Befreiungskriege 1813-14

Painting and modelling 28mm Napoleonic wargaming miniatures

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And another thing, or three…

Posted by Martin on May 25, 2010

One of the spin-offs of the recent series of posts about organizing Prussian forces for Republic to Empire was a spate of comments speculating about the correct terminology for ad hoc formations placed under a sub-commander by Prussian brigade commanders for specific tasks. There was no definitive conclusion so I’ve been asking around about this and had feedback from Peter F., George Nafziger and Peter Bunde as well as some of the regular BfK readers.

The upshot is that nobody is aware of a specific formal term that was used by the Prussian army. However, consensus is that the German word Abteilung would have been understood and recognised at the time. While this is a helpful conclusion, it does leave one final difficulty because Abteilung is used in many different senses by Germans and therefore has a range of possible translations into English depending on the context. General opinion is that the most appropriate translation under the circumstances I’m thinking of is detachment. So now all I’ve got to do is decide if I prefer to use the English or the German…

Elsewhere, my attention has been drawn to an article in the current issue of Miniature Wargames that compares four horse and musket rulesets: Sam Mustapha’s Lasalle, Black Powder, Foundry’s Napoleon and, the much admired in these parts, Republic to Empire. I scanned through the article at the shelves of W H Smith yesterday and came away feeling a bit disgruntled at what I view as some shoddy handling of Republic to Empire.

Of course, it’s fair to say that I only skimmed the piece and that reviewers are entitled to their own opinions – even ones that differ to mine ­čÖé However, I did get the impression that the reviewer went into the venture with pre-conceived notions and looked only for things that confirmed his initial position. The main criticisms are ones that I’ve seen voiced on TMP by people who, by their own admission, have never even played the rules. Namely, a mistaken belief that Republic to Empire is overly complicated, hard to learn and too time consuming to play. As somebody who’s had the privilege to participate in a game at Salute I can tell you categorically that such criticisms are bunkum.

Back to the Miniatures Wargames piece – at least they did attempt some playtesting of each ruleset, so credit is due there. However, I think that the nature of the playtest (for example, it only being on a 4ft x 4ft table) was almost doomed to show Republic to Empire in a poor light. I think that to give any ruleset a fair crack of the whip you need to be sensitive to the conditions under which its authors intended it to be used.

Finally some sad news this week. Wargames, Soldiers and Strategy AKA The Spanish Magazine has announced suspension of publication of its English language edition. It’s a magazine for which I have a high regard and affection. I think it shook up the complacent competition and I’m fortunate to count some of those involved with it among my regular correspondents. As far as I understand, the magazine will continue to be published in Spanish but the current financial climate has made it uneconomic to continue in English at present. I sincerely hope this is a case of adieu and not goodbye.

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RtoE Prussian musings: part five

Posted by Martin on May 15, 2010

If you’ve followed this little series of posts about organinzing Prussian forces prototypically for the Republic to Empire rules – well done, you’ve got great stamina. If you haven’t, this is the final part (unless something else springs to mind in future) and you can choose to pick up the thread here or, if you’re a masochist, you can follow my “thinking out loud” through the previous four parts:

Part One.
Part Two.
Part Three.
Part Four.

In this last musing session, I’m going to recap on the decisions I’ve made (without repeating the line of reasoning that led to them) and demonstrate the various ways a wargamer might apply them the an 1813 Prussian brigade under his command (recall that a Prussian brigade is an all-arms force that’s about the size of a division in other armies). So here we go…

I’ve devised the following conventions for the organization of a Prussian brigade under the Republic to Empire rules:

  1. A Prussian brigade commander is treated as equivalent to a divisional commander in other armies.
  2. A Prussian brigade commander may have up to three sub-commanders beneath him, each of which is treated as equivalent to a brigade commander in other armies.
  3. Each such sub-commander may command a formation that comprises a total of between three and five tactical units (i.e. infantry battalions, artillery batteries and cavalry regiments count towards this total but not volunteer j├Ąger detachments). Exceptions to this may be made under special historically accurate circumstances and must be agreed by all players at the outset of the game (for example, a smaller formation of two tactical units might be assigned a special role such as garrisoning a fortification).
  4. The infantry battalions of a Prussian brigade must be placed under the command of the brigade sub-commanders rather than under the direct control of the brigade commander.
  5. By default, a Prussian brigade’s artillery battery (there’s usually only one) and cavalry regiment (there’s usually only one) are placed under the direct command of the brigade commander. If the brigade commander wishes to assign artillery or cavalry to one of the formations commanded by one of the sub-commanders, he may do so – but only at the start of the game. Once such an assignment is made, it cannot be reversed during the game.
  6. A Prussian brigade’s artillery battery may be split into two half batteries – but only at the start of the game. Each half battery is then treated as a seperate tactical unit but does not suffer the split fire penalty as long as all guns in the same half battery fire at the same target.
  7. A Prussian brigade’s cavalry regiment may be split into detachments no smaller than two squadrons each – but only at the start ofthe game. Each such detachment is then treated as a seperate tactical unit.
  8. Volunteer j├Ąger detachments are treated as specialist light infantry detachments, which are already catered for under the rules. Any volunteer j├Ąger detachment must be placed in the same formation as its parent battalion.

Now let’s examine the realistically flexible options these conventions offer a Prussian brigade commander. To illustrate this, we’ll examine von Borstel’s 5th brigade as it stood on 10th August 1813 (note this this brigade’s OOB changed in subtle ways during the course of the Autumn 1813 campaign):

  • Pommeranian grenadier battalion.
  • J├Ąger detachment of the Pommeranian grenadier battalion.
  • 1st musketeer battalion, Pommeranian infantry regiment.
  • J├Ąger detachment of the 1st musketeer battalion, Pommeranian infantry regiment.
  • 2nd musketeer battalion, Pommeranian infantry regiment.
  • Fusilier battalion, Pommeranian infantry regiment.
  • J├Ąger detachment of the fusilier battalion, Pommeranian infantry regiment.
  • 1st battalion, 2nd reserve infantry regiment.
  • 2nd battalion, 2nd reserve infantry regiment.
  • 3rd battalion, 2nd reserve infantry regiment.
  • 1st battalion, 1st Kurmark landwehr infantry regiment.
  • 2nd battalion, 2nd Kurmark landwehr infantry regiment.
  • 3rd battalion, 2nd Kurmark landwehr infantry regiment.
  • 4th battalion, 2nd Kurmark landwehr infantry regiment.
  • Pommeranian hussar regiment.
  • Foot artillery battery No. 10.

The first option is the most conventionally obvious one where the three infantry regiments are each placed with a sub-commander while the artillery battery and the cavalry regiment remain under direct control of the brigade commander. That would look like this:

von Borstell (commander, 5th brigade):
Pommeranian hussar regiment.
Foot artillery battery No. 10.

Sub-command I: von Schon (commander, Pommeranian infantry regiment):
Pommeranian grenadier battalion.
J├Ąger detachment of the Pommeranian grenadier battalion.
1st musketeer battalion, Pommeranian infantry regiment.
J├Ąger detachment of the 1st musketeer battalion, Pommeranian infantry regiment.
2nd musketeer battalion, Pommeranian infantry regiment.
Fusilier battalion, Pommeranian infantry regiment.
J├Ąger detachment of the fusilier battalion, Pommeranian infantry regiment.

Sub-command II: von Knobloch (commander, 2nd reserve infantry regiment):
1st battalion, 2nd reserve infantry regiment.
2nd battalion, 2nd reserve infantry regiment.
3rd battalion, 2nd reserve infantry regiment.

Sub-command III: commander unknown:
1st battalion, 1st Kurmark landwehr infantry regiment.
2nd battalion, 2nd Kurmark landwehr infantry regiment.
3rd battalion, 2nd Kurmark landwehr infantry regiment.
4th battalion, 2nd Kurmark landwehr infantry regiment.

Which is fine and easy enough to understand but, to my mind, has the disadvantage that it places all the volunteer j├Ąger detachments and the fusilier battalion in one sub-command thus leaving the other two short on specialist light infantry. So, for a second option, I’d be tempted to shuffle things around a bit like this:

von Borstell (commander, 5th brigade):
Pommeranian hussar regiment.
Foot artillery battery No. 10.

Sub-command I: von Schon (commander, Pommeranian infantry regiment):
2nd musketeer battalion, Pommeranian infantry regiment.
Fusilier battalion, Pommeranian infantry regiment.
J├Ąger detachment of the fusilier battalion, Pommeranian infantry regiment.
1st battalion, 2nd reserve infantry regiment.
1st battalion, 1st Kurmark landwehr infantry regiment.

Sub-command II: von Knobloch (commander, 2nd reserve infantry regiment):
1st musketeer battalion, Pommeranian infantry regiment.
J├Ąger detachment of the 1st musketeer battalion, Pommeranian infantry regiment.
2nd battalion, 2nd reserve infantry regiment.
2nd battalion, 2nd Kurmark landwehr infantry regiment.

Sub-command III: commander unknown:
Pommeranian grenadier battalion.
J├Ąger detachment of the Pommeranian grenadier battalion.
3rd battalion, 2nd reserve infantry regiment.
3rd battalion, 2nd Kurmark landwehr infantry regiment.
4th battalion, 2nd Kurmark landwehr infantry regiment.

The other advantage of this option is that it spreads the landwehr infantry battalions around so that they are supported by more experienced colleagues and there’s no longer one potentially weak sub-command entirely made up of landwehr infantry. Of course, there are lots of ways you could shuffle the infantry battalions around like this.

Finally a third option that shows how command of the cavalry and artillery might be devolved to a sub-commander.

von Borstell (commander, 5th brigade):
Half of foot artillery battery No. 10.
Two squadrons, Pommeranian hussar regiment.

Sub-command I: von Schon (commander, Pommeranian infantry regiment):
Pommeranian grenadier battalion.
J├Ąger detachment of the Pommeranian grenadier battalion.
1st musketeer battalion, Pommeranian infantry regiment.
J├Ąger detachment of the 1st musketeer battalion, Pommeranian infantry regiment.
2nd musketeer battalion, Pommeranian infantry regiment.
Fusilier battalion, Pommeranian infantry regiment.
J├Ąger detachment of the fusilier battalion, Pommeranian infantry regiment.

Sub-command II: von Knobloch (commander, 2nd reserve infantry regiment):
1st battalion, 2nd reserve infantry regiment.
2nd battalion, 2nd reserve infantry regiment.
Two squadrons, Pommeranian hussar regiment.
Half of foot artillery battery No. 10.

Sub-command III: commander unknown:
3rd battalion, 2nd reserve infantry regiment.
1st battalion, 1st Kurmark landwehr infantry regiment.
2nd battalion, 2nd Kurmark landwehr infantry regiment.
3rd battalion, 2nd Kurmark landwehr infantry regiment.
4th battalion, 2nd Kurmark landwehr infantry regiment.

This based on tweaking option 1 so that sub-command II is modelled on the formation von Knobloch commanded for the attack on Klein Beeren during the Battle of Gross Beeren – the one difference being that I’ve used a half-battery of foot artillery instead of the half-battery of horse artillery that was made available to von Knobloch in real life.

You can play around like this for ages making up different ad hoc sub-command combinations. All of which, hopefully, demonstrates how my set of conventions enable the true flexibility of Prussian brigades to be implemented for Republic to Empire. Give it a go for your favourite brigade and let me know how you get on.

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RtoE Prussian musings: part four

Posted by Martin on May 13, 2010

After a short hiatus, I think it’s time to tackle the topic I’ve been procrastinating about: namely, how to treat the cavalry element of a P-brigade (see earlier posts for an explanation of this home-made terminology).

The problem here is that I’ve been torn between several apparently contradictory factors:

  • It’s a historical fact that 1813 P-brigades contained a cavalry element – typically a regiment. The one I’m modelling included between two and four squadrons of the Pommeranian hussar regiment at various times.
  • Mixing infantry and cavalry units in the same (conventional) brigade was normally avoided for very good tactical reasons yet we have documented historical evidence of P-brigade commanders forming ad hoc taskforces that did just this (see earlier post for an example). So how best to cater for that?
  • Rather like the P-brigade’s artillery battery, its cavalry was a P-brigade asset, so shouldn’t it be under the direct control of the P-brigade commander?

I’ve been wrestling with the best way to reconcile these factors and I think I’ve finally hit on a solution – but it’s one that modifies some of my earlier thinking about artillery.

Let’s start with something easy. I’m going to assert that I’ll always treat a cavalry regiment in a P-brigade as a single tactical unit regardless of its strength (both in terms of manpower and the number of squadrons). The next thing I’m going to do is set a default that the cavalry regiment is a P-brigade level asset just like the artillery battery. The same arguments as I deployed before for the artillery battery apply here.

Having taken that plunge, I’m left with finding a way to do deal with the inconvenient truth that cavalry and infantry tactical units were sometimes grouped together in ad hoc formations. For that matter, tactical units from all three arms were sometimes grouped together this way. If you read the previous paragraph closely, you might have spotted that I’ve already prepared the way for what’s coming next with my use of the phrase “set a default”.

What I propose to do for the cavalry tactical unit (and by implication this applies to and extends what I said before about the artillery tactical unit) is this: by default, the cavalry tactical unit and the artillery tactical unit in a P-brigade will be treated as P-brigade level assets under direct command of the P-brigade commander unless, at the start of the game, he chooses to devolve command of one or both of them to a sub-formation commanded by one of his sub-commanders.

If the P-brigade commander does choose this non-default option, then then any cavalry or artillery tactical unit assigned in this way contributes to the total of tactical units in the sub-formation. This is important because you’ll recall that I set a three to five unit size range for such sub-formations.

So that’s the policy but I think a few tactical observations are merited. P-brigade commanders should think long and hard before devolving command of a cavalry or artillery tactical unit. The first reason for this is that it’s a non-reversible decision, If you suddenly find that you really need that cavalry somewhere else on the battlefield – well tough, it’s already committed. Secondly, having artillery, cavalry and infantry all in the same brigade and thus on the same orders can be very awkward.

Finally, I’d just like to mention the question of corps-level cavalry in the Prussian army. What I’ve been discussing above doesn’t really apply to Prussian cavalry at this level. That’s because the corps cavalry was organized in a much more conventional way with several clearly defined cavalry brigades attached to each corps. If you wish to have one or more of these brigades present on your table, then follow the same principles as you would for any other nation.

I think the next part of these musings will be the final one where I’ll aim to summarize my conclusions are provide examples of the various ways they could be applied to P-brigade.

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RtoE Prussian musings: part three

Posted by Martin on May 6, 2010

I’m aiming to keep up the pace on these while I’ve got everything fresh in my mind. Last time was devoted to artillery in a P-brigade (that’s the term I’m using here for a late-Prussian brigade to avoid confusion with the conventional brigades of other armies), next time I’ll cover cavalry in a P-brigade but in between, I’m going to look at volunteer j├Ąger detachments this time.

First some historical context. Volunteer j├Ągers were a distinctive feature of the Prussian army during the campaigns of 1813 onwards. These troops were all volunteer riflemen attached to line formations. Most regular line battalions had a company of these troops attached to them. They were generally young men from the professional or wealthy classes. As such, they were expected to provide their own equipment and uniform. The payback for this expense was that these formations were considered to be training cadres for the line officers and NCOs of the future and therefore presented opportunties for military careers for these young men.

In the P-brigade I’m building (Borstel’s 5th), three battalions had such volunteer j├Ąger detachments in August 1813:

  • The Pommeranian grenadier battalion: approx. 170 j├Ągers.
  • Pommeranian infantry regiment, 1st battalion: approx. 140 j├Ągers.
  • Pommeranian infantry regiment, fusilier battalion: approx 140 j├Ągers.

So what’s the best way to represent these three elements in Republic to Empire?

There’s a detailed section about skirmishers (pp.63-68) but that doesn’t cover what we’re looking for. However, once again, a good root around in the rules provides the answer. I draw your attention to the section entitled “Of Models and Men” (pp.115-116). This section includes a detailed description of the OOB for the 5th infantry brigade at Waterloo which is of directly relevance to our discussion because it includes three volunteer j├Ąger detachments. Barry explains that he treats each of these as a “specialist light infantry detachment” uinder the rules and refers us to a paragraph in the book that explains what this means. I think it’s simplest if I reproduce that paragraph here:

“Some armies would on occasion divide a specialist light infantry battalion down into penny packets of one or two companies and distribute these across several brigades or divisions. If this is done, these detachments should range in size from 2-8 models. They are not required to retain a close order reserve. They are part of the brigade to which they have been assigned but do not count as support for other units of the brigade. If called on to check ‘Resolve’ they should do so. If they need to move independently of brigade orders they use the ‘Single Unit Action Table’.”

I don’t think there’s much I need to add to that because it gives a really clear directive about how I should treat my volunteer j├Ąger detachments. But there is one last observation I’d add: I’d set the restriction that a volunteer j├Ąger detachment has to be placed in the same brigade as its parent battalion.

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