In Deo Veritas: Battle of Höchst

For my second game of In Deo Veritas I wanted to set up something a little bigger. I took one step back in time and did some research on the battle which happened right before Fleurus. This battle report will be a prequel, if you will. Because everybody loves those, right?

 

The Battle of Höchst, 1622

Christian von Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel had joined the Protestant side of the war under the ‘winter king’ Friedrich V. Let’s take a little detour…

 

The Winter King

Friedrich V., prince-elector of the Palatinate, king of Bohemia (for a short while), husband to Elisabeth Steward, the daughter of  English/Scottish/Irish king James I., was a leading figure in the Protestant Union and Europe’s protestant nobility in general. Not to say that all or Europe’s or the Empire’s protestant nobility were part of or particularly friendly with the Protestant Union. It’s always complicated.

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Friedrich V., as king of Bohemia (elector’s hat next to him). Painting by Gerrit van Honthorst, finished in 1634.

Prelude

For the past almost 100 years Bohemia had been under Habsburg rule (who also were Emperors of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation). After the Bohemian Revolt started in 1618 and shortly thereafter Spanish and Imperial armies invaded, the council of protestant leaders who ran the kingdom of Bohemia were in dire need of allies and legitimation. They disposed of Ferdinand II. Habsburg (who got elected emperor the same year, with the help of his own vote as king of Bohemia, despite the fact that at this point he wasn’t king any more. Protests of a Bohemian delegation were rejected) as their king and started looking for someone of good reputation and a deep purse to help defend Bohemia’s religious freedom.

 

The King’s Election

Several candidates were considered, including such figures as the Elector of Saxony (the biggest of the German states, but the Elector was Lutheran) and Prince of Transylvania Bethlen Gabor (who at the time ran an anti-Habsburg campaign and had conquered most of Hungary), but both declined. King Christian IV. of Denmark and the Duke of Savoy were also favourites, but in August 1619 Friedrich V. of the Palatinate was elected Bohemian king. Not a bad choice. Friedrich was the de facto leader of the Protestant states of the empire, he was the son-in-law to the notoriously rich king of England, nephew to the Prince of Orange and an ambitious man. He accepted the crown and travelled to Prague with his wife and a modest army. Celebrations were reported to be an unparalleled spectacle. The burden of the crown was a heavy one, and Friedrich was aware that in the case of the war escalating or going badly it would certainly spread to his own lands of the Palatinate.

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The Palatinate (blue) and Bohemia in 1619. (From: Die Harz-Geschichte, Bd 5 – Die Zeit des Dreißigjährigen Krieges, Bernd Sternal)

 

Enter Tilly and the Catholic League’s Army

As campaign season of 1619 came to a close and the emperor realized that despite fierce fighting the Bohemian revolt wouldn’t budge he promised Maximilian I. of Bavaria the title of Elector Palatinate in return of a large army (officially the Catholic League’s army, mostly Bavarians though, under Count Tilly). He also was to keep any lands conquered until paid by the emperor, which could take years. The Viennese court was notoriously financially challenged at the time.

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Count Johann T’Seracles von Tilly (Pieter de Jode, the Elder)

This is one of the recurring features of the Thirty Years War – nobles or warlords being granted right to levy contributions from lands taken off the enemy’s hands rather than direct payment or it just being their duty to their king/emperor. And one of the reasons for the incredible suffering of the populance caused by the ongoing war. War was waged as much on the country itself as on the enemy. In fact it was much easier and lucrative to just ravage a strip of land which promised to be rich or relatively unscathed rather than trying to get the enemy to give up on their goals. In fact, a ‘war entrepreneur’ or mercenary of the time (or any time) didn’t have any interest in the war coming to an end. The more money pressed from the land the bigger an army you can raise, the more land can be occupied. The more talented and forward-thinking such leaders realized that shearing a sheep is a better way of getting wool than killing the sheep. Methods mostly were no less cruel though, especially when the situation got sticky for the war entrepreneurs.

Add the fact that throughout the war money and soldiers were sent in by foreign powers, and we got a recipe for disaster.

 

Speaking of Disaster…

Anyway, back to these early stages of the Thirty Years War and Friedrich V., king of Bohemia. His armies kept the Imperial and Spanish armies barely at bay after campaigns against Vienna and Lower Austria ran their course. Recruitment from Silesia and Moravia was severely hampered by Polish cossacks who had been called to support the emperor’s plans. English money was way less plentiful than hoped and no help other than a few regiments from the Netherlands arrived in aid of Bohemia. Even the Protestant Union denied the support of their army as protestant nobles were worried about imperial repercussions. Even Bethlen Gabór had negotiated a (short-lived) truce with the emperor.

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The Battle of White Mountain, P.Snayers 1620

By late 1620 Gábor, freshly-elected king of Hungary, was back at the side of the protestant cause, but couldn’t prevent the loss of the Battle of White Mountain (8th November 1620). This spelled the end of the Bohemian revolt.

The King Flees the Scene

Friedrich V., much scolded by propaganda prints and newspapers of the time, had to flee via some stops in Germany to the Netherlands. With an imperial ban hovering over his head Friedrich V. was a marked man and couldn’t expect much personal support from within the empire. From the Netherlands (and later France) he tried to organize the defence/liberation of the Palatinate. Ernst von Mansfeld, war entrepreneur par excellence, was his man in the field for this job. Johann T’serakles von Tilly, victor of White Mountain, was given the job of taking the Palatinate for the Catholic League and Bavaria in what became known as the “Palatinate Phase” of the Thirty Years War.

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Count Ernst von Mansfeld, lithograph

Springtime of 1622 saw the war swinging back and forth between the catholics and protestants. Friedrich once more appealed to German princes to reforge the Protestant Union, but with limited success. By mid-1622 the cause of keeping his ancestral lands seemed lost and Friedrich set up an exile government in the Hague. A few times over the next years negotiations with the emperor were taken up. Friedrich admitted to his ascending to the throne of Bohemia being a mistake, ceased any claims, but asked for his land and electoral rights being reinstated. No agreement was made.

Further Attempts at a Return and Death

In 1630 Sweden’s King Gustav II. Adolf entered the war. His success in defeating Tilly and occupying Bavaria made Friedrich see a chance to get his lands back. Gustav Adolf was open to the idea, but Friedrich refused for the Palatinate to become a Swedish fief. In late 1632 the English crown finally decided to send an expeditionary force into German lands, but at the time Friedrich suffered from an infection and eventually died during the night from the 28th to the 29th November of 1632.

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Friedrich V.’s palace in Rhenen in his exile in the Netherlands. The palace was destroyed around 1800.

After a quite turbulent trip the whereabouts of Friedrich V.’s remains is unclear.

In 1648 Friedrich’s second son, Karl I. Ludwig, once more became Elector Palatinate and received his ancestral lands (minus the Upper Palatinate, which remained with Bavaria). He broke with the English branch of the family after supporting the Parlamentarians during the English Civil War. Karl Ludwig proved to be a very proficient and passionate ruler at rebuilding the devastated Palatinate.

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Right, that’s that. I just thought it would be a good opportunity to have a look at one of the pivotal characters in the outbreak and most of all escalation of the Thirty Years War. Now let’s move on to the battle of Höchst itself.

Situation before the Battle

In early 1622 troops of the army of the Catholic League (Tilly) and the Spanish army (Cordoba) had occupied the Western Palatinate. Mansfeld’s protestant troops were in dire need of support. They had to meet with Christian von Braunschweig’s army as quickly as possible to stand against the Spanish/Leaguist force. Christian evaded a feigned attack by Tilly, which cost the protestants a chance to cross the Main river and link up with Mansfeld in an unproblematic fashion.

Christian von Braunschweig had a detachment of his army take the city of Höchst and commenced building a pontoon bridge over the Main to have his army (first and foremost the train and paychest) cross and finally join Mansfeld. Tilly force marched his army to prevent this and Christian von Braunschweig saw no alternative but to deploy for battle.

 

Scenario

Here’s the table all set up:

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The Protestant army (Christian von Braunschweig) took position in several lines along the road to Höchst (and the boat bridge over the Main) between Main and Sulzbach rivers. One brigade (Köchler’s) holed up in Sossenheim to hold the bridge over Sulzbach river. The river is fordable, but taking a bridge of course is easier.

Across the bridge two small redoubts have been erected with just over 1000 musketeers drawn from all infantry brigades took position. To the Protestant right flank you can seee the Nidda marsh (indicated by fuzzy green stuff, right up to that yellow field below Sossenheim). In the top of the photo you can see the Leaguist/Spanish army (Tilly).

The aim for each army is to oblige the enemy to withdraw. If by turn 12 no side withdraws the Protestants win.

 

The Armies

The Spanish/Leaguist Army

CinC: Count Tilly

 

Right Wing (Spanish):

1st Line (Cordoba): 2x Cavalry Brigade (Harquebusiers. In game terms I treat Spanish Harquebusiers as Double Brigade), Tercio Fugger (Early Tercio), 1 deatchment of Musketeers, 2 batteries of heavy guns.

2nd Line (Caraciollo): 3x Cavalry Brigade, Tercio Caraciollo (Early Tercio)

Due to the force march prior to the battle I deducted from the tercios’ aggressiveness.

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Fun fact about the Spanish and their position in the battle: The Spanish army always got the honorary position in the right flank because they served a king, and Bavarian/leaguist troops only served a duke (Maximilian of Bavaria).

 

Centre Wing (Anholt): 3 infantry brigades, 3 heavy guns, 2 deatchments of musketeers

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Tilly is with the Centre Wing

 

Left Wing:

1st Line (Mortaigne): 3x cavalry brigade

2nd Line (Pappenheim): 6x cavalry brigade

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The Protestant Army

CinC: Technically Christian von Braunschweig, in practice he wasn’t very good at that job, so his actual command on the day was just a small part of the army. In game terms, no CinC.

 

Centre Wing:

1st Line (Christian): 2 infantry brigades, 2 musketeer brigades in fieldworks, 1 infantry brigade (Köchler) sitting in Sossenheim, 3 heavy guns (on the road between Höchst and Sossenheim), 1 detachment of musketeers (way in the lower left corner of the picture)

2nd Line (Knyphausen): 4 infantry brigades

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Cavalry Reserve:

1st Line (Styrum): 6x cavalry brigade

2nd Line (Fleckenstein): 5x cavalry brigade

 

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Right Wing (Carpzow): 1x Cavalry brigade, 3x musketeer detachment

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This wing is sitting in the Nidda marsh, acting as flank guard, facing 9 enemy cavalry brigades. This is going to be interesting.

 

One more rule: Due to the fact that a lot of musketeers have been detached to act bascially as light infantry the firepower of all infantry brigades (except Köchler’s in Sossenheim) in this game has been reduced by one die. Visually I depicted this too by reducing the number of musketeer bases to each such unit.

The Game

Cordoba loses no time and moves his Spaniars (and Walloons) up to Sulzbach river to cross next turn. Caraciollo follows up as his reserve.

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At the other flank the Catholic League’s cavalry advance as well. Mortaigne leads his brigades up to the marsh and stops to check what the ground is like.

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As mentioned above, this is going to be a really interesting flank. The catholics outnumber the protestant defenders by a huge margin here. On the other hand the marsh is all difficult terrain, which for cavalry is quite a problem, with each movement possibly leading to disorder. Carpzow’s small detachment of defenders are on Withdraw orders to lure the attackers further into the marshland, get them disordered, and avoid direct confrontation for as long as possible. The musketeers detachments zip around to get into good firing positions while Carpzow himself and his cuirassiers move as litte as possible, not to get disordered themselves.

Here’s an overview of the first shooting phase:

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The Spanish and Leaguist guns open up on Sossenheim, as do musketeer detachments closing in from the left. They in turn are spotted by Christian’s guns and they commence firing and one of the musketeer detachments gets majorly disrupted by this.

Further down the line the detachment loses nerve and retreat. In an especially fatherly moment, Tilly drives his horse to join them and rally the musketeers.

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Right before Tilly can commence a rousing speech on how god is on their side and that the heretics’ aim is as misguided as their beliefs another salvo comes in and smushes the musketeers. Tilly is unharmed. Up to 99% of Bavarian military experts and journalists of the time agree on how this came to be: Virgin Mary sent a swarm of angels who draped the count in a cloak of red velvet which shielded him from the cannonballs which turned the cannonballs into turnips and they bounced off.

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Meanwhile at the right flank…

Cordoba’s wing crossed the Sulzbach stream in good order and prepare their attack on the Schäferberg hill:

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His Harquebusiers and infantry are met by Christian’s light infantry detachment. Unimpressed, the Tercio opens fire on the entrenched musketeers. In the back you can see Caracciollo order his troops to cross the stream to Cordoba’s right. The huge formation that is the Tercio Caracciollo (yellow flag) has some trouble keeping up with the cavalry.

Soon fighting over the Schäferberg intensifies as Christian von Braunschweig orders his infantry to counter-attack Cordoba’s cvalry. Being thrown into the Sulzbach of course is not a nice prospect, so the Harquebusiers dig their hooves into the ground. To their left Tercio Fugger (white flags, red spanish cross) charge at the fortifications to drive out the musketeers.

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Clearing those trenches would be useful indeed.

 

After a few more salvos of catholic guns Sossenheim is ready for the assault. Regiments Herliberg (right) and Schmidt (left, Tilly’s best) move in,throw Köchler’s brigade out and back over the bridge to the South of Sossenheim.

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Apart from the heavy batteries down the road and the musketeers in the trenches, the bridge at the centre is captured now. Köchler’s brigade barely hold together as they arrive at the other end of the bridge, back on the other side of the stream the Bavarian regiments have great trouble keeping their own regiments together as bands of men instantly start looking for valuables or edibles to liberate in Sossenheim.

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Here’s an overview of this phase of the game:

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From top to bottom: Mortaigne’s cavalry in the marshes doesn’t have a great time as they have trouble maneuvering the terrain and those pesky musketeers keep on taking shots at the horsemen.

At the top left you can see a single blue spot. That’s Tilly, trying to collect himself as orderlies collect bits of musketeers off his person.

Sossenheim has fallen and soon is swarming with Bavarian troops. The guns on the protestant side commence firing at the Spanish guns, who turned their attention on the entrenched musketeers. Their very first salvo seems to have hit a powder magazine and leads to great misers among the soldiers (they’re disrupted. One more such hit will send them running.)

Meanwhile, on Schafenberg hill, regiment Löwenstein (blue flags) is still stuck in a shoot-out with the large Spanish formations of Harquebusiers and Tercio Fugger charge at the entrenched musketeers.

Caraciollo’s Spanish units line up to cross the stream.

Here’s a closer-up of the action in Nidda marsh. Mortaigne’s cavalry finally caught up with the defenders and a firefight breaks out.

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Pappenheim, in command of the second line of cavalry, is having a great time.

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They hang back and look at the going-ons in the marsh. He’s not willing to jeopardize his lovely (and expensive) cavalry in unsuitable terrain. So he waits for his superior to clean out the flank or just die out there. Either way, he’d swoop in with his cavalry and do something glorious.

Over at the other flank the Harquebusiers rout Löwenstein’s infantry. Knyphausen sends forward one of his 2nd line infantry (Foot Lifeguard), but a large gap is opened up in the Protestant lines. Da Silva’s Harquebusiers set off to an impetuous pursuit to finish off the fleeing infantry…

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…and smash into the flank of Styrum’s 1st line of cavalry who just turned to the left to be ready to meet flank attacks! Now things get a bit chaotic as either cavalry are surprised by the events.

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Back to the marshy flank. Mortaigne’s command sees two of their units rout. They’re off never to be seen again. His command falters and they have to stay put until order is restored. The defenders under Carpow are almost unscathed. Pappenheim looked on for long enough and he commands his horse into the marsh as well to finish the job. The bad terrain hits them hard, and Pappenheim has to admit that the disorder wasn’t soley to be blamed on his superior. The next turn though order is as good as restored.

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Being faced with the full number of the Catholic left wing now the defenders move way back to maximize treacherous ground between them and the enemy, encourage them trying to cross the stream and maybe be a nuisance in their flank.

Back to Schafenberg hill! After the loss of regiments Löwenstein and Köchler Christian’s infantry wing is seriously exhausted. Luckily the tercio who attacked the frontmost entrenched musketeers finally broke off their attack, were thrown back over the stream and would need quite a while to recover, if they do at all.

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Knyphausen (commanding the 2nd infantry line on the hill) sends brigades to patch holes in the frontline and elongate it to the left by sending Sachsen-Lauenburg’s brigade over there.

After several turns of skirmishing the Protestant light infantry also threw back Cordoba’s light infantry.

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The chaotic cavalry situation right behind the hill’s peak is resolved swiftly once the protestant horse turn to face the enemy. They are being helped out by flank support and a detachment of light infantry (now free after destroying the enemy skirmishers) to the enemy’s rear. Da Silva’s Harquebusiers are destroyed.

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Cordoba’s wing’s attack has faltered. Caracicollo’s 2nd line has crossed the Sulzbach and get ready to attack Knyphausen’s infantry at the far right flank.

Something goes horribly wrong there. The Spanish horsemen (Cordoba’s.) are caught in a salvo and just disperse. Berenguer’s cuirassiers take the opportunity to slip by, but can’t advance any further as Caracciollo’s wing is fatigued. The cuirassiers halt and decide to wait for Losada’s cuirassiers to catch up to them to support the attack.

This wing cohesion/fatigue thing is such a nice mechanic. I mean it’s frustrating, but I really like it. Forces wings to stick together and coordinate attacks.

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Here’s an overview of the Spanish right flank:

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Not that much left for now. You can see the cuirassiers right next to the Sachsen-Lauenburg (black-yellow-green flag) infantry and in the bottom right Losada’s cuirassiers hanging back.

At the centre Bavarian infantry (Herliberg and Heimhausen) cross the bridge. They are met with devastating salvos by the heavy guns and the entrenched musketeers, who recovered from the shock of the exploding barrels. Since then the Spanish guns never managed to faze them much.

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Against all logic, Anholt’s centre wing is fatigued by this and they can’t press on, which is a bad situation of course.

Over in the Nidda marsh Pappenheim beat some order back into his wing, but Mortaigne’s shrunken command is in a bad way.

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On the other side, the infantry on Schafenberg hill is holding up pretty well. Although Christian von Braunschweig’s first infantry line could desintegrate any moment. Which would oblige the musketeers to abandon their trenches, and those are pretty pivotal to the whole battle plan.

At this point though Tilly calls off the attack and orders the army to withdraw the field. The Spanish right wing is beyond exhaustion. The cavalry left, despite strong numbers, saw their first line getting quite literally bogged down in terrible terrain, and somehow the infantry centre got all exhausted too after they crossed the bridge, but found themselves sitting between strong enemy musketry and cannon.

 

Aftermath

Well, that’s that. Interesting stuff there. The Protestant first line only held together by a bare thread, and because the musketeers just refused to leave their entrenched positions. They were lucky to meet the Spanish units head on right after they crossed the stream, and before they could establish a bridgehead, so their units had trouble fighting with the stream to their backs. Caracciollo’s second line couldn’t make the difference by breaking through, as they probably just would have run into the Protestant cavalry reserve.

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If Pappenheim on the left would have gotten into the battle quicker and cross the stream into the Protestants’ right the thing could have worked out, but he had way too much fun seeing his superior struggle in the trecherous Nidda marches, getting pestered by light infantry left and right. The situation over there was very intersting indeed, but with plenty of luck and very cautious maneuvering Carpzow’s command actually held their flank by slowly retiring down the marsh. Somehow the Catholic League’s cavalry never managed to get the decisive charge in.

 

It was a fun battle, and had a pleasant look. It also helped tremendously at familiarizing myself further with the In Deo Veritas rules. While I was on the fence about those after the slightly dissatisfying first test game, I’d rate them up there with Twilight of Divine Right by now. Already I’m working on plans concerning the next battle, possibly Wimpfen. Just so I play the battles in reverse order for maximum confusion. This battle featured the short appearance (and subsequent demise) of the army of the Margrave of Baden and his up-gunned wagon train on the Protestant side.

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Anyway, I had a good time and took great pleasure in looking at the spectacle of the battle. Well, thanks for reading! Hope you enjoyed this little report, and stay tuned for more!

7 thoughts on “In Deo Veritas: Battle of Höchst

  1. A grand spectacle, accompanied by a ravishing narration, massive armies on a beautiful table set-up, what’s not to like?
    Many congrats!!!

  2. Another great AAR, your armies are such eye candy! I also like the era. Interesting about In Deo Viritas. Our own local group uses Twilight rules for more than one era, we really like them but we don’t have any 30 Years War collections.

    Looking forward to your next battle!

    1. Thanks very much!
      At the moment I’m torn between In Deo Veritas and Twilight of Divine Right. And I constantly feel bad for never really having given Baroque a spin. I should get that one out again some time.

      At the moment there’s some chatter among the wargamers ’round here about the SYW. Maybe I can bring Twilight of the Soldier King(?) into the discussion.

  3. Sigur!! You did it again!! So great! I really appreciate this report and background. Since Frankfurt is my home town, this is a very special piece to me.

    1. Allerbesten Dank. 🙂 He, warst/bist du beim Unfinished Armies Podcast dabei? Den hab ich immer als meinen liebsten deutschsprachrigen Podcast zum Thema Wargaming angeführt.
      Jedenfalls hab ich ja im Vorfeld bisschen recherchiert zu dieser Schlacht. U.A. auf Google Maps geschaut wie das heutzutage alles aussieht dort, ob die Flüsse/Bäche immernoch so verlaufen, etc. Ist natürlich alles umgelegt und -kanalisiert worden. Die Gegend gehört jetzt komplett zu Frankfurt, oder?

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