Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Roucoux or Rocourt?

One and the same! While surfing around the Internet I realized that in France the Battle of Roucoux is more widely known as the Battle of Rocourt.

Well, information on Roucoux/Rocourt in general is thin on the ground, and that discovery helped to widen the search a bit. I came up with a number of references including the following book;


It is in French, but seeing as they did win the battle after all, why shouldn't it be?

I may order a copy at some point in the future. My French is rusty, but with determination and a good dictionary I'm sure there must be some good info to be gleaned from it.

A contemporary newspaper account of the Battle of Roucoux

Another slugfest in Flanders: the Battle of Roucoux (Oct. 11, 1746)

I think those of you out there interested in the Battle of Roucoux will find this a very special anniversary treat!

My "google-fu" has been extraordinarily good these days. While searching for information on the Army of the Pragmatic Sanction, I came across this account from a contemporary English newspaper reporting on the battle.

This extract was found in Richard Heaton's Family History Homepage,
a collection of articles intended to assist in genealogical research.

Mr. Heaton has been kind enough to grant me permission to reproduce the article below. I very much appreciate his generosity, and his hard work in making a huge amount of fascinating material available to a general readership.

Anyone wishing to copy the article for anything other than their own private use should contact Mr. Heaton directly.

I have taken the liberty of adding a few more paragraph breaks to make it a little more user-friendly for online reading. Otherwise, I have left it as is; bold type, spelling warts 'n all.

This is a quite fascinating account with a real period "feel" to it. Read on!


The London Gazette Extraordinary

Thursday, October 9th, 1746.

At the Camp of Grondza, October 9, N.S.

THE Passage of the Jaar was effected the 7th Instant. The Army marched at Four in the Morning in eight Columns, the Artillery making the ninth. This March was made so near the Enemy, that we gave them a fair Opportunity of attacking what Part of the Army they pleased, and Measures were taken to give them a good Reception. Sir John Ligonier led the Left Wing of the Horse, and after they were passed, he remained with the Prince of Lorrain and the Marshal at the Head of the Defile, till the Rear Guard and every Thing was passed without seeing an Enemy, tho' they heard the Alarm, and the General Beat in their Camp.

This being done, they went towards the Left to see the Position of our new Camp. During which Time, the Enemy having posted Batteries where our Left was before, and also on the rising Grounds on this Side of the Jaar over against the
Prince of Waldeck's old Camp, seven Brigades of their Foot appear'd on the rising Grounds, as also about 50 or 60 Squadrons of Horse, and all their Light Troops. The Cannonade then began, and was very hot on both Sides. The French were beginning to pass the River, and to form upon the rising Ground where the Dutch were incamped in the Morning. The Prince and Marshal Bathiani being come up with eight Battalions and eight Squadrons commanded by Lieutenant General Drukleben, made such a Disposition, and gave such Orders, that, tho' our Irregulars were a little roughly handled, being but few in Number, what has passed of the French was immediately attacked, broken, and beaten back into the Ravine. In the mean Time our Army was order'd to be under Arms, and lay so all Night; the Enemy retired about Midnight, and Yesterday Morning we encamped.

This Affair has cost us about 350 Men, and the Enemy, who were repulsed, double the Number. The Hannoverian Troops have lost some few Officers, the Hessians more Men in Proportion, and the English very few.
Johnson's Regiment petition'd to attack the Enemy, and did it with so good a Countenance, that they got great Reputation. There is not yet any List of the killed and wounded. Count Clermont join'd Marshal Saxe Yesterday, so that they are now in their full Force, and are reckoned to amount 198 Battalions. The three English Battalions, under the Command of Brigadier General Houghton, are to be this Day at Maestricht. Two Bavarian Battalions arrived Yesterday.

From the Camp at Ambie, near Maestricht, October 12, N.S.

Count Clermont having joined the grand Army under Marshal Saxe upon the 9th, the Enemy made a Motion upon the 10th, and passed the Jaar that Afternoon with their whole Force. This Motion having convinced us that their Intention was to attack us, our heavy Baggage was that Night sent to Maestricht; Orders were given for the Foot to lie with their Accoutrements on, the Horse to be saddled, and the whole Army to be under Arms an Hour before Day. The Dispositions were made at Prince Charles's Quarters for receiving the Enemy, by the Prince and Marshal Bathiani, with great Skill and Judgment, and every Person being at his Post, early the next Morning we perceived the Enemy in the Plain, marching towards us, their Foot being formed into three Columns, with a large Train of Artillery at the Head of each Column.

Our Right was extended upon a Plain half a Mile beyond Grondza, having the Villages of Endist, Sling, and Fexhe in their Front, which they occupied with 12 Battalions. Betwixt the last Village and Liers was a Plain, and this was in Front of the Hannoverian Infantry: In Front of the British and Hessian Foot was the Village of Liers : In Front of the Hanoverian Cavalry was that of Warem; and betwixt the Scotch Grays and the Left of the Dutch Line was the Village of Roucoux.

Major General Zastrow, with two British, four Hannoverian, and two Hessian Battalions, having Brigadier Douglas under him, was ordered to defend there three last Villages, Prince Waldeck, who was to have defended that of Roucoux, having been obliged to post a great Detachment in the Suburbs of Liege, upon Intelligence that the French designed to take Post there that Night. The Prince of Hesse and General Howard, with the Foot that remained, were to endeavour to support these three Villages, and the Cavalry to fall upon any of the French Horse, that might attempt to pass betwixt them, or as much as possible to protect our Flank to the Dutch.

The Enemy in three Columns was by this Time advanced so near, that three Batteries, which we had erected, began to play upon them. They immediately attacked
Prince Waldeck's Left with great Fury, but were repulsed several Times with extraordinary Bravery by that Prince and the Troops under him. The Scotch Brigade particularly behaved extremely well: They were however overpowered by Numbers, and forced to give Way after a very gallant Defence.

Our three Villages were at the same Time attacked by 55 Battalions, in Columns, by Brigades; and as soon as one Brigade was repulsed, another came on : And our eight Battalions under
Major General Zastrow, after having done wonderfully well, were at last obliged to abandon the Villages of Warem and Roucoux, the Major General supporting himself still at Liers, with the Battalions under Prince Frederick and Major General Howard.

Sir John Ligonier rallied the Battalions, which had suffered so much, the Hannoverian Regiment of Maidell, and the Hessian Regiment of Manspach, having stood their Ground to the Iast, and refused Quarter, so that few of them escaped. The Battalions of Boetslayer and Donop suffered likewise extremely, notwithstanding which they rallied, and drove the Enemy, who were advancing into the Plain, back again to the Village. The Battalions of Graham and Howard, which were in Roucoux, lost also a great many Men, but to the last maintained a Hollow Way, where they were posted by Sir John Ligonier, and were of great Use, Brigadier Douglas, who commanded them, having done every Thing that a good and gallant Officer could do.

As soon as
Prince Waldeck, whose Troops had begun to give Way, was informed that the Villages were lost, he retreated in good Order, and taking behind our Left, marched towards the Meuse, by St. Peter's Berg.

In these Circumstances our Retreat was resolved, and executed in the following Manner.

The three Battalions, which
Sir John Ligonier had sent for in the Night from Maestricht, and who arrived with Brigadier General Houghton as the Action was beginning, were placed in a right Angle with the Scotch Greys facing the Flank which the Dutch had before, when this came even with the Prince of Hesse, he had Orders to join that. General Somerfelt had formed another Flank a little farther to receive us, and the Prince and Marshal another under Prince Dourlach; and when we came there, we found by the Prince's and Marshal's Disposition, a Rear Guard of 20 Squadrons, 12 Battalions, and 12 Companies of Grenadiers; so that in Spight of perhaps 100 Pieces of Cannon, and all the Musket Shot they could bring to bear, the Retreat was made with great Regularity and Order ; the Rear Guard consisted of the Imperialists, the Marshal insisting upon it, as they had not suffered in the Action.

We have certainly quitted the Field with as little Disadvantage as could be in a Battle, if that can be called a Battle, where two Thirds of our Army were not engaged, the Action having been wholly upon the Left. The Enemy did not think fit to pursue us; but not being able, for Want of Wood in this advanced Season, to stay on the other Side of the Meuse, we passed that River this Morning. We have not yet the List of the Killed and Wounded; the French cannot have lost less than 10,000 Men, and our Loss, in the Gross, is not more than 5000. The Cannonading was terrible on both Sides.

Count la Lippe and Lieutenant Smissart [?] are wounded, Major General Veldtman killed, Lieutenant Colonel Montague is killed, Major Sowle wounded and taken, Major Kendall has lost a Leg, Sir Harry Nisbet is killed, and many others, who are not yet known. Monspach's Regiment has six Captains killed, and Maidell's has not one Officer left. The Enemy had not less than 170 Battalions upon the Field of Battle. Our Cavalry shewed the greatest Desire to fall upon that of the Enemy, but they kept themselves constantly under the Protection of their Foot and Cannon; and when the French Infantry came out upon the Plain, they gallop'd up with great Spirit to charge them, Lord Rothes being at the Head of the first Line, and Lord Craufurd at the Second of the English, and drove them back Sword in Hand into the Hedges much faster than they came on.

What contributed greatly to our ill Success in this Action, was, that the People of Liege had the Night before introduced the French into the Town, and put them into Possession of it, just in
Prince Waldeck's Back, whose Disposition was excellently made before that Accident, having a Flank upon his Left of Eight Battalions with a great Ravine, and very difficult Ground before them, and his Left Wing of Horse to support it.

Prince Charles of Lorraine, and Marshal Bathiani, gave their Orders in all Parts through the whole Action with the greatest Judgment and Intrepidity.

Printed by E. Owen, in Warwick-lane.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Marshal de Saxe victorious- The Battle of Roucoux

Contemporary map of the battle showing the positions of the armies.

October 11th, 2008, will mark the 262nd anniversary of the Battle of Roucoux. British, Dutch, Austrians, Germans and French fought and died in the region around Liege in Marshal Saxe's last effort to wrest control of Flanders from Austria and threaten Holland.

He succeeded, with the Dutch bearing the brunt of the French attack, and the British ending up fighting a rearguard action under Lord Ligonier (a much smaller British contingent as many units were back in the Highlands smiting rebellious clansmen). As for the Austrians- well, I'm not sure just what they were doing really- they were pretty much left alone during the battle.

Here is the Wikipedia entry for the Battle of Roucoux, along with a map and photos of the battlefield today.

To commemorate this hard-fought and rather intriguing action, the next few weeks will see this blog looking at historical and wargaming aspects of the Battle of Roucoux.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Battlefield voyeurism...

I found a great Google Earth site showing the battlefield of Dettingen (1743) as it is today- check it out here or via the link in the sidebar.

Next time I visit the Frankfurt area I'll rent a bicycle, pack a camera along with few sausages and beers and head off for a picnic along the Main (if 21st C. "progress" and traffic allow).

A modelling epiphany...

I had a moment of enlightenment this weekend when basing some 28mm figures for a game of Koenig Krieg. Most of these are currently unpainted (hangs head in shame), but I wanted to get in a game next weekend. Purists may console themselves in that I will be taking units "out of the line" in rotation for painting so that over time the army will take shape while I hone my (doubtless Marshal de Saxe-like) tactical skills on the tabletop.

My dilemma has always been that while I much prefer painting 28mm figures to 15mm for numerous reasons that I won't go into here, for me space is at a premium for gaming, which means two things.

First of all, I realized that given the number of units needed for a decent game of KK, my original plan for 18 to 24 figure units is not really going to be workable. Not so much from the point of view of cost (which has never stopped me yet, as the sad state of my bank account will attest), but from the fact that there is simply not the room to manoeuvre units that size when there are three to four brigades of foot and horse on the table.

And of course there is the matter of painting time- smaller units will simply be faster to paint, and as there are a lot of competing demands on my time these days, that is no small consideration.

The good news is that as I based the figures I realized that the 12-figure units in two ranks that the rules recommended actually do look impressive on their own account. When looking at any one 12-figure unit in isolation it does look tiddly-small. However, place a large number of such units on the table- say two brigades or more- then it becomes apparent that the whole looks very much greater than does the sum of its parts. And with all those flags, it should all make for a very impressive looking host indeed!

The second flash of insight concerned terrain. I have some gorgeous 28mm buildings, and while great models they do use up a lot of space on the table (not to mention in storage). But I discovered that given the smaller "footprint" of the 12-man units, I can use 15mm buildings, which actually end up looking more "in scale" somehow than do the larger ones. The eye soon gets used to the height discrepancy, in the same way it gets used to seeing a unit of 12 figures (or 24 even) represent a much larger body of men.

So in the end all I have done is to scale up the basing and ranges by two for 28mm figures. The old editions of the rules give measurements in inches, which I find fiddly and hard to convert easily (I grew up with the much more user-friendly metric system, and tape measures in inches are very hard to find here anyway). So I converted the bases sizes to metric, and doubled all base sizes and ranges.

(I've since found out through Siege Works Studio's Koenig Krieg forum that their upcoming third edition of the rules will include both Imperial and metric measurements, which is a big step forward!)

Infantry battalions will consist of three bases (or four in some cases), each base being 40mm square and four miniatures to a base. For now, they have been tacked on to those Games Workshop 40mm square plastic bases- the ones with the bevelled edges. I'm not so crazy about these and will remount the painted units on wooden Litko bases instead over time.

Cavalry will be two to a 50mm x 50mm base. I haven't really looked at artillery yet, and have never liked the rather idiosyncratic basing system given in the original edition of Koenig Krieg.

For buildings, the rules stipulate that one "building" to be fought over in game terms should fit a 2" x 2" base. Scaled up and converted to metric, that means a 10cm square base will equal one building with my 28's.

So, having now started looking for suitable 15mm buildings with which to decorate the gaming board, I find myself drooling over this beauty.

The irony is that it will probably end up using just as much space as would a 25mm resin building- but it would look SO impressive on the table...

Monday, September 22, 2008

Dettingen, Fontenoy, Assietta, Mollwitz, Hohenfriedberg

THE book on the War of the Austrian Succession in English!

Most wargamers will be familiar with at least some of these names, battles that made up the War of the Austrian Succession- or the First and Second Silesian War as it was known regarding the Prussian and Austrian rivalry over the province of Silesia.

The War of the Austrian Succession involved all the "heavy-weights" that we associate with the 18th C.- the Prussians, Austrians, French and British. But it was also a war that was waged in Italy involving Spain, Piedmont-Savoy and again France & Austria (two-front wars are never a good idea, mind). It also took in Hanover, Holland, Bavaria, Saxony, and a myriad of smaller states. Even the Russians got involved toward the end, and although they came in too late to see any fighting it was their first appearance on the Western European scene.

They would be back.

There were some fascinating characters, too. The Austrians Khevenhuller and Traun; the canny Charles Emmanuel III of Savoy; Der Alte Dessauer; George II and his son the (hapless) Duke of Cumberland; the far more energetic Lord Ligonier; France's Marshal de Saxe, arguably perhaps the greatest general of the 18th Century; and of course the celebrated Frederick the Great of Prussia.

I have neither the inclination nor the time to go into a general history of the war on this blog. For an overview you could do a lot worse than to start here- and to find a copy of Reed Browning's invaluable book. But as a wargaming period, the War of the Austrian Succession has always had the misfortune to be squeezed on the one hand between the War of the Spanish Succession at the turn of the century, and the later Seven Years' War (or Third Silesian War for the more serial-minded) on the other. Both of which- but particularly the Seven Years' War- seem to have garnered more attention over the years amongst wargamers.

But the War of the Austrian Succession was no mere interlude, and was a very large- and nasty- affair in its own right. Tactically and in arms and equipment, there were nuances which make it distinct from both the WSS and the SYW.

But for me, the most interesting aspect of the war was the conflict between the army of Louis XV of France on the one side, and the coalition of Austrian, British, Dutch, Hanoverian and the minor German forces that made up the wonderfully-named Army of the Pragmatic Sanction on the other. This was the alliance created to uphold Maria Theresa's right to the throne of Austria and Hungary and to restore her husband's position as Holy Roman Emperor over rival claims to the title- and in doing so help to contain the power and influence of France.

This blog will highlight some of the battles that were fought by the Army of the Pragmatic Sanction, and on reproducing them on the wargames table. In addition, it will feature orders of battle and uniforms as well as any other relevant facts and snippets of information concerning the War of the Austrian Succession that I happen to come across in my voyages into the 1740's.

I'll confess from the start that my interest mainly lies in the Dettingen campaign and in the Flanders theatre (as you may guess from the title!), but I'm more than happy to discuss other theatres of war as well.