Wednesday, December 5, 2007

250th Anniversary of Leuthen - Dec. 5, 1757

Leuthen skirmish game featuring the attack on the churchyard, hosted by Der Alte Fritz at the March 2007 Seven Years War Association Convention.

December 5, 2007 marks the 250th anniversary of Frederick the Great's signature victory over the Austrians at the Battle of Leuthen, just a few miles outside of Breslau, in Silesia. To mark the occaision I thought that it would be appropriate to post some pictures of the marvelous Leuthen village that Herb Gundt made for me. Every building, road, tree and "accoutrement" pieces depicted in these pictures were made by Herb. Each building has a lift off roof to accomodate the placement of miniatures. The Leuthen Project, as I envisioned it, was for a skirmish style of game featuring the assault of the second and third battalions of the Guard Regiment (IR15). The churchyard would be defended by the Reichsarmee contingent from Wurzburg, the famed "Rot Wurzburg" regiment.

I visited Leuthen (or Lutinya, as it is now named) in 1998 as part of the second Christopher Duffy tour of Frederician battlefield sites in Silesia (which is now a part of Poland). We stayed in the large town of Wroclaw (formerly known as Breslau) during our entire stay, and from there we made day trips to such Silesian sites as Hohenfriedburg, Mollwitz, Schweidnitz, Glatz, Reichenbach, Burkersdorf and of course, Leuthen itself. I knew that one day I would commission Herb to construct the church for me, so while I was there, I started at the main gate and walked the circumference of the churchyard, taking photographs of the church every few feet. This provided Herb with the pictorial data necessary for model building. Some of the other building ideas came from the Karl Rochling paintings depicting the assault on the churchyard. I also took pictures of the diorama of the battle at the Bavarian Army Museum in Ingolstadt, Germany (which features a very impressive reconstruction of the battle using 3D buildings and 2D flat figures).

Close up shot showing the details of the common houses and road segments. Note the water well in the yard of the house with the blue shutters. Herb even added a stone counter-balance on the arm of the winch. The A-Frame houses in the rear and to the right are typical of those found in Silesia. These particular trees were purchased from Michael's Stores from their Christmas decorations department. Herb later added his own "winter trees" which look much better.

A view of tthe famous main gate where Captain von Mollendorf of the Guard Regiment 15/III broke into the courtyard.

My interest in the battle of Leuthen goes back to my beginnings as a wargamer of the period. In fact, I like the battle so much that I even used its name on my automobile vanity plates. There is something about this battle that really seems to intrigue me. Perhaps it is because Frederick was significantly outnumbered by his opponent. Christopher Duffy estimates that the Austrians fielded an army of around 55,000 infantry and cavalry on December 5, 1757 while Frederick mustered approximately 39,000. So far starters, the Prussians were significantly outnumbered, but this advantage was offset by a number of factors that favored the Prussians.

The greatest advantage afforded to Frederick was the fact that the Prussian army knew the terrain very well for the simple reason that they held there annual field maneuvers on this site every year. Thus, Frederick knew that a series of low, barely distinguishable hills (more like rises in the ground) would hide his army from the watchful Austrian eyes as it marched around the Austrian left flank and deployed perpendicular to the Austrian flank. In naval parlance, this would be the equivalent of "crossing the Tee". Thus Frederick was able to deliver the full weight of his army at one vulnerable point in the Austrian battle line, which if I recall correctly, stretched over four miles from end to end. The Austrians were unable to take advantage of their superior numbers as a result of Frederick's oblique attack.

The quality of the Prussian army was generally quite high, although it consisted of a number of regiments that had suffered a humiliating defeat defending Breslau, which fell to the Austrians on November 22, 1757. Frederick amalgamated these units with his victorious army of Rossbach and forged a strong bond between the two parts of the army that performed admirably at Leuthen.

The battle also has its fair share of high drama, starting with Frederick's famous Parchwitz Address in which he collected his officer corps together and told them what he expected from them in the coming battle:

The enemy hold the same entrenched camp at Breslau which my troops defended so honorably. I am marching to attack this position. I have no need to explain my conduct or why I am set on this measure. I fully recognize the dangers attached to this enterprise, but in my present situation I must conquer or die. If we go under, all is lost. Bear in mind, gentlemen, that we shall be fighting for our glory, the preservation of our homes, and for our wives and children. Those who think as I do can rest assured that, if they are killed, I will look after their families. If anybody prefers to take his leave, he can have it now, but he will cease to have any claim on my benevolence.

Needless to say, not a single officer elected to leave the army and on the next day, they inflicted one of the most crushing and lopsided defeats of an opponent as the world has ever seen. Gentlemen, I give you Leuthen and a toast to the memory of Frederick the Great and his victory on this day 250 years ago.


  1. Hear, hear!! Also lovely pictures, the church and surrounding courtyard is superb... What did you use to create the snow effect... it looks like salt, or sugar??

  2. I used a grey ground cloth (felt) highlighted with white spray paint and then I sprinkled liberal amounts of Woodland Scenics "snow" all over the table. I believe that Herb used Woodland Scenics snow on the buildings too.

  3. I have just finished Duffy's book 'Prussia's Glory' on the twin victories of Rossbach and Leuthen. Facinating book. The first was a shambles and disaster waiting to happen and almost everything which possibly could go wrong, did. Of far far more interest to me was Leuthen. The Austrians were certainly not a bad army as shown by Kolin etc. Duffy tells the story brilliently and we can only marvel at the tactics and sheer quality of the execution of the battleplan. A master class in generalship and justifies Frederick being right up there with the great captains of all time.

    I hugely admire your Leuthen models and set up.


  4. I was wondering who else blogged on Leuthen today, and found your site. Very well done.

  5. Wonderful terrain. The church is truly spectacular!

    -- Jeff

  6. I've had the pleasant opportunity to be in two games using the pictured terrain and one more with the winter cloth, etc. arranged for Eylau.

    There has come an epiphany for many of us regarding the importance of "the look" of it all. The whole new ensemble of beautiful terrain, miniatures, unit size and buildings is now vastly more imporant than in prior decades for me. Combine these with easy and playable rules in conjunction with companionable people and one is indeed a lucky fellow. The years with the opposite of these important dynamics are thankfully behind for many people.

    YOU can do this too.

    That is.... If you settle down to a couple of wargame time periods and not wander around like a butterfly every time an emotion says, YOU must do ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOP...,etc. I know this from my own butterfly behavior, but to each his own.

    Bon Chance,

  7. Happy Leuthen Day Jim!

    You're a lucky dog with all of those wonderful, purpose-built buildings. And the description of you visit to the area in 1998 had me itching to do something similar myself someday. A mist interesting posting. Thank you!

    Best Regards,


  8. Cool!
    Thanks for the pictures, the history lesson and the rest! :-)

  9. Out of curiosity, is the church Catholic or Protestant? While I'm sure the model is a faithfull representation, the building itself sure looks ugly...........

  10. I want to say Catholic, but I'm not absolutely sure. I know that there are and were two churches in Leuthen at the time of the battle. The walled courtyard is rather common in Silesia.

  11. Dear Alte,

    And now Perrys are doing Plastics! Maybe we'll see some SYW figures in it eventually.

    I totally agree with Gallia about the aesthetics and the friendliness needed to enjoy the hobby now. VIVAT!


  12. Alte - I was so inspired by your pictures of the church, and in particular that very unusual walled courtyard I went looking for other pictures on the web and found this - 15mm but also very spectacular - thought you might be interested to see how someone else interpreted the battle...

  13. I've seen the Earlswood Leuthen game. It was very inspirational - a very talented group of gamers and modelers.

  14. It is good to King, especially when you have the power to delete snide comments like I just did. Bwahahahaha!!!!!!!!!!!!!!