Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Holowczyn Project: Swedish Cavalry

The cavalry was under the command of Maj. Gen. Count  Carl Gustav Creutz:

Konstam, in his Osprey OoB writes politely that he was "accompanied by the Field-Marshal Rehnskiold": 

since the Field-Marshal was described as a very tough character (his dislike of Lewenhaupt didn't helped the army management at Poltava) I decided to put him in command of the entire cavalry wing (CC) with Creutz as subordinate (DC).

We have already seen the Field-marshal model: Creutz is still on the pipeline. I used the legs from a Strelets swedish reiter and the body of a foot general officer from the box "From Narva to Poltava", to get this result:

I liked the idea of a cavalry general in full cuirass. 

In my V&B OoB there are six "regimental" stands of cavalry: despite the fact that the Drabants were a squadron strong of troopers, and accordingly fudged for wargaming with the Livregiment, I decided to grant them the honour of a full base!  Accordingly, the six units are:

Guard Dragoons (full title: Kunglig Majestas Liveregemente dragooned. Colonel H.J. Hamilton. With the King's Army from 1701, in  the Rehnskiold's Corp 1705-06. Captured at Poltava and reraised again with great difficulty) 

Guard Horse (Livregiment till hast, Colonel C.G. Creutz. With the King's Army from 1701. Captured at Poltava and rebuilt 1709-10)

Drabants (Drabantkaren: the unit was normally commanded by a Kapten-lojtnant with Major-General rank. Reorganized in 1715 after the King's return to Sweden)

Smalands (Smalands kavalleriregemente, Colonel J.V. von Daldorff. With the King's Army from 1701. Captured at Poltava and rebuilt 1709-10)

Nylands (Nylands och Tavastahus lans kavalleriregemente, Colonel A. Torstensson. With the Rehnskiold's Corp 1705-06. Captured at Poltava and rebuilt. With Armfeltd's Corp in the "death march" of 1718)

Ostgota (Ostgota kavalleriregemente, Colonel M. Rosenstierna. With the King's Army from 1701. Captured at Poltava and rebuilt 1709-10).

The full cavalry wing: 

and a XIXth century print depicting the Kingt the head of his cavalry at Holowczyn:

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Holowczyn Project: the wargame

The first step, before starting to paint units at random, was to get a full Order of battle converted to the set of rules. By the way, the basing I choosed allows to refight the battle with a lot of ruleset like Horse, Foot & Gun, Polemos, Twilight of Sun King among the many.
When I design a scenario, I look also at the operational background. In this case Charles moved from Poland to Russia in June 1708. The best route was from Grodno to Minsk and Smolensk (sounds familiar to Napoleonic buffs): from there, Moscow could be reached without having to cross any major rivers. Charles chose instead a straighter, but more difficult, route, over the Berezina and Drut rivers, the so-called “river gate”.
Such an unconventional choice made the Russians unsure of the Swedish intentions, and with Peter I away the Russian were further plagued by the lack of unified command, the responsability being shared between Sheremetyev and Menshikov. After a council of war, it was decided to draw the Russian defence line by the Dnieper River: in June and July the army was moved piecemeal towards the Vabich, a marshy tributary of the Drut river.
The main force of the Russian army was deployed around the village of Vasilki, east and across the Vabich from Holowczyn, the bridges across Vabich fortified and defended with artillery. To the south, General Repnin deployed his force and fortified his position three kilometers to the southeast. A marshy area, which could not be fortified, was the hinge between the two fortified camps.

The Swedes had observed the Russian deployment and starting on June 30, they begun to deploy on the heights west of Holowczyn. Charles and his followers noticed the gap in the fortified line, and decided for a bold plan: to cross the marshy area between the two Russian camps, an unsuspected move which also would serve to split the enemy forces in two. To ensure success, the attack was to be carried out in the darkness of night.

The following maps, found for free on the web, were from the Peter From book “Katastrofen vid Poltava”, Historiska Media 2007, and depicts well the situation, even if one doesn’t read swedish:

To accomplish the breaktrought Charles had at his disposal a small crack force of nearly 5400 men, 4400 horses and 28 guns (8 12pdrs., 18 6pdrs. and 2 Howitzers). The Order of battle, in V&B terms is:

Charles XII, King of Sweden (AC, Monarch)

Charles Wing (commanded directly by the King)

Initial Assault force (commanded directly by the King)
Liv Battn. (Foot Guards) 3-6*, SFD
1st Battn. (Foot Guards)  3-6*, SFD
2nd Battn. (Foot Guards) 2-6*, SFD
Grenadier Battn. (Foot Guards) 3-6* g, SFD
Dalcarian regt./2nd Batt. 2-5*, SFD
Heavy Guns 2-5 heavy
Field Guns#1 2-5 field
Field Guns#2 2-5 field 

Maj. Gen. Sparre DC
Dalcarian regt./1st Batt. 2-5*, SFD
Upplands regt./1st Batt. 2-5*, SFD
Upplands regt./2nd Batt. 2-5*, SFD 
Ostgota regt./1st Batt. 2-5*, SFD
Ostgota regt./2nd Batt. 2-5*, SFD 
Vastermanlands regt./1st Batt. 2-5*, SFD
Vastermanlands regt./2nd Batt. 2-5*, SFD

Rehnskiold's Wing: CC Rehnskiold

Maj. Gen Creutz DC
Guard Dragoon 4-5, heavy
Guard Horse/I   3-6, heavy
Drabant & Guard Horse/II 3-6, heavy
Smalands Horse 4-5, heavy
Nylands & Tavastahus Horse  4-5, heavy
Ostgota Horse  4-5, heavy

In the V&B jargon, the first number are the Strenght Points each one representing200 men/horses, the second number is the morale, the star means “elite unit”, g means "grenadiers present" and SFD means “swedish fire discipline”, an house rule introduced by the Wyre Forest Wargame club to give the period “chrome” to the rules.

For today only one picture (already posted on the Benno forum):

Field-Marshal Rehnskiold: I choose to represent the “Corp Commander” CC level of command with two figures, the “Division Commander” (DC) with one officier alone and the Army Commander (AC) with three figures. Both are Strelets, the Field-Marshal from the box “From Narva to Poltava”, the Grenadier from the older box “Charles XII Infantry”.

The Grenadier is an artistic license: indeed it seems that only the grenadiers from some regiments in Pomerania and Baltic wore a mitre cap: however on the number 1, year 1992 of the Russian magazine Orel I found such a nice drawing that I couldn’t resist to place a mitre-dressed grenadier on the base:

Holowczyn Project: the beginning

The first time I had notice of the Great Northern War was in the late ’70 when I read the 1971 Charles Fair book "From the Jaws of Victory"  (translated in italian as "Storia della stupidità militare", 1973). The main objective of the book were indeed U.S. Grant and its 1864 campaign and the Vietnam War. However the author started his pamphlet from Crassus and the chapter "The small lion and the big mouse" was dedicated to Peter the Great, Charles XII and their duel. Buried in the text there was a paragraph describing a rather for me unknown and obscure battle on the Moscow Road. Not surprisingly, when I later found in an italian shop a game by the Swedish Game Production called “Holowczyn: the battle of the Moscow Road”, by Peter Englund,  I bought it without further ado.

The game was simple and interesting to play at: moreover it had a full order of battle (each counter was named by Regiment and Battalion) and the historical notes were lenghty and detailed, endowed with a wry sense of humor (to explain the special rule forbidding Russian movement on the first turn, the footnote simple said "They were asleep"). It descrive the tactical situation as follow "The Russians are on the defensive in prepared positions but are surprised by a sudden Swedish attack through the marshes on the flank of the position. The Swedish units are much better than their opponents but there are few of them. The fight is therefore fairly evenly matched". After a couple of plays the game was put on the shelves and rested peacefully there for years.

When a three or four years ago I restarted to paint 20mm plastic soldiers, in a lull of the long-standing Torgau Project, the old boardgame, integrated by the Osprey title “Poltava 1709: Russian comes of age” and by the Lars-Eric Hoglund books on the Norther War uniforms, was the starting point for the Holowczyn Project.

Given the relatively small size of the battle (11.000 Swedish, 30.000 Russian, only a part fighting the actual battle), I decided to represent battalions of infantry and regiments of cavalry: each battalion of infantry was to be based with three figures on a 40mm x 30 mm base, whereas the cavalry had two horses on a 40mm square base, like the artillery (1 gun with three or four gunners). As a keen adept to the V&B religion, the order of battle was tailored for the so-called “battalion scale”,  at 1sp for 200 men/4 guns,  1 inch:50 yards and 30 minutes for each turn. However, to make the battle suitable for the small size of italian house I opted for the so-called "half-scale". With this trick 1 inch was again representing 100 yards as in the basic game, two battalions have the same size of a full-scale V&B base but I obtained a more articulated OoB, down to the single battalion. Each base of cavalry was representing a full regiment. There was a small distortion: indeed a V&B base is 3”x1.5”, which in the metric system is 76.2mm x 38.1mm, whereas the full regiment on two bases is 80mm x 40mm. Well, I shall be sent to the gallows for this, sooner or later…

Sunday, May 1, 2011

This Stylish Blogger Award

There are four rules attached to the award:
1. Thank and link back to the person giving you the award.
2. Share seven things about yourself
3. Select 10-15 blogs who you think deserve this award
4. Contact these bloggers and let them know about the award

Rules Compliance:

1.  Many thanks to Carlo Antonio of Military Miniatures Blog for his nomination of me for this prestigious award !!

 -I am married (not legally at all, with the demential result to have the worst from both a marriage and a divorce..) and  father of a 12 y.o. child, Alessandro.
 -My hobby is the military history from XVIth century to Napoleon.
 -I am a full-time university professor, researching in the field of smart materials.
 -I like books, music, good food, red wine, trusted friends and mathematics!.
 -My favorite quote is from Voltaire: “All the vices of all the ages and from all over the globe gathered together do not equal the sins that results in a single day of war"
 -I use Macintosh since 1987.
 -I am 53 years old, and I am getting old without being growth…

 - Fire at Will from UK
 - Sir William the Aged USA
 - Plastic Hussar from Canada
 - J.C. Beard, III from USA
 - Christian from Germany
 - Gromoboy from Russia