Second Alost – Part I

July 31st, 1703; 06:15

The French are marching hell-bent for the Rupel crossing. They are in their customary march formation, with artillery and grenadiers on the road, infantry on either side, and cavalry on the outside from which the enemy may be expected.

The crossing is coming in sight. Have they made it? Just when they thing they’re home-free, a slight dust cloud is seen, and the dark shapes of marching soldiers can be distinguished, crossing their path. Looks as if someone has got there before them.

d’Hautville, the cavalry commander, sends off a messenger to prepare the cavalry for battle. Marsin spurs forward for a better look.

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The French forces, streaming toward the Rupel crossing and safety. Faintly in the upper just right of center is the village of Alost. The dark streak in front of the village is the vanguard of the Prussians. In the upper left corner is that important crossing.
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The sleepy little village of Alost. After two sieges and two battles in the vicinity, you can well imagine that it is pretty much deserted by now.

06:30

It’s the Prussians, who have just barely made it there before the French. Their arrival is somewhat staggered; the Winterfeldt Regiment, the senior regiment in the Prussian Army, has been setting a wicked pace to make sure everyone knows they are the best.

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The Prussian Army, leaving the main road through Alost to cut the path of the oncoming enemy. The French are well to the right of this picture.
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The vital bridge over the Rupel River, with the head of the Prussian column just arriving in the background.
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Enemy in sight! The Prussian Gens d’Armes Kurassier forming up to oppose the French.
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An overhead view of the Prussians arriving across the road to the crossing, with the bridge in the upper left corner.
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The Prussian cavalry commander, General d’Ettienne, is riding forward to get a better view of the enemy. He has sent his aide de campe to alert the Garde du Korps, who look as if they don’t need alerting. They’re ready!

07:30

As the French continue to advance, deploying their cavalry on the right, two French generals meet.

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Marsin meets General d’Hautville of the cavalry. “Don’t worry. It’s only the Prussians. We outnumber them greatly.” In the background, La Reine infantry regiment advances to the encounter.

08:00

The Prussian cavalry and the French dragoons come together with a crash. Each is trying to protect the deployment of their infantry.

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From the French point of view, their three dragoon regiments charge into two regiments of Prussian cuirassiers supported by three squadrons of dragoons. On the right, the French cuirassiers deploy to counter the Austrian dragoons that threaten the flank of the great horsie melee.
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The Austrian Jung-Lowenstein Cheveaux-Legers deploy on the left flank of the Prussian cavalry with supports coming up behind them and French forming up in front.

08:15

As the French infantry move up and their leading elements form up for battle, their cavalry protects their flank against the Alliance cavalry.

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In a cavalry battle involving several regiments on each side, only the French Schomberg Dragoons – the rearguard heroes at the Battle of Stevenswaert – hold the field. The Schomberg are in the center of the picture facing you, with the Gens d’Armes retiring in front of them. However the Prussian Gardes du Korps (right edge) are still threatening them.
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The Irish Brigade in their bright red form up under artillery fire for an assault on the Prussian lines. To their right, the La Reine brigade forms to support them. “Where’s them English?” asks Colonel O’Reilly as he watches his troops deploy for battle. “You promised us some English. You show me some English to fight, me boyos will tear right into them.”
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The Rooth regiment arrives to fill out the Irish Brigade. With their red uniforms and very English-looking standards, it is surprising they are not more often mistaken for British troops on the battlefield.

08:30

The French infantry prepares for its first assault while the two sides of massed cavalry break apart in the middle for a quick breather.

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More Austrian cavalry sweeps onto the field while the Austrian commander (upper right) tries to rally the Jung-Lowenstein Cheveaux-Legers.
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The French cavalry also take a breather to organize. (Behind them, top of the picture, the marching French infantry.)
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The Irish Brigade (right) and the La Reine Brigade are ready to attack. “Brigade will advance!”

08:45

Attention is drawn to the middle of the battlefield where Prussian, Austrian and French cavalry mix it up in a swirling melee, with more units being drawn in as they arrive.

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From behind the Austrian arrival area the cavalry battle can be seen. In the background French infantry are marching from left to right to confront the Prussian infantry and reach the bridge. In the lower right corner Austrian converged grenadier battalions can be glimpsed sneaking into the local farmstead.
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An overall view of the situation. The French infantry are streaming in past the current point of view. At the very top of the picture can be seen their target, the Prussian infantry blocking force. To the upper middle and right is another view of the cavalry battle.

09:00

The Irish and La Reine brigades move into range and open fire. At the same time the cavalry battle continues.

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The Irish Brigade and the La Reine Brigade move into range and open fire. The Prussian initial resistance is good. The Bulkley Regiment doesn’t even get off a shot before it is devastated by musket balls and cannister.
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The cavalry continue to go at it as tired regiments fall back and fresh ones charge forward.
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Just to complicate things for the French, the Hodenberg Kurassiers herald the arrival of the Hannoverian contingent on the flank of the Austrians.

09:15

In the center of the battlefield things are starting to go badly for the French cavalry. Several regiments have had enough and are leaving the field. As more Alliance cavalry enter the list the French are becoming stretched thinner and thinner.

The infantry at the head of their attack are not doing too well either, but help is at hand.

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The cavalry battle continues, while the French infantry streaming past ignore it.
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The Irish and La Reine are not doing too well, but finally the artillery is arriving.

09:30

The French cavalry is really taking a battering as more and more regiments leave the field. The French infantry draws back after its first aborted attack to reorganize and allow the artillery to deploy.

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The French infantry draws back out of musket range while their artillery deploys.
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La Reine Cuirassiers make one last charge in a desperate attempt to hold back the Alliance cavalry tidal wave, to no avail.

09:45

With the French infantry attack stymied for the now and their cavalry fading away, things are not looking so good for them.

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The departing French cavalry (streaming right to left across the center) is hampering the ability of their infantry and remaining cavalry to deploy to meet the growing Anglo-Hannoverian threat.
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The Alliance cavalry are not having things their own way. Here a mass of Alliance Kurassiers (Austrian and Prussian mixed together) are fleeing the fight.
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The far threat grows. More English cavalry are coming up behind the Hannoverians.
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Behind the Austrian cavalry, the Austrian infantry is marching on like they’re in a parage-ground manoeuvre.
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The French are organizing what might become their last attempt to break out.

10:00

The second French infantry attack goes in, finally supported by some artillery. Meanwhile time may be running out as the French cavalry are fading away.

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In the center of the picture the Jung-Lowenstein Cheveaux-Legers are pursuing the disordered Schomberg Dragoons. Toward the upper left two French cavalry units are leaving the battlefield post-haste. Along the bottom Alliance cavalry units are reorganizing after a heavy – but successful – fight.
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Five regiments of Anglo-Hannoverian cavalry are approaching the Royal-Etranger heavy cavalry regiment. Toward the upper left another French cavalry regiment is seen leaving the fray, blocking an infantry brigade’s attempt to deploy. To the right Austrian grenadiers have occupied a walled orchard.

To Be Continued…

 

By Land and by Sea

May 14th, 1703.

The siege of Termonde has been resumed, or more like restarted. The Austrians get back to their trench digging, while the other Alliance troops improve and extend the lines they defended. These lines now extend from the Rupel to the Scheldt and have become almost impregnable. Fortified outposts extend along the two rivers as well, to provide warning of any attempt to cross them.

The small garrison of Termonde – despite the non-existent chance of relief now – seem determined to hold their fortification as long as they can. Meanwhile the reduced French army prowls about outside the fortifications like a famished wolf.

Berwick has withdrawn across the Scheldt to under the walls of Ghent, there to reorganize his battered army. He sends message after message to Versailles requesting more reinforcements and draughts of replacements. Also requests to be rid of his two quarrelling sub-commanders.

May 23rd, 1703

A breach has already been made in the walls of Termonde. Apparently the fortifications had not been well maintained recently. The garrison commander beats the chamade and asks for terms.

May 24th, 1703

The garrison of Termonde are allowed to leave with honours of war, armed and with full ammunition pouches and trailing a brass 4-pdr. They are escorted to within range of the French forces, where they are permitted to depart. Termonde has fallen!

Marlborough sets about having the walls of Termonde repaired and strengthened further. The siege cannon are hoisted aboard barges and sent down to Antwerp for safe-keeping.

June 11th, 1703

Having left a garrison in the repaired and strengthened Termonde, Marlborough makes a sudden move. His army is quickly across the pontoon bridges still on the Scheldt and he has the fortress of Sluys surrounded before they even have an inkling that the enemy is approaching. Trenches of circumvallation and contravallation are started.

June 13th, 1703

To try to counter this move, Berwick moves from Ghent to Bruges. Marsin argues that he would have been better to stay at Ghent.

June 20th, 1703

Having received some reinforcement draughts, Berwick is feeling a little bolder. Looking at the map, he determines that Marlborough has only one choice for a supply route – from Antwerp along the road through Zelzate. If he can cut that supply line, Marlborough will be forced to fight on his terms.

1703-3

June 22nd, 1703

Berwick has arrived just south of Zelzate and ordered his troops to dig in. Marlborough will have to fight him now!

June 24th, 1703

Two days, and nothing has happened. The English troops are just 5 miles away, and some of their cavalry are in place observing the French, and yet nothing happens. No supply convoys fall into the French hands. They must have been warned. Marlborough is trapped and is doing nothing about it!

June 26th, 1703

An intrepid junior French officer has made it through the Alliance lines and back again. His report: The Alliance forces are not concerned about the French being across the road to Antwerp, because their supplies are being landed across the beach northeast of Sluys by the Royal Navy!

June 28th, 1703

Frustrated, Berwick pulls back to just east of Ghent to ponder his next move. His trap should have worked! He just could not think along the lines of the English, with all their ships and the sea.

He knows he has to come up with something. The news is that the Alliance has already started their first approach trench. Sluys has maybe a month before the garrison commander has to consider surrendering.

July 7th, 1703

A dispatch arrives from Versailles. Berwick is commanded to break the siege of Sluys! That’s easy enough for them to command! Not so easy for him to perform. The British and their mercenaries will be dug in like little moles.

After considerable pondering he decides to distract Marbrouck. If he can’t stop the siege of Sluys he’ll take Termonde back and threaten Antweerp. He gives orders for the army to move the next day.

July 13th, 1703

Termonde is invested and the digging is well under way.

July 26th, 1703

A breach is pronounced useable on the landward side of Sluys, and on the seaward side a smaller breach exists, where the Royal Navy guns have been pointing the weaker defences. As night falls, while Marlborough has his troops make loud demonstrations in the trenches close to the landward breach, troops land from boats from the RN ships and storm the unregarded seaward side. The attack is a success! Sluys is taken!

July 28th, 1703

The Grand Alliance Army moves on Ghent to see about threatening the supply route of Berwick. As the British and Hanoverian cavalry approach, night is falling. A sentry calls out to the British 5th Dragoons, “Quel regiment?” Thinking quickly of a similarly-clothed French regiment, Lt. Colonel Brody shouts back, “La Reine.” The gates are opened and the cavalry rides in. Quickly dragoons are told off to seize the gatehouse. A total of two shots are fired and one dragoon lightly injured before the complete garrison of Ghent surrenders. Later inspection discovers a huge stock of foodstuffs and gunpowder as well as siege artillery shot. This was Berwick’s main depot!

July 29th, 1703

The Alliance Army is across the Scheldt and back to the town of Alost, but now they are facing the opposite way. Cavalry pickets spread out northeast and quickly encounter their French counterparts.

1703-4

July 30th, 1703

Berwick is pinned between two rivers with an army in front of him and a fortress at his back. Upon investigation, he finds that he has no pontoon train, so crossing a river is out of the question. He must either fight his way out, starve or surrender.

Wait! There is a ford over the Rupel along a lesser road that leads to Brussels. If he can get there before the Alliance troops are fully deployed he might yet escape.

(Please Note: Berwick’s decision to besiege Termonde, putting him in a difficult situation, was not decided by die roll. I specifically contrived this to put the French Army in a situation where they had to cross the front of the Alliance Army. This was an attempt to recreate the situation of August 2nd,, 1702. There Marlborough managed to get on the enemy’s flank and rear and the only option they had was to go streaming past his Army, which was set out in order of battle. The only thing that prevented him from destroying the French were the United Provinces political representatives, who refused to allow the Netherlands troops to engage in battle. They declared there was no point to fighting, as the enemy was already retreating. Had they acquiesced, it is very likely that the French Army under Boufflers would have been destroyed.

However, to make things interesting, the Alliance Army will NOT be deployed. They too will be marching for the strategic bridge, to stop the French. Their advantage: they will have considerably less distance to travel.)

The Battle of Alost

May 7th, 1703
A little spring shower in the morning gives the French an excuse to dawdle more. The troops are finally arrayed by about lunchtime. On the right, Villeroi has the infantry shaken out into line formation. On the left Marsin is sending them in in column of attack. On the open left flank, d’Hautville leads the cavalry against the allied horse.

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The whole board. Up front, British and Hanoverian cavalry on the left, French on the right. In the background, the fortified line held by the Hanoverian infantry and backed up by the British. On the upper right the French infantry advances to the attack. At the far edge of the table, the River Rupel is not shown.

 

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The French right flank advances upon the Allied earthworks.

 

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The Hanoverian infantry and artillery are dug in using anything they could find. Behind them the British and Hanoverian grenadiers wait as a reserve.

 

12:45
A little bit of artillery interplay as the French advance. On the open flank, both groups of cavalry move forward eagerly, seeking contact.

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Looking to the Allied right flank from over the Hanoverian infantry, we see the Alliance heavy cavalry going into action. The British 3rd Regiment of Horse is followed by Grothaus and Hodenberg Kurassiers of Hanover. In the background, the town of Alost.

 

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The British dragoons move forward to take on their French counterparts.

13:00
The cavalry on the open flank engage. It seems an even affair as the contacting units on both sides recoil, moving to the rear to reorganize.

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The heavy cavalry engages.

13:15
The cavalry battles continue, with no one getting an advantage on either side.

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The dragoons from each side on the outer flank continue to hack away at each other.

 

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La Reine Cuirassiers, drawn in from outpost duty, arrive on the battlefield.

 

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With the heavy cavalry engaged in swirling battles around them, the French grenadiers, supposedly leading the way in the assault against the Hanoverian right flank, are bogged down by the threats to them. Here they have formed square in self-defense.

 

13:30
The French infantry closes up with the enemy fortifications as the cavalry battles continue to determine who will control the open flank.

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The British 10th Dragoons battle the Royal Dragoons (center) while their compatriots fall back to reform (left) and the French supports come on (right).

 

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The Palffy Kurassier, lead unit of the Austrian reinforcements, begins to arrive.

 

13:45
Attention is focused on the cavalry as they come to a conclusion of sorts. The French Royal Dragoons break and run, leaving the balance between the respective sides pretty much equal.
However, closer to the center, the Hodenberg Kurassier are driven from the field, leaving just two Alliance units to face five French, as the La Reine are coming up quickly.

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Hodenberg Kurassier (center) turn their backs on their enemy (foreground,) who are taking a breather while they get themselves sorted out. In the background, British 3rd Regiment of Horse and Grothaus Kurassier prepare to meet more than twice their number.

14:00
The French infantry move up into musketry range and get a blast or two for their problems. One battalion taking cannister immediately evaporates toward the rear.

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The Hanoverian infantry, well dug in, fire a volley at the approaching French.

 

14:15
Attention shifts quickly to the infantry. On the French right flank two more battalions decide to call it quits after particularly effective Hanoverian musketry. The Hanoverians here have taken almost no damage.

14:30
Closer to the center, Marsin has elected to have his battalions attack in column of assault. These press forward more successfully. Three battalions make it to the fortifications and push-of-pike.

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II battalion Gardes Lorraines (blue coats) has made it to the entrenchments and is engaging the Hanoverians. Three Swiss battalions (red coats) follow up behind while I/Gardes Lorraines hesitate after taking a blast of cannister.

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In the center rear, a battalion each of La Sarre and Royal Roussillion are climbing the fortifications to get to their enemy, while more supporting battalions move up to try their hand. In the upper left can be glimpsed the Hanoverian and British heavies.

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A better over-all view showing the three battalions assaulting the entrenchments, and their supports moving up. The Alliance heavies are in the background and in the hazy distance can be seen the first of the Austrian units.

Over in cavalry country the heavies are still eyeballing each other warily, but the dragoons have begun to mix it up again.

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On the extreme flank, the dragoons are at it again. In the upper left the small King’s Own Dragoons have lit into the Apchon Dragoons like a frenetic rat going after a terrier. Upper right the French Schomburg Dragoons and the Royal Irish Dragoons are committed in their charge. In the middle distance the red-and-yellow streak are the 10th Dragoons (My first unit, sigh) leaving the battlefield post-haste. In the foreground the Austrian dragoons, apparently just passing by, will soon be stopped to join in the fray.

14:45
The three assaulting battalions are repulsed, but at the same time they have sent the defending battalions running. There is a great empty gap in the entrenchments! Two more French battalions move in to fill that vacuum.

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In the center of the picture the II/Courten is over the wall, while to the right of them II/Royal Barrois is following their example. The British and Hanoverians are milling around in the foreground, trying to shake themselves out in time to repel the cheeky Swiss.

 

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A good over-all view showing the two battalions breeching the empty entrenchments, and the lack of supports behind them. Many of the French troops toward the upper left are fleeing the field, while the supports are being hindered by the frightened hordes streaming to the rear.

 

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On the far flank, the dragoons are fighting it out. On the very right Apchon Dragoons have recoiled. To the left the Schomburg Dragoons and the 5th Royal Irish have come together with a crash. Beside them, the disordered King’s Own Dragoons have decided to call it a day, and in the rear, two Austrian dragoon regiments are shaking out into formation preparatory to advancing.

 

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French reinforcements arrive, drawn in from outpost positions on the Scheldt crossings; 2 battalions and one regiment of heavies.

 

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Austrian reinforcements arrive; the infantry besiegers of Termonde are beginning to arrive once their cavalry is out of their way.

15:00
On the far flank the Schomburg Dragoons have been scattered to the winds. Now there is only the shaken Apchon Dragoons to try and stop 1 British and 2 Austrian dragoon regiments. They begin to fall back, postponing the moment of decision. A message has been passed to the heavy cavalry closer to the center and they have begun falling back as well.

Coincidentally, at the French left flank infantry, the Duc de Berwick has ordered a halt to the attack. He begins moving infantry battalions around to fill the gaping hole in his center.

The last two French battalions crossing into the entrenchments have been repulsed by musket fire from the well-placed British reserve units.

Ominously dark clouds are moving in overhead and lightning sparks on the horizon.

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In the foreground the Schomburg Dragoons flee. Close by the Apchon Dragoons turn to face their pursuers, the Austrian and British dragoons (left.) In the distance you can see the French heavy cavalry and vague glimpses of the rest of the battle.

 

15:30
Marlborough intends to order a general advance, but there is a major distraction. Not just the Austrians have arrived. The complete Prussian staff has shown up as well, bringing good news. The Prussians are right behind the Austrians! It is possible that the French will be enveloped and destroyed today!
As they confer on a rise behind the British/Hanoverian lines, droplets of rain begin to fall. It quickly turns into a deluge, with lightning flashing nearby. “This way, Gentlemen,” calls Marlborough, “There is a farmhouse within our lines in which we may take shelter.”

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Just in rear of the British reserves, Marlborough confers with the Prussian staff, including their Commander in Chief.

 

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In the rain, as the French forces begin to withdraw, Generals meet. Marsin declares hotly, “Why did you not continue the attack?”
Villeroi replies, “Because we were getting nowhere! I was losing men in great numbers and we made not a dint in their nice defences!”
“And yet my troops did,” declares Marsin. “We broke right through his defences! Had Marbrouke not been able to pull his reserves over from your side, we could have had him!”
“You never would have,” says Villeroi. “The position was too strong.”
“The King shall hear of this! You shall be disgraced!”
“Well, let him hear all he wants. Right now I am wet, and I do not wish to be. Let us get ourselves out of this accursed trap before it cracks shut on us.”
“This is not the end of this, Villeroi.”
15:45
Muskets can’t be primed. Even cannon cannot be fired. The infantry battle comes to a fizzling halt.
On the outer flank the horsemen are aware of the slippery conditions and reduced visibility and proceed cautiously.

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The French heavy cavalry are cautiously retiring, while the Alliance heavies seem rather reluctant to pursue all out. On the right, the French grenadiers have formed squares to protect the French infantry’s left flank.

 

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On the outer extreme the Austrian and British dragoons advance, looking for their unseen adversaries (top). The French commander, taking advantage of the situation, forms up the Apchon Dragoons (bottom right) and marches them off smartly to join up with the heavies.

16:00

Thus does the battle end, not with a bang but a whimper, reduced vision, wet powder and confusion.

The French sullenly withdraw under the lashing of the heavy downpour. The Allied pursuit is non-existent, as Marlborough seems more concerned about entertaining his Prussian visitors.

Into the New Year

(This is a continuation of the ongoing campaign I am running solo. To follow it in order you should read the posts from bottom to top.)

November 17th, 1702

The Duc d’Orleans gathers his forces and heads east for the safety of his fortifications. Marlborough has an army of exhausted troops who are low on ammunition, and a supply line which has been stretched thinly and abused. He takes the opportunity for some much-needed rest.

November 18th, 1702

The Duc d’Orleans arrives at the minor fortification of Tirlermont. There he parades his troops and congratulates them on “Stopping the Alliance Army.”

Marlborough closes on Stevenswaert where he can get some much-needed supplies.

At the same time Ginkel is approaching the unoccupied Lines of Brabant with a small army of Netherlanders.

November 20th, 1702

Ginkel enters the Lines of Brabant with his Netherland troops and begins throwing down the defences.

November 23rd, 1702

Resupplied, Marlborough takes advantage of the fact that the siege train is still at Stevenswaert to move on Maastricht. Graf Lottum invests the place with his Prussians and allies while Marlborough with the British and Hanoverian contingents provides the covering force.

Ginkel is taking his time about wrecking the Lines of Brabant. This is not a problem as there is no opposition.

November 30th, 1702

Lines of circumvallation and contravallation are complete around Maastricht. Lottum calls on the commander to surrender, as there is no hope of relief. The commander, hoping that General Winter will come to his aid, replies in a strong and fiery negative.

December 1st, 1702

In the early hours of the morning a group of senior residents of Maastricht, not wanting their businesses and residences to be destroyed by mortar fire, arrange to open a gate to the besiegers. Before dawn the Prussian infantry have control of the place as the garrison surrenders piecemeal in their barracks.

December 4th, 1702

Time is short, the days are shorter and winter is approaching. Lottum moves on Liege while Marlborough covers him.

December 11th, 1702

Liege is surrounded, trenches are dug. The siege guns are coming up by the Maas river. The commandant of Liege has been offered honours of war and has refused. The Duc d’Orleans is not moving.

Up in the north, Ginkel has retired into winter quarters in Brecht and Bergen op Zoom after having dismantled only a few mines of the Lines of Brabant.

December 19th, 1702

The first batteries are barely in place, the first approach trenches have just been started when the garrison of Liege hangs out the flag of parley. Food is already on starvation rations and the Pox is spreading through the town.

December 20th, 1702

As part of the surrender agreement, Marlborough insists on giving the garrison of Liege honours of war. After all, he really doesn’t need enemy troops rife with the Pox being in close contact with his own army.

December 22nd, 1702

And so to winter quarters. The British troops are spread between Liege and Maastricht while the Hanoverian troops and Prussian mercenaries head home.

 

1703

April 3rd, 1703

British troops begin assembling at Liege. Fresh units and replacements have been promised. Rumour is that those reinforcements have landed at Breda and will be coming up the Maas River within the next couple of weeks.

The promised Hanoverian troops are said to be approaching Essen on the Rhine River and likely to join up within the week. They are commanded by Graf Gebhardt von Hauptburg.

No one is quite sure where the Prussian mercenaries are.

Even the Austrians have promised a small contingent of locally-raised troops. They are said to be convening on Roeremonde under the command of a young local noble, Johann, Ritter von Berwitz (thought to be a back-hand offspring of the Duc de Berwick.)

In the opposite camp, the Duc d’Orleans is no longer a factor. He has been replaced by the Duc de Berwick, ably assisted by Marshal Villeroi.

April 10th, 1703

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The initial location and route taken to confound Berwick

The Hanoverian contingent has arrived at Venlo, where they find an order to begin gathering and/or building boats in preparation for moving up to Maastricht. Likewise the Austrian forces have been told to collect boats. They will receive movement orders forthwith.

Still no sign of the Prussians.

A huge reinforcement for the French has arrived at Avesnes under the command of Marsin. They have orders to join the Duc de Berwick as quickly as possible.

April 16th, 1703

A boat appears at Venlo, coming downstream. The person at the back with the fancy hat turns out to be Marlborough himself. He orders the Austrians to be ready to move within the hour. The destination is revealed to be downstream to Antwerp, not upstream to Maastricht.

The French reinforcements under Marsin have reached almost to Charleroi.

April 21st, 1703

The Austrians have arrived at Antwerp and moved forward. Close behind them come the Hanoverians, and a day later sees the arrival of the English contingent. The Austrians have advanced through the destroyed portion of the Lines of Brabant (No French commander saw fit to rebuild what was thrown down) to invest Termonde. The Hanoverians and English move forward to cover them. Spades are passed out as lines of circumvallation and contravallation are begun. Pontoon bridges are thrown over the Scheldt river, connecting the siege lines to the Netherlands fortification of Huest, and thence to Antwerp.

The Prussians are said to be approaching Venlo. Boats have been sent to that fortification in case this is true.

The Duc de Berwick has finally gotten wind of the sudden movement of the Alliance forces. “My God, I have been made to look like a little bug,” he was heard to exclaim. With unaccustomed haste he has gathered his local forces and headed for Brussels. Riders have been sent to find Marsin and redirect him there as well.

April 26th, 1703

After a certain amount of retracing his steps, Marsin arrives at Brussels to find the Duc de Berwick and his body of troops there before him. Marsin’s force barely gets a night’s rest before they are on the road again to the relief of Termonde.

Still no definite word from the Prussians.

April 30th, 1703

Termonde is situated between two rivers – the Scheldt and the Rupel – with barely 8 miles between them at their widest. Not the best place to try to attack an enemy. Berwick continues across the Scheldt to Ghent, with the intention of swinging around the Netherlands-occupied fortress of Huest and cutting Marlborough’s communications with Antwerp. Unfortunately for him he finds the Alliance army there before him, dug in with its flank on Huest and its center fortified in the town of St. Niklaas. Hesitant, he falls back on Ghent.

The Prussians are at Venlo.

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Berwick’s flank move

May 6th, 1703

Berwick recrosses the Scheldt to try a direct approach to Termonde. Once again he finds the Alliance army dug in with their right flank on the Scheldt. (It’s those accursed pontoon bridges they have over the Scheldt. It gives them a shorter route.)

Scouting cavalry indicate that the Alliance left flank is open. Berwick maneuvers that way, hoping to catch the Alliance unawares. They leave their trenches and follow him. Berwick shifts left until he reaches the Rupel, where he begins to array his army into battle order. The Alliance army has followed and still blocks his way to Termonde. Berwick summons Villeroi and Marsin to discuss how best to destroy the enemy. The heated discussion rages on into the night and is picked up the next morning.

While the French commanders argue, the Alliance soldiers dig. Marlborough has called up the Austrians, effectively ending the siege. The garrison of Termonde gleefully sorties and lays waste the approach trenches. Meanwhile the Prussians have been reported at Antwerp and are marching post haste for Huest and the pontoon bridges over the Scheldt. Will they arrive on time?

(The battle of Alost is to be fought out when I have time. However first I have to take Upton Games to a booth in the World Boardgaming Championships in Seven Springs, Pa. (Southwest of Pittsburgh.) With luck I might be able to start the setup before I go, but it is most likely the battle won’t actually commence until the first half of August.)

The Battle of Stevenswaert

The Duc d’Orleans has 5 strength points to Marlborough’s seven. Thus Marlborough gets 40% more troops that does the Duc. So if we put my existing French army into it, that’s 8 battalions for 200 points plus 5 cavalry regiments for 150 points and artillery for 40 points brings us basically up to 400 points (actually 376.) Thus Marlborough is allowed 526 points.

The battlefield is laid out with three hills on the French side for them to defend (They occupy two,) as well as a block of woods on their left flank, and an (understood) woods on their right flank. Terrain is laid out by random roll of dice, giving the French a farmhouse and barn with an orchard and small walled field to defend right in the middle of their line.

01 French layout.JPG
The French battle line awaits the onslaught, their backs to the edge of the world.

On the British side there is also a farmhouse with large walled field and a small copse of woods beside it that are nothing more than impediment to their moving forward, as well as a rough area of boulders and bush, ditto. So, advantage to the French.

04 Alliance Layout.JPG
The Alliance setup, with British on the left, Prussians on the right.

The Battle of Stevenswaert
(Background music playing: Mozart’s Requiem. Anachronistic but appropriate.)02 French Battle Line.JPG
The French line, with farmhouse and orchard in the background.

The British and Prussian infantry moves forward, with the artillery still limbered trailing behind. The Prussian cavalry is massed on the left flank, as being the only area where there is room for them to deploy.

03 French Behind Walls.JPG
The Royal Vaisseaux Regiment, making faces at the Prussians from behind their nice safe stone wall.

10:00
The infantry moves forward, with the British heading to the right of the orchard/farm complex and the Prussians moving to the left of it. The Prussians are particularly hampered as the walled field of the farm and the copse of woods are limiting their access to the battlefield.

10:15
The French artillery begin a desultory bombardment of the advancing Alliance troops. Their cavalry – all massed on their right flank to match the Alliance arrangement – begins to edge forward to counter the Alliance horse. The British dragoons behind the right middle of the line begin to shift over to the left.

10:30
Basically a continuation of the previous actions. The converged British grenadier battalion shifts out past the right flank, heading for the woods protecting the French left.

10:45
The right flank of the British comes into range of the French left flank. Shots are fired.

06 British Advance.JPG
The French battle line standing up to the perfidious Albions

The British come on, two lines deep, and trade volleys with their hated enemies.
The Prussian infantry is deploying for attack after getting past the walled field of the farm. The Prussian cavalry deploys from column of squadrons to full regimental width as they get past the copse. The French cavalry begins moving out to meet them.
The British artillery, having no other clear target to shoot at, start knocking around the farmhouse.

10 Prussians & Cavalry.JPGThe Prussian advance as seen from the right flank of the French position.

11:00
With a great crash the first rank of both sides’ cavalry come together. The French horse does minimal damage on the Prussian cuirassiers; the Prussians in turn do maximum. The first French horse flees the engagement, disrupting the dragoons behind them.
07 Cavalry Battle.JPG
The cavalry battle begins.

On the French far left flank, the British roll forward, firing as they come, and hit … nothing. The French infantry fire in return is equally ineffective. Only the artillery does any damage.

11:15
A Prussian gun unlimbers next to the Prussian cavalry and manages to send shots down through the ranks of French cavalry regiments. The regiment just fleeing from the above melee is clobbered once again before they have a chance to draw a breath, and are last seen heading off into the sunset.

11 Cavalry Battle & Fr Rt Flank.JPGThe cavalry battle, with the infantry fighting it out in the background

Off on the opposite flank, French and British infantry exchange fire at point-blank range, but nothing is concluded. Even the two batteries, pouring cannister into the poor 44th Reg’t of Foot do not do enough punishment to send them flying. Guess they’re looking over their shoulder a little too much.

Finally the British grenadiers have filtered through the branch of the woods and are poised on the flank of the French. The smoke from the firing is such that the French don’t even know they are there yet. Volley? Or charge?

11:30
The British infantry, infuriated by the clouds of cannister and their lack of success with firing, close with the bayonet.
08 French Right Flank Assailed.JPG
The British cross bayonets with the French.

Seeing this, the grenadiers, who were about to fire from the shelter of the woods, pop out and charge into the flank of the II/Gardes Lorraine and their supporting II/Reg’t Royal. The Reg’t Royal manage to turn two companies to face them. It isn’t enough.

09 Grenadier Surprise.JPG
The British grenadiers pop out of the woods into the flank of the French line.

At the rolling thunder of 4s and 5s the French right flank disintegrates, with both battalions of the Gardes Lorraines fleeing the field and the II/Reg’t Royal retreating in disorder. One battery of artillery is broken, and the other follows suit voluntarily.

11:45
The first battalion of the Regiment Royal stands alone against the surging British; and is charged by the hyped-up 14th Foot. The 44th Foot and the grenadier battalion is moving past their open left flank in pursuit of the fleeing French.
13 French Flank Broken.JPG
The French left flank broken. Half hidden by the tree on the right, the I/Reg’t Royal tries to stem the tide.

The left flank Brigade commander, de Grimoir, goes looking for reinforcements from the right flank. Unfortunately there is no help for him here, as they and the cavalry are being hard pressed.

14 Cavalry Battle Continues.JPG
The cavalry battle continues, with the outnumbered French getting the worst of it.

15 The Prussians Press the Attack.JPGThe Prussians press the attack.

12:00
II/Diesbach and Royal Allemande cavalry are pulled from the French right flank to try to succor the left. II/Royal Barrois evacuates the farmhouse to set up the beginning of a defensive line at right angles to previous. The two French batteries on the right flank are limbered up and pulled out – just at the point where the initial Prussian attack is driven back.

18 Prussian Front Line Fleeing.JPGThe Prussian front line (facing right) in disorder as it falls back through its comrade battalions.

16 Fleeing French.JPG
To the right, II/Royal Barrois forming the beginnings of a new line, with broken French units streaming past to the rear.

12:15
The L-shaped French line is under pressure all around, with infantry pressing forward steadily and a huge horde of cavalry swinging toward their right flank with nothing much to stop them.

17 Reinforcements.JPG
In the upper right, the French right flank infantry awaiting the renewed Prussian assault. In the center back II/Diesbach (red coats) is coming over to help II/Royal Barrois, barely holding the line against the British onslaught.

II/Royal Barrois is in particular trouble, with two battalions closing in on its front while another battalion occupied the farmhouse it just relinquished and is firing into its flank.

(Note: It would probably be well before this point that, if this was a game between two opponents, one of them would be willing to admit, “Well, it looks as if I am losing. What say we call it a night?” After all, when you know you are losing, who wants to fight it out to the bitter end?
However, this is a solo game. I (with the help of the dice) am commanding the French. I’m also commanding the Allies, so no matter what happens I’m going to be a winner … and a loser. It’s almost more important to me that this gets played out properly than that blame and praise get assessed. Besides, there’s still curiosity in me to see what happens.
This is also a campaign game. What happens after the French position crumbles is very important to the continuation of the strategic part of the campaign. Do the remaining French units get away and continue to fight another day? Can the Allies surround them and force them to surrender? The outcome of this will indicate whether or not the French have an army with which they can continue to resist the Allies’ advance for the rest of the campaign year.)

12:30
The remaining French units begin falling back. On the two flanks, the two battalions of the Diesbach regiment are doing the main share of the rearguard work, with a cavalry regiment on each flank.

12:45

The pocket begins to form. The Regiment Diesbach in their red coats on either flank, with cavalry support, are holding back the British and Prussians while two French battalions are seen moving to the rear.
The right flank is now in trouble, as the Schomberg Dragoons and I/Diesbach are both sent reeling in disarray. All is not – quite – lost as the Prussian dragoon regiment also recoils violently, disrupting the piles of friendly cavalry coming up behind them in support.

22 French Retiring.JPG
French retiring, with Diesbach holding the flanks. In the upper left can be seen the remnants of two French battalions fleeing the action.

13:00
Royal Allemande on the left flank charges into the battalion of British grenadiers, sending them reeling. The few French battalions holding the line take more punishment as they withdraw slowly backward.

A surprise! French II btn Royal Regiment, having regained their composure, appear on the flank and rear of the British advance. Some Hanoverian battalions coming up from reserve are turned to stop this new threat.

23 Flank Threat.JPG
II/Regiment Royal coming in behind the British, with Hanoverian Scheither turning to face them.

13:15
The British musketry finally breaks the spirit of both II/Diesbach and Royal Allemande, once again ruining the French left flank. However the British brigade commander orders a halt until he finds out exactly what this new flank attack is. Surely no sane commander would send a single battalion into action against the bulk of the right flank reserve. There must be more! It’s a trap! The local brigade commander sends an aide demanding reinforcements.

The Prussians, however, come on as if they are unstoppable.

24 Prussian Steamroller.JPG
The Prussian infantry advance. Vorwarts!

13:30
Marlborough issues halt orders to all concerned as he dashes off to discover what the problem is on his right flank. The French take advantage of this to back-pedal furiously.

Marlborough arrives on his right flank to find … nothing. A scattering of French infantry retiring in the distance. He sacks the brigade commander on the spot. Said brigade commander will remain nameless here to avoid shame to his family. (Cover-up!)

13:45
As the Allied army rumbles to a halt in indecision, the remnants of the French Army makes its escape. The outer trenches of the siege of Stevenswaert are not far away, and there the previously broken regiments are rallying. Troops are being drawn off the actual siege front line to bolster the French in the face of the impending relief force. Once the French pull themselves together, the defensive works will be exceedingly difficult to assault.

With the battle over a final reckoning is required. Out of 12 French battalions that started the game, 5 remained. Two out of four batteries decamped as well, and of the 5 cavalry regiments at the beginning, only one stuck it out. So at a quick calculation they end up with three strength points, plus the three strength points that were besieging Stevenswaert gives them a total of 6.

The Allies, on the other hand, lost a meager total of 3 battalions and one cavalry regiment, so they remain at 7 strength points.

Final result: the siege of is broken and the French are no longer pinned down there.

(At this point I would like to indicate that I will no longer be using the map and rules from Frederick the Great. I have a new, more detailed map of the Low Countries that I shall be using. Movement will be on a daily basis. In most cases a day-by-day account will be rather boring, so I’ll try to just hit you with the highlights.)

The Battle of Venlo

Beginnings: So, on to the campaign. It is 1702. The French have occupied all the strong points of the Spanish Netherlands in the name of Philip V, the new King of Spain. The forces of the Grand Alliance need to recover the Spanish Netherlands in the name of Charles III, the new King of Spain. They find themselves backed into the Netherlands, with any further incursions by the French being potentially disastrous.

A quick note: Marlborough the Great is played in half-monthly turns, with an event card drawn for each side at the beginning of the month.

May 15th, 1702. The Grand Alliance Army is finally collected at Nimwegan. The French opposite number is at Louvain under Boufflers. One bright note for the Alliance is that it’s army is slightly larger than the French forces opposed to it. The first priority is to eliminate a couple of French-held fortifications on the right bank of the Rhine, thus denying the French easy crossings of the river. Therefore the army moves down the left bank of the Rhine to besiege Geldern. A sufficient force (3 strength points) are used to besiege the town while the rest of the force finds a defensive position just to the west, facing the French-held fortification of Venlo on the Maas river (the most logical French crossing-point.)

Boufflers has a decision to make. He can:

  1. Sit in the Lines of Brabant and do nothing;
  2. Sit in the Lines of Brabant and do nothing;
  3. Immediately move to break the siege;
  4. Move to threaten the siege forces and their communications;
  5. Besiege Maastricht in turn, prompting the Alliance to counter it;
  6. Leave troops in the Lines of Brabant and besiege Huest;
  7. Leave troops in the Lines of Brabant and besiege Bergen-op-Zoom.

Having an initiative of 1 in the game, he adds that to his die roll. The resounding roll is a 1, which means he does nothing.

June 1st, 1702. This being the beginning of the month, event cards are drawn for both sides. Neither has an outside event that effects his situation.

Encouraged by the inaction of his opponent, the Alliance commander determines to leave the besieging forces in place and move to invest and besiege Venlo as well. Leaving Ginkel in charge at Geldern, he moves Netherlands forces under Overkirk to blockade the east side of Venlo while he moves his British and Prussian forces to the left bank of the Maas to cover the two sieges.

SONY DSC

The campaign map showing mostly the Spanish Netherlands. Dark grey circular marks are fortifications. The three near the right-hand edge are neutral. The green areas are the forested rough terrain of the Ardennes. Boufflers’ counter is on the stack just to the right of center. Marlborough and his army is the dark union jack counter near the upper right corner.

Boufflers is now being prompted from Versailles to do … something. He decides he has the following options:

  1. Sit in the Lines of Brabant and do nothing;
  2. Sit in the Lines of Brabant and do nothing;
  3. Leave troops (2 SP) in the Lines of Brabant and move to break the siege;
  4. Leave troops (1 SP) in the Lines of Brabant and move to break the siege;
  5. Leave troops (2 SP) in the Lines of Brabant and move to threaten the siege forces and their communications;
  6. Or more: Leave troops (1 SP) in the Lines of Brabant and Besiege Maastricht in turn, prompting the Alliance to counter it.

The resulting die roll, with modification, is: 5

June 15th, 1702: At first call, the isolated garrison of Geldern abjectly surrenders. Ginkel moves to take over the siege of Venlo, bringing the besieging forces from Geldern (minus the new garrison) to the siege. He provides no reinforcements for Marlborough’s covering force.

Boufflers’ options:

  1. Assault the covering force;
  2. Move forward threateningly;
  3. Move to besiege Grave.

Option 2 is taken. Boufflers positions himself between the Alliance covering force and Stevenswaert, less than 10 KM from the enemy.

SONY DSC

Boufflers moves his army out from Louvain in a threatening manner, then moves in between Stevenswaert and Marlborough’ army covering the siege. Finally he moves North to the attack.

July 1st, 1702: Time to see how outside forces may affect this campaign: The French forces are not affected, but Marlborough is required to send forces to defend against a perceived threat against Hanover. He dispatches his Hanoverian troops and his Hessian mercenaries. The Alliance maintains its position.

Boufflers’ options:

  1. Retire into Stevenswaert;
  2. Stay where he is;
  3. Attack.

Possibly influenced by complaints from Versailles, (or rolling a 6) Boufflers moves forward into the attack.

The Alliance forces are not dug in, but Marlborough has chosen a good position. He is situated on a ridge. His left is on the Maas river and his right is protected by the Grauffert woods. In front of him runs a small stream.

The Battle of Venlo
The French have 8 strength points coming into the battle. The problem here is that I don’t have 800 points worth of French units. What I do have are 11 battalions at 24 points each (264 points); 4 regiments of cavalry (120 points); and four batteries of artillery (40 points), or a sum total of 424 points.
As the Alliance forces have 7 strength points, they are going to have to come in at less than that. 424 * 7/8 = 371 points. Thus the Alliance forces will be composed of 10 battalions of infantry (240 points); 4 batteries of artillery (40 points); plus 3 regiments of cavalry plus 1 squadron (96 points.)

The British drew up 5 battalions and two batteries on the right of the line along an east-west ridge running from the Grauffert Woods down to the Maas river. Two battalions are up front with the artillery, with two more in support and a fifth one in reserve. The Prussians drew up on their left with two two-battalion regiments side-by-side with artillery in between. Up forward a fifth Prussian battalion has occupied the farmhouse and small barn. No one is in the farmer’s field or the orchard. The cavalry was concentrated on their weaker left flank, with the Prussian heavies up front.
The French drew up in four brigades of infantry with artillery interspersed. They occupied a smaller ridge to the south of the stream. A brigade of cavalry bolstered either flank.

Battle Map of Venlo b.jpg

Field and initial starting points for the Battle of Venlo. British forces are in red, Prussian in blue and French in white. The two colours of brown indicate the approximate location of the two ridges on either side of the stream. Stream in blue. Farm house and barn in two-tone grey. Road in grey. Orchard is dark green dots, while wheat field is beige.

The Alliance troops need to hold this position. It is the best defensive spot between here and Venlo, about 4 English miles north of here. The French objective is to get them off the ridge and open up the road to Venlo. If they can do this the siege is broken.

Venlo 01.JPG

The English force of five battalions and two batteries, with the Prussians peeking out on the right. The view is from above the French position.

42nd & 44th.jpg

The 42n Highland battalion on the right with the 44th Reg’t of Foot drawn up in support.

Venlo 2.JPG

Prussian troops on the ridge, with the occupied farmhouse and barn in the foreground.

Venlo 2a.JPG
An ariel view of the Prussian Anhalt-Dessau Regiment Nr. 3, flanked by artillery batteries.

Venlo 3.JPG

Boufflers waves his plumed hat and the whole French line rolls forward. The artillery stops moving before they leave the ridge so that they can open up – rather ineffectively, it would seem – on the Alliance position.

Venlo 4.JPGThe French right flank cavalry brigade, seen before the action commenced. The Royal Allemande leads, with the Schomburg Dragoons in support.

The two center French brigades take stage center as they advance on the Alliance position. In the rear the French artillery has opened up.

The Alliance artillery opens up as soon as they start moving. Cannon balls start crashing through the lead battalions, often continuing on to do nasty work in the second and third battalions. The right-center brigade of the French is not harmed as the Alliance view of them is interrupted by the trees of the orchard. Unfortunately for the left-center brigade this means that two enemy batteries are plying their destructive trade on them. Before even crossing the stream, the first battalion recoils, throwing the rest into disorder. More deadly spheres crash into their ranks, sending that battalion – and shortly thereafter the second battalion – flying from the field.

Venlo 5.JPGThe French right-center brigade (on the left) shown in some confusion as the leading battalion recoils. Seen from above the Alliance’s central artillery position of two batteries.

In the right-hand French brigade the lead battalion also suffers from the attentions of the Prussian gunners. When they come in range of the farmhouse they come into a galling fire from the loopholes and barricaded windows. That’s enough for them and they’re off for parts unknown.

The second battalion of that brigade and battalions from the right-center brigade combine to take the farmhouse under fire, while one of the French batteries chimes in. They become bogged down in a firefight; numbers against prepared position.
And no one has even crossed the stream yet.

The cavalry on both flanks manage it first. The lead dragoon regiment on the left flank, already in some disorder, takes a blast of cannister and a volley of musket balls and recoils. They kick it into reverse, disordering the following dragoon regiment just as it is crossing the stream.

Venlo 6.JPG

The French left flank infantry regiment advancing, with the Royal Dragoons to their left. At the back the Apchon Dragoons can be seen fleeing the field.

On the French right flank their heavy cavalry is over the stream.

They advance quickly toward the lowest – and apparently undefended – section of the ridge, ignoring the nasty flanking fire all the while from the farmhouse. Almost in sight of an apparent victory, they are not entirely surprised to find a regiment of Prussian cuirassiers coming over the ridge in front of them, quickly followed by another. Even more standards are seen behind them. Trouble!

Venlo 9.JPG
With the enemy charging downhill on them, the Royal Allemande are sent off quite quickly without doing much damage to the enemy. That leaves a somewhat disorganized Schomburg Dragoons to face what turns out to be FOUR regiments of cavalry. (Okay, three and a half. That’s still pretty long odds.) The one saving grace is that the Prussian battalion that was firing on their flank has been sent off by concentrated fire by the French infantry.

From left to right Royal Lorraine, Gardes Lorraine and Saintonge regiments move up to attack the Prussians sequestered in the farmhouse. Note the colourful and completely fanciful Colonel’s standard of the Royal Lorraine, showing the (fictitious) quarterings of the Colonel’s coat of arms.
Schomburg Dragoons bravely facing up to four enemy cavalry regiments. In the foreground can be seen Royal Allemande fleeing. In the upper left can be seen parts of the Prussian battalion that was driven out of the farmhouse.

The inevitable happens. Having been disrupted by Royal Allemande pushing through them the dragoons are unable to charge. Despite previous exertions the uplifted Prussian Garde du Korps works up to a good charge and scatters the Schomburgs.

On the French left flank the remnants of their attack makes a feeble attempt. Two battalions continue forward, despite getting little support from their left-flank cavalry. Before they can continue with their suicidal attempt, orders reach them to retire. The French center has collapsed, and their right flank looks in a fair way to disintegrating as well. It looks like it is time to get out.

Now at this point it becomes obvious who the winner and loser is. If your friend had come over to be your opponent, and the evening was getting on, you might be thinking of breaking it up and going home. Even if that was not the case, who would want to preside over a dismal retirement or perhaps even a route.

But that is not the case. This is a solo game, and not only that but it is a part of a campaign. What happens now can be quite crucial to the campaign. Especially with the French disintegrating and the Alliance still with a large body of fresh and intact cavalry.

Play on!

The collapse of the French center.

Well, it never rains but it pours. One of the center French battalions, Royal Vaisseau, trying to reform, gets hit by cannon fire and breaks and runs. They are heading for the horizon. At the same time Apchon Dragoons, having recovered some of their equalibrium by reforming, get hit by cannon balls aimed at – but missing – the Royal Dragoons. They too go flying back to safer waters.

And if things aren’t bad enough, the French artillerists, seeing their infantry and cavalry departing in haste, decamp as well. Without their guns.

Meanwhile the French infantry battalions still in good order are falling back to the ridge on their side of the water, in hopes of making some kind of a stand. However their morale is still fragile, as demonstrated by one more of their number deciding to get out while the going is good. The Royal Reg’t is scattered by a hail of bouncing cannon balls.

Venlo 10.JPG
The French infantry forming up for a last stand on their side of the valley.

The infantry forms a line just in time. The Alliance cavalry, after slowing to wade through the stream, come on with serious intent. The Garde du Korps continue straight ahead, pursuing the fleeing French dragoons, but the rest of the cavalry veer to their right to take on the infantry line.Venlo 11.JPG

The Alliance cavalry comes pouring through.

As the Garde du Korps passes the large building they take a devastating volley from the Royal Lorraine, who have taken up residence in the building. It’s enough to turn them around and head for the quiet relief of their own lines. While this is going on the Gens d’Armes crash into the I/Diesbach battalion. Faced by those nasty bayonets and taking flanking fire from Royal Lorraine, they too decide they have had enough. However the Diesbach are sufficiently shaken to turn and run as well.

Venlo 12.JPG
The alliance cavalry coming up against the French last stand. In the foreground the Garde du Korps are retiring precipitously after having been flanked by the Royal Lorraine.Venlo 12a.JPG

Another view of the same action. In the near left the Gens d’Armes are mixing it up with the Diesbach. The six squadrons of British dragoons are moving up in support.

The 10th Dragoons charge up to engage two enemy battalions at once (greedy S.O.B.s) while the 2 squadrons of the 1st Dragoon Guards heads for the gap left by Diesbach. However help is at hand. The French Royal Dragoons are rested and ready to go. Coming over from the far flank, they prepare to close that potentially disastrous gap.

Hitting the two battalions, 10th Dragoons do enough damage to send one or the other of the units running. Unfortunately spread between the two of them it just isn’t enough. Conversely the two of them do enough damage to put the 10th out of the fight permanently.Venlo 13a.JPG

10th Dragoons engaging two French infantry battalions. At the bottom, 1st Dragoon Guards move into the gap while the French Royal Dragoons come forward in an attempt to stop them. Note the abandoned artillery pieces.

Seeing their companion unit turning and fleeing, the 1st Dragoon Guards decide that discretion is the better part of valour and retire. At least as far as where the Garde du Korps cuirassiers are reforming.

The Royal Dragoons and the remaining French infantry are happy to let them go. Both sides eyeball each other as the French slowly withdraw from the battlefield. With just a little more ineffectual firing on the part of the Alliance artillery, the battle is finally over.
(Interesting to note that the final skirmishing would most likely never have happened if this had been a dual battle.)

End results: The sum total of French units withdrawing intact from the battlefield are 4 infantry battalions and 2 dragoon regiments (Apchon Dragoons were still reforming at the end of the battle.) That’s 96 and 64 points for intact units. Seven battalions, 2 cavalry regiments and 4 artillery batteries left the field in an embarrassingly precipitous manor so they only count for half points: 84 + 28 + 20 = 132 + the intact 160 equals 292 final total. That’s considerably less than their original 424 points. 8 times 292 divided by 424 gives a little more than 5 strength points rounded down to 5.

The Alliance started with 371 points and lost a sum total of 28 points due to two cavalry regiments becoming demoralized. Thus they get to keep their 7 strength points.

Lessons learned for the French? Don’t place your units one behind the other; artillery balls just skip right through them. More importantly, don’t attack a good defensive position unless you have at least a good clear 2-1 superiority.

The campaign continues.

When news reaches the garrison at Venlo that the relief attempt has failed, they lose heart. The next day they hang out the parley flag, and within 24 hours have agreed to surrender as prisoners of war.

July 1st, 1702.

This being the beginning of the month, we get to turn up two new event cards. For the French, Boufflers is sacked. The Duc d’Orleans is brought on as his replacement. Until that time Coigny is in command of the French field army. He heads southwest. Ginkel moves down to besiege Roeremonde, while Marlborough moves down the left bank of the Maas river to cover the siege.

July 16th, 1702.

Treachery! Coigny and the French army approach Maastricht with intent. Someone within the great fortress has sent a message to the French. They will open a sally port to the French in the middle of the night, giving them surprise access to the whole place without having to storm it. The deed succeeds, and Maastricht has fallen to the French. Two strength points and the commander, Slangenburg, have all become prisoners of war.

The siege of Roeremonde continues.

August 1st, 1702.

Leaving 2 strength points in Maastricht, Coigny retires toward the Lines of Brabant with a much diminished French army. He arrives at Louvain, where he is joined by the Duc d’Orleans, who supercedes him.

Marlborough is joined by some United Provinces reinforcements. As the siege of Roeremonde is going well and the main French forces have left the area, Marlborough moves forward to threaten Maastricht while at the same time setting Opdam up to besiege Stevenswaert. Shortly thereafter the starving garrison of Roeremonde gives up.

Ginkel leaves a token garrison in Roeremonde and brings the remaining of his troops to help with the siege of Stevenswaert. Of course he assumes control of the operation.

August 16th, 1702

Apparently Stevenswaert was no better provisioned than Roeremonde. The starving garrison asks for terms (and food) long before a proper breach is made.

September 1st, 1702

Showing unaccustomed speed (or a good die roll) Ginkel ups his skirts and moves south to invest Limberg with his Army. Marlborough crosses the Maas at Stevenswaert and moves down to cover the operation.

The Duc d’Orleans reviews his troops.

September 16th, 1702

Limberg is truly invested and under siege. The commander of the garrison has been following events in the area. Two days after the siege officially begins he agrees to surrender. He too claims he is out of provisions (although strangely the incoming United Provinces garrison finds storehouses brimming with fresh food and livestock.)

The Duc d’Orleans moves his Army from Louvain into the great fortress of Maastricht. There he pauses to attend a number of soirees.

October 1st, 1702

Leaving a token garrison, Ginkel leaves Limberg and joins with the Duke of Marlborough; both move to Stevenswaert. United Provinces reinforcements, having previously moved to Nimwegan, seem reluctant to leave their country and join Marlborough. Their commander, Opdam, is an understanding sort. He has taken the opportunity of the fortnight’s rest to refresh himself in preparation for the coming journey.

The Duc d’Orleans has been unaccountably busy. To celebrate the recent liberation of Maastricht he has thrown a grand ball for all the notables of the city. Not only that but he has commissioned a Te Deum to be sung at the major cathedral in the center of town.

October 16th, 1702

In a sudden fast move, Marlborough is off by the seacoast, investing Antwerp.
The Duc d’Orleans sees his opportunity and moves east to try to take Stevenswaert back.

November 1st, 1702

Marlborough is determined to stop the siege of Stevenswaert and bring d’Orleans to battle, but his determination is foiled when he falls ill with a chronic headache. (Okay, okay, the French player lays a “You may not move this turn” card on him.)

Antwerp falls.

Stevenswaert does not.

French luck with the dice just does not seem to be “in.”

November 16th, 1702

Leaving a minimum garrison in Antwerp, Marlborough swoops down on the Duc d’Orleans’ covering army. The Duc is poised on a series of hills in a gap between two branches of the Woods of Stevenswaert, and will not be easy to winkle out.
Cue Baroque music!

 

Emulating Marlborough

Introduction: If you are anything like me, you get inspired by reading some of the histories. Following the campaigns of some of the great military leaders of history makes me wonder if I could have been able to emulate them in some way.

One of the great leaders was the Duke of Marlborough. I’ve often wondered if he was really influenced by the Netherlands deputies. Some people maintain that saying that he had to follow their veto was merely an excuse for opportunities he let slip away, or even opportunities that never existed; he was blaming others for the slow progress of the campaigns.

Setup: Something else I’ve always wondered about, relating to gaming and not to history. There are a number of naval games where there is a strategic element and a tactical element. You organize and move fleets around on a strategic board, then when there is a battle you fight it on a tactical board or even on the floor/table. Two of the classics that immediately come to mind are Avalon Hill’s Midway and Jutland.

Could this have been done with land warfare as well? I know there are some examples, such as The Sport of Kings. However, can one take a game intended to be a purely strategic game and turn it into a framework for tactical battles?

My eye fell upon the classic Frederick the Great (Okay, okay, I grew up with the AH classics. I’ve got lots of more modern games but I never play them.) This covers the Seven Years War in a strategic sense. The playing pieces are leaders and “strength counters.” These last are basically counters that indicate size of the army. No distinction is made between cavalry, infantry and artillery.

Hmm. Seven Years War = War of the Spanish Succession. Not a good match, you say. Well, there was a variant for Frederick the Great that takes it back to the Silesian Wars that proceeded the SYW, but that’s not far enough, is it? Let’s dig further. There was also a complete game variant on it called Marlborough the Great. It used most of the rules but the map and counters were completely different. The map is of the low countries only. I’m sure I can use that.

Bouffler's Moves.jpg

A picture of the upper right corner of the Marlborough the Great map. Most of the pieces shown on here are garrison units. However follow the red arrows and you will see Boufflers confronting Marlborough just before the Battle of Venlo.

Now there are going to be some people who might complain, as I intend to use Seven Years’ War armies to fight the War of the Spanish Succession. The units won’t look proper without the long coats and big flappy cuffs, you say. I say I’ve been building up this SYW army and I’d like to use it; however I am most attracted right now to seeing what can be done regarding the campaigns of Marlborough. Let me have a little leaway. Besides, the figures I have are 15mm. From a distance, you can’t tell the difference.

This does have some disadvantages for me. In particular I’m going to lose the use of some of my Allied units. The Nr. 8 von Seydlitz Hussars that I have just yesterday incorporated as a finished lot into my Prussian army will have to sit this one out, as will my beautiful Prussian Feldjaegers zu Fuss (Who have yet to see action.)

To repeat, we have a situation where we have leader counters and strength counters. So we want to go from strength counters to tactical units. What if we just arbitrarily declare that each strength counter is equal to 100 points? Then  we can use the old Donald Featherstone yardstick of 1 infantryman is 1 point, a cavalryman is 2 and an artillery battery is 10 points. I’m going to have to do it that way as the various units I have are of different sizes.

Going from the strategic map to the tabletop will be easy, then. Going from the tabletop back to the map will be a slightly different matter. I want the casualties taken on the field to be reflected in the strategic armies. Thus I’m going to indicate that units that survive the battles intact will represent their full points when the game ends, but units that become demoralized because of the battle are only going to represent half their points value.

Rules: The reason I am going in this direction is a reflection of the rules I am using: Honours of War. In these rules – similar to other rules these days, it seems – there is no keeping count of actual figures lost. Units remain the same size throughout a battle. What you do keep track of is the unit’s morale state. Thus if a unit has accumulated a total of 5 hits in the course of the battle, their morale is wrecked; or they are “Done for,” in the terms of the rules. They must leave the table and not return … at least for that battle.

I am using Honours of War because it produces a quick resolution to large battles. Especially as I am trying to do a campaign by myself, this might become important. Amongst other things, I find that I can’t spend more than an hour at a time at the wargames table, so things might become protracted.

To avoid those senior “Now, where was I?” moments, I am going to write orders for both sides before a turn and thus movement will be simultaneous.

Battlefield scenery will be randomly generated, with a slight bias toward any army that has already been on the spot and may have had the chance to pick a good defensive position. It is assumed that if one side is actually well dug-in at a location, battle will be avoided. Unless of course the attacking force has a large size advantage and the commander decides to try and use it.

I shall be playing the part of Marlborough (Delusions of Grandeur?) The part of the opposing commander(s) will be played by a six-sided die. Strategic and grand tactical decisions will be broken up into three to six categories, graded by stupidest (lowest) to most brilliant (highest,) and a d6 will be rolled. Its result will be modified by the ability (or lack thereof) of the commander.

One completely incidental note: All background mood music will be period music: Bach, Handel, Vivaldi and their contemporaries.