Monday, March 3, 2008

Crossroads Collision

NIEDERSOHREN, Aug. 16--By 0915, von Dornfeld's orders were relayed back to Maj. von Fischbach at the edge of the Rohrbach valley below the Hochwald ridge. Falling back to the base of the ridge to reform into column for the advance, the Kürassiere spent upwards of half an hour reassembling from their scattered positions about the infantry column

Approximately 0950, the cavalry commenced its advance towards the outskirts of Niedersohren. About two furlongs from the village, the squadron under Maj. von Fischbach swung to the right to cover the right flank of the infantry deployment, while the second squadron, under Rittmeister Wilifried Braun wheeled to the left just within carbine range to the rear.

As the Kürassiere commenced their manoeuvres, the Waldrecker Dragoner and Hussaren posted on the fringe of the village spurred their horses forward towards the midpoint of the two cavalry squadrons, still centred on the Hochstraße. The Waldrecker artillery, unlimbered at extreme musket range behind the Kirchschloß road, fired a ranging salvo which fell harmlessly short, the shots rolling to a steaming standstill nearly 20 yards in front of the Kürassiere.

As the Waldrecker Dragoons closed within 100 yards, they broke into a canter. The Hussaren trailed somewhat behind, loosely formed and indifferently paced. At this, Maj. von Fischbach signalled for the charge to be sounded. His own squadron launched itself forward, but Braun's squadron, unaccustomed to the detached operations of the past days, was thrown into confusion by the other squadron's signal. Most of Braun's riders starting forward as well, but well over a third hesitated or pulled back, waiting for their own squadron's bugler to sound the advance. Rittmeister Braun, spotting the fragmentation of his line, spurred out ahead of his men and halted the advance to redress the ranks.

Looking over, Maj. von Fischbach spotted the confusion spreading through Braun's squadron and momentarily pulled back on his mount's reins, slowing his own squadron's advance as well. The slight delay was momentous. While Braun redressed his squadron, the Waldrecker guns fired another salvo, finding von Fischbach's squadron at the extreme end of their range. Three cannonballs in close succession ripped through the rightmost company of von Fischbach's squadron, rending riders and horses into obscene sanguinary carcasses and disrupting the crucial tight formation of the squadron as it continued its trotting advance toward the Waldrecker light horse.

Seeing this hesitation, the Waldrecker dragoons and hussars now spurred on to a full gallop as well, no more than fifty yards from von Fischbach's now shaken and somewhat sinuous line. The Waldrecker Hussaren swiftly made up the gap between themselves and the Dragoner as they closed on von Fischbach's squadron.

With a great whoop, the emboldened hussars closed ranks with the Waldrecker Dragoner and both together collided with von Fischbach's Kürassiere. Rittmeister Braun, having now largely reformed his men, watched helplessly as the wave of Waldrecker light horse slammed into his commander's now-isolated squadron, ahead of him and just to his right. Von Fischbach's Kürassiere, shaken by the artillery fire, attempted to straighten their line and bring their heavier horses and armour to bear in the melee, but the light horse were upon them before they could rally.

Slashing into the Obersaynisch squadron the Waldrecker light horse lapped about the shorter frontage of von Fischbach's Kürassiere. Between the shaken right and the failure of Braun's men to keep pace, von Fischbach's unit wavered. As von Fischbach's shouted orders were drowned by the shriek of horses and the reports of panicked troopers' pistols, the squadron disintegrated. The Hussaren spurred their mounts after those seeking flight, while the Dragoner, now sensing victory, swarmed over the beleaguered Kürassiere attempting to rally to von Fischbach's orders. As the light horse swarmed about, von Fischbach and his aides were lost from the sight of Braun who could now see only mayhem before him.

Stung by the despair that his commander's plight was the consequence of his own failure, Braun raised his sword and spurred his horse towards the shattered remnants of von Fischbach's squadron, barely conscious of his cry of "A l'outrance!" to his men behind him...