Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Battle of Bettendorf

Suren Uhlans de Saxe escort the troublesome Lady Pettygree across Germany, from Frankfurt to Dresden. (figures from the collection of Bill Protz). click all pictures to enlarge.

That troublesome Englishwoman, Lady Diana Pettygree and her coterie of giggling friends, were once again, the cause of considerable trouble in the cold winter snows of Central Germany this past weekend. Ostensibly, a French expedition of light infantry and cavalry used the ruse of escorting this important personage, to try and extend their forward cavalry screen and keep the Prussians away from the environs of Frankfurt. As often happens when this particular troublemaker is involved, a little country joy ride developed into a battle between the French and the Prussian light forces near the town of Bettendorf.

RSM Croats and Austrian hussars lead the vanguard of the Austrian and French forces across the Apfelwasser bridge. Terrain built by Herb Gundt.

So to make a long story short, a bunch of French soldiers and a similar bunch of Prussians ran into one another around the little hamlet of Bettendorf. The town lay on the western edge of the table and a single road traversed the horizontal length of the table. Halfway across, we found the small, frozen Apfelwasser. One of the French objectives was to push their light screen to this river edge. Further down the road, moving from left to right, was the larger Hartz-wasser. If the French were to push their screen to this terrain feature, it would be considered a significant victory. Finally, at the far righthand or eastern edge of the table, was an important crossroads. Possession of the cross roads would indicate a major French victory.

Both armies had approximately four brigades of 120 figures, mixed with infantry, light cavalry and artillery no larger than 6-pound cannon. The troop quality was "Trained", according to the Batailles de l'Ancien Regime ("BAR") rules that we used. My compatriots, Bill Protz, Randy Frye and I used this game as an excuse, or incentive, if you will, to paint lots and lots of light infantry and cavalry. We had long recognized that this branch of the army was woefully under-represented in our respective armies. So Bill and Randy endeavored to paint Fischer's Legion of foot chasseurs and mounted chasseurs, while I chose the multi-armed Von Kliest Freikorps for my army. Our hope was to also paint dismounted cavalry to use in the game, but time conspired against us and so minimal dismounts were available for this game. Oh well, something to shoot for for next year.

French regular infantry and cavalry march through Bettendorf on the way to the Apfelwasser. We played them as freikorps and light cavalry for this game, since we didn't have enough light forces painted. I think that the Auvergne regiment with the purple flag was designated as a converged grenadier unit. So there was some quality amid all of the lower rated troops.

The Croats have now crossed the Apfelwasser and are about to be introduced to their antagonists.

A regiment of Prussian jagers popped out of the woods and delivered a devastating volley that thinned the ranks of the Croats.

While the Croats were drawing all of the Prussian fire and artillery attention, a battalion of French grenadiers attempted to cross a ford (note the rocky area in the stream) and gain the other bank of the Apfelwasser. A company of Prussian jagers defends this section of the stream.

This section of the battlefield featured some interesting developments of note. The French grenadiers succeeded in crossing the Apfelwasser at the ford. Things were looking good since there was nothing more than a company or two of Prussian jagers and some artillery to defend the center. The Prussian commander accordingly called for his dragoons to charge the grenadiers. In essence, the Prussians defended their center with a series of vicious cavalry attacks on the French infantry. The tactic worked as the French grenadiers routed back to their own side of the water, albeit at the cost of most of the Prussian dragoons. Later in the battle, a battalion of Prussian grenadiers emerged from their hiding place behind a reverse slope and the mere sight of tall men in mitre caps was enough for the French to give up the attack.

A regiment of French light dragoons charged across the bridge once the Croats had been cleared away. The Prussians counter-attacked with their own frei-dragoons. The intense hand to hand combat on the bridge was constricted by the narrowness of the span. The Prussian horse would drive the French light cavalry back across the bridge, disordering their supporting cavalry.

The Prussian frei-battalion Von Brittle then moved up to the Apfelwasser to drive back a battalion of French grenadiers, who tried to cross the bridge after the French light cavalry had retired.

Bill's Chasseurs de Fischer (Front Rank figures) seek cover in the woods against the pending attack of the von Kliest freikorps.

Meanwhile, on one of the smaller side tables, Bill and George Rust engaged in a desperate struggle to control the other ford over the Apfelwasser. This was played on a table that measured a mere 2.5 feet wide and fought over a length of only 4 or 6 feet. This demonstrates that BAR style battles can indeed be fought on smaller tables. George's freikorps consisted of 36 horse grenadiers, 12 hussars, 6 dismounted horse grenadiers, 60 Grun Kroaten infantry and two 6-pounders. Bill had a 60 figure battalion of foot chasseurs, 24 light dragoons, 12 hussars and a couple of 4-pounders. The two forces fought each other to a stand still, although it appeared to me that the French had more men standing at the end of the game.

Similarly, Randy and I were fighting it out on the other half table. I had 36 Black Hussars rated as elite, 20 Bosniak lancers rated as Poor, 20 von Kliest infantry rated as trained, and 24 dismounted Black Hussars rated Elite. Randy attacked with another battalion of Fischer infantry, 2 squadrons of mounted Fischer chasseurs, 3 squadrons of light dragoons and a couple of 4-pounders. I also had Milady de Winter's personal bodyguard of 48 black clad infantry, but I elected not to commit them to the battle, because their mission was to find and capture Lady Pettygree.

Some of the Foundry von Kliest Grun Kroaten that I painted for this game. I used the Frank Hammond basing method for the entire von Kliest freikorps (horse, foot and artillery) to give it a unified look.

With no infantry to speak of and no artillery, I had to resort to ambuscade and trickery. So I hid the small company of von Kliest infantry in the woods and waited for the French to pass their front. The von Kliests popped out of the woods and fired into the flank of the French cavalry, dropping four troopers. That was about it for the von Kliests. Randy then drove them off with musketry and entered the woods with his infantry, declining to attack the tempting target of Bosniak lancers, which I displayed to his front. My second little ambush involved the dismounted hussars in the woods, by Randy had this gambit figured out and he flushed them out of the woods where the remainder were mowed down by canister. I now had only the hussars and lancers to contest this part of the table, so I had no choice but to fall back to the cross roads. Advantage French in this sector.

It was a fun little game with most of the intense fighting on the center table, while a friendly affair erupted on the two parallel flanking tables. It was fun playing with troops of lower quality and one has to adjust one's tactics and expectations a little bit in the absence of better quality troops. I am looking forward to more Kleine Krieg wargames in the future, and in fact, I believe that I have a couple of nifty ideas for some fast paced scenarios. More about that within a couple of weeks after I play test the scenario at my home base.


  1. Thanks for posting this report. Absolutely stunning terrain! And it goes without saying wonderful figures. It must have been a joy to be there!


  2. Wow!
    Inspirational for us all I am sure. Thanks for posting this .
    p.s Any plans for a Scottish siege over the festive season?

  3. Jaw-dropping display!
    And a rather large affair, for Kleine Krieg.

    Now... too bad Milady de Winter remained hidden - next time, maybe? Did she notice how Lady Diana's escort seems unconcerned about an attack from the rear?

    Thanks for sharing.


  4. Jim,

    Great report and pictures. Just looking at the winter scenery made me shiver a bit!


  5. Milady's henchmen had both armies positioned between them and Lady Pettygree. The game judge did her no favors. :)

    It would have been impossible to get anywhere near the village under these conditions, so Milady and her Black Legion departed the field early on their own accord.

    Next time, I think that the Black Legion ought to be allowed to show up anywhere on the table edge.

  6. Excellent battle report and inspiring pics, as always!

  7. It was a fun Game!


  8. Taking photos of troops against a white background (in this case snow) is notoriously difficult, with a digital camera compensating for the bright background and making the troops too dark. These photos show no such problem: what did you do to get round this?

  9. I take a lot of photos and end up tossing a bunch of them away. So you only see the better ones on the blog. Also, I use "iPhoto" software, which has a feature that allows you to adjust the photo settings for things like: exposure time, brightness, contrast, sharpness, color temperature and a couple other variables. You just click on the picture and then start moving the dials until your picture improves.

    That said, I agree that getting decent pictures on a white back ground is very difficult. The figures often end up looking too dark.