Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Green snow. The Battle of Mollwitz 1741.

There are two important rules in life: One, never drink in a pub with a flat roof. Two, never eat yellow snow. What you do with green snow I have no idea, but that's what we will be playing on for this re-fight of the Battle of Mollwitz. We will just have to imagine the table being a 'winter wonderland'.


THE MOLLWITZ CAMPAIGN

In December 1740, Frederick II of Prussia launched a surprise attack on the Austrian province of Silesia. By the end of January Frederick had taken Breslau and overrun most of the Province, only Neisse, Glogau and Brieg were holding out and Frederick sent most of his army into winter quarters.

The Austrian response was to send raiding parties against Prussian border outposts. Kleinen Krieg (literally small war) was something of an Austrian speciality and they got much the better of their Prussian opponents. So much so that, by the end of February, Frederick returned to Silesia to take personal command of operations.

On 9 March Glogau fell to a Prussian night assault. Silesia, though subject to constant raiding, would require the Austrians to take to the field in force to retake it. By the end of March the Austrians had assembled a force capable of contesting the province in Moravia. Commanding 16,000 men Field-Marshal Wilhelm Neipperg relieved Neisse on 5 April, crossed the river, and cut Frederick’s line of communication to Breslau and Brandenburg. Cut off, Frederick had no choice but to advance towards home and force a battle.

That was when the weather turned. Blizzards halted all significant military activity and the armies lost touch with each other. On 10 April, the skies having turned clear, the Prussians discovered the Austrians encamped around the village of Mollwitz. Rather than attack at once, Frederick ordered his army of 21,000 men to form into a line of battle and, in doing so, the advantage of its surprise appearance was lost: The Austrians had time to form a line of their own.


At 1.30 Frederick gave the order to advance.




I've deployed the armies in their positions at 1.30 pm. I have set up the table with the villages of Mollwitz and Grunningen, the Kleinerbach and the small wood. I have chosen not to feature Neudorf and Pampitz as they have no bearing on the battle, and I only feature Grunningen because it forms a nice 'edge' to the Austrian's open left flank.

As for the order of battle, I have simply counted up the 'blocks' on the map in The Army of Frederick the Great by Duffy. I have used one unit to represent a regiment, or two battalions. The exceptions to this are the way I have decided to represent the the Prussian squadrons of Schulenberg's command (I'm indebted to Jeff Berry who lists the number of men in each of the Cuirassier regiments in that command - they add up to a single war game unit at this scaling), and the way I've scaled the number of grenadier and guard units, which is a rough approximation for 'game-ability'.

We will use classic Piquet rules, with house amendments for large battles, to play this game.

THE AUSTRIANS


Right wing: Berlichingen.

Two units of cuirassier.
Three units of dragoons.

Note: two units of hussars out in front. These are independent units.

Note: The Austrians have no positional artillery.
Centre, first line: Goldy.

Five units of infantry.
Centre, second line: Harrach.

Three units of infantry.
 Left wing: Romer.

Four units of cuirassier.
Two units of dragoons.
NOTE ON AUSTRIAN UNIT AND OFFICER QUALITY

The infantry was a mixture of trained infantry and raw recruits. I classed two of the first line and one of the second line units as Ready, the rest as Battle Weary. The cavalry was somewhat better with several units having recently served against the Turks. I classed half of the dragoon and cuirassier units as Ready and the other half as Eager, I classed both hussar units as Eager. 

All commanders except Romer are Average. Romer is Skilled.


SPECIAL RULES FOR THE AUSTRIANS

Romer's charge: The battle began with a daring charge by Romer’s cavalry which set off to (successfully) envelop the Prussian cavalry opposite them before falling into disorder. This manoeuvre was largely responsible for subsequent events.

Before the start of the game, the Austrian player may remove a Manoeuvre and a Cavalry Move in Open card form his sequence deck, placing them, in that order, at the top of the reshuffled deck. If this option is taken only Romer’s command can be activated on the cards. They allow Romer’s cavalry to get a head start on their flank attack.

If this option is taken all rallies and pursuit checks are made with a down 1 modifier.

Mollwitz and Grunningen: These are not strong points for Austrian defence. Any Austrian unit voluntarily entering a built up area will be seen as taking a retrograde, morale shattering, step. Each and every unit doing so will be counted against numbers for Major morale and impose a down 1 modifier to all morale challenge responses and officer checks for the entire army.

Army characterisation cards: Add extra Cavalry Move in the Open card. 25 morale points.


THE PRUSSIANS

Left wing: Rothenberg.

One unit of cuirassier.
Two units of dragoons.
One unit of hussars.
Centre, first line: Marwitz.

One unit of guard infantry.
Two units of genadiers.
Five units of infantry.

Centre, second line: Leopold.

Six units of infantry. 
Right wing: Schulenberg.

One unit of cuirassier.
Two units of dragoons.
One unit of grenadiers.
Artillery.

Two batteries of heavy guns. Both are independent.
NOTE ON PRUSSIAN UNIT AND OFFICER QUALITY

At the start of the Austrian War of Succession the Prussian cavalry was atrocious. I classed all Prussian cavalry as Battle Weary. The Prussian infantry, though unbloodied, was possibly as good as it would ever be. I classed al Prussian infantry as Eager.


I classed Frederick as Average and Schwerin, his second in command (see special rule) as Skilled. I classed Schulenberg and Rothenberg as Poor, Marwitz as Skilled and Leopold as Average.


SPECIAL RULES FOR THE PRUSSIANS




Frederick leaves the field: Following Romer’s successful attack Frederick was advised to leave the field for his own safety. He did so, leaving command of the army to Schwerin. To represent this happening in the battle, Frederick will depart the field if the Prussians fail a major morale check. Failure will cause the loss of 5 morale points but Schwerin will take command and a Brilliant Leader card will be added to the Prussian deck.

Army characterisation cards: Add extra Infantry Move in the Open and Muskets Reload card. 31 morale points.


TERRAIN NOTES


The snow fields: All open areas are type II for movement.

Snow effect on combat: For the entirety of this battle, artillery will fire with a Down 1 modifier in addition to those given in the fire combat table. Artillery may not target units using ‘bounce through’.

The Kleinerbach: Treat as type III for movement. Defending a bank gives a terrain advantage. Artillery counts all troops in type II cover at all ranges due to the cushioning effect of the snow and cannot count ‘bounce through’ bonuses for round shot.

The wood: For movement, treat as type II for infantry and type III for cavalry. For cover, treat as type II for all.

The villages: Treat as standard built up areas giving type III cover. 

SPECIAL RULES FOR THE AUSTRIANS

Romer's charge: The battle began with a daring charge by Romer’s cavalry which set off to (successfully) envelop the Prussian cavalry opposite them before falling into disorder. This manoeuvre was largely responsible for subsequent events.

Before the start of the game, the Austrian player may remove a Manoeuvre and a Cavalry Move in Open card form his sequence deck, placing them, in that order, at the top of the reshuffled deck. If this option is taken only Romer’s command can be activated on the cards. They allow Romer’s cavalry to get a head start on their flank attack.

If this option is taken all rallies and pursuit checks are made with a down 1 modifier.

Mollwitz and Grunningen are not strong points for Austrian defence. Any Austrian unit voluntarily entering a built up area will be seen as taking a retrograde step. Each and every unit doing so will be counted as ‘routers nearby’ for morale challenges and officer checks.



For a description of the battle, and possibly the best map of the deployments, I couldn't do better than provide this link to the obscure battles website . So that's what I'll do. 










12 comments:

Der Alte Fritz said...

Mr. Barry's account of Mollwitz on the Obscure Battles site is very good, however, my opinion is that he has vastly over stated the amount and condition of the snow on the day of the battle. Come on, two feet of snow is not even close to realistic! How could cavalry charge under such conditions, much less infantry or artillery being able to move. I think that he is relying too much on third or fourth hand accounts of the battle written by the likes of Carlyle, who is know to get a bit carried away with his prose. Unless you can find the same information from three sources, I would heavily discount the contention that they were fighting in such deep snow.

Jim

Jay White said...

The place cards are a great touch --- would be great for running convention games so may have to steal that idea ;-)

Ray Rousell said...

What a great looking game!!!!

JAMES ROACH said...

Thanks, guys.

DAF, On the amount of snow. I'm not sure how much there was. The paintings usually show a dusting, but it seems to have been deeper than that from what my books say.

Duffy says: "...when he advanced across the snow fields at Mollwitz." and "....columns of Prussian troops were seen to be uncoiling over the snowy fields."

Showalter says: "Spring blizzards cut visibility to yards and immobilised the cavalry of both sides. Even the Austrian hussars, the best scouts in either army, lost track of a Prussian army that periodically lost touch with itself in the driving snow. But by 10 April the sky was clear, the snow frozen over."

I think, from this, that it was probably more than a dusting. At any rate, it will make for an interesting game to have it deeper. There aren't too many occasions you get to fight 18C battles in the snow, so I'm game for a bit of exaggeration. I'm going to speak with Peter before making a final ruling on the effect of snow on cavalry - he has horses and will know.

Jeff Berry said...

I love following your blog, James, and drooling over the elegant "war room" you have set up. Such beautiful displays. And thank you, gracious sir, for the generous link to my blog.

Re: The controversy over the depth of snow and how it might have had a tactical effect at Mollwitz, I did acknowledge that the two foot claim in Asprey's book was the only one in which I could find a specific measurement. Nearly everyone cites snow, though. And, as I pointed out in my post, this was not unusual even in mid April in the middle of the 18th century. The earth was in the midst of what has been called the Little Ice Age then (1350-1850). Temperatures were estimated to be some 2 degrees C colder than today.

Later images of the battle by popular salon painters and illustrators like Knotel and Rochling which show the light dusting that's been mentioned were made some century-and-a-half later, after the Little Ice Age had ended. So I don't think we can use those as documentary proof of conditions.

As eye-brow raising as Asprey's claim of two feet (or let's just say "deep") might sound, it does explain some anomalies that troubled me about the battle; such as why it took four times as long for Frederick's line to march a mere mile-and-a-half, why the artillery was relatively ineffective, why the Prussians were able to sneak up behind the Austrians in open flat country, and why the Austrian cavalry was so slow. Snow deeper than a dusting would have answered all of those questions.

Will McNally said...

Interesting posting and debate, more please.

Ioannis said...

An idea would be to have patches of land deep in snow, like bad going areas, whereas the majority is normal going.

Fabrizio Davi' said...

Great post, and a very interesting exchange of opinion between wargamers who love history!

Andrew Brentnall said...

The German General Staff History, attachment 137 quotes Frederick's own "Histoire de mon temps" page 226. "Zwei fuss hoher Schnee bedeckte die Erde." In reference to the ground around the small stream from Alzenau to Pampitz. Horse' s mouth?

Andrew Brentnall said...

The German General Staff History, attachment 137 quotes Frederick's own "Histoire de mon temps" page 226. "Zwei fuss hoher Schnee bedeckte die Erde." In reference to the ground around the small stream from Alzenau to Pampitz. Horse' s mouth?

Andrew Brentnall said...

The German General Staff History, attachment 137 quotes Frederick's own "Histoire de mon temps" page 226. "Zwei fuss hoher Schnee bedeckte die Erde." In reference to the ground around the small stream from Alzenau to Pampitz. Horse' s mouth?

Jeff Berry said...

Thank you, Andrew, for this find. This is probably where Asprey got his "2 feet of snow", from the "horse's mouth" as you put it. It's nice to see my theory about knee-deep snow at Mollwitz corroborated by Frederick himself.