In Deo Veritas: Battle of Wimpfen

As announced on the Höchst battle report, I went back another step in time and replayed the battle of Wimpfen!

The battle of Wimpfen took place on 6 May 1622 between the armies of Georg Friedrich von Baden-Durlach (fighting for Friedrich V. of the Palatinate) and Count Johann Tseracles von Tilly (fighting as part of the Catholic League for the emperor).

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Sebastiaan Vrancx – Battle of Vimpfen on 6 May 1622 (Source: Wikipedia)

 

Prelude

We’re in the Palatinate Phase of the war. After Friedrich V.’s short reign as Bohemian king, his flight into exile and imperial ban of his person Tilly’s army of the Catholic League took over and mostly laid waste to Friedrich’s lands (the Palatinate). Ernst von Mansfeld, war entrepreneur/mercenary general/condottiere, led his army into the Palatinate to throw Tilly and the Catholic League out. His trusty sidekick, Christian von Braunschweig, also brought an army along to help out. At this point in time, spring of 1622, a third Protestant army commander entered the stage who is inseparably connected to the Battle of Wimpfen. It’s none else but  Georg Friedrich, Margrave of Baden-Durlach.

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Georg Friedrich von Baden-Durlach (Artist Unknown, Source: Wikipedia). Note the fact that he’s holding a sword, with another one in the scabbard. Maybe this has some iconographic meaning. Maybe not.

By 1622, when he declared war on the Emperor, Georg Friedrich of Baden-Durlach was 49 years old, which sets him apart from many other army commanders of the time. Before that he had governed Baden since the turn of the century. And he did a good job at that too, initiating work on an elaborate civil code, founding a bank, writing a military treatise for his sons, did some reforming and so on. And in between he hunted and read the bible 59 times.

He knew he had to do a good job at keeping his people happy and his lands’ economy strong because there was the little issue of the occupation of Upper Baden. In 1594 Georg Friedrich’s elder brother had occupied Upper Baden, based on the fact that their cousin (who ran Upper Baden) was really bad with money and an embarrassment to the family in general (if you’re not bored enough with this text here do yourself a favour and read about Edward Fortunat von Baden-Baden. Wow.).

Imperial officials never took kindly to people within the Empire just grabbing lands which wasn’t theirs, especially not protestant nobles. As stability throughout the empire deteriorated, this became more and more of an issue. Georg Friedrich realized this, started making alliances with protestant cities in Switzerland and hiring an army. Tensions between him (a long-standing member of the Protestant Union until it was dissolved in 1621) and the Catholic League got heated, as Tilly’s Catholic League army rampaged through the Palatinate and basically up to Georg Friedrich’s doorstep.

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

 

Sooner or later it would come to war. Seeing as how Mansfeld and Christian von Braunschweig were about to lead their armies into the Palatinate to hunt down Tilly it seemed like a good moment to declare war on the emperor. Georg Friedrich von Baden-Durlach abdicated in favour of his son to minimize chances of his family losing their hereditary lands in case of an Imperial Ban, took his army and went to join Mansfeld’s army.

He wasn’t with Mansfeld at the battle of Mingolsheim (27th April 1622), where the mercenary leader beat Tilly’s army pretty soundly.

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Memorial plate of the battle at Bad Mingolsheim

Instead of sticking together though, Mansfeld and Baden-Durlach split their armies up again as Mansfeld took his army to besiege the important fortress of Ladenburg. Baden-Durlach’s army hung back close to Wimpfen to keep an eye on Tilly’s army. After the defeat at Mingolsheim Tilly was quite shaken and urgently called the Spanish army under Cordoba in for support. Cordoba forced marched his men past Mansfeld and, unbeknownst to the protestant commanders, joined Tilly. Knowing that Mansfeld’s large army wasn’t anywhere nearby to help out, Tilly and Cordoba quickly crossed the Neckar river to meet Baden-Durlach’s army. The Margrave rejoiced given the opportunity for battle, but instead of a few demoralized Bavarians he had to face the combined army of the Catholic League and the Spanish.

 

The Scenario

The Protestants have a strong defensive position, while the Catholic Leage/Spanish army have a numerical advantage, and their infantry for the most part is more battle tested than the protestant infantry. The goal is to force the enemy army to withdraw.

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The upper army in the picture is the Spanish/Leaguist force. In the lower mid we got Baden-Durlach’s army in their defensive position. Terrain: Upper mid – Donet Forest, settlement to the upper right- Untereiesesheim. In the right there’s the currently flooded Böllinger Stream and surrounding marsh (impassable). Settlement to the lower right – Obereisesheim (with garrisoned Baden troops).

The scenario is taken from the recently released Twilight of Divine Right scenario book To the Peace of the Pyrenees‘. Of course I had to adapt it a little to make it fit with the In Deo Veritas rules. For instance ToDR has rules for ‘small units’ whereas IDV only differentiates between ‘brigades’ and ‘detachments’. ‘Small units’ in the sense of ToDR of course lie somewhere in the middle between those two categories. Not much of a problem though. All it takes is a bit of stats adjustment and so on. Or just treat a small unit as a full brigade. Or rate small units as “Raw” rather than “Trained”. There’s several ways of doing it. No problem. 

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One of the more complicated things is how to treat the Wagenburg at the centre of the scenario. I read that infantry behind it wasn’t really able to fight enemies through the Wagenburg and that the fighting was done by pike-armed wagons with musketeers inside. Now I could have done something as in the Höchst scenario and use detached musketeers to man the wagons, with infantry with reduced firepower sitting behind and all of that. In this situation it would have made sense too, but I decided to keep it simple and stick to the scenario as written (which lists the Wagenburg as defensible terrain which will count as firing at enemy units to its front).

The main change I made is that I split Streiff’s cavalry wing into a left and right wing as on the day Baden-Durlach’s army had a cavalry detachment to either side, even after he redirected most of the cavalry to the right. So I handed this new left wing (including the brigade of musketeers in the woods) over to Count Palatine Friedrich von Valdenz-Sponheim. According to the Saints in Armor Playbook he commanded the protestant left wing on that day, and it consisted of the units he got. More on the specific army layout:

 

The Armies

 

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Baden-Durlach’s Protestant Army

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The army of Georg Friedrich von Baden-Durlach was mainly infantry, with a strong artillery arm and – quite uniquely – a Wagenburg with purpose-built …well, war wagons. Accounts on Baden-Durlach’s Wagenburg vary, but mainly the wagons are described as being fitted with pikes and small mortars. His army was short on cavalry, so Mansfeld left a part of his cavalry with Baden-Durlach. Supposedly because they would be of more use to his army than for the siege of a fortress.

 

Infantry Centre Wing (Baden-Durlach): 

In the Wagenburg: 5x Infantry Brigade, 2x Heavy Field Guns

Garrisoned in Obereisesheim: 1x Infantry Brigade

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Right Cavalry Wing (Streiff):

4x Cuirassiers

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Left Cavalry Wing (Valdenz):

2x Cuirassiers

In the woods: 1x Infantry Brigade (muskets only)

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The Spanish/Leaguist Army

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Right Wing (Cordoba):

3x Cuirassiers, 2x Infantry Brigade, 1x Heavy Field Guns, 1x Small Infantry Brigade (2nd line),

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Left Wing (Tilly):

1st Line: 3x Tercios, 1x Heavy Field Gun, 1x Cuirassiers, 1x Cuirassiers Detachment

2nd Line: 1x Cavalry Brigade, 1x Small Infantry Brigade, 1x Infantry Brigade

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The Game

Turn 1 starts with the first attackers card drawn (as usual), and as usual the Spanish wing takes precedence in spearheading the attack. Cordoba sends his cavalry down the flank and right into the musketeers who deployed along the treeline.

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In the firefight and subsequent combat the infantry prove resilient to the cavarly attack (not the least due to their defensible position. The other cuirassiers brigade hesitates to join the combat due to the Protestant cuirassiers waching on.

Quite correctly so, as Valdenz (the wing commander) sends in his cuirassiers to help out the musketeers. A cavalry skirmish ensues.

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Here’s an overview of these first turns of the game:

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In the left we got the Spanish and Baden cavalry (and musketeers) battling. Meanwhile the artillery are duelling with little to no effect.

This goes on for a few turns, as cavalry battle back and forth. The musketeers get thrown back into the forest for a bit.

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As either side realize that the guns don’t do much Cordoba returns to the infantry lines and orders his men to attack. Tilly on the left does the same. On either side the second line (Spanish: 1 small infantry brigade, Leaguists: 1 small infantry brigade, 1 cavalry brigade) hangs back as a reseve.

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Soon the armies enter musketry range and firefights erupt along the whole defensive line.

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Suddenly a big explosion tears apart one of the wagons, causing panic among the protestant infantry, sending Goltstein’s regiment flee off the table. Somehow a small powder magazine must have ignited and blown up.

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This of course tears a big hole in the Protestant defensive line and some more daring catholic brigades proceed into close combat. Most hang back at musket range though, as the Wagenburg is a pretty imposing obstacle.

At the protestant left the stalemate slightly swings in favour of the protestant army as one of the Spanish cuirassier brigades breaks and rout off to the hills.

Since the musketeers in the woods are under quite some pressure the now free protestant cuirassiers swing into the flank of the Spanish cuirassiers.

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Those cuirassiers prove to be dead set on not breaking though. The badly shaken musketeers rally once more for an attack against the Spanish cuirassiers.

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This spells their demise though. They are thrown back (as the Spaniards fend off the enemy to their flank as well) and flee into the woods, never to be seen again.

 

Disaster strikes again on that wing as suddenly the second cuirassier regiment routs after a prolonged duel with another brigade of Spanish cuirassiers. The protestants flee off the table, the Spaniards are dead set on hunting them down and leave the table as well (for now).

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Here’s an overview:

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  1. – The Spanish brigades stubbornly refuse to charge the Wagenburg and prefer to settle things in a firefight which does not favour them. Same with the Leaguist cavalry who joined them to overwhelm the enemy artillery.
  2. – Bavarian tercios slowly but surely overwhelm the defending brigades by sheer bulk (despite nasty close-range fire by various cannon and mortars). One of them is pushed back. The attackers waste no time, enter the Wagenburg and keep pushing on:

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3. – Tilly mobilized all of his reserves. This small brigade overran the Baden artillery and currently try to find their way into the Wagenburg.

4. – Another Leaguist brigade slips into the Wagenburg (via the gap left by Goltstein’s brigade who fled following the explosion) and another one throws the rightmost brigade back and out of their position.

Streiff’s cavalry reserve charge to throw the attackers out again, but once tercios get somewhere they usually stay where they are. One cavalry brigade gets repulsed and is met with flanking musket fire.

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5. – At the far right the Obereisesheim garrison stay put; same as the rest of the protestant cavalry reserve. After all Tilly’s flank guard is hanging back as well.

Things look increasingly grim for Baden-Durlach’s army. Their left cavalry wing routed completely. The cuirassiers who originally led the charge just wouldn’t give in and sent Valdenz’ last brigade of cuirassiers a-packing.

In between the Spanish wing got exhausted for a bit (due to that one brigade who routed early on). Speaking of which – those chaps meanwhile managed to rally to a halfway battle-ready shape and actually decide to join the battle again (way back in the upper left corner):

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In the centre the Bavarian tercio finally broke the protestant infantry and they rout off the table.

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Right next to them the protestant cuirassiers who got shot in the flank fled further and through a friendly (and already disordered) infantry brigade, sending both units into disrray.

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This spells the end of the battle. Baden-Durlach’s army has to withdraw, leaving the artillery and what remains of the Wagenburg behind.

 

Post-Game

Now for the Pursuit/Withdraw phase to determine how grand a victory can be claimed.

The Spanish/Leaguist army’s cavalry is still in pretty good shape, which may mean trouble for the retreating army. Baden-Durlach orders his remaining cavalry to cover their retreat, but the enemy is overwhelming.

Two of the already shaken brigades of Cuirassiers are overrun and destroyed, but they assure the rest of the army managing to withdraw to safety. Count Palatine Friedrich von Valdenz-Sponheim, commander of the protestant left wing (which got destroyed) is captured by Spanish cavalrymen. Georg Friedrich von Baden-Durlach (the army commander) and GenLt. Johann Streiff von Lauenstein (commander of the right cavalry wing) barely get away.

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Debriefing

(Early) Tercios, eh? They’re pretty impressive once they’re in battle. So are cuirassiers.

I enjoyed the game. It didn’t go on very long, as far as solo games go anyway. Those always take me ages to get done. Learned a bit more about In Deo Veritas again.

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I guess I should explain the explosion bit: Two Leaguist tercios fired at the Goltstein brigade behind the Wagenburg. It resulted in a LOT of hits, which according to the fire result table sent the brigade routing. This extreme dice result in my mind warranted this little narrative bit to add.

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Especially since the historical battle was decided by a ‘random’ powder explosion in Baden-Durlach’s baggage train. Until this point in the battle things were pretty even, but this catastrophic explosion made several of Baden’s infantry regiments lose their nerve and sent them fleeing the scene. This ultimately decided the battle in favour of the Spanish/Leaguist army.

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During the battle Georg Friedrich von Baden-Durlach was injured in the face by a lance. He fled to Stuttgart, but one week later he was back in Durlach, trying to gather a new army. His lands were thoroughly ravaged by the catholic armies (so the abdication before entering combat didn’t help much), Upper Baden was granted to the catholic side of the family (Baden-Baden) and he had to flee again. A few years later Georg Friedrich entered the Danish king’s services as he waged war against the emperor during the ‘Danish phase’ of the thirty years war in the late 1620s. Later Georg Friedrich had a falling out with the king and eventually retired to Strasbourg, mainly studying religious scripture. Georg Friedrich von Baden-Durlach died in September 1638. Until the end he was in contact with Sweden and France, seeking help to reinstate his plans for a lutheran Grand Baden.

 

So much for the historical side of things. I think the scenario worked rather well. The fighting at the protestant left with the Spanish cavalry was pretty tense. It was very even up until a point and if either side would break it would spell big trouble for that side, with an open flank and enemy cavalry swarming about.

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This is why you keep reserves. Cavalry on the protestant side, and the two small infantry and the one cavalry brigade on the catholic side.

The other flank was much more static, mainly due to the garrisoned infantry in Obereisenheim.

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This way there was just a small (and dangerous) gap between the defensive line and the village, so moving there would have been a big gambit (especially with the limited catholic cavalry on that flank).

So yeah, that’s it. Good game. Pretty game. Even though I didn’t have proper models for this quite unique Wagenburg of course. I plan to play the scenario again. I’m not 100% on how I ruled the Wagenburg. Maybe next time I play it I’ll give the Wagenburg itself a bit of firepower as well.

I hope you enjoyed this battle report!

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