Monday, June 11, 2007

Raid on Gublatz

The town of Gublatz is situated on the west bank of the Pisswassere, at the highest point of navigability. The river is bridged there, and the town has a small waterfront, suitable for transfer of cargoes from medium-sized vessels. The location of the town makes it a transshipment point for goods from points upriver and inland. An overhead view of the surrounding area, with South at the top, is shown here:

The town was home to a supply depot, a magazine and an artillery park. There was a garrison of a sapper battalion, a battery of field guns, and the workers required to manage the facilities, all known beforehand to the Slobbovian general. Additionally, surprising to the Legion commander, the 12-pounder sloop "Herzogen Lynnette" (20) was anchored just below the bridge in mid-stream (one broadside was equivalent to a field battery), and had embarked a battalion of Marines (light infantry). The regiment of the Lagerburg Mounted Police (RFJK), accompanied by the Graf von Grunt, had recently arrived to reinforce the garrison. Enroute to the town was a regiment of kurassiers, but it is uncertain when they would arrive (von Grunt knew, of course, but he wasn’t telling).

A Slobbovian raiding force approached the town from two directions. The Legion, commanded by Count Philipe, and comprising a regiment of grenadiers, two battalions of grenzers (light infantry), a regiment of uhlans and a troop of rocket artillery (functioning as howitzers), came from the northeast.

Don Matteo led his Spanish mercenary brigade of two line regiments and a battery of field guns from the southeast.

The marines occupied a walled farm in the forward center of the position, with half occupying the house; the balance manned the walls. The light horse took position astride the northeast road near the farm.

The sappers sortied across the bridge and formed line at the foot of the eastern approach. The field battery remained in works just south of the bridge, protected by fascines and from direct assault by the river itself. The sloop remained at anchor, its guns covering the southeast approach and the eastern end of the bridge.
The first contact was between the uhlans and the RFJK just north of the farm. As the uhlans charged to contact, the marines in the house loosed a ragged volley into the flank of the lancers that caused a few casualties. Upon impact, the melee was fierce and bloody, but the constables gave as good as they got.
When the forces disengaged, both units were disordered sufficiently to require a long rally. While the uhlans fell-in near the scene, the constables withdrew to the foot of the bridge.
One of the grenzer battalions rushed the farmhouse; after enduring a volley from the marines, they broke down the door and forced the windows. A ferocious melee ensued inside. Although the marines exacted a heavy toll on the grenzers, they were nearly done in to a man, and a paltry few escaped to rejoin the rest of the battalion in the enclosure.
Meanwhile, the rest of the battalion peppered the advancing Spaniards with musket fire. Even though behind a stone wall, a full volley from the Corona regiment felled several marines, their morale was badly shaken, and they were forced to withdraw in some disorder past the engineer battalion and across the bridge, followed closely by the advancing enemy regiments.
As both columns of foot approached the bridge, each came under artillery fire. The Northeast column had to pass the canister-loaded guns of the "Herzogen Lynnette". The sloop’s captain had to shake his head with regret as he ordered broadside after broadside to sweep the leading grenzer battalion. That unit faltered, then broke under the relentless hail of canister from mid-river. Their losses masked the following grenadiers, who approached the bridge and the waiting sappers unscathed.
The Spaniards fared better at the hands of the field battery behind the redoubt. First roundshot, then canister as well, fell amongst the advancing Dons, but very few fell. As the Coronas moved slowly forward, there began a long-range musketry duel with the engineers. Despite the artillery supporting from across the river, the disparity in numbers of muskets quickly whittled away the engineers, and shortly they too were forced to retire back across the Pisswassere.
While the main fighting was going on, on a hilltop in the rear Major Wan was in his glory. His claims for his new-fangled weapons were proved true with a vengeance! Rocket after rocket arced into the enemy ranks with unerring precision and, to von Grunt, disconcerting effect. "If only the Emperor could see this!" Wan chuckled. "There’s a lot more that Shi-Tsu’s getting blasted now," as a rocket went off in the ranks of the remaining constables, scattering man and horse. Under the bombardment, the mounted police broke and joined the exodus to the west bank.
By this time, the Carlsberg Kurassiers arrived along the road from Felsenfall to stabilize the situation. Von Grunt ordered them to form up to charge the grenadiers, who by now were beginning to march across the bridge in their immaculate column. The left-hand field gun of the entrenched battery was wheeled to catch the advancing grenadiers in flank, the Herzogen Lynnette’s gun crews now had a clear field of fire, and it seemed that "the trap was sprung" on Philipe’s hapless guardsmen.
As von Grunt gave the word for the Kurassiers to "Angriff!", the field gun fizzled and popped and the canister tumbled unbroken from the muzzle! A faulty charge, and the gun was quiet as the frantic gunners worked desperately to reload. For her part, the sloop’s guns did good execution on the rear ranks of the grenadiers; handfuls fell from the blast.
In the front, however, the grenadiers had little time to discharge even a few muskets before the kurassiers rode them down, forcing the survivors back upon the following ranks. As the horsemen paused to regroup for another charge, one of "those damned rockets!" whooshed into the rallying cavalry, killing the standard bearer, the cornet and several troopers, driving even them back from the bridgehead.
Over on the southern flank, the XXth Spanish Regiment and their supporting field battery had come into action, engaging the right-hand entrenched gun. By that time, further defense of the position was impossible, and von Grunt had no choice but to call for a general withdrawl from the town, covered by the Kurassiers. The sloop’s captain "slipped his cable", the crew manned the sweeps and she sedately moved downriver. After the kurassiers finally withdrew, the jubilant Slobbovians swept into the town to reap the spoils of victory.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Chapter 7- Prelude to War

The border town of Gublatz lies on the east bank of the Pisswassere at the fall line, the most southerly navigable point. The town serves as a main trans-shipment point in the area for goods in- and out-bound along the river. This area of Lagerburg has been long in dispute with the Prince of Slobbovia.
Before and after the SofanOttoman occupation, the area was clearly in Slobbovian territory. After the anschluss, or annexation of the Lagerburg region by the Holy Roman Empire, part of the border of Lagerburg was established along the west bank of the Pisswassere River to include that area formerly within Slobbovia, to include Gublatz.
This “paper invasion” sorely incensed the Prince, and he spent many a long night planning in vain to retake Gublatz. With his limited military resources, the possibility seemed remote.
Seemingly to add insult to injury, the Herzog recently established a sizable supply and artillery depot in the town. The town was not heavily guarded. The building military presence was predicted by many as a prelude to an attack upon the Principality.
“Who does he think he is fooling, with all that equipment and stores in Gublatz?” shouted Prince Sergei. “What nerve! What arrogance! Not even a decent garrison. He thinks I’ll just sit here and let him waltz in and take over?”
“Sire, there is an alternative” replied Sheik Yerboudi, the Prince’s chief advisor. “You could strike now, while the town is unready. Think of it; you could take the guns and the stores, and return here with them. It would set Albrecht back for months, perhaps more, if he is preparing to attack. And it would give Major Wan guns to train more gunners. We would triple or more our artillery arm. The advantages are obvious.”
The Prince leaned forward in his chair, resting his chin on his hands. “I’m not sure we are strong enough now to start a war with that son of a gondolier. We have only our uhlans, a regiment of grenadiers and two grenzer battalions. And of course Wan’s rockets. Not much of an army to start a war with.”
Yerboudi smiled craftily. “Sire, as you recall, the mines have been a constant source of considerable, not to say obscene, profits for both you and I. We have been able to afford to augment our army with hired foreigners for a long time now, but until now have not had the need to do so. Anticipating such an eventuality, I took the liberty of contacting some business acquaintances in Seville. I have secured the services of some troops, a total of a brigade and a battery of field guns. They have arrived in Trieste just yesterday, and are on the march here as we speak. I can have them alter their route of march to arrive at Gublatz at the same time as our force does.”
Sergei sat up with a start. “You did what? How long have YOU know about all this Gublatz business? So, are you intending to have me done in and take over again? I should have known you planned to eliminate me!”
“Calm yourself, Sergei. Our business arrangement is quite secure, I assure you. The last thing I need is to give the Sultan an excuse to send his assassins after me. I am only thinking ahead to our own futures here. I have had spies in the town for a fortnight already, and one in certain circles in Lagerburg for nearly a year. That is how I knew to hire the Spanish troops and have them sent here.”
The prince looked visibly relieved. “All right, all right. You had me going there for a moment. So, you seem to have thought this all out already. Why not just take the town and fortify it? That would show that upstart that we mean business.”
“Not necessarily. If we take the town, then we have to use some of our own men to entrench there, and we do not as yet have trained sappers to do it. Also, it may force his hand to declare an all-out war, one that we cannot yet win even with the mercenaries. We need to leave him the town, at least for now. It will give us breathing space to form batteries using the captured guns. That will also give him pause, thinking that we can use the artillery against him.”
“All right, I’ll issue the orders to put our troops on the march. Will you be leading the attack?”
Yerboudi smiled. “I will not actually be on the field, but you can be sure I will not be far from it. I leave immediately.”

Regiments Receive New Colors!

Felsenfall- Yesterday, in a ceremony complete with cannons firing, troops passing in review, speeches and festivities, the Herzog bestowed new regimental colors to most of the troops assigned to the Duchy. Reporters are working feverishly to complete drawings to show the ardent reader what the new flags looked like during the passing-in review. Because immigrants from other regions had established breweries in the region before the anschluss, some company colors had reflected their old national origins. According to comments by His Excellency, the new flags reflect more closely the close ties with Vienna and the Empire.