Saturday, October 18, 2014

Blood and Iron: The second Schlesqig-Holstein War 1864

So I decided to play a board-wargame this weekend and in honor of the new 1864 series and the 150 years from the 2nd Danish-German war I decided to take out my copy of Blood and Iron and ran a solo session of the 1864 scenario. The Wikipedia page on the war gives a good overview and there is an excellent book on it in English.

Bismark's Folly: The 2nd Schelswig-Holstein War 1864

Otto Von Bismark Minister-President (Prime Minister) of the Kingdom of Prussia

System: Blood and Iron: Bismark’s Wars for Empire
Scenario: 1864
Level: Corps-Division-Brigade
Turns: 8

Danish Deployment
Breaking from history I assumed that Lt.General De Meza,CC of the Danish Army and King Christian IX were able to resist the pressure of the Eider Danes (the Danish National-Liberal party that pushed for the incorporation of the duchies in Denmark proper) to defend at the inadequate Danverike, and instead follow De Meza’s initial plan of focusing defense on the forts of Dybbol and Frederica. The army HQ with reserve artillery and two division deployed in Dybbol, while a division and brigade deployed in Frederica together with the army cavalry.

LT.G De Meza Danish CC

Allied Deployment
The Austrians under Gablenz deployed in front of the Holstein town of Tonning, while the Prussians massed in front of the fortified city of Rendsburg. The Austrians were tasked with taking Frederika, while the Prussians with Dybbol


From the Start of the War to the Positional warfare

Austrian Attacks on Danish Positions

De Meza send his cavalry division from Frederica into northern Jutland, in the hopes of drawing away Allied forces from a siege of the forts, due to the threat the division would be for the Allied extended lines of supply.

FM Graf Von Wrangel, Prussian CC

Gablnez advanced to Frederica with his corps of 4 Brigades pushing his Calvary division after the Danish cavalry.

GdK Ludwig Karl Wilhem von Gablenz , Austrian CC

Meanwhile old man Wrangel of the Prussians, used his Corp of two divisions to besiege and take Randsburg to the general opprobrium of international press, while the cavalry, Guards division and artillery moved to invest Dybbol.

Invasion of Jutland 
Randsburg fell quickly, and his troops joined the Dybbol siege about the same time Gablnez arrived in Frederica. Wrangel also sent his cavalry division after the Danish cavalry in the north of Jutland.

Since the Danes did not defend the Danverike, and thus the humiliating and arduous retreat that cost unfairly De Meza his job in historical reality never took place, the international opinions was that they had a fighting chance. This was important in Stockholm, where Charles XV of Sweden was able to persuade the political and military elites of the country that a Swedish intervention would be safe, and gain Sweden important benefits. 
Charles XV, King of Sweden and Norway

Thus the Swedish army of 20000 men in two divisions, was sent to Copenhagen where it was received by an ecstatic crowd (Turn 2)! This was Sweden’s first war in 50 years, and it was the first war it was allied to Denmark in at least 200 years. Scandinavianism took a strong boost, and the King’s popularity was increased. However some military and political leaders worried about the state of the army.

The Swedes! The Swedes!
Meanwhile the Allies began the hard work of besieging the two fortified cities. In the north the Danish cavalry held out for a healthy period of time  (2 turns) and even gave the Prussians a good thumping, before it was overwhelmed by the allied forces.
Christian IX, King of Denmark 

From Positional Warfare to the Focusing in Frederica
While the Swedish army begun the process of reaching Frederica, the Austrians and Prussians lunched a series of assaults on the fortified positions. Generally speaking the Austrians did much better than the Prussians, even though their artillery was rendered useless. 

In Dybbol De Meza, under intense pressure from PM Monrand and the National-Liberals lunched a sortie against the Prussian siege lines. While the Danish army kept it honor, the battle was costly and did not break the siege, though it did make it less likely that the Prussians would storm Dybbol.

Gablenz had more luck, destroying the Danish Brigade in Frederica in a near won battle, but shattering the command structure of his corps in the process. The timely arrival of one of the Swedish divisions shored up the defenses. 

After a long period of angry exchanges, Motlke got Wrangel to decide to leave the Guard division in Dybbol, and take the other two Prussian divisions to join Gablenz in Frederica. Time was running out and the Allies needed a victory one of the two sieges, as the UK, Russia and France were talking about organizing a congress to resolve the issue.

From Focusing in Frederica to the end
The focus on Frederica provided dividends, when the next great assault by the Allies came close to taking the fortified city and destroyed the Swedish division there.

The devastation of half the Swedish army in the trenches of Frederica, cut down some of the enthusiasm for the war in Sweden and tarnished the popularity of the King, leading Charles to start pressuring the Danes to accept a European Congress. 

Despite that though, he still sent the second Swedish division into Frederica.
Positional warfare 

At the same time, De Meza took advantage of the decreased opposition in Dybbol, and in a decisive sortie whipped the Prussian forces under Mulbe. With the siege broken the allies faced the very real danger of being trapped between Frederica and De Meza’s extricated army now. Moltke advised a depressed Bismarck to accept a Congress and do his best to salvage the situation diplomatically.

End situation

Danish VP: 26
Allied VP: 14 (8 Prussian, 6 Austrian)

Danes: 1 Cav Div, 1 Inf Brigade, Reserve Artillery, 1 Swedish Infantry Division
Allies: 1 Prussian Infantry Division

Remaining Forces
Danes: 3 Inf.Divisions, 1 Swedish Infantry Divisions
Allies: Prussians: 2 Inf. Divisions, 1 Cavalry Division, 1 Res. Artillery. Austrians: 1 Corp of 4 Brigades, 1 Cav. Div.

What Happened: Essentially De Meza’s plan worked as it was supposed to work, and even better (the Swedish Intervention fluke). If the ultra-nationalists had let him fight how he intended to fight, the war may had ended better for Denmark. My mistake with the Allies was dividing the forces. True that is how it happened historically. But focusing on one of the forts while masking the other, would had probably increased the chance of a tie or victory.

Possible Political Consequences: The war would probably have ended via a European Congress of all the great powers. I think that realistically speaking Denmark would lose Schleswig and keep Holstein. This is the probable happy scenario for Denmark, which shows you how bad the situation was from the start of the war. Now how the result affected things in each participant and how much it changes history partly rests on the abilities and moods of one man, Bismarck. Let us start with the easy parts (with the understanding that this is all probabilistic)

Ditlev Monrad, Council President (Prime Minister) of Denmark

Sweden: The victory is a bitter one. The Swedish army received a drubbing and probably heavy losses. With the tampering of the consequences of victory by a Great Power Congress, it is likely that the Swedes may feel that those losses are for nothing. Scandinavinism does take a hit, and so does the popularity of Charles XV, but not as bad as the historical one. There is a good chance the Danes work hard to make this up for the Swedes which may put the foundations  for increased economic and political cooperation in Scandinavia, if not at some point a German Confederation style system. The Swedish army is thoroughly reformed, though Swedes may not have much interest in a future war.

The rest: There are three scenarios in my opinion depended on what Bismarck does.

A)  Bismarck commits suicide

Prussia: Always a hypochondriac and a mercurial person, prone to boots of extreme psychological reactions, Bismarck blows his brains out in reaction to defeat. This is a big loss for his friends Roon and Moltke and the King, and means the Prussia goes to the Congress rudderless. With the Nationalists twice humiliated, and with Bismarck’s reform conservatism defeated, my expectation is that the conservative reactionaries and King Wilhelm’s status-quo preference in Germany lead to Prussia accepting Holstein as a new state member of the German Confederation under the Prince of Augustneburg  as Duke.  The internal order of the German Confederation is maintained and so is Austria’s predominant position, at least until Frederick III or Wilhem II.

That said Motlke is still able to push for some reforms in the army, as the defeat is laid at the feet of Wrangel, and thus weakens the reactionaries on this front. However, this reforms apply to the standing army only and he is not able to integrate the Landwher as well as he wanted into the standing army.  But this is an army that likely does not see use, until the next European Crisis, but not against Austria (which with Napoleon III around is not going to be too far away). But in such a crisis it is more likely Prussia will fight on the side of Austria, or in the confines of the German Confederation, rather than against or unilaterally.

Austria: With the Austrian arms generally doing well in the war, the thorny issue of Holstein-Schleswig partly resolved by major power agreement, and Prussian adventurism chastised, Austria focuses on securing its vision of the German Confederation and domestic reforms. As in history the good service of the army, does not lead to a push for needed reforms.

Denmark: My expectation is that the Great Powers will demand some kind of protections for the Germans of Schleswig, and that Holstein goes to the GC under a Prince of the House of Augustenburg. Without Bismark around, the Danes will accept both, but it is likely that Danish politics is partly dominated by the question of German Rights. While the Nationalist-Liberals may agitate for a new war to retake Holstein and get rid of German autonomy rights in Schleswig, it is highly likely that they will be opposed by a reinvigorated conservative faction around the King. Swedish unwillingness to fight a war, may also contribute to restraint. With no Bismarck to bait them, Denmark enters a period of political strife, but not war over that question, and attempts at closer Scandinavian cooperation.

      B) Bismarck stays on and does his best in the Congress though results are not great

Prussia: Motlke and the King succeed in persuading Bismarck to stay alive and try to get the best he can out of the Congress. Otto tries his best but it does not bear the fruits he wanted. His main goal, of using the Duchies to cause a constitutional crisis in the German Confederation and a war with Austria is stymied by the creation of a new German State in the form of the Duchy of Holstein under a Duke from the House of Augustenburg. That said he succeeds in pushing for generous rights for the Germans in Schleswig, in the hope that the Danish Nationalists will create a new crisis that he can take advantage off. 

Domestically he is a bit more careful with the King and the National Liberals, though he does help Moltke get more reforms done. Internationally, he bides his time baiting the Danes to fight again, or waiting for the next hair-brained idea of Napoleon III, for a war. At the same time he tries as much  as possible to bait Austria in the Confederation, understanding this time though that he has to be more careful. His clashes with the Liberals over army reform, last longer and are more costly, and barring a new Danish War, he may have to wait until the 1870s for a new chance to challenge Austria.

Austria: As above, only this time they meet more resistance in their vision of the Confederation. They are highly unlikely to accept a new Danish war and probably can keep the Confederation out.

Denmark: As above, but this time the more strident rights for the Germans of Schleswig, coupled with Bismarck’s baiting, increase the chance of the National-Liberals overcoming the more careful conservative party, and leading to a new crisis? Indeed the King might give impetus to Scandinavianism in hopes of  restricting their activity.

      C) Bismarck does very well indeed in the Congress

Bismarck gets the main thing he wanted from this war. Holstein is added to the German Confederation but not as an independent duchy under the House of Augustenburg, but instead as a Federal dominion administrated by Austria and Prussia. He uses that administration in order to ferment a constitutional crisis that leads to the 1866 war. Only this time, the Danes will take advantage of the war to violate the Treaty rights of Germans in Schleswig and to regain Holstein. This might mean Hannover not joining the war against Prussia. It should be noted that a Danish intervention of the 1866 war was accounted for in Prussian war-plans. In many ways history plays out the same way as it did in reality.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

First real gaming in Istanbul

Taking advantage of Bairam, I went downtown today and played too games at Karagah gaming club situated at Pegasus Store in Beshiktas. 

A ship passing the Bosphorus 

In our first game I taught Onur Kiss My Hardy using a simple scenario. A squadron of two British 74 gun 3rd rates and a squadron of two French Republican 74 3rd rates, meet for battle. Both had elite crews. 

In the end it was a tie, as one French ship was boarded and captures, while one of the British struck. The only ship left with guns was one of my 74s. All in all a nice fast game of Kiss me Hardy.

In our second game, Onur taught me Black Powder and we tried my Army Lists for the Russo Turkish War of 1877-78 (you can find these in the pages section of my blog). We set up a simple scenario of a Russian assault on a Ottoman redoubt.

The Russian force was made up of two brigades of 3 units each (representing Battalions), or Regular Infantry.

The Ottoman defenders were a force of 4 units. A Veteran Nizam Battalion, two Regular Nizam Battalions, and a unit of artillery, representing two Krupp guns.

Thus a force of about 3000 Russians were attacking a entrenched force of 1000-1600 Ottomans.

We used Onurs, 1/72 Napoleonic Birtish as proxies. I commanded the Russians and Onur the Ottomans. We used halved ranges due to the table size. With a resounding URRAHH, I sent my assault columns against the redoubt. The Ottomans held there fire until the Russian masses were within the range of the Martini Peabodies. 

Despite the Ottoman rifle fire and artillery fire the Russian columns were able to push forward (thanks to the Stubborn Rule).

And where able to overrun the redoubt. 


The game was an interesting experience. It went by fast, and was fun. List wise, we came to the conclusion that the Stubborn rule for the Russian Regular Infantry might be too much. I also think that using halve ranges for this conflict is problematic. The Russians were able to get really close to charge distance with little shooting against them, which does not fit with the narrative of the war I have read.

That said the game did indicate that Russian masses will overwhelm a defensive position if they can reach it. We were generally happy with the Ottoman Rules.

I am really looking forward to exploring this war more in game-form.

Well that is it for this month! Have fun!