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