Battle of Fehrbellin

By Charles Stampley

The Battle of Fehrbellin was fought on June 18, 1675 between Swedish and Brandenburg-Prussian troops. The Swedes, under Count Waldemar von Wrangel (stepbrother ofRiksamiral Carl Gustaf Wrangel), had invaded and occupied parts of Brandenburg from their possessions in Pomerania, but were repelled by the forces of Frederick William, the Great Elector, under his Feldmarschall Georg von Derfflinger near the town of Fehrbellin. The battle went down in history as Prussia’s baptism of fire.

Prior to the battle the Swedes and Brandenburg had been allies in various wars against the Kingdom of Poland. However, when Elector Frederick William during the Franco-Dutch War had joined an allied expedition with Emperor Leopold I to Alsace against the forces of King Louis XIV of France, the French persuaded Sweden, which had been increasingly isolated on the continent, to attack Brandenburg while her army was away.

When Frederick William, encamping at Erstein, heard of the attack and occupation of a large part of his principality in December 1674, he immediately drew his army out of the coalition but had to take winter quarters at Marktbreit in Franconia. Leaving on 26 May 1675, he marched 250 kilometres (160 mi) to Magdeburg in only two weeks. This feat was considered one of the great marches in military history. He did it by abandoning his supply wagons and leaving large parts of the infantry behind, having his army buy supplies from the locals, but forbidding pillaging. The Swedes did not expect him to arrive that early.

Once he returned to Brandenburg, Frederick William realized that the Swedish forces, occupying the swampy Havelland region between Havelberg and the town of Brandenburg, were dispersed and ordered Derrflinger to take the central town of Rathenow in order to split them roughly down the middle. The elector bribed a local official loyal to him to hold a large and elaborate banquet for the Swedish officers of the fortress in order to get them drunk before the assault began in the night of June 14. Derfflinger then personally impersonated a Swedish officer and convinced the guards to open the gates of the town by claiming that a Brandenburg patrol was after him. Once the gates were opened for him, he led the charge of 1,000 dragoons against the city and the rest of the army soon followed. He was 69 years old at the time.

Once Derfflinger had expelled the Swedish garrison from Rathenow, this made the Swedish lines vulnerable. On June 17, the Brandenburgian troops reached Nauen. The Swedes, who had planned to cross the Elbe river in order to join forces with Brunswick troops, were forced back to their last position at Fehrbellin.

This small battle features the Brandenburgers led by their elector against a small Swedish army consisting of a center wing of heavy infantry and small left and right wings of cavalry. The Brandenburgers only have a two wings–a small wing consisting of 3 artillery units and 3 cavalry units, and a large right wing of cavalry led by a -2 wing leader and the Grand Elector himself–a not too shabby -2 Army Commander.

I use the historical orders which has the 3 Swedish wings at receive charge. The Brandenburger left wing is also under receive charge, but the large Brandenburger cavalry wing has charge orders which means it will get the first activation.

My plan is to steer the Brandenburger cavalry to the extreme left of the Swedish cavalry. The Swedish left wing is composed of just 6 cavalry units. Impassable marsh borders the right side of the battlefield so the avenue of approach is very narrow. If the Brandenburgers can destroy the Swedish left, they can get behind the Swedish heavy infantry in the center.

Turn 1 goes according to plan. The Brandenburger cavalry charge forward and the wing commander also manages to get 2 continuations.

This is the cavalry charge just before it hits the Swedish left:

After the 2 continuations the Swedish left is mauled along with 2 heavy infanty units from the center and the small artillery piece on the edge of the Swedish center and left wings. However the first wave of Brandenburg cavalry are all formation broken, and took some damage as well. In addition 2 cavalry units have left the field in pursuit.
The Swedish infantry managed to do some damage with reaction fire. The Swedish left cavalry wing come forward and get ready to charge the second line of Brandenburger cavalry. The Brandenburger left wing commander forgets to attempt an order change and is stuck in receive charge.
This is the aftermath of the attack on the Swedish left:

The Swedish center wing commander succeeds in changing his orders from receive charge to charge. The infantry advance and mop up damaged Brandenburger cavalry that unable to reaction move away. Not only do the Swedes charge, they get a continuation roll and move farther up. The Swedish left wing cavalry and Brandenburger cavalry skirmish. The Brandenburger left wing also charges, but the 3 cavalry units have to go around difficult terrain with one taking a formation hit.
The Brandenburger artillery manage to do some damage with grazing fire on the advancing Swedes, but it isn’t enough. By the end of turn 2 the Swedish infantry have destroyed several more formation shaken or broken cavalry. Plus they are in a good formation with their flanks protected. A quick victory check has the Swedes with 40 VPs. Since anything over 11 is a decisive Swedish win and there are just a few Brandenburger cavalry remaining who aren’t either morale shaken, broken, or with formation hits, the Brandenburgers conceed victory. This is the final position in the center of the battlefield:

This is final kill box:

This seems to be a hard fight for the Brandenburgers. They were able to destroy almost all of the Swedish left on turn 1, but they were in such rough shape, they were easy targets for the infantry. Ideally if they can get behind the Swedish center they can do some damage, but there is little room to maneuver due to the marsh along the east border of the battlefield. The next time I try this sceanario I might steer the Brandenburgers to the Swedish right.

Overall this was a fun battle and I am looking forward to playing the other scenarios in the game.

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