During the summer of 1656, King Charles of Sweden assembled an army for
the final campaign to capture Warsaw. This would require Swedish troops
garrisoning parts of northern Poland leave to join the main army. Those
strong-points formerly held by Swedish troops would be replaced with troops from
Brandenburg and Prussia. Generalfeldmarschall Otto Christoph Freiherr von Sparr
was charged with this task and nearing the final stronghold, he found the
approach barred by Polish troops.
Uncertain if this was the vanguard
of an army or an isolated detachment, von Sparr formed his two columns into a
line of battle and after a quick reconnaissance surmised both sides were of
equal strength; the Polish having an advantage of cavalry,
Placing his trust with the infantry and artillery, von Sparr attacked
the Polish cavalry in centre supported by the Brandenburg and Prussian cavalry in
echelon on either flank.
Against the Brandenburg left, the effect of
musketry and artillery fire proved devastating in eliminating a Polish banner.
The remaining Polish banner was set upon by Prussian cavalry forcing the
Polish commander to call for a general retreat. The action was brisk, taking no
more that 45 minutes to conclude (3 turns).
The conflict escalates
What began as a simple reconnaissance
escalated into a heated conflict from which the Poles found difficult to
extricate themselves. Taking advantage of the favourable outcome, the Elector
of Brandenburg, Frederick Willem, despatched more troops to his second in
command, von Sparr, to engage the Poles once again. A second ‘victory’ just might
prompt the allies of the Poles to return to the Crimea.
From their shallow crescent formation extending
beyond the Brandenburg battle line, von Sparr deduced the Polish had also
received more cavalry reinforcements. Breaking the long line of horse, the
Polish artillery in centre were supported by a small contingent of infantry,
but nowhere else were there any infantry to be seen.
To fend off possible encirclement, Brandenburg and Prussian infantry
were evenly divided to cover both flanks, leaving the majority of cavalry to
form three echelons in centre. This was a diversion from the standard
deployment of cavalry on the flanks of an infantry battle line.
In a bold move, the Poles shifted their attack to the
Brandenburg left flank, bringing reserve formations to support. Rolling up the
Brandenburg left would expose the German cavalry to attack from both front and
Musket fire from the Brandenburg and Prussian infantry
proved effective at blunting the Polish assault.
The threat to the Brandenburg left now contained, signalled
the moment to shift battle elsewhere. The Brandenburg right, consisting of four
regiments of infantry supported by dragoons moved against the Polish left which
had remained idle since the start of battle.
Von Sparr, gaining the upper hand on the right, felt the
moment was right for the coup de grâce. This was done by the uncommitted
Brandenburg and Prussian cavalry forming the centre. Blunting the attack on the
left, then shifting the battle to pin the Polish on the right, left the Polish centre
vulnerable. After three hours (12 turns), von Sparr had his decisive victory.
The game was by no means a sure thing for the Germans, but it did
underscore the effectiveness of infantry to disrupt cavalry effectiveness. The
Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was slow in creating a standing army and relied for
the most part on the royal houses and nobles to raise its armies.
These are worth replaying at a later date.