Next to wargaming, I also have another hobby. Target shooting. Just before the Covid-19 period I recorded some black powder shooting. It is one of the greatest disciplines to shoot. Especially flint lock shooting, as it is quite unpredictable, a lot of smoke and a loud bang.
So some Napoleonic era shooting with some explanation.
Last year I have done a lot of reading and searching on the battle of Scherpenzeel and the days leading to this battle. For this moment, I will skip the political landscape, and focus on the scenario I think is most plausible at the moment.
The battle of Scherpenzeel was part of the Sticht (Utrecht) Civil war in 1481-1483. It took place in the beginning of this period. It started with a conflict between cities and the Bischop, which was the ruler of the province.
Around September an army contingent from Holland visited Wijk bij Duurstede, the city where the Bishop, David van Burgundy, housed. After some festivities there were plans made to pillage the country around Amersfoort, which was one of the revolting cities.
One of the sources speak about a 4-day trip. They started at Wijk bij Duurstede, and went north over the road in direction of Amersfoort. The army was build up:
Jean van Salazar (Biscay noble, leading the army)
34 Biscay crossbowmen (Well trained, as the number is very specific, a force to be reckoned with)
Around 50 man on horse back (Unclear if the bowman are included)
300 other armed man under Jean van Salazar
300 knights from the army of David of Burgundy
300 men at arms from the army of David of Burgundy
The total army was around 1000 man. It is unclear if the Bishop himself joined the raid, or had his troops lend to Jean.
I expect that they went to “Huis ter Eem” a small castle, defending the river Eem. It is located close to Amersfoort. The house was besieged around September 1481, and destroyed by a canon. It is unclear if this was done before or after the raid around Amersfoort. The raid was either a counter action, or the reason why the house got besieged, as it might have happened after the raid.
But as you can see from the map, the distance from Wijk bij Duurstede to Amersfoort is around 37 km. Which is a long day of marching, but I think is feasible. The distance back and forth is certainly to long, to do in a single day, making the 4 day raid plausible. The army had to stay somewhere during the knight, and the castle was owned by the Bishop.
The raiding happened to the north of Amersfoort, in the direction of Hoevelaken.
Raiding and burning houses will take some time, therefore I expect that they had to move to a next castle. I am not certain which castle this would have been, but there are multiple castles located just to the east of Amersfoort.
The next day I expect that they are planning to return to Wijk bij Duurstede. Multiple sources are stating that they pillaged up to 1500 animals, cows, sheeps and pigs. This is a very large number, and would not move quickly. Also costing a lot of manpower to guide. Therefore the people of Amersfoort, gathered in an army, hoping to pay back for raiding the countryside. The mayor of the city gathered around 400 man at arms. Unclear what experience they would have, but probably consisted out of some knights and the city militia.
Near Scherpenzeel both forces met. Numerical the two forces differ a lot, 400 man for the Amersfoorters and 1000 man for the Bishops army. But because of the booty, the forces which are capable to fight, will probably more in the range of 400 against 600.
Still the battle was lost by the Amersfoorters. Somewhere between 100 and 200 people got killed, and another 100-200 were taken hostage. This had a large impact on the city defense of Amersfoort, and they called Utrecht to send some troops, as almost all men had died or where in hostage.
The location of the battle was near the village of Scherpenzeel. Hence the name of the battle. The village was located next to the road to Wijk bij Duurstede. I expect that the battle took place here, because there is a river running close by, and the road was going through a fordable place. This would make some kind of bottle neck, slowing the forces down. Resulting in the Amerfoorters catching up with the Bishops forces.
A battle will take some time, and expect that the Bishop forces would have taken some rest. Scherpenzeel does have a small castle, but it is unclear on which side this was, and a lot of damage was done to the village. As the taxes was allowed to be not paid for the next three year, due to the damage.
Geography of the battlefield
In the map included I have used the same geographical historical background, only projecting some extra information on top. The reason to use this, is to make an assumption how the route of travel would have been. Peat areas would have been swampy and diffcult to travel, especially with 1000 man and 1500 animals. Also river crossings will steer in a certain direction. That is the reason how I ended up in the current route as drawn.
In the future I hope to look more detailed into this, to investigate were the battle around Scherpenzeel took place. In the village itself, or close to the ford, or maybe somewhere to the north of Scherpenzeel, as that is the most dry area. There is only one mention of terrain data on the battlefield mentioned in the sources I have read. That is of a large hedge, either used to cover one flank or the rear of the Amersfoorters.
Next I hope to create some wargaming scenario using the above story. This so I can play it, parallel to the further research on the historical accounts, as I now mostly have used second hand sources.
I hope to play the scenario using the Sword&Spear rules, and 2mm figures. So I have to create some army lists, and starting conditions. Probably I will create multiple scenarios, to check if the troop strengths can be made more competitive if needed.
In this post I hope to provide a quick overview of the history of the Dutch landscape.
The Netherlands before the Roman occupation was partly sand and partly a marchy, swampy peat landscape. The southeastern parts (in light yellow and ochre) is higher and mostly consist of sands. The west and north is mostly covered in peat (reddish brown) with some swampy areas and streams (light blue and light green). Historical there is not much known on this area. There are some hunter gatherer communities, as found from archeological digs. But there is not much recorded on what actually happened.
During the roman occupation, or annexation, the cultivation of the land was started. They dried out the peat areas, to create farmland and to obtain fuel. this started around the bigger streams and rivers. As these were used as way of transport. And where the ancients highways. Most roman forts are found next to the rivers. The drying can be seen in the peat areas which are getting smaller.
Up until the medieval times, the cultivation continued and the large peat areas were getting smaller. The additional effect was, that the land was getting lower. When peat dries, it will shrink. Also it will start to rot, reducing the height level of the land. This is important in the next few ages, as it will increase the risk when a flood happens.
After multiple floods (between 1000-1200 AD) the sea has reclaimed some lands. The zuiderzee (southern sea, nowadays mostly called Ijselmeer) has increased in size, and the northwestern part of the Netherlands is a lot smaller. To reclaim the land of the sea multiple projects are started to make polders. This will continue the next centuries, with hightpoint around the 17th century. But also the modern day Flevoland has been reclaimed from the Ijsselmeer, as shown in the above map, with the projected contours.
The next step will be to focus on the Gelderse vallei again. Located in the middle, just below the Ijselmeer. Some large peat areas are still present, providing some economical interest.
Quite recently I have been listening some podcast about the Dutch history. This quite interesting with a lot of information, and gives a quick overview of how the swamp land had grown into the Netherlands.
In my research on the Battle of Scherpenzeel and the Stichtse oorlog from 1481, I have recently digged into the topic of geography. If you want to wargame this war, you need terrain, and it would be nice to know how it would have looked. Because this already quite long ago more than 500 years, it is quite complex and difficult to determine. Therefore some basic research is needed, and probably some estimated guesses.
I have not written before on the battle of Scherpenzeel, but I hope this post (and the following with similar topic) will give a good bit of background information, to place the different events and actions on the map. My primary research will focus on the Battle of Scherpenzeel. Later on I will also dig into other area’s, but that will require new research.
Scherpenzeel is one of the villages in the Gelderse Vallei. Translated the valley of Gelre. Gelre the is the province or region. To start off, the modern day map of Scherpenzeel and surroundings. Also showing some other important places from this battle.
When looking to this map, and thinking of the Battle of Scherpenzeel, there are a couple of places which will become important for this battle
Wijk bij Duurstede, the place were the Burgundian troops departed
Area between Bunschoten and Hoevelaken, the place where they started raiding.
Amersfoort, the origin of the Amersfoort Army
Scherpenzeel, the place which did give the name to the battle.
Don’t forget that the Army did march between those points, so the routes become important to.
The next map will show why this area is called the Gelderse Vallei. This is the modern day height map of the area. In green the heigh, the darker the color the higher the area is. The red line is still showing the province border, and Scherpenzeel is laying in the middle. To the left you see the dark area which is called the Utrechtse Heuvelrug (Utrecht Hill ridge) On the right side the large higher plains are the Veluwe area.
In the northern end of the map you can see two different colors. The reddish color, which is Flecoland. This is reclaimed land, and is below sea level. This did not exist before the 1950’s. The pink areas are polders, next to the river Eem. These areas where the place which were raided before the battle of Scherpenzeel. Part of the research will be, when these polders were actually dried up, and what the impact was on the landscape.
In the next post on geography I hope to focus more on the history of the Dutch landscape in general, and the influence of humans on this. After that I will focus on what the landscape of the Gelderse Vallei consisted off. Laying the bases to make an estimated guess on the map of those days.
A while ago this book was part of an discount of ebooks bij Pen and Sword. I bought and downloaded it, hoping to have some 15th century warfare stories inside. So I would have a better period feel for the 15th century projects. I am not really interested in the Italian wars, but it is part of Europe, and even in that period soldiers (and mercenaries) could already travel for long distances. So these soldiers could also fight in the other wars closer to the Netherlands.
The book itself does tell the story of Italian warfare, diving into the political aspects. Also the intrigues and conflicting city states. Naming a lot of companies and there commanders. It does occasionally describe some battles but only in general matters, focusing on the outcome and impact on the development of the mercenaries systems, and rise and fall of the different companies.
The book did focus on a different subject than I was interested in, and did not include the detailed descriptions on tactics and fights with mercenary groups I hoped for. If interested in the Renaissance Italian wars, this book is probably better suited, but cannot tell how well this is compared to other books. Probably not a very helpful review for others.
After reading the books on the Ethiopian history and air force actions, I hope to create multiple campaigns. Trying to simulate the different wars and operations. I think I will play most of these campaigns in solo mode. Testing out the Missle threat Solo rules and the Missle threat mercenary air campaign. I have divided the history in the following operations:
United Nations Operation in the Congo (1960-1964)
Eritrean war of independence (1961-1991)
Ogaden war, Ethiopia-Somali (1978)
DERG period (1978-1988)
Badme war, Ethiopia-Eritrean (1998-2001)
For most of these periods there were a lot of engagements, but most are not described with a lot of details. Therefore for gaming purposes I will simplify these eras, and create some kind of alternate-history. This enables to use a campaign system and generate some raids and air clashes, from tables.
At this moment I don’t have any planes yet. Therefore more detailed plans will be made when I acquire them. A big inspiration will come from the Cuba Libre! blog. This was one of the reasons with the air wargaming, and also lead me to Lacquered coffins and Missile threat rules. Please check out his work, especially his Phantoms over Havana series.
In my research for the Ethiopian-Eritrean-Somali conflict, I encountered a lot of stories which are violating human rights. It started with reading the book Ethiopian-Eritrean wars Volume 2. As my interest is mostly on the aerial war, I didn’t bother that much on the ground war. I had already read the first volume and the one on the Ogaden war, and the ground war was nasty, but the aerial engagements were mostly air to air conflicts and ground attacks, with the ground attacks on military or insurgents targets. There would be some accidentally civilian casualties, but it looked like a genuine war.
Until the mention of Civil bombings around the 1978-1979 period. There were a couple of incidents described, were the Ethiopian air force attacked civilian targets, and saw them as tactical targets. Targets were: Food supply points, Markets and Aid convoys. It was stated that most interviewed airforce personal wouldn’t talk about these incidents, but admitted that it had happened. This triggered a question by me.
Some examples of human rights violation reports on Ethiopia. Source: Human Right Watch (hrw.org)
If the attacks have been placed historically, and I want to represent the air force of Ethiopia during that period, would that also include wargaming these strikes against civilian targets?
Can I challenge myself to wargame this conflict and feel guilty when I have to attack a civilian target, without circumventing these events? I hope this post to be the first in a series just debating, discussing this issue, and maybe create some kind of scenario, around this theme. It will probably be quite challenging.
For playing wargames, there are three main drivers as I see them:
Learning history/ Create a story
War is not fun, but still having fun is I think one of the most important aspects of wargaming. Either having fun with other people, or enjoy your own time spend. The fun is not about the war, but about the game and contacts. And it does not matter if it is an historical scenario recreated or a fantasy battle in space. You can enjoy your decisions made, either the ones that went wrong, or the ones that won the game. But in the end, it is a safe playground, and only the miniatures did die.
Every battle you can learn something, but for wargaming learning new things is wider. You will learn new painting skills, calculating skills, research skills and knowledge. Wargaming will develop yourself willing or unwillingly.
Learning history/ Create a story
This is the divider between historical wargamers and fictional wargamers. Some people want to recreate history and learn what errors are made, and how it could have been changed if decisions were made differently. Others like to tell an epic story, in which would be heroes of villains defeating a certain threat. With a lot of grey area in between, like imaginations and alternative histories. But the basic idea behind it, is that humans want to (re)create stories to tell to each other or himself.
From above mentioned point I came to a general question, and hope I can investigate this in the future.
Can wargame rules include human rights violations, and still teach us a lesson, while telling the (his)story?
I hope to discuss and answer this question in multiple follow up post along the way. Looking more in-dept to the actual events and the physical impact, and how to recreate a scenario where you can both feel the impact of human right violations and not feel sadistic.
1629, During the siege of ‘s Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands, the Spanish and Imperial troops launched a diversion attack on the Veluwe area. This attack was performed to relief the threat of the Siege, and try to create panic under the civilization. It raised to several Siege to several cities, but also sacked a lot of smaller villages and dwellings.
The main forces were considered Spanish, but for a large part came from the Imperial armies. Around 18000-20000 men where gathered from the Imperial forces under command of Ernesto Montecuccoli. And a further 8000-9000 men came from the Spanish army under command of Hendrik van den Bergh.
Hendrik van den Bergh gathered the men on 17 July 1629 near Cuijk, and passed the Maas river with boat bridges on 21 July. It slowly progressed and created a bridgehead in wait or supplies. On 10 August Enesto Montcuccoli joined the forces and both headed land inwards. Their aim was to lay siege to a couple of cities, mainly smaller ones. They didn’t have siege equipment, so mostly relying on fear. During this few months a lot of smaller groups were pilaging the different villages and farms in between. Around the end of august they had conquered some cities, like Amersfoort. But it didn’t relieve the pressure of the Siege of ‘s Hertogenbosch, so the Spanish Imperial retreated.
I think this history will lend itself quite good for Pikmans Lament, to play out all the little skirmishes and pillaging missions. To start I want to create my first retinue, which are the defending troops against the invading Spanish/Imperial forces. Because my home town was also pillaged, and it did have a fortified home and landlord he will be the officer of my retinue. Although not all details will be completely historical.
Officer Willem van Scherpenzeel (~1590-1636)
The family Van Scherpenzeel has been the owners of the “Heerlijkheid” Scherpenzeel from around the 13th century as landlord. These landlords where knights in “kwartier” (quarter = district) Veluwe. I have found that is father Johan van Scherpenzeel participated in multiple knightly meetings of this district. Around 1590 Willem van Scherpenzeel was born, and he would take over ownership of the house Scherpenzeel in 1619 when his father died. I couldn’t find any other details at this moment, except that he didn’t have any children, and died in 1636 and left the house to his sister and her husband. Alida van Scherpenzeel and Hendrik van Westerholt. From that time on the house was not owned by the family “van Scherpenzeel” anymore.
His background I have described above. Because there is not a low known about him, didn’t have a wife and was not very precise in his administration, I have given him the trait of Ineffectual. This is a mostly negative trait, but hope it will play out without to much hassle.
You are only a officer when you have command over a unit. Because of Willem is part of the “kwartier” Veluwe, I will just call the company Veluwe. It is probably not an historical name. To allow multiple actions the company will have multiple different units, which might be used in different scenarios. Probably I will never table everything together. Also because I will use the Pikemans Lament rules want to be able to test the different units, I will have them all available. Historically it would probably only have some pike and shot as most of the army was used in the siege of ‘s Hertogenbosch. The company has the following available units:
1 unit of lancers (Elite gallopers)
2 units of dragoons
2 units of Trotters
5 units of Shot
2 units of pike
1 unit of Clubsman (which might double as neutral civilian party in some scenarios)
2 regimental guns when appropriate
Some loose musicians and onderofficieren (as Agitators and Heroes to spend last couple of points and boost morale)
10 may 1940, Germany invades the Netherlands as part of the second world war. Starting with the bombing of different airfields, the first airborne assault on different bridges and airfields. And a mass bombardement on the city of Rotterdam, which did force the Netherlands to surrender after 5 days.
Alltough the Netherlands is quite a small piece of land, and did have a small army, it did put up quite a resistance which did have impact on the complete war. Germany did lose a lot of air transport capabilities, hindering further invasion plans of England.
A lot of stories can be told about this short period of 5 days. And a lot of different scenarios are possible. Therefore as a Dutch citizen, a very interesting period to model and turn in to a wargaming subject. For this period I hope to create two armies. The first one is the Dutch airforce, mostly consisting out of fighters, Fokker DXXI and Fokker G1, to create some interception and scramble scenarios. I also have some reconnaissance planes in the form of some Fokker CV. The second force is the German invasion force. Some fighters, Bf109 and bf110, different bomber fleets, do17, ju88, ju87 and he111. And as last some transport planes for dropping parachutes and landing on airfield or beaches to deploy troops.
This leads to the following lists (Number in brackets are already in lead pile):
Fokker D.XXI (4)
Fokker G.1 (4)
Fokker C.V (4)
Messerschmitt bf-109 (4)
Messerschmitt bf-110 (2)
Dornier do-17 (3)
I have included some additional planes, in the form of Dutch bomber to recreate some other odd scenarios of this short war. There are enough plane have to be ordered, but my first aim is to finish the planes I already have. Therefore I need to first order some decals, as it is not doable for me to paint all the roundels and have seen that the roundels finish planes.
After that I probably want to create some terrain features in the form of different targets. (Bridges, airfield and Cities)
In the next update for this project I hope to show the different planes in their current state.