Category Archives: 18th Century

TO HELSINGBORG AND BACK

The latest FOG:R refight involving the Swedes and Danes took place at the club recently. Helsingborg was a little different from most of these encounters as the Swedes were not heavily outnumbered and the Danes were not heavily outclassed.

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The superbly confident army that Charles XII had led deep into Russia had been destroyed at Poltava in 1709, and their inspirational king was in exile in Turkey. The Danes saw another chance to reclaim their lost provinces in southern Sweden. They had been forced out of the Great Northern War early on, but had been far from idle. They had loaned out many troops to the maritime powers of Britain and the United Provinces and they had seen action in Ireland, Germany and Spain.
At the end of 1709 the Swedes had only around 1,500 troops available to counter any Danish attack. The Danes assembled an invasion force of 14,000 and rapidly took all of southern Sweden apart from Landskrona and Malmo with the latter under siege. Under General Stenbock the Swedes raised and trained a new army over the winter of 1709/10, and by early February he was ready to make a move on Helsingborg to try and cut the Danish supply lines.
Fearing being trapped between the Swedish army and the Malmo garrison the Danes marched towards Helsingborg where they could pick up reinforcements. On the freezing, foggy morning of February 28th the two forces met outside the town. The Swedes had around 8,500 infantry and 5,500 cavalry; the Danes around 10,000 infantry and 4,000 cavalry.

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The fog had hidden each side’s dispositions from the other. The Danes had their cavalry wings (including some infantry and mounted dragoons) on high ground, with their infantry in two lines on the low ground in between. The Swedes had also formed up with two infantry lines in their centre and two equal cavalry wings. They advanced across low lying marshland, cut with ditches and stone walls, but the frozen ground lessened the difficulties these could have presented. When the fog lifted they also found they outflanked the Danish left and were approaching at an angle, with their right wing far closer to the Danish line than their left.

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The Danes rushed to reinforce their left to avoid being outflanked but the main enemy advance came on the right as the Swedes swung round to line up against them. This meant the Swedish left wing cavalry moved well out further to the left, potentially cutting off the road to Malmo. The Danish general Rantzau (a veteran of Marlborough’s campaigns) rushed across and took personal command of the right wing, ordering them down from the high ground to counter this perceived threat. At first the Danes were successful, but Swedish reinforcements and a serious wound to Rantzau turned the tide.

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Rantzau’s advance had also opened up gaps in the Danish line as their infantry were unsure whether to hold their position or advance. As the Swedish infantry advanced to engage them rumours spread amongst the Danish army that they were being encircled and panic set in. Their Guards and Grenadiers fought well to cover the retreat of the rest of the Danish infantry, but the left flank was now under threat as well. Here the commander von Dewitz had also been ordered across to help on the opposite flank and the now leaderless Danes soon succumbed to the ferocious Swedish cavalry attack.
The retreat became a rout and the Danes ran in headlong flight back to Helsingborg where they were besieged by the Swedish army.

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They were eventually forced to abandon the city in early March having lost over half of their invasion force and their final attempt to regain their lost provinces in southern Sweden.

In the club refight the commanders were:
Swedish right wing cavalry: Steve 
Swedish infantry centre: Richard
Swedish left wing cavalry: Pete
Danish left wing: Paul
Danish centre: Simon G
Danish right wing: Dene

Although the Swedish army had been raised more or less from scratch it was still trained in the usual tactic of impact cavalry and salvo infantry. Not all of the new Swedish infantry regiments were provided with pikemen. To simplify matters the front line were classed as mixed units and the rear line as all musket.

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The Danish may have had some artillery on the heights on their left flank, but it had to be repositioned when the Swedish deployment was revealed and did not play a major part. As it can have a significant effect in FOG:R (especially on cavalry) I gave the Danes a couple of guns in reserve behind the heights. This kept it out of immediate use but could be deployable if the Swedish cavalry swept round the flank. The Danes also had the only superior infantry on the battlefield – the Guards and the Grenadiers.
The Swedes began the game with a compulsory double move to swing their left wing round to line up more with the Danish right wing – as happened historically. However their cavalry did not move too far out to the left, preferring to keep in close contact with their infantry, and their right wing cavalry also advanced to try and take an early advantage. The Danes responded with a large and frantic redeployment on their left and centre to reinforce the heights and prevent a Swedish flanking manoeuvre. On the right there was no immediate threat so Rantzau was not forced to move across and the Danes held their position on the hills.

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The right flank Swedish cavalry edged round the flank of the Danish positions, forcing them to turn to face. If this flank was to be successfully turned it would need an uphill charge. Steve duly obliged in the Swedish ‘ga pa’ style. Meanwhile the Swedish centre and left flank advanced steadily, the cavalry still keeping close to the infantry. This gave the Danish right a chance to threaten the Swedish left flank and they duly came down from their hilltops to engage. The Swedish cavalry now turned and swung out to their left to meet this threat. This could have triggered Rantzau to rush to the right flank and take personal command as happened historically, but events on the left flank took precedence.

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The Danish dragoon unit on the extreme left chose to pull back and secure the flank rather than engage in melee. The rest of their horse struggled to hold the Swedish cavalry who had great success with their initial uphill charge, winning most of the impacts. Much of this was visible to the Danish infantry next in line on the hill and rumours spread of a collapse on the left flank (in the shape of a failed cohesion test). This triggered Rantzau’s rush to take command of the left flank rather than the right. The situation was eventually stabilised and turned round on the Danish left as the Swedish cavalry ran out of steam and collapsed when their general was killed.
On the other wing the Swedish cavalry again had the best of the early melee, even fragmenting the Danish Guard cavalry, but here too the Danes eventually got the upper hand and the Danish Guard distinguished themselves by rallying up twice.

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The Swedish infantry in the centre had continued their advance on the Danish centre, still in perfect order with the lack of any enemy artillery fire. As they closed the withering fire of the Danish muskets and battalion guns broke three of the Swedish units in the front line but the other three passed all their tests and charged in. In the impact the Danish Guard were routed and the adjacent unit panicked and followed in the next melee round. With both cavalry wings losing out and the evening’s gaming drawing to a close continued Swedish success in the centre was vital. The last Swedish unit was led into melee by Stenbock in person; they were held to a bloody draw and with the last dice roll of the evening the Swedish general fell and victory was awarded to the Danes. It was the Swedes who had been to hell and back.

Lund: The Killing

A Scanian War refight – not the Danish detective series

The Danes had controlled much of modern southern Sweden until the Treaty of Roskilde in 1658 when they were forced to cede several provinces, including Scania, to their northern neighbour. They were naturally keen to reverse the situation as soon as possible, and their opportunity came when Sweden found itself embroiled in a war with Brandenburg in 1674. A defeat at the relatively minor battle of Fehrbellin in 1675 put Sweden on the defensive, and many troops were subsequently tied down defending her German possessions.
The decision to invade Scania was made and a Danish army of around 14,000 landed at Helsingborg in June 1676. Aided by the still largely pro-Danish inhabitants of Scania the weak Swedish forces were soon pushed out of the province and by July only Malmo remained in Swedish hands. In August Danish forces pushed northwards to try and take the town of Halmstad, but were swiftly routed by a newly raised Swedish army under Charles XI. The Swedish cavalry seem to have foregone the usual short range pistol fire in favour of an all-out sword in hand charge that was to become their trademark. The Danes sent reinforcements to besiege Halmstad but without success, and with Swedish reinforcements also arriving they decided to lift the siege and retired into Scania in November to quarter for the winter.

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The Danish camp was on the opposite bank of the River Kavlinge from the Swedes and they had secured all practicable crossing points. They naturally assumed the fighting was over for the year, but as the winter progressed the river began to freeze over and by December 3rd the Swedish command considered it safe to attempt a crossing and advance on the Danish camp. The crossing was made before dawn on the 4th December, and the Swedish army gained a good position on high ground with their right flank secured by the town of Lund.
The Danes were now roused and hastily broke camp to face the enemy. They also formed up on high ground, on the opposite side of a small but deep valley from the Swedish army. The Danish army outnumbered the Swedes by c.13,000 to 8,000 men. They both had around 6,000 horse, but the Danes had three times as many infantry and heavily outgunned the Swedes. The battle commenced around 9.00 am.

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As at Halmstad Charles XI personally led the Swedish right flank cavalry in a headlong charge to overwhelm the Danish cavalry on their left flank. The Danish commander was badly wounded and his troops routed back towards their camp where many were drowned attempting to cross a frozen river when the ice gave way. The Danish king Christian V also ‘left’ the battlefield during this rout for the relative safety of Landskrona though some Danish sources refute this claim. Charles and most of his command continued their pursuit to the Danish camp, so at a crucial time in the battle the Swedes were deprived of their inspirational king and their best cavalry.
In their absence the heavily outnumbered Swedish infantry in the centre took refuge from the Danish guns by dropping into the steep valley between them. The Danes responded by also sending their infantry into the valley and the Swedish infantry were forced to steadily wheel back towards the town of Lund. The Swedish cavalry on the left flank lost their general early in the fight and though far from beaten were also forced to give ground and retire towards Lund. At around midday the Danes halted for about an hour to reform for the final assault on the Swedes. The Swedes also took this opportunity to regroup and take up better defensive positions, but when the battle was resumed they again steadily gave ground under the weight of numbers.

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At around 3.00 pm (almost dusk) Charles and a small group of his cavalry from the right wing returned to the battlefield and attempted to circle round the Danish rear to reach the Swedish cavalry on the left wing. The Danes abandoned their attack on the Swedish centre and turned to face the renewed threat from the Swedish cavalry to their rear. Charles made a brave dash with a handful of cavalry through the Danish lines to return to his battered centre. Inspired, his exhausted and still outnumbered command rallied and threw themselves onto the rear of the Danish infantry. Within half an hour they were routed with many killed as the Swedish pursued. A ceasefire was finally called in the gathering gloom at around 5:00 pm.

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Lund was one of the bloodiest battles fought in Scandinavia with c.70% combatant casualties, effectively crippling both armies. The Danes lost at least 6,000 killed, 1,000 wounded and 2,000 captured; the Swedes lost c.2,500-3,000 killed and 2,000 wounded. The Danes retreated towards the fortress of Landskrona and then back to the Danish mainland, leaving the Swedes still in control of Scania.
I had been looking at the possibility of a refight of Lund for a while, but felt it was too large for a normal evening club game. When the room was booked for a day at short notice I touted the idea of another Danish-Swedish encounter as a one day game (I never reveal the name of the battle beforehand) and was pleased to get the 7 players needed.

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The runners and riders were:
Swedish Right Wing:
8 cavalry including Lifeguard under Charles XI/Fersen – John
Swedish Centre:
5 infantry including 2 guard, 2 cavalry, 2 light guns under Ascheraden – Wayne
Swedish Left Wing:
8 cavalry, 1 dragoon under Galle – Steve
Danish Right Wing:
9 cavalry under F.Arensdorff – Dene
Danish Centre, First Line:
10 infantry including 4 guard, 2 medium guns – Pete
Danish Centre, Second Line:
5 infantry and (arriving turn 2) 3 naval squadrons, 3 guns – Bob
Danish Left Wing:
7 cavalry under C.Arensdorf – Simon G

So once again the Green Brothers played the Danish Brothers, but this could be the last time. C.Arensdorf was wounded in the arm during the battle of Lund and died 3 days later after an unsuccessful amputation. I don’t think Simon wants to take the refight to that level of accuracy.

John could only make the morning session, so was purpose made for the role of Charles XI. He was asked to go straight for the Danish cavalry opposite and drive them from the battlefield. I tooled up the Lifeguard Cavalry and classed them as elite (giving them the effect of being led by Charles in person without having to risk Charles in combat) and made all of this command Impact sword.
The other players were given a little more leeway in their commands. The Swedish cavalry in the centre were to remain pistol/pistol, but I gave Steve the option to make some or all of his cavalry impact sword. He went 50:50.

I also gave Wayne the option of making his Foot Guard salvo troops, this being the first time they were recorded as adopting (or readopting) this tactic. He duly took up the option.
The battle opened with both Swedish cavalry wings advancing. The Danish left lasted longer than their historical counterparts by retiring as quickly as possible; the Danish right were more willing to mix it with their opponents. In the centre the Swedish infantry soon took up the option of dropping down into the valley to escape the Danish artillery fire.

The Danish left wing cavalry eventually ran out of room and had to fight, but they had pulled back far enough for the second line of Danish infantry to give some support. After an initial hold 5 of the 7 cavalry units were lost to the superior Swedish horse. Realising John’s orders seemed to be to pursue the Danish cavalry regardless of events elsewhere Simon retired his remaining cavalry from the battlefield. He was promptly pursued off table by 7 Swedish cavalry units (one had been dealt with by the Danish foot).
The Danish right wing fared a little better and lasted a little longer. Here the battle peaked in a massive 5 unit a side melee in which the Swedes eventually came out on top but didn’t totally destroy the Danes.

In the centre the Danish foot decided not to drop down and mix it with the Swedish foot, despite outnumbering them 2:1 (3:1 if you include their second line) and having battalion guns. The Swedes even advanced to musket range to trade shots with the Danes on the hilltops. Eventually numbers began to tell and the Swedish infantry fell back to their side of the valley.

It was at this point I brought in the hour long fatigue lull in the historical battle in the form of a free double move for infantry and triple for cavalry. This had to be away from the enemy and could ignore turning and pinning restrictions. The Swedish infantry used this to climb back up to their starting positions, and the Swedish left wing cavalry to pull back towards their infantry.

When battle resumed the Danish Infantry at last dropped down into the valley in pursuit of the retiring Swedish centre. But by now the first of the victorious Swedish right wing cavalry were returning (three units led by Charles in the dead centre of the Danish board edge). The Danish second line hastily headed after their first line towards the safety of the valley with the naval squadrons acutely aware they were highly likely to be ridden down in short order if they stayed. Two more Swedish cavalry returned the following move (the remaining pair were presumably still looting the Danish baggage) and 3 Danish guns were quickly overrun.

Most of the Danish army was now in the valley bottom with its infantry largely intact and the lead units climbing up to the original Swedish positions. There were too few Swedish infantry to counter attack and the odds would be with the Danes should the Swedish cavalry attack unsupported. It was certainly not the slaughter of the historical battle, but the Swedes held most of the high ground and they were not pressed back to the walls of Lund. They had also overrun the Danish camp and captured their supplies, so I would award a strategic victory to the Swedes with the Danes being forced to retire (albeit in good order) to Landskrona again.