The Remarkable Tale of Madame Dacquoise
Of all the chapters in the history in history of the less than cordial relations between the Duchy of Strudelheim and the Margave of Underberg Asbach, one of the strangest must be that of the affair of Madame Dacquoise. The lady concerned was, some said, of noble French birth, coming from an ancient family with its roots in the Merovingian Kings; however, there were others who claimed otherwise and rumours of a less salubrious past in the dark and dangerous back alleys of Paris. Eitherway, and on this we can be certain, Madame Dacquoise had caught the eye of the Margrave and a dalliance, of sorts, resulted and went on for some months, much to the chagrin of the Margravine.
In what circumstances the coach carrying Madame Dacquoise crossed the border into Strudelheim we cannot be certain. What we can state with assuredness is that she was rapidly recognised and her presence reported to the Strudelheim authorities. In short order she had been apprehended by the authorities and her presence demanded in the capital. A party of troops were despatched to bring this valuable prisoner to the Ducal palace.
Meanwhile, in Underberg-Asbach, the news reached the Markgraf that his, ahem, friend was missing. Later that evening a report from an outlying Cossack Post of the Margraves cavalry reported seeing her carriage cross the border on the Nennweiler road. This was later confirmed by an agent in Karsdorf who had seen the lady in question being accompanied by a party of Strudelheim Dragoons.
Whilst the capture of a lady was not, even where Strudelheim and Underberg-Asbach were concerned, Casus Belli, the Markgraf was keen to restore to his possession what he felt he had paid sufficiently for and a message was discretely sent to Oberst Mossack von Sekka, a man ever-ready to enter a quarrel and find a solution at the point of a bayonet. Dispatched to rescue Madame Dacquoise, von Sekka crossed the border to the North in the hope of intercepting the lady and her escorts. As is so often the case with Strudelheim and Underberg-Asbach, the spilling of blood was inevitable and, for the purposes of this narrative, where my account begins.
Service with the Frei-korps von Sekka was a necessity rather than a career one would choose, the Oberst was not a man one could like with ease, his service with the Army of Prussia had been solid but his personal life was so littered with indiscretions that he had been obliged to give up his Regiment and seek other employ. This he had achieved by forming his own corps; a force which was available to anyone with sufficient gold to pay for its services. For my sake, I could but hope that my obligation to serve in such a body would be short-lived, if only I could achieve rightful recognition through some act of bravery which caught the attention of those who could influence my fate.
So it was that my Dragoons formed the vanguard of the force which crossed the Selz River into Strudelheim that bright morning. Ranging free across the land we soon established that the lady’s party were at an Inn well known as a traveller’s rest and, that far from having only a troop of Dragoons to escort her, Madame Dacquoise was now accompanied by a small force of Strudelheim Fusiliers and Grenzer. Our mission was to be harder than we had anticipated, but still we had the chance of out-marching the Strudelheimers who appeared to be dallying over their breakfast.
For my part I was unaware that the enemy had observed our presence, but I was later to learn that we had played a significant role in delaying our foe, for, being aware that out cavalry were abroad, he was to take a very circumspect approach to his march, patrolling each stretch of road ahead before committing their prize to that route. It was a policy which allowed the Oberst, travelling as he was by a different road, to pass the enemy and threated to cut him off at the cross-roads by the old monument.
With the enemy column in the distance, Jägermeister Kellerman deployed forwards, leading the way for the Musketeers before before taking up position on a wooded knoll overlooking the crossroads. The enemy would have to fight their way through!
However, the Strudelheim Fusiliers were not to be perturbed; pushing down the main post road and deploying rapidly into line with impeccable drill. On their right, just visible among the buildings situated there, was a party of Grenzer working their way round towards our flank.
Even as the enemy deployed, Oberst von Sekka pushed his Musketeers forwards still in a close march column. From my position I feared for his force as the enemy leveled their muskets and fired a volley, but von Sekka must have the very Devil on his side as few shots found their mark and his column rapidly deployed in to line in the very face of the enemy.
Remarkably, a ragged volley, fired without control or order, tore through the ranks of the Strudlheimers and the added support of Kellerman’s Jägers thinned the white clad ranks further.
At that moment I heard the Oberst cry out in a firm voice which cut across the battlefield, “Unleash von Kraken!” If I hesitated it was but for a moment as I could see that the enemy line, whilst shaken, was still a solid formed body and was unlikely to yield to a handful of my Dragoons. However, glory was my watchword and, trotting down the village street as we were, it was nothing to stand high in my stirrups and signal to the men to increase our pace to a gallop, our swords ready to cut down our foe.
If bravery were the measure of victory, my men would have triumphed, but I fear that numbers told against us and. much reduced in numbers, we were repelled by the Strudelheimers. Ignominiously, we returned to the village from which our charge was launched, yet the enemy had not won their victory without loss and von Sekka’s men were now to capitalise on he glorious but futile contribution we had made.
The Strudelheimers neatly dressed their ranks under fire, but now they were driven back by our musketry. At first their line shuddered and retreated a few yards, but then it began to retreat as more fire tore through its ranks.
We could see the effect of our fire, as Oberst Kollonistch, the valiant Strudelheim commander, was receiving the administrations of a Physic even as his men retreated around him. Yet still was there no sign of the lady we had been sent to rescue.
With our attention much taken with the fight by the crossroads, little attention had been given to a force of Grenzer marching up the main post road, but these now pushed on past our flank, detaching a small force who pushed Keller man off the knoll.
Their success was, however, short-lived, as a counter attack saw them expelled from the ground and falling back to the chapel woods where some of their ranks were skirmishing.
As our our Croat forces swept around to the enemy’s rear, a small body of horse rode by in the fields to the rear of the small bakery. At its head was Hauptmann von Junker and at his side the impeccably presented Madame Dacquoise in a stylish silk ensemble in cream with yellow tafetta trim, a hat by Raymondo of Paris and matching fan.
But even the dashing horsemanship of von Junker could not change the fact that von Sekka had seized the cross-roads and escape was impossible. A crashing volley from the Musketeers drove the Grenzer from the woodline and Oberst Kollonitch could be seen ordering the cavalry to withdraw. His force much mishandled by ours, be we without the cavalry to pursue. The lady has, I fear, been removed from our grasp and we must pursue her as best we can.
So ended a rather spiffing game of Sharp Practice at our local club. Unfortunately I was umpiring so took fewer photos than I should especially of the Frie-korps Croats on their flank march who so nearly succeeded in capturing the lady in question. The Strudelheimers were nearly successful in deploying and catching von Sekka on the hop, largely due to a good use of command cards to propel them down the road at top speed, however a truly pathetic bit of dice rolling saw their initial volley, usually so powerful, end up a bit of a damp squib. Oberst von Sekka was unable to even manage a controlled volley as he was desperate to return fire but did manage a crashing volley which ripped into the enemy ranks and killed a good few.
The charge of von Kraken’s cavalry was a dangerous ploy which lowered the morale of the Freikorps as they were repelled in very bad order, but the casualties they caused and the shock they added were enough to really allow the Musketeers to gain a hegemony which was not ever challenged, especially with the Jägers firing in support.
The scenario obliged the Strudelheimers to clear the road before the lady entered the table. They had a choice of which unit accompanied the lady and they elected to use their cavalry for that purpose. This meant that their progress down the road was slow and it may have been wiser to use the cavalry for that purpose. The original plan, to use the skirmishing Grenzer to do it was hampered by the heavy terrain and in the end a column of Grenzer (again largely unphotographed) simply bludgeoned their way through. By then, however, the Strudelheim Fusiliers were in trouble and von Sekka’s Musketeers shut the only route available.
A smashing game with lots of characters and a real narrative produced by the game system and a huge amount of command decisions to be made with the Command Cards. A fantastic limber up before I fly up to Edinburgh tomorrow for Deep Fried Lard, the gathering of the Clan Lard in Musselburgh for a day of gaming, beer and curry. I will be running two Indian Mutiny games there, same rules but a very different period feel.