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!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

HUNGARIAN HONVED RIFLES: NEW FIGURES NEWLY PAINTED

For those who may have been following along, you may recall that I posted earlier that among the figures that I had commissioned from Steve Barber that the Hungarian Jagers were the first to have been completed and had arrived. I have been plucking away a bit at a time on them for the last several weeks. They are finally done and now join the ranks of my growing Hungarian/Honved 1848/49 contingent.  This was another exercise in gray tones, but a lighter gray than the Austrian Jagers done earlier.  In this study, you may, as always, clix pix for BIG PIX.  
 I primed them white (as I always do), and then used Testor's Model Master "RAF Medium Gray" for a base color (yes, friends, I'm talking enamels)...
 ...and then brought out the Humbrol "Brown Yellow" for the bags and Testor's Model Master "Leather" for the canteen cover...

 ...then a light wash of black, and a then a highlight in light gray for the trousers and jacket, and a bit more brown yellow for the bag.  Then old school Testor's "Flat Yellow" in the 1/4 oz bottle for the officer's hat and belt details...
...speaking of which, I did one of my officers with white fur as opposed to black, inspired by an illustration of a Honved Pioneer officer who had the same gray jacket with white fur in the Somogyi Honved Army 1848-49 bookThe fur lining on the figure is a base of flat black and a highlight of light gray followed by a drybrush of flat white. I also painted over the boots on these officers to render trousers.
It was challenging to bring out the green detail against the mid/light gray of the uniforms, so I did all of the details first in black and then went over them in green to get a blackline effect.  This still did not render a good result. The green looked washed out and indistinct.  I tried several old standbye Humbrol greens, "Uniform Green" highlighted with "Light Green" for instance, but those still didn't stand out (for the officer's hat color, though, Humbrol Uniform Green worked fine).  After several other tries, I resigned myself to the look.  But then, just as I was about to "finish" the figures with a coat of clear flat, I looked over and saw an "old school" bottle of Testor's "Beret Green" among my "odds and ends" paints--I couldn't remember buying it. Out of curiousity, I picked it up and gave it a closer look.  I tried it on one figure...and it turned out to be just the thing! 

Once Steve completes the honved infantry in kepis, I'll be rounding out the infantry and the Hungarians will be near completion.  I must say that I don't mind the wait--I don't think I could face another hungarian sleeve knot right now!

 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

FRIDAY NIGHT AT THE FIGHTS: NAPOLEONIC GAME

Last Friday, I had the chance to put my Napoleonics on the table. I haven't posted much about this collection, but this game will be the first in a series of Napoleonic familiarization games that I'll be putting on to prepare for our club's big "game day" game in October, which I'll be putting together using my French and Prussians--enough to float 20+ players (more on that as it develops). This was a quickly put together scenario that featured two Prussian brigades (division equivalents of all arms) against a full French division plus a Young Guard brigade and a brigade of light cavalry. As usual, in this report you may clix pix for BIG PIX.
The scenario was a hypothetical meeting engagement for control over a communications network located in a flat, open valley between two regions of forest and hills (which notionally stretch off table at the top and bottom of the picture). The scenario was structured to cause both sides to mix it up in order to exercise the rules and get players familiar with the forces (some of which we hadn't seen on the table in force before, like the Prussians and Young Guard)...
 ...towards these ends, both sides had exhaustion levels represented by a certain number of exhaustion points, represented by chips they had in a cup, one of which would be extracted for the loss of a battalion, battery, or pair of cavalry squadrons.  The aim was to crack the other side. The insidious thing in the scenario that turned it into a cage match were the on-table objectives.  There were two kinds. Situated in the middle of the table were objectives marked by a black and a blue chip. These either side could grab.  The side that had control of one, defined by having the only unit within 6" at the end of a turn, would gain an extra exhaustion chip (blue for French, black for Prussian)--and the other side would lose one. The exception was the town, which had to be occupied and uncontested to gain control (in these rules, both sides can be inside the town template fighting).  The deeper objectives, represented by two chips of the same color, were side-specific. The side that managed to cross the table and gain control of this deep objective gained two extra exhaustion points--and the other side would drop two...
 ...thus the table was set...
...and the players took the field. Playing the French (left) were left to right: AJ of AJ's Wargaming Blog fame (watch for his report on the game), Ralph, he of Hannibal at the Gates, and Charlie, the originator of Napoleon's Rules of War, which we were playing (and will be on game day). Playing the part of the Prussians (above right) were George (left) and Bob...
...green M&M candies found their way onto the table as improvised markers signifying limbered guns. We take our Napoleonics seriously in these parts...
...the sides converge, with AJ pushing the French 1st Brigade on the French right and Charlie pushing the 2nd Brigade on the French left, with Ralph bringing up the Young Guard Brigade in depth. One regiment of the French light cavalry brigade was assigned to each of the flanks. Meanwhile, the larger Prussian Brigades divided the action pretty much down the middle, with Bob's 1st Brigade on the Prussian Left and George's 2nd Brigade on the Prussian right. The image above captures the moment before both sides clashed--with gusto: the objectives were contested for the entire game, with neither side gaining one (I would recommend this scenario structure for anyone who wants to see a nice toe to toe battle).  We'll follow the action on the Prussian right/French left first...
 ...on the Prussian Right (left above) the Prussian 2nd Brigade pushes ahead in two lines, with the Landwehr following.  (Above right). Not being timid, Charlie launches the 70th Ligne and the 6th Chasseurs into the Prussian phalanx...
...with spectacular results (above left). Four Prussian battalions of the first line, including one of the regulars, the 1st Bn of IR 6, 1st West Prussian, are routed back, the 3rd Reserve Bn of the 3rd Reserve Inf. narrowly avoids being ridden down in pursuit by two squadrons of the 6th Chasseurs, who would earn their pay this day. The success of this action (above right), found the 70th Ligne  thrust into the Prussian 2nd Brigade position...
...with the Young Guard coming up behind to support...
...but at the same time, (above left) an ominous line of black, the Prussian Leib Hussars, starts wheeling towards the 70th Ligne. Charlie places the 103rd Ligne in echeloned squares to cover the gap to the 70th Ligne.  Meanwhile, the French put every gun available to the Prussian horsemen. But General Dice was not with the French gunners, and the Leib Hussars arrive (above right) and hit the 70th Ligne along with two battalions of the Silesian Landwehr [mis-labeled as the  Kurmarck Landwehr in the photo: oops. No difference in game terms]. The rest of the Prussian 2nd Brigade can be seen still in square in the wake of the charge of the 6th Chasseurs...
...the situation on the Prussian Right/French left shortly after the Leib Hussar charge (who have recalled for the moment). The French 70th Ligne has fallen back on the Young Guard, who are deploying. The 6th Chasseurs, weakened to their waver points, are moving back to cover the end of the line. The Prussian 2nd Brigade is spread out, with a line of recovering battalions out of the photo to the left and half of the forward units still in square. Neither side can claim control of the objective on this wing (which is near the tree on the hill)...
...eventually, George would reform the Prussian 2nd Brigade (above) and take up the advance again, with Ralph preparing to meet them with the Young Guard and Charlie reforming the elements of the French 2nd Brigade in support. The game ended just before we saw this second collision on this side of the table. You can judge the level of action by the wavering units (yellow markers) and the kill rings...

...a few in-game shots (above) capture the players in action and the look of the table (where you can see the contested objectives clearly)...
...meanwhile, on the Prussian left/French right, Bob and AJ were butting heads in and around the "La Haye Saint" of this battlefield (above, view from behind the Pomeranian National Cavalry Regiment--a unit I formed by converting Prussian Dragoons)...
...(above left) elements of the Prussian 1st Brigade and the French 1st Brigade about to collide. (Above right) the fighting in the orchard and building complex begins, with the French 103rd Regiment gaining the town first. This town template would be the site of continuous fighting for the entire game, with heavy action in the adjoining orchard as well. None of these objectives in this complex would be cleared and claimed by either side...


...the climax of the action on the Prussian left/French right. Bob's Prussians attack down the line, with the Pomeranian National Cavalry wrapping around and being countered by the French 4th Chasseurs. These were both dead even fights that went against the French (again, General Dice was not with AJ this day!). Meanwhile, the Landwehr, wavering, trades shots with the 2nd Bn of the 25th Legere (typo in the picture says 9th Legere: I have this legendary unit, but it's in my French 1st Division--this is the 25th Legere).  The 3rd Bn, IR 9 (veterans) and the 1st Bn of the 9th Reserve close with the 1st Bn, 25th Legere in the open. In the town, the fighting continues to rage, with the 3rd Bn, 25th Legere against the 1st Bn, IR 9--in a rarely seen turn of events, these two battalions would wipe each other out in the ensuing melee phase, leaving the town empty!  At that point, it was getting past 10 pm and we called it a night, with advantage to the Prussians...
 ...both sides played well, and I gained good insights for the upcoming game day, as well as valuable experience running an NRW game (I had only assembled and run a small 1 on 1 game before this).  Most of all,  it was a grand way to end the week, with toy soldiers and splendid company.  Thanks to all the players for their good sportsmanship and input and insights towards the game day event.

Excelsior!
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