Thursday, September 7, 2017

The Battle of Reichenbach - August 16, 1762


Prussian defense of the Fischer-Berg at the Battle of Reichenbach.
This afternoon I cleared my table of Fontenoy terrain and set up the terrain for Reichenbach in 1762. The battle was a part of the Prussian seige of Schweidnitz. 

Game Table Logistics
I wanted to fit everything on to 6x10 feet table, but decided that I needed more depth and thus added the side tables for the game, giving me an extra 2 feet of depth on each side of the table. The map below shows the layout of my war game table, absent the two side table which will run parallel to the horizontal edges of the table. The area of the map where you see woods along the horizontal axis of the table represents one of the side tables. The area of deployment for Lacy's and Brentano's corps represent the side table along the lower horizontal axis.

Map showing the proposed Austrian attack on the Prussian army deployed on the three bergs  (light brown shapes). Click to enlarge the map.

For the purposes of my scenario, I will not be using the Austrian forces of Brentano and Lacy because they never launched their attack on the Prussian position. There was, however, a rather large cavalry action on the open plain to the right of the Prussian position. I wanted to recreate this part of the fight in my scenario so there is an extensive flat part of my game table that will accomodate the cavalry fight simultaneously with the infantry action on the Prussian left.

If you prefer to keep the game on one single table or, more likely, you do not have the space in your gaming room to accomodate side tables, then you could "shift the terrain" downwards such that the Fischer-Berg is nearly at the lower table edge and shift the wooded area where Beck was making his march behind the Prussian position onto the main table. In this manner, the bulk of your fighting will represent the point in time where Beck's troops emerged from the woods and were counter-attacked by the Prussians in the Schrober-Grund. I might try this after fighting the game as I have initially set up the tables.


Historical Background

In August of 1762, the Prussians had the important Silesian fortress town of Schweidnitz under seige and the Austrian commander, Marshal Leopold von Daun, endeavored to come to the aid of the garrison and lift the seige. If the Austrians could hold onto Schweidnitz it would be an important bargaining chip in the inevitable negotiations to end the war. Both sides understood the liklihood of the war winding down within the year, so the stakes were high at Schweidnitz.

Daun's strategy was to make a wide sweeping move around the Prussian army and come into Schweidnitz from the east, via the broad Richenbach plain. Frederick, anticipating this possiblity, positioned a blocking corps of 9,000 troops under the command of the Duke of Bevern in the wooded hills overlooking Reichenbach. The map below shows the relative position of Bevern's army in relation to the town of Reichenbach as well as some of the key troop movements prior to the firing of the guns.


Annotated version of Christopher Duffy's map of Reichenbach, from his book, "By Force of Arms" pages 364-365.


Daun proposed to attack Bevern from multiple directions, a tactic that had become fairly standard in his bag of tricks. The Austrian attacking force was thus divided into three columns: Beck (14 btns, 5 cavalry regiments) on the right, FML Brentano (8 btns, 4 cavalry regiments) on the left, and Count Lacy in the center. The plan called for Lacy to demonstrate in the center while Bevern's position was attacked on both flanks by Beck (on the Austrian right/Prussian left) and Brentano (on the Austrian left/Prussian right). O'Donnell's cavalry brigade was detached from Brentano's and Lacy's corps as the Austrians anticipated a cavalry action with their Prussian counterparts.

The War Game Scenario

The scenario involves an Austrian Corps commanded by Beck moving through the woods around the Prussian left flank and then attacking Bevern's army in the rear while Brentano's Corps attacked from the front; or typical Austrian tactics of attacking a position from multiple directions at the same time.


War game table top for the Battle of Reichenbach. Annotations indicate the key terrain features of the battlefield.

Considering that neither Lacy nor Brentano were involved in the attack on Bevern's corps (more about that shortly), we are only going to game the part of the battle involving Beck's corps.

Prussian Forces - Bevern
Bevern had 11 battalions of infantry, including 2 of grenadiers, and three dragoon regiments and one hussar regiment. For the war game, Bevern's army will consist of 7 battalions of infantry, 3 dragoon regiments, and 1 hussar regiment. There are also two 12-pound cannon and two 3-pound cannon.

Prussian War Game Forces

Girls-Berg Defenders:
 2 battalions of fusiliers

Fischer-Berg Defenders:
 1 battalion of musketeers
 2 12-pounder cannon

The gap between the Fischer-Berg and the Spittel-Berg:
 2 battalions of musketeers
 1 3-pounder cannon

Spittel-Berg Defenders:
  2 battalions of grenadiers

Lentulus' Cavalry Brigade on the Left Flank:
  3 regiments of dragoons
  1 regiment of hussars

There is a possiblity of Prussian cavalry reinforcements later in the game.

Austrian Forces - Beck
Beck divided his corps into three columns. The right most column was to swing around the Prussian left flank and fall on the rear of Bevern's position. For this task he had 14 battalions of infantry, 18 grenadier companies (representing approximately 2 battalions), 5 cavalry regiments, and 1 hussar regiment. Beck further divided this column into two groups, with a force of 3 Croat battalions and one grenadier battalion attacking a piece of high ground known as the Girls-Berg. The remaining 11 battalions were to march through the woods beyond the Girls-Berg and emerge from the woods in the rear of the Prussian army.

The Austrian war game commands are as follows:

Beck's main column:
  2 battalions of regular infantry
  1 battalion of elite grenadiers
  2 battalions of Croat light infantry
  1 3-pounder cannon

Beck's second column attacking the Girls-Berg:
  1 battalion of elite grenadiers
  1 battalion of Croat light infantry
  1 3-pounder cannon

Beck's lefthand column (optional as it was unengaged in the battle)
  2 battalions of regulars - Simbschen's brigade
  2 regiments of dragoons - St. Ignon's cavalry brigade

O'Donnell's Cavalry of the left flank:
  2 cuirassier regiments
  1 dragoon regiment

Austrian tactical plan to attack
Beck's column marching through the woods during their flanking movement.

General Beck watches as the tail end of the column passes in front of him. Note the Croats who are flankers protecting the march column.


The third section of Beck's corps was on his left and provided a screen for the flanking movement of the other two columns. The left column consisted of three regiments of cavalry commanded by GFWM St. Ignon (1 cuirassier and 2 dragoon regiments) and three regiments of infantry commanded by GFWM Simbschen. The left column was not engaged in the battle, so it could be left out of the war game scenario entirely.


The Grand Cavalry Battle
Another part of the battle was one of the largest cavalry battles of the SYW in the open plain on the Prussian right flank. Austrian and Prussian cavalry tumbled back and forth until finally Frederick, realizing that a major attack is hitting Bevern, sends cavalry and infantry reinforcements that arrive in the nick of time to win the cavalry battle. You may have seen the painting of Frederick riding to the rescue surrounded by Hussars. It's this battle.


Frederick II leading his cavalry at Reichenbach


Brentano's attack never happened because of the cavalry action that took place on his left flank, so Beck was left to his own devices. Both cavalry brigades start the day with three regiments of horse. The Austrians have three regiments of cuirassiers and the Prussians start with three regiments of dragoons. The Prussian cavalry contingent builds up throughout the day so more units, Prussian cuirassiers and hussars, and even Bosniaken can be added to the order of battle.


The Battle of Reichenbach will be fought as another one of my solo games, using my own Der Alter Fritz rules, which you can download for free from the Fife & Drum Miniatures web site Free Rules

I hope to refight the battle over this coming weekend and post a lot of pictures on this blog.


4 comments:

  1. Looks like a fantastic battle is in the offing Jim and the table looks sensational.

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  2. Agreed. These photos and the pre-battle explanation are going to make it hard to concentrate on 'real life' things today.

    Best Regards,

    Stokes

    ReplyDelete
  3. It looks great. Be interested to see how the game develops.

    ReplyDelete