Saturday, August 19, 2017

AUGUST GAME NIGHT --OR-- THE SPANISH SPEED BUMP

Friday, our club gathered for our August game night.  Given the time of year, the turnout was light...
...but spirited. Above, some of the usual suspects.  Numbers notwithstanding, there were three excellent games on the slate.  Micheal B had a WWI Bolt Action game, Greg S had a unique 1799 French Rev in Italy Chosen Men skirmish game, and Charlie (author of Napoleon's Rules of War) offered a Peninsular Napoleonic game based on the Battle of Barossa, 1811.  Given that I was involved in the last, I can't say much about the other two, but can share some eye candy.  They were a treat to see and seemed very well received and run, from what I overheard.  In the below, I would encourage you to clix pix for BIG PIX to see more...

WWI Bolt Action Game
Michael orienting the players



 1796 Chosen Men Game 
Greg, in the blue shirt, the game master 


  Napoleon's Rules of War Battle of Barrosa, 1811, Game
This is the game that I participated in. I'm not up on the Peninsula, but Charlie informed us that the Battle of Barrosa was basically an ambush--a column of Spanish and British got p0unced upon by the French from two directions. Being a game fellow (aka not bright), I took up the side of the ambushed, and just to be sporting, I choose the Spaniards.
(Above) Charlie orienting the players before the game. At right, Warren looks on. He would be my compadre on the allied side, running the British. Pete (seated), listens intently while licking his lips in Gallic anticipation of what is to come...
 ...The allies started in columns within their respective areas, marked by red string. My bully Spaniards are at the head (to the left) and the British are coming up, forming our right: a brave sight! ...
 ...The French deploy.  On the extreme French right,  AJ, of AJ's Wargaming Blog, spots his troops. Meanwhile, on the opposite side of the table, Pete (seated) and Bob O (no head) put down the main French force.  The French, Spaniards, and British, each had an exhaustion level--accumulated when batteries or battalions went "Poof!"  The French had to crack both the Spaniards and the British. We had to crack the French or avoid the above. Simple, no?  

You will note in the above pictures a large forest to the front of the Spaniards...
...this would figure prominently in my BRILLIANT plan! Warren and the British would anchor our right, whilst I, Don Meanderer, General of the Spaniards, would block the road with successive lines of infantry and guns in order to thwart Gen d Division AJ, and I would push a brigade of light troops into the forest in a "telling maneuver" that would stymie any attempt by the French to skulk through that way.  

What ensued was something of a blur.  I think the following series will convey the results...

...(above) my Spaniards positioned on the road: ready to make the French pay...
...meanwhile, my four battalions of Spanish light infantry shake into open order and move into the forest...
..the combined effect of these BRILLIANT schemes... 
...meanwhile, on our right, Warren and the British were having an equally BRILLIANT day...


...and so, despite an ingenious plan, we got stomped.

However, getting out at the end of the week, gathering with like minded fellows, pushing toy soldiers, this all worked out as planned.  Thanks to Charlie, Michael, and Greg for putting on another fine set of games for the club.   To Warren, thanks for sharing in the adversity.  And to our cordial opponents for the evening, AJ, Pete, and Bob: wait'll next time!


Excelsior!

Saturday, August 12, 2017

E BOOKS FOR ANTIQUARIANS V: SCENES OF THE CIVIL WAR IN HUNGARY IN 1848 AND 1849: PERSONAL ADVENTURES OF AN AUSTRIAN OFFICER

In one of those incidents of serendipity (or would it be synchronicity?), I was noodling about on ebay and stumbled across a listing for a book that gave me quite a start...

...SCENES OF THE CIVIL WAR IN HUNGARY  By Anonymous Memoirs - 1850. It jumped out at me. With funds available in my "play money" Paypal account, my hands flew to the keyboard of their own volition and tapped-in the necessary strokes to consummate a "Buy Now"transaction. My intellect, held prisoner, could only observe with a sense of detached fascination (and yes, glee). Once the compulsion had subsided and I regained control of my motor movements, the thinking part of me said, "Hey, rocket scientist, did it ever occur to you to check if this book was available online?" Arresting the next involuntary action, a hand smacking my forehead, I regained control of my unruly extremities and checked. Well, it turns out it was--and is-- available, hence I am able inflict another of my "e books for antiquarians" on my readership (such endurance. I salute you!). Before going too much farther, I must add that the bibliophile in me does not at all regret acquiring the actual book, which was a joy to plunk down with in my library chair of a Sunday morning and have a good, old fashioned read.  In this report, you should be able to click on the text passages to enlarge them for reading (I hope). I also have to add (based on a question I received) that I found the illustrations in this post from around the web (I failed to document: my bad this time around) and they aren't from the book. Now, we shall dispense with the bibliographic bits--where you may find the book for yourself. You can check out the title page below for full bibliographic information....
...and this link will take you to the book: SCENES OF THE CIVIL WAR IN HUNGARY...: . The link takes you to the version digitized in the University of California Libraries. There are multiple versions of this excellent tome available on the Internet Archive. You can download the book in various formats or can read it online using the reader in the Internet Archive. What else can I say? Check it out for yourself and enjoy! What follows are some observations and excerpts that I found of interest...
...the conceit of the book is that it is a series of letters sent from an officer of hussars (a "German" hussar officer), newly returned from campaigning in Italy and going right into the Hungarian revolt. I have a hard time taking this seriously and instead feel that this conceit allows the author to deliver a series of observations and anecdotes in order to tell a story that captures the sense of things. For instance, the frequent coincidences, a few of the descriptions of individual combats/duels, and the tale of his friend St____ and the beautiful Helene hardly bear up (although they make cracking good stories--and this was an era of storytelling, after all). Having said as much, I do think the anecdotes and impressions ring true and capture important insights, and there are observations and accounts of operations and actions that also ring true. So there, I've had it both ways (it's my blog, after all). At first, I thought the book was not going to have much of interest...
...with the author not doing much other than extolling the virtues of the Austrians and pointing out the perfidy of the revolutionaries. However, as it progressed, the tone changed and it did become of more interest.  The narrator was assigned to the Ban of Croatia, and his command consisted of hussars (we aren't told the regiment) supplemented by an unspecified number of "Croats/Pandours"--which makes sense given the advance guard and picket missions they would be assigned.  As such, the initial passages of the book provide fascinating and detailed insights into the "grenzer" troops and culture.  By itself, this would be an excellent primer for anyone who has an interest in the Hapsburg forces of any of the black powder eras. Moving on, the early descriptions of campaigning are quite romantic. Here is a characteristic passage...
...and there is no doubt that the narrator speaks from the perspective of a cavalry officer, describing cavalry actions in romantic fashion...
...but there are also insights to be gleaned about the operational use of cavalry in this early transitional period, especially given the role of the Hapsburg hussars and light cavalry in the face of the Hungarian hussars...
...there are some interesting perspectives on the day to day operations on the outpost and picket lines...
...the role of the Austrian cuirassiers are not overlooked, in fact quite the contrary...


...the narrator describes cavalry vs infantry actions as well, to include breaking squares...
...The second of of the above paragraphs on cavalry vs infantry I found of particular interest because it alludes to situational use: against isolated or unsupported infantry formations, as well as the telling off of a squadron of cuirssiers and hussars (the narrator's unit) to do the attack. Also interesting is that in both cases, two squadrons of cavalry were employed vs a battalion of infantry--you can only fit so many men and horses into the space (something some miniatures systems overlook, as well as discounting the fact that a cavalry squadron was an operational element that was the equivalent to a battalion).  Nevertheless, the narrative progressively turns away from the romantic as it goes on, even in the case of the mounted arm...
...The incredibly frank admission (above) on the emerging ascendancy of infantry and firepower from this narrator struck me as significant.  Cavalry clearly still had its shock role, but it was already beginning to be more situational and limited, with the writing on the wall for anyone who had eyes to see.


The narrator has some interesting observations on the qualities of the enemy forces, which turn quickly away from the dismissive nature early in the book towards more even assessments. Not only do we get a very interesting glimpse into an Austrian officer's perspective on the forces on the Italian front (in comparison)...
...but we get a clear sense of the Poles as particularly stern opponents. We also get a sense of the conditions and challenges of the campaign, especially with the onset of the first winter going into spring...
...on top of this, the narrator does slip in a few editorial comments on the (mis)management of the campaign...
...clearly, the narrative moves from the romantic to something else as the campaign progresses into its second year...
...For the narrator, being a veteran of long service, to pen such a passage about the sapping nature of the Hungarian campaign seems to me significant--and makes the intervention of the Russians to end the war seem all the more important (taken from this perspective).
All in all, I found this a useful and insightful book on a difficult to find topic. There is more left to discover, such as the author's many interludes, character studies, and exploits and escapes...
...which tell a cracking good story from the era of storytelling: informative and entertaining.
 
Excelsior!
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