The Combat of Sanderhausen, 23rd July 1758 (A Scenario for ‘Tricorn’)

Well I’ve actually got a game coming up at WASP this week! 🙂  Wargaming has been just a little thin on the ground this year, so this will be only my second game of 2024! 🙁

My oppo is interested in doing a SYW or WAS game, so I need a scenario that’s small enough to easily do on a club-night and which is suitable for a complete novice to the period and to Tricorn (or Shako, for that matter).  I’d like to do a historical scenario, so on rummaging through the list of possibilities, I think that the Combat of Sanderhausen might be a suitable candidate.

Historical Guff

Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick

During the first half of 1758, the Allied army in Western Germany, commanded by Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick, had managed to force the Comte de Clermont’s main French army back to the Rhine.  Prince Ferdinand was then resolved to cross over to the west bank of the Rhine, thereby carrying the war into the French rear.

As part of their withdrawal, the French had evacuated the city of Cassel, thus enabling Landgrave William VIII of Hesse-Cassel to re-claim his capital.  However, there were still other French forces east of the Rhine and the Landgrave was concerned for the security of his recently-liberated home city.  Prince Ferdinand was therefore forced to send Prince Ysenburg with a small corps of around 6,000 men (consisting largely of militia battalions), to provide security and reassurance to the Landgrave.

Despite having to make this detachment of troops to defend Cassel, Prince Ferdinand successfully crossed his main army over the Rhine and on 22nd June defeated Clermont’s much larger army at the Battle of Crefeld.

The Battle of Crefeld, 22nd June 1758

Prince de Soubise

East of the Rhine, the largest French corps was commanded by the Prince de Soubise and contained around 30,000 men.  This army already massively outnumbered Prince Ysenburg’s meagre corps and was soon to be reinforced by a further 6,000 men, courtesy of the Duke of Württemberg.  The only other Allied army in the region was a British expeditionary corps of 12,000 men under the Duke of Marlborough, though that force was only just starting to arrive from across the sea.

Soubise’s mission was to advance on Cassel and then on to Hanover, thereby posing a threat that Ferdinand of Brunswick could not possibly ignore, thus forcing him to bring his army back over to the east bank of the Rhine.  This would then allow a further French army under the Duc de Contades to cross over to the east bank of the Rhine and further reinforce Soubise.  To that end, Soubise marched north from Hanau, reaching Friedberg on 11th July.

Landgrave William VIII of Hesse-Cassel

The French advance guard under the Duc de Broglie, some two days’ march ahead of Soubise’s main body, had by 23rd July, reached the outskirts of Cassel.  However, Prince Ysenburg’s Hessians had already marched out, having determined that the city was indefensible.

Ysenburg had marched 5km to the east of Cassel and had taken up position on a hill, 2km to the north of the village of Sanderhausen and sitting astride his main line of communication and retreat.  This position was ideally suited as a defensive position for his small force, with excellent lines of sight and flanks protected by dense forests.  The flanks were further protected by the wide River Fulda to the west and the fortified farm of Ellenbach to the east.  Ysenburg filled the flanking woods with Jäger, the farm with militiamen and formed the rest of his corps up in the gap between the two forests.

By mid-day, Broglie had entered Cassel and had crossed over the Fulda.  From the city he could see Ysenburg’s army forming up on the heights beyond the village of Sanderhausen, so  leaving two battalions of the ‘Royal Deux-Ponts’ Regiment to secure the city, he marched out to meet the Hessians.

Duc de Broglie

Leaving another battalion of the ‘Royal Deux-Ponts’ Regiment remained to hold the small but critical river-crossing at Sanderhausen, Broglie formed the rest of his infantry into a single line of 11 battalions.  His cavalry formed a second line to the rear and the light troops (the Chasseurs de Fischer, the massed grenadier companies of the ‘Royal Deux-Ponts’ Regiment, the ‘Royal-Nassau’ Hussars and a detachment of volunteers from the ‘Bentheim’ Regiment) moved out to contest the woodland on each flank.  A battery of eleven light 4pdr guns was established forward of his right wing, while the remaining seventeen 4pdrs were distributed as battalion guns along his line.

By 1300hrs the French preliminary manoeuvres were complete and both sides opened a cannonade on each other.  The French right wing pushed tentatively forward up the slope, aiming to capture a small wooded knoll, which would allow them to dominate the Ellenbach Farm.

At 1500hrs the massed guns on the French right wing intensified their fire on the Ellenbach Farm and the ‘Waldner’ Brigade (the Swiss ‘Waldner’ and ‘Diesbach’ Regiments) captured the wooded knoll, as planned.  From there, they swept down the slope to assault the farm, but met extremely stiff resistance from the Hanoverian Jäger and the ‘Freybach’ Militia positioned behind the stout farm walls and among the surrounding trees.

With the Swiss infantry stalling, the Hessian cavalry charged, sweeping down the slope to catch the Swiss in the flank and completely break their attack!  In response, Broglie ordered forward his own cavalry, but the well-disciplined Hessian cavalry immediately broke off their attack end retired back up the hill.  Seeing the Hessian horse retire and in their enthusiasm to get to grips with their enemy, the French cavalry rode recklessly within range of the Hessian infantry, who promptly fired a crushing volley, inflicting heavy losses and forcing the French cavalry to break off their pursuit and retire to the safety of their own lines.

With the pursuers driven off, the Hessian cavalry rallied and attacked again!  Again the French cavalry counter-charged, but this time the situation was reversed; the French cavalry broke and ran, being pursued by the Hessians.  This time it was the Hessians who strayed too close to the enemy infantry and they too suffered heavy casualties before being forced to retire once again to the safety of their own lines.

By 1700hrs the cavalry of both sides was largely blown and considerable delay had been inflicted on the French advance.  On the French right, the Ellenbach Farm had still not fallen to the Swiss, though in the centre a fierce infantry firefight had developed, in which the Hessian militia were starting to get the worst of it.  However, on the French left, a new threat suddenly emerged, as the Hessian grenadiers and jäger had gone onto the attack!

The Hessian grenadiers initially pushed the French light troops out of the woods, though were stalled when they emerged from the woods to face a storm of fire from the ‘Rohan-Montbazon’ Regiment.  Nevertheless, the Hessian grenadiers quickly rallied and soon drove back the French infantry, inflicting heavy losses.  The Hessian ‘Prinz Ysenburg’ and ‘Canitz’ Regiments then marched up to support the grenadiers, causing massive disruption among the French units attempting to counter-attack.  At last, Broglie ordered a bayonet-charge by seven battalions (the ‘Royal-Bavière’, ‘Rohan-Montbazon’, ‘Royal Deux-Ponts’ and ‘Beauvoisis’ Regiments) supported by the ‘Apchon’ Dragoons and this finally forced the Hessian grenadiers back into the woods.

In the meantime, Ysenburg could plainly see that his militia and invalid battalions in the centre were starting to suffer and were on the point of breaking.  The collapse of his centre would leave the over-extended Hessian right wing vulnerable to being cut off from the line of retreat and destroyed in detail with their backs to the Fulda.  However, Ysenburg had once again rallied his cavalry, so still had a coherent reserve with which to mount a rearguard.  His outnumbered troops had done all that honour could possibly require and he therefore ordered his right wing to disengage, which they managed to execute without further incident.

However, despite the successful disengagement by the Hessian right wing, large numbers of militia deserted and were captured by the French over the next few days.  The exception was the ‘Freywald’ Militia, who along with the Hanoverian Jäger held out in the Ellenbach Farm until darkness, when they successfully withdrew to rejoin what was left of Ysenburg’s army.  The French meanwhile, were utterly exhausted, having fought a hard battle at the end of a hard march.  Broglie therefore did not make a serious attempt at pursuing the defeated Hessians.

Accounts vary, but the French lost around 675 to 700 men killed and 1,250 wounded at Sanderhausen.  Hessian losses were far lighter, with only 56 men killed, 162 men wounded and around 250 men & 7 guns captured during the battle.  However, during the following days the French took a further 2,000 or so men prisoner (mostly militia) and captured 8 more guns.

It’s difficult to see what more Ysenburg could have done to stall the French advance, especially as the main French force was now only a day’s march behind Broglie.  However, it wasn’t enough and two weeks later, Prince Ferdinand was forced to withdraw his army back over to the east bank of the Rhine.

Scenario Notes

This scenario will last a completely arbitrary 12 turns.

The French will win if they can break the Hessian army.

The Hessians will win if they can frustrate the French victory condition until the end of Turn 12.

The Hessians will win a Glorious Victory if they somehow manage to break the French army.


The table is set up as shown above.  When using 15mm figures with the usual scale (60mm frontage for a battalion or 80mm frontage for a large battalion), the table is 4′ x 4′.

I’ve done a rough contour map, but for simplicity’s sake the Hessians could be set up on a single large hill that matches their frontage.  The hill is a significant feature, so defending units get a +1 melee modifier if they are up-slope from the attacker.

The River Fulda is impassable.

The Ellenbach Farm is a Built-Up Area, giving a +2 melee modifier to the defender and a -1 protective cover modifier against artillery and smallarms fire.

The woods are impassable to cavalry and artillery, except when in column/limbered formation on a road.  Formed infantry may move through woods at half speed.  Skirmishers may pass through woods at full speed.

Woods provide a +1 melee modifier to the defender and a -1 protective cover modifier against artillery and smallarms fire.

Orders of Battle

The Hessen-Cassel Corps of
Generallieutenant Johann Casimir Prinz von Ysenburg
(Good – 2 ADCs)

Right Wing
1 Coy, Hessen-Cassel Feld-Jäger ‘Buttlar’      [2x Skirmishers]
Garnison-Grenadiere-Bataillon ‘Lindau’      [5/2 – Large Unit]
Infanterie-Regiment ‘Prinz Ysenburg’ (elite)      [5/2 – Large Unit]
Landmiliz-Bataillon ‘Wurmb’      [4/1 – Large Unit]
Landmiliz-Bataillon ‘Gundlach’      [4/1 – Large Unit]
Infanterie-Regiment ‘Canitz’ (elite)      [5/2 – Large Unit]
3 Coys, Invaliden-Bataillon (Second Line)      [3/0]
Battalion Guns      [2/0]

Left Wing
2 Sqns, Cavallerie-Regiment ‘Prüschenck’      [6/2]
1 Sqn, Dragoner-Regiment ‘Prinz Friedrich’      [5/2]
1 Sqn, Hessen-Cassel Husaren-Corps (Second Line)      [4/1]

Left Flank Guard
2 Coys, Hanoverian Jäger (unidentified unit)      [2x Skirmishers]
Landmiliz-Bataillon ‘Freywald’      [4/1]

Artillery Reserve – Oberstlieutenant Huth
Light Artillery Battery      [3/0]
Light Artillery Battery      [3/0]

Hessian Notes

1.  On paper, the French army looks far stronger than the Hessian army if you just look at the number of battalions and squadrons present.  However, in terms of manpower the Hessians were only outnumbered by a ratio of roughly 2:3 (approx. 6,500 Hessians against 8,500 French), which suggests that the French units must have been very weak indeed.  Rather than reduce the strength of the French, I’ve decided to beef up the strength of the Hessians (both in terms of unit size and quality), just to make it a rather more interesting game.  Their infantry battalion organisation was in any case, much larger than French battalion organisation.

2.  The cavalry strengths are baffling.  Most sources say that only four Hessian squadrons were present, yet the Hessian cavalry initially performed very well indeed.  However, one source says that the Hessians had 1,250 cavalry at Sanderhausen, while the French had only 1,200 (organised in 16 squadrons), which is very odd considering that the ratio in terms of squadrons was four French squadrons for every Hessian squadron!  Given the Hessian cavalry’s performance and thinking that there might be some mistake in the number of squadrons present, I’ve decided to field each Hessian cavalry unit as a bona fide unit on the table.

3.  Both Jäger units are MR 5, which means that they can absorb up to 5 hits.  These small units would ordinarily only be represented by a single Skirmisher stand apiece, but both units were reinforced by Militia marksmen, mostly professional hunters with their own rifles, and managed to put a crushing weight of fire on the French, practically destroying the ‘Beauvoisis’ Regiment through the weight of their fire alone, so I’ve decided to field them each as 2x Skirmisher stands.

4.  The batteries of the Artillery Reserve may be deployed anywhere within the Hessian deployment area and are classed as Army Artillery.

5.  Although they collapsed first, the Hessian Landmiliz regiments fought well enough at Sanderhausen, considering their severe numerical disadvantage.  I think that making them MR 3 would be too severe a disadvantage, so I’ve made them MR 4, with the Hessian regular infantry (and the grenadiers) being MR 5.  I’ve kept the Invalids at MR 3, as this was a very weak battalion.

6.  The Landmiliz-Bataillon ‘Freywald’ of the Left Flank Guard has occupied and fortified the farm of Ellenbach.  This counts as Built-Up Sector (BUS) with a defensive modifier of +2.

7.  I suggest classing two wing generals as Average and one as Good.  The Hessian commander may allocate the Good general to any formation as he sees fit.

8.  I’m not absolutely certain, but the five ‘Garrison Grenadier’ companies under Captain Lindau seem to have been the Landgrenadierregiment, which was formed in 1707 from the original massed flank-grenadier companies of the Landmiliz regiments.

9.  While most accounts state that there were only ‘ten light guns’ present with the Hessian army, this number only seems to count Huth’s massed position pieces and doesn’t seem to include the battalion guns.  The French captured seven guns on the battlefield and captured a further eight guns during the aftermath and there is a comment in one account that the French had captured ’15 guns out of 16′.  I’ve therefore given them two Light Batteries to represent the massed guns and one section of Battalion Guns to represent the rest.

Hessian Formation Breakpoints

Division                  FMR      ⅓      ½      ¾
Right Wing                   33         11      17      25
Left Wing                      15           5        8      12
Left Flank Guard          9           3        5        –
Artillery Reserve          6            –         –        –

Army                        FMR      ¼      ⅓      ½
Hessian Army               63         16      21      32

The French Corps of
Lieutenant-Général Victor François Duc de Broglie
(Good – 2 ADCs)

First Line (Right Wing)
Grenadiers-Réunis des ‘Royal Deux-Ponts’      [1x Skirmishers]
1st Bn, Swiss Infantry Regiment ‘Waldner’      [4/1]
2nd Bn, Swiss Infantry Regiment ‘Waldner’      [4/1]
1st Bn, Swiss Infantry Regiment ‘Diesbach’      [4/1]
2nd Bn, Swiss Infantry Regiment ‘Diesbach’      [4/1]
1st Bn, German Infantry Regiment ‘Royal-Bavière’      [4/1]
2nd Bn, German Infantry Regiment ‘Royal-Bavière’      [4/1]
1st Bn, German Infantry Regiment ‘Royal Deux-Ponts’      [4/1]
Battalion Guns      [2/0]
Battalion Guns      [2/0]

First Line (Left Wing)
1st Bn, Infantry Regiment ‘Rohan-Montbazon’      [4/1]
2nd Bn, Infantry Regiment ‘Rohan-Montbazon’      [4/1]
1st Bn, Infantry Regiment ‘Beauvoisis’      [4/1]
2nd Bn, Infantry Regiment ‘Beauvoisis’      [4/1]
Volunteers, German Infantry Regiment ‘Bentheim’      [1x Skirmishers]
6 Coys, Chasseurs de Fischer      [3/0]
2 Coys, Chasseurs de Fischer      [1x Skirmishers]
Battalion Guns      [2/0]

Second Line
Elements, Hussar Regiment ‘Royal-Nassau’      [4/1]
2 Sqns, German Cavalry Regiment ‘Royal-Allemand’ (poor)      [5/2]
2 Sqns, German Cavalry Regiment ‘Nassau-Saarbrück’      [combined with above]
2 Sqns, German Cavalry Regiment ‘Württemberg’ (poor)      [5/2]
2 Sqns, Liégeois Cavalry Regiment ‘Raugrave’      [combined with above]
4 Sqns, Dragoon Regiment ‘Apchon’ (poor)      [4/1]

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

French Notes

1.  French Dragoons are classed as Poor Dragoons, with MR 4.  They may alternatively dismount to fight as formed infantry or as 2x Skirmishers.

2.  French cavalry regiments were very weak at this time.  Most had only two weak squadrons, with an average campaign strength of only 240 men.  Consequently, in Tricorn a unit normally represents a brigade of 2-4 such regiments.  The German regiments were anecdotally a bit more capable than the French regiments, but on this occasion they performed abysmally, so I’ve rated them as Poor Heavy Horse, with MR 5.

3.  The single Skirmisher stand representing the massed grenadier companies from the ‘Royal Deux-Ponts’ Regiment may absorb up to 3 hits and does not count against formation morale.

4.  The Chasseurs de Fischer are recorded as having approximately 800 men present (from 2,080 men at full strength).  This might include companies of Chasseurs à Cheval (light cavalry), but as they were deployed as light troops in woodland, I’ve taken the view that it was the eight Chasseur à Pied (light infantry) companies that were present.  In game terms I’ve represented this as a formed unit (which may be split into 2x Skirmishers) and an ‘extra’ Skirmisher detachment, as it would class as a Large Unit.  The extra Skirmisher detachment will disperse on its first hit, though the two Skirmisher stands from the main body may absorb three hits between them.

6.  The ‘Volunteer Battalion’, from the German ‘Bentheim’ Regiment was probably just a small group of 2-4 companies (approximately 200 men), very much like the massed grenadiers from the Royal Deux-Ponts Regiment on the opposite flank.  I’ve classed this as a single Skirmisher stand, though it may absorb two casualties.

7.  If both the ‘Bentheim Volunteers’ and the detached skirmishers from the Chasseurs de Fischer are eliminated, this counts as 3 morale points against formation morale.

8.  Only one battalion of the ‘Royal Deux-Ponts’ Regiment was present.  The rest of the regiment (3 battalions) was left behind to defend the lines of communication in Sanderhausen and Cassel, though the grenadiers of the missing three battalions were massed as light infantry on the right flank.

9.  It’s not clear exactly how much of the ‘Royal-Nassau’ Hussar Regiment was present at Sanderhausen.  The Grossergeneralstab map shows them as a very small block, suggesting only a small detachment of perhaps a squadron or two.  Feel free to delete them if you want to make the French weaker, but it feels balanced to me.

10.  Two batteries from the Artillery Reserve are already deployed forward with the first line and are classed as Army Artillery.  Historically they were massed on the right wing, but the French player may deploy them anywhere within their army’s deployment area.  The total number of ’28 guns’ mentioned in all accounts in this instance seems to include the battalion guns.

11.  I suggest classing two wing generals as Average and one as Good.  The French player may allocate the Good general as he sees fit.

French Formation Breakpoints

Division                          FMR      ⅓      ½      ¾
First Line (Right Wing)      32         11      16      24
First Line (Left Wing)         24         8       16      18
Second Line                           18         6        9       14
Artillery Reserve                    6          –         –         –

Army                                FMR      ¼      ⅓      ½
French Army                         80         20     27     40

Anyway, that’s it for now!  I’ve presently got a load of stuff in the pipeline, from SYW to AWI to Napoleonics and ACW, though the next instalments will probably see a return to 1944 Burma, with articles and scenarios covering the 50th Indian Parachute Brigade at Sangshak and the 81st (West African) Division in the Kaladan Valley.

Oh, and all being well, I’ll have the Sanderhausen AAR! 🙂

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

10 Responses to The Combat of Sanderhausen, 23rd July 1758 (A Scenario for ‘Tricorn’)

  1. Good scenario and information there; thanks. (Impressive units too – although it looks to me as if some of those French flags could do with a bit of a makeover… ;-))

  2. Donnie McGibbon says:

    Great scenario to play, great background info as always. Looking forward to seeing the battle report, should be a goodie!

  3. Nick says:

    Another good read the only problem is keeps me from painting as I butterfly between projects depending on the article

  4. Paul Smith says:

    Hi Mark

    Many thanks as usual. I have re-played Sanderhausen a couple of times with different rulesets. Excellent scenario and looking forward to the AAR.

    Cheers Paul

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