Action at Gemunden, Summer 1759

Game 3 – S&L Honours of War campaign

In our previous encounter Saxon forces (in French service) relieved the siege of Giegen, in the battle of Bachman Pass. Saxon arms prevailed that day, driving off the Hessian contingent under the command of General Ernst von Kleist much to his chagrin. Allied forces subsequently withdrew and with the siege lifted, this only compounded Prince Ferdinand’s discomfort at the French advance.

Whilst the Saxon attack was being prosecuted to relieve the siege, a small German town 10 miles distant, was itself under siege by French forces, such were the confused initial border clash operations in the opening stages of Marshal Contades’ summer offensive. Ferdinand of Brunswick, the Allied commander in chief, was determined to effect a relief operation of this small citadel by sending a detachment on a wide flank march around Bachman Pass with a supply train to provide the defenders with succour.

The Allied detachment, small as it was, was entrusted to the Dependable Major-General von Bischausen. It was made up of several small battalions of Hessian and Brunswick infantry, two battalions of Hanoverian jagers supported by two squadrons of the 2nd Dragoons – the Scots Greys. The brigade commanders were Dependable officers with the lead ‘light brigade’ commanded by the Dashing German Prince Ruprecht, a distant relative of King George himself.

The mission for this detachment was to cross the Ohm river with the supply column and breakthrough to the beleaguered Allied garrison currently held under siege by Marshal Contades’ forces. Local intelligence had indicated that enemy troop concentration in the region was relatively weak providing the opportunity for a coup de main to breakthrough with much needed supplies. This outpost, should it hold out, would enable Ferdinand’s forces to fallback and concentrate against the converging columns of the French army.

Word of this allied supply column however reached Contades’ headquarters. His main body was too far away to react in time so he hastily gathered together ad-hoc forces in Marshal Broglie’s sector under the command of the capable, if uninspiring, Lieutenant-General Chevalier Henri de Champ de Vasque. Orders dispatched, this cobbled together force of French troops forced marched to converge in the region of the Ohm river bridge to oppose the Allied relief column.

Vasque’s small army was comprised of three militia battalions bolstered by the presence of a battalion of the Royal Bavière Infanterie regiment, which fortunately was located in the district awaiting further orders. Accompanying this flying column were two battalions of the Chasseurs de Fischer and three squadrons of Apchon dragoons – a force fit for a Lieutenant-General in King Louis’ army…kind of!

Unfortunately, the rapid nature of this French ‘fire-brigade’ meant that these forces arrived on the battlefield from different directions – despite the ongoing rain in the area – though fortunately for Contades, before the Allied column had arrived. The Ohm river, whilst having a grandiose name, was in fact fordable in this location by horse and foot troops, but not wheeled transport which could only cross at the bridge.

(Note – this scenario is Battle Scenario #1 in the S&L Battle ScenariosSafe Passage.

In this game the French were Red forces and the Allied Blue Forces. 

 

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The tabletop with positions marked. Allied supply column to enter at position ‘X’ (left side) through the town, descending from the hill plateau, exiting at point ‘A’ once over the bridge. There is a 12 turn time limit on the Allied forces to reach the exit point of the board.

Alternatively, if either side’s Army Break point is reached your command will gain a victory, however for the Allied player, two supply wagons must survive to fulfil his victory conditions – this opens up several paths to achieving the mission objective.

 

 

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This vantage point clearly shows the steep plateau that descends to the Ohm river valley floor. A forward defence by French troop would entail attacking an enemy with the advantage of high ground so the French commander would have to consider how to commit his forces in either a forward defence or perhaps fighting a delaying/denial operation.

His troops, whilst numerous were not of the highest quality and he could little afford to lose units as his army’s break point was low (BP3), and lower, than the Allied force (BP4).

 

 

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…view from the Ohm up onto the plateau…

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Opening Moves

At first glance it might seem an impossible task for the Allied player. To get from the town entry point to the exit with enemy troops arrayed against them, the Allied force will have to ‘bull’ its way through…winning combats all the while. That is a tall order.

However the forward deployment, and separated French forces actually might be to the advantage of the Allied forces and create an alternative path to victory. The biggest problem will be protecting the wagons and shaking out into a battle line to engage the enemy whilst still advancing and not getting picked off piecemeal.

To that end the initial placement of forces has the French militia battalion Neufchâtel sitting astride the Allied entry point, with a larger three battalion force in place to interdict the main road route to the bridge. Supporting these ‘main force’ troops are a couple of Fischer Chasseurs battalions and a lone dragoon unit on the opposite side of the Ohm river.

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Initial deployment shows the considerable distance to travel to exit over the Ohm river bridge.

 

 

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The lead elements of the Allied army come on table. The two Hanoverian jager units are thrown forward with a double move under the leadership of the dashing  advance guard brigade commander, Prince Ruprecht (who rolled a double move action).

 

 

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Behind the advanced guard the first elements of the Allied army appear. The 2nd Dragoons swung left and moved at the trot onto the forward edge of the plateau in perfect formation. The infantry marched in column through the town covered by the jagers out front.

 

 

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Unsure of the intentions of the enemy ahead, Bischausen thrust his jagers forward toward the river crossing, urged on by the young Prince Ruprecht. He intended to use his main line infantry to take on the enemy battalions ahead with his light troops contesting the two orchards sitting astride the main road. The Scots Greys sidled to the right and advanced under the protection of the light infantry in front of them.

In response the French commander pushed up his independent battalion onto a high hill near the bend in the road, whilst his main infantry line, unfortunately, failed to advance at all against the enemy (they rolled a ‘poor’ command roll).

 

 

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Bischausen oversees the advance of his infantry, whilst Ruprecht waves his men forward.

 

 

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A view on top of the steep hill with the Neufchâtel militia battalion overlooking the Allied advance. In the distance the French dragoons cross the Ohm river moving to support the battalion of Fischer Chasseurs in the fields…

 

 

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With his infantry now through the town, Bischausen threw forward his first battalion, the Hessian Canitz regiment, with the supply train moving up behind. The jager were pushed further forward to confront the enemy light troops – not a shot had been fired up to this point.

 

 

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…battle lines shake out…turn 3 and still no action…the clock is ticking…

 

 

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Here we see the movement of forces. The Allied army will need to get into line before it can hope to start contesting the ground before it. Fortunately (for the Allies) the large French brigade of three battalions is commanded by a dithering commander and has only slowly advanced into position.

 

 

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Whether planned or not, the French chasseur battalion in the rough fields pulls back whilst the dragoons cross the river in support.

 

 

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With manoeuvres all but complete the first musket shots ring out over the valley.  The Allied jagers at long range opened up with their rifles with little effect, whilst the musket armed Chasseurs could not were outranged and shoot at them – shabby trick!

…at the same time regiment Canitz threw caution to the wind and drove into the Neufchâtel militia battalion in an attempt to clear the right flank of the advancing column.

The Allied commander knows the enemy is not as strong as he looks and hopes that by bringing the battle on quickly he may force the French force to withdraw and thus clear the way for his supply train.

 

 

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…Infantry Regiment Canitz takes the fight to the enemy…

 

 

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Whilst regiment Canitz tries its luck with close range volleys and a bayonet attack against battalion Neufchâtel (left pic), the Allied battalion Mansbach faces off against the french militia battalion Joigny – stepping forward it issues fire, getting their volley away first, inflicting a brutal 3 hits on the defending battalion – first blood to the Hessians!

 

 

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In response battalion Joigny discharged their muskets and inflicted 1 hit in reply. Meanwhile the struggle on the left flank of the French line is hotly contested on the high ground.

 

 

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The smaller Hessian battalion vs the larger but inferior French militia battalion, with an uphill advantage, is fought over several rounds. In the end both sides fought themselves out, both routing, exhausted by their exertions! – a head long retreat for both units.

 

 

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Seizing a momentary advantage on damage inflicted by their musket fire, battalion Mansbach charges to decide the issue with the bayonet. Realising that with three battalions arrayed against it, the French would likely gain a temporary fire supremacy that could result in its destruction – thus the smaller ‘plucky’ Hessian battalion uses tried and true cold steel making it a 1 v 1 contest in the face of the full French battleline!

[Note – with each side having lost one unit, the possibility exists that a fortuitous outcome could have the French suddenly with two army break point losses…they can only sustain 3 and they withdraw delivering victory to the Allies.]

 

 

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Whilst battalion Mansbach pressed the issue at the point of bayonets, Bischausen moved quickly to shore up his right flank lest the remaining French forces lap around his isolated and somewhat exposed supply train. Moving quickly he pushed forward infantry regiment Prinz von Anhalt, whilst directing the supply train to move road and continue behind the battleline.

By this stage the Allied army was now well deployed on the plateau ahead and the French were in position also – the question of wether the supply train made it through would be shortly decided by force of arms across the field.

 

 

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The Fischer chasseurs in the orchard, seeing the plight of the musketeers from the enemy volley, decided to attack the enemy jager to their front. Mercifully for the jagers and more generally for the Allied cause, the light infantrymen quickly adjusted and turned to meet their aggressors.

Seeing the general pell-mell melee brewing in the centre Vasque ordered his Bavarian troops to join the fracas and take the jagers in flank as they turned to face their foe.

 

 

 

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Seeing the peril the jagers were in, their sister battalion (of jagers) swung around and took the chasseurs in flank! Observing all this, Captain Francis Lindsay, commander Scots Greys detachment, ordered his horsemen forward in support of their German allies. This storied regiment, famous throughout Europe for service under the Duke of Marlborough, looked fearsome with their mitre caps and glistening sabres in the light rain.

In all there were 5 units embroiled in do-or-die combat at the foot of the plateau…jagers, musketeers and British dragoons – battle royal!

 

 

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However before the issue of the centre melee would be resolved Vasque cast his eye to the left, ordering his militiamen straight at the exposed supply train…something more inline with their abilities von Bischausen wryly noted to his aide de camp…

 

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…the easiest melee of the day – militia battalion Nancy overruns two of the four supply wagons on the main road significantly upping the difficulty of mission completion for the Allied cause.

[Note – at this point with the loss of two of the supply wagons, the Allied player could not lose any more or he could not fulfil his victory conditions – he could fight for a draw but there would be no victory if the supplies did not get though.] 

 

 

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This overview shots shows the movements that brought about the highwater mark of the engagement.

Crucially, as events were later to show, the involvement of the French brigadier moving forward to keep the right of his line in command placed other unit s in isolation…dragging him away from his ‘command responsibilities’…

 

 

 

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Whilst the melee was confusing, the combat essentially broke down into two general actions – the Bavarian musketeers in flank of the jagers and the (other) jager unit, supported by the Scots Greys. In essence the two light units were caught in the middle of it all!

The initial contact by the Bavarians was a hard fought contest. Though the jagers stood for a time (rolling 5 on DAv twice in a row!) , they succumbed to the weight of the musketeer’s assault to their flank and they broke, fleeing from the scene…

 

 

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…however, their sister jager battalion fought like lions, no doubt encouraged by the two squadrons of Scots Greys in support. In the wash up they drove off the Fischer chasseurs in rout, through the Bavarian foot regiment, which caused an additional hit to be inflicted.

 

 

 

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At the same time the Mansbach regiment fought not as well as hoped and though itself broken, caused the defending hard fighting Journy battalion to only retreat…(a 5-2 combat dice split in the French favor).

…when the smoke had cleared the entire French main battle line had retreated in disorder and no longer commanded the road but the army was still hanging on…

Whilst victory seemed to be swinging in the allies favour, yet more drama was to play out and both sides were on the brink of retreating

[At this point it was turn 5 and the French had lost 2 of their 3 army break points with the Allies losing 3 of their 4 – one more routing unit from either side would result in their force breaking off and being forced to retire from the field].

 

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 Overview shows the field ‘opening up’ as units fight, rout, retreat across the plateau…

 

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Attention now swung to the plight of the supply train. The focus of all the action had been on destruction of the enemy but the wily Vasque had one more card up his sleeve.

On his extreme left flank he dispatched a rider to his brigadier to instruct the previously victorious militiamen to finish the job and charge the supply train and stave of defeat…or indeed maybe snatch a victory.

 

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 …unfortunately for him however, the brigadier had involved himself in the centre field melee and had thus placed the militiamen out of command.

Somewhat leaderless, and most likely still looting the previous supply wagons overrun, the unit failed its out of command test – critically it remained stationary and the wagons gained a reprieve as the militia could not move to ‘finish the job’.

…for now, Bischausen still had a chance to fulfil his mission and gain a victory…which hung by a thread for both sides.

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 …before that however, one more enemy unit would need to be driven from the field. if this were to be done however it must do so by minimising the possibility of losing another ‘own unit’ else the battle would be a loss, both sides withdrawing from the field with the wagons unable to complete their journey… 

 

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To that end, there was only one fresh unit the Allied commander could turn to – the Scots Greys.

Captain Lindsay, receiving a rider’s dispatch from Bischausen, readied his men…

…without a moment’s hesitation the bugler ordered the charge and in what was later described by a captured Frenchmen, as a ‘Une vue des plus terrifiantes* the Greys descended from the high ground above.

Swords waving the Greys slammed into the now counter charging French horsemen, who in their haste to respond to the British attack unwittingly countercharged uphill putting them at a disadvantage.

*A Most Terrifying Sight

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…the attack was irresistible. In one round of combat the Grey’s sliced through the French horse, despite being outnumbered (a 5-2 split on the DAv die roll).

 

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 …victorious, their blood up, they continued their breakthrough pursuit…looking to complete the victory…

 

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 …fortuitously for the remaining Fischer Chasseurs, watching in horror, they instinctively retreated, this being the better part of valour at this moment, and fled to the safety of the Ohm river banks.

 

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Meanwhile, in one last act, Bischausen’s eye was drawn back to the safety of his supply column.

Immediately ordering his remaining rearguard infantry battalion forward to protect the wagon train, who themselves withdrew to safety back up the road until the issue was decided, which denied Vasque any chance of victory.

…with that, the smoke cleared, horses watering in the Ohm…von Bischhausen ordered a general advance as General Vasque realised all was lost as his army streamed from the field in retreat…

…an Allied victory, the supply train would make good its journey, in as close an engagement as the Allied commanding general had ever taken part.

Huzzah!

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Postscript

An epic encounter by any measure, with so few units involved! A deceptively engaging and interesting scenario. With multiple lines of advance of the defending (French) forces, though their army being more brittle and stretched out, resulted in a few crucial command failures at times that could’ve changed the outcome of the engagement.

This, once again, Honours of War shows well with its movement and firing initiative system which changed the possible combat results in the game on a number of occasions.

What was not immediately apparent to the Allied player was the quality of the forces in the respective French battleline and where they would appear, though a number of units were preordained as ‘militia’ which both players knew about – thus the Allied player, had to set forth an appropriate march column with the weight of the combat power up front, led by the light elements of the army to fanout and at the very least check the enemy advance.

This proved important in getting enough troops up front and engaged in time to force a decision. Fortunately in this game the dashing advance guard commander got two ‘double moves’ on his command roll and thus could break out of the confines of the immediate area surrounding the town keeping the French busy as to the likely direction of the light troop’s advance.

For the task at hand the French blocking dispositions were well located within the confines of the scenario setup. At first the French forces arrayed as they were look intimidatingly large but it is brittle command – if the Allied force can get the upper hand and go ‘one-for-one’ in units lost they will win…all the while protecting the supply train…arguably the weak point in the Allied commander’s dispositions in this encounter.

One option the French player mused over post-battle was the idea of not engaging the advancing forces but just slowing them down. Husband all your resources for one decisive encounter and hope to delay long enough to run out the clock as it were and not lose first because of their relatively low army break point.

This is probably a good strategy. The orchards create a choke point for defence and the river actually provides a screen for forces as well which can be brought forward when needed, thus not exposing too much of the defending battle line to the enemy as they advance. If you can win one critical battle and thus even up the army break points aka go one-for-one in a mid to late game, then it becomes a tighter contest.

…so, on to the campaign.

 

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Campaign Continues…

With the battle completed and an Allied victory the Allied player draws two fortune cards or takes one from his opponent – he draws two cards, keeping one and discarding the other.

This movement immediately places the Allied counter atop the French counter – another petit guerre! Both players roll a D6, with the French player committing his lone fortune card as a +1drm to the die roll.

 

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 The Allied player rolls a 6 and the French player a 4 +1 = 5…just lost!

 

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The Allied player chooses to have the French player retreat one space thereby dropping him back down to the bottom level…

 

 

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It is then the French player’s next move in the campaign. He rolls a 2 and advances two spaces…

 

 

 

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…next, the Allied player rolls and scores a 5. This moves him into the next ‘Early Battle’ battle box…

 

 

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…the Allied player now draws a card for having landed on the battle box and rolls for the battle type and scores a 4 – Three Fords!

…the campaign is now proceeding beyond the initial frontier skirmish battle phase into slightly larger ‘battle actions’…

So, with that, the next encounter is set as the battle of Three Fords scenario in the S&L campaign scenario suite

 

…see you then 😉

 

…Prince Ruprecht leads his men forward…

 

 

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3 thoughts on “Action at Gemunden, Summer 1759

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