Potsdam Giants by Name!


The Potsdam Giants was the Prussian infantry regiment No 6, composed of taller-than-average soldiers. The regiment was founded in 1675 and dissolved in 1806 after the Prussian defeat against Napoleon. Throughout the reign of the Prussian king Friedrich Wilhelm I of Prussia (1688–1740) the unit was known as the “Potsdamer Riesengarde” (“giant guard of Potsdam”) in German, but the Prussian population quickly nicknamed them the “Lange Kerls” (“Long guys”).

Frederick William I from the house of Hohenzollern became King of Prussia in 1713.

Charles Darwin wrote that human beings, unlike livestock, had never been forcibly bred for select characteristics, ‘except in the well-known case of the Prussian grenadiers.’ To the amazement of fellow-rulers and trembling subjects alike, the Soldier-King (as Frederick was nicknamed) began to collect giant men as one would collect rare stamps. From all over Prussia he had his agents look for- and oftentimes kidnap- men suffering from gigantism. In striving to create his own personal soldier core of giants, the king instructed his subjects to immediately signal the authorities whenever they should become aware of exceptionally tall men in the vicinity. He also made clear to his political allies that they could keep their gifts of gold for themselves as long as they provided him now and then with fresh giants to fill up his stock. The strange and sinister request dripped down into every segment of Prussian society. Prussian teachers, eager to appease the morbid king, kept an eye out for tall children and promptly handed them over to him when they had the chance. Newborn babies, expected to grow unusually tall, were marked with a bright red scarf for identification purposes.

If someone was unfortunate enough to be over six feet tall and born in the Prussian sphere of influence (which was quite extensive at the time), he would sooner or later be noticed and assigned to the king’s private collection cabinet. Cautious parents, aware of the king’s eccentric cravings, made improvised shelters for their children to hide them from the ever watchful eyes of Frederick’s scouts- who feverishly roamed the land in search of specimens to satisfy his dark avocations. If the collection item-to-be happened to be well-to-do (or of noble descent himself) no expense was spared to acquire him- for the king reserved enormous amounts of cash just for the purchasing of giants. If one had the misfortune of being of modest means or descent, the conduct of the Prussian agents was altogether different: in this case they were given carte blanch to simply abduct the person in question, bring them before the Prussian king to be inspected, stamped with the royal seal and subsequently enslaved. It would sometimes occur that his agents were so eager in carrying out their assignment that their prey would not survive the brutal journey to the Prussian throne. This would always enrage the impatient king, and the agent in question could count on a swift reprimand for his negligence (usually on the unhappy end of a rifle). Some glitches aside, his collection grew steadily- and before long he managed to assemble his giants in a formidable ‘regiment’ which were regularly taken out on display when some befriended tyrant came to visit. But Frederick was not satisfied with merely collecting the giants to impress neighboring monarchs; Frederick took the whole thing to the next level.

Crossbreeding Giants

According to Washington Monthly author David Wallace-Wells, ‘King Frederick’s obsession was more than mere schoolyard eugenics.’ Indeed it was. Frederick was not the man for silly pet projects or idle pleasures. He was a Prussian king and that means thoroughness in absolutely every respect. With an ambition that would put Marie Stopes to shame, he gathered from all over Europe the most impressive ‘samples’ and selected each and every one of them personally before sending them to his sub-level experimentation chambers. The most notorious of these experiments was the stretching of his grenadiers on a specially constructed rack in an attempt to make them taller than they already were. Frederick would sometimes preside over these racking sessions himself while enjoying his lunch at the same time. However absurd and cruel this method, it revealed the king’s unwavering ambitions regarding all things inhumane. One of the first to venture into the world of methodical eugenics, king Frederick encountered the same difficulties as his future counterparts. When it became apparent that this method resulted in the death of the giants instead of gaining even an inch in length, he ended the practice lest he run out of giants. But putting a halt to this racking practice could not prevent the giants from dying in alarming numbers, for many of them sought refuge in suicide. As only a German blueblood could devise, the king forced his rapidly shrinking collection to interbreed with equally tall women so as to build a future army of giants, which would be the envy of Europe’s upper-class. Here he actually attempted to breed a ‘new man’, and it is said that the city of Potsdam, lair of the Hohenzollerns, was littered with unusually tall men at the end of the 18th century as a result. It is sad, this tale of the Potsdam giants. They fell victim to the elite’s bloodthirsty appetite and unwittingly became one of the first to be sacrificed on the altar of eugenics.



Field of Glory 2: Medieval

The Wargamer.com: review – my kingdom, for a longsword

Hack and Slash Day has come: FOG2 Medieval is finally here in full, and spoilers: they’ve absolutely nailed it

Happy Hack and Slash Day! Never heard of this holiday? Well, it’s February 4, 2021 and celebrates the release of Matrix-Slitherine Games’ latest edition to the Field of Glory II franchise – Field of Glory II Medieval (or FOG2M).

For those unaware, this product line is a direct port to the computer of the highly successful ancients (plus) miniature wargame rules of the same name, by Richard Bodley Scott. Indeed, Scott is also the developer behind Byzantine Games, so if you think the electrons are going to be pretty faithful to the pewter tabletop battles, then you would be right. Let’s take a look.

Unlike its tabletop counterpart Oath of Fealty, FOG2M is not an add-on DLC pack. It’s a new standalone game covering medieval warfare in northern Europe in 1040-1270 AD. However, like its tabletop cousin, it works identically to the base game, and the PC experience pretty much mimics what happens on a miniatures table. The difference is that the computer AI reduces to beginner-accessibility what is really one of the most sophisticated miniature wargames ever. While pewter-pushers deal with pages of diagrams depicting exactly how all the stands of your miniature army move and manoeuvre, in FOG2M, the computer works all that out transparently. Instead of calculating multitudes of Points of Advantage to determine combat DRMs, the software performs the job.

And, while we have covered the details in previous articles, generally, all a player need do is click on a square containing a single unit – or a single command consisting of several squares. When that happens, the computer will highlight all the squares within movement range.

Pick a destination, the unit will move to it, then the computer pops up tactical options to consider at the end. These include shooting bows, melee combat, wheel movements, and so on.

There is no PhD in mathematics required, so players just need to think: “heavy Teutonic Order Brother Knights versus undrilled Muscovite rabble with pole arms… yup, I’ll charge.”

Happy Hack and Slash Day! Never heard of this holiday? Well, it’s February 4, 2021 and celebrates the release of Matrix-Slitherine Games’ latest edition to the Field of Glory II franchise – Field of Glory II Medieval (or FOG2M).

For those unaware, this product line is a direct port to the computer of the highly successful ancients (plus) miniature wargame rules of the same name, by Richard Bodley Scott. Indeed, Scott is also the developer behind Byzantine Games, so if you think the electrons are going to be pretty faithful to the pewter tabletop battles, then you would be right. Let’s take a look.

Unlike its tabletop counterpart Oath of Fealty, FOG2M is not an add-on DLC pack. It’s a new standalone game covering medieval warfare in northern Europe in 1040-1270 AD. However, like its tabletop cousin, it works identically to the base game, and the PC experience pretty much mimics what happens on a miniatures table. The difference is that the computer AI reduces to beginner-accessibility what is really one of the most sophisticated miniature wargames ever. While pewter-pushers deal with pages of diagrams depicting exactly how all the stands of your miniature army move and manoeuvre, in FOG2M, the computer works all that out transparently. Instead of calculating multitudes of Points of Advantage to determine combat DRMs, the software performs the job.

And, while we have covered the details in previous articles, generally, all a player need do is click on a square containing a single unit – or a single command consisting of several squares. When that happens, the computer will highlight all the squares within movement range.

Pick a destination, the unit will move to it, then the computer pops up tactical options to consider at the end. These include shooting bows, melee combat, wheel movements, and so on.

There is no PhD in mathematics required, so players just need to think: “heavy Teutonic Order Brother Knights versus undrilled Muscovite rabble with pole arms… yup, I’ll charge.”

Under the Helm

So why a new game as opposed to a DLC? Well, Scott is meticulous research personified, and new information surfaced. He discovered that using the same ancients combat charts, manoeuvre tables and unit point system didn’t capture the historical reality of medieval combat, especially armored knights. No, these lads were not, after all, Byzantine Katafraktoi clad in some updated threads, but something altogether different. So, knights now cost more, while other troop types have seen their point values decrease

Further, there is a modified game engine under the hood reflecting this, and, after a good 40 hours-plus of gameplay, I can safely say they nailed it. There are other changes and modifications as well. The UI has a more period-specific look, with army rout percentages now represented in two green sliding bars, with red info icons. There is also a convenient button on-screen for top-down view, and a new pull-out menu on the right of the screen with icons for line of sight, next unmoved unit, command radius and so on.

The integrated campaign system (featuring sections entitled Alexandr Nevskii, Angevin Empire, Mongol Invasion and Northern Crusades), is really more of a tactical battle generator, and now has more options, with 36 different decision pairs, representing 61 distinct choices for your games.

Finally, there are now four new scenarios for custom battles in AI or play-by-email (PBEM) multiplayer. These include – with castles no less – Defending, Enemy Defending, Relieving Besieged Fortress and Enemy Relieving Besieged Fortress.

This really resonates as, back in the Dark Ages (see what I did there), at university, I remember a history professor teaching the two most common types of medieval combat were raids and sieges. Yes, meticulous research.

Then, finally, there are the visuals, which have undergone a complete overhaul. Instead of the mosaic-themed intro screen of the past, we now have a stylized version of the Bayeux Tapestry, with two armies bashing kneecaps and cleaving heads. It’s drop-dead gorgeous, to the point I have it as my PC desktop and cellphone wallpaper. Likewise, the game’s entire terrain tile suite (yes, dwarf trees and hobbit hovels are still with us) has moved from the Middle-east and Mediterranean/southern Europe to a more northern European look.

This also includes a completely new terrain type called “Frozen” (Elsa was a Boyer, who knew?) so players can tackle Lake Piepus, or any of the other stand-out battles fought in the snow.

Typically, combat units are St Petersburg Miniatures levels of stunning, displayed in exactly the same numbers and positioning as their equivalent tabletop bases. And the history is there, with clothing variations, historical standards (which can be replaced if too similar to the enemy’s) and spiffy animations.

Mounted knights charge with lance, for example, but in round two, they sling them and draw swords. And they all parade in various hues of red, yellow, blue and green within the same unit – none of this “let’s put the entire French army in different shades of blue” Hollywood history that you find in Total War. Given that you have 29 nations across 57 army lists with 100 3D troop types, 12 historical battles and more, that’s a lot of toy soldiers you’ll never have to paint.

While gameplay in FOG2M is pretty much the same as the rest of the series, playing the game is most decidedly not. Unless you are leading Mongols, this game has nothing to do with manoeuvre, and everything to do with straight-ahead brute force.

Crossbows, due to the weapon’s ability to penetrate just about any armor, are also highly effective, but otherwise, hacking limbs off your enemy face-to-face is the order of the day. I found this out in hours’ worth of play as part of the game’s Beta test pool, and, when the final reviewer’s code came out, I decided to revisit this perspective by playing a couple of games on the only historical engagement I had not done. This was the 1217 battle of Otepaa.

The third game’s the charm, but the Brother Knights have yet to win, all because of what I’ve seen before. Obviously, they are outnumbered, and although the knights are rated Superior and Highly Superior in quality, they are pitifully slow and encumbered by an “Unmanoeuvrable” classification. This makes turning painful, with no free wheel at the end of the turn, as is normal. Most medieval heavy foot is in the same boat, labeled “Undrilled.”

Thus, medieval knights charging across two turns can be devastating, but only if you can somehow pin your foe into not moving, and manage to charge straight ahead yourself. Against similar armies of equal size, that’s a pretty even contest, but against armies from the east, things get dicey.

These armies have a lot of bow-armed light cavalry that simply evade if you advance on them, and a lot of light infantry with ranged weapons that do likewise. Neither carry the dreaded “Unmanoeuvrable” penalty, either. So the situation becomes… well, pretty historical. Can the knights close and trample everyone before they get shot to pieces? Can they save Castle Otepaa?

So far, nope. And then you have Mongols, who enjoy all the advantages noted above, but also have some solid, heavy, knightly-class cavalry of their own, triple-armed and unencumbered in the manoeuvrability department. If you would like a very painful blow-by-blow description of my efforts against these cheating, lowlife, ass-kicking churls, check out my previous “first look” article.

It threw the Mongols against the forces of the Holy Roman Empire and der Kaiser was anything but pleased. Fortunately, that was only the preliminary bout, because for my next match we’ll assume the Asian hordes make it across the Rhine and meet flower of French chivalry. Christian honor demands it! Sorta. But, on a serious note, if you want to know why the Mongols caused heart attacks back then, get this game.

Deus Vult!

FOG2M seems like the start of something grand. I see in its future a sparkly, Little Big Men Studios-centric super-mod, not to mention DLC galore.

These should include the tabletop Supplements Eternal Empire (the Ottomans at War), Swords and Scimitars(the Crusades), Storm of Arrows (late medieval) and Blood and Gold (Mayans, Incas, and Aztecs).

And, while I don’t yet know the dollar cost (florins, livres and ducats also accepted) FOG2M will finally run. If you have any interest in this period, find the cash. FOG2M may not have the uber-animation of Total War Medieval, but it is easy to learn, easy to play, plays realistically and conveys historical results. It looks spectacular and very historical, even if you are trashed by the Mongols. A lot.

But perhaps the biggest recommendation is this: my first love is miniatures, but right now I have at least half a dozen ancient and medieval armies on the shelf, still in the plastic bags they filled on the day I bought them. Because of this game and product line, not one of them will ever see a paintbrush. Any questions?

Don’t be afraid to join the fray! Be part of the conversation by heading over to our Facebook page, Discord, or forum. To stay informed on all the latest wargaming and tabletop games guides, news, and reviews, follow Wargamer on Twitter and Steam News Hub.

Battle of Sekhmen [Sekmen] (1875 BC)

Hereditary archers and menfat “shock troops” were supported by conscripts. The centre of the battle line would consist of massed close fighters in columns or deep lines, supported by massed archer formations. Archers and close combat troops formed up in separate bodies. The archers were to discharge a heavy volume of arrows in support of the close-combat troops, while themselves avoiding hand-to-hand fighting. Lighter troops such as javelinmen or tribal auxiliaries would form up on the flanks of the array. Although generals were usually bowmen, and can be so represented, their bodyguards were axemen with large shields.

Ancient Warfare VII.1 with Warriors of the Nile

Retainers and the Royal Army. A nomarch would usually maintain a body of personal retainers, or shonsu. In tomb paintings of the Middle Kingdom these are usually armed with a large shield and hefty axe. They closely accompanied the noble as he carried out his duties and no doubt comprised his personal bodyguard in battle. The king also possessed shtmsu, and an inner retinue of highly trusted officials known as ‘Sole-Companions’ to whom might be entrusted any important commission. In the Old Kingdom the shonsu were a very small and select body, possibly not entirely military in character.

During the Middle Kingdom the shtmsu of the king were expanded and organised as a military unit. In the reign of Senusret III (1878-1841 BC), Sebek-Khu was one of the royal retainers and began his career in command of a unit of 6 men. He was subsequently promoted to a shtmsu en heqa (Retainer of the Ruler) and given command of 60 men on an expedition into Nubia. His gallantry won him promotion to a sehedj Shemsu (Instructor of Retainers) in command of a unit of 100 men. Sebek-Khu fought at the battle of Sekmem as commander of the rearguard, indicating that the royal retainers had an important role on the battlefield.

The shemsu were supplemented by troops conscripted from the provinces for the Royal Army. These were called henu-nefru (Household Recruits) and were commanded by an imy-er henu-nefru, (Commander of the Household Recruits). An ‘Army-Scribe’ was sent into each nome to select one man in a hundred males to form a company for the Royal Army.

A unit mentioned in the Old Kingdom is the tjeset (battalion), meaning simply a large body of troops. The sa (Company) appears in the Middle Kingdom but there is no record of its size at this time. Model soldiers from a tomb at Asyut were organised into two bodies of 40 men, which may represent a basic unit of organisation. They march in 10 ranks, each rank being 4 abreast, so they are clearly drilled troops and probably typical of most provincial soldiers.

The Great Battles of History series ventures back into the mists of time: the Bronze Age, or the Age of the Chariot. From approximately 1700 BC to 1200 BC (which was the abrupt end of the Bronze Age) the chariot reigned supreme on the battlefield. It was the first modern weapons system, and chariots controlled most of warfare until actual cavalry appeared in the middle of the Iron Age.

But how did chariots work as a tactical weapons system? There is no complete historical agreement on what exactly they did or how they were used, but Chariots of Fire will show you our view of their many applications – and many types of chariotry there were – providing GBoH players with the complete and definitive chariot rules. These rules cover combat and mobility from the first battle wagons of the Sumerians to the two-man, fast-moving light chariots of the Egyptians, often complete with their associated and specialized Runner Infantry, to the heavy 3-man Hittite wheels.

Egypt (XIIth Dynasty), under Pharaoh Senusret III vs. the Canaanites North Canaan (Retjenu), ca. 1870 BC

This battle appears to be part of one of the few northern campaigns of Senusret III, considered to be perhaps the most powerful Egyptian ruler of this time (Middle Kingdom). Most of his military activity focused on subduing the Nubians, to the south. This time the Pharaoh marched north to seize the important trade route city of Sekmem (Shechem)-the site of what is now Nablus-in the valley between the Biblical mountains of Ebal and Gerizim. The region was then known as Retjenu. Not much is known about the battle, other than that it took place.

This battIe was fought during a campaign of Senusret III (1818-1841 B. C.) in Retjennu. The enemy were engaged at Sekmem. The Egyptian deployment included a vanguard led by the king and a rearguard under Sebek-khu, a commander of the royal retainers. The course of the battle is not recorded exactly but the rearguard was eventually brought into action.

The Egyptians say they were victorious, but various interpretations of the sources we do have seem to indicate it may not have been much of a victory.

Pharaoh Senusret III

Senusret came to the throne in about 1878 BC, and is thought to have reigned for 37 years. He is probably the best known, visually, of all the Middle Kingdom pharaohs with his brooding, hooded-eyed and careworn portraits, carved mainly in hard black granite. In Middle Kingdom royal portrait sculpture there is a move away from the almost bland, godlike and complacent representations of the Old Kingdom to a more realistic likeness. Part of this stems from the realization that the king, although still a god on earth, is nevertheless concerned with the earthly welfare of his people. The Egyptians no longer placed huge emphasis and resources on erecting great monuments to the king’s immortal hereafter, as the rather inferior Middle Kingdom pyramids show. Instead, greater emphasis was placed on agricultural reforms and projects, best exemplified by the great Bahr Yusuf canal.

Manetho describes Senusret as a great warrior, and unusually mentions that the king was of great height: ‘4 cubits 3 palms 2 fingers breadth’ – over 6 ft 6 in (2 m). His commanding presence must have helped the success of his internal reforms in Egypt. Most notably he managed to curtail the activities of the local nomarchs, whose influence had once again risen to challenge that of the monarchy, by creating a new system of government that subjugated the autonomy of the nomarchs. The king divided the country into three administrative departments – the North, the South and the Head of the South (Elephantine and Lower Nubia) – each administered by a council of senior staff which reported to a vizier.

Senusret III as military leader

With the internal stability of the country assured, Senusret III was able to concentrate on foreign policy. He initiated a series of devastating campaigns in Nubia quite early in his reign, aimed at securing Egypt’s southern borders against incursions from her bellicose neighbours and at safeguarding access to trade routes and to the mineral resources of Nubia. To facilitate the rapid and ready access of his fleets he had a bypass canal cut around the First Cataract at Aswan. A canal had existed here in the Old Kingdom, but Senusret III cleared, broadened and deepened it, repairing it again in Year 8 of his reign, according to an inscription. Senusret was forced to bring the Nubians into line on several occasions, in Years 12 and 15 of his reign, and he was clearly proud of his military prowess in subduing the recalcitrant tribes. A great stele at Semna (now in Berlin) records, ‘I carried off their women, I carried off their subjects, went forth to their wells, smote their bulls: I reaped their grain, and set fire thereto’. He pushed Egypt’s boundary further south than any of his forebears and left an admonition for future kings: ‘Now, as for every son of mine who shall maintain this boundary, which My Majesty has made, he is my son, he is born of My Majesty, the likeness of a son who is the champion of his father, who maintains the boundary of him that begat him. Now;’ as for him who shall relax it, and shall not fight for it; he is not my son, he is not born to me.’ No wonder Senusret was worshipped as a god in Nubia by later generations, or that his sons and grandsons maintained their inheritance.

Although most of Senusret’s military energies were directed against Nubia, there is also record of a campaign in Syria – but it seems to have been more one of retribution and to gain plunder than to extend the Egyptian frontiers in that direction.

Middle Kingdom Warfare

By the time of the Middle Kingdom the troops carried copper axes and swords. The long, bronze spear became standard as did body armor of leather over short kilts. The army was better organized with “a minister of war and a commander in chief of the army, or an official who worked in that capacity” (Bunson, 169). These professional troops were highly trained and there were elite “shock troops” used as the vanguard. Officers were in charge of an unspecified number of men in their units and reported to a commander who then reported up the chain of command; it is unclear exactly what the individual responsibilities were or what they were known as but military life offered a much greater opportunity at this time than in the past. Historian Marc van de Mieroop writes:

Although our knowledge of the military in the Middle Kingdom is very limited, it seems that its role in society was much greater than in the Old Kingdom. The army was well organized and in the 12th dynasty it had a core of professional soldiers. They served for prolonged periods of time and were regularly stationed abroad. The army provided an outlet for ambitious men to make careers. The bulk of the troops continued to be recruited from the populations of the provinces and participated in individual campaigns only. How many troops were involved and how long they served remains unknown.

The military of the Middle Kingdom reached its apex under the reign of the warrior-king Senusret III (c. 1878-1860 BC) who was the model for the later legendary conqueror Sesostris made famous by Greek writers. Senusret III led his men on major campaigns in Nubia and Palestine, abolished the position of nomarch and took more direct control of the regions his soldiers came from, and secured Egypt’s borders with manned fortifications.

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 Doctrine

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 notes;

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 battle.

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

French And Spanish Admirals – Trafalgar Campaign


Spanish Admiral Federico Gravina at Trafalgar.

French and Spanish admirals who held key appointments during the Trafalgar campaign. Barham’s ‘opposite number’ was the much younger Denis Decrès. Born of a noble family in 1761, he joined the French Navy at the relatively late age of 18. As a junior officer he gained distinction at the battle of The Saints. Five years later he attained the rank of commander in which he served in both the East and West Indies. Returning to France at the height of the Reign of Terror, he received the belated news of his promotion to post-captain, accompanied by a more recent decision to dismiss him from the Service because of his aristocratic birth. This indignity was followed by the ignominy of arrest and removal to Paris for trial in the shadow of the guillotine. He was, however, more fortunate than many another high-born Frenchman: after a brief imprisonment he was released and allowed to retire to his country estate.

Less than a year elapsed before the Convention realized that their navy needed experienced officers now that they were at war with Britain. In 1795 Decrès was reinstated and appointed to command the 80-gun Formidable at Toulon, whence he eluded Lord Hood’s blockade to reach the safety of Brest. In December 1796 he took part in Admiral de Galles’s mismanaged attempt to land troops in Bantry Bay. Sixteen months later he garnered the fruits of his adherence to the Republican cause: he was promoted to rear-admiral at 37, two years younger than Nelson when he had gained his flag in the previous year, and appointed in command of Vice-Admiral Brueys’s frigates. With his flag in the 40-gun Diane, he helped to escort Bonaparte’s Armée d’ Orient to Malta, and on to Alexandria. In Aboukir Bay, on the night of 1 August 1798, his ship was so much damaged by gunfire from Nelson’s fleet that Decrès tried to shift his flag. But, after finding two 74s in a worse state, he returned to the Diane and succeeded in escaping, together with the frigate Justice, and the only two French ships-of-the-line which survived the battle.

All four reached Malta, where for the next 18 months they were confined by the British blockade. Thence, under the cover of darkness, on the night of 28 March 1800, Decrès took the 80-gun Guillaume Tell out of Valletta’s Grand Harbour, in compliance with an order recalling him to Paris and the need to reduce the number of mouths to be fed from the food remaining in the fortress. She was brought to action and compelled to surrender to HMS Foudroyant. Wounded and taken prisoner, Decrès spent a short time at Mahon before being released in an agreed exchange, to be appointed in command of the port of Lorient.

From there Bonaparte chose him to be his Minister of Marine in the autumn of 1801. Since he was to hold this office for much longer than the Trafalgar campaign it is clear that Decrès satisfied his demanding master. Moreover, the zeal with which he set about rectifying the French navy’s serious deficiencies stands to his credit. Like Barham he was a first-class administrator — but no more. From his experience at The Saints, Bantry Bay, the Nile, and in the Guillaume Tell, he was at heart a defeatist: he did not believe that the French navy could seriously challenge the British. More importantly, although he was, in modern American parlance, a good head of a navy Department, he was not Chief of Naval Operations. Napoleon arrogated that position to himself: it was he who conceived, planned and directed his Navy’s major activities, more especially those which were designed to gain command of the Channel so that the Grande Armée might safely cross it.

Decrès pleaded the importance of attacking Britain’s maritime trade, but seldom with much success. He lacked the personality to be better than clay in the hands of an Emperor who had no understanding of war at sea. Faced with complicated plans, which paid scant regard for wind and weather, and treated the British Fleet as an obstacle with which action could be avoided, he did no more than write: ‘It is grievous to me to know the naval profession, since this knowledge wins no confidence, nor produces any results in Your Majesty’s combinations.’


Cornwallis’s opponent was born Count Honoré Joseph Antoine Ganteaume in 1755. His seagoing career began at the age of 14 when his father took him onboard his own merchantship. During the War of American Independence he fought as a temporary junior officer under Admiral d’Estaing in American waters, and under Admiral de Suffren in the Indian Ocean. Thereafter he reverted to the merchant service until his country was again involved in war with Britain, when he joined the Convention’s navy as a lieutenant. In the next year, having reached the age of 39 with 25 years’ sea experience, he was, not surprisingly for a Service which was so short of officers, promoted to post-captain and appointed in command of the 74-gun Trente-et-Un-Mai.

Although not in company with Rear-Admiral Villaret-Joyeuse during his initial engagements with Lord Howe at the end of May 1794 (for which he has been much criticized by his biographers), Ganteaume joined the French Brest fleet in time to take part in the battle of the Glorious First of June, when he was thrice wounded. In December his ship was one of the squadron which slipped out of Brest and into the Mediterranean to reinforce the Toulon fleet. Renamed the Républicain, she was present at the battle of Hyères on 13 July 1795 before being ordered to return to Brest, when Ganteaume again successfully eluded the British blockade. He was next appointed first captain to Vice-Admiral Brueys for Bonaparte’s Egyptian venture, so that he was fortunate to escape with his life when the 120-gun Orient blew up during the battle of the Nile. Promoted shortly afterwards to rear-admiral he was given command of the small French naval force which remained in the Levant to support the Armée d’Orient.

When Bonaparte decided to return to France in the summer of 1799, Ganteaume was entrusted with the task of slipping him past the watching British cruisers on board the frigate Muiron. He received his reward six weeks after the coup d’état of 18 Brumaire: Bonaparte appointed him a Counsellor of State, and chose him to command the squadron of seven ships-of-the-line which slipped out of Brest in January 1801 with orders to convoy reinforcements and supplies to Egypt. Five months and two unsuccessful sorties from Toulon elapsed before he eluded Rear-Admiral Warren’s watching squadron and headed for Alexandria. But Lord Keith’s fleet not only prevented him from reaching this Egyptian port, but also aborted his subsequent attempt to land troops at Benghasi. His only satisfaction, whilst returning to Toulon, was an action with the British 74-gun Swiftsure in which he compelled Captain Benjamin Hallowell to strike his colours.

From the Treaty of Amiens until 1804, Ganteaume was in charge of the port of Toulon. He was then promoted to vice-admiral and given command of the Brest fleet, with the unenviable task of trying to comply with Napoleon’s often unreasonable orders. It is, indeed, arguable that no commander who was forbidden to engage anything but a much inferior enemy force, could have done more than he did. But if it be clear that he owed his post to the chance that brought him into close contact with Napoleon in 1798, the Emperor is not to be faulted for choosing an admiral of no greater distinction for command of the fleet which he planned should gain control of the Channel, for the simple reason that there was none better.


Nelson’s principal opponent was born Pierre Charles Jean Baptiste Silvestre de Villeneuve in 1763. Joining the French Navy at 15, he first fought against Britain in the War of American Independence, when he became a close friend of Decrès. Having declared his loyalty to the Convention, he was promoted post-captain in 1793; and after only three years in command of ships-of-the-line achieved flag rank, a reflection of Revolutionary France’s shortage of senior officers. Near the end of 1796, he was ordered to take a squadron out of Toulon to accompany Admiral Langara’s Spanish fleet round to Brest. Helped by a gale he managed to elude Admiral Jervis’s fleet, which had recently withdrawn from the Mediterranean to watch Cadiz and the Straits. But Lord Bridport’s ships, watching Brest, obliged him to put into Lorient, so that he was too late to be included in the fleet with which Admiral de Galles attempted to land General Hoche’s army in Bantry Bay.

By the spring of the next year Villeneuve was back at Toulon, with his flag in the 80-gun Guillaume Tell, in the fleet with which Vice-Admiral Brueys escorted Bonaparte’s Armée d’Orient to Malta and Alexandria. For remaining at anchor in Aboukir Bay instead of weighing and bringing his squadron up from their leeward berths to support Brueys’s van against Nelson’s attack, he was subjected to much criticism after the battle of the Nile. Fortunately, Bonaparte was more concerned to congratulate him on his escape with the remnant of Brueys’s fleet to Malta, where he remained until September 1800 when, with General Vaubois, he signed the surrender of the French garrison.

His career during the next four years is veiled in obscurity, until he was promoted to vice-admiral on 30 May 1804 only a few weeks after Ganteaume reached the same high rank. Less than three months later came Vice-Admiral Latouche-Tréville’s sudden death at Toulon. Napoleon’s two ablest flag officers already held vital commands, Bruix of the invasion flotillas, Ganteaume of the Brest fleet. Enough has been said of Villeneuve’s career to show that he was scarcely fitted to succeed Latouche, but his rival, Francois Rosily had a record which was no more impressive. And for once the Emperor listened to his Minister of Marine: Villeneuve’s long-standing friendship with Decrès tipped the scales and, with misgivings, Napoleon agreed to his appointment to the Toulon fleet.


Nelson’s other opponent was the commander of the Spanish ships which joined with Villeneuve’s. Frederico Carlos Gravina was born in Sicily of a noble Spanish family in 1756. Enlisting in his country’s navy at the age of 19, he served in an expedition to South America before, following the outbreak of the War of American Independence, participating in the blockade of Gibraltar. By 1783 he held command of the frigate Juno in an unsuccessful punitive expedition against Algeria. Having attained the rank of post-captain early in 1789, he was appointed to command the Paula, in the Marquis del Socorro’s squadron, and was in charge of the naval force which, in 1791, made an abortive attempt to prevent the Moors occupying Oran.

By the time Spain joined Britain against Revolutionary France, Gravina was a rear-admiral in Langara’s fleet which was with Lord Hood during his occupation of Toulon. There, to quote a Spanish authority, he ‘served valiantly … from the taking of the fortifications until their evacuation. He sustained a serious leg wound. His bravery gained him promotion to vice-admiral.’ He then further distinguished himself in attempts to save several besieged Spanish fortresses, even though all were in the end obliged to capitulate. By 1797 he was a vice-admiral, and second-in-command under Admiral Massaredo, initially in Cadiz during Lord St Vincent’s blockade, subsequently at Cartagena — whence he took part in the sortie to join the fleet which Vice-Admiral Bruix brought into the Mediterranean, and returned with it to Brest.

After the Peace of Amiens, Gravina was for a time unemployed, so that he might revisit his Sicilian birthplace. In June 1804 he was chosen to be Spanish ambassador in Paris, where he exercised considerable influence on his country’s decision to declare war on Britain in December. He was then recalled and, early in 1805, assumed command of Spain’s principal fleet based on Cadiz.


Decrès, Ganteaume, Villeneuve, Gravina and, of course, Napoleon: these were Britain’s chief opponents in the Trafalgar campaign. Enough has been said of their careers to show that they were no match for Barham, Cornwallis, Nelson and Collingwood — only for Calder. Nearly a hundred years after Trafalgar, the German Vice-Admiral Livonius, wrote of the Napoleonic Wars: ‘It was the genius of her captains and admirals which produced Britain’s glorious victories.’ This is an exaggeration: only Nelson was a genius; the others were worthy descendants of a long line of sea kings, with the advantage of highly trained and disciplined crews who were enthusiastic for a common cause and inspired by the will to win. Their enemies were of several nationalities, each jealous of the others and animated by diverse motives, some monarchical, some republican. They were, moreover, not only inexperienced and ill-trained, especially the Spaniards, but depressed in spirit by a century of defeats by the Royal Navy.

Second Breitenfeld, (November 2, 1642)



Lennart Torstenson’s military campaign in 1642.


Torstensson’s War (1643-1645).

In 1643 Christian IV of Denmark contemplated re-entering the German war, this time in alliance with the Habsburgs. As that would seriously jeopardize the Swedish strategic position Oxenstierna decided to pre-empt: he recalled Lennart Torstensson and the main Swedish Army from Moravia and sent them into Jutland (December 22, 1643). The Danes fell back, as was their usual military practice under Christian, and Jutland fell to the Swedes. In addition, Swedish and Dutch warships pounded and threatened Danish coastal towns and the Dutch and Swedes defied the Sound Tolls. Christian agreed to an armistice in November 1644, and a humiliating peace at Br_omsebro (1645). He lost Gotland, O” sel, and the bishoprics of Verden and Bremen. The losses were confirmed in the Peace of Westphalia in 1648.

Second Breitenfeld

Swedish Field Marshal Lennart Torstensson besieged Leipzig with 20,000 men, intent on pushing Saxony out of the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648). Arrival of a larger Imperial force, under Archduke Leopold Wilhelm, brother of Ferdinand III, and Piccolomini, lifted the siege. Leopold then vigorously pursued Torstensson as he withdrew six miles to Breitenfeld. The battle began with an Imperial artillery bombardment intended to cover a cavalry charge on the left. But the Swedish cavalry did not wait to be killed by whirling chain or solid shot: it charged, catching the Imperial horse in the flank. As Leopold’s cavalry fled in broken disorder, Torstensson wheeled left to attack enemy infantry pressing hard on the Swedish infantry at the center. These Imperials also wilted, leaving only cavalry on Leopold’s right and that, too, was soon engulfed by the Swedes. Those Imperial troops who did not die or fall wounded, or spur their horses to flight, soon surrendered. About 5,000 Imperials were killed and an equal number taken prisoner. Swedish losses were light. Imperial fortunes never recovered from this defeat, the military nadir for the Habsburg cause in the Thirty Years’ War.

Lennart Torstensson, (1603-1651).

Swedish artillery general, then field marshal. A companion of Gustavus Adolphus from youth, he served in the king’s wars in Livonia and Poland in the 1620s. He spent two years of military study in the Netherlands, 1624-1625, under Maurits of Nassau. He was closely involved in the reform and standardization of Swedish artillery by Gustavus. Torstensson accompanied the king into Germany in 1630 in command of the field artillery. His batteries fought exceedingly well at First Breitenfeld (1631). He provided a smoke screen that allowed the army to cross the River Lech under enemy fire at Rain (1632). He was captured at Alte Feste (1632) during a failed attack on Albrecht von Wallenstein’s camp. He was held for a year then ransomed by Sweden and exchanged. He was subordinate to Johann Bane’r at Wittstock (October 4, 1636) but took full command of the Swedish Army at Second Breitenfeld (1642). He spent most of 1642 overrunning Saxony, Bohemia, and Moravia. He marched the army across Germany in 1643 in order to invade Jutland in a pre-emptive campaign against Denmark sometimes called Torstensson’s War. In 1645 he moved against Prague, winning decisively at Jankov and knocking Bavaria out of the war but failing to take the well-defended city. His many years in the saddle took their toll: he resigned in ill-health in 1646 and died five years later.

Hungary in the Mongol Invasion Period


The Battle of Mohi (Muhi), 11 April 1241, was the main battle between the Mongol Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary during the Mongol invasion of Europe. It took place at Muhi, southwest of the Sajó River. After the invasion, Hungary lay in ruins. Nearly half of the inhabited places had been destroyed by the invading armies. Around 15–25 percent of the population was lost, mostly in lowland areas.




Territorial divisions in Eastern Europe in the thirteenth century (at the time of the Mongols).

In a marked departure from Western European practice, the distribution of royal property in Hungary was permanent and hereditary, not given in fief and therefore not tied to the vassal system. These donations created a new class of great barons, without reciprocal obligations to either the royal donor or to the people who became their dependents. Numerous castles and their surrounding villages, even entire counties, were bestowed on the most deserving or clever royal servants. András II also faced criticism for entrusting fiscal affairs to foreigners. Malcontents formed a league and succeeded in extracting from the court a charter of noble freedoms. The Golden Bull of 1222 (somewhat like the English Magna Carta) enshrined the right of nobles to resist royal power. András’s successor, Béla IV, initially tried to backtrack in order to undertake more fundamental and considered reforms than his father. The event that changed his mind was the Mongol invasion.

After Chinghis Khan’s death in 1227, his successor, Ogoday, sent Batu of the Golden Horde to conquer Russia. The immense project achieved, Batu’s army invaded Poland and Hungary. In 1241 the Mongols easily defeated the Hungarians at Muhi. The following winter they crossed the Danube and pursued the king all the way to the Dalmatian islands. The next spring the Mongols suddenly withdrew (whether in response to the death of their great khan or for some unknown motive), leaving behind a destroyed Hungary. The king’s reconstruction efforts opened the way to a new era. Béla IV had to start from scratch, so he first reorganized his military forces and the state administration. He proceeded to create a feudal Christian state, giving great power to loyal barons. All high governmental, legal, commanding, and administrative offices in large territorial units were entrusted to barons and bishops. The result proved positive, as Béla’s reconstruction soon put the country back on its feet. In subsequent centuries, descendants of these barons would contribute to the weakening of the state, but during this crucial period of renewal, Béla’s trust proved well placed. He fortified towns and built new ones, combining military defense with urbanization and the promotion of civic privileges. He laid the foundations of Buda, the castle and the town, making it into an important trade center.

The towns, with their stone churches and houses, markets, municipalities and their inhabitants—many of them foreigners in various trades—generated new wealth for the artisans and tradesmen, and became civilizing centers. Reliable currency (coins with a high silver content) stimulated economic and commercial activities and fiscal income via domestic taxes and duties. Hungary exported beef, wine, and salt and imported cloth, silk, and spices from Venice, Germany, and Moravia. Taxes were fixed according to market conditions. Royalties from the mines (silver, gold, salt) were divided between the treasury and the new entrepreneurs. The new economic activities generated more revenue than the old taxes. Some regions still paid in kind, and the country’s Jews paid collectively, in silver. Few were exempt. With 2 million inhabitants, Hungary was more populous than England, but it still had room for many more people. Béla invited a variety of new settlers. Religious institutions were strengthened. Bishops also provided civil governance over their estates and population, which included the clerical nobility, their servants, and soldiers settled on their land by the bishop. High clergy also had judiciary powers and sat on the Royal Council. The king respected tradition while maintaining control over nominations, retaining investiture for his faithful prelates. Béla’s efforts however were almost entirely negated by his son, István II.A bold military leader, he turned against his father, defeated him, and proclaimed himself “king-junior” over the eastern half of the country. The reign of István’s son, László IV (1272–1290), ten years old when he succeeded his father, was punctuated by intrigue and chronic instability. The lords of the realm pursued their private wars according to the rules of feudal anarchy. Twenty or so among them seized vast tracts of land, spoils, and positions. With the death of András III in 1301, the lights of the House of Árpád went out.


After a brutal, but short, invasion by Mongols in 1241, Hungary’s kings welcomed the migration of Germans into its northern district. These immigrant settlements acted as buffers against future aggression into the sparsely inhabited regions of Slovakia. Foreign settlers also helped repopulate areas that had been devastated by the invasions. In addition, Germans brought skills and commercial expertise to the region. Seeking to encourage this migration and also to create a burgher (urban) class beholden to the Crown, Hungary’s monarchs granted special privileges to German colonists and exempted them from control by county officials. Germans also moved into Slovakia’s mining regions where they settled in towns and developed the mining industry. Concentrated in commercial and mining areas, German towns evolved into enclaves governed by special laws.

The practice was followed throughout the rule of the Árpád dynasty, and the influx of foreigners swelled when rulers invited settlers, especially Saxons from German lands, to repopulate regions devastated by the 1241 Mongol devastation. Throughout these centuries, the number of original Slavic and Romanian coinhabitants grew and was augmented by new immigrants, attracted by the wealth and hospitality of the Hungarian land.

Battle of Carbisdale, 26th April, 1650


James Graham 1st Marquess of Montrose. (1612-1650)


Whilst in Denmark, July 1649, Montrose wrote an appeal in the King’s name to the people of Scotland calling on all those loyal to the Crown to rise up against those who had ‘sold their sovereign into death’. The effect of this appeal was to cause ‘acute anxiety’ to Argyll and his government, who promptly distributed throughout the land a counter- proclamation, degrading Montrose in the foulest of ways. Continuing to deal with Argyll and his government, Charles appeared to show that he was on the point of abandoning his Marquis, which would have a serious effect on Montrose’s efforts. Denmark, too, thought Charles about to drop Montrose and withdrew it’s support, Sweden soon followed suit by withdrawing it’s help of men, ammunition and transport ships. Undeterred, Montrose set sail from Gothenburg early March 1650. Things were soon to get worse, for whilst at sea the small fleet were caught in a storm, scattering and sinking some of the valuable supply vessels. Battling the storm, many of the ships were able to limp into the shelter of the Orkney Islands on the 23rd March.

Once in the Islands, the Montrose received news that the King had opened up negotiations with Argyll’s government in Edinburgh. This did not mean that Charles had changed his mind and would now back Argyll. No, Charles thought it best to treat with them, giving them formal recognition in order to concur with their treaty. What you might call buttering both sides of the bread -if one side failed he could say he always backed the other. Argyll’s response at this formal recognition from the King? He was to put a price of £10,000 on Montrose’s head and made it clear that Montrose’s claim to have a commission from the King was entirely false. Argyll wasted no time in calling upon all loyal Scottish subjects to oppose the traitor James Graham. The recruiting of men for his army went well for the Marquis It is said he gathered in at least 700 to 800 men. The local gentry and Ministers throughout Orkney and Shetland signed a bond of allegiance. In all, Montrose spent two weeks in the Islands and prepared to set sail around the 9th of April, but, before his departure, a small garrison, to remain on the Island, was organised and placed under the governorship of Sir William Johnston. In all, the Royal army now consisted of at least 1,200 men, made up of 700 Orcadians and at least 450 veteran soldiers from Germany and Denmark. He had also with him two very experienced officers, his good friend Colonel William Sibbald and Colonel Sir John Hurry. A small flotilla of fishing boats was awaiting the soldiers on a beach at Holm as they made their way to the collection point, ready to be escorted across the Pentland firth by Captain Hall’s frigate the ‘Herderinnan’.

Once at sea the fleet was to split in two -Montrose would force a landing at Duncansby Head, near to John O’Groats, whilst Lieutenant-Colonel Drummond, with 500 picked men, were to land just up the coast near Wick. Both landings were unopposed and Montrose swiftly entered Thurso, forcing it’s garrison of 100 men to flee southwards without a shot being fired and establishing his quarters in a small house in the area known as ‘Fisher-biggins’. Here he awaited news of any of the local gentry coming to the King’s cause. Sadly, very few came, not be-cause they wished to have nothing to do with him, no, they simply thought it best to await developments before they risked everything on what might be a hopeless cause. They were fully aware that Argyll had a force of over 4,000 at his call.

Lieutenant-Colonel Drummond had orders to make all haste and secure the enemy entry to the area, but first he had to deal with the possible hostile garrison at Dunbeath Castle. Once at the castle, Drummond found that the owner, Sir John Sinclair, had already fled south to warn the Earl of Sutherland of the landing, leaving behind a small garrison to defend the castle. The Earl also issued orders for the garrisons of Dunrobin, Skelbo, Skibo and Dornoch castles to be strengthened. On the 17th April, Montrose, himself, arrived at Dunbeath and called upon the castle to yield, but when he found the garrison had no intention of doing so, he ordered Major Whitfield and the Laird of Dalgetty with 100 men, to try and force it’s surrender. Montrose knew he could not waste time in any siege and soon afterwards left to join Drummond and Hurry at the pass of Ord before arriving outside the walls of Dunrobin Castle, which had also closed it’s gates to him. The garrison of Dunrobin had captured an advanced party of Montrose’s men and Montrose demanded their return. The garrison, much to the Marquis’ anger, refused. Again, Montrose had no choice in the matter- as at Dunbeath he could not engage in a siege and so ordered his army southwards. This would be a bitter blow to his plans for it would be unwise to have a hostile garrison to his rear, especially if he were forced to retreat back to the north.

The next day, the Royal army set up camp at a spot called Rhives on the slopes of Ben Bhragie overlooking Colspie, but seeing this area was vulnerable to cavalry attack, shifted camp once more to Gruids, arriving there on the 21rd April. At Cruids, Montrose hoped to meet up with new recruits, for he believed the Mackenzie clan were up in arms in Inverness and close by in the hills to the west the Munros and Rosses, who had indicated that they might join him, but when none arrived he pressed on the Strathoikell and into the narrow valley of Carbisdale. For two days he waited in the valley for the Munros and Rosses It was to be his biggest mistake to wait for them, for Argyll had already set his counter plans in operation.

Argyll’s government had ordered the Scottish commander, David Leslie, to advance and destroy the rebels as quickly as possible, for he well knew that the Highland clans might rise up at Montrose’s call the longer his army remained in the field. General Leslie concentrated his army at Brechin and began to march northwards, where he was joined by a few of the Munros and Rosses. Once Leslie’s army entered Tain, he was met by the Earl of Sutherland and his small army. Also in support of Leslie’s army was the Inverness commander Colonel Strachan, whose force was said to number about 230 cavalry, and a body of infantry. Fully aware of the location of the Royalist’s, Leslie ordered the Earl of Sutherland’s army north over the Domoch Firth, then on to the Kyle of Sutherland, an inlet on the western end of the Firth, in the hope of driving in Montrose’s left flank should he remain in the valley of Carbisdale. The Earl would be in no great hurry to get to grips with the Marquis for he well remembered how he witnessed his men being badly mauled at Auldearn. Strachan was to march up the southern side of the Firth and engage the Royalist in a head on battle, holding them long enough to be joined by the Earl of Sutherland, whereby they would unite and destroy the rising swiftly. Whilst the Earl was busy crossing the Firth, Strachan made his way to Wester Fearn. Opposite the Dun of Criech, arriving there at about three in the afternoon. Here he hid the majority of his cavalry in the tall broom, which covered the majority of the slopes in that area, showing only about a quarter of his number to the north. About three miles away, rose the steep hill of Craigcaoinichean, at the base of which Montrose had pitched his camp, his left flank resting on the Kyle, his rear and right protected by the hills and a wood known as Scroggie Wood. His front was protected by what was described as ‘deep entrenchments and breast-work’. These earth-works must have been substantial for the author C Wishart in his book, The Deeds of Montrose, said they were visible for many years after the battle.

Montrose, knowing that the enemy must be close by, but not knowing in what number, sent out Major Lisle with the cavalry, about forty in all, to ascertain Strachan’s position. Before they had gone far, they had spotted Strachan’s ex-posed cavalry and sent word to Montrose that the enemy numbers were few. This was all the Marquis needed to know and ordered his orcadian infantry, under the command of Colonel Hurry, forward to give support to Lisle’s halted cavalry. Suddenly Strachan let loose a body of 100 cavalry who swiftly rode down the Royalist cavalry and began to make their way towards the startled Orcadians. The ambush had begun.

No sooner had Strachan appeared, than Captain Hackett swiftly followed him with 80 dragoons and Captain Hutchinson’s reserve cavalry. Slowly following these would be the Lawer’s infantry regiment, all eager to avenge their mauling at Auldearn. The Orcadians, seeing their cavalry almost disappear under a flood of enemy horse became panic-stricken, throwing down their arms they fled. To the Orcadians rear, the foreign troops, under Colonel Grey, maintained their composure. These were made of sterner stuff, they knew that to flee in front of disciplined cavalry would mean their complete annihilation and so retired slowly up the slope of the hill and lined the edge of Scroggie Wood. It seemed that the attack was so sudden that the Royal colours, along with a large party of officers, were set upon by Strachan’s horse and slaughtered. The Orcadians, who had never seen a troop of horse, fled in terror past the entrenchments and it is said at least 200 of them attempted to swim the Kyle and all were drowned. The remainder either still attempted their flight to the north or surrendered.

Despite the thickness of Scroggie Wood, Strachan’s men pushed head long into it and came under inaccurate musket fire from the Germans. One of their bullets was said to have struck Strachan ‘upon his belly, bot lighting upone the double of his belte and buffe coate, did not pierce’. It was at this point that treachery showed it’s ugly head when the Munros and Rosses joined in the fight against the foreigners in the wood. They were all too eager to grab their share of any plunder. The Germans and Danes fought gallantly deeper and deeper into the wood, but in the end the need for self-preservation took over and those that were left attempted to flee. History records that the bloodshed in the wood continued for over two hours. Even after the battle ended, the slaughter did not cease, for… ‘ the countrie-men of Rosse and Southerland continued the killing of such as escpaed from the battle many dayes thereafter.’

Montrose, struck with several blows and shot from his horse, was amongst the officers collected around the colours. Amazingly, he was not singled out for slaughter and so, in the confusion, was able to meet up with one of his gallant young officers named Frendraught, who was himself said to have had a couple of wounds, offered Montrose his horse, thus allowing him to escape. Frendraught rendered himself a prisoner after having willingly given away his only means of escape.

Casualties that day were as usual high on the losing side, much of the slaughter being done after the rout. Ten chief officers were slain, Hurry was wounded and captured, along with Colonel Grey. 58 lesser officers were also taken along with 386 common soldiers and two Orkney Ministers. Over 450 were dead, the rest scattered. Strachan’s losses were said to have been very slight by comparison.

Montrose fled the field with several other officers by his side, but knowing that he would be harder to spot on the moors, he soon abandoned his horse at the top of the valley and attempted to make his way north to the garrison at Thurso. With victory secured, the victors were said to have given thanks to God for their happy success and then made preparation to send the prisoners to Tain while they would await the arrival of General Leslie, the Lieutenant-General, who would give the orders for them to be marched to Edinburgh. Some of the prisoners would be held locally and forced to work in the Estate’s tin mines. The King’s standard, which was taken on the field, was put with the baggage and James Graham’s papers and also transported south.

Of course things did not end there, for there was the no small matter of the Royalist units stretching from Dunrobin castle to the garrison at Thurso, not to mention the garrison in the Orkney Islands that had to be dealt with. So whilst Montrose was being led to his death Leslie had dispatched 5 troops of horse, including some from Holburn and the Earl of Sutherland’s regiments. Their first task came when they arrived at the walls of Dunbeath castle. The defenders seeing the enemy approach shut themselves in and refused a call to yield, holding out valiantly for some days until their water supply was cut off, forcing them into surrender. These, like their comrades at Carbisdale, were then marched under escort to Edinburgh. From Dunbeath, the Earl of Sutherland dispatched 300 men under Captain William Gordon to march north to Thurso. At Thurso, the small garrison were warned of Gordon’s approach and swiftly boarded their ship and set sail for Orkney. Fifteen minutes delay would have cost them dear, for it is said that as Gordon entered the town he was able to watch them sail out of the bay. But Orkney, too, would prove to be no place of refuge, for Leslie would soon make plans to cross the Pentland and wreak his vengeance on those still there. Montrose’s Governor Sir William Johnston, made hasty plans to evacuate the islands, taking with him money, Montrose’s papers, and what artillery he could find. His departure was in such haste that he left behind some of his men to fend for themselves. Further proof of his haste came when the Frigate ‘Herderinnan’ struck rocks, the Skerries of Skea, off the island of Westray. The ship, though damaged, was said to have continued on it’s way to safety in Norway, where they were all immediately put under arrest. Those unfortunate enough to have remained behind in Orkney were left to the ‘mercy of Leslie’, but some did manage to evade capture by boarding fishing boats to Shetland and then onto Holland.

Extracted from an article by Stephen Maggs, Miniature Wargames No.197