Napoleonic, WSS & ECW wargaming, with a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Monday 30 September 2013

Solo Campaign – Let’s Get This Show Back on the Road

As promised, and with due apologies for the lengthy intermission, I am now working to get my solo Peninsular campaign going again. I would claim force majeur if I felt it would buy me any credibility, but the truth is I’ve been ambushed by the dreaded Real Life again, and I’m not happy to do this half-cocked – if I’m going to run a campaign (especially one which can be viewed by others) then I’d rather take the extra time to do it as well as I can.

My last entry, I am a bit shocked to see, was back in January, when the armies were updated to 2nd August 1812. For my own benefit as much as anything else, I’ll set out a very quick summary of the state of play at that date.

The campaign began in January 1812 with some passing connection with actual history, but very quickly (and deliberately) drifted into a narrative of its own. After some early success, Wellington suffered a couple of major defeats – most notably at Benavente (28th Feb 1812) and Allariz (8th May 1812 – Sir Thomas Graham was the commander on this occasion) and the Spanish-held fortress of Ciudad Rodrigo fell to the French on 23rd May.

The French have hardly covered themselves with glory – though their field army has performed well enough in the field, the operations of the main commanders (Marshals Jourdan and Marmont, and General Clauzel) have been compromised and fragmented by interference from Paris and by King Joseph’s overriding fear for his capital at Madrid. They have found the Spanish army rather more formidable than expected, and there has been a gradual shift of their best troops to the regions around Valladolid, Zamora, Salamanca and Madrid, the garrisons responsible for keeping the supply routes open in the North East being gradually back-filled with Garde Nationale and other second-line units.

Despite a couple of subsequent victories – most notably near Almeida on 28th May – Wellington’s standing with the British government had already fallen low enough for him to be relieved in mid-June, a surprise choice for his replacement being General Banastre Tarleton, the 55-year-old veteran of the American War of Independence, who is now created Earl of Aigburth. Wellington returned to London, and there are various theories that he might take a field command in Canada, or be seconded to the Spanish army (unlikely).

The Spanish regular army has performed very well, and has the great advantage that it may replace losses more easily than the other armies. The irregulars and guerrilleros have had a couple of surprising successes, but generally they have proved to be unsuited to conventional battlefield actions. Following a rather daring manoeuvre, transporting España’s Division in British ships from Vigo, around the coast via Gibraltar to Tortosa, on the east coast, the consolidated Spanish 3rd Army has been further reinforced by more volunteer infantry plus some extra cavalry, and, under the command of Giron, now offers a major threat to the French position in the vicinity of Zaragoza. King Joseph is extremely worried about all of this…

Aigburth entered into the campaign with a closely-fought but important victory over Clauzel at Carpio de Azaba, on 18th June, and immediately afterwards attacked the fortress at Ciudad Rodrigo – still damaged from the earlier French siege – and took it by storm after a very brief investment.

Since then, a British advanced guard under General Long have defeated a French force under Pinoteau on the River Huebra at Martin de Yeltes, and Aigburth is now preparing to drive Clauzel’s rather dispirited army out of the Salamanca area. Clauzel has appealed for support from Madrid, but King Joseph does not seem to be able to help.

If you wish to see any of the previous posts, a search on Solo Campaign will find them.

Situation at 2nd August, updated for the action at Martin de Yeltes, is thus: 

Saturday 28 September 2013

Minor League Giveaway - Eggmühl

While sorting out my papers and bits and pieces from my Danube trip, I found that I have a spare copy of the Battlefield Guide for Eggmühl. This is a very nice, A4 sized, illustrated publication, produced by the local tourist organisation in Schierling for the bicentennial in 2009. General editor is Dr Marcus Junkelmann. The battlefield is laid out with numbered information boards, and the guide is designed to enable the visitor to follow the course of the battle (you'll need a car!), but it also contains useful background information.

If I keep it lying around it will get damaged, so I thought someone else might appreciate it. No quiz or anything - please just get in touch, and I'll do some form of random selection on 5th October. To keep the thing reasonable, I'd like to restrict the offer to recorded followers of this blog - so, if you are not a follower and you fancy it, sign up. Bernard and I will only send you junk mail for the rest of your life...

I also have, it seems, a spare copy of the German-language copy of the same publication, so I'll make that available on the same basis. I think I only have 4 German speaking followers, so there might not be quite the same interest level for this one!

Friday 27 September 2013

ECW - New Group Photo

Current state of the armies - the King's men on the left
An early task after arriving home from foreign parts was to base (and issue flags to) my new ECW units of horse, recently received back from Lee. These new units have already appeared in much higher quality photos on Lee's own blog, so I opted to work them into some general photos of the current state of my armies.

Bearing in mind that I only bought the first figures in March of last year, and the first painted units didn't start to appear until late in the Summer of 2012, I am delighted with progress. Anything less typical of my usual level of effectiveness is hard to imagine. Much credit, and thanks, must go to Lee, David Young, Martin Amon, Clive, Old John and a few more for guidance and painting and everything else. Thank you, gentlemen.

Royalist horse - Tyldesley's regiment at the front

Parlies - Bethell's and the Derbyshire Horse

More Parliamentarians - Wm Fairfax's boys in the foreground

More Royalists - Northern Horse and Prince Rupert's
I must be back home in Blighty - things are crazy again this morning. My email no longer works, because of improvements to the service, but I am assured by the nice man in India that they are working on it and it should be better by the weekend. Right. That's good then.

Before the email packed in, I got a message from my pal Bernard, the idiot robot, from his night-time job at Amazon, to tell me that the Kindle Fire I bought for my wife's birthday last week is now £30 cheaper than it was last week. Thanks, Bernard.

Final thought - while I was passing through Amsterdam duty-free I saw a demonstration of a new Cube 3D Printer. Holy Smoke. If you haven't read up on 3D printing I recommend you have a look. This one copies a solid object in a plastic material - maximum size a 5.5inch cube. Goodness knows what the cartridges cost, but the machine retails at 1449 euros. I think that, like hybrid cars, they will get much cheaper and much better - this is not the time to buy one - but the potential is mind blowing. I'm keeping an eye open for developments. Miniature soldiers? - absolutely.

Tuesday 24 September 2013

Danube Trip - Vienna Army Museum

This will be the last blog post for this trip. We fly home tomorrow, and today is a shopping and sightseeing day.

We spent yesterday morning at the splendid Heeresgeschichtemuseum at the Arsenal here in Vienna. I saw a lot, and took a lot of pictures, which I shall have to sort out when I get home. The rest of the day was spent walking around the city - we estimate we walked around 12 miles altogether, which should cancel out a few beers.

I was particularly impressed by the collection of vehicles - not a subject I know much about, but they looked good to me. Some of the following date from the post-war army of occupation. Here's just a selection of photos:

The vehicle in which Archduke Franz Ferdinand had an especially bad day in Sarajevo

But is it art? We are not sure what it is, but it's interesting

Carl Hilpert's in Schulerstrasse - one of the great toy and model shops. Specialist in model railways

Oh well - all right then...  supper at Joma

Sunday 22 September 2013

Danube Trip - Well, We're Here #3

Inside the private chapel at the palace of Thurn und Taxis, Regensburg
Trouble at Regensburg (Ratisbon) - then and now

First thing to understand about the history of the City of Regensburg is that it is complicated. This is also the second and third things you need to understand.

In 1809, the city, though lying squarely within the Kingdom of Bavaria, was independent of it. Regensburg was an independent city, and please don’t ask me to explain whose it was. I think I knew at some point yesterday, but now I am not so sure. The Prince of Thurn und Taxis may well have had something to do with it, but much of its independence was based on the fact that it was the seat of the Permanent Diet of the Holy Roman Empire. Confusingly, the suburb on the north side of the Danube, Stadt-am-Hof, at the north end of the vital bridge, was part of Bavaria.

These days the city includes this suburb, and they are both part of the region of Bavaria, within the federal state of Germany. No problem there, then, though there appears to have been a little trouble during the recent bicentennial, in 2009. As part of an extensive programme of events to commemorate the unpleasantness of April 1809, a noted local historian and re-enactor was to ride over the bridge, dressed as Napoleon.

All sorts of difficulties were raised to stop this happening. Some well-intentioned soul with pacifist leanings declared that warfare and (especially) Napoleon were not suitable subjects for commemoration, though the counterargument, that approximately 1/3 of the city was destroyed, would suggest that the event had at the very least been significant.

On health and safety grounds, the Napoleon impersonator was banned from crossing the bridge, in case he and his horse fell off into the river – this despite the fact that there are no recorded cases of horses falling off in the previous 850 years. The ban was overturned, but there was a small retaliation in that a strange inscription appeared on the old gate pillar in Stadt-am-Hof, which, translated, says something like

To commemorate the dreadful day in April 1809,
all due to Napoleon, which befell the people of Regensburg.

This piece of official graffiti caused further anger, since

(1)   defacing an ancient piece of the city in this way is inappropriate, not to mention illegal

(2)   the destruction of the northern suburb where the inscription was placed was entirely caused by Austrian artillery prior to 18th April, though the French did cause a lot of damage when they attacked the south side of Regensburg on 23rd April.

(3)   The conflict in the area was initiated by invasion by the Austrian army, not by the French, who were fighting in support of their Bavarian allies.

(4)   Strangely, the local authorities refused to name either the author of the inscription, or the identity of the engraver, in case of reprisals. Hmmm.

We spent much of yesterday touring the city of Regensburg – and a very fine place it is, too – focusing on the key locations connected with the French storming of the place on 23rd April. I was intrigued to note that the French attacked at a strong part of the walls, though a portion of the walls a short distance away had been demolished.

The celebrated tale of Marshal Lannes seizing the scaling ladder and having to be restrained by his aides (notably Marbot, who else?) would have been unnecessary if the attack had been made closer to the palace of Thurn and Taxis, where the walls had been removed as part of works to the gardens – the French should, in theory, just have walked in if they had attacked a little to the west. There were a good many Bavarians with the attacking troops, but it is likely that they came from other parts of the country – Regensburg was, in any case, not in Bavaria, and the main recruiting centres were Munich, Ingolstadt and Nuremberg.

As before, I’ll include some pictures to give an idea of areas we looked at.

Napoleon was decent enough to get wounded within a few metres of our hotel,
though halfway up a wall is an odd place for it to have happened

One of the few areas where the walls can still be seen - here you see the
medieval wall, with the ancient Roman wall behind it. This is in the area where
the French made their attack. The artillery made a hole in the town
which was rebuilt as a street - Maximilianstrasse

The day after the assault, Napoleon appeared on the balcony at the home of his
friend Karl Theodor von Dalberg, erstwhile Archbishop of Mainz and noted
mover and shaper in the Rheinbund. Ths was to show the townspeople that his wound was trifling

The stone bridge - a horse would probably be safe enough there

The gate pillars at Stadt am Hof, where the mysterious new inscription appeared
We are now in Vienna. If we get to the Heeresgeschichtemuseum I’ll try to put a post together. First priority is to get some homemade apfelstrudel.

I am pleasantly surprised to note that my hotel here in Vienna, when it was a private house, was the birthplace (in 1888) of Max Steiner, the composer, who is maybe best known for the scores to “Gone with the Wind” and “Casablanca”. As a sincere tribute from one Max to another, I have to say, “Play it again, Max!”.

Saturday 21 September 2013

Danube Trip – Well, We’re Here #2

Bavarian Army Museum, Ingolstadt

On Friday morning, we drove to Ingolstadt and visited the Armeemuseum. Excellent. My only slight grumbles were, firstly, that it is staffed by some ladies who do not seem to be very happy to be there, and who cheer themselves up by disciplining the visitors, and, secondly, flash photography is not allowed, and the exhibits are preserved by keeping them in such a gloomy environment that we had difficulty reading the notices on some of the displays. Other than that, the place is terrific value at 3.50 euros for an adult. Remarkable collections of weaponry and models of artillery equipment, and some breathtaking dioramas. The dioramas in particular were simply too much to take in – all done in flats, and sometimes using enhanced perspective, by which I mean that smaller scale figures are used at the back of the model.

The emphasis is, obviously, on the history of the Bavarian army, a subject area where my knowledge is very much limited to the Napoleonic period.

30YW Leather Gun

Uniforms of the Crown Prince and Genl Wrede, 1809

Genl Deroy


We spent the afternoon at Abensberg. The Director of the Stadtmuseum there gave me a fantastic amount of scanned material – old books on the Abensberg battles, plus some marvellous old maps from the Austrian war archives. Then he gave us an extensive guided tour of the battlefield itself. I took a lot of pictures and a lot of notes, which I shall enjoy working through, but most of the landscape-type photos are really not very suitable for including here – although the scene makes sense at the time, when explained, a photo of a tiny church tower in the far distance, obscured by woods and buildings which were not present in 1809 is pretty meaningless. It was a most enjoyable day, though – the Battle of Abensberg is one of the more confused actions of the campaign, and it makes it a lot more understandable to visit the various locations, appreciate the distances involved and see at first hand what the protagonists had to cope with.

I’ve included a selection of pictures, to give an idea of what we saw.

15mm scale model of the town of Abensberg in 1808. I don't know where I'll
store it, but I want one...

The inn at Rohr, where Archduke Charles and Napoleon spent consecutive nights