Monday, December 24, 2018

Battle for the North

There was the usual prancing around before the State Army troops encountered the rebels in numbers. The Count of Calvacasa avoided a major clash because much required reinforcements were trickling in from the way of the Schultze-Böhnstadt border towns. 

Finally he found a large field near the royal highway south of Lago Placco and reconnoitred it in detail. The lay of the land was good for defense and strong counter-attacks.

What neither side had considered was the fact that Northern Loyalist militia had vanished from the scene. There was no more incentive to fight against the rebels now that they held all the strong points north of the mountain passes. Therefore the State Army was not as strong in itself as it could have been - with enough militia, it could outnumber the entire rebel force two to one, but this way they even had to send a pair of Schiavona militia battalions post-haste to the front just to be sure. The loyalists still overestimated their own strength, and so did in fact Pietro di Calvacasa. Gracco di Piedi's volunteer battalions were kept in reserve and were scheduled to arrive sometime in the middle of the day the battle was calculated to take place on. 

All outlying pickets were ushered in the main camp and the two armies slowly approached each other.

The fields near the royal highway moving towards Lago Placco and the northern towns are wide grasslands with the occasional small grove signaling moors or dried up lake beds. The highway is straight as an arrow as it moves toward Civita Maria and the Böhnstadt border. 
The rebel army was drawn up facing roughly south right on the road. There was a small unnamed village and fields of fresh crops to their right (west) flank and a small sandstone hill further west. The center was dominated by the road and surrounding plains, but there was a thicket moving east by southeast. A small slope proved a good place for the regimental guns right near the road.

The Count dismissed the importance of the hill overlooking the village and used it to hide his reserves instead. The Glambrian storming party was therefore left in the village to expel any cavalry advance on the extreme right. Next to them were placed the Böhnstadt Freikorps von Schütterstöck, a good quality and well motivated unit. Further ahead the Calvacasa militia had hidden between the crops in a loose formation. 
The main infantry line was drawn up between the hill and the thicket. The foot dragoons were sent ahead to protect the artillery on the slope.
The woods itself were a tactical conundrum for the rebels. The Count expected a large amount of skirmishers to swarm it, so his units had to get there first and expel them. Therefore his best Varangian infantry and mounted Freikorps were tasked with occupying it. 
The next problem was the expected large number of loyalist cavalry. Good battle cavalry was completely lacking from the rebel ranks, the best they had were the Freikorps and Calvacasa Outriders, the latter closer to light dragoons than anything else. These were massed on the left flank east of the woods to exploit the large open field. The Count expected the enemy cavalry to be drawn up there as well.

The loyalists quickly deployed in battle order, but misjudged the effective distance of the rebel artillery and paid dearly for it.

The Freikorps cavalry and elite Varangian infantry rushed into the woods and prevented the enemy Cacciatori to move in. However this exposed the cavalry to musket fire from the main battle line.

With the combined effort of the Civita Maria regulars, their regimental amusette and the Calvacasa outriders, one enemy cavalry unit was turned back before long.

The Count could see from the hill as the Varangians marched into the thicket in good order, amidst smoke and haze, right past the extreme right flank of the loyalist main line. 

Which was steadily advancing and began to move aside the obstacles thrown at it. The Freikorps hussars countercharged and made a gap in the line they could file through.

The Count could see that the heaviest action revolved around the possession of the woods, but little more.

This is the bird's eye view of the situation: the Cacciatori were shot by the Varangians emerging from the thicket, and charged by the disorganized but spirited hussars. 

At first it seemed that the main body of infantry could drive a wedge between Calvacasa's flanks as it occupied the empty space and released volley after volley. The foot dragoons were cleared out, the militia fell back. 
The commander of the light dragoons on the loyalist left could sense that the rebel line was anchored on the sandstone hill, but could see no movement. The dragoons moved up the hill in loose formation, but then out of nothing they received a shattering volley from the houses, and then the Glambrians charged them. It was a rout they could not recover from. 

Meanwhile the militia fell back and Freikorps Schütterstöck moved forward. The Parmigiano Guardia di Honore, sent only to bolster the loyalist ranks but of little value on the field, stood for a while but could not match the expert musketry of the Böhnstadters. Now both loyalist flanks were threatened.

The State Army general could well perceive this and started reforming his lines around the center infantry units still holding their position. One Schiavona militia unit was ordered to about face to keep the Freikorps cavalry in check, and the rest of the line rallied succesfully.

This was the moment when Gracco di Piedi's reinforcements arrived in numbers and fell at the exposed loyalist left flank at once.

The Freikorps hussars chased both Cacciatore units off the field.

However the Calvacasa Outriders were less successful, participating in a pitched battle made them lose their nerves and they entered a flight back to safety.

"Good to link up with you boys!", the Squire of Piedi told the Glambrians who did not understand a word, but joined the counter-attack without hesitation. The Schiavona militia unit in the loyalist front line disintegrated under the combined volley fire of three enemy battalions and fled.

At this point I had a dilemma to solve. The loyalist right still had two more or less intact battle cavalry formations, but they were led by a Northern militia commander (they couldn't spare anyone more competent). If he countercharged, the disorganized rebel left may have fallen apart. But by that time he must have received word of the fresh enemy troops arriving on their left. Is he a pansy or the hero of the day? I let the dice decide - odd numbers, he flees to safety with both squadrons, even numbers, he countercharges.
This is the result.

Fortunately the loyalist general had multiple units within safe distance of the edge of the field and these could retreat, not completely intact, but useful for later in the campaign. However, as all cavalry units abandoned him, he had to order his front infantry line to fight a rearguard action. These held off the rebels long enough that the rest could disengage, but surrendered after.

Tally for the battle:

Rebel forces
1 unit of foot dragoons dispersed
1 unit of light dragoons routed (staying on the field)

Loyalist forces
1 unit of Schiavona militia dispersed
2 units of regular infantry and 1 Honor Guard unit surrendered (about 450 POWs)
2 guns captured

3 units of cavalry, 2 Cacciatori, 1 Schiavona militia and 1 Honor Guard unit escaped

This was a good and exciting battle and I should do more of these.

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