Sunday, August 10, 2014

Somewhere in East Prussia...

My Dearest Grand Duke Orzepovski,

It is with the deepest regret that I must report on the recent engagement with the forces of Germania near Sonnenfeld.  In conjunction with the Tsar’s forces, may he reign a thousand years, we brought your enemies to battle in late morning and ended the engagement only after the utmost efforts.  Our forces were well matched, perhaps even precisely so and looking at the ground it appeared obvious that it would be an infantry fight initially.  Even though we possessed no advantage we judged it our duty to attack and drive the enemy away.


We opened the battle with our infantry advancing across a broad front with the Cossacks and Dragoons interspersed to provide more immediate aid.  The cuirassier brigade was held in deep reserve until needed.

Initially it seemed as though the old gods of war were favoring us and we drove our enemies back everywhere except on the for right where we were out-numbered.  The only set-back we experienced involved the new, experimental Jäger Corps.  To our dismay the only strongpoint on the field was occupied with ease by the Prussian Jägers.  Judging that it would be a constant drain of manpower, the Dainava Forest Jägers assaulted them.  Unfortunately in their eagerness to prove themselves they took unnecessary risks and losses, which caused them to rout away, never to be seen again.  This experiment requires more research.

Having cleared the dominant ridge of the enemy and taking a gun, our light and medium cavalry sought an opening to exploit.  On the right a skillful action was being fought by Brigadier Beck against superior number which also seemed as favored by the gods as we were on the main battlefield.

I can only write with admiration for the fighting power of the infantry on both sides.  The execution was great and the toll on manpower severe.  Many units were broken, only to rally and return to the fray.  By early afternoon neither side had any infantry reserves left, which is hardly surprising given the parity of the armies.  About this time we resorted to the bayonet with success and the Russian dragoons and your own Palanga Dragoons covered themselves with glory by charging and routing Prussian infantry units, admittedly already greatly weakened.  The Palanga Dragoons pursued their foes to extinction, unfortunately not returning to the fray.

Though our successes were numerous in the center, on the flanks things began to sour.  Brigadier Beck began to feel the combination of numbers and quality, plus he faced the arrival of Prussian dragoons.  On the left the Prussians were so desperate that they began to commit their cuirassiers.  The Russian grenadiers were taken partly unawares and were routed away.  Similarly a group of Bosniaks routed your loyal Cossacks.  Though musketry restored the balance, much damage was done and the field piece recaptured.  Similarly the Jonava Musketeers, involved in an infantry firefight, were surprised by Prussian dragoons emerging from the woods and could only get off a weak volley.  The result was predictable though the dragoons did not long enjoy their victory.

By late afternoon most of our infantry regiments were at or below 50% strength.  Although we continued to resist with great devotion it appeared we were not going to drive away our adversaries.  So the battle came to a close, though many such victories of a similar nature will ruin our enemy.

We will rally the survivors and reorganize the army for future operations.  I regret that it will be some time before we can resume offensive movements since only the cavalry is fit for action.  In the interim we will adopt a defensive posture.

Until then, I have to honor to remain Sire, your humble and obedient servant,

General Arkady Grigorovich Ouromov

Friday, August 8, 2014

Mobilize the militia!

With war with Germania looming, Grand Duke Orzepovski has authorized the mobilization of the town militias and is personally conducting a tour to instill confidence in the towns people.

In carrying out the policy, the magnates of Litharus rely on their towns not simply as fortified points of defense. When necessary, towns mobilize their militias, and could be further utilized for the maintenance of permanent garrison battalions and concentration of local military groups made up of mercenary soldiers and servitude boyars.
Called out for exercise in the presence of the Grand Duke
Town militias existed as early as the beginning of the 16th century, when Litharusians defended their towns from invasion by the Crimean Tartars. Town inhabitants, most likely generically related to the town militias of Kievan Ruthenia, allied themselves with the lord’s feudal detachments.
Townsmen in their own clothing turn out
In practice, most militias were concentrated in larger, fortified towns and were utilized mainly for local defense. The existence of the town militia was of primary concern not only to the magnates, who strove to exploit all resources, including human ones, for the defense of their holdings, but also to the inhabitants of the towns themselves.
"But they come late, shoot poorly and are slow to reload...."
Working people were dependent on them for their safety since war affected them most of all. The conquest of a town by the enemy was accompanied by looting, rapes, murders, fires, epidemics and, not infrequently, considerable destruction to the town itself. Under conditions of feudal anarchy, frequent wars, and the decline of the central authority in the old Polish Republic, town militias represented a force able to defend the town and its possessions as well as the lives of its inhabitants. The town militias had no independent military significance; they carried on military operations only in defense of siege or raids.
Attempting to form up
Military service of the majority of the townspeople in a magnate's town was considered a local obligation to the lord of the town, and not to the state. The magnate defined the principles of the practical application of this duty, and the higher officials of his administration, or the garrison commanders, exercised a general control over the fulfillment of this duty. As a rule, the magnates, while making use of the town militia, relied on the wealthy merchant class as well as on the members of the town board and the guild elders. One should note that the magnates regarded both the town militia and the towns themselves as tools, a means to political power, and often exposed the towns and their militias to grievous losses.
Wearing traditional woad colors along with greens and browns
Excerpts taken with minor paraphrasing and thanks from:

The Militias of Magnate Towns in Belorussia and Lithuania in the 16th-18th centuries
by Anatol Hryckiewicz (Minsk, BSSR)
translated from Polish by Sigmund S. Birkenmayer and Eugenia J.Okoniewska
edited by Margot Topkins Tutun

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Welcome a new unit

The Grand Duke Alexander Orzepovski of Litharus is pleased to announce the formation of the Dainava Forest Jagers.  It had been noted in previous engagements with Germania that our Pandours, however valiant, have been out-classed by their rifle-armed opponents.  Drawing on the husky hunters and woodsmen of the vast Dainava Forest, a small experimental Jager Corps has been formed.  With a unique Litharusian touch one third of the men are armed with muskets and bayonets, to be able to provide a formed base to operate around as well as to offer a faster rate of fire and the bayonet to the enemy.  (Translation: I had a bunch of mixed figures with no clear use so I created an Imagi-Nation unit.)

Wearing a mid-brown coat with dark green facings it is hoped that they will operate effectively in cover.  Being a mixture of fresh and older recruits, some opt for a more relaxed look to their uniform.  (Translation: I'm told these are mostly OOP Redoubt figures and are an odd lot.)

And so a new half-battalion joins the army, with more than a little bit of whimsy.  At present the Grand Duke has no plans to expand the corps to a full battalion.  (Translation: very unlikely I'd ever stumble across anything similar.)  With the Pandour battalion and pulk of Cossacks we now have a light force with which to wage le petite guerre

Monday, July 7, 2014

Mossy Creek, 1863

December 29, 1863 a largely cavalry action was fought between 1st Cavalry Division, Army of the Cumberland and Martin's cavalry corps of two divisions.  The Union forces had been pursuing Longstreet's Corps after the failed assault on Knoxville and in this action the Confederates have turned to attack their pursuers.  Scenario is taken from "Forward the Colors" by George Anderson and Ryan Toews.  Rules are Johnny Reb III.

The first thing the Yankees see is Morgan's division, all dismounted with two batteries of rifled guns just off picture to the upper right.

The Yankee force is a mix cavalry and infantry under Brigadier General Elliott.  One unit of cavalry had repeater rifles, the others breechloader carbines.  And elite battery of rifles were in attendance.  The two infantry regiments had a single section of green 12 pdrs. in support.

Looking the length of the table the Reb objective is the crossroads beyond the Branner Farm.

Oops.  On the first turn Armstrong's cavalry division trotted on table.  Historically the eight regiments were rather small, so five represent them on the tabletop.  Meanwhile the Union 1st TN had trotted out to distantly threaten the dismounted troopers.  Now they have a real foe!

The dismounts continue to advance as the Reb artillery bangs away totally ineffectually at long range.  The Union guns are little better.  Palmer's unit of cavalry detachments emerges from behind the farm.

In response the 1st and 3rd AL quickly remount and charge, beat and melee Palmer's.  They rout leaving the Rebs disordered.

A similar result befalls the 1st TN as they are meleed with a pair of Texan regiments.

The remainder of Armstrong's division moves up mounted to threaten the Union forces on the edge of the woods (brown swatches).  The dismounts advance is stalled when one unit becomes shaken at its first test and the rest advance slowly to maintain a more or less continuous front.

Most of the Confederate cavalry is armed with rifled-muskets so out-range the carbines, but they don't feel there is time for a musketry duel.  Besides, crouching cavalrymen with breechloaders make a difficult target.  The 1st and 3rd AL reorder themselves and seek opportunities.

As the troopers draw close, the Union line disengages and scurries away into the woods.

On turn 4 the Union brigade under La Grange trots on table to support their beleaguered comrades.

The view of the table from the Union perspective.  A lot of Rebs out there.

The 1st AL takes out the green section of 12 pdrs., but the 4th and 7th AL are taught a lesson about dismounted cavalry assaulting regular infantry.  They were lucky only to be thrown back shaken and disordered.  The 2nd GA routs away in the face of elite cannon fire but the 3rd GA is ready to step into the gap.

With their targets disengaging away the cavalry sees no option but to plunge into the woods where they move very slowly.

2nd Brigade to the rescue!(?)  Some of the disengagers are getting in the way.

The 3rd AL charges the left flank of the Union line but the gunners abandon their guns and disengage away.  The 'Bama boys try to stop their charge but cannot and charge disordered in pursuit of their target.  Rolling very well on charge bonus they catch and rout the 16th KY and gunners.  The 4th TN is less successful and ends their charge disordered.

As the Yankees move away to re-organize the dismounted line surges up the ridge line, past the abandoned guns.  Meanwhile the 1st AL dismounts and occupies the farmstead.

Sadly not pictured, the Union launch a desperate charge against the ridge.  Breechloaders drop a stand and the subsequent impact roll allows them to hold.  The exposed and disordered Confederate cavalry run off to get re-ordered and the Union forces reluctantly begin to withdraw.  Given that they controlled the crossroads and heights, the Confederates were willing to let them withdraw.

Historically the Rebs didn't fare as well.  The Union forces held until the 2nd brigade came up and they could launch a counter-attack that drove the Rebs miles back.  The observation was made that historic refights rarely turn out as they originally did.  That does seem to be a pattern in our games.


Thursday, July 3, 2014

Regulars by God!

On the eve of the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Chippewa during the War of 1812 we brought out the minis last night for a game of Cousin Jonathan.  A free set of rules from the Complete Captain, it is a highly morale-driven game where your training level is also critical.  As such it allows outnumbered Crown forces to match up against the more numerous but typically lower trained Americans.

By a dice roll the Americans were standing on the defensive.  The American left had two drilled regiments of regulars, the 1st US Rifles and an elite militia group.  Facing me was a cloud of Natives, a Canadian Fencible regiment and two units of well-drilled regulars.

On our right three regiments of regulars, a militia unit and a medium battery defended the hill and woods.  Opposing them were the Glengarry Light Infantry Fencibles, a cannon and three redcoat units.  At least two of them were well-drilled regulars, the 49th RoF.

The GLI kept up a harassing fire across the line with honors fairly even.  The "Black Stumps" allowed the regulars and artillery to get into position.

Casualties, maneuvering and terrain cause the small "D" markers which are easily removed if you are well-drilled.  Otherwise you will fall into disorder.  A unit or brigade covered by you colors indicate your orders for that turn.

Terrain and unlucky rolls delayed the British on the American left, so the right turned into the main struggle.  British artillery began to rip holes in the American formations as the Glens peeled away to unmask the deadly lines.  The American gun spent most of the game getting into a better position, but would have a critical effect later.

Finally, we come to grips on the left.  The Rifles are about to retire to allow the regulars to get into play.  Elsewhere we were slowly losing the musketry duel.  The natives were forced to fall back, but began to relocate where they could threaten American flanks.  The Rifles began to follow their route.

And so it came to a close.  The British came storming up the hill in an all-out charge.  They routed the first unit they hit but then were ravaged by the finally effective US artillery.  They routed and took another unit with them.  At this point the British commander called off the engagement.  Unable to move AND fire (unlike the British) the Americans were content to see them go.

I used to play this game system regularly when I lived elsewhere but this was the first game in eight years.  The basic play is smooth and quick after the first couple of turns.  We will definitely be trying this again.  Miniatures are from the Complete Brigadier to true 20mm figures.  I'm sure there will be more games.