Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Battle of Osterholz north of Bremen

Please excuse the long absence of your chronicler dear blogger, a variety of duties called.   Let me now bring us back to Hanover, August 1757, when there was some significant maneuver by French and Allied forces.  These maneuvers resulted in two lesser “flying-wing” actions to be fought north and south – and two potentially more significant actions in the storming of Hannover proper. 

The first real action of 1757 (and the Campaign for that matter) was fought last week when the Allied master tactician Von Sabo visited Zap’s Duchy from Sabo's more arid lands to the southwest.  During the visit, much good food, vino and beer was sauffed and quaffed – with many old friends (significantly of the Paddocki and Gray tribes) also reunited.   Not a few games of martial chance were also endeavored, with this action being but one.  We fought the action using "Black Powder" modified by just a few minor house rules. Now on to the battle!
As Marschal Beaudoin’s force entered Bremen in early August, he immediately ordered pickets to screen east and north in the direction of the Allies.  As his forces were few, and the Allies in this area potentially many - he understood he would need to fight any counter-thrust on ground of his choosing.  Therefore, when Baudoin received word that Allied Brigadier Von Hardenbeck had debouched Bremerhaven with a strong force of grenadiers, jaegers and artillery, he moved just North of Bremen to a fortified farmstead near Osterhloz to give battle.  
The French Defensive Positions
Von Hardenbeck duly arrived within the week and immediately deployed from column to battle line.  To his front, he observed the French deployed in a rough defensive line with their center anchored by a small light battalion of the Volontaires de l'armée in the Hof Leuchtenberg farmstead.  To the flanks of this little hedgehog were their 4 pdr (right) and 6 pdr battery (left), and to the left of this elements of the (German) Saint-Germain Infanterie Regiment.  Finally, to the right of the French position were two squadrons of Dragoons, from the Harcourt and Orléans Regiments.   These Dragoons and the Allied lack of cavalry would give pause to Von Hardenbeck’s Teutonic martial ardor.
Von Hardenbeck directs his deployment

Under the tutelage of the ever watchful Von Sabo

Von Hardenbeck deployed his 6 pdr batteries in the center supported by Hessian Grenadiers and Hanoverian Jaegers in reserve – primarily to guard against fast moving French Dragoons.  He deployed two grenadier battalions (the Brunswickers and Hanoverians) in field columns on his right. The overall approach was cautious, risking some success in the main assault by maintaining a strong reserve to counter any French cavalry riposte.
 The ball was opened by desultory cannonading from both sides, as Von Hardenbeck initiated the attack of his small force of grenadiers with a cry of:

  “Vorwats Marsch Mein Kinder!”

French Commander studies the "champ de bataille"
The Grenadiers valiantly advanced, then charged through chest high ripened Korn – their target: fellow Germans of the Saint-Germain Infanterie.   As they Allies approached the fence line in good order, the Saint-Germain loosed a deadly volley and its adjacent 8 pdr battery threw in grape and canister for good measure.
 The Hanoverians took this fire, but the Brunswickers (receiving both musketry and artillery fire) took more significant casualties and were disordered in the attack.  As the charge drove home, the stout Saint-Germain Infanterie repulsed the Hanoverians, and routed the Brunswickers – the Brunswick grenadiers flying rearward past Von Hardenbeck without a scant second glance.  “Was gibt’s mit dir - blaue schwinehunde” he was heard to scold a passing Brunswick grenadier. 
Hanoverian (L ) and Brunswick (R) Grenadiers charge the Saint-Germain Infanterie

A Deadly Defensive Fire!
As Von Hardenbeck was unwilling to commit his reserves in the face of French Dragoons, the initial Allied rebuff, in-effect ended the Allied attack.   Von Hardenbeck began a tactical retrograde and sent an emissary to parley and buy time.  The emissary was received coldly by the French, and they promptly came out of their positions to counter-attack.   Beaudoin was determined to turn this brief  repulse into and Allied rout and then march on Bremerhaven!
The Allied commander is but a little displeased at the rout of the Brunswick Grenadiers.

Beaudoin orders a General Advance.
But the wily Von Hardenbeck had other plans, and he skillfully began a tactical retrograde to preserve his small force - especially his valuable guns.  The French rushed forward, with Dragoons threatening to overrun Jagers defending the mill. The small Volontaires de l'armée battalion advanced on the guns and the Saint-Germain Infanterie likewise advanced, nipping at the heels of the retreating Hanoverians.  "En Avant!"

But just as all seemed lost for the Allies, the French advance (now masking their own artillery) stumbled, and the Allies issued one good close range fire from their infantry, and now un-masked batteries.  The “Whiff of Grape” entered French nostrils as both infantry battalions suffered casualties and were disordered.  This left the French now in a quandary as their Dragoons could possibly sweep the Allied lines in a headlong charge, but if unsuccessful, the now disordered French infantry might be routed by another round of Allied artillery and musketry – with all being lost!

French Dragoons advance at the trot.

Hanoverian Jaegers exchange effective fire with the Voluntaries de la' armee and the threatening Dragoons
And the Allied Guns speak a six, disordered - merde!

Despite having prematurely quaffed the better part of bottle of celebratory Cabernet, (Hardenbeck’s swarthy advisor Von Sabo was seen to consume an equal amount of his favored Italian vintage) Beaudoin found discretion the better part of valor and sent his own emissary forth amidst the smoking guns to parley with the Allies.   An Allied withdrawal was permitted, with remaining Allied infantry and guns being brought off in good order.

A new Parlay amidst the fire
  So the results of the small, but not insignificant  “Battle of Osterholz” were French consolidation in Bremen and Allied withdrawal to Hagen.  One Allied battalion was routed with potentially significant casualties, and all other Allied and French forces were exhausted and somewhat bloodied but essentially unhurt.  Beaudoin was heard to say after the battle:  “ Messieurs, today we have seen a battle won – and then almost lost. Un autre jour, mes amis !”
Von Sabo - satiated, satisfied and soused...with vino and a successful tactical withdrawal - having saved his guns for another day!

French Commander, also feeling little pain after equal dosages of  claret and a hard fought action with his old adversary - and good friend.  Un autre jour, mes amis !