Inspired by an article in Wargames Illustrated many years ago I began, with some mates at university, a fictitious 18th Century campaign. This took place in 1740 and became the First Bamberg War as forces from the Orange Republic attempted to stop the troops of Franconia dislodging the Protestant Duke Louis in favour of the Franconian Crown Prince, Johann.
This ended after university, but I re-started the campaign a while ago and it has been juddering on. Fast-forwarding ten years the old Stadtholder of the Orange Republic, Maurice Duke of Nassau, has attempted to corall various German states into a league to prevent further Franconian expansion. Removed in as Stadtholder 1741 after his defeat at Bamberg, he was left with his small duchy of Nassau and needed allies to cement his position as leader of the Protestant cause in Germany. By 1749-50 he had succeeded in attracting the Duchies of Hessenstein and Luneberg to his cause as well as some minor principalities.
Still not strong enough to take on Franconia Maurice found an ally in the shape of the Regent of Alsatia, Jean Duc de Devligne. The crucial issue was the fate of the Duchy of Strassburg. The Duke, without any identifiable male heirs had only daughters. One was married to an Alsatian Prince and Devligne had confidently expected Strassburg to fall into his grasp when the old Duke died. But the Duke, alarmed at Alsatian ambitions, arranged for his second daughter to be engaged to Michael, Crown Prince of Franconia and publicly nominated her his heir. Thwarted, Devligne began planning a military expedition to dethrone the Duke and replace him with his older daughter. It may have succeeded, but a spy in Nancy blew the whistle on this plan and the old Duke of Strassburg sent to Franconia for help. The letters arrived with Michael first, who gathered up his own regiments and what neighbouring forces he could and marched towards Strassburg. The scene was set for the first battle of the campaign.
Events to the 2nd April 1750
Devligne had formed a small army of under 20,000 men and had divided it into two columns. His own would advance straight to Strassburg, a second under the Duc de Brun was to come up from Mulhouse. Confident of a walk-over Devligne set a strong pace, De Brun was slower. But, on the 1st April 1750 he ran into the encamped forces of ‘Black’ Michael of Franconia. Aware that De Brun was close he sent messages to hurry him along, confident that his forces and De Brun’s could sweep Michael aside.
Michael, along with Duke Ernst of Strassburg, resolved to give battle in the morning. Knowing De Brun was close Michael resolved to attack Devligne’s forces before he could join hands with the southern column.
Orbats for StrassburgFranconian/Strassburg Forces
Franconia Feldjagercorps 638
Strassburg Husarencorps 670
Grenadier Battalion ‘Waldeck’ 353
1/Strassburg Regiment 584
2/Strassburg Regiment 709
Strassburg Artillerie 8 3pfd Kanone
1/IR7 ‘Kronprinz Michael’ 665
2/IR7 ‘Kronprinz Michael’ 677
1/IR24 ‘Kronprinz Michael’ Fusiliere 728
KR3 ‘Kronprinz Michael’ 746
DR5 ‘Waldgraf von Baden Durlach’ 605
Reinforcement Column under GdeI von Riebeck
DR7 ‘Ritter von Salmannsweiler’ 860
Horse Grenadiers ‘von Nager’ 327
1/IR10 ‘Graf Oettingen-Oettingen’ 697
2/IR10 ‘Graf Oettingen-Oettingen’ 725
Alsatian Forces Northern Column: Duc de Devligne
1/Corps Franc Devligne 616
2/Corps Franc Devligne 608
3/Corps Franc Devligne 616
4/Corps Franc Devligne 624
5/Corps Franc Devligne 552
Hussards ‘Devligne’ 822
Hussards ‘De Mercy’ 516
1/Regiment ‘Des Cretes’ 657
1/Regiment ‘La Doller’ 614
1/Regiment ‘Arc des Vosges’ 722
2/Regiment ‘Arc des Vosges’ 763
Converged Grenadiers ‘Tual’ 229
Artillerie a Pied 8 4livre cannon
Southern Column: Duc de Brun
Fusiliers-Frontieres ‘Hoheneck’ ?
2/Regiment ‘Des Cretes’ 714
3/Regiment ‘Des Cretes’ 668
3/ Regiment ‘Arc des Vosges’ 705
2/Regiment ‘La Doller’ 749
3/Regiment ‘La Doller’ 775
Hussards ‘Maizeroy’ 458
Converged Grenadiers ‘Sevres’ 229
Artillerie a Pied 8 4livre cannon
The Battle of Strassburg, 2nd April 1750
Devligne was committed as the battle started to a waiting game until De Brun showed up, his only real movement was to order Brigadier Jeune, commanding his left, to probe the Franconian position. Jeune, clearly interpreting his orders in the most aggressive way possible, launched a full-scale attack on Glt von Hohems commanding the Franconian right. Hohems ordered a charge by the Strassburg Husarencorps with overthrew the Hussards de Mercy and then flattened the third battalion of the Corps Franc Devligne, taking 46 prisoners, it’s colour and destroying the unit as a military force. Nevertheless the Schwarzwald Jagercorps began a tough fight against the first battalion of Corps Franc Devligne and to Hohems the whole situation was very alarming.
Initially things looked no better for the Franconians in the centre. Devligne tasked the Arc des Vosges battalions to feel out to their right for De Brun. Through the gap came the Devligne Cavallrie and a melee developed first against the Baden-Durlach Dragoons and then Michael’s own Kurassier. Devligne’s horse established a comfortable victory over both units but both sides withdrew, tired. Nevertheless 290 Franconians were either dead, wounded or unhorsed during the melees with the Alsatians.
This left the Franconian infantry advance. Michael had resolved that this should be a careful and stately advance. The officers commanding the three attacking battalions had other ideas and drove their men on to the enemy. In the volleys with the battalions of La Doller and des Cretes the Alsatians did better than the Franconians despite their weaker numbers. In response the second battalion of Kronprinz Michael’s regiment elected to press the issue with the bayonet, breaking the La Doller battalion which dragged along the Des Cretes battalion in sympathy.
It could yet have been reversed by Colonel de Fontbonne of the regiment Arc des Vosges, who had the option of wheeling to his left and attacking the Franconian infantry in the flank. But, unfortunately, de Fontbonne was not the world’s most enterprising officer and stuck to his orders, waiting and looking for De Brun. So the Alsatian right crumbled. Seeing the forces coming down upon them the Tual Grenadiers simply took to their heels and the whole mass was pursued off the field by the Kronprinz’ Kurassiers, refreshed after their earlier fight.
On the Franconian right the attack be Jeune was making progress. Having finally pushed back the first battalion of Corps Franc Devligne the Franconia Jagercorps rashly pursued them out of the wood only to be sabred to bits by the Hussards Devligne. Hohems, desperately trying to hold the line with the combined grenadiers was fatally shot as he did so, but, once again, the fierce men of the Strassburg Husarencorps saved the situation. Again the target was the Hussards de Mercy, who had rashly ventured forwards. The Strassburg Hussars broke them, killing Chevalier de Baymann in the process. The whole fleeing mass overran Devligne and his staff and, as the Regent tried to rally them, he was shot in the stomach by a pistol ball, presumably from one of the Strassburg troopers.
The arrival of De Brun’s avant-garde force under Brigadier Escallier at 10.45 was far too late to change the course of the battle. The Regiment Arc des Vosges and Colonel de Fontbonne paid the price as they were trampled by Michaels victorious Kurassiers.
As Michael and Ernst pulled their troops back to Strassburg, wrote victory letters and held a Te Deum, things on the Alsatian side were not so rosy. In total they had lost over 2000 men and two colours. De Brun, a convenient whipping boy for the defeat later, simply washed his hands of the shattered army and it was left to Brigadiers Escallier and D’Artellier to put in hand some sort of orderly retreat to Brumath.
On the way, at the Blaue Igel inn, a regimental surgeon named Champmorin attempted to treat the Regent. Although he managed to remove the bullet from Devligne’s stomach the Regent slipped into unconsciousness and was finally pronounced dead at 1pm.
Casualty Returns Franconia
Glt Freiherr von Hohems KIA
‘Waldeck’ Combined Grenadiers 60
Franconia Feldjager 252
1/IR7 ‘Kronprinz’ 22
2/IR7 ‘Kronprinz’ 122
KR3 ‘Kronprinz’ 136
DR5 ‘Waldgraf’ 161
Total: 792 from an original 9,507 or 8%
Jean Duc de Devligne
1/Corps Franc Devligne 49
2/Corps Franc Devligne 75
3/Corps Franc Devligne 194
4/Corps Franc Devligne 30
5/Corps Franc Devligne 289 plus Colour
Hussards ‘Devligne’ 6
Hussards ‘de Mercy’ 340 plus Colour and Col Baymann
1/Des Cretes 301
1/Arc des Vosges 324
2/Arc des Vosges 227
‘Tual’ Grenadiers 4
Cavallerie ‘Devligne’ 124
Total: 2,235 from an original 13,119 or 17%