Saturday, December 3, 2016

The Parchwitz Address - December 3, 1757

The Parchwitz Address in miniature. Click picture to enlarge.

The Parchwitz Address, illustrated by Richard Knotel. (click to enlarge)

On the morning of December 3, 1757, Frederick summoned all of his senior officers to his headquarters at Parchwitz to impress on them what was at stake (Duffy). His address has been scribed in many variations, but Christopher Duffy indicates that the following is the most reliable version of what has become known as The Parchwitz Address:

The enemy hold the same entrenched camp at Breslau which my troops defended so honorably. I am marching to attack this position. I have no need to explain my conduct or why I am set on this measure. I recognise fully the dangers attached to this enterprise, but in my present situation I must conquer or die. If we go under, all is lost. Bear in mind, gentlemen, that we shall be fighting for our glory, the preservation of our homes, and for our wives and children. Those who think as I do can rest assured that, if they are killed, I will look after their families. If anybody prefers to take his leave, he can have at it now, but he will cease to have any claim on my benevolence.

Prussia's Glory by Christopher Duffy (page 133)

Frederick was asking for the support of his army. He was an austere and unforgiving individual, and he allowed himself this display of emotion just once in his life, and when it mattered most. The officers dispersed to their commands and

loud rejoicings resounded through the Prussian camp. The veterans, who had won so many victories under the king's leadership, now shook one another by the hand, and promised to stand by each other to the end. They made the young soldiers swear to go straight for the enemy, disregarding all opposition.

Prussia's Glory (page 133)

Friday, December 2, 2016

The Fifth Day of Leuthen - Things Are Heating Up Now

Prussian artillery train hauling 12-pound Brummers to Parchwitz. (Minded Miniatures) - click pix to enlarge.

The Prussians
On December 2, 1757 things began to heat up in both camps what with Zieten arriving from Glogau with the rest of the "Breslau Army" into Frederick's camp at Parchwitz. The combined Rossbach and Breslau armies included 48-1/2 battalions, 133 squadrons, and 78 heavy field pieces, including 10 fortress 12-pounders (the Brummers) bringing the Prussian army up to 39,000 men.

Prussian powder wagon, part of the artillery train, with crew marching behind the wagon. (Minden Miniatures)

Frederick never employed the positive side of his man-management to better effect than in these early days of December 1757. In terms of motivation, his army was the best he had ever led into the field. A veteran wrote that this little force was "made up almost entirely of genuine native Prussians, for most of the foreigners had deserted, and those that remained had taken on our national character." Their guiding principle was an extraordinary attachment to their king and their fatherland, and if ever troops may be compared to Spartans and Romans, it must have been the Prussians of that time.

The units of Bevern's army had expected a typical tongue-lashing, but the king sensed that this was not appropriate. When he talked to the officers, his conversation turned on how well they had done in the past times. He walked among the soldiers, chatting with them in terms they understood. There were distributions of extra rations, and wine to help  to revive flagging spirits. For the time being he kept these people in a separate encampment, but he encouraged the men of the "Rossbach" army to come across to their lines and talk about the events of November 5th. All of this helped to turn discouragement into thoughts of revenge.

Frederick's solicitude extended to the generals. The king, unlike the Austrians, was notoriously stingy in dispersing praise and rewards, and something altogether out of the ordinary must have compelled him to proclaim a mass promotion on December 1st -- Driesen and the princes Ferdinand of Prussia and Friedrich Eugen of Wurttemberg were advanced to lieutenant generals, and eleven of the colonels became major generals.

Prussia's Glory (pages 130-131) Christopher Duffy

The Austrians
The Austrian high command held a meeting to debate strategy for the coming battle with the Prussians. The best course of action would have been for the Austrian army to occupy the Breslau defenses, however, they decided to march out of camp and march towards the Katzbach. They decided to leave much of their heavy artillery in Breslau, presumably for a speedier march. It was decided to reinforce Lignite with 1,000 more men and build up a command of Croats, hussars and Saxon light dragoons at Newmarket, on the highway to Parchwitz. Duffy indicates that the real reason for the advance towards Frederick was a concern that the Prussians would cut off the supply line back to Bohemia.


Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Fourth Day of Leuthen: December 1, 2016

On December 1, 1757 it was reported that 30 squadrons of Prussian hussars arrived from Glogau, representing the first of the troops that Zieten was assembling in that city. The rest of the force would arrive tomorrow - December 2nd - and include ten of the massive fortress cannon: 12-pound Brummers, so named after their deep throated boom.

A Saxon fortress gun at Koenigstein Castle near Dresden gives you the impression of what a Brummer might have looked like. The picture was taken in October 2016 during the Christopher Duffy (in front next to the wheel) tour of Fredrician battlefields. I am on the far right in green coat and tan baseball cap.

Schematic drawing of the Brummer - provided by Christian Rogge, who created the illustration

These thick barreled pieces on their massive carriages could take heavy charges which would wreck the ordinary 12-pounders, and the Prussian gunner Captain von Holtzendorff testifies that "thiswas the first time that the Austrians had been exposed to the shot of the Brummers. They were inclined to regard us as barbarians who had broken international law, and the prisoners directed the most bitter reproaches against the Prussian gunners for having deployed these pieces, which devoured everything in their path, and shot them up without a Prussian being in sight.:

Prussia's Glory - page 156 - Christopher Duffy

The Brummer battery of ten guns played an important role in the battle of Leuthen, so I did an inventory of my painted Prussian artillery, discovering that I only had one gun model. So today, I painted two more Brummer models to use in the Leuthen war-game.

Minden Prussian 12-pounder in front and 12-pound Brummer in the background.

A pair of Brummers "in situ" prepare to fire on the Austrians. Cannon models are Minden Miniatures.

The first picture above compares the conventional Prussian 12-pounder with a 12-pound Brummer. Note the significant difference in barrel sizes.

The second picture shows a pair of Brummers on their artillery crew stands, as used in my wargame armies. I don't glue down the cannon models to the bases so this allows me to substitute cannon models as needed for a particular wargame scenario. The models are part of the Minden Miniatures artillery equipment range.


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.