Generalmajor von Gehlan sighted the village of Hardheim just after 9am on the 15th June. Riding ahead of his little column to his left he saw a series of gentle slopes which led up to a dense looking wood. On the area to the right of that wood on some high ground stood an enemy force of some two battalions of infantry and some field guns. Ahead of him ran the road to Hardheim running along the base of the high ground. His telescope revealed that in front of the village itself stood yet another battery of cannon. To his right was the Teufelwald forest which seemed impassable to all but the most determined. In short the visible Franconian forces accorded more-or-less with what the Prince of Hessenstein had told him.
In fact Gehlan had missed much on his personal reconnaissance. A rather old-fashioned and somewhat blimp-esque infantry officer he considered the Hussars under his command little more than criminals and vermin and more interested in plunder than accurate intelligence. This was a shame, because Gehlan’s rigid mindset meant that his information was decidedly misleading and he had missed much on his personal inspection of the ground. Told off by Hessenstein to attack the column of Generalfeldwachtmeister Erffa-Wernburg this Franconian force had actually been heavily reinforced by a second column under Generalleutnant von Wiesenstein.
Gehlan had missed much of Wiesenstein’s now combined force. The wooded area ahead and to the left contained the first battalion of the Freicorps of the Conti de Farinell, whilst the infantry he could see were the three battalions of GfwM Wilhelmini. Behind them and masked by the slope lay GfwM von Erffa-Wernburg’s twelve squadrons if heavy cavalry. In Hardheim itself was the Horse and foot Grenadier reserve under Colonel Sir Alan Hamilton, and the battery was that of the Bombardier-Corps with 18pfund kanonen and 10pfund haubitzen. In the Teufelwald itself was the second battalion of Farinelli’s freicorps but, most crucially, the woods also masked the four battalions of infantry under Oberst Winterfeldt and the cavalry of Farinelli’s freicorps under Major the Conti Federico di Ceccopieri.
Orders of Battle
Allied Column: Generalmajor Ernst von GehlanCavalry: Obrist von Knaak
Bamberg Dragoner: 557
Bamberg Husaren: 598
Nassau Husaren: 588
Infantry: Generalmajor Sack
1/Midachten Regiment: 786 plus 3pfd
2/Midachten Regiment: 830 plus 3pfd
1/Bamberg Regiment: 727 plus 3pfd
2/Bamberg Regiment: 751 plus 3pfd
Nassau Grenadiere: 791
Bamberg Artillerie: 6x3pfd
Franconian corps: Generalleutnant WiesensteinLight Troops: Obrist Conti di Farinelli
1/Farinelli Freicorps: 816
2/Farinelli Freicorps: 711
Farinelli Cavalry: 281
Column: GfwM Wilhelmini
1/IR19 ‘Hohenlohe’: 727 plus 6pfd
2/IR19 ‘Hohenlohe’: 832 plus 6pfd
1/IR22 ‘Liebfusiliere’: 831
Batterie ‘Pflacher’: 2x6pfd, 2x10pfd haubitze
Column: Obrist Graf von Winterfeldt
1/IR8 ‘Erzbischoff von Wurzburg’: 753 plus 6pfd
2/IR18 ‘Erzbischoff von Wurzburg’: 609 plus 6pfd
1/IR15 ‘Hamilton’: 803 plus 6pfd
2/IR15 ‘Hamilton’: 806 plus 6pfd
Cavalry: GfwM Graf Erffa-Wernburg
KR8 ‘Erzbischoff von Wurzburg’: 783
DR12 ‘Konigin Maria’: 929
Reserve: Obrist Sir Alan Hamilton
‘Von Reisinger’ Grenadiere: 593
‘Von Bach’ Grenadiere zu Pferde
Batterie ‘Giffing’: 4x18pfd, 2x10pfd haubitze
To Gehlan, though, what he saw accorded with his intelligence from Hessenstein so he began his attack. Obrist Knaak was to take his twelve squadrons onto the heights to the left whilst Generalmajor Sack was to assault Wilhelmini’s position with his infantry and take Hardheim.
Knaak was the first recipient of a nasty shock as the 18pfund battery before Hardheim began opening up down the road. This caused the Nassau Hussars to ascend the heights quickly where they spotted the first Farinelli battalion at the edge of the woods. Colonel Roehl, unwilling to let the opportunity slip, threw his unit at the Neapolitan troops. The remainder of Knaaks brigade was slower off the mark, the heaviest blows falling among the Bamberg Dragoons as they struggled up the slope with their heavier horses. Dead and dying men and horses soon littered the ground around him but Knaak seemed oblivious.
Meanwhile Roehl and the Nassau Husarencorps had scored a notable victory, the Neapolitans refused to face them and ran pell-mell through the open woods with whooping and cheering hussars in pursuit. Farinelli himself desperately tried to rally them but was shot in the heel while doing so, although at the time felt little. Erffa-Wernburg reacted sharply to the situation moving the Konigin Dragoons to cover the Neapolitan’s retreat on the other side. Plunging through the wood the Nassau troopers lost order and speed and seeing the dark mass of enemy cavalry on the other side grudgingly called off their chase and retired.
Generalmajor Sack, meanwhile, was bringing up his infantry. The assault on Wilhelmini was to be undertaken by the two battalions of the Bamberg Regiment with the converged companies of Nassau Grenadiers in support, accompanied by the small Bamberg 3pfund battery. The Lunebergers of the Midachten Regiment followed along up the road to take Hardheim itself. However, as the second battalion of Midachten trailed up the road it was surprised by the sudden appearance of the second Farinelli battalion from the Teufelwald led by the dynamic Obristleutnant Businelli. His men, though, showed less flair than their commander and faltered, opening up a desultory skirmish fire on the Lunebergers. As Businelli tried to get his men into some sort of formal line (something the Neapolitans were wholly un-used to) the Lunebergers simply faced right and fired a crushing volley into the disordered Neapolitans. This was too much for Businelli’s men who fled into the woods and defied his efforts to rally them.
The Franconian 18pfund battery had by now shifted its attention to the first battalion of Midachten. Some 500 yards short of the village Colonel von Midachten called a halt: he could now see the tops of the banners of Winterfeldts force, and wanted his second battalion up to join him before continuing his advance.
Up on the ridge, meanwhile, the Nassau Grenadiere and the second battalion of the Bamberg Regiment had begun trading volleys with IR19 ‘Graf von Hohenlohe’. Casualties on both sides were heavy, but the Franconian 6pfund battery with Wilhelmini was tipping the balance. After thirty minutes or so of musketry the allied 1er Treffen began to roll back. At this point the Konigin Dragoons re-entered the battle. Erffa-Wernburg had been skirting south of the wood with his horsemen and they launched a swift charge against the steadily retiring Nassau Husarencorps who broke before contact, routing through the Bamberg gunners and taking them along. Knaak threw in the Bamberg Hussars against the open flank of the Konigin Dragoons, but this only managed to check the Franconian advance.
Sack was now deprived of his few guns and the first Bamberg battalion had been redeployed to hold off the Franconian Grenadiers sent up from Hardheim by Hamilton to assist Wilhelmini. With the allied line crumbling Wilhelmini ordered IR22 ‘Liebfusiliere’ to pass through the Hohenlohe’s and push the enemy further back. Seeing this, and now aware of Winterfeldt’s presence, von Gehlan ordered a retreat at 1.30. Knaak was instructed to hold off the Franconians whilst Sack got his infantry away. The second battalion of the Midachten regiment was to act as rearguard. The Nassau and Bamberg troops pulled behind it but the exposed first battalion had to dive into the Teufelwald as the best way of avoiding pursuit. Wiesenstein, who had not issued an order all day, retired to the Grun Adler inn to write his victory despatches and it was left to individual Franconian commanders to pursue as they saw fit. The Liebfusiliere were badly shot up in the process by yet another excellent volley from the second battalion of Midachten with the unit commander, Obristleutnant Demuth, taking a musket ball in the throat. This really left only the Franconian Grenadiers as the pursuing infantry.
Meanwhile Knaak was sorely pressed, the Bamberg Dragoons had managed to stop the Bishop of Wurzburg’s Kurassiere (KR8) from riding down the retreating infantry but lost 150 men and horses in doing so. But at 2.30 the Konigin Dragoons, having retired and reformed, broke through the Bamberg Hussars and overran the gallant second Midachten battalion, taking its colour and driving it from the field.
Allied losses were severe. With deserters and wounded 2,161 men did not answer the rolls when the force reached Tauberbischofsheim. Six 3-pfund kanonen and the colour of the second Midachten were also left on the field. The Nassau Grenadiere and all the Bamberg units were either at or under 50% of their original strength. Gehlan pulled back to Tauberbischofsheim. Not knowing what the Franconians would do Hessenstein withdrew there too, fearing a cut to his communications.
Allied post-battle returns
Bamberg Dragoner: 292
Bamberg Husaren: 508
Nassau Husaren: 530
Nassau Grenadiers: 271
2xLuneberg 3pfd, 2xBamberg 3pfd
Losses: 2,161 from an original 5,621 (including 58 prisoners) or 38.5%
Colour of 2/Midachten and 6 3-pfund guns.
Franconian post-battle returns
Farinelli Cavalry: 281
1/IR19 ‘Hohenlohe’: 576
2/IR19 ‘Hohenlohe’: 684
1/IR22 ‘Liebfusiliere’: 685
1/IR8 ‘Wurzburg’: 750
2/IR8 ‘Wurzburg’: 609
1/IR15 ‘Hamilton’: 803
2/IR15 ‘Hamilton’: 806
Grenadier Companies: 573
Horse Grenadiers: 155
9th Feldkompagnie: 8x6pfund kanonen
2nd Bombardierkompagnie: 4x18pfund kanonen, 4x10pfund haubutze
Losses: 636 from an original 9,784 or 6.5%
Obrist Farinelli, Obrist Krehlau (IR19), Obristleutnant Demuth (IR22) all KIA
Hessenstein need not have worried. Wiesenstein, although victorious here, was not the sharpest soldier around. Throughout the entire battle he had not issued a single order and had simply sat on his horse at Hardheim occasionally looking through his spyglass. The battle was effectively fought by Wilhelmini, Erffa-Wernburg and Hamilton. After his victory Weisenstein continued his march to join Prinz Friedrich, the two joining hands at Bad Mergentheim on the 23rd. Here he was congratulated for his victory, but many grumbled that, by his oversight, he had condemned them to a gruelling battle in the very near future. But Count Farinelli, having not noticed his boot slowly filling with blood, passed out and later died before victory was assured. Oberst Krehlau, fatally wounded, was carried into the Grun Adler, past an unnoticing Wiesenstein, where he died of his wounds wilst von Demuth dies instantly. Leading from the front was costing Franconia dear…