Sunday 22 September 2019

The First Battle of Froeschwiller, 22 December 1793

Information about this battle is hard to come by but an article and wargame scenario in an old edition of the French magazine Vae Victis was more than enough to go on, supplemented by other snippets of information found on the internet and my own library. I have no way of knowing if the orders of battle in the magazine are accurate but some cross referencing with Digby Smith’s Napoleonic Wars Data Book, together with more than a pinch of wargamers’ license gave me enough for what I hoped would be a challenging yet interesting game for players on both sides, which is by far the most important objective of any game. What information I did have was converted in Black Powder terminology, with some tweaking to better represent the armies of the early  French Revolutionary Wars and a few period specific house rules (see end of this post) so I was good to go. Froeschwiller was actually the final phase of the wider ranging Battle of Hagenau 18-22 December, and took place a week after the action at Marienthal that John and I played a couple of weeks ago. A brief account Froescwiller can be found here and a more in depth one of the campaign and the fighting around Hagenau here.

The armies were quite evenly balanced numerically, but the Austrian cavalry was much better than their French counterparts. The French regulars I think still held on to some of their pre-revolution drill and discipline, but the rest of the French were battalions of Volunteers and National Guards of very mixed (but generally low) quality. They were well led however, and the French artillery were good. On the Allied side, half the army was made up of an assortment of Hessians, Bavarians and Emigré French. The main advantage for the Allies was their position of defence, but they would I hope be hindered by poor command and manoeuvrability.

Orders of battle and other stuff of interest will be at the end of this post.

So, last Friday, on an unseasonably warm day, some of 'The Burrowers' came over for the game. I'd allocated 'sides' beforehand and sent out briefing packs, requiring, from the French at least, an outline plan and order of march. John the Red and Dave 'Monsieur Gervais' were the French while Matt, Paul S and Jim were the Allies, with Paul in overall command. The French would be entering from the top of the map between Langensoultzbach and the far side of Netwiller, while the Allies were strung out from Froeschwiller to below Gersdorf. The Austrians on the Northern side of the river would not be allowed to move until the river was crossed by the French.

Map from Vae Victis magazine. North is the top right hand corner.
Before the game started one of our cats decided to try a quick assault on the Allied right flank but gave up when their tickling got too much!
The table seen from the North East edge, with the Allies strung out along the left hand side. The French have yet to appear. 
The Allied right flank, held by French Emigré and Hessian troops.
The Allied centre, Woerth held by Bavarians, Froeschwiller in the distance held by Austrians and  the two linked by a mass of Austrian cavalry.
Dave immediately threw his troops over the river while sending a  covering force into the centre. Dave's artillery deployed on the hill and started to bombard the Hessians facing them, with little clear effect.
Dave's skirmishers advanced into the Bois de Froeschwiller only to be met by a volley from lurking Austrians from the O'Donnell Freikorps. They followed the volley up with a bayonet charge that drove the French off never to return. The next move they too were forced to retreat in the face of  charge by two battalions of volunteers, effectively clearing the wood and leaving it in the hands of the French. A great place from which to launch an attack in the centre........
Dave continued his advance, perhaps a little slowly, but not helped by his regulars blundering backwards two moves at a critical point, leaving the volunteer battalions a little exposed.
John had command of a brigade of cavalry supporting Dave's attack that crossed the river and took refuge from Austrian artillery in some dead ground in the Northernmost corner of the table.
Meanwhile on the other flank John's infantry had emerged from the woods driving cattle in front of them. No, not really.
One of the Allied earthworks, this one containing a battery of Austrian 6pdrs. that maintained a relatively ineffective fire on John's advancing French.
Dave's French massing to attack the Allied right. The regulars have by now returned.
Jim ordered his Hessian Jager forwards to occupy Gersdorf. This was the unit's first outing. Originally painted as Batavian Republic jager for my 1799 collection, they also fit the part at Hessian jager. (Perry Confederation of the Rhine figures)
John's hussars advance to threaten the Emigré infantry on the extreme Allied right.
Meanwhile, while I had been absorbed in the events on the French left, an awful lot had been going on at the other end of the table. John had pushed his skirmishers right forward into the woods on the Austrian left, forcing the regulars posted there to pull back as they couldn't deal with the continuous harassing fire. (seems accurate). Matt's Freikorps had been rushed over to this flank from the centre to counter the French skirmishers while Paul had ordered his cavalry to advance from their position in reserve.
Austrian dragoons move round the side of Froeschwiller.
With great Revolutionary zeal Dave launched an all out assault on the Hessians, disordered from long range artillery fire. The lead battalion of volunteers failed to break the Hessians in the first round of melee. 
The supporting troops on the French left are perhaps a little too far away?
Bottom right, the Emigré regiment Noble and the Mirabeau Legion.
As the Emigré regiment had been disordered by artillery fire, John ordered his cavalry to charge. Unfortunately they didn't quite make it, leaving themselves open to a crashing volley from the Emigré battalion that saw them off.
In the second round of melee the Hessians again held on, forcing the French to retreat.
Meanwhile the Freikorps had charged the French skirmishers in the woods and would be locked in hand to hand combat for the remainder of the game.
A battalion of French regulars charged the Hessians holding Gersdorf and quickly broke in and routed them.
Another battalion of French charged the now shaken Hessians and broke them. The supporting battalion of  Hessians also fled leaving a large hole in the allied line and the Emigré battalions almost cut off.
Paul continued advancing with his cavalry and charged a regiment of french chasseurs, forcing them back. The Austrians followed up and the fight continued through the streets of Nehwiller
Another regiment of cuirassiers forced the French into square on their far right flank.
The victorious French inside Gersdorf.
The surviving and battered volunteer battalion holds the ground once occupied by the Hessians.
In the centre three French battalions, including one of grenadiers, supported by skirmishers,  remain rooted to the ground. I don't think it was part of the plan to attack the Bavarians in Woerth but at this stage in the game it would have been worth (!!!) it.
Matt's troops on the Allied left were now facing the French threat about to emerge from the woods, while the cavalry swan about in the centre of the battlefield.
Paul's victorious cuirassiers drove the enemy off the table and are now rallying in Nehwiller.
Not many customers today for the mobile guillotine!
 We ran out of time after over four hours of play (plus planning, lunch and chatter) and 14 game turns. The Allies had technically won on points as they still held Froeschwiller and Woerth. Casualties, in terms of lost or shaken units had been remarkably light but the French won a tactical victory by their successes on both flanks, which would have forced the Allies to pull back, which historically is what happened. One thing that niggled me throughout the game was that despite having a table over four metres long all the action took place at both ends, with very little going on in the centre. It was only when the Allies pushed their cavalry forward into the space that anything really happened in the middle two metres of the battlefield!

I have to say I was pleased with the way the game turned out, even if it wasn't at all like I had imagined. I would have gone for an overwhelming attack in the centre, crushing it and relying on the slowness of the Allies on the flanks to respond effectively. Everyone said they enjoyed the game and the day as a whole which as ever goes a long way in pushing all my buttons. I get a great deal of satisfaction out of planning these games and out of the enjoyment everyone voices in taking part, even when the dice roll against them.  As ever Black Powder worked satisfactorily, although we had to look up a couple of rules due to brain fog at various stages of the day. I know they're not everyone's cup of tea but they produce a good game with plenty of stress, anxiety and excitement.

I have a follow up to this battle planned for next Saturday, when I shall be attempting the Battle of Wissembourg 25/26 December 1793 ici. Well part of it at any rate.

As promised here are the orders of battle and other stuff that formed the briefing packs for each army:


General-Major Johan Conrad Freidrich Ritter von Hotze (8)*

Obserst Gerhard Ritter von Roselmini (7)*

Austrian Light Infantry x 1

Austrian Line x 4

Foot Artillery x 2 (Medium/Heavy)

Oberst Freiher von Raglovich und zum Rosenhof**

Bavarian Line x 4 btns

Palatinal Hussars x 2

Oberst Rudolf Freiherr von Kolbel (8)**

Cuirassiers/Dragoons x 4

Reserve – General-Major Adam Siegfried Cajetan Graf von Lichtenberg (8)***

Austrian Line x 2

Hesse-Darmstadt Line x 2

Hessian Jager x 1

Emigré Line x 2

Foot Artillery x 1 (Medium)

Reinforcements – The Duke of Brunswick (9) TURN 6 MAYBE? (they never arrived) *

Prussian Line x 4


Your force is part of a larger Allied army that earlier this year successfully invaded Alsace and drove the Republican French from the region. To the north the Prussians defeated the Army of the Moselle under Hoche but failed to capitalise on their victory and began withdrawing into winter quarters. A counter offensive by the now unengaged Army of the Moselle which slipped away from under the noses of the Prussian, and the Army of the Rhine has been steadily pushing your forces back towards the North Eastern border over the past week, inflicting a number of costly defeats on isolated elements of the Allied army. There have been four days of fighting around Hagenau a few miles to the South, beginning with the destruction of your reaguard at Marienthal, which continues. You form the right flank of the entire Allies army under the command of General der Kavallerie Wurmser. The French Army of the Moselle is known to be advancing from the North West in an attempt to turn the Allies’ flank thus forcing them to make another withdrawal. You must hold Froeschwiller , Woerth and Gersdorf and prevent the enemy from taking control of the Leibfrauenburg (the high ground in the bottom left quarter of the map). Preventing the destruction of your army while destroying that of the French would also be an acceptable goal. In the event of a withdrawal you must protect your line of retreat towards Lembach.


Roselmini - From Froeschwiller stretching South West, Light infantry battalion in Froeschwiller Wood

Kolbel and Rosenhof - In and around Woerth

Lichtenberg - South of Goersdorf across the River Sauer INACTIVE UNTIL FRENCH CROSS RIVER SAUER

Brunswick - Road from Lembach TURN 6 ? (Maybe.....?)


General Lazare Hoche (9) Inspirational

(“Assisted” by Citizen Louis Antoine de Saint-Just)

General de Division Camille Taponier(9) (Acts as a mini-CinC)

Gen de Bde Jacques Blondeau (8)
8 btns (1G/3 R/4V)

Skirmishers x 4V

Foot Artillery x 1 (12pdr)

Gen de Bde François Josef Lefebvre (9)

6 btns (1RLeg/2R/3V)

Skirmishers x 2V

Foot Artillery x 1 (8pdr)

Colonel Jérome-Etienne-Marie Richardeaux (7)

Cavalry x 1

Chasseurs a Cheval x 1

Horse Artillery x 1 (4pdr)

Gen de Bde Paul Alexis Dubois (8)

Carabiniers x 1

Hussars x 1

Dragoons x 1

Horse Artillery x 1 (4pdr)


The Army of the Moselle has slipped away from the Prussians despite being defeated at Kaiserslauten at the end of the November. You have force marched through the Vosges mountains to support General Pichegru’s Army of the Rhine which is engaged against General Wurmser’s Austrian and Allied army. The enemy have been steadily pushed back in a North Eastern direction and towards the Eastern border of Alsace and for the past four days, beginning with the complete rout of the Austrian rearguard at Marienthal, have been fighting a fierce series of actions to the south of this position around Hagenau. This fighting continues. The enemy facing you is the right wing of the Allied army. Your success in defeating this force and effectively turning their flank would force the entire Reactionary and Counter Revolutionary Slaves of the Autocrats’ army to make another withdrawal. You have Citizen Louis Antoine Saint-Just of the Committee of Public Safety with you providing ‘guidance’. He executed a general only last week (the 19th so far in 1793) as an example to the others for simply commanding some troops that were forced to withdraw. Be warned.


Tapponier, Blondeau and Dubois accompanied by Hoche - Arrive between Nehwiller and Soultzbach T1

Lefebvre and Richardeaux -Arrive between Nehwiller and the Western corner T1 +D3

Points (applicable to both armies):

Froeschwiller & Woerth 10 VP each

Gersdorf 5VP

The Leibgrauenberg 15PV

Each enemy unit destroyed 3PV

Each enemy unit shaken 1PV


1. Grazing fire is applicable as per BP Albion Triumphant

2. Inspirational generals give +1 to break tests if within 12” (once per turn). Disliked/generally useless generals convey a -1 to break tests. Saint-Just also gives +1 to break tests or can take a re-roll. Either option is bad news for the general concerned.

3. Uphill in melee gives +1 in combat resolution. Does not apply if unit looses prior melee round

4. All ‘linear’ armies are restricted to moving in line or column of march, unless assaulting a fortified position or built up area . All infantry in line move at a maximum of 9”

5. French conscripts /Garde Nationale/volunteers may only move in march column, attack column, ‘masse’ or skirmish order.

6. Conscripts/Gd Nat/Volunteers moving into a ‘swarm’ (skirmish order) must remain in this formation for the remainder of the game.

7. ‘Masse’ is a modified form of open order depicted by leaving a small gap of 1-2cm between each base. It moves at 12” and can evade as the battalion is not trying to maintain a formation.

a. It shoots and melees with a -1 modifier

b. Enemy artillery does not get the column bonus for targeting it.

c. A battalion moves from close order column to column of mob (Masse) when:
  • It fails to contact in a charge. Include if it fails command test or does not get enough moves from the result. Automatic 
  • It is engaged in a fire-fight with the enemy for more than one turn of firing. Automatic 
  • It is stationary or advancing under fire from artillery for more than one turn. Pass command test.
8. All volunteer/Levée units must pass a command test if they wish to form square (or indeed NOT to form square). If they fail they must take an immediate break test and if they stand are classed as a disordered square. If they are forced to retreat but are still hit by the chargers they are removed from play immediately.

9. All units wishing and able to evade must pass a command test as per the rules. Volunteers/Levée that fail must take a break test.

10. Cavalry moving over difficult terrain must check to see if they are disordered. A 6 on 1D6 and they become disordered at the end of their first move and must halt.

11. The move sequence is amended to the following:

a. Move CinC, Initiative moves, shooting, Command throws and movement, Melee.

b. Units that shoot get a -1 to their commander’s ability when testing to move.

12. 'Mini CinCs' are normally divisional commanders who confer a re-roll for command rolls for any brigadiers under their command, once per turn. The ONLY order a CinC/mini CinC can ever give (with the exception of disliked/useless ones) is a 'follow me'.


  1. Great looking game and table Colin. I’m really impressed with your FRW stuff.
    Does Armies of the First French Republic have much on this action?

  2. Ditto! Great looking game. Really like your figures for this period.

    Who drew the map?

    1. Thanks Stu. The map is from an issue of Vae Victis the French war games magazine.

  3. Informative and beautifully illustrated (love the first pic) report, what a great looking game, impressive terrain and armies!

  4. Well up to snuff, as expected! Looking forward already to the next outing of the Burrowers!

  5. As always, a lovely looking game. Interesting to see the same area being fought over as in the Austro-Prussian War of 1866. Not sure if there was action there in the SYW, but you never know...

    1. There was Action in the 1740s in the area. Just check my Weißenburg-Scenario in the HoW-forum!
      No reason for battles during the SYW as France and Austria were allies.

  6. Many thanks for the Report! The Alsace and the Upper-Rhine in total are a Theater of war, often neglected.
    The battles of Emmendingen and Schliengen would be interesting too. Great stuff as always!