Monday, May 18, 2020

SYW Wargame Campaign Report: Week 5

Prinz Henri leads his men against Reichsarmee troops in the village of Rittschen

Dear Reader,

Today, I am reporting on the fifth week of the Seven Years War Campaign which I have been umpiring over the last two months. You can find links to previous weeks at the bottom of the post. Beginning in the middle of March, the campaign is ongoing and still in progress. The period of time for today's post is roughly April 15th-21st. Below is a map for those dates. As stated before, the campaign switched to a new map in this week, to allow for in the inclusion of a few more players.  I have first included the new map, followed by an update from the old map.

Here is the new map:
The new map, with generalize locations and movements
Here is the old map:

This was an interesting week, with many developments. In the far north, (the Pomeranian theater of war) the Swedes launched an offensive from Stralsund. Prussian Generals Dohna and Manteuffel were dispatched to take control of forces in this area, but would not arrive until the following week. 
In the northwest of the old map, the Austrians scored their first clear victory over the Prussians at Rittschen (although the Austrians would also like to remind you that they view the Battle of Swiet, in week 4, as a victory). 

The Russians launched a raiding force under Generral Tchernychev, who managed to bridge the Oder and avoid detection with his 5,000 men. Frederick turned from a march south from the Oder/Russian theater of war to the west, hoping to rescue the situation in Saxony. In the south,  one of the more brilliant marches of the campaign occurred. The Duke of Bevern, realizing that he was nearly trapped by Austrian forces, abandoned the city of Königgrätz, having collected a substantial contribution. As in previous weeks, we will start in the north and work our way south. 

Week 5: The Pomeranian Sector
In the Pomeranian theater, the Swedes under General Gustaf Hamilton launched an offensive, driving the ill-led Prussian Army back from the gates of Stralsund to Stettin. Having driven back the Prussian army, Hamilton began a siege of the city of Anklam, opening a parallel and a few batteries. 

The progress of the siege of Anklam
The Prussian commanders arriving in the region would soon attempt to rectify this state of affairs. Moving to the south, the Saxon/Silesian theater of war, on the new map: 

The Saxon/Silesian Theater of War (New Map)
And on the old map: 

Week 5: The Saxon/Silesian Sector (Old Map)
The main event of Week 5 in the Saxon/Lower Silesian sector was the Battle of Rittschen. After a few days of waiting, Prinz Henri, the brother of Prussian King Frederick the Great, launched an attack on the enemy. Prinz Henri, (a rather famous wargame designer), felt that his tactical acumen would be sufficient to overcome the slightly larger Reichsarmee force commanded by Gen d' Kav, Serbelloni. Serbelloni, historically, a lover a sweet drinks, Italian poetry, and beautiful women, calmly sipped his hot chocolate and awaited the Prussian advance. 

If last week's confrontation at Predmeritz was my favorite period of operational maneuvering in the campaign to date, the fight at Rittschen would have to be my favorite battle. Both players were experienced wargamers, and led their troops with appropriate confidence and panache.

The Prussian Columns cross a branch of the Spree, approaching the Austrian position
Henri got his army into position to attack by 8am, leading one column of marching troops himself. The Reichs-Executions Armee, expecting an attack directly from the north, were caught off balance, and quickly redeployed their men into the hedged fields facing Henri's chosen angle of attack. 

The Prussian Army deploys as the Reichsarmee scrambles into defensive positions
Henri, confident of victory, ordered a general advance across the entire line. The battlefield was crowded, and the Prussian cavalry did not have room to fully deploy according to Henri's initial disposition. 

The Prussian attack begins
In his disposition, Henri had called for the guns to arrive last, and so the battle began with an advance of the Prussian first line of infantry. On the Prussian left, their cavalry engaged the Reichsarmee horse, and drove them a considerable distance. The infantry advance was difficult initially, with a poor morale throw causing a Prussian musketeer battalion to falter. 

Prinz Henri attempts to rally his men, and directs his Grenadiers to charge
Henri directed his sole Grenadier battalion to attack the enemy flank and rear. 

The Prussian grenadiers clear the defensive works
This charge was devastating, causing two of the circle regiments of the Reichsarmnee to flee in disorder. The Prussian cavalry followed up this advance, fighting with their opposite numbers again, and driving them a considerable distance. At this point in the battle, Serbelloni was rather nervous, as his initial defensive positions had been pried out of his grasp. 

At this point, though, expecting better results, Prinz Henri ordered his second line infantry to assault the village. Placing himself in direct command of these troops, he led his men forward. 

A Prussian veteran of the encounter described the scene:
"Leading by example, the prince placed himself at the head of the first battalion of Frei Infanterie to hand, and led them in an assault on the village. Fired by his example, the men begin general attack on all fronts. Our men stormed forward, approaching a battery of 12pders on the village street. The phrases “Blutgasse” and “Hochkirch” flashed into my mind with no apparent cause. The Prince stretched himself into his stirrups, looking every inch of his 5’3” frame. Henri shouted, at the top of his slightly high-pitched voice, 'Kerls, wollt ihr ewig leben?!!'”
As the Prince and his men approached the enemy battery, the 12pders fired. 

The fatal moment at Rittschen
Henri and approximately 200 of his men were immediately down, hit by canister. The Prussian forces reeled from this news, sparking retreats across the battlefield. 

The Prussians break from the field at Rittschen
With the loss of their leader, the Prussian forces abandoned the fight, leaving Serbelloni the master of the field. Prinz Henri, informed of the seriousness of his wounds, replied that it was quite alright, he had some grading to do and could use a break. 

Somewhat stunned by this news, Serbelloni wrote this hasty note, scrawled on the back of some unfortunte Swabian, to Vienna: 

Your army defeated Prinz Heinrich von Preusse this 15th of April 1758.  It was a hard fought afternoon.  The Prussians lost 5500 men including 2000 prisoners taken.  Our forces were battered by 2500.  Thanks be to God and the stout hearts of Your Majesties valiant troops. 
We hear the King of Prussia is moving this way.  Rumor has it He and 70,000 could be in Gorlitz on the 20th.  I hope this means FM von Daun is hounding him out of Siliesia. 

Your Majesty's most humble servant, 
J.B. Graf Serbelloni, 


Turning back to the campaign at large, the King of Prussia was indeed on his way to Saxony, hastily marching in great strides. The Russians had a quiet week on the whole, and Generals Zieten and Tchernychev attempted to outdo one another in feats of horsemanship in la petite guerre. Tchernychev eventually eluded his pursuers, building a bridge at Beuthen, and crossing the Oder. 

Week 5: The Upper Silesian/Bohemian Sector
In the south, the Austrians, having completed their victorious siege of Neisse, moved their main army towards Königgrätz. The Army under Loudon resumed its operations, approaching Königgrätz from the west. Rather than become trapped by these forces, the Duke of Bevern marched at a furious pace directly to the north, abandoning the city and heading for Trautenau. He escaped a Maxenish fate by a day. 

The campaign seemed to be turning against the Prussians. With the army of the King moving between theaters, the Prussians had been defeated in Saxony, placed on the back foot in Pomerania, and driven out of Bohemia. All in all, the Swedes and Austrians had a successful week (and who can forget the valiant Russian sacrifices which made this all possible). Tune in next week, as the Austrians begin ambitious sieges at both Glatz and Schweidnitz, the Swedish General Hamilton faces new opponents in the north, and Frederick arrives in Saxony. 

Background and Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

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Thanks for Reading, 

Alex Burns

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