Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Road to Leuthen: November 30, 1757

Saxon Garde du Corps escorting a VIP (Dresden museum)

I just realized a little coincidence in the timing of this year's Leuthen Day anniversary, which falls on Monday December 5, 2016: the actual battle of Leuthen was also fought on a Monday on December 5, 1757. Make what you want of that, but since I am recreating the battle as a wargame on the same day and day of the week, it seemed significant or karmaic to me.

Historically, there does not appear to have been anything of significance happening on November 30, 1757. I would imagine that Frederick was giving his troops a much needed rest after marching over 180 miles from Saxony to Parchwitz in 15 days. Presumably, Frederick was  waiting for the rest of Zieten's forces to assemble in Glogau and march to join the army in Parchwitz, on the Katzbach.

One can imagine that the Austrians were dithering over what to do, as was their want as long as Prince Charles of Lorraine was in command of their army. Charles is an illustrative example of the foibles of allowing nepotism, rather than merit, to determine who should command the army. I wonder how events would have changed had Leopold Daun (the victor at Kolin) been in command rather than Charles. Maybe not too much of a difference as Daun had failed to grasp the importance of the Katzbach stream as a defensive position

The only piece of information that I can find for November 30th is a mention of the Austrian roster return of that day indicating that the average strength of its Cuirassier and Dragoon regiments was a feeble 377 horse and men. [Prussia's Glory, page 134]. With respect to the size of the overall army, Charles, in a letter to Maria Theresa, put the number of healthy and available troops at 50,000. As Duffy says, this figure is "astounding" as it was far less than the 65,000 to 90,000 troops that historians have traditionally attributed to the Austrian army at Leuthen.

Duffy explains that approximately 18,000 to 21,000 men were detached from the army, posted at various places including Schweidnitz (6,000), Breslau (6,000), Lignitz (3,000), Beck's corps of 3,500 posted east of the Oder River,  and Kalnocky's force of 2,000. The number of verifiable detached troops was at least 18,000. 

By comparison, Frederick's army is reliably estimated at 39,000 men and horse, comprising 29,900 infantry, 9,800 cavalry (48 battalions and 120 squadrons) and 71 heavy pieces of artillery: 10 of the 12-pound Brummers, 39 ordinary 12-pounders, 13 light 24-pounders and 8 howitzers. Thus 39,000 Prussians were attacking an Austrian army of around 50,000 or an Austrian advantage of 1.3x the Prussian army. Accordingly, the odds of Prussians versus Austrians was a lot closer than the figures usually stated in the history books. One can imagine that Prussian or German historians of the 19th Century might have inflated the size of the Austrian army so as to make Frederick's victory at Leuthen even more impressive.


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Road to Leuthen: November 29, 1757

The battlefield of Leuthen, in a quiter moment before the troops arrive. Click all pix to enlarge the view.
I spent nearly eight hours yesterday clearing off the Sudan terrain from my game table and replacing it with Winter terrain for the SYW in Silesia (Leuthen).

Lobetinz (foreground) anchors the left flank of the Prussians and Sagschutz, near the post in the background, is where the Wurtemburg and Bavarian forces were deployed. They would face the first wave of the Prussian attack.

A picture of me at Leuthen, to the south of the town. If you click on the picture to enlarge the view you can just make out the church towers of the Catholic Church (left) and the Protestant Church (right). Very flat terrain, perfect for cavalry action.

I should have mentioned yesterday that the Prussians were busy crossing the Katzbach stream at Parchwitz on November 28th. This was important because of the geographical nature of the Katzbach, which while narrow, had steep embankments that made crossing very difficult for an army. The Katzbach basically cut Silesia into two halves. Had the Austrian army moved forward from Breslau to take up a position along the Katzbach, they would have been in a good position to deny Frederick a march on Breslau.

Below is an excellent campaign map of the Leuthen Campaign that we will be referring to again over the coarce of the run up to the battle of Leuthen on December 4th: 

Map from "Prussia's Glory" by Christopher Duffy

By an oversight Charles and Daun had made very little provision to cover the Glogau-Breslau highway, which crossed the Katzbach by a little wooden bridge outside of Parchwitz. This post was held by Colonel Gersdorf and his force of 500 Croats, hussars and German cavalry, and on the same November 28th it was surprised and overthrown by Frederick's advance guard of 4,000 troops, which enjoyed a superiority of eight to one. The Austrians were not given the time to burn the bridge, and Gersdorf's command was driven through the town and scattered, with a total loss of 43 Croats, 6 hussars and 76 German cavalry.

On November 29th Charles responded by placing Major General Luzinsky at Newmarkt with a small blocking force (above), but the main Austrian army still hung back outside Breslau, and the enemy still had a free hand. Charles merely wrote to Vienna that he hoped that 'the Prussian movements will declare themselves in two to three days time, so that we can take such measures as are most advantageous to Your Majesty's service. In this we shall bear in mind the Kingdom of Bohemia.' The last remark was significant, for it indicated that Charles was still worried about the security of his left or southern flank [DAF: influenced by Marshal Kieth's earlier raid into Bohemia on November 26th, designed to draw off Austrian forces that were blocking Frederick' route of march from Dresden to Parchwitz] 

Frederick was therefore left undisturbed in his bridgehead at Parchwitz, and his "Rossbach Army" received a reinforcement from Glogau in the shape of three battalions. A convoy bearing ammunition and flour arrived with them and Frederick was now able to set up a field bakery in the Schloss at Parchwitz.

- from "Prussia's Glory" by Christopher Duffy, pages 128 to 129.

Below is a picture of the Leuthen battlefield, as presented on my war-game table:

Leuthen battlefield viewed from Sagschutz in the east towards Lobetinz in the west.

Monday, November 28, 2016

On the Road to Leuthen: November 28th

Frederick the Great and his generals at Parchwitz (Minden Miniatures) - click picture to enlarge

I hope to chronicle the daily events leading up to the battle of Leuthen on December 5, 1757 ( and leading up to my Leuthen Wargame on the same anniversary date).

Here is an excerpt from Christopher Duffy's fine book on the Rossbach to Leuthen Campaign, Prussia's Glory (pages 126-127):

On November 28, 1757 Frederick and his army marched by way of Schonberg and Muhlraditz to approach the little town of Parchwitz on the Katzbach rivulet. So far Frederick had seen nothing of the Austrians except the parties of hussars were falling back in the face ofmthenadvance guard, but it turned out that Parchwitz was in possession of the enemy, which indicated that the main Austrian force must be close at hand.

Map from Duffy's "Prussia's Glory" (page 125)

Frederick's unopposed March from Saxony was at an end. His force had covered 308 kilometers in 15 days, including the necessary rest days, which made an average daily progress of more than twenty kilometers, or thirteen miles, which was a very creditable rate of sustained marching by the standards of the time. This feat was made possible by the mild and dry  ( which also facilitated the Austrian operations against Schweidnitz and Breslau), and by the high spirits of the Prussian troops, who were buoyed up by their victory at Rossbach, and were determined to make good what had been lost in Silesia.


Sunday, November 27, 2016

Zieten's Raid Into Thuringia

The Zieten Hussars (HR2) in blue come thundering over the bridge. (Click on all pix to enlarge the view)

Over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, we descended upon Chez Protz to fight one of our Big Battalion games featuring Bill's rules, "Les Batailles dans l'Ancien Regime" or BAR for short. If you are interested in purchasing a set of the rules, then kindly click on the link below, taking you to Bill's web site and shopping cart:

BAR Rules

The BAR rules feature infantry and cavalry units in a 1:10 ratio of figures to men, so with an average infantry battalion of 600 men and a cavalry squadron of 120 men, you end up with wargame units of 60 figures and 12 figures, respectively.

Scenario - Zieten's Raid

The game scenario featured a Prussian raid into Thuringia during the Winter when all good gentlemen warriors are supposed to be in Winter Quarters. In the 18th Century, military campaigns during the Winter months were considered a No-No and were rarely done. Raids, however, were considered acceptable fare so every once in awhile a small force of light troops might sneak behind the enemy lines and create some havoc by burning down supply depots and stealing livestock.

Initial table set up with Prussians on the right and the French on the left. The powder magazine and depot next to the brown column were the objectives of the Prussians.

Prussian Order of Battle

120 Fusiliers in two battalions of 60 figures
360 Muskeers in six battalions of 60 figures
  36 Jagers

516 total Prussian infantry

2  Light 6-pounder cannon

60 Norman Dragoons
48 Von Kliest Light Dragoons
36 Von Reusch (Black) Hussars
24 Von Zieten (Blue) Hussars

148 total Prussian cavalry

French Order of Battle

360 Musketeers in six battalions of 60 figures (60 added late in the game when a new player arrived)
112 French Cavalry - mostly hussars and light dragoons

1 x 6-pounder and 1 x 12-pounder placed in the Watch Tower

My spies did not catch the names of the various French and Allied battalions and cavalry regiments, but they were surprisingly close to the final tally of forces.

Prussian Tactical Strategy

Time is of the essence in this game because the Prussians must strike quickly before the French realize that they are being attacked  and have an opportunity to consolidate their forces. With that in mind, Zieten placed all of his light troops (hussars and jagers) on his left flank and gave them the task of making a pell mell dash to the powder magazine and if possible, the supply depot.

French supply depot and field bakery.

A brigade of Prussian musketeers would follow up behind the hussars to provide infantry support in the attack on the depot. Zieten hoped that the left wing force would draw off some of the French infantry so as to weaken the point of attack from the Prussian right wing.

The main Prussian strike force was placed on the right flank and was augmented by all of the dragoons (108 dragoons) in Zieten's strike force. This force, under the command of Lt. General von Hulsen, had six infantry battalions, the two 6-pounders and the dragoons.

What follows is a description of the attack of the Prussian Left Wing, which was under my command. Tomorrow, I will follow up with a description of the events of the Prussian Right Wing.

Initial Prussian set up on the Left Wing. The Black and Blue Hussar regiments were allowed to deploy on the road to start the game
The Zieten Hussars (Blue) come thundering over the bridge while the Black Hussars hive off one squadron to face some Saxon light cavalry which suddenly appeared on the Prussian flank.

Using the generous 42-inches of road movement, the Zieten Hussars cantor clear across the table to the French base line. This forces a column of French infantry to stop and deploy into line on the far table.

Prussian infantry of the Left Wing soon defile across the bridge and face towards an on-going melee of Saxon and Prussian light cavalry. A troop of Zieten Hussars form a cavalry screen in front of an approaching French battalion.

While the Zieten Hussars were dashing across the table towards the French baseline, a regiment of French Bercheny Hussars initiate a charge into the Black Hussars. Unbeknownst to the French, three squadrons of the Prussian von Norman Dragoons were emerging from the woods, through an opening in the trees, and setting themselves up to charge the French in the rear.
Didn't see that coming!
The inevitable demise of the Bercheny Hussars. One of their flags was captured by the  Norman Dragoons (one of three on  the day).

The Prussian cavalry reorganize in a hollow and look for new opportunities to charge the French.

Austrian reinforcements arrive - the remains of the Prussian Jagers and the von Bungle regiment are the only infantry elements on the left wing that could fend off the fresh Austrian battalion. The Prussian cavalry were in a relatively hopeless position, unable to defend themselves from French musketry. Sort of like Minden in reverse.

French commander, Bill Protz, surveys the successful counter-attack of his right wing against the Prussian left wing. The  Prussians sacrifice the regiment of Zieten Hussars, deploying them in a screen to protect the dragoons. The hussars were shot down by the French and Austrian musketeers. The Norman Dragoons would have to retire from the field without any infantry support.

The remnants of the von Bungle regiment rout after suffering casualties exceeding 75%!
So things started out well enough for the Prussian Left Wing, having destroyed the Saxon and French hussars in the field, but the arrival of the French infantry stopped the Prussian cavalry cold. The slow advance of the French infantry gave the Prussians some time to hang on and await the outcome on the  Prussian Right.

For the game, the Prussian Right Wing successfully defeated the French infantry, enabling them to capture the watch tower and the supply depot. The other two squadrons of the von Norman Dragoons were deployed with the Right Wing and they added honor to the regiment by capturing two French cavalry standards during the game.

Tomorrow I will tell the tale of the events on the Prussian Right Wing.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Egyptian Lancers in the Sudan & Thanksgiving Greetings

The annual pumpkin pie that I bake for our Thanksgiving Day dinner. The crust is home-made, as are most of the other ingredients.

I want to wish everyone in the U.S. a warm and happy Thanksgiving. I hope that everyone can be with their families, gorge themselves  on turkey, fall into a turkey coma by the end of the day, and sneak in a bit of NFL Football.

Avoid Talking Politics
One word of caution: avoid discussing politics with your family. You've known them for, say, 30-40-50+ years and you aint gonna change their minds about any political topics. It's not as if your 30-year old cousin is going to do a face palm and shout, " by God, you are right. I should have been a Democrat all of these years!"

You know and I know that this is not going to happen. So avoid political discussions and limit the conversation to the weather and to family (as Professor Henry Higgins advised to Eliza Doolittle).

The Annual Pumpkin Pie
Every Thanksgiving, I take it upon myself to bake a home-made pumpkin pie from scratch. I do not use a store-bought pie crust (which tend to be hard, dry and taste like saw dust), but rather, make my own dough and crust which ends up having a tasty and not-dry taste to it. Your pie crust can make or break the quality of your pie. If you happen to have a copy of "The Joy of Cooking" cook book, then look up the recipe for pie dough and follow the very easy instructions. You will have fun making your own pie and dough - my daughter Lelia helped me this year and we had a lot of fun doing a project together.

The best part, you get to eat a delicious pumpkin pie the next day (if you can wait that long!).

Biscuit Tin Labels
Here is packaging label for some English biscuits (cookies, to those of us in North America) that caught my eye and so I thought that I would share it with you:

The Huntley & Palmers Biscuits label was probably made in the late 1800s, judging from the uniforms of the Highlander regiment. I wish that consumer products today had such high quality and visually appealing labels as they did around the turn of the 20th Century.

Reconditioning Some Old Britain's Toy Soldiers

For the past several weeks I have been repainting some old Wm. Britain's toy soldiers to use in my Sudan toy soldier games. I have acquired 20 or so Egyptian Lancers on eBay and hope to build the force up to 24 figures. Early in the process, I wanted to keep the figures looking old and beat up in an Old School manner; however, one problem with toy soldiers is that they fall over easily. This led me to considering a way to base the figures, war-game figure style, so as to fix the falling over problem.

I bought some enamel paints so that the figures would be glossy as befits toy soldiers. I have rarely worked with enamels so it is a bit of a learning experience for me. Enamels take awhile to dry - versus near instant drying of acrylic paint - so I learned that after about an hour or two, I could return and paint another part of the figure. The painting process is slower, but this is offset by the relative simple look of the Britain's toy soldiers and their lack of detail.

Once the first dozen figures were repainted, I attached them to MDF bases of 40mm by 80mm and finished them off with spackle compound for the ground, dipping the bases into a pot of fine gravel or railroad ballast. Then followed a little bit of dry brushing on the bases and the gluing on of a few tufts of grass to complete the basing, as shown below:

The first dozen lancers are finished and their bases have been terrained and tufted. (click to enlarge the picture)

A comparison of the original Egyptian Lancers (on the left) and the repaints (on the right).

These figures still have their original paint and were never repainted, so I might leave them as is but attach them to bases.

A side view of the newly repainted lancers. They look more colorful and have more gloss than the original figures.

Rear view, same figures.

Now some people might believe that repainting the figures destroys their value as collectibles. To that I say, "I don't care - I plan to play with them." I only repainted figures that had obviously been repainted previously, while leaving the four or five figures with original paint jobs alone. Some of the older repaints were poorly done, with paint just slapped carelessly onto the figures. They look much better under my brushwork.

I still need four more Egyptian Lancers to complete a 24-figure unit. So if you see any on eBay, please don't bid against me until I get the last four that I need. After that, the field is all yours on eBay LOL!

Repainting and basing the lancers makes me like them all the more and I look forward to using them in the next toy soldier game, which is tentatively scheduled for the week between Christmas and New Year's Day this year.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Friday Potpourri - Rearranging the Furniture

Der Alter Fritz at the Berliner Zinnfiguren store in Berlin

I have managed to keep myself busy during the first couple of weeks of retirement, and I sort of wonder where does the day go each day. I guess that this is a good thing. One thing that I am trying to get a grip on is a return to the painting table - haven't done anything since June 2016. To that end, I have tackled a group of old Britain's Egyptian lancers for the Sudan Wars. They are fairly beat up or already had bad repaint work done on them, so I did not figure that I was losing any value by repainting them myself.

Here is the Before picture with one of the new repaints that I did the other day.

The partial After picture of some of the Egyptians. Ride like an Egyptian, eh?

I currently have 20 of the lancers and about half of them look to have their original paint so I might leave these fellahs alone. The other half are going to undergo the brush, ASAP.

I have never worked with glossy enamel paint before, so this is a learning experience for me. I immediately discovered one benefit of acrylics over enamels - if you are a brush licker then you have to change some of your habits whilst using enamels. One time pretty much cured me of the habit.

Enamels don't dry very fast, so there is only so much brushwork that you can do on a model in one sitting. Heck, even a day later, some of the figures are still a little bit tacky. However, they are nice and shiny and glossy and look great, from a toy soldier point of view.

The best part of this exercise is that it may have broken up the loss of painters' mojo. I don't want to get too cocky, but it looks like Sir Brushalot is back.

I also did a little bit of bookshelf rearranging, moving a long line of ACW books from the Library to some open shelving in the Living Room, here at Mallard Hall. The new space enabled me to display more of my Toy Soldier collection.

My own version of the Zinnfiguren store.

The right side of the book shelves: one can never have too many Highlanders, or too many Napoleons.
The left side of the book shelves features some British heroes.

Battle of the Bands (Black Watch on the left, Seaforths on the right)

A close up of some of the toy soldiers.
I have one more Sudan game coming up in November and after that I will remove the desert terrain from my game table and lay out the Battle of Leuthen, in time for its anniversary on December 5th.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

I'm Looking For Painters

Baron von Muchausen goes airborne.
Now that I am retired, I have more time to devote to things that were lower on my priority list. One of those items was to paint samples of EVERY MINDEN FIGURE and use them to illustrate the shopping cart items for sale on the Fife & Drum website ordering page. Click on the link below to visit the Fife & Drum website.

Fife and Drum Website

We have over 500 moulds so this project would take years to complete if I did all of the painting. Consequently, I have decided to farm out some of the painting to 3 to 6 different painters. I can't lay out a lot of cash for this project, so my proposal is to pay you in lead (or pewter, to be precise) at a rate of 6 foot or cavalry castings per painted foot figure or 2 horses per painted horse figure. We can work out other exchange rates, but in general, I'm looking to trade around $12 of retail value per painted figure.

I'm looking for above average brushwork, something that you would consider good enough to appear in an advertisement or enter into a painting contest. I am not looking for museum quality paint jobs.

If you are interested, then send me an email at:

I will want to see some samples of your work before engaging you for the commission.

One need not be this good of a painter (First Legion 54mm toy soldiers)

The "SKUs" will be painted; so for example, if a pack of figures includes 8 marching musketeers then I will be asking you to paint all 8 musketeers in the pack.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Some New Stuff

The front view of Sans Souci - click or double click all pictures to enlarge the view.
New Stuff, the First: I am contemplating making a minor change with this blog and replacing the header picture of Frederick with the Bernberg Regiment with this one of Sans Souci. I took the picture a couple of weeks ago whilst on the Christopher Duffy tour of Fredrician battlefields. What do you think, should I change the header or leave it alone?
Looking up the terraces of Sans Souci to Frederick's palace.

Stuff the Second: Below are a couple of pictures of the Garrison Siege Gun in 54mm toy soldier size that was made by Trophy Miniatures of Wales. This is one of the sets that every serious collector of Trophy figures wants to acquire and I was fortunate enough to find and purchase the set shown below.

Garrison Siege Gun - Trophy Miniatures

In the background are some Camel Corps figures made by Red Box Miniatures. Sadly, this company, like Trophy, is out of business. One can never have too many camels or elephants in one's collection, don't you think?

Nellies and Camels all in one picture, what more could one ask for?

Stuff the Third: In an effort to regain my painting mojo, long in hibernation, it occurred to me that I could use the basic dark white Osnabrook material currently employed on my game table as desert terrain (covered with sand). It is a simple matter of scrapping off the grit and collecting it in a pot, and then laying down some Winter terrain pieces. With December coming up soon, I wonder which of Frederick's battles I should fight?

Hmm, what could it be, what should it be, well, could it be LEUTHEN???????

We have our annual Light Troops Game on December 3rd, a Saturday; and Leuthen's anniversary date is Monday December 5th, so I might have to play it as a solo game, unless I can round up some players over the Thanksgiving Day weekend.

My game table is still covered with Sudan 54mm figures, but if I put all of them away and set out my SYW forces, that is sure to get the old painting mojo going again. I hope.

Stuff the Fourth: it shouldn't be too long before we see some greens of the Russian infantry, so stay tuned to this blog.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

I'm Back! Shipping Orders Again & Other News

Fife & Drum is now back and shipping orders once again. As you might recall, I took the month of October off for vacation and to recharge my batteries. I resumed shipment of Fife & Drum orders this week and have caught up with all existing orders as of today.

I reorganized the Shipping Department, moving my work bench off to a smaller table and using this larger table for packing orders.

The Closet o' Lead. It obviously needs to be picked up and reorganized now that I have a lot of time on my hands.

Some News:

I talked with Richard the other day and he expects to have the Russian greens done in about two weeks. I don't know if this gives me enough time to have moulds made prior to Christmas, but I will give it my best try. I might try a preorder system for the Russians if timing gets tight.

I decided to take early retirement as of November 1st so I'm looking forward to,having more time to devote to the miniatures business and have a lot of ideas percolating in my head. This should also give me time to visit more conventions and to develop more game scenarios...and paint.

This used to be my shipping table, inside the dreaded Closet o' Lead. Now it serves as my workbench for cleaning and assembling miniatures and doing simple conversions such as head swaps.

The painting mojo has been gone since last June so hopefully I can get it going again. I think that it will require a SYW game to kick start the old mojo.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Frederick Statue Collection

Fritz collection on the bookshelves of my library room.

Over the years I have been collecting statues and figures of Frederick II (the Great) of Prussia whenever I can find them. On my recent trip to Berlin I found the two white bisque Frederick busts in the museum shop at Sans Souci and added them to the collection. These were very affordable, but I could have gone crazy and purchased some larger figures in the €400 plus range. I passed on those, but I'm always looking for more Fredericks.