The battle began with shots fired from the Franconian Bombardiercorps batteries at 8am at Kneidl’s farm. The Bamberg Dragoons and the Nassau Grenadiers (the former serving dismounted) had already been badly mauled at Hardheim some two weeks before and this experience was to do nothing for their nerves. The Bombardment lasted for exactly one hour under the direction of Prinz Friedrich himself, who, as Inspector-General of Artillery took a personal interest in the performance of the guns.
So, for sixty minutes, the farm and environs were treated to a heavy dose of shells and round shot but failed to catch fire. But, for the defenders the noise and whizzing stones were more than enough to contend with. There was some reply from Redoubt number 5 near Kneidl’s farm but this only had the effect of tiring the crew.
As abruptly as the bombardment started, at 9am it stopped. This was the appointed time for the Franconian attack to begin. On the left the brigade of Prinz Furstemberg started in a timely way preceded by Businelli and his Neapolitans and accompanied by Wiesenstein. So fixated was he on advancing upon the redoubt that he had overlooked sending orders to Hamilton in the second line meaning he just sat there for a good fifteen minutes. Prinz Friedrich, from his vantage point in the gun line, saw this stationary force and eventually decided that something was wrong. He rode up to Hamilton who, on being questioned by Friedrich replied in his mangled Scots-German that ‘Mi'lord Wiesenstein has not seen fit to yet order me forward, Your Highness.’ Friedrich gave him a personal instruction to follow up as second treffen to Prinz Furstemberg and within 10 minutes the brigade was underway.
Looking along the length of his line with his spyglass Friedrich saw to his satisfaction that the Guard Division of Lundquist was advancing on the allied centre in good order with colours flying and drums playing. The smile of pride was soon wiped off his face, however, when he looked along the line further. Instead of attacking first of all with the Household Brigade of Erffa-Wernburg it seemed that General Hausen was passing the Ritter von Salmannsweiler’s Dragoons ahead of them to attack with that Brigade first. Not only was this costing valuable time it was also not spearheading the attack with the best available troops. Looking around further he could just make out a large knot of staff officers to the rear. Feeling the need for personal intervention he began to ride over to Hausen, but it would take him a good fifteen or twenty minutes to reach him.
The Battle becomes general; Kniedl’s farm and the breastwork
By the time Friedrich reached Hausen certain developments had taken place at either end of the battlefield. On the Franconian left the brigade of HRH Prinz Furstemburg had reached the breastwork and the Neapolitan infantry of Businelli were busily engaged in peppering that, and the farm, with shots. Bamberg had no light infantry to speak of and the men in the farm, already in some shock, were shaken even more. Then, out of the smoke came the close order infantry of IR19 ‘Hohenlohe’ and IR8 ‘Wurzburg’ who launched a furious charge against Bamberg’s position. The second battalion of IR19 plunged through the ragged canister from the Luneberg and Nassau guns and overwhelmed their positions. The first battalion of IR8 charged against the Nassau Grenadiers in the farm and pushed them away from the wall, continuing the fighting in the farmyard. The Bamberg Dragoons were totally overwhelmed by the second battalion IR8 and took to their heels.
The Duke of Bamberg’s position was clearly crumbling fast and he sent off to Hessenstein for assistance. By 10.10 the first battalion IR19 had charged over the breastwork and had ejected the first battalion of Grand Duke Maurice’s regiment from their position. Exhausted, they were volleyed back by the second battalion of Nassau infantry but they, in turn, were engaged by 2/IR19 and a fire fight developed. IR8, meanwhile, garrisoned the farm and Weisenstein began to wonder where Hamilton was.
The Battle becomes general; the Guards assault the centre
Hessenstein got Bamberg’s despatch just as things reached a climax in the centre. By 10.30 Lundquist’s first line under Wilhelmini was in a position to attack the redoubts. The results were mixed. Redoubts 1 and 4 fell to the 1st battalion of Garde Grenadiere and 2nd battalion Garde Musketiere but Redoubt 2 stopped the 1st battalion Garde Musketiere in its tracks whilst the guns in Redoubt 3 drove the 2nd battalion Garde Grenadiere to retire. A second blast of canister turned the retire into a rout and they were only stopped by the personal intervention of Prinz Friedrich riding back from his ‘conversations’ with Hausen and Scheer (see below).
The breaches made, though, became death traps too for the attackers as they attempted to move beyond the line of redoubts. The Graf von Zedlitz-Truchsler's men tore the Franconian guardsmen apart with a series of good volleys. Wilhelmini, with the casualties mounting and one battalion already routing, appealed to Lundquist for support whilst the battalions took shelter behind the ruins of the redoubts that had just fallen. Lundquist was already live to the idea and had already ordered general Appengau to continue the assault by passing through Wilhelmina’s shattered battalions. He had also ordered Volkmann to bring up his cannon. Appengau was not a man to lead from the rear and, although feverish from a previous illness, he placed himself at the head of the 2nd battalion Garde Fusiliere to assault the redoubt that had inflicted such losses on the Grenadiers. This attack too failed, and GfwM Appengau fell leading it, his body and horse shredded by cannister.
Reluctantly Lundquist ordered a halt to the attacks and ordered Wilhelmini to withdraw all of his battalions to the rear, their place to be taken by those of Appengau, now under his direct command. He also had in his hand a despatch from Friedrich telling him to expect support from Scheer.
The Battle becomes general; the cavalry action and the flank march
By the time Friedrich had arrived to join Hausen and Scheer several things had already happened. Hausen had decided to attack first with Salmannsweiler’s Dragoons, which were deployed behind the Household Brigade. These had, predictable, overwhelmed the Margravine Dragoner but were now blown. He had then ordered up von Zahringen’s mixed brigade to batter his way through the Nassau Dragoons. It was at this point that Friedrich arrived. Hausen’s staff was in something approaching chaos. It was being besieged by Scheer and Erffa-Wernburg and had dissolved into clumps of argument. Scheer had, apparently, attempted to pull rank on Hausen as he had become exasperated with his constant fumblings and redeployments whilst Erffa-Wernburg pleaded to be allowed to attack as ‘the honour of the Guard’ demanded it. Into all of this rode Friedrich. Taking Scheer to one side he discussed with him a way forward. It was clear that Hausen was going to take an age to clear the allied cavalry out of the way, and so he directed Scheer to send his first brigade off to support Lundquist. Then he gave a verbal, direct order to Hausen: the Household Brigade was to attack at the first possible opportunity.
Turning his back on a red faced Hausen he remounted his horse and rode off back into the centre .
Meanwhile, in the woods, the crackle of musketry fire had announced the arrival of Prinz Moritz’ men, or rather the troops of Prinz Kliuchevski. Despite his advancing years Kliuchevski was thin, spry and wiry. He ordered his troops forward into the woods against the rear of the Hessenstein Jagercorps but the latter, alert as always, were unsurprised by the noisy Ukrainians and began picking them off with accurate rifle fire.
After ten minutes of bearing the brunt of this and suffering over 150 casualties the second Kliuchevski battalion broke and ran. Their place in the line was taken by von Giessenburg’s Jager, but these part-time soldiers also proved no match for the skilled professionals of the Hessenstein Jagercorps and lost nearly 200 men in a prolonged fire fight, finally breaking and many were found wandering the woods asking the best way to the Schwarzwald.
Although the Franconian plan on the right was failing, due to Hausen’s incompetence and the staunchness of the Hessenstein light infantry, and the attack in the centre had seemingly stalled, on the left Wiesenstein had broken through. The timely arrival of Hamilton (Thanks to Friedrich’s earlier intervention) gave him the reserves he needed to stem the allied counterattack. Hessenstein had ordered forward his three battalions of guards in an attempt to retake Bamberg’s position which had finally crumbled as the second battalion of Grand Duke Maurice’s regiment finally disintegrated: the weight of shot from the 2/IR19 and 1/IR8 in the farmhouse and buildings finally told. Meanwhile 2/IR8 had lined the walls and had started volleying the left-hand battalions of Cassel’s line, forcing them to turn to meet them and the harassing fire of Businelli’s men. The approach of 1/IR26 ‘Augsburg Fusiliere’ from an acute angle meant the withdrawal of the cannon from Redoubt 5 was inevitable and soon 1/IR26 was trading shots with the first battalion of the Graf von Cassel’s regiment.
Wiesenstein exploits his breach:
Only the 2nd Bamberg battalion is left to the Duke of Bamberg's command
Only the 2nd Bamberg battalion is left to the Duke of Bamberg's command
Meanwhile Hamilton’s other battalions, accompanied by the batteries of Major Kirchwath, allowed Wiesenstein to put together a credible line against the Hessenstein guard whilst he returned both IR19 battalions to the rear. The Hessenstein Garde-Grenadiere traded shots with 2/IR8 in the farmyard whilst the two Garde battalions began opening volleys against Hamilton’s regiment and the supporting guns. Although the Prinz von Solm-Braunfels tried to make headway he failed and Kirchwath’s guns tore huge holes in the Hessenstein Garde battalions.
In the centre it had become a similar story. The combined Grenadier battalions of Von Frankenfeld and Von Reisinger plus the 1er Garde Fusiliere had begun trading shots with the Midachten regiment. Under the cover of this fire fight the guns of Major Volkmann were manhandled into position and began to bombard the Luneberg positions. Coming up behind Lundquist was von Scheer, with seven relatively untouched battalions and his artillery was sent on ahead to add to the line started by Volkmann.
Hausen, though, was still making heavy weather of the cavalry action. Von Zahringen’s men had managed to overwhelm the Nassau Dragoons but had also been winded and recalled to rest. Now Erffa-Wernburg was given his chance. Doyenne of the cavalry in earlier years he was now 76, almost blind and had lost much of his touch. But it was his moment. His brigade charged in against the enemy, he himself at the head of the Garde Karabinier and it is here that he fell, mortally wounded and trampled underfoot. His brigade, though victorious, retired leaderless.
In light of the defeat of his cavalry and Wiesenstein’s breakthrough on his right Hessenstein saw nothing for it but retreat. Cassel had already started losing men to The Augsburg Fusiliere and 2/IR8 in the farmyard and the news that one of his Guard battalions had crumpled was the last straw. He ordered a retreat at 12.20 to be covered by Knack. Hausen, seizing the opportunity of Erffa-Wernburg’s death, took personal command of his men and ordered the Household troopers forward to pursue. The Ritter von Weingarten, Obrist of the Garde Karabinier refused; his men were too battered and exhausted, and they had many losses. The Obrist of the Garde du Corps, and cousin of the King, the Waldgraf von Baden-Baden readily acceded and the tired troopers and horses cantered forward. Baden-Baden soon regretted his bluster as the fresh and fierce Bamberg Hussars tore into them. The tired horses were barely able to canter, never mind charge, and the proud regiment was torn to shreds and ran for the rear.
Hausen was horrified. How was he going to explain this to the King? Meanwhile he totally overlooked his fourth cavalry brigade, some 12 Kurassier squadrons under GfwM Helldorf-Bedra the 41 year-old protégé of Erffa-Wernburg. He had been reduced to tears of frustration at his lack of orders, tears of passion on hearing of the death of Erffa-Wernburg and now tears of shame as the Garde du Corps streamed past him.
By 12.50 much of the allied army was convincingly away and the shock of the Garde du Corps routing convinced Hausen to abandon any further pursuit. Prinz Moritz’ light troops were still trapped in the woods and by the time they were in a position to do so the opportunity had slipped away. Prinz Friedrich had stumbled to a bloody victory; Hessenstein had tasted the bitterness of defeat.
(Next entry, casualties and aftermath)