visibly agitated when informed by his scouts that evening of the strength of the French position.

Maykit ordered further scouting and decided on a bold manoeuvre. He would conduct a flanking movement before dawn, whilst demonstrating against the lines with two regiments of English infantry. He hoped to sneak across the Klein-Rhein under the noses of the garrison of Rheineck and assault the French position from the rear.

At 4.30 in the morning of the 15th the advance began, but it was hamstrung by delays.

Dispositions for the battle at dawn, 15th May

Artillery opened up on the French lines from the Rheinberg as Churchill’s and Stanhope’s regiments prepared to engage the main French defences. The plan was to trade shots from the far bank of the river in order to pin the French and generate enough smoke to convince the enemy that the main assault was coming. Initially, Fois-Gras fell for this and sent the La Marck Regiment and Gendarmerie to assist.

But as the first rays of light burst forth, glints from the equipment of the flanking force were seen approaching. a hasty order was rushed to the Gendarmerie – turn to face this new threat. The Gardes Francaises, also about to leave the city were halted and ordered to man the ramparts of Rheineck. Things were looking ominous for the Allies.

The first of the flanking force to cross the Klein-Rhein was Wyndham’s Horse. They were engaged by the Gendarmerie as the British Foot Guards and Hoornberg’s horse completed their crossing. Caught by the gentlemen of France in a headlong charge, the British would not stand. The unit broke and fled the table, and being shaken were unable to return. The Villequier Chevaux-Legers and La Marck regiment also became aware of what was happening and began to move to the aid of the Gendarmerie.

The front as seen from behind Rheineck. Note that the flanking force is not in view.

Meanwhile, Sir Edward Weighward commanding the pinning force had completely lost his head and ordered an advance on the French lines wading through the Klein-Rhein either side of the bridge. Apparently Sir Edward had been present at the Boyne, and was convinced wading through rivers was a perfectly acceptable way to get to grips with the enemy! The results were going to be all too predictable.

Hoornberg’s Horse charged into the Gendarmerie, who were still a little disordered after their previous charge. In a matter of minutes the gentlemen had been repulsed. The Foot Guards became embroiled in a fire fight with the Gardes Francaises. It should have been an even contest, but the Frenchmen were secure behind fortifications. The English Guards were taking a pounding.

The Villequier Chevaux-leger charged into the Dutch cavalry and sent them reeling from the battlefield. The English Guards finally collapsed under a weight of fire, and Churchill’s and Stanhope’s Regiment streamed off towards Beckstein. Only the Brandenbourg Regiment and the artillery were left in any fit state to resist, and were able to retreat safely.

The first battle of Rheineck was a tragic failure for Maykit, despite an audacious plan that might have worked with a little more luck. Weighward’s waste of the pinning force was roundly condemned but the man himself lay dead at the bottom of the Klein-Rhein and was not going to be responsible for any more stuff-ups!

The Allies fell back on Beckstein to rebuild and recover. The French got drunk.

The firefight that turned into a tragic advance for the Allies

The game was a solo affair designed to further familiarise myself with the Black Powder Rules. It also gave me an opportunity to put all my models on the table for the first time since I shifted house. Very enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours.

The Allies must try again soon – but will it be a new plan? Will there be a new commander? Which other regiments will arrive to help out? Stay tuned and find out!

Frankenberg’s allies

November 17, 2009

Louis XIV is not prepared to let his new ally down, and is even less predisposed to Luddie dropping the ball. So the French marched a contingent into Frankenberg even before the Archbishop’s intentions were declared.  General le Comte de Fois-Gras proudly stood on the steps of the Ubertreibung Palace and announced to the cheering crowd:

“Vos saucisses sont sûres dans les mains de Son Roi de Majesté Louis!”

Which set the diplomatic world in a spin.

 The first regiments to be sent to Frankenberg by the French King can be viewed here:

 

The Gardes Francaises themselves are represented in this arena. Louis is well aware of the potential strategic value of Frankenberg, and is ready to commit some of his best troops to this theatre.

The Regiment Picardie, premier line regiment of the kingdom, also committed to the fight.

The Regiment Lyonnais.

The Regiment La Marck, part of King Louis’ German contingent.

The first few squadrons of horse trickle over the border. The Villequier Chevaux-Legers…

… and the Gendarmerie itself.

The figures are all Lancashire Games 15mm range, which stand about 18mm tall and are very enjoyable to paint. I have a total of 9 battalions of Infantry (24 figures), 6 Regiments of cavalry (12 figures) and 4 artillery guns per side to paint, so still plenty of work in front of me. On the way I will invent the fictitious units of Frankenberg itself as a bit of a distraction, so stay tuned for that.

The next post will showcase the Confederate contingent.

Frolics in Frankenberg

November 14, 2009

Frankenberg is an imagi-nation; a made up land designed for wargaming. It sets the scene for the combats to be fought between the mighty armies of the Confederate powers – Britain, the United Provinces and the Holy Roman Empire, and Louis XIV’s France (and allies).

In this blog you will find the background of Frankenberg, my labours as I collect and paint the armies for this game, the rules that I use, and the battles that are fought as these two mighty powers clash, in a little land known for its licentious ruler and a proliferation of beer and sausage.

There are plenty of Imagi-nations out there in Blogland, and I have drawn inspiration from them all, but it is the spirit of gaming epitomised by the late Charles Grant and Peter Young that animates me more than anything.

The Archbishopric of Frankenberg – a Cartographic Representation

November 14, 2009

Frankenberg

Frankenberg is the ancient capital of this province, built on the river Frank, a tributary of the Rhine. The citadel sits atop the Frankenberg, a steep hill to the northwest of the city itself. It had been the site of a grand feudal castle, but was destroyed by Swedes in the Thirty Years War. The citadel was rebuilt as a modern fort, and presents a formidable obstaclet oany would-be aggressor. Frankenberg itself is fortified using modern techniques, as befits its strategic location.

In 1591 the residence of the Archbishop was moved to the beautiful cathedral city of Uberallesheim, after the Graf von Uberallesheim died in mysterious circumstances along with his entire family. It is not known how the horrible accident occured which saw a giant wine barrel  roll over the top of them, but it certainly worked in the favour of the Archbishops who inherited their territory. Oddly enough the cooper that made the barrel  later became a Cardinal. The incumbent Archbishop, Heinz Bohnen had a magnificent Cathedral built alongside the even more impressive Ubertreibung palace. The city was fortified along modern lines and has attracted many superlatives – not to mention the condemnation of Protestants who view the extravagant buildings as a prime example of the frivolous nature of the Catholic Church.

A number of towns dot the landscape, but in general the South is famous for its cheeses, the East for its wine and the West for its beer.   It is Frankenberg itself though, that produces the Wurst famous throughout Europe. People say that you simply do not know beauty until you have bitten into the Archbishop’s sausage…

The Frankenberg Coat of Arms

Frankenberg – The Wurst War

November 14, 2009

Frankenberg is an Archbishopric of the Holy Roman Empire. Ruled by Archbishop Helmut das Fett from 1688 until 1706, the Archbishopric  generally remained a neutral party in the wars ravaging Europe, all the time making plenty of cash from supplying their excellent sausages and beer to all sides.

But in the year 1706 Helmut died from choking on a sausage (reputedly in the middle of a party with much frivolity involving a certain notorious actress by the name of Maria Beineoffnen). He was succeeded by one of his illegitimate offspring, Ludwig, known as Schwul Luddie amongst the inhabitants of Uberallesheim. Ludwig was no friend of the Confederate cause, and indeed seems to have spent some time at Versailles where he developed some of his more particular tastes. But it was a new tax by a financially strapped Emperor on wurst sales throughout the Empire that convinced Ludwig that he needed to be Louis XIV’s friend.

The lifeblood of Frankenberg – wurst!

Frankenberg’s strategic location on the Rhine saw it sit astride a major communications route between Vienna and Amsterdam.  It was also an easily accessible location for reinforcement by French forces. Moreover, the central position gave the French a strategic advantage to outflank either the Imperial army in Germany or the Confederates in the low countries. Louis XIV immediately sent a small army to help hold Frankenberg until the next campaigning season, not knowing that his army would be crushed at Ramillies very soon afterwards. Upon learning of this serious setback in Flanders, Ludwig thought he might pull out of the French Alliance, but he was persuaded by the French ambassadors and the ‘friendly’ French troops to remain faithful.

It was 1707 by the time that the attention of the Confederate forces fell on Frankenberg. The key was to take the province out of the strategic equation, while Louis was not able to devote too much attention to it. And so, in 1707 the conflict that would be known to history as the Wurst War began.