Battle of Fraustadt

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Battle of Fraustadt

Carl Gustaf Rehnskiöld (6 August 1651 – 29 January 1722)

Marshal Johann Matthias von der Schulenburg (1661-1747)

King Charles XI’s Polish campaign had been highly
successful, and after taking Warsaw in 1704, Charles decided to take out
Saxony, so he gave a small detachment of 3,700 infantry of the line and 5,700
Cavalrymen to his trusted General Carl Gustav Rehnskiöld.

When Rehnskiöld reached Saxony he did encounter the last
remnants of a broken Polish army, 9,000 Saxons, and a Russian relief force of just
under 5,000.

Rehnskiöld decided to move his army in a tactical retreat,
as he saw his numerical disadvantage, by leaving the battlefield, and  tricking his opponent to foolishly following
him into a well-planned trap, skillfully orchestrated by Rehnskiöld and his subordinates.

Rehnskiöld initiated a pincer maneuver by careful placing
the line infantry in the center and splitting up the cavalry into two units and
placing them on each flank.

The fighting began with a Polish offensive. The Swedish cavalry
quickly flanked the enemy from both sides simultaneously, effectively cutting
their lines apart, causing mass panic, the Swedish Line infantry started
advancing shortly after, cutting down any and all survivors, with no mercy.

The battle of Fraustadt ended with a decisive Swedish
victory and a crushing defeat for the Commonwealth. Fewer than 1,500 casualties
for the Swedes, with only 427 dead, and a staggering 15,000 for the
Commonwealth (with allies), with 7,377 dead, and over to 10,000 wounded or captured.

Swedish Tactical

Swedish King Charles XI obstinately refused to follow contemporary
tactical fashion. Even though flintlock and bayonet were standard issue in
Swedish armies – indeed the Swedish bayonet was better fixed and hence superior
to many western versions – the pike was retained, not because Sweden was
backward, but because pikemen, who constituted about a third of each battalion,
still had a role to play. Charles had a healthy contempt for firepower, placing
far greater trust in cold steel. Each Swedish infantryman was armed with a
sword, the design of which was of great concern to Charles. Swedish infantry
regulations, from those drawn up by Magnus Stenbock at Lais in the winter of
1700–1, played down the role of firepower and stressed the importance of
infantry attack at the double. Salvos were to be delivered as close as possible
to the enemy, and attacks were to be pressed home with maximum vigour:
eyewitness accounts describe how the Swedish foot charged at the run; even
during its doomed attack against overwhelming odds at Poltava, the weary
infantry was running so fast it was ‘almost leaping’. At Fraustadt (2/13
February 1706), most of the Swedish foot did not even bother to fire a salvo as
it attacked in one line, five ranks deep, with pikemen between the second and
third ranks; only the right wing loosed its muskets. Elsewhere, the infantry
pressed forward across the last hundred yards through three artillery salvos
and one musket volley, brushed aside the bristling Spanish riders chained
together in front of the Saxon ranks, and plunged in at the run with sword,
pike and bayonet. At Holowczyn (July 1708), which Charles considered the best
of his battles, ‘the King himself went from one battalion to another, …
ordering them above all things, instead of firing, to use their pikes, their
bayonets and their swords.’

It was not that Charles failed to appreciate the importance
of firepower: Swedish artillery and musket technology remained the equal of any
in Europe and he was perfectly capable of using artillery effectively where he
felt it appropriate, as at the forcing of the Dvina in July 1701, or to cover
his surprise crossing of the Vabich at Holowczyn which, despite Charles’s
urgings, was largely a bitter firefight. Yet Charles judged weapons in terms of
effectiveness not fashion. Although technology had certainly improved, the
profound limitations of contemporary firearms still shaped tactics. Flintlocks
might be better than matchlocks, but their rate of fire was still slow and
their reliability uncertain, especially in damp weather; battleplans
consequently tended to emphasise the defensive over the offensive. Charles,
however, believed in speed of movement and the seizure of the initiative; this
led him to downplay the role of the musket and of field artillery. For, if
cavalry was no longer capable of breaking ordered formations of infantry, a
disciplined, aggressive charge by well-drilled, motivated infantry with high
morale could achieve what cavalry could not. Even troops experienced in the
handling of firearms were vulnerable to a coordinated and rapid infantry
assault. At Fraustadt, where much of the Saxon army was composed of French,
Bavarian and Swiss mercenaries, each infantry platoon, firing in turn, should
in theory have been capable of unleashing five or six salvos in the time it
took the Swedes to approach. In practice they only managed one or two, since
they were ordered to wait until the Swedes were eighty paces away. If, as one
source suggests, some of the Saxons fired high, the damage inflicted would have
been minimal.

Swedish success was not dependent upon infantry alone.
Cavalry still played a central role on the battlefield, protecting the flanks
and preventing envelopment by the enemy. With the division of the
Commonwealth’s forces in what became a civil war, the Swedish cavalry were able
to play a more central role than had been possible in the 1650s. Backed by
substantial quantites of Polish medium and light cavalry, either recruited directly
into the Swedish army as Vallacker (Wallachian) regiments, or as part of the
pro-Leszczyński forces, Swedish cavalry enjoyed the freedom to roam widely. On
the battlefield, mounted on robust, powerful horses, they were direct and
devastating. According to Stenbock’s 1710 regulations, a cavalryman was to
charge ‘with sword in hand’, and never to ‘caracolle or use his carbine or
pistol’ in preference to his sword. The cavalry charged in closed wedge
formation, with knees locked together. It is a matter of some controversy as to
whether it was possible to maintain an attack in such close formation at high
speed; in part it depended on the terrain, but eyewitness reports make it clear
that Charles’s cavalry charged home at the gallop, even if they did not always
maintain close formation.

The superior Swedish cavalry proved decisive in several
battles, including Pułtusk (June 1703) and Ponitz (September 1704). At
Fraustadt, where Rehnskiöld was outnumbered nearly two to one (and nearly three
to one in infantry), he used his cavalry on both wings in a double envelopment
of Schulenburg’s force which was deliberately deployed in a position thought to
be impregnable to cavalry attack, with each wing resting on a village, and
battalions turned at right angles to offer flanking cover. The Swedish cavalry,
attacking at the gallop, drove off the Saxon horse on the wings and pressed in
on the allied centre as the infantry mounted a frontal assault against the
allied foot. The result was a massacre. Of some 18,000 Saxons and Russians,
7–8,000 were killed, including the Russians cut down in cold blood after
surrendering. Four-fifths of the allied army was killed or captured.

The spectacular results of these aggressive tactics
themselves played an important part in their success, since they ensured that
morale remained high. Faith in Charles’s powers as a general and a feeling of
superiority towards other armies took root. Belief in the king, trust in the
providential protection of a Lutheran God and the confidence which stemmed from
an unbroken run of success drove Sweden’s armies forward. Charles’s
oft-criticised insistence on leading from the front and exposing himself to
danger helped strengthen this belief: his preservation from harm, especially
given the mounting toll of men killed or wounded at his side, seemed to confirm
that he enjoyed divine protection.

Battle of Fraustadt

Battle of Fraustadt 1706 scenario for Pike & Shot

Here are the design

1) According to the map on Tacitus’ site all the Saxon
artillery pieces seem to have been battalion guns. They were 3 pounders located
between the gaps in the infantry battalions in the front line. Therefore I have
not given other battalions light guns. The Swedes do not seem to have had any
artillery, which seems very odd to me, but I have decided to represent their
battalions without light guns.

2) The Russian Infantry battalions are represented in red
coats. This is because on the day of battle they were ordered to turn their
coats inside out, so that the red lining showed, to make them look like regular
Saxon infantry. Schulenberg (and the Swedes) believed that they were inferior
to his Saxon infantry, and did not want the Swedes to identify them in his line
of battle and so single them out for attack.

3) I have reduced all infantry units (except Swedes) using
less sophisticated firing techniques to 80% Musket. As the Swedes have the
Salvo capability, they are already reduced at short range and if I reduce their
Salvo percentage that would affect their impact capability.

4) I have created the Chevaux De Frise by renaming the light
fortification as low wall, and modding the texture .dds file to show Chevaux De
Frise. The effect in the game is the same as a low wall. Unfortunately, they
cannot be moved.

5) This scenario uses the RBS socket bayonet mod, which also
allows Swedish salvo infantry to charge cavalry.

6) The scenario uses Adebar’s Winter (No snow) objects,
combined with his Winter (Snow) tiles, slightly modified by me to give a less
snowy appearance.

7) Difficulty Rating; Medium

8) Sideicons are as follows;

Swedish; General Carl Gustav Rehnskiöld, commanded at this

Saxon; General Johann Matthias von der Schulenburg,
commanded the Saxon army at the battle.

Forschungsmitarbeiter Mitch Williamson is a technical writer with an interest in military and naval affairs. He has published articles in Cross & Cockade International and Wartime magazines. He was research associate for the Bio-history Cross in the Sky, a book about Charles ‘Moth’ Eaton’s career, in collaboration with the flier’s son, Dr Charles S. Eaton. He also assisted in picture research for John Burton’s Fortnight of Infamy. Mitch is now publishing on the WWW various specialist websites combined with custom website design work. He enjoys working and supporting his local C3 Church. “Curate and Compile“
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