In a recent TMP topic a reader asked if “marching camps” were a valid feature of 18th century warfare and I thought it would be nice to discuss how we handle this subject within our rules. We still use the WRG 1685 – 1845 rule set (1979), but with minor modifications; historical troop scale is 1:25 and linear scale 30mm equals 50 paces. All my quotations and references are from Duffy’s The Army of Maria Theresa.
In the Austrian army, it was the Generalquartiermeister who wrote out the marschzettel the evening before a march. This document listed the time of departure, route, number and composition of the columns. As our order of battle list all the regiments or battalions by seniority within the brigade, the marching order is now known. Altering the order of individual brigades within the column is not a problem as we need only list the names of brigade commander.
Following the doctrine of the times, approaching in close proximity to the enemy, our army would march off in four columns, which if the need arose could deploy from their march column to battlefield deployment; right wing of horse, main battle line of foot, second line of foot and left wing of horse by simply wheeling to the right. Other factors could influence the march column, such as, restrictive terrain, the column could be adjusted as the size of the force was small or the army was marching in pursuit or retreating.
Composition of the March
Light cavalry patrolled in advance of the main column. Following the light cavalry would be further light troops and detachments whose task would be to hold villages, crossings and with the presence of the Generalquartiermeister would secure an area for the next camp. Next came the main body followed by the baggage train. If the army were in close proximity of the enemy, the main column would be flanked by patrols.
The best roads were reserved for the artillery and baggage while the “rest marched across country in columns as wide as would be permitted by terrain.”
Early in the morning, the general and his column commanders would meet for a final conference followed by the army breaking camp. In 30 minutes troops could be formed in their respective columns and tentage could be packed away. During the summer period, breaking camp would be completed well before dawn so as to reach the next camp before the afternoon.
On the march a close watch was kept while passing through woods or villages, less some would make use of an opportunity to bolt and run. A casual march, with a rest every third or fourth day could make 6 to 8 miles per day. In some cases, force marching could cover a longer distance. The marches on Berlin by Hadik (1757) and Lacy (1760) covered 15 and 20 miles respectively.
The rules we use do not cover a strategic game, so we had to create one. Prior to our interest in the Seven Years War, we both played DBA games and frequently used the campaign system. For its simplicity, we liked the nodal system and applied this to our maps for the SYW. Maps can easily be found for many of the SYW campaign areas on the internet and one of these we choose for our first 1757 campaign in Northern Bohemia.
As Prague was to be the Prussians main objective, we highlighted the towns and villages a day’s march from one another and extended the network toward the border with Silesia and Saxony. The next step was to make a record sheet to track the movement of our armies. As mentioned before, we organized our armies listing each of the brigades with the individual battalions and regiments listed by seniority. The listing essentially reflected the order of deployment and hence marching sequence.
The tracking sheets recorded the time we began our march, an objective and whether we moved at a standard march or force march rate. After three days of marching, the armies rested for a day. Force marching or doubling the distance covered counted for two march days which meant the required rest day was taken sooner.
As generals, we had a lot of flexibility with the system, as we could break camp earlier than our opponent, steal a day on your opponent with a force march, or begin our day’s march in the evening, which meant encampment was begun the following morning instead of the afternoon.
Next topic: From the map, to the table top.