The Combat of Zinna 1759: A Scenario for ‘Tricorn’

When a rare opportunity for a game presented itself a couple of weeks ago, I had a quick trawl of potential Seven Years War battles to find one that would be small enough to serve as a simple introductory ‘Tricorn’ game for my old mate Andy (who hasn’t played SYW or ‘Shako’-based rules since our last game together in 1997!).  It also needed to be a historical action and which suited my collection of models.  The Combat of Zinna (a.k.a. The First Battle of Torgau), fought on 8th September 1759, seemed to fit the bill and  as an added bonus, featured my favourite army; the bloody awful Reichsarmee! 🙂

As recently discussed here, I’ve painted  a couple of Prussian Frei-Battalions and the cavalry of the Reichsarmee over the last couple of months and these would be needed for Zinna.  I already had quite a few Reichsarmee infantry battalions, plus generals and artillery in my collection, but with a few days spare before the game, I was able to paint a few of the necessary Reichsarmee regiments: the Alt-Württemberg Regiment, the Baden-Baden Regiment and the 2nd Battalion of the Pfalz Garde zu Fuss Regiment.  I also managed to do the single-battalion Baden-Durlach Regiment, which wasn’t at the battle, but I used them to fill in for the similarly-uniformed 1st Battalion of the Ernestisch-Sachsen Regiment.

The Combat of Zinna was a remarkable little action, not least because it saw a force of only 5,000 Prussians (none of them from particularly distinguished regiments) attack and defeat a theoretically superior Austro-Imperial force of 12,000 men!

Historical Background

In August 1759, King Frederick II of Prussia was having a hard time.  His glorious victories at Leuthen and Rossbach seemed a very long time ago as he attempted to contain the Russian invasion in the East (an invasion that would lead on 12th August to the cataclysmic Battle of Kunersdorf).  He had pulled Prince Henry’s troops out of Saxony to shore up the defences of Brandenburg and the Austro-Imperial army had consequently taken advantage of the reduced Prussian presence to launch an invasion, quickly capturing Leipzig, Wittenberg and Torgau and threatening the Saxon capital city of Dresden. 

The Battle of Kunersdorf

However, although Kunersdorf had been a victory for the Austro-Russian alliance, it had been a Pyrrhic one and the horrific casualties suffered by the Russian army had terminally stalled their invasion.  Frederick therefore felt confident enough to send what few forces he had in Brandenburg (many of whom had just only arrived from Saxony) back to recapture his Saxon possessions and lift the siege of Dresden.  One such force was a small brigade of light troops led by the newly-promoted Generalmajor Johann Jakob von Wunsch.


The 41 year-old Wunsch was very much a rising star in the Royal Prussian Army, despite not being Prussian!  Born in Württemberg, he served as an officer with a Württemberg auxiliary regiment supplied to the Austrian army, seeing action during the Austro-Turkish War of the 1730s.  Transferring to Bavarian service as an officer of hussars, he served in the Low Countries during the War of Austrian Succession of the 1740s and finished that war in Dutch service (his regiment having been transferred wholesale from Bavaria to the Netherlands). 

In 1756 Wunsch transferred once again, this time to Prussian service, and soon found employment in the newly-raised Frei-Bataillon d’Angelelli, as the oldest Captain in the Prussian Army.  Nevertheless, he soon made his mark and was promoted to Major.  His improvements to the unit brought him to the attention of Prince Henry and in January 1758 Wunsch was invited to raise his own Frei-Bataillon.  In June 1759 this was expanded to a full regiment and his superb service during the campaigns of the previous year won him accolades from the King and promotion in July 1759 to Oberst.  However, this was little compensation for the loss of his only son, who had been killed in Prussian service during April of that year.

Wunsch’s meteoric career-path continued to accelerate, as within a month he was given his first independent command, promotion to Generalmajor and orders to root the enemy out of Saxony.  Within a few weeks, Wunsch’s tiny force (consisting of two grenadier battalions, four fusilier battalions, three garrison battalions, two Frei-battalions, three squadrons of hussars and five squadrons of dragoons) had recaptured Wittenberg and Torgau and was marching to relieve Dresden.  However, Wunsch was too late and Dresden fell to Maquire’s Austrians on the evening of 4th September, with Wunsch only a day’s march away.  A further crisis then erupted, as Wunsch received word from Torgau that the small garrison he’d placed there was now once again under threat.  Wunsch turned his column about and marched back to Torgau.


Following two hard forced-marches, Wunsch arrived at Torgau on the afternoon of 7th September, to find that the city was threatened by a far superior force of 14,000 men commanded by Feldzeugmeister Friedrich Daniel, Freiherr von Saint-André.  Further Prussian detachments gathered up by Oberst von Wolfersdorff arrived early on 8th September, but these additional troops only brought Wunsch’s strength up to 5,000 men!  In the meantime, Saint-André had called upon Wunsch to meet him to discuss terms.  Wunsch decided that he would meet him… and attack!

Saint-André’s army was camped a little way to the west of Torgau in the lee of the Ratsweinberg hill, its flanks anchored on the marsh of the Grosser-Teich and the village of Zinna.  The main part of the army was formed by twelve battalions of Reichsarmee infantry; the Kurmainz Regiment (4 Bns), the Baden-Baden Regiment (2 Bns), the Ernestinisch-Sachsen Regiment (2 Bns), the Hessen-Darmstädt Regiment (1 Bn), the Alt-Württemberg Regiment (1 Bn), the 1st Battalion of the Franconian ‘Hohenlohe’ Regiment and the 2nd Battalion of the Pfalz ‘Garde zu Fuss’ Regiment.  Some sources say ten battalions, but it’s not clear which battalions were missing from this list.  On the left stood the Imperial ‘Kurpfalz’ Cuirassier Regiment and on the right was a cavalry brigade of four regiments; the Austrian ‘Trautmansdorff Cuirassiers and the Imperial ‘Hohenzollern’ Cuirassiers , ‘Bayreuth’ Cuirassiers and ‘Ansbach’ Dragoons.  An advance-guard consisting of nine companies of Reichsarmee grenadiers and two battalions of Grenzer were stationed on the Ratsweinberg, while the Szechény Hussar Regiment covered the far right flank on the Wildenhainsche Heath.  The only artillery elements were the light regimental gun detachments assigned to the infantry.

Following a brief refreshment break to fortify themselves in the western suburbs of Torgau (Wunsch had given each battalion a barrel of wine from a local winery), Wunsch’s force emerged from Torgau.  His artillery quickly deployed and brought a heavy fire down upon the grenadiers and Grenzer on the Ratswein.  This bombardment was followed up with a swift bayonet-charge by the ‘Willemy’ Grenadier Battalion and I./’Wunsch’ Frei-Regiment and the enemy was quickly put to flight.  With the enemy outpost routed, Wunsch wasted no time in occupying the high ground, establishing a thin line of infantry and all of his heavy guns (ten 12-pounders) on the crest.

All of the Imperial grenadiers and most of the Grenzer had already fled the field pursued by Prussian hussars, though some Grenzer remained around Zinna, so the Jäger detachment of Wunsch’s own regiment moved forward to engage them.  The rest of the infantry started to move forward in oblique order, with the right flank leading and the left flank refused, trying to maintain its distance from the dangerous mass of Austro-Imperial cavalry on the southern flank.

However, Oberst von Pogrell of the ‘Plettenberg’ Dragoons had a plan to deal with the enemy cavalry.  He had only three squadrons against fifteen, but nevertheless led his dragoons forward in a feint, before rapidly turning about in an attempt to entice the Imperial cavalry to pursue.  As Pogrell had hoped, the Imperial horsemen took the bait and charged straight into the sights of the 12-pounders now positioned on the Ratsweinberg.  Shocked by this sudden, devastating bombardment, the Imperial horse milled about in confusion as Pogrell turned his dragoons about and charged!  The Imperial cavalry broke and fled straight through the lines of Imperial infantry, causing much dismay among the footsloggers.

At this moment, the Prussian right wing began trading volleys with the Imperial left flank.  The Prussian left wing remained refused, allowing the guns to now switch their fire to the Imperial right wing.  With the Prussians now gaining fire-superiority over the Imperial infantry, Major Lossberg, commanding three squadrons of hussars and two of dragoons, now applied the coup de grace; having advanced in column on the right flank, using the ridge and town of Zinna to mask his movements, Lossberg now fell upon the flank and rear of the Imperial left flank, completely routing the Kurpfalz Cuirassiers and rolling up the Imperial infantry!

With the Imperial army now completely routed, the fugitives fled into a convenient forest to the rear, thus preventing any further pursuit by the Prussians, who had already taken hundreds of prisoners.  Astonishingly, most of the Prussian infantry had not even fired a shot!  One notable exception to the Imperial rout was the Hessen-Darmstädt Infantry Regiment, who retired in good order from the field, firing disciplined volleys to discourage pursuit, just as they had done at the Battle of Rossbach in 1757.

It would perhaps be easy to pass off this incredible victory as a mere fluke against low-quality opponents, but Wunsch followed it up by driving a French force out of Leipzig and on 29th October won another astonishing victory, this time against Austrian regulars, at the Combat of Pretzsch, for which the King awarded him the Pour le Mérite.  However, these remarkable successes in Saxony had attracted a lot of attention and Feldmarschall Leopold von Daun, the victor of Kolin, was sent to deal with the problem.

Wunsch’s astonishing military career therefore came to an abrupt pause on 21st November 1759 when in the immediate aftermath of the disastrous Battle of Maxen, he led a successful breakout of six cavalry regiments from Friedrich August von Finck’s encircled Prussian army.  As Finck negotiated the surrender of his remaining forces, Daun found out about the breakout and demanded that the escaped cavalry be included in the surrender!  His hands tied by the fate of his remaining men, the reluctant Finck sent orders for Wunsch to return with the six regiments.  To his credit, Wunsch did as he was ordered and went into captivity for the rest of the war.

Following Wunsch’s release from captivity at the end of the war, King Frederick (who had never forgiven many other officers for the Maxen debacle) still held him in high esteem and with Finck’s arrest and dismissal from Prussian service, rewarded Wunsch with the title of Chef of the former ‘Finck’ Infantry Regiment (IR 12).  This was followed some years later by promotion to Generallieutenant, an independent military command, the Order of the Black Eagle and finally another promotion to General der Infanterie shortly before his death in 1788.

The Scenario

This scenario lasts 12 turns, or until one army breaks.  The Prussians have the first turn.

To claim victory, the Prussian army needs to break the Austro-Imperial army, thus ending the threat to Torgau.  The Austrians win if they are not broken by the end of their Turn 12.

All divisions of the Austro-Imperial army start the game with enforced Defend orders.  The Prussians may assign any orders they see fit.

Prussian Corps of Generalmajor Johann Jakob von Wunsch
(Excellent – 2 ADCs)

Right Wing Cavalry (Lossberg)                                                                  (Good)
1 Sqn/‘Szekely’ Hussars (HR 1) (elite) }                                                               Large Unit [5/2]
1 Sqn/‘Ruesch’ Hussars (HR 5) (elite) }
1 Sqn/’Malachowsky’ Hussars (HR 7) }
2 Sqns/’Plettenberg’ Dragoons (DR 7) }

Right Wing Infantry (Wunsch)                                                                  (Good)
Jäger Companies, Frei-Infanterie Regiment ‘Wunsch’ (F7)                     2x Skirmishers [3/0]
I. Bn/Frei-Infanterie Regiment ‘Wunsch’ (F7)  (elite)                                     [4/1]
Grenadier Battalion ‘Willemy’ (4/16)                                                                  [5/2]
I. Bn/‘Hessen-Kassel’ Fusiliers (IR 45) (elite)                                                   [5/2]
II. Bn/‘Hessen-Kassel’ Fusiliers (IR 45) (elite)                                                 [5/2]
Battalion Guns                                                                                                          [2/0]

Left Wing Infantry (Wolfersdorff)                                                          (Average)
I. Bn/‘Salmuth’ Fusiliers (IR 48)                                                                          [4/1]
II. Bn/‘Hoffmann’ Fusiliers (IR 41)                                                                     [4/1]
Grenadier Battalion ‘Burgsdorff’ (38/43)                                                          [5/2]
II. Bn/Frei-Infanterie Regiment ‘Wunsch’ (F7) (elite)                                    [4/1]
Battalion Guns                                                                                                         [2/0]

Left Wing Cavalry (Pogrell)                                                                      (Good)
3 Sqns/’Plettenberg’ Dragoons (DR 7)                                                                [5/2]

Artillery Reserve
Heavy Battery                                                                                                            [3/0]
Heavy Battery                                                                                                            [3/0]

Prussian Breakpoints

Division                                          FMR    â…“    ½    ¾

Right Wing Cavalry (Lossberg)          5        –       –       –
Right Wing Infantry (Wunsch)          24     8      12     18
Left Wing Infantry (Wolfersdorff)     19     7      10     15
Left Wing Cavalry (Pogrell)                 5       –       –       –

Army                                               FMR   Â¼     â…“     Â½
                                                                 59     16      20     30

Prussian Notes

1. Units marked as ‘elite’ are rated one MR level higher than their normal MR class.  Some of these choices might be quite surprising (e.g. the ‘Hessen-Kassel’ Fusiliers and Frei-Regiment ‘Wunsch’), but I think their performance during this campaign warrants it and the Prussians have little chance of winning without some significant advantage in both leadership and troop-quality.

2. The heavy Foot Batteries may start the game unlimbered or limbered and are classed as Army Guns.

3. All Battalion guns start the game limbered.

4. Lossberg’s mixed cavalry command is combined into a single 16-figure (large) unit, classed as Elite Light Cavalry (MR 5/2).

5. One or both battalions of the Frei-Regiment ‘Wunsch’ may be deployed as skirmishers (2x skirmisher stands per battalion). This must be decided before the start of the game and they may not deploy into skirmish order once the game has begun. Nor may they re-form into close order.  If deployed as skirmishers, each battalion will count as MR 3 and the divisional and army breakpoints will need to be recalculated (you can do that!).

6. Rather unusually, there are a couple of very small, single-unit cavalry wings here.  If they are broken there is clearly no need therefore, to roll for division morale.  They each instantly count as a broken division with regards to the army breakpoint.

7.   The Artillery Reserve is independent and not assigned to any division, but their MR counts toward the army breakpoint.

8.  Each pair of skirmisher stands lost counts as MR 3 when calculating divisional breakpoints.  they don’t need to be from the same battalion.  ‘Odd’ skirmisher stands are not counted.

Austro-Imperial Corps of Generalfeldzeugmeister Friedrich Daniel, Freiherr von Saint-André
(Poor – 2 ADCs)

Left Wing Cavalry                                                                                          (Poor)
3 Sqns/’Kurpfalz’ Cuirassier Regiment (Unreliable Heavy Horse)               [3/0]

Infantry First Line                                                                                        (Average)
I. Bn/Kurmainz Infantry Regiment (Poor)                                                        [3/0]
II. Bn/Kurmainz Infantry Regiment (Poor)                                                       [3/0]
III. Bn/Kurmainz Infantry Regiment (Poor)                                                     [3/0]
IV. Bn/Kurmainz Infantry Regiment (Poor)                                                      [3/0]
II. Bn/Pfalz ‘Garde zu Fuss’ Regiment                                                                [4/1]
Hessen-Darmstädt Infantry Regiment                                                               [4/1]
I. Bn/Franconian ’Hohenlohe’ Infantry Regiment (Poor)                              [3/0]
Unidentified Grenzer Battalion                                                                      2x Skirmishers [3/0]
Battalion Guns                                                                                                         [2/0]
Battalion Guns                                                                                                         [2/0]

Infantry Second Line                                                                                   (Poor)
I. Bn/Ernestinisches-Sachsen Infantry Regiment (Poor)                                  [3/0]
II. Bn/Ernestinisches-Sachsen Infantry Regiment (Poor)                                [3/0]
I. Bn/Baden-Baden Infantry Regiment (Poor)                                                 [3/0]
II. Bn/Baden-Baden Infantry Regiment (Poor)                                               [3/0]
Alt-Württemberg Infantry Regiment (Poor)                                                     [3/0]
Battalion Guns                                                                                                         [2/0]

Right Wing Cavalry                                                                                      (Poor)
3 Sqns/’Bayreuth’ Cuirassiers (Unreliable Cuirassiers)                                 [3/0]
5 Sqns/Austrian ’Trautmansdorff’ Cuirassiers (C21)                                      Large Unit [6/2]
4 Sqns/’Hohenzollern’ Cuirassiers (Unreliable Cuirassiers)                         [3/0]
3 Sqns/’Ansbach’ Dragoons (Unreliable Dragoons)                                        [3/0]

Austro-Imperial Breakpoints

Division                                          FMR    â…“    ½    ¾

Left Wing Cavalry                                 3         –       –       –
First Line                                               30       10    15    23
Second Line                                          17        6      9      13
Right Wing Cavalry                             15        5      8      12

Army                                               FMR   Â¼     â…“     Â½
                                                                 65      17     22    33

Austro-Imperial Notes

1. All artillery starts the game unlimbered.

2. All Imperial formations start the game on Defend orders. New orders may not be transmitted until the Orders Phase of Turn 2.

3. Grenzer skirmishers count toward their formation breakpoints. Count two skirmisher stands as 3 morale points.

4. The villages are not prepared for defence and provide no benefit to a defender.

5. The Reichsarmee cavalry were truly bloody awful and well beyond simply dropping them by one MR notch.  They are all therefore classed as Unreliable Cavalry with MR 3.  They move at the rate of their ‘weight class’ (Heavy or Dragoons).  If you’re feeling generous, let the Kurpfalz Cuirassiers move as Dragoons.

6.  The Reichsarmee grenadiers and most of the Grenzer had already disappeared before the scenario start-point, so aren’t counted.  The Szechény Hussars also didn’t get involved in the battle, so aren’t included here.

7.  Rather unusually, the Kurpfalz Cuirassiers form a very small, single-unit cavalry wing.  If they are broken there is clearly no need therefore, to roll for division morale.  They will instantly count as a broken division with regards to the army breakpoint.


The stream and associated marsh running through the Röhr-Grund are crossed as per the movement rates shown on the ‘Tricorn’ QRS, though may be crossed at full speed by units in column at the marked river-crossings.  

Any unit defending up-slope of a charging attacker gains a +1 bonus in mêlée.

The town of Zinna is not prepared for defence and confers no defensive benefit.

Next Time…

In the next thrilling instalment, find out if my Prussians managed to repeat Wunsch’s remarkable victory over Andy’s Reichsarmee rabble…

We’ve also just started a campaign based on Frederick’s invasion of Bohemia in 1757 (the campaign that included the Battles of Prague and Kolin), so a lot more of that to come, plus some more Reichsarmee units, my British and Hanoverian cavalry and my expanded notes on ‘Tricorn’.

This entry was posted in 15mm Figures, Eighteenth Century, Games, Scenarios, Seven Years War & War of Austrian Succession, Shako Rules, Tricorn (18th Century Shako Rules), Tricorn Scenarios. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to The Combat of Zinna 1759: A Scenario for ‘Tricorn’

  1. Dean Oliver says:

    Great write-up and pics.

  2. George Lee says:

    You do great work and tell great stories of battles. I am still trying to find more about my father, killed at Kohima

  3. Willz Harley says:

    Fantastic SYW images and excellent looking game.


  4. Pingback: The Combat of Zinna 1759: The Refight | Jemima Fawr's Miniature Wargames Blog

  5. Pingback: The Combat of Strehla, 20th August 1760: A Scenario for ‘Tricorn’ | Jemima Fawr's Miniature Wargames Blog

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