Sunday, 12 April 2020

Stranger than Fiction - Maxen (1759) refought

Historically, Lt-General Finck's entire Corps, some 14,000 men, surrendered to Field-Marshall Daun, one of the most successful Austrian actions of the entire Seven Years War. So the pressure is actually on the Austrian commander in this battle, rather than the outnumbered Prussians, who cannot really do worse than they did historically.

Herewith the original deployment.

We used Charles Grant's excellent scenario in  Refighting History. Here for comparison is his map.


The disparity in strength between the two combatants is very clear.

Historically, Finck ordered his 15 cuirassier sqns to advance against Brentano, but they failed and were driven back. If that can be avoided, then there is in fact a wide gap through which Finck can easily withdraw. And he should - here is a view from the Prussian position on the heights of Mazen at the Austrian army massing for the assault.

The Battle of Maxen - Franz Paul Findenigg


A helicopter view of deployments in our re-fight.

And here is our version of the assault on the Heights:

Success was not absolutely guaranteed, but as Daun I felt reasonably optimistic. As it turned out casualties were relatively similar, perhaps slightly higher but not twice, and of course there is the usual question surrounding how many wargames casualties were actually dead. We felt that the Zimmermann ANF 7YW rules did well in simulating the assault up a steep hill, especially in the difficult balance of artillery casualties.

Later in the battle, Prussians cleared away, the picture on this flank looked like this:

There had been some stiff fighting around the Redoubts and my grenadiers had suffered considerably, but sheer numbers told in the end.

My cavalry completely failed to get round the back of Mazen, however. And similarly you can see from the picture below the problem developing on Daun's left flank. The Prussian infantry have only to advance, and the cavalry will not be able to secure the retreat line marked here by two sheets of paper.

Which is exactly how it turned out:

My problems were multiplying elsewhere, too, and just as seriously. General Brentano did not do as well in repelling the Prussian cavalry as he did historically. The crucial advantage of the cuirass was well-taken, whilst that Austrian artillery piece just did not do sufficient damage. Here, the calm before the storm.

The aftermath - Brentano driven from the field and the Prussians in control of the entire flank

And here, what happened as a result of failing to win the cavalry mêlée - I failed to close the gap on the retreating enemy. This is C18th warfare, not Napoleonic - no need for the Prussians to form squares here. Those Austrian cavalry in the top right of the shot are retiring, leaving their Hussar comrades to fight their way out as best they can. The wide open space for the Prussian withdrawal is plain to see.

We were left thinking that Daun had been exceptionally fortunate on the day for General Brentano to win the cavalry mêlée. It really seems that anything less than what happened historically would have allowed Lt-Gen Finck to extricate himself without much more than the casualties he sustained on the Heights. Fact was truly stranger than fiction.


Grant, C. S. Refighting History. Volume 5. Minden, Kunersdorf, the Action at Torgau and Maxen. Leigh-on-Sea, Partizan Press.

Project 7YW (2020) 1759-11-20 - Battle of Maxen. Available at:, Retrieved 12 April 2020

Zimmermann, R. (1976) The Wargamer's Handbook. Rules for Wargaming in Six Periods of History. 3rd Edition. s.l., Z & M Publishing Enterprises.