Friday, January 29, 2010

'Is this 1806 all over again?'

The 'logical campaign is herewith set in the context of a broader campaign: that of May 1813. Marshal Dubonnet has been given a small Corps d'Armee, the XIV, and is operating some distance off the left flank of Napoleon's main force that is about to cross the Saale river near Leipzig. A few days into the campaign, and already the Berlin Press is expressing its worry over the likely outcome of the war.

BERLIN BLATTER 1 May 1813, Gross-huntersdorf.-
'The much anticipated and apprehended advance of the Ogre's hosts of Midian has begun in earnest, and already the first clashes of arms have taken place as the month of April draws to a close. The main body of the French armies, under command of the Emperor himself, has forced the passage of the Saale River at Merseburg and nearby places, and bid fair to capture Leipzig very shortly.

In the meantime, the redoubtable Marshal Davout, together with the famous cavalry leader, Sebastiani de la Porte, is operating to our disadvantage in the Lower Elbe region about Hamburg.

As it were linking the two widely separated forces, and possibly the greatest menace of them all, is the XIV Corps of Dubonnet - the youngest and newest of Napoleon's Marshals - having won a battle and presently advancing rapidly. Upon the 28th April, this Corps successfully forced the line of the Falsover River, northeast of Magdeburg, despite the spirited resistance of the Allied troops sent to prevent such a crossing. Since then, Dubonnet has swung his force eastwards and seems to be on the march straight for Berlin itself. The burghers of Magdeburg and Mockern might heave a sigh of relief at their towns being so bypassed, but should Berlin fall, the rest of Germany must follow.

Already thus early in the campaign, grave questions are being raised concerning von Jaxen's capacity for command. Are we to apprehend the general collapse that ended the 1806 campaign so ignominiously for Prussia? Ought von Jaxen to have held the line of the Falsover, or even the Elbe itself around Magdeburg?

Many correspondents may think so, but must before passing judgement consider the following. It is a fact that General von Jaxen was specifically chosen for this command by the Chief of Staff, Graf Gneisenau himself, an appointment warmly endorsed by no less a personage than Marshal the Prinz von Blucher. General von Jaxen has in the past proved time and again his capacity for semi-independent command: it seems hardly probable that at the crisis of his country's need he should suddenly fail.

However, it is true that he was wanting one of his regiments at Falshof. Whether this was due to lateness in arriving in the theatre, to the unit being engaged in some other important task, or to simple incapacity, we have been unable to determine.

Perhaps more disturbing for local observers is that for reasons no one can discover, Genl. von Jaxen's Corps seems to be diverging from the natural line of retreat towards Berlin. In blunt fashion, Dubonnet has been advancing on the most direct route along the line of the Havel River. The village folk have just about left Uszublunder deserted in the face of the enemy, complaining of having seen hardly a single Allied musketeer or trooper in the last few days. The divergent course of von Jaxen's corps somewhat to the south of Gross-huntersdorf begs the question: What is he about?

Perhaps his priority is to protect the northern flank of the Allied main army, now gathered about Leipzig under the command of General Wittgenstein. Alternatively, given the superiority of Dubonnet's force, has von Jaxen in mind to place his corps on the flank of Dubonnet's line of advance, thereby preventing his farther progress? This is a sword with two edges, particularly in the light of known French capacity to 'live off the land', that is to discover and steal provender from whence it might be found.

No doubt the next few days will reveal the intent of the good General, but we have reason to tremble for the fate of Germany. Less well known than many of Napoleon's other marshals, Dubonnet's ability is as yet an unknown quantity. His success at Falshof might be fluke or flair, but the very fact of his appointment to the Marshalate argues a capacity above the normal. General von Jaxen will no doubt find him a formidable opponent. Perhaps therein lies an explanation for von Jaxen's conduct of operations in the last few days; taking care to choose carefully his moment to strike.'

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Grand Duchy of M'yasma

Whilst waiting for the opportunity to wargame the famous epoch making - and breaking - Battle of Potsalava - I thought I'd at least show a sampling of the formidable forces at the command of Constantine the Grand Duke.

To begin with, the light brigade, in which the sober elegance of the Pavlograd Hussars (Revell) is contrasted with the insouciant ebullience of the Malakhov Cossacks (Airfix Brit. Hussars, with piano-wire lances stuck through their right hands). A couple of other views...

... and to follow, Butyrski Infantry carries out exercises with 1st Field Company, the Grand-Ducal Artillery.

As the 1st field company loads and prepares to fire, Butyrski infatry, led by its Granadier Company, draws alongside at the double upon their left flank.

... and one final picture...

Monday, January 25, 2010

Plastic Figures -

A comment on a recent posting, and a conversation yesterday with a friend I hadn't seen for quite a while (Gidday, Brian!), reminded me of the contrast in style between the old Airfix and ESCI figures and more recent manufactures.

I have always thought the best of Airfix were full of character - E.g. American War of Independence, WW1, some of the Napoleonics ... On the other hand, there was something bland about the ESCI. Yet I was to make an interesting discovery about ESCI figures. The Airfix figure design did not lend itself to mixing poses within a unit. You could get away with front rank of one pose and rear rank of another, but that was about it. Here's a couple of pictures of one of my Airfix ACW Union infantry regiments:

On the other hand, ESCI figures seem to cry out to be mixed in units, with as many different poses as possible. Here's the sort of thing I mean:

Actually, the cognoscenti will recognise that these figures started out in life as ESCI French Foreign Legion, but they make fine ACW figures.
The grey unit has been painted up as (Lew) Wallace's Zouaves - 11th Indiana - just so I could have a Union regiment in grey. It is also smaller than the usual run of regiments in my army, just 21 figures instead of 27...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Army of Ursaminor on Parade:

The heavy cavalry Rijkswacht te Paard lead the parade...

... followed by the Kronoburg Dragoons and the Kopparburg Hussars...

The Ostergotland Infantry lead the foot, with Livgarden and the Militia of Bjornburg forming the honour guard. In some of these pictures, the Princess rsula herself can be seen keenly inspecting the troops...

Finally, a company of field artillery shows is paces...

The Age of Unreason

The first of an occasional series...

Monday, January 18, 2010

A couple of recent pics...

A not very successful recent photo:

The Rijkswacht te Paard, in the service of Ursaminor, riding by...

Yes, that is a Teddy Bear you see on the flag. The heraldic description of the flag (according to the Bjornburg College of Heralds) is: 'Azure, an Ursus Theodorus or crowned or displayed'. The army was originally made for my daughter (begun at least a dozen years ago, more or less completed at the time the early photo were taken (see earlier posting), but undergoing a slight modification lately: in particular expanding the artillery to 2 field companies of 2 guns each, instead of the one with 3. Earlier painted yellow, the guns have been replaced and painted crimson instead (I took a reasonable photo of a field company and promptly lost the picture).

I long ago discovered that the best material for flags is paper: hardwearing, colourful and translucent (light seems to shine through the white and yellow bits (argent and or) as seen from the dark side, and I like that). I also prefer to make my own, although with historical flags that have complicated designs, I'll download and print flags instead.

Making your own has this advantage, though: you can draw them up as joined parallelograms or rhomboids, instead of rectangles and squares. This makes them 'drape' a lot more easily and 'realistically' - and they look more 'flaggy' that way as well.

Finally: the fringeing. This was done simply by drawing the fringe, as one would, with ink, but then going carefully around with scissors cutting where you have drawn. The effect is surprisingly convincing, I find...


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Ursaminor - Back history continued...

In the last posting I spoke of the campaign of Ursus XII, Prince of Ursaminor, deep within the Grand Duchy of M'yasma. The scene was set for the climactic battle when the M'yasman relieving army came up and interrupted the Ursaminorese siege of the small fortified town of Potsalava.

Here is a rough sketch map, taken from the folio of Col. Eirik Yxkull, Topographical Engineer with Ursus XII, shortly after the battle:

Orders of Battle were:

Grand Duchy of M'yasma
Commanded in person by Grand Duke Constantine V
Apsheron Infantry (less Grenadier Coy)
Butyrski Infantry (less Grenadier Coy)
Ekaterinburg Infantry (less Grenadier Coy)
Galicia Infantry (less Grenadier Coy)
Podolia Infantry (in Potsalava town)
4 Grenadier Coys (in redoubts)
1st Feldjager
Potsalava Militia Infantry (In Potsalava town).

Chevalier Garde
Mitau Dragoons
Pavlograd Hussars (marching towards Potsalava)
Malakhov Cossacks

2 Field Companies
1 Garrison Company (in Potsalava town).

Principality of Ursaminor
Commanded in person by Prince Ursus XII
Livgarden Infantry
Ursaminor Converged Grenadiers
Ostergotland Infantry
Sodermanland Infantry
Vastmanland Infantry
Norrbotten Infantry (remaining in the siege lines in case of a sortie)

Rijkswacht te Paard
Kronoburg Dragoons
Tevastehus Uhlan
Kopparburg Hussars

2 Field Coys (6pr)
2 Siege Coys (24pr)(in parallels before the walls of Potsalava)
1 Coy Pioneers

Being the sort of military obsessive he was, Ursus had kept his infantry trained to the highest pitch of efficiency. So all foot units are treated as grenadiers for shooting, but only the grenadiers are so treated for morale.

I hope in the near future to have a pictorial account of this history-making and empire-shaking battle...

Monday, January 11, 2010

Ursaminor - some back-history

The small Principality of Ursaminor was not so long ago a rather larger and more powerful country, though perhaps no more populous then than it is now (by 'now' I mean of course, 1740, give or take 5 years). The present Princess, Ursula, her great Grandfather was none other than the 'Great Bear of the North', Ursus XII, military genius and would be conqueror. Having grown up with a passion for his army, and a tactician's military skill, Ursus went on the rampage early in the century, attempting to carve off large chunks of Jotun-Erbsten and M'yasma, and even from Altmark-Uberheim itself.

Alas (for Ursaminor, though the rest of Europe were rather inclined to give thanks for this) the undoubted tactical ability of Ursus XII was balanced by an almost total absence of any strategical sense. His projects tended to be piecemeal, lacking in the vision needed to see beyond the immediate outcome, to what might follow.

At last, in 1709, Ursus found his army buried deep within the borders of the Grand Duchy of M'yasma, besieging the small fortified town of Potsalava. A large supply train, badly needed to sustain the siege, and escorted by provisional battalions of recruits, had to traverse a considerable tract of M'yasman territory to reach the main army of Ursus XII as it attempted to blockade the town. Constantine V, Grand Duke of M'yasma, was rather more of a strategist, and cleverly waylaid the train long before it reached Potsalava, destroying and capturing most of its supplies, although the provisional battalions fought their way through and soon joined the main army.

Shortly afterwards, the main M'yasman army marched upon Potsalava. All observers thought at last Constantine wished to try conclusions with his arch enemy, but it soon became clear that he was reluctant to risk either his army nor his reputation. He would not attack. He set up camp in the Ursaminor left rear. Very soon, there appeared a string of company-sized redoubts that threatened to compromise the rather sketchy lines of contravallation laid out by the Ursaminorians.

Pusillanimous though Constantine's hesitation might have appeared to the more ignivorous (fire-eating) of his generals, he remained not idle, and his fortification building was beginning to interfere seriously with Ursus's conduct of the siege. Further, as the blockade was by no means complete, he was able to throw the whole of the Podolia Regiment into the town. Soon, M'yasman cannon would begin bombarding Ursus's siege artillery from the rear whilst the guns of the town engaged them from in front.

There was nothing for it. Ursus had either to give up the siege and undertake a long retreat into his own country, or, to attack...

To be continued (Battle map and Orders of Battle in the next posting)...

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Napoleonic 'Logical' Campaign...

The action at Falsover River, purporting to be the opening passage of arms in the Campaign of 1813, seemed to me a fine beginning to what I call a 'logical campaign'. This isn't fought on maps; rather the next battle is seen as a likely consequence (or subsequence) of the one that went previous.

Now, this XIV Corps is advancing rather on the flank of Napoleon's main thrust, with a view to fending off any moves made by the Prussians and other German Allies against the left flank of Napoleon's irruption into Germany. Not that this is a static role. To maintain this coverage, XIV Corps must keep pace with the main body's sweep.

Having forced the crossing at Falshof village, Marshal Dubonnet has been pursuing the Allied forces for two days, until shortly before reaching Grosshuntersdorf, 9th Hussars lost contact with Gen. von Jaxen's troops. In their haste, the French column has become rather strung out; but don't realise that von Jaxen has formed a battle line somewhat to the flank of the French line of march...

The whole scenario is based on the 7YW battle of Grossjagersdorf, on a rather compacted scale. Of course, the thing wasn't quite an ambush, as a deployment too close to the French (Russian) line of marcg would have been discovered quickly. As it transpired, the Prussians weren't strong enough on the day to give the Russians more than a fright. It will be interesting to see how the Grosshuntersdorf battle goes...

Meanwhile, both armies have had to reorganise somewhat after the blood-letting at Falsover River...

Orders of Battle:

7th Cuirassiers, 12 figs
9th Hussars, 12 figs
2 Light Infantry Regiments 48 figs
5 Line Infantry Rgts 120 figs
2x8pr companies 8 figs, 2 guns
1x12pr company 4 figs, 1 gun (the other having been left as a bridge guard at Falshof).
Total: 204 figs, 3 guns.

This is less certain and will depend on certain decisions made by General von Jaxen.
However, it is known that the survivors of the Falsover action have been joined by a fresh regiment at full strength.
The like composition is...
6 Line infantry @ 20 figs 120
2 (3?) field coys @ 4 figs; 8, + 2 guns
8 (7?) Horsed Squadrons @ 4 figs; 32 troopers
Total: 160 figures

Not a huge battle by any means (I use a double scaling system that works out roughly 1 figure to 50 men, 1 gun to 8.
This translates, then, to 10,200 Frenchmen with 24 guns, against whom some 8000 Allies with perhaps 16 or 24 guns are assembling for a second battle.

Meanwhile, certain apprehensions are already being felt in Berlin, as the local news agents apprehend a repeat of the 1806 debacle...

To be continued...

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Wholly Romantic Empire: Map of Ursaminor

Staying with the smallest of the Imperial States, herewith is a map of the Principality of Ursaminor. As can readily be seen, the country is not large, comprising some 7 major towns, and maybe 30 villages in all.

Surrounded on 3 sides as it is by neighbours more powerful, it survives partly by the wit and wisdom of its Diplomatic Corps, the skill and professionalism of its Army commander Marshal-General Gustav Adolph Torstensson, and the unsurpassed popularity of it monarch, the young Princess Ursula. When the ageing Emperor Violoncello, in an avuncular moment during a state visit several years ago when the Princess was three years old, offered Ursaminor his guarantee of protection, the surrounding princes were inclined to rethink their acquisitive ambitions in respect of undoubtedly rich and attractive portions of Ursaminor territory.

Of course, the claim of Jotun-Erbsten for the entire half of the valley on the east bank of the Unstroll River has been laughed more than once out of the Inter-State Law Courts, yet it remains merely dormant until the matter can be resolved by the arbitration of arms.

The claims of Altmark-Uberheim and of the Grand Duchy of M'yasma are more shrouded in obscurity and hence even harder to prove, though correspondingly less easy to refute. They too, not unaware of the Emperor's great age and increasing infirmity, await the tribunal of time to effect its judgement, the enforcement of which, of course, will devolve upon their respective armies.

All this begs the question of the Princess's steady resolve to preserve her patrimony complete and intact for the duration of her reign. In this she is ably backed by her chief advisor and plenipotentiary Graf von der Wiesl.

For all the political machinations among despots, there exists a burgeoning trade between Ursaminor and its neighbours. Bjornborg, the capital, is well served by its hinterland. The border market towns of Fliebitten, Nieschmeitten, Ankeltappen and Sleiss are all well placed geographically for foreign as well as local commerce; Futtschtampen is a thriving river port, and Prinzburg, although Ursaminor's sole sea port, also happens to be the only one of any size for a considerable distance along that part of the Baltic coast. Ursaminor even has a navy, its sole line of battle ship, the Rasend Frosch being the pride of the fleet.

Altogether, the covetousness of rapacious neighbours are not likely to be easily satisfied, but nor is it probably that it will diminish any time soon...

Monday, January 4, 2010

Wholly Romantic Empire: The Army of Ursaminor

Ursaminor is (was) a small principality on the Baltic coast, surrounded by covetous, if not actively hostile neighbours. The country came into consideration in 18th century European politics when in 1995 I discovered at a swap meet a job lot of French Infantry - in particular the infantry that cam out of the Airfix Napoleonic French Infantry pack. There were 54 of them - a nice number to work with: the basis for 3 battalions. So I thought I'd build them into an army for my daughter, Ursula.
Here is the completed army in a rather fuzzy old photograph I've scanned into a jpeg file:

Added some spare British Grenadiers from the American War of Independence set, and I had a guards unit, and the 3 line battalions included a grenadier company each. Some home-cast figures that I had almost forgotten about formed the 5th (Norrbotten)Infantry. Finally several Revell 7YW figures gave us a Jager battalion.

At about that time I discovered the Italeri plastics, to wit: a packet of French Carabiniers. Superb figures! They became the Rijkswacht te Paard, the crack heavy cavalry of Ursaminor: 2 squadons of 6 troopers, plus the Regimental HQ of Colonel, flag-beare and musician. The Ursaminor horse was further made up of a unit each of dragoons (Revell), Uhlans (ESCI) and Hussars (Airfix) - rather an eclectic collection.

Finally, I had decided upon a single large field company of 3 guns, but this has since been upgraded to 2 field coys of 2 guns each. The result is as you see in these old photos (the only ones at the moment extant of any of this household's soldiery). Unfortunately, the Rijkswacht te Paard barely makes it into the picture...

The complete order of battle of the Field Army of Ursaminor is as follows:

G.o.C Marshal-General Torstensson
Guard (Livgarden) Infantry: 28 figs
HQ: Consolidated Grenadiers of Ursaminor: 4 figs
1st (Ostergotland) Infantry: 28 figs
2nd (Sodermanland) Infantry: 28 figs
3rd (Vastmanland) Infantry: 28 figs
4th (Norrbotten) Infantry: 28 figs
Pomerania Jager: 21 figs
Rijkswacht te Paard: 15 figs
Kronoberg Dragoons: 15 figs
Tevastehus Uhlans: 15 figs
Kopparberg Hussars: 15 figs
1st Field Company: 10 figs, 2 guns
2nd Field Company: 10 figs, 2 guns

Total Army strength: 245 figures (excluding general officers and staffs.

The HQ: Consolidated Grenadiers might need explaining. It is their to permit the option of stripping out the Line infantry grendier companies to form an extra elite unit. That would leave the line infantry with 22 figures each, and two elite units of 28. I really do like flexibility...

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Wholly romantic Empire - prologue continued....

The battle described in my last posting was fought between the armies of my daughter (Ursula - Ursaminor) and the daughter of a friend (Caitlin Burnett-Jones, the Landgravina Ekaterina of Jotun-Erbsten) on the one side; and one of my armies, that of Constantine IX, Grand Duke of M'yasma, played by myself.

For maybe two hours the M'yasmans came under heavy pressure, but it's being a very hot day, and once the sausage sizzle came on (the game was played at the Woolston Club) the girls got a bit bored and the pressure slackened. As it would. Never mind: it was fun while it lasted!

Since the map in the previous posting is not oriented how I'd like, I'll try again...

Wholly Romantic Empire. A Prologue...

Searching through the military archives of the Imperial War Ministry recently, I discovered a brief account of the historic Battle of Ankeltappen, in which the combined forces or the Principality of Ursaminor and the Landgravate of Jotun-Erbsten caused the Grand Duke Constantine of M'yasma to re-examine his ambitions.

This account came with no narrative: rather a map and some bald statistics. Little else can be discovered about the action - the Grand Duke rather glad to erase the incident from his memory, although it is true he awarded at least one of his regiments the privilege of incribing the legend 'Ankeltappen' upon its colours.

There is no doubt that all three countries put forward all their strength in this action. The Grand Duke, conscious of his weakness relative to the Emperor and the Elector both, is constantly on the alert for easy augmentations to his lands and hence his power. Covetous eyes bend northward to the more vulnerable states of Ursaminor and Jotun-Erbsten, but the former at least has the guarantee of the Emperor Violoncello himself. Constantine has had to think twice there.

Of course he is rather afraid of the martial and bellicose Elector, who is more apt to take a larger bite out of his Grand Duchy than it can out of the Electorate. Eyeing the ageing Emperor, though, with his daughter, the Archduchess Harmonica a rather unknown quantity, Constantine thought he might have a chance of cheap acquistions there if he waited long enough.

Patience was not the long suit of Constantine IX. A certain border disagreement having arisen between the neighbouring Baltic states of Ursaminor and Jotun-Erbsten, Constantine though to stick his thumb into this simmering pie and see what plums he could pull forth. Gathering his full field army, he descended swiftly upon the border town of Ankeltappen. His army comprised:

Grand Duchy of M'yasma
5 Line regiments each 36 figures;
1 Jager Regiment of 21 figures;
The Chevalier Garde Cavalry - 19 figs
Mitau Dragoons - 19 figs
Pavlograd Hussars - 19 figs
Malakhow Cossacks - 19 figs
2 Field Companies each 10 figs and 2 guns.
Total: 297 figures

Much to his surprise, he was almost at once confronted by the army of Ursaminor in all its strength. He was even more amazed when a day later it was joined by the army of Jotun-Erbsten. Faced with such might, the Grand Duke could see he could not consolidate his gains, and would have to retire into his own country. Yet he felt, for the look of the thing, and to help substantiate any future claim (however dubious its legality), he would have at least to fight some sort of action before abandoning the town.

The Allied comprised;
The Army of Ursaminor:
5 Infantry Rgts each 28 figures
1 Jager unit with 21 figures
Rijkswacht te Paard and Kronoberg Dragoon heavy cavalry, with 15 figs each;
Tevastehus Uhlan and Kopparberg Hussars each with 15 figs
1 Field Company with 13 figs and 3 guns.
Total: 234 figs

The Army of Jotun-Erbsten
3 Infantry Brigades each with 3 Battalions, together totalling 171 figures;
1 Jager battalion - 19 figs
2 Heavy Cavalry Regiments @ 15 figs;
1 Light Regiment @ 15 figs;
1 Field company with 13 figs and 3 guns.
Total: 249 figs.

As it transpired, the Grand Duke's army put up a terrific fight, especially the Podolia Infantry, who withstood upon it ridge a terrific attack of almost all the Jotun infantry. At four to one odds, of course Podolia were at last driven from the ridge. Although Constantine had plenty of troops in hand, and the Jotun-Erbsten pressure on the wing eased somewhat after their hard won success, Constantine figured that honour had been served and it was time to quit the field.

Meanwhile, The Ursaminites had been battering their way into the town against the stout resistance of Butyrski and the Jager. Norrbotten Infantry, together with the Kronoberg Dragoons struck at the Apsheron Infantry, who, though seeing off the dragoons with ease, found its left-most company driven in. Malakhov's Cossacks attempted to intervene only to be rudely thrust back. That Allied success also had its inluence on Constantine's decision to retreat.

The butcher's bil was heavily in favour of the Grand Duchy, as it transpired, the Allies losing some 2300 troops (46 fgures after adjusting the raw losses); the Grand Duke little more than half that, a quarter of which were made up of prisoners.

The campaign (it was really just a one-off battle) was swiftly resolved. Constantine's plenipotentiaries were at the Allied HQ early the next day, and a settlement reached status quo ante bellum , with a small monetary sweetener to defray damage to property.

{Some time soon, I hope to be able to post some pictures of these troops...}