Sunday, 26 December 2010

The Raid on Lehmangraz - part four

The fighting along the waterfront engulfed the Cocytus. Her crew had boarded her but moments before. Now they fought for their lives against a determined surge of jagers. Lieutenant Weissmuller urged his men on, the time to accomplish the mission and get away before the jager were cut off receding by the second. “One more charge, boys!” he shouted over the crack of muskets and the screams of desperate men. “Just one and she’s ours!”

His men responded with a will, pressing up to the gunboat and onto her deck, her crew falling back or down as bayonets probed and muzzle flashes split the murky smoke. Weissmuller followed, waving his sword clumsily as his shoes slipped on spilled blood. He stood poised to board, but took time for a swift glance around. His men closed up, running out of the smoke from the blazing vessel close by. He nodded, turned, saw the dark shape of a vessel close by on the river…


Horatio peered along the stubby barrel of the six-pounder, nodded as it came to bear upon the figures clustering on the dock then stepped back. He raised his sword. “Fire!”

The gun captain brought the linstock down on the touchhole and the gun barked, jerking back on its breechings until they snapped twanging-taut. Horatio leapt into the shrouds to look beyond the muzzle smoke. Figures danced and fell on the dock but the enemy came on again. Two stooped to drag a fallen man aboard Cocytus. Horatio gritted his teeth; her crewmen were dead, surrendering or fleeing. The enemy would take her!

Acheron rocked a trifle and Horatio glanced down at the water to see a current had taken her and was pushing them downstream. When he looked up a jager knelt on Cocytus’ small quarterdeck, his firelock leveled directly at him. Horatio had time to gulp before the man fired. Something plucked at his right sleeve and a white-hot pain shot through his arm. Horatio swayed but remained on his feet, glaring across the increasing gap between the gunboats. An enemy officer appeared, staring back at Horatio, sword dangling in his grasp, a livid splash of red covering his brow. Horatio narrowed his eyes and ignored the pain in his arm. “Reload!” he snapped.

Weissmuller wiped blood from his eyes and glanced around the deck at his surviving jager. How few they are! He thought. The enemy gunboat crew had fled or was prisoner. The blaze aboard the vessel in the neighboring berth threatened to spread to the captured prize. Time we weren’t here! Weissmuller thought through the pain in his head. “Get this thing out onto the river!” he shouted, pointing to the long oars stacked in rails along the middle of the deck. “Use those!”

His men sprang into action, removing the oars and passing them out the sides of the boat. Weissmuller grasped a halyard and fought a wave of dizziness. It won’t do to pass out now. He gritted his teeth and gestured to the six-pounder cannon. “Sergeant, get that cannon loaded and pointed at the enemy vessel!”

The strength of desperate men sufficed to push the gunboat away from the dock and the threat of burning. Clear water began to appear between shore and hull as the sergeant and his chosen men worked feverishly on the unfamiliar gun. Finally, as the gunboat slid clear of her berth, the NCO stood away from the gun and looked to Weissmuller. He glanced in the direction of the enemy vessel out there on the river. The gun looked to be pointing true. Weissmuller nodded and the sergeant dashed the linstock down on the touchhole.

*

Horatio grimaced as Cocytus’ six-pounder roared. A piece of blazing wad flew past his head with the stench of burning hemp, but he grinned with deep satisfaction as the roundshot missed by a country mile. The range had opened but was not great by any means. Alongside him Acheron’s chief gunner shook his head at the poor gunnery, a derisive expression on his weather-beaten face. “All ready, sir,” the man said calmly.

“As she bears, Master Gunner,” Horatio said crisply.

The six-pounder fired. This time the grape spread wide and to immediate effect. Horatio saw men fall over on Cocytus’ deck and hoped to God none of his men were among them.

Midshipman Steiner appeared on deck, a bloodied bandage around his thigh, and limped up to Horatio. “Reporting for duty sir!” the youth said, touching the brim of his hat.

“Ah, Steiner,” Horatio said with a smile. “You’re well enough to join us. I’m glad.”

“So am I, sir.” Steiner’s gaze fell on Horatio’s arm. “But sir, you’re wounded!”

“Not enough to matter,” Horatio said dismissively. The wound felt hot and aching but he could ignore it; too much else remained to do. “Here’s the situation.” He pointed at the Cocytus, and Steiner, veteran that he was, nodded as he took in the scene.

In spite of casualties and for all their obvious lack of ability, the enemy soldiers had succeeded in winning clear of the berth. Someone gained enough control over Cocytus’s tiller to point her downstream. A few men had managed to spread some canvas abroad to capture the morning breeze. Horatio sucked his teeth thoughtfully, acknowledging in his mind the enemy’s bravery and daring. But this will not do. “As I suspected, gentlemen,” Horatio said, addressing his crew in a loud voice. “The enemy wishes to steal one of our boats. Are we to allow this?” A resounding roar of “NO!” sprang from the lips of every man aboard. “Very well!”

Horatio glanced upward at Acheron’s masts. “Steiner, spread enough canvas to enable us to heave-to. Helm, hard to starboard until she bears, then hold her!” Horatio snapped.

The helmsman nodded, appearing quite calm and composed. “Aye aye, sir!”

Horatio strode forward until he stood by the main gun, and reached out to pat the breech. “Let’s give Old Gertie her chance to speak!”

The crew grinned, expressions fierce. Horatio felt his heart lift as Acheron’s bows swung to point at the unfortunate Cocytus. Through all the alarums and excursions of the morning, from the moment the alarm was raised to the instant he realized he’d survived being shot at, he’d not had a chance to think clearly. Everything he’d done to this instant had been in reaction to the enemy’s movements. Now they will dance to our tune!

Acheron’s bows swung and steadied on a direct line of bearing to the oncoming Cocytus. Horatio squinted along Old Gertie’s length then stepped back. “Fire!”

The massive cannon roared and flung herself against the restraint of her breechings, impelled by a triple charge of grapeshot. As the dun colored cloud drifted away Horatio sprang into the shrouds and peered ahead.

Cocytus looked in a dreadful way. Her shrouds and furled canvas hung in tatters, her bulwarks and scantlings showed great patches of white wood where the heavy lead shot had torn at them. Most of the enemy soldiers lay scattered upon her decks, clearly out of the fight.

“Reload, sir?” asked the gun captain. Horatio opened his mouth to reply then paused as a man staggered to his feet aboard Cocytus, a piece of torn sailcloth in his hand. The man lurched to Cocytus’ larboard bow and waved his scrap frantically. “We yield! In the name of God, don’t shoot! We yield!”

“No, thank you, Master Gunner,” Horatio said crisply as his crew began to cheer. “Secure the guns and stand down.” He stared across at Cocytus. “Helmsman, lay us alongside!”

Friday, 24 December 2010


As Grand Duke Karl of Hetzenberg contemplates the world of 1756, may I wish all of you a happy holiday season.
The Chronicles will resume before too long!

Thursday, 2 December 2010

The Raid on Lehmangraz - part three

Up on the high road from the village the Marines suffered hideous torment under the guns of the Sobelsburg jager. Lieutenant Horst fell badly wounded with three bullets through his coat before he was quite aware what happened. Around him his NCOs and junior officers strived to restore order but it proved useless. With their leader fallen, the Marines turned tail and fled back whence they came.

Captain Schnoedt watched events unfold and sucked his teeth as the supposedly superior troops ran toward him. He cleared his throat and glanced around at his men, seeing their wide eyes and sensing their unease. “Steady, my lads. It seems we shall have to do the work instead.” He pointed to the distant dockyard. “Our friends and kin are in peril. We needs beat this ambush to reach them.” Without giving the militia pause to think, Schnoedt drew his sword and waved it over his head. “Onward, in the Grand Duke’s name!”


His men followed, as Schnoedt felt his heart begin to hammer in his chest. The last of the Marines streamed past; the braver ones – or those more ashamed – took up the rear to help wounded comrades.

Enemy bullets began to sing overhead. Schnoedt peered at the cloud of smoke lining a hedgerow behind which the ambushers lurked. Step by step the militia advanced, and the enemy fire began to find marks in his ranks, but still they stepped out with grim expressions. “Good lads, good lads,” Schoedt called as he directed them into line. A bullet plucked his hat and he reached up to straighten it. Casting an eye along the line he nodded. “Now, let's give those bastards a volley!”

The NCOs translated his orders. Muskets came up to the present, leveled on the hedgerow – and at Schnoedt’s shout of “Fire!” spurted mustard colored smoke shot through with flame.

Almost immediately the enemy fire slackened. Schoedt nodded with satisfaction as his men reloaded. There can’t be that many of them behind that hedge, he thought. He glanced at the dockyard, where the fighting still seemed intense. Smoke rose above it now, thickening even as he watched. There’s the real fight. We’ll see these bastards off the premises soon, I feel.

His men presented arms again and again a volley crashed out. The enemy’s return fire slackened then dropped to an occasional pop and bang. Figures moved beyond the hedge, and Schoedt realized the ambushers were retreating. His blood was up, and for an instant he felt tempted to order a charge; but cooler intellect prevailed. They had to reach the dockyard.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

The Raid on Lehmangraz - part two

The bulk of the new gunboat lying on the slipway concealed much of the compound from Horatio’s eyes as he emerged onto the parade ground. The militia platoon charged with guarding the dockyard was forming-up under fire – but the musketry came not from the road but from a number of enemy troops already in the compound. In the growing light Horatio recognized the enemy uniform, one he had last seen crossing the bridge at Wentwitz. “Jagers, by God!” He turned. “Bosun?”

“Sir?” the man shouted.

“We can’t get to the magazine. The enemy’s already in the compound.” He gripped the man’s shoulder. “Their aim must be to destroy the gunboats. Take the crews to the boats and cast off, quick as you like!”

The Bosun nodded and began shouting orders. Without hesitation the well-trained crews began to rush around the foot of the slipway, heading for the gunboats berthed snugly to their jetties. Horatio turned as a militia sergeant ran up and saluted. “Sir, the lieutenant’s compliments and we’ll do what we can.” He gestured toward the road. The jagers there had opened a brisk fire, but the militia was mostly screened by the palisade. Chips of wood flew from the fence as bullets struck it. “We’re under pressure sir, but we’ll hold!”

“Good man! My thanks to your lieutenant.”

The sergeant saluted and ran back to his unit. Horatio turned away, gripped the hilt of his sword and ran alongside his men. I don’t even know the lieutenant’s name, he thought. It’s something I’ll have to rectify. The snap and flare of musket fire from the farthest boat, Phlegethon, drew him onward. Those jagers have penetrated deep into our defenses! He felt a stab of agony in his heart. The boat guards will be overwhelmed! Will we be in time?

Their feet thundered on the dock planking. Horatio saw a crowd of jagers rushing toward the hapless Phlegethon. All fire from her deck had ceased.


At the farm Lieutenant Horst and his NCOs finally got his men into some semblance of order, after a flurry of confusion over dropped muskets, hats, pouches. All the while the sound of increasingly furious musket fire came from the east, the constant rattle interspersed with crashing volleys.

It’s like bloody Viehdorf all over again, Horst thought. Only now I’m the one in command. He looked back from his position at the head of the company column. Raw recruits, God help us! He hesitated, on the verge of giving a speech, but a fresh blast of musketry persuaded him not to. Instead, he drew his sword and pointed it to the east. “Marines, by the left, forward!”

The new Marine company stumbled into motion, some of the new recruits still having only a hazy idea about which foot was their left. Lieutenant Serle, a fresh-faced boy with some pretensions of military learning strode by Horst’s side. “Should we not put out flank guards?” he asked eagerly.

“We haven’t time for that nonsense,” Horst growled, leading his men down the farm track and onto the road. “The dockyard’s under attack. Speed is of the essence!”

The youth touched his hat and stepped back. “Very good, sir,”

Horst turned his attention back to the road. Speed is of the essence. I just hope we’re in time to foil whatever deviltry’s afoot!
*

Similar thoughts were passing through Schnoedt’s mind as the Lehmangraz militia began to form up in the street. Few men had bothered to pull on even the regulation militia coat. Most stood now in whichever garments they had to hand upon the summons being sounded. Schnoedt regarded them all, nodding thoughtfully. Raw troops, with a little training and a few superannuated veterans. Thank goodness we’ve had some recent experience of soldiering through guarding the dockyard. The now-constant crackle of gunfire drew his attention to the east. Clearing his throat, he raised his voice.

“Men! Our fellow citizens are engaged in battle even as I speak. It is our bounden duty to go to their aid.” He looked over the assembled ranks. “Look to the commands given to you and obey smartly. Good luck and may God favor us all!”

A militiaman stepped forward leading Umbrage, Schnoedt’s horse. Schnoedt swung up into the saddle, and drew his sword. “Forward, Lehmangraz!” he shouted, and urged the mount into motion.

As the militia headed out on the main road Schnoedt saw the Marine company issuing forth from the farm. New troops, and very raw, he thought not for the first time, yet they have a touch of arrogance about them more suited to a veteran unit. The Marine officer stumped along at the head of his men, a set and lowering expression on his face. Schnoedt thought of the few occasions he’d encountered Lieutenant Horst. That one might benefit from being lowered a peg or two. Let’s hope it’s not to all our cost.

The Marines swung onto the road, beating the militia to the junction by a short head. Schnoedt raised a hand to halt his men, allowing the last of the Marines to file by, noticing as he did so that some were out of step. A split second later a crashing volley ripped into the Marines, sending men falling like leaves. Within moments the reasonably ordered formation disintegrated.

Horatio’s feet thundered on the planking as he headed for Acheron. Her boat guards were firing as and when they could see a target, no easy task given the clutter of buildings and dockyard impedimenta in their line of sight. The firing from Phlegethon’s direction ceased even as Horatio reached Acheron’s entry port. He rushed aboard, his thoughts grim. “Let go all!” he roared as his men found their stations. “Helm amidships. Pole her out, don’t wait for anything or anyone!”

Propelled by sheer brawn Acheron began to move, the men detailed to the task sweating. Horatio looked to his left, across Cocytus and saw smoke beginning to rise from Phlegethon’s deck. A second later the first flames appeared, staining the darkening cload with yellow and orange. He felt his heart seized by a brief moment of sadness. His men exchanged shots with the smoke-wreathed enemy, but there would be no saving the veteran gunboat. He felt thankful his own dear Acheron lay in the berth nearest the barracks. And now enemy soldiers were appearing on Cocytus’ deck too!

“Heave!” he roared. Within seconds Acheron slipped free of her confining berth and onto the broad waters of the Adse. With maneuvering room opening up around his command, Horatio breathed a little easier. He glared at Cocytus. “Make ready the main gun!”

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

The Raid on Lehmangraz - part one

The dawn peace over Lehmangraz - soon to be shattered...
*
The birds had yet to stir in the trees as the jägers filed silently down the slope to the edge of the woodland. Lieutenant Weismuller waited for them in a spot where the trees thinned and the pastureland began, sucking on a straw as he gazed from beneath lowered brows at the distant target. As the jäger platoons came up they were directed into position by the NCOs. Weismuller listened with half an ear, his eye measuring the ground anew, confident his men would follow orders with the minimum of fuss and noise. I’m less confident about what faces us this morning! he thought.

Jagers in the woods

A thin pre-dawn mist filled the Adse Valley but it had already begun to disperse at the touch of a rising wind from the west. The rooftops of the naval dockyard showed indistinct but recognizable in the growing light. Three sets of masts rose above the line of the riverbank, marking the presence of the enemy’s hated gunboats. Weismuller cocked an eye at the eastern horizon where the light grew stronger every moment. Looking to the west he saw his first platoon trotting down the slope and across the field beneath the hill, en route to their ambush position. Thankfully their shadowy figures were unlikely to be seen by any dozy sentry in the dockyard or the village of Lehmangraz away to the west.

The second platoon stood ready alongside him, its sergeant watching for the signal to move. Weismuller nodded, the sergeant saluted, whispered an order and the platoon moved out, heading directly for the hedgerow overlooking the highway and the dockyard beyond. Once the second platoon had moved out the third took their place.

Jagers creep steathily into position, unnoticed by the sentries at the gate.

By now the light had grown to the point where Weismuller could discern the logs of the rudimentary palisade surrounding the dockyard. He could make out the gate with two sentries boxes positioned one either side. Sentries patrolled there, as he’d seen the previous day on reconnoitering the target. Two men only, and local militia to boot. Not much of a threat. Behind him in the woods birds began to chirp the dawn chorus. Time presses; I cannot wait any longer. He drew a deep breath, raised his arm and jerked it forward. With a regular step he moved out, the steady, soft tramp of feet behind and to either side telling him the men of the third platoon followed.

He aimed for the hedgerow about a hundred yards further along the highway from where his second platoon now moved stealthily into position. The line of advance would bring him opposite the south-eastern corner of the dockyard enclosure. Closer-to, the palisade looked even less like a military obstacle than before. It was little more than a sturdy fence, there to deter pilfering of supplies from the dockyard stores. The ‘Bergers will pay for such laxness! Weismuller thought, feeling his spirits lift higher with the prospect of action.


Dew from the long meadow grass soaked his gaiters but he didn’t heed it. The hedgerow loomed up and he saw the gate which let out to the road beyond. Weismuller stopped there, his hand resting on the top bar, and looked around as the men of the third platoon formed up into a rough column. Once they were ready he unfastened the iron hook holding the gate closed and pushed at the bar. The gate swung open, sped on its way by a further push from the platoon NCO. Weismuller drew his hangar and led the way with a rush onto the road.

They crossed the uneven rutted surface at speed, reaching the palisade within three heartbeats. The first jagers begun to tumble over the barrier. A shouted challenge rang out. Weismuller, reaching up to grip the wooden stakes glanced toward the gate. A scant second later the dawn peace shattered completely as a volley of musketry split the air.


The Sobelsburg Jager begin to fire...

*

Horatio tumbled out of bed, nightshirt flapping. Erotic dreams of Ursula vanished in an instant amid the blast of musket fire. Experience and hard-won instinct guided his hand to the hilt of his hanger where it hung in its scabbard on the bedside chair. Shouts and yells sounded throughout the barrack block where the crews of the gunboats slept when ashore. Even as his sleep-fuddled mind focused Horatio heard a renewed burst of musketry from the direction of the road.

Stumbling to the window of his chamber he peered out into the dawn light. The sun rose at that moment, yellow rays spreading across the land. A thin mist, pushed along by the breeze failed to hide the shadowy forms of men emerging from the hedgerow the other side of the road by the dockyard. A militia sentry sheltered behind his box, hands busy with reloading. His fellow measured his length on the road nearby. A broad strip of wasteland separated the hedge from the road. It would take some moments for the evident attack to reach the gate. The lone sentry could not hope to hold it. Should the gate be lost… quite!

Cursing, Horatio threw his sword aside and fought his way into his britches. Some alert soul began ringing the alarm bell by the main door for all he was worth. Finally wrestling his britches on over his nightshirt, Horatio clapped his tricorn to his head, thundered out of his room and down the stairs.

In the main barracks below the men tumbled out in reasonable discipline. Most had cutlasses, dirks and a pistol or two. Petty officers barked orders, and their eyes turned to Horatio for further guidance. “We’re under attack from the road,” he rasped from the stairs. “Break out long arms and ammunition from the magazine then fall-in on the parade ground.”

The petty officers saluted briskly and began to shout new orders. Horatio headed out the main door and saw the local militia platoon appointed to guard the dockyard had begun to form up on the parade ground. They wouldn’t be a moment too soon. A glance toward the gate showed the shadowy forms of enemy soldiers running toward the dockyard.
*
Captain Schnoedt of the Lehmangraz militia company awoke in mid-snore and gazed up at the ceiling of his bedroom. Warm early sunlight lit the room, and musketry sounded somewhere in the distance. It was not uncommon for hunters to be out early in the season, potting wildfowl on the river and marshes round about; but the noises greeting his ears now had a much different sound. Beside him his wife slumbered on. Pausing only to give her a soft peck on the brow, Schnoedt rolled carefully out of bed, rubbed his bleary eyes and padded barefoot to the window overlooking the main road. Wilhelm the carter and a milkmaid stood below, staring eastward into the rising sun, hands shading their eyes. Schnoedt raised the sash and leaned out the window. “Good morning! What’s amiss?” he called to them.

“It’s gunfire, Mr. Schnoedt!” the milkmaid called, bobbing him a quick curtsey. She pointed. “It’s coming from the dockyard!”

“I see smoke over there, Captain!” Wilhelm said. “It looks and sounds like musketry!”
The carter was a military veteran and a militiaman. If he says musketry is on the wind, then musketry it has to be. Schnoedt nodded. “Call out the militia, I’ll be down directly.”

His wife sat up in bed as he turned away from the window. “What is it, dearest?” she asked.

Schnoedt smiled. “A little contretemps down at the dockyard, my darling.” He began to dress. “It seems the militia may have to fight this day.”
She nodded. “I’ll get your pistols and sword.”
Bless her, he thought, tying his cravat. The Knell of Doom could sound and she’d say the same thing...
*
In a farm on the southern outskirts of Lehmangraz, Lieutenant Horst of the newly-formed Riverine Marines urinated copiously into the chamber pot, yawning and smacking his lips as he gazed out the window. Dear God! he thought. What did I drink last night? My mouth tastes like I’ve been licking cow chips!

He still wore his shirt and britches from the previous day. His room stood high in the turret situated in the northeast corner of the farm’s boundary wall. It offered a good view, although it was little compensation for dwelling in the farmhouse proper, his first inclination. The farmer possessed two beautiful daughters, a shotgun and a nasty gleam in his eye. Horst lacked the nerve to attempt seduction – but wouldn’t it be nice?
As he daydreamed a shaft of sunlight pierced the horizon and struck Horst full in the face. He winced and turned away, sending a jet of piss across the floor. Cursing, he finished his business then contemplated the damp floorboards. “Bernhard!” he bellowed in the direction of the door. A scuffling sound came from beyond and a few moments later Horst’s orderly appeared, rubbing sleep from his eyes. Before Horst could direct the man to spread sand on the damp floor the sound of distant musketry resounded from outside.

“What the hell?” Horst exclaimed, turning to the window again.

From his vantage point he could see smoke rising from the area of the dockyard. Even as he watched the stab of yellow musket fire competed with the rising sun. Dumbfounded he continued to stare until his orderly coughed loudly. “Turn out the men, sir?”

“Yes, yes, dammit!” Horst roared. The man sped off, clattering down the spiral stairway to the farmyard. Horst reached for his sword, and realized his hands were shaking the way they had at Viehdorf. “Dear Lord, don’t let me foul up now!” he prayed, buckling the baldric about his waist.
*
To be continued. My thanks once again to "LittleJohn" of the Lead Gardens, who kindly fought out the action at Lehmangraz and supplied the excellent photos.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

A busy few weeks

It's often said no plan survives contact with reality. We've both had a busy few weeks, not least of which has been a recent road trip to North Dakota for a friend's wedding. Five days on the road may be scenic, but it's tiring! Even so I plan to write up the battle report of the Lehmangraz Raid soon. I hope also to get going on Volume Two of the Chronicles - The Heat of Battle - before the month is out.

Cindy is recovering from her injury, thanks to her wonderful chiropractor. She's hoping to get back to writing her own works soon.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Koh Koh Mah 2010


I'd like to invite anyone who's in Indiana next weekend to come visit the


*
It's one of the most popular and best organized events of its kind in the Midwest, with plenty of 18th century goodness to see and do. Cindy and I will be heading that way to rejoin the ranks of the 78th (Frazier) Highlanders and take up muskets against the perfidious French.


God Save the King!
*
The Grand Duchy of Hetzenberg will be on hold for a few weeks. Cindy injured her arm on Friday 13th last month (I know!), and needs help to do even minor chores for a while. She's recovering but the medical process takes time to negotiate.
*
I'm also preparing for the Archon 34 sci-fi convention in October, where I'll be exhibiting in the art hall. Worry not - Mary Amadeus and Ursula shall return!

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

A (hopefully) brief downtime

Just a word to say I'm still around, but very busy with a couple of commissions. The enervating heat prevailing here in the Midwest isn't exactly helping matters either. I'll post the action report of the Skirmish at Lehmangraz sometime before the end of this month, and post the occasional non-18th century piece over on my other blog.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

The Rumtopft Dragoons on parade

Presenting Hetzenberg Dragoon Regiment 1, Rumtopft. These fellows are fresh off the painting block, all varnished with Pledge/Klear/Future. I decided to leave them somewhat shiny as I like the effect.




At the moment I have no plans to expand the Grand Duchy's army beyond this regiment, two more of line infantry (IR 3 Brabenachel and IR 4 Kranke), and a light infantry battalion. The Margraf's army needs a two-regiment cavalry brigade, two batteries of artillery and perhaps another regiment of foot. All the above with time and funds permitting...

Monday, 26 July 2010

Classic Wargaming Journal

Due to recent commitments I'm running a bit behind the times here, but I'm pleased to see a new publication has entered the hobby in the shape of the


Harking back to the original home-produced publications produced by wargamers some forty years ago, CWJ is born of editor Phil Olley's desire to put something back into the hobby. Very much a labor of love, this little publication has a lot to offer the gamer, especially those of the Old School persuasion. The contributors for this pilot edition are well-known from their various blogs and websites, and they provide some excellent articles here. I hope you'll join with me in subscribing to a worthwhile effort, and in wishing Phil well in his endeavor!

Friday, 23 July 2010

The Rumtopft Dragoons 2

An update on progress painting the Rumtopft Dragoon regiment. The main colors are blocked in. Next up is the finer detail of off-white crossbelts, gauntlets, buttons, trimming, etc. I'll add some red piping to the lapels and turnbacks to make it stand out a little more.


At the moment they're coming along nicely, although to my eye the regiment is looking more like a jäger zu pferd or chevauleger regiment than one of dragoons. Maybe toward the Napoleonic era they'll undergo transformation into something of the kind. Those tricorns would be replaced by helmets. The tunic will change too. Hmm..! ;)

Thursday, 22 July 2010

On the painting block - the Rumtopft Dragoons

On now to the next project on my painting block - the Rumtopft Dragoon Regiment. These stalwart lads covered themselves in glory during the Battle of Viehdorf, where they earned battle honors by defeating the Margraf of Dunkeldorf-Pfühl's cavalry.

Of course for that action they were represented in proxy, through Will's good offices. I thought it high time I painted the regiment and got them on strength, using the RSM95 figures bought for me by my lady wife last Xmas.

The above image gives an idea of what I'm aiming for. Since the regiment won battle honors they are allowed to wear a cockade in the Hetzenberg national colors. The cockade design later became the basis for the roundel displayed on the Grand Duchy's aircraft during WW1, but that's another story...

Now, I'm no great enthusiast for painting cavalry. Something about the acres of horseflesh that needs covering in pigment vaguely depresses me! Even so, I find my painting block makes the chore easier. I've secured the riders to their mounts using super/crazy glue, and placed the musketoons in their hands the same way. Painting the whole figure as one unit will make things easier still - I hope! Next up is the black undercoat, a mix of Vallejo black and a drop or two from the Pledge bottle, and I'm away. Watch this space...

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

The Guns of July

As promised, some shots of the Grand Duchy of Hetzenberg's artillery arm. On the left we have the Line battery of 6-pounders; on the right the heavier metal of the Guard with their 12-pounders. All figures and models are RSM95 by Dayton Painting Consortium.

Normally under the Shako rules I'd mount the guns and crew on rectangular bases. In this instance I may set them up on old CDs, which will give ample space to fit the crew around the gun. My thought is that a gun crew caught by infantry or cavalry is in a world of hurt anyway; having a rectangular base matching the frontage of the other arms isn't going to make a whit of difference. Any thoughts and opinions? Please leave a comment!

Monday, 19 July 2010

Back from the French-Indian War

It's me - we're back from the wars after a hellishly hot weekend in eastern Illinois. We're both feeling a bit battle-worn and frazzled today, so this is only a brief update. I'll post a few pictures of Muster at Forest Glen sometime in the week.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

On the painting block - 2

Packing for Muster is all but done, and I've had time to begin a long-delayed addition to the Grand Duchy of Hetzenberg army - the artillery arm! The stalwart fellows below are RSM95 Prussians from Dayton Painting Consortium, a Xmas gift from my lovely wife. They've languished these many months while other projects needed my attention. They languish no more!

Two crews populate my painting block. Those in light blue will form the battery attached to the line foot brigade: those in the fetching shade of purple will be the Guard artillery battery, graced by one Lt. Mary Amadeus. The two chaps in the Prussian blue weskit are common to both batteries, so I'll differentiate between them by some crimson piping on the guard gunner. The images below give the general impression of what I'm aiming for.

One of these days I will get the fusiliers...

The Ral Partha Indian artillery crew seen in front of the painting block are undergoing conversion before becoming a screw-gun detachment for my Daftest Africa project. Lurking alongside the tub in the middle-ground is one of the creatures they may just meet...

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Off to Muster!

78th (Simon Frasier's Regiment) Highlanders
prepare to give the French a good roasting at Koh-Koh-Mah, 2009.
*
Cindy and I are off back to the 18th century for a few days beginning Thursday. We'll be participating in the Muster at Forest Glen event in Vermillion County, Illinois. Sometime from Monday onwards I hope to give an account with pictures of our activities there. After that, there's the small matter of the Action at Lehmangraz to relate along with the further adventures of Ursula. Watch this space!

Friday, 9 July 2010

Ursula and the Baron

“Such a charming town,” Paul Ehrgeiziger remarked to his companion as they strolled along the promenade.

“Isn’t it?” Lady Amelia sighed, clinging to his arm as she gazed out over the lake. “The air here is so very refreshing.”

The summer season was getting into its stride. Bolschen thronged with the wealthy and merely well-to-do, come to take the air and sample the restorative waters of the spa. The promenade made a gay and colorful picture as folks took constitutional walks and the chance to show off their finery.

Paul felt better than he’d done for many months. Indeed, years, he thought. The wound suffered in the messy naval engagement on the river had healed and troubled him no more. He glanced at Lady Amelia and met her warm smile with one of his own. And with a charming companion to help me forget all my previous woes! What could be finer?

“There is a particularly beautiful young lady,” Amelia remarked, gesturing along the promenade with a discrete tilt of her head. “Yet I wonder why she walks unaccompanied?”

Paul glanced in the direction Amelia indicated. His heart lurched. Only long habit and experience in the school of espionage saved him from stumbling in shock. Dear God! Ursula!

The young woman wore a rich day dress in dark green, trimmed with lace and fine silk, along with a matching be-ribboned straw hat with a broad brim. A lacy parasol twirled in her hands in an insouciant manner as she strolled toward them. Paul saw she had him fixed firmly in her gaze.

“It appears she’s coming this way,” Amelia murmured. “Do you know her?” The undertones in her voice spoke of doubt and suspicion.

Paul cleared his throat. “I have that honor. She is the Grafin Ursula von Hetzenberg-Pfalb, niece of the Grand Duke.”

“The Grafin!” Amelia exclaimed. “I’ve heard much about her. Is she truly as… reckless as they say?”

Bold would be a better description, my dear,” he said softly, for Ursula had closed the distance between them. Paul bowed and Amelia curtseyed. “My dear Grafin, it is a pleasure to see you again.”

“It’s good to see you, Herr Baron,” Ursula replied.

“Allow me to present Lady Amelia Davenport, an English friend of mine, visiting this town for the waters.”

The women exchanged courteous nods. “Charmed, I’m sure,” Ursula murmured. “Herr Baron, I trust I see you recovered from your wound?”

“Fully so, Excellency. The spa waters are most restorative.” He smiled, although the pain in his heart still fluttered. “I must congratulate you on your wedding. Is your husband here with you?”

“Thank you, and no; Horatio is elsewhere, on duty.”

Paul sighed inwardly. Leading his devilish gunboats against my nation, no doubt.

“I wish to consult you on a matter of some delicacy, Herr Baron,” Ursula went on, glancing at Amelia. “It concerns two friends of mine.”

Paul blinked in surprise. Lady Amelia cast a curious glance at him. “I shall walk a little further, to the bandstand on the point, and leave you to your discussion in peace.”

“Thank you, Lady Amelia,” Ursula said. “I hope not to trouble the Baron very long.”

As Amelia strolled away, Ursula turned to Paul. “I won’t beat around the bush, Herr Baron. The future happiness of my friends may well depend on your advice.”

He spread his hands. “I am your servant, madam. Command me.”

Ursula extracted two documents from a fold in her dress. “You remember Mary Amadeus, of course.

“That’s a rhetorical question,” Paul smiled. “How could anyone forget her?”

Ursula chuckled then grew serious. “Quite! She and my cousin Philip are very much in love.”

“Ah.” Paul pursed his lips. “I see.”

“You know the kind of problems that would create. Neither of them wished to follow the traditional route of Mary becoming Philip’s mistress. I sought to remedy the situation with some legal advice from Professor Knappenberger.” She passed Paul a letter. “This is what came in return.”

Paul scanned the writing then examined it in closer detail. “There seems little doubt here. Your friend and your cousin cannot marry.”

“I think there’s plenty of doubt, Herr Baron”

“Professor Knappenberger’s legal acumen was known throughout Europe. If he stated a point, is there not reason to think he would be right in his judgment?”

“Normally, yes. In this case, no,” Ursula said crisply. “Please cast your eye over this.” She handed Paul the second document.

He examined it and furrowed his brow. “This is a deed to land near your capital?”

“The content isn’t important,” Ursula said, waving a hand. “What’s relevant is the fact it’s the most recent authenticated document I could find written by Professor Knappenberger before he left the Duchy.”

Paul looked closely at it then re-examined the letter. After a minute he nodded. Amid the tangle of emotions he felt professional curiosity rising once more. “Hmm! This letter’s a forgery. Clever, subtle work, but a forgery nevertheless.” He looked up and gazed at her for a long moment. “This implies Professor Knappenberger’s legal opinion was other than stated here.”

Ursula sighed. “That’s my opinion also. Someone is attempting to prevent my friends from marrying; but who, and why?”

Paul handed back the documents. “There is a war on between my nation and yours. I’m of the opinion the mysterious someone is seeking to cause disharmony at the highest levels in your government for the purpose of impeding Hetzenberg’s prosecution of the war.”

Ursula stared at him, and he felt struck anew by the pangs of unrequited love. Beyond her in the middle distance he could see Lady Amelia strolling near the bandstand. Every now and then her gaze would come his way. He sighed heavily.

“It’s a pretty low, underhanded scheme to enact, don’t you think?” Ursula said.

“Did not Shakespeare say all’s fair in love and war?”

“No, that quote is from John Lyly’s work Euphues.” Ursula said distantly as she appeared to be thinking hard. “He was a slightly earlier playwright than Shakespeare. He said the rules of fair play do not apply in love and war.” Paul blinked. “I shall have to present this evidence to my uncle the Grand Duke,” Ursula went on. “If nothing else it’ll cast doubt and uncertainty over any ban against Mary and Philip marrying.”

“I think I recognize the hand of the forger,” Paul said slowly.

Ursula cocked her head. “You do?”

“I believe so. It’s a man by the name of Bartolomeo Gundaker, a freelance agent for hire to the courts of Europe.”

“I don’t know him.”

“Few do. He’s a low-level wretch with a propensity for murder.” Paul grimaced with distaste. “All that can be said in his favor is that he’s good at what he does.”

“Forgive me for saying so, Herr Baron, but would Dunkeldorf-Pfühl not employ its own agents for espionage work?”

“In the normal course of things, yes.” Paul frowned. “I’m inclined to believe the murder of Professor Knappenberger and the forgery were commissioned by someone operating outside the normal bounds of my bureau.”

“Would you look into the matter for me?” Paul looked at her askance. Ursula all but batted her eyelashes. “I would consider it an immense favor, for the sake of my friends’ happiness.”

He opened his mouth to reply when a distant commotion drew their attention. An excited buzz flowed along the promenade, moving as fast as feet would carry it as people dashed from one group to another. “Why, what’s amiss?” Ursula exclaimed.

“There’s been a battle!” someone gasped, running along the promenade. “The enemy attacked the gunboat base at Lehmangraz!”

“Oh schieße! Horatio’s there!” Ursula cried.

“Go, Ursula!” Paul said urgently, touching her arm. Even in the midst of the crisis he felt a tingle at just touching her so. “I shall find out what I can. You have my word. Now go find your husband!”

Ursula lifted her skirts and hurried away, all but running back the way she’d come. Lady Amelia walked up to him. “Paul? I heard there’s been a battle?”

“Yes. It seems forces from Dunkeldorf-Pfühl attacked the Hetzenberg naval base, and the Grafin’s husband may have been involved.”

She laid a consoling hand on his arm. “It must be so very difficult, living in the midst of a nation with whom yours is at war.”

He laid his hand over Amelia’s and gave her a wan smile. “You have no idea,” he said, casting a glance at Ursula’s retreating figure.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Ursula on the trail

*
Eschewing the carriage and escort her new status required, Ursula rode to Hetzenberg alone. The journey took a week of moderately fast riding, through weather that grew increasingly warm as she progressed. In the capital she spared time to visit her foster-parents before heading for the State Archives. Luckily they were kept in a wing of the palace well away from the Ducal domestic quarters, where her presence would have been remarked upon, with all the loss of secrecy and freedom it entailed.

The Archivist had been surprised when Ursula requested a packet of secret intelligence documents. Such papers were off limits to all but the most senior staff, especially those documents pertaining to current affairs and operations. However, Ursula had the noble rank and determination to brush aside any restrictions. She spent a fruitful morning perusing a number of papers, both secret and mundane, before taking her leave of the archives and making a brief visit to the university. The next day she departed the capital and headed north, again alone and unescorted.

She rode into the spa town of Bolschen an hour before noon four days later. Wedding bells rang from a church as she passed by, and the wedding party emerged blinking and happy into the bright sunshine. The sight and sound brought fond memories of her recent nuptials with Horatio. Lehmangraz laid not three leagues from Bolschen. I’ll surprise Horatio there! She thought.

It didn’t take long for Ursula to find the address she sought, an auberge located in a quiet street off the main drag. The innkeeper took in the richness of her attire and with many an obsequious bow showed her up to the suite of rooms where Konrad and Liserl Beckenbaur resided. They were surprised to see her.

“Ursula!” Konrad exclaimed, rising from the day-bed in the bay window, where he’d been reading. Liserl dropped her embroidery, jumped to her feet and executed a deep curtsey.

“Good morning!” Ursula said, moving swiftly to embrace first Konrad then his wife. “Please, don’t stand on ceremony. Be comfortable, I beg you.”

“Not that we’re very pleased to see you, my dear girl,” Konrad said, sitting on the edge of the day bed with barely a wince of pain, “But what do you here?”

“I’ll tell all in a moment,” Ursula replied, looking closely at her old friend. “First, tell me how you do.”

“I’m getting better by the day,” he replied with a smile, and indeed she saw his color had improved markedly since she had seen him last in Kimmelsbrücke.

“And he grows more fractious by the day too!” his wife interposed, giving Konrad a look of fond exasperation.

“I grow tired of doing nothing but visiting the baths and walking the promenade.” He gestured to the book lying open on the bed. “I think I’ve read every book worth reading in this town, too.”

“You’re here to get better, my friend,” Ursula said. “From your appearance I’d say that day is not far off.”

“It’ll be good to return to work.” Konrad blinked and cast Liserl a guilty look. “Not that I haven’t enjoyed your company, my love!”

“As I enjoy yours.” Liserl folded her hands in her lap and shook her head with a sad little smile that hid a wealth of meaning. “It’s been rare enough we’ve had time together these last few years, Konrad, the good Lord knows. It’s a treat to have you with me for this long.” She sighed. “Even so, I know you long to be back in action. I won’t stand in your way.”

“I have a hunch that day may be sooner than either of us expected,” Konrad said softly, looking at Ursula with speculation.

She held up her hand. “This is a social call, first and foremost, Konrad. I wanted to know how you fare. Now I’ve happily seen you’re increasing in health, I will concede there is a minor matter of intelligence you may be able to help me with.”

“Name it,” he said, spreading his hands.

“Do you know the whereabouts of Paul Ehrgeiziger?”

Friday, 18 June 2010

Action at Lehmangraz!

Dawn over Lehmangraz - but the peace is soon to be disturbed...
*
Battle has indeed been joined in and around the flotilla base at Lehmangraz! Full report on the action up to the current time can be found in the Lead Gardens blog, courtesy of David Dugas.
*
David and his friend Eric kindly stepped in as proxies to fight out this engagement. The superb set-up can be seen in the photo above. His attention to detail is such, the gunboats even fly Hetzenberg pennants!
* * *
Once the dust has settled I'll write it up in dramatized form for the Chronicles, for later posting here. Oh, happy Waterloo Day! ;)

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Skirmish at Lehmangraz

Reports of a skirmish in and around the riverine naval base at Lehmangraz have reached Hetzenberg army HQ outside Randstadt. Initial details are sketchy but the attackers are believed to be jagers striking from Dunkeldorf-Pfühl. The river flotilla is currently undergoing refit at the Lehmangraz base. Heroic riverine naval officer Commander Horatio Horngebläse is said to be on the scene. More news reports with pictures to follow.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Upcoming skirmish

David Dugas has stepped up and volunteered to fight out the skirmish at Lehmangraz. He anticipates gaming the action within the next few weeks, and it's shaping up to be quite an action! Full report here when it comes in. My thanks also to Steve, and Jeffrey who also volunteered.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

A proxy skirmish?

Gentlemen, would anyone be interested in fighting a proxy skirmish for me? A situation has arisen where light forces of Hetzenberg and Dunkeldorf-Pfühl have clashed during a raid far from the main battle front. In terms of numbers the forces concerned amount to no more than three companies, one of which is militia, and a representation of four gunboats. A bit of a clue, there!

It's a scenario that could have a sizable impact on the war - and certain characters featured in the Chronicles. The results will be written up and posted on my blog, and published later in the third volume of the Chronicles with a full acknowledgement for the player(s) concerned. First come, first served.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Ursula hatches a plan

*
Rain fell in torrents, but the siege of Randstadt continued. As Lieutenant Mary Amadeus trudged back to the artillery park through mud and puddles, the air shook with both thunder and the concussion of heavy guns. She heeded it not. Feeling wet-through and miserable, her only desire now was to reach her tent and rest – and mope over the ruin of her hopes. A particularly vivid sheet of lightning surged through the heavy cloud above, triggering Mary’s latent sense of scientific inquiry. She tipped her head to regard the cloud and was rewarded by a stream of water trickling out the folds of her tricorn and down her back. She huddled into her cloak, thinking but not voicing one of Ursula’s choice curses. The memory of happier if wilder days with her friend buoyed Mary for a while, until the general sense of gloom descended once more.

It lasted until she reached Officers’ Row in the artillery park, at which point she stopped dead in her tracks with surprise. A full-sized officer’s pavilion stood where her small but adequate tent had been. The board announcing her name and rank had been hammered into the ground to one side of the entrance. A thin stream of smoke emerged from a tin chimney pipe extending above the roof. The rain cascaded off the sloping canvas roof into a broad drainage channel, keeping the area under the pavilion dry. It looked like an abode fit for a colonel.

Wide-eyed and curious, Mary splashed her way over to the pavilion and cautiously drew back the fly, to see Ursula and Philip comfortably ensconced on padded camp stools by a pot-bellied stove.

“Ah! There you are!” Philip exclaimed, rising to his feet. Ursula grinned and raised a tankard in greeting. An enameled pot sat on top of the stove, and Mary realized the air inside the pavilion resonated with the delightful aroma of coffee.

She stepped inside, into delightful warmth, and allowed the fly to fall. Philip came up and took her in his arms. “Welcome to your new premises, my dear,” he said tenderly. Over his shoulder Mary saw Ursula smile and look away from their intimacy. She busied herself with pouring a third tankard of coffee.

“Philip, where did this all come from?” Mary asked, amazed. She looked at the stove, and a new camp cot, set within its own screened-off area. The ground underfoot was dry and covered with a mat of closely-woven rushes.

He drew back and held her gently by the shoulders. “It’s my gift to you. A small compensation for the bitter disappointment we suffered.”

“You’re too kind,” she murmured.

Ursula stood and handed her a tankard. “Here you are, get the right side of this.”

Mary smiled her thanks and cupped cold hands around the heavenly warmth seeping through the pewter. “You worked quickly. I was only at the gun lines for half an hour.”

“We had help,” Ursula said with a wink, taking her seat once more.

“How goes it up there?” Philip asked, guiding her to a stool.

“We’re making progress.” Mary sipped the scalding brew. “The Neuburg battery’s taking a pounding from our guns. We should silence it in another day’s work, two at most.”

“My father hopes to have Randstadt in our possession within the month.”

“It may be sooner,” Mary said tersely. Since the confrontation over Professor Knappenberger’s letter, she found it hard to think kindly of her liege lord, Grand Duke Karl.

Ursula must’ve sensed her thoughts, for she set aside her tankard and leaned forward. “What happened is not my uncle’s fault, Mary,” she said earnestly. “He has to be guided by protocol.”

“He didn’t help matters,” Mary replied, giving Philip a sidelong glance. “I’m sorry, Philip. I know he’s your father, but he dealt me – us – a cruel blow.”

“So he did,” Philip sighed, rubbing his furrowed brow.

“And you’re a fine one to talk about protocol, Ursula,” Mary went on, giving her friend a hot look.

“Touché,” Ursula murmured.

“I’m sorry you sent that letter to Professor Knappenberger.”

“Call it another brick in the road to hell.” Ursula gazed at her for a long moment. “I did so with the best of intentions.”

Mary shrugged, sipped coffee as her emotions threatened to rise up and cause a scene it would be hard to retract. “You’re my best friend. I really do believe you,” she managed to say.

“I’m glad of that, Mary A,” Ursula said, reached over to clasp her hand. “And, it so happens I may be able to fix things.”

“How so?”

Ursula took a sheet of parchment from a fold of her dress and held it up. Philip peered at it and blinked. “Isn’t that the reply from Professor Knappenberger?”

“Yes. I filched it from your father’s bureau the last time I went to headquarters.” Philip’s jaw dropped and Ursula clicked her tongue. “Oh, don’t look such an idiot! It needed to be done.” She waved the letter. “This damned thing has already caused my best friend and you a lot of damage. Now I think it’ll help undo it.”

“You stole it from my father’s bureau?”

Ursula gave her cousin a scathing look and addressed Mary. “I asked the Professor to reply to me, so this letter should’ve come to me anyway. Somehow it got addressed to my uncle. Why?”

Mary frowned. “I don’t know.”

“Because somebody wanted to cause mischief.”

“They certainly succeeded!” Philip said.

“Yes.”

“You think this mysterious somebody knew about your inquiry to the Professor?” Mary asked.

“I’m almost certain of it.”

Ursula’s eyes sparkled in a way Mary knew of old. Her spirits began to revive. “What are you planning to do?”

Ursula glanced around at the canvas walls of the tent. “I’m pretty sure no one’s outside snooping on our conversation in this weather,” she said, pitching her voice low. “Even so, I’m keeping my plan to myself for now. I’ll be heading back to Hetzenberg in the morning, then up to Bolschen.”

“Bolschen?” Mary cocked her head. “Why there?”

“I may take the waters,” Ursula replied with a wink.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Back from an excellent weekend

My wife and I are back in town after she took part in the regional Sweet Adelines contest up in Peoria, Illinois. Her chorus, The River Blenders of Chesterfield, MO won! They go through to the international finals to be held in Houston, Texas next year. It couldn't happen to a nicer band of ladies!

We're kinda excited!

On the wargaming front I'm busy with a new commission to paint some more Plains Wars figures for a fellow gamer. I find myself casting longing glances at the Rumtopft Dragoons and Hetzenberg artillery languishing in storage, waiting for me to clear the painting decks and get cracking on them. Hopefully, I'll be able to do something with them next month. In the meantime, I'm working on the next post in the Chronicles. As always, watch this space...

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Proper Old School wargaming footage

*

Some interesting footage here of the late, great actor Peter Cushing, indulging in his hobby of wargaming. Using H G Well's Little Wars rules and fought out on his study floor, you can't get more old school than this!

Thursday, 29 April 2010

An idle question

My current project is painting up some Plains Wars US cavalry for a fellow gamer. Pics of the completed mounted troops can be found here, at A J's Wargames Table.

In between times, I was talking over TV and media with my wife, and got to wondering. With all the TV coverage of sports, hobbies and so on out there, why is there no dedicated TV wargaming channel? Surely with many thousands of gamers all over the country and beyond, there's room for such a channel. Thoughts? Opinions?

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Into the night

The company of Sobelsburg Jager swam across the Eisenwasser in the dead of night. Two miles upstream stood the small town of Wentwitz. Almost of one mind the company decided to avoid going anywhere near the scene of their rough handling by the Hetzenberg army and riverine flotilla. Enemy troops still patrolled the area, but the agent had said the riverbank here seemed unwatched.

Lieutenant Weismuller led the way across with a powerful over arm crawl, towing a sealed keg behind him by means of a length of yarn. It contained a dark lantern and a tinderbox, along with a dry white kerchief and spare cartridges for his firelock Experience had taught him long ago to be prepared for every eventuality.

Not far behind Private Träger swam like a trout. Kleiner’s massive frame bulled through the water in the manner of a ship of the line, raising a white wake and earning a hissed rebuke from the Old Man. “Yes sergeant, sorry sergeant,” Kleiner burbled, water slapping in his face. The Old Man raised his eyes to heaven and wondered quite what he’d done to deserve to be stuck with such a lumbering brute.

Before long the first swimmers entered the reed beds and set their feet down on the muddy bank. Drawing bayonets blackened with soot and lamp-black, they crept forward, eyes searching the darkness intently for signs of the enemy. The small sounds of night creatures filled the air. An owl hooted somewhere in a copse of trees close to the bank. Waving their fellows on the lead jagers climbed the low rise into the water meadow.

Lieutenant Weismuller shook water out of his ears and gestured to the senior NCOs to gather around. He pitched his voice low. “Our contact should be here. Ensure the men have unloaded firelocks; I don’t want anything giving the alarm, do you understand?” A chorus of assent showed they did. “Good, return to your men.”

“Sir!” a jager cried softly, and pointed toward the copse. A light flickered there, once, twice, once, twice more. The owl had fallen silent.

“That’s the signal. Stand easy, men.” Weismuller unsealed the keg and took out the kerchief. He waved it in the direction of the light, knowing the white cloth would be easily visible in the starlight. The light flickered once then twice in response and went out. Moments later a man could be seen emerging from the darkness under the trees. Stuffing the kerchief into a pocket Weismuller went forward to greet him.

“You’re late,” the man said gruffly.

“And you’re impatient, but this is getting us nowhere.” Weismuller couldn’t make out the man’s features then realized the lower half of his face was swathed in a black scarf. “Is the way clear?”

“Yes. There’s a farm track leading out of this meadow fifty paces in that direction.” The man gestured. “The high road’s half a mile further along. Cross that and head roughly northwest, you’ll come to the wooded hills on the other side of the valley. Skirt around those, keeping northwest for ten miles. You’ll come to a burnt-out windmill. When you reach that, head north. Your target lies nine miles further on.” He drew a folded sheet of paper out of his cloak and passed it to Weismuller. “Here’s the best plan I could obtain of your objective. It’s not well guarded. Good luck.”

Without another word the man walked away, swinging his lantern, heading north along the edge of the meadow. Weismuller watched him go and sighed inwardly. I hate skulking around like this. Give me an honest ambush any day of the week.

He clapped his hands softly. “All right, let’s get going. First platoon, out front, form skirmish order. You others, form on me. Keep your eyes peeled! Move out.”

“What’re we doin’ here anyway?” Kleiner rumbled.

“We’re on a secret mission, is what,” Träger whispered with a sniff. "Or 'ave you forgotten?"

“And you two will find my not-so-secret boot up your butts if you don’t shut it!” the Old Man snarled right behind them. “Now face front and march!”

Both men stiffened and did as they were told.

The owl watched the line of humans until they passed out of sight. If it could sigh, it would have done so. Gradually the noise of human movement faded, and the small scurrying creatures began to emerge from hiding. The owl forgot the intruders and turned its mind back to the matter of hunting.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

The Few, the Proud...

*
The increased importance of river warfare has been demonstrated clearly by recent actions along the Eisenwasser. Under the able command of first Captain Creighton then Commander Hornegeblase, the Hetzenberg riverine flotilla has given the forces of Dunkeldorf-Pfuhl a bloody nose on several occasions.
*
The Hetzenberg Army Council scrutinised the after action reports submitted by the commanders and identified a means of enhancing the flotilla's capabilities. To this end a general order has been issued commissioning the raising of a company-size Marine contingent for service aboard the flotilla vessels. A platoon-size force will be assigned to each vessel, including the new pennant craft once it is commissioned. This will give the riverine navy a raiding force to strike land targets, something it sorely lacked - until now.
*
The picture above shows the prescribed uniform for the Marines, a fusilier-pattern rig in royal blue over Prussian blue weskit and britches in similar fashion to the army issue. White gaiters are issued for parade dress only. All buttons are of spelter. The low-crowned fusilier cap has been adopted, and a carbine issued as standard firearm due to the confined space aboard ship. In keeping with Marine tradition, all personnel wear cutlasses.
*
With thanks again to David Linienblatt for use of the uniform template.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Does anyone know...

...of a US source of 25mm horses, compatable with the Dixon's Miniatures Plains Wars range? I've tried Wargamesminis.com but they've sold out. Any guidance will be appreciated.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

A new blog

After some thought I've decided to open another wargaming blog.


This will be a home for all my non-SYW/ImagiNations gaming and modelling projects, plus odds and ends that take my gaming interest. My first post is a brief but picture-packed note on the Victorian sci-fi GASLIGHT vehicles I built. Take a look and I hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

In the siege lines.

Colonel Wilhelm Schmutzgräber cursed as a young sapper dropped his end of a fascine. “Pick it up, lad! The enemy won’t dawdle if they see you in their sights!”

As if on cue the Neuburg battery fired, blossoms of yellow fire erupting all along the distant embrasures. Lieutenant Mary Amadeus ducked low in the trench as the shot howled overhead. A gabion shuddered and slipped under the impact of a shrewdly-aimed shot. Before the shriek and howl of the salvo faded sappers were already pushing the huge earth-filled basket back into place.

Schmutzgräber slapped his tricorn against his arm to rid it of dust and dirt. He jammed the battered hat back on his head and regarded Mary with calm detachment. “How’re you bearing up, girl?” he asked, pitching his voice low so only she could hear it.

“Well enough, Colonel.” Even though their acquaintance only measured days, she already liked the lanky engineering officer, and could tolerate his use of the word girl in addressing her. “How long will it be before the battery is ready, sir?”

“You don’t like being under fire without the chance to pay the enemy back for his favors.” Schmutzgräber nodded with a glint on his eye. “A day, no more.”

“Good.”

He rubbed his jaw. “You’ll command the new battery, I collect?”

“I will.”

“And what of His Excellency, the Graf?”

“Philip will – uh, he’ll be in overall command of the siege guns.”

Schmutzgräber nodded again. “Good. Between the two of you they’ll be in safe hands.”

Mary felt her face grow warm as she blushed at the compliment. “Thank you, sir.”

The Neuburg battery fired again. They ducked lower in the trench as the shot hummed and whistled overhead. A sound like a butcher’s cleaver crunching into a joint came from close by. Mary clapped her hand to her hat and stared around. The clumsy young sapper now lay on the reverse face of the trench, minus his head. Bile rose in her throat and she turned aside and retched.

A firm hand took her by the shoulder and she felt herself being led along the communication trench, away from the first parallel. “Go back to the artillery park, lieutenant,” Schmutzgräber said kindly. “We’ll call you when we’re ready for your guns.”

Mary felt a mixture of shame and relief. The shame began to burn hotter when she saw the pity and even contempt in the eyes and faces of the men she passed. I know what you’re thinking, she thought as she headed for the park. Warfare is no place for a woman. Well, I’ll show you!

Philip was standing outside the tent he’d had erected for his use when visiting the artillery park. His place was properly with the headquarters, but he spent an inordinate amount of time around the new siege guns. Mary’s heart gave a pleasant lurch in her breast as she saw him. The smile he gave her filled her world.

That smile slipped somewhat when he looked closely at her. “What’s wrong, my dear?”

“A casualty. In the trench. A young man lost his life.” She closed her eyes and the image of his corpse rose again in her mind’s eye.

“Come inside, please.” His voice sounded so gentle.

She preceded him into the tent. The aroma of canvas, coffee and a plate of fried bacon and potatoes filled the space. Oddly, the combination of scents contrived to settle her queasy stomach.

Philip dropped the canvas fly and took her into his arms. “You’re worried about how you’ll appear to the men.”

“You know me so well,” she said, pressing her hand to his chest.

“I like to think that. I’d like to know much more about you, dearest Mary.”

She managed a smile. “One day.”

“One day.” His smile returned but his expression took on a serious mien. “You’re a capable officer of my uncle’s army. You’re the first of what I’m sure will be many women who’ll follow a military calling. It’s easy to say be strong, but much harder to do.” A tear trickled down her cheek. Philip wiped it away tenderly with his thumb. “It’s a certainty that the vast majority of the men in the siege lines are terrified. Death lies around every corner of every trench, and here in the camps. It lies in wait for us all after our allotted span. The trick is not to show your fear.”

“Are you afraid, Philip?” she asked. “You seem so calm.”

“I’m petrified!” He chuckled ruefully. “Bullet or cannonball or disease cares not for rank or title. As I said, the trick is not to show your fear.”

“Then I shall be calm, too.” I do feel so much better!

“That’s the spirit.” He took her face between the palms of his hand and kissed her. “You’ll be fine. Do your duty and all will be well.”

“I’m sure.”

“Have you heard from Ursula?” he asked, turning to the camp table and pouring two tankards of coffee.

Thankful for the chance to think of more pleasant things Mary sat on one of the folding stools. “I had a letter last night. She and Horatio reached Lehmangraz three days ago. He’s to oversee the repairs to the flotilla and the construction of a new vessel to replace the Styx.”

Philip handed her a tankard. “I hope it won’t take too long. The gunboats will be needed to threaten Randstadt from the river.”

“The new boat will be larger, and broader in the beam. She’s to carry two twenty-four pounders in the bows.”

“Will she carry a mortar?”

Mary sipped her coffee, savoring the brew as it overcame the lingering taste of bile in her mouth and throat. “I think there’s provision for a howitzer.”

Philip shook his head. “A howitzer won’t answer in a siege. The ten inch mortars the other boats carry would be far more effective.”

“I agree. Perhaps we could do something with rockets…”

She let the thought hang in the air. Philip stared into space, his tankard halfway to his lips. “Hmm!”

A polite cough sounded beyond the tent fly. “Your Excellency?”

Philip glanced in the direction of the voice. “Yes, Gideon?”

“A communication has arrived from the Grand Duke, sir. He requires the presence of yourself and Lieutenant Amadeus at once.”

With a puzzled look Philip opened the fly. His aide clicked his heels and came to attention, presenting the message with clean aplomb. Philip read it and looked blank. “It seems we’re wanted at headquarters, my… ah, lieutenant. My father is particularly insistent you should accompany me.”

Mary stood and tugged the hem of her coat straight. Her heart began to pound as a nameless dread stole through her. This can’t be good news

Headquarters had been set up in an inn back along the road to Kimmelsbrücke. They rode there together and were shown up to the Ducal suite. Grand Duke Karl waited for them, his Chancellor Count Ostenberg by his side. The Duke turned from gazing out the window at the passing scene as they entered. “Good morning, Philip, Lieutenant Amadeus.” They responded. Mary took care not to stare questioningly at her sovereign.

“We have received word that Dr. Knappenburger, guest Professor of International Law at the University of Bearstein, has died.”

“I remember Dr. Knappenburger,” Philip said, sounding puzzled. “He was a most erudite gentleman.”

“It appears the Professor suffered an apoplexy. We do not know for sure. His servant decamped with a sum of money and a number of the Professor’s personal effects. That, however, is beside the point.” Duke Karl’s expression was cold but Mary sensed he was fuming inside. “Apart from being an expert in international law, Dr. Knappenburger also served the Grand Duchy as a legal advisor.”

He crossed to the table and picket up a document. “This was found among the late Professor’s effects. It appears he was working on the case just before he died. I’d like both of you to give an explanation for it.” He set the document on the table where they could read it.

Philip stooped to examine it. Mary followed suit and felt the blood drain from her face as the words sprang out at her. “Oh no!”

With reference to your inquiry as to the validity of a marriage between your cousin Graf Philip von Hetzenberg and a woman of common birth, to whit, one Mary Amadeus.

I’m afraid it is entirely out of the question. Laws on the statute books governing Ducal marriages dating back over two hundred years clearly forbid such a formal union. Matters of breeding and bloodline have to be preserved for the sake of stability in the realm. However, there is no legality preventing the relationship developing along more, shall we say, informal lines.


I remain, Grafin, your humble, obedient servant, I. Knappenburger.

Karl gestured at the document. “It seems my niece is meddling in affairs that do not properly concern her. Even so, Professor Knappenburger’s response to her question is quite clear.” His gaze bored into them. “You are not permitted to marry!”

* * *
As an aside, a friend of mine in England has asked for my help in gathering uniform and organization info connected to the Revolutionary War/War of Independence. There seems to be a dearth of such in the UK. Can anyone point me in the direction of some useful material on the war?