Saxon Fury…at Bachman Pass, 1759

Game 2 – S&L Honours of War campaign

In our last action, we saw the lead elements of His Britannic Majesty’s Army in Germany (Allied army) victorious over a detachment of French forces covering a river crossing at the small town of St. Ulrich. In the subsequent advances of the French army, actions occurred on a number of fronts as large French forces under the overall command of Marshal Contades, pushed on in multiple columns toward toward Hesse.

Part of the French army, many parts in-fact, were not native Frenchmen. One of the many contingents were disaffected Saxons, those who escaped wholesale impressment into the Prussian army after the disaster of Pirna. In French service as much as 10,000 men, 15 battalions, served under contract, principally infantry, and they were a valuable addition to the French order of battle. Most recently, at the Battle of Bergen in April 1759, the Saxons distinguished themselves in battle though paying a heavy price…in our campaign inexperienced men added to the ranks will have a knock on effect in the coming engagement, which ‘historically’ occurred only weeks later after that costly French victory.

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In the action described below, a wholly Saxon force is tasked with attempting the relief of a town besieged by the Allied army. In this scenario the Saxon forces have been ordered to attack the rear of an Allied artillery battery, which is one of the siege positions pounding the walls of the French held border town on one of the surrounding hills forming Bachmann Pass.

Unfortunately, Allied spies got wind of the French plan, negating any chance of surprise, and the heavy gun battery has been moved out of its entrenchments and turned through 180° to face the attackers. Two battalions of hastily mustered Hessian militia infantry have been moved up in support. A churchyard on other high ground to the right of the Saxon deployment area is also occupied by Hanoverian Jagers, the occupation of which would make an excellent observation post for future operations.

The Saxon general, Manteuffel, has been charged by Marshal Contades with attacking the high ground ahead of the main French army’s position, the so-called ‘gun-battery hill’, and silencing the Allied army’s heavy battery blocking Bachman Pass. If the church area can be taken as well, promotion prospects for the Saxon field commanders will be excellent. The Allied army commander, Maj. Gen von Kleist has been ordered to see off the Saxon forces and retain the two areas of high ground.

(Note – this scenario is Battle Scenario #3 in the S&L Battle Scenarios – High Ground

Overall view from behind the Saxon deployment – four Regiments of white coated Saxon infantry with supporting French cavalry and a lone elite battalion behind two batteries of French supplied, Saxon crewed, 8 pounders. Opposing them are Hessian forces atop gun-battery hill (left side) and two militia battalions supported by a unit of Hanoverian Jagers as well as a jager unit in the church.

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A closer look at the Saxon line. Two units of (Inferior) musketeers, regiments Graf Brühl and Minckwitz are deployed in the front line. These two units were heavily engaged at Bergen and had received many new recruits and lost a number of it’s officer cadre, thus reducing their overall fighting ‘quality’. Behind were fresher units (standard), they being regiments Prinz Friedrich and Prinz Gotha.

To their right flank were the aforementioned two 8 pounder batteries, a sole unit of Saxon Garde supported by two (small) French service German cavalry units, regiments Wurtemberg and Nassau-Sarrebruck. All Saxon commanders, as expected, were rated Dependable.

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Opposing them was the blocking force of Hessian troops. On gun-battery hill, the objective of the Saxons, were posted two elite Hessian converged grenadier units. The importance of this location was such that the placing of reliable men was deemed appropriate. To their left flank was the 12 pounder battery over which all the fuss was about. Supporting the main position to their extreme left (see pic above) were two hastily formed (inferior) militia battalions. Having not yet seen any action in this campaign, this would be their first test.

Plans…

As later relayed post battle in a cordial meeting between opposing officers captured on their field, each side’s plans were described as so.

The Saxon general, Manteuffel, planned to deploy his inferior musketeers up front to engage the defenders on gun-battery hill, absorbing their initial fire and hoping to wear down the defenders before the coup de grace could be delivered by the fresher supporting units of regiments Prinz Friedrich and Prinz Gotha in the second line. The Saxon gunners would provide fire support with cavalry in reserve to make good any opportunities should they present. The lone battalion of Saxon Garde were tasked with taking the church on top of the eminence overlooking the battlefield.

Hessian plans were somewhat simpler. Defend at all cost taking advantage of any enemy mistakes or misfortunes with the militia brigade providing support in whatever form that was to take. To that end, a forward movement to drive back the Saxons and then subsequent fall back to the high ground and defend to the last aka an active forward defence. The Jagers in the church were to hold fast and the other support jager unit was to move to assist the militia units as required.

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Deployment…

After the armies were deployed the Saxon commander played a Fortune Card before proceedings began. This ‘Early Assembly’ card enabled him to add +1 to each brigade commander’s movement initiative (command performance) roll for the first two turns – a very useful card!

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Taking great advantage of his Early Assembly card, the Saxon infantry brigade proceeded to roll a 4 (+1) = 5 for his command performance. With a Dependable Brigade Commander this straight away enabled an admirable result allowing double movement to occur – boom! Within moments the Hessian forces could see the rapidly approaching Saxons advance to the foot of gun-battery hill poised for the firefight and assault.

 

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…shortly their advance across the open field would find the grenadiers with the Saxons in firing range. What to do?

In what might be considered a rash move, the order went along the line to ‘fix bayonets!’ General von. Kleist gave the order and the Grenadiers were hurled at the oncoming Saxons! Rash perhaps, but not out of step with the policy of ‘active defence’ espoused in the pre battle plans…

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…barely a shot had been fired when the Saxon 1st Line units were ordered to ‘present’…’fire!’ The bullets whizzed passed the heads of the grenadiers near the woods on the right flank, no casualties inflicted…whilst steadier shooting caused a number of men to fall in the adjacent unit – they suffering two hits.

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A view from General Manteuffel’s position. The main line of infantry is engaged whilst the Saxon Garde is dispatched to the flank in column toward the church.

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On the Saxon center-right flank the gun batteries opened up at the militia brigade in the distance, causing no losses.

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As might be expected by grenadiers (superior) attacking (inferior) musketeers, the Hessian charge was predictably irresistible. With a scream of ‘Vorwarts!’ the Hessian brigade commander led his men down in a fearsome charge that swept away the Saxon line, both regiments suffering significant losses and retreating behind their supporting line of infantry.

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(note – on a ‘recount’ of casualties the left Saxon unit, Graf Brühl, had in fact suffered 5 hits and was thus routed – white flag)

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It was fair to say the Saxon general was taken aback by this sudden turn of events. His hoped for ‘softening up’ attack had evaporated into thin air. The Hessian grenadiers had only suffered minor casualties and with the coming of the second turn his fighting infantry to take gun-battery hill was cut by half. His second line troops had also suffered loss and disruption from the first line units passing through.

Subsequent to that there was a general advance by the defending Hessians militia! The left flank militia brigade, their blood up having seen the result of the grenadier assault, advanced into the open plain to contest the ground all along the line. If the Saxons wanted a fight, they were going to get one delivered to them!

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With the first phase of the engagement over, the Hessian von Kleist won the move initiative. According to pre-battle plans, the grenadiers should have pulled back and formed up again on the hill. After the first successful attack for minor losses it was the perfect chance to do so. However, seeing the enemy discomforted by the unexpected Hessian assault the order was instead given to charge once more!

…the hope was that one more good push would see off the Saxon main force and deliver a unexpected ‘quick victory’…

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However, what one intends, or hopes for, is not always what one gets…instead of sweeping the Saxons from the field Prinz Gotha regt. delivered a crisp volley that saw the left flank grenadier unit reeling. The initial volley the grenadiers had received when charging had sufficiently weakened them such that their second attempt met with a similar volume of fire that forced them to retreat.

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With the grenadier assault having been driven back the left flank brigade commander Capt. Lindau, continued to order an advance of his militia units in support of the main line…as if to feel that they were missing out, the good captain should have realised/known the difference between veteran grenadiers and the volks-militia under his command…and what they were capable off.

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As part of his plan to get ‘into the action’, the support battalion of Hanoverian jagers was sent on a march toward the church and thence to adopt a position on the Saxon right flank on rising ground from whence they could provide discomforting fire to the Saxon gun batteries, cavalry and possibly even the lone Saxon Garde unit.

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Meanwhile back on gun-battery hill the hand to hand combat by the Hessian grenadiers and the Prinz Friedrich regiment had resulted in the grenadiers suffering significant loss and breaking. Prinz Friedrich, bloodied but still in the line (3 hits), held its ground for now.

At the same time a militia battalion attacked the Prinz Gotha having avoided artillery fire due to their movement to their right. The other left-flank militia unit suffered heavy casualties from artillery canister fire, now forcing them to retreat (4 hits)…so much for Lindau’s attack!

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…a gunner’s eye view of them driving back the Hessian militia battalion…

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Overview and correction – at this stage the units marked with an ‘X’ should have been removed but in the heat of the action we forgot! No problem though as we got to them later and they had no impact on the events. Ignore those units in the next few pics…they ‘aren’t there’.

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With their flanking move complete, the Hanoverian jagers started to make their presence felt, being in a position to start delivering some flanking fire.

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…as part of their required retreat movement the left-flank militia withdrew back to safer ground at the base of gun-battery hill. The other militia battalion, going all in, attacked Prinz Gotha in one last roll of the dice to turn the tide off battle toward von Kleist’s hessians.

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…sensing the moment had come to deliver the coup de grace, the French cavalry brigade commander launched his Wurtemburg cavalry in pursuit of the plucky, if foolish, militia battalion cowering in the distance.

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…not to be outdone, the Nassau-Sarrebruck regiment, now also hollering ‘Vorwart!’ (lots of German’s on this battlefield!) launched its attack on the other militia battalion. This was something of the high-water mark of the battle…all units committed and decisive losses occurring all over the field…

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(picture now shows the previously mentioned two routed units removed)

…with a general advance ordered, the Prinz Friedrich regiment attacked the weakened Hessian grenadier unit (4 hits) atop gun-battery hill. The hill itself is worth 1 Army Break Point and with the destruction of the grenadiers and subsequent sweeping of the gun battery, complete victory was within the Saxon general’s grasp…

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..but the gods of war are fickle and such hubris to assault even veteran troops atop a hilltop is not an easy challenge for any regiment at the best of times. In this case regiment Prinz Friedrich, carrying its current losses (3 hits) into the fight, was easily seen off with a crisp volley by the staunch Hessian veterans, fighting under the very nose of their commanding officer watching intently.

In an instant the Saxon bloodlust had lost their command another unit and opened up a reprieve for von Kleist to perhaps yet still pull victory from the jaws of defeat…

Meanwhile the desperate effort of Capt. Lindau’s militiamen was too little, too late. They quickly succumbed to the bayonets and sabres of Saxon musketeers and German cavalry…breaking-through, the Wurtemburgers pulled up at the foot of the hill under just short of the Hessian gun battery.

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At this stage of the battle the Hessian line was in a critical state. The hilltop was held by the gun battery largely unmolested, the grenadiers clung to the hill top proper and the left flank militia men looked to reform as best they could…

…some hope was seen further afield from the Hanoverian jagers at the foot of the church. The attack of the cavalry regiments had unmasked, and left open, the two gun batteries providing a perfect opportunity to sweep down and overrun them, which would deliver the two Army break Points needed (the Saxon only had two left at this point) to drive the Saxon’s back in defeat…this was going to be a near run thing!!

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…but it was not too be, for quickly, the Saxons seized the move initiative and fire initiative and the Saxon Garde moved forward, flicked into line, and delivered a devastating volley that saw the jagers reel back in retreat..

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General Manteuffel, now confident victory was his, advanced to finish off the grenadiers once and for all with his last battalion, regiment Prinz Gotha, advancing up the hill.

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…at the same time he urged on his cavalry to finish the job with a charge into the teeth of the guns…

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…and the Nassau-Sarrebruck horse completed the forward movement with an attack on the Hessian militia reforming…

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…as if to complete his victory, as he saw it, the artillery caused the jagers to break and run, the left flank now clear of any Hessian threat, save the hold out jager battalion in the church…the Saxons were on the march…

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…without any surprise the Hessian militia threw down their muskets and fled from the vengeful sabres of the Nassauers…

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…but, last blood drawn would be Saxon, as the Wurtemburg cavalry faltered in their charge on the heavy 12pounders…driven straight back from whence they came to form up and prepare for the advance once more should it be needed…

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…with the sun setting, von Kleist’s aide-de-camp, catching a glimpse of his commander’s disappointed gaze…called out…”sire!, the battle is lost…”

…and with that a general withdrawal was ordered and the battle of Bachman Pass was over…

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.Postscript

What to say…a cracking game with many a change of fortune and more than a few surprises. The game was played in 2.5 hours. As far as the player plans went, it’s fair to say that neither player had any of their plans actually come off…it was literally a case of ‘no plan survives contact with the enemy’.

The Hessian player very unexpectedly took the fight to the Saxon player who was expecting something of a passive defence. The opening movement by the Saxon player gaining the (admirable) double move benefit got the Saxon’s straight into the fight which probably was a good thing given that they would’ve had to endure some medium to short range heavy artillery fire on the march toward gun-battery hill…avoiding such casualties when attacking is very important to maintaining the momentum of attack with units able to fight when contact is made.

The initial counterattack by the Hessian grenadiers was in line with the Hessian plan to take advantage of opportunities and seek to engage in an initial ‘forward defence’. Given the front line of the Saxon’s was of inferior quality this, on balance, proved to be a fortuitous move. However, once having seen off the lesser quality front line the Hessian player should’ve pulled his troops back to the safety of the hill rather than press the assault into fresh troops in support…this it’s fair to say was a mistake.

Compounding one bad choice with arguably (most likely) another, the advance of the militia only gained a temporary respite in the advance of the Saxon forces. Moving into close range of artillery is never a good choice, and certainly not with low grade troops.  Though there was opportunity for some flanking advantage through the use of the jagers, the mobile reserve element of the Saxon Garde, saw to it that such an opportunity had reduced, to little chance of success.

Lastly, the Saxon cavalry provided the mobile elements to quickly finish off the Hessians, who, despite some spotty decision points, was still quite close to pulling off a victory had the jagers been able to run amok in the rear of the Saxon line.

All in all, an interesting scenario and a most excellent game using Honours of War…the uncertain movement and firing initiative always providing the opportunity for some swings of fortune either way to keep things exciting.

next battle …Safe Passage!

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Campaign continues…

So with the battle finished and a ‘French’ victory we move to the next stage of the campaign.

As per the campaign rules the victorious French (Saxon) player advances along the green arrow, which in this case lands on the Allied campaign track marker. The instant the two campaign track markers are co-located a ‘petite guerre’ occurs.

Also, for having won the battle, the French player may choose two fortune cards, selecting one and discarding the other, or, he may take one card from his opponent’s hand. In this case, he chooses the former and gains one card from the Fortune Card deck.

result = petite guerre!

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Both players roll 1d6, adding +1drm for any battle Fortune Card played. In this case the Allied player uses his ‘Rally men! card for +1drm. Unfortunately he rolls a ‘2’ whilst the French player rolls a ‘4’ – result French=4, Allied 2+1=3…French win!

So, the French player can advance one space or make the Allied player retreat one space…he chooses the later and the Allied marker lands on the ‘Rain Delays March’ red arrow. This moves the Allied marker down one level.

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Resuming the campaign the Allied player rolls 1d6 for his campaign move. He is hoping for a score of 1 which will land him on the ‘Outmanoeuvred Enemy’ space which would bring him back up onto the next level. Unfortunately/fortunately he rolls a 4. This places him back into the battle box and the next battle is determined – which in our case will be Safe Passage (see optional rule below).

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S&L campaign update

My fellow campaigner and I have discussed the possibility of the campaign track potentially creating a ‘battle loop’. That is to say, going up and down on the campaign track and having to fight a battle through each battle box on every level multiple times. This is not desirable nor the intended purpose of the campaign. It should deliver 6 or so games to finish the campaign.

What we have decided is that we shall tweak the campaign battle box requirement with an optional rule.

Optional Rule- whenever a battle is fought in a battle box, the battle type is ‘struck out’ and not fought again in this battle box. If all battles are struck out, then the battle box will now become a space only, and does not cause the campaign track marker to stop or any further battles to be generated from markers moving into/through/onto them.

So, following the optional rule (which we will be using) the only remaining battle left, and next to played, will be the Safe Passage scenario. After completion of that game this battle is struck out and if a player’s campaign track marker moves through the battle box again, then it simply counts as one space and the campaign track marker moves along the spaces as per its die roll.