Welcome to Obscure Battles

Two Loves

I've set this blog up to indulge in two loves I have in life, military history and writing. I'm not a professional historian (but I am a professional writer and author). I do have some experience in the military, starting my adult life after college as a Naval Intelligence Officer, so I feel I can justify at least some of my opinions. I'll also try to be good and cite greater authorities than me (and link you to retailers of their books as a courtesy plug).

Each post I will put up at least one map that I've made of a battle in history, with detailed orders of battle, terrain, geographical features and my own analysis and smart remarks about the battle. Each will also come with some suggestions for wargaming the battle. It's an activity which I find is quite interesting in experimenting with "what ifs" and theories of what went wrong, or if certain factors really made the difference; a kind of laboratory experiment.

What makes these battles "obscure"?

I'm sure that many of you will not think these battles are obscure, while the majority of people in the world may have trouble even placing the American Civil War in the right century. Some of these battles will be less well known than others. And I've actually seen comments on some community boards like "Soor? Since when is that an obscure battle?" (To those people I say, "Wow, you're good.")

But the "obscure" part will have more to do with my own take on these events, characters, and  interpretations than with the relative obscurity of the battle itself.

Mostly these battles will cover the 18th century, the Napoleonic period, and the American Civil War (though I may throw in other periods from time to time). Obviously this site is intended for a very arcane class of enthusiasts. And I hope someone finds them useful. But if no one finds any use for the collection, that's fine, too. I'm mostly doing it to please myself. And part of what pleases me is to share my interest with others.

At any rate, welcome. And enjoy.

The Maps


Interest not only in military history but maps has absorbed me for decades (often, as with so many other hobbies, to the exasperation of wife and family.) Using the digital skills I've acquired over the years in my "day job" as an advertising creative, I've created highly detailed maps (usually at 1:3600 scale) of some of history's more interesting battles. I have been fascinated with maps since I was a child, and even back then would spend hours making them with pen, ink, and watercolor on huge rolls of butcher paper. As Adobe Creative Suite and other digital graphic tools came in, I embraced these and when not designing ads, employed them to create ever more detailed maps.

The posted maps will be of a relatively low resolution, but but they have been created as high res, layered PSD and INDD  files (many over a Gb in size) the detail such that you can zoom down to see individual guns, horses, soldiers,  regimental flags and uniforms (overhead perspectives, of course). Flattened PDF or JPGs of these high res files are available for download via a DropBox folder for a nominal PayPal charge of  $15 for personal use only. For republication and use in a published game or another website, the license fee is negotiable.

If you are interested in purchasing any of these battle maps, let me know by e-mail at jeff@peoplesbranding.com and I'll arrange to get them to you.

Orders of Battle

I have also acquired, from a variety of invaluable and exhaustive sources, such as Scott Bowden, Christopher Duffy, George Nafziger (a former, fellow Naval Intelligence Officer) and others, comprehensive orders of battle, on a unit-by-unit level of detail. These OOBs can be quite useful in recreating war game scenarios. Some of the OOBs are derived from documented "parade states" where the armies were more organized and the bureaucracies behind them more sophisticated. Others were inferred from the reported sizes of the entire armies involved and average field strengths of units down to the battalion, squadron and battery level were derived using the arcane miracle of algebra, whose secrets I learned at Hogwarts.

Where known precisely (at least from historical records) the strengths of specific units are listed exactly. Where not known, I have given their individual unit strengths as an average based on the reported total army strength. These would appear to be more rounded numbers (e.g. 450 for a battalion).

For military miniaturists, the OOB tables are also color coded. The first column is usually in the base color of the uniform coat of that particular regiment--that is, where the unit had uniforms. The second column is in the color of the regimental facing (the cuffs, turnbacks, lapels). For older armies these would have varied considerably. In the period of my primary interest (18th and 19th centuries) these would have been relevant.  But for irregular armies...well, what difference does it make?

Google Cookies

Google informs me that EU visitors have to be advised of any cookies I plant on their vulnerable hard drives when they visit my site. Well, I don't plant any cookies. This site is open and you can visit it anonymously and cookie-free. Unless Google is doing it behind my back.


Copyright 2017, Jeffery P. Berry Trust. All rights reserved. No part of this site may be reproduced or re-posted without permission the the Jeffery P. Berry Trust. The maps and OOB charts, as well as certain original graphics, are all protected by Digimarc digital watermarks and trackable, so don't even think about copy-and-pasting without my knowing about it, thanks to the miracle of digital registration. However, feel free to link to this site from other, related sites for the purposes of sharing information.

24 comments:

  1. Just read your analysis of Blenheim...excellent read, great summary of the background and
    the action.

    -- Andrew

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    1. Thank you, Andrew. I’m so glad you enjoyed it. It was equally enjoyable for me to research and write.

      I’ve got another one, on Haslach-Jungingen 1805, just posted. You may enjoy that, too.

      Jeff

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  2. Thanks for your informative work on these battles. I found you through a link to your Blenheim reconstruction posted on Consimworld.com's forum.

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  3. Thank you back for your kind comment. Glad you found it informative...and hopefully, helpful.

    Jeff

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  4. Blenheim was just superb analysis.Ur blog reminds of one very similar one-alea iacta est.I'm following this.

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  5. Brilliant play-by-play analysis of Elchingen battle. The maps are absolutely fantastic! Have you considered teaming up with a war game designer/publisher?

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  6. Your site is very impressive indeed! Have enjoyed reading and recreating the battles from your super-detailed analyses in our wargames group. The maps and orbats add a lot to the resources I have found previously. Many thanks for sharing. Paul

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  7. Just wanted to say that I've really enjoyed reading your articles on the Austrian wars of succession, and I thought the battle maps where really excellent too. Cant keep away from this site, I keep coming back for more. Hope you continue your blog and the good work on it.

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    1. Thank you, Nigel. It is so gratifying that people are not only reading my blog, but are using and enjoying it. I do plan to continue and, in fact, am working on an article/map/OOB on Kolin 1757 as we speak.

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  8. Enjoyed the Zorndorf analysis. Damned Muscovites just would not buy into Fredrick's branding of military genius. Seydlitz seems to have retrieved the situation for his monarch repeatedly. Guess " Fredrick the damn lucky to have Seydlitz along" doesn't sound as imposing as "the great".
    Re-read the Mollwitz analysis. What do you think of the idea that Prussian victory was due to canister fire after the Austrian cavalry attack fizzled out? Austrians had 10 3#s spread along their line (Duffy says a cumbersome 1718 design). Prussians had 10 24#s, 10 12#s, and 28 6#s. You note that snow rendered round shot ineffective, what would you, as a Prussian battery commander tried to do? The 24#s might have been to heavy to prolong the 500 yards from their initial positions to engage with canister or grapeshot (9 3# balls-ouch) but they were in round shot range however degraded the result. Lowendahls 10 12#s were over run by Romer's big charge. Again as a Prussian battery commander about to be overwhelmed by raging Cuirassiers what are your options? Oh look, a lovely square of 18,000 formed Prussian infantry 150 yards away. Run Forrest, run! When those nasty brutes on horses rode off do you think they dragged the guns with them? Or got off their horses under fire (from the guards no less) to spike the touch holes? With leadership either dead or in disarray? Again, Prussian battery commander, what do you do when the cavalry leaves and your precious guns are still where you left them (a temporary expedient your majesty, urgent technical need to be elsewhere) points nicely towards the Austrian line. Prussians certainly prolonged 12#s at Leuthen. A prolong of 800 yards would bring them within canister range at Mollwitz. Certainly the 6#s advanced with the infantry. In addition to the reasons you outlined for taking two hours to cross 1800 yards think the Old Dessauer might have paused a few times to let the artillery hammer the hapless Hapsburgs out of range of their puny 3#s? Besides the cavalry charges, the Austrians were in range to engage the Prussians in the last hour of the battle, perhaps for as little as 30 minutes. Wooden ram rods aside they inflicted close to 4,000 casualties then collapsed. The faster firing Prussians achieved no more than parity in inflicting casualties during this fire fight yet the Austrians broke. Perhaps, as at Rossbach, the Prussian artillery shredded the enemy infantry and the vaunted Prussian infantry literally marched over the Austrian will to resist. Of course his majesty will not be giving credit for the victory to bougoise technocrats, it was the infantry, yes that's it- the Prussian infantry is unbeatable....Print up the broadsheets in German and French. Can the Russians read French....?

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    1. Thank you, Scott. So glad you enjoy the series. Hope to continue adding to them.

      As to your speculation about the employment of Prussian artillery, some very good thoughts. Dragging heavy guns through two feet of snow wouldn't have been that easy, and, as I theorized, the effect of gunfire (both roundshot and canister) would most likely have been greatly dampened by the snow.

      My hunch is that the Austrian horse did not try to spike or haul off the guns they overran. For one thing, spiking a cannon (at least back then) was a laborious process and required special tools, which the Austrians may not have had with them. As there were no readily available teams to limber up the captured guns (those had been removed prior to the battle, in accordance with 18th century custom), the cavalrymen would not have been able to pull them away. My thought is that they probably overran those batteries, sabered and chased away some gunners, and rode on to try and break the Prussian infantry, where they were shot down by platoon fire and battalion guns. As at Waterloo, cavalry which tried to assault unbroken infantry without infantry or artillery support was doomed to fail.

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  9. Hi Jeff ,

    Congratulations on your blog, with a fantastic level of detail. As a good passionate about the Napoleonic period, has been a delight for me to see this wonderful maps and read the analysis of the battles of that era.

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  10. Hello Jeff,

    If you are looking for a truly obscure battle, try Castricum, 6 October 1799. It's got it all: British and Russian troops together fighting revolutionary French and Dutch (Batavian Republic) troops, with actions on the beach (Northsea), in a town (Castricum), contested "river" crossing, troops losing their way while fighting in the dunes, etc. It also was the end of the Invasion\Liberation campaign of 1799 of the Netherlands, and it is mentioned on the Arc de Triomphe.....

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  11. Hi Jeff
    as for Arcole (definitively not Arcola .. ahem). You say:
    "Poring over all of the battle maps I used in researching this article, I noticed another bridge over the Alpone, the Ponte Zerpone, located about halfway up to Arcola."
    Can you tell me what maps you found? I do a large job on that battle (using other fonts than Chandler, Nafziger and Digby) and I found the Austrian Land Register maps with only a bridge. In your there are THREE bridges.
    Ciao
    Enrico

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    1. Thanks for reading my Arcola article, Enrico, and for your astute question about the extra bridges. I noticed these two other bridge references while examining A.K. Johnson's map of 1848 (from the British military archives)and Rousseau's 1853 map (biblioteque militaire). Also virtually every other map shows a road crossing the Alpone at Zerpone (though some don't show a specific bridge symbol). We are told by Bonaparte himself that he had his engineers build another bridge at the mouth of the Alpone on the third day. I have wondered if by "mouth" he was referring to this crossing point at Zerpone. Deployment maps show the Austrians defending the Zerpone position. If there was no bridge here (intact or otherwise) why would this particular point be considered vulnerable to a crossing? Of course, modern satellite photography (e.g. Google Earth) shows a bridge at Zerpone, which is to be expected if you look at the historical road/dyke network.

      If I were the intel officer briefing my command about the terrain prior to the operation (something I used to do as a professional intel officer), I would stress the need for further recon to see if there was a bridge at Zerpone, and what its status was. That's why I put a question mark on the map I made.

      Thanks again for your critical eye, Enrico,

      Jeff

      I can only assume, since the French did not attempt a crossing on the first day at Zerpone, that if there had been a bridge there, it was dismantled and guarded by at least some Grenz.

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    2. Ok Jeff.
      The current, one Arcole's bridge (the main bridge of the battle) is named ponte Zerpan because crossing it a path webt through the swamp towards a lone farm called la Zerpa (it exists now as little country restaurant) . La Zerpa was also a gathering point for the Massena left action and it was the only reason to have a bridge going into the swamp.
      Zerpone was not an italian name and anyway there were no reasons to have a bridge crossing from field into fields ... Swampy.
      The third bridge was built by French engineers near the point in which Alpone reaches the Adige river (mouth). It was a chevalet bridge ... Made with trestles.
      For this I think that that maps could be wrong for 1796 ..
      Hi Enrico

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    3. I agree that the maps for 1796 could be wrong (made as, as they were, over half-a-century later). But I disagree that it would have been useless to have a bridge at that point (at La Zerpa) in 1796 since there were dykes on either side of the Alpone and there were farms on both sides at that point. Since I have seen at least two maps made mid-19th century (one French and one British, referenced above) showing that crossing point, I think this corroboration makes it likely that a bridge was there before.

      Do you think you could find an older topographic map--perhaps a local, Italian one--showing this part of the Adige in detail?

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  12. This is now my favourite website. THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!!

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  13. Awesome blog for the lovers of military history, continue with this great work Jeff. It will be great if you should try the battle of Cuito Cuanavale, one of the most obscure battles of history. Both armies, the Cuba-Angola-SWAPO and the South Africa Defense Force claims the victory, and the debate still go on. Read your perspective about that engamenent will be great. Most of the historian of the western world bypass the battle or his consecuences.
    -David, even in Cuba we read your blog.

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  14. Awesome blog, your annalysis of this battles is simply great, Jeff.
    Even in Cuba we read your blog.

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    1. Thank you for your encouraging words, David. One of the fun things about doing this project is hearing from all the nice people all over the world. I think you may be my first fan from Cuba.

      Interesting suggestion about the obscure battle (indeed) of Cuito Cuanavale in '88. I just found it. (What did we do before Wikipedia?) It is somewhat outside my 100+ year range, but another article about a battle on the African continent might be a nice match with my posts on Gqokli Hill 1818 and Omdurman 1898.

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  15. Wow! Just a wonderful article on Lexington and Concord Jeff. As a retired Air Force officer (and 22 yr Navy veteran and Naval War College grad), I thoroughly enjoyed the detail. To piggy back on David's comments above, a story on the Battle of Guantanamo Bay would be wonderful!
    Mark Desjardins

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    1. Thank you, too, Aidan, for your enthusiastic praise. And, yes, an article on Gitmo would be a nice counterpoint to David's suggestion of Cuito Cuanavale, not to mention obscure. There are a ton of obscure battles in history. I just have to find those that A) I have access to a modicum of sources on and B) engage my own interest. A Venn diagram if there ever was one.

      Working on one right now that has nothing to do with Cuba, or the 20th century, unfortunately. Hope you and David will still find it interesting.

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