A wargame exploring the Battle of White Mountain is described below.
The schematic of the battlefield above have been scaled down to fit our beloved bit of 5′ by 4′ for the wargame recreation. The scale used is board 1mm = battlefield 2 m; each move represents 5 minutes, and each figure represents 100-120 men using 25mm figures. Thus our 5′ by 4′ board rescales to 3 by 2.4 km on the battlefields. The rules used in the games are here.
The number of troops need to be reduced accordingly to keep the troop density equivalent. The Battle of White Mountain had 23,000 Imperialist and Catholic League troops, facing 17,000 Bohemian and allied troops. Reducing the scale down by a factor of approximately 2 gives an order of battle for White Mountain thus.
In these battles, we use the principle of Sauve qui peut to define the level of losses (in terms of base units of 1 figure) sustained by each side before mass panic sets in. The levels are shown below for the battle.
In the battle, the Bohemians suffered a collapse in morale, despite relatively few casualties. In this re-enactment, the morale of each side is equivalent. This examines the defensive nature of the ground chosen by the Bohemians, and the ability of the larger formation tercios used by the Imperialsts to penetrate the Bohemian line of battle.
For both sides, once the threshold of base unit losses exceed the following total percentages at the specified time on the battlefield, a random number is created (by the linked excel spreadsheet, or a scientific calculator) to ascertain if mass panic has set in, and the rules of Sauve qui peut apply to mass panic.
The generals re-fighting the battle use suspension of disbelief, so that if enemy troops are bearing down unseen upon your own because of the restriction in visibility due to dead ground and hills, you cannot react until they would emerge… as happened during battles of the period.
The account of the wargame is given at quarter hour intervals across the battle; the high view shared by our Olympians who reflect on the action below.
Reference is made to the soldiers pocket book Bible, with quotes appearing before the description of each move. This explores the nature of faith in fighting for the period, especially for the Calvinists.
A soldier must be valiant for God’s cause
Be thou valiant for me, and fight the Lord’s battles.
1 Sam. 18:17.
The morning’s fog has long since risen, and revealed the heretics army to the commanders of the Catholics, Count von Tilly and Count Buquoy. After mass, led by Father Dominic de Jesus-Maria who preached against the heretics, their army draws up in mixed formation; the infantry in tercios, mixed with supporting cavalry. Count von Tilly takes the left wing and leads the Catholic League and their Bavarian blue and white chequerboard flags. Count Buquoy takes the right, and leads the Austrian Imperialists, with their flags of double headed eagles.
Atop the hills of the White Mountain before Prague lies the Star Palace, which acts as the anchor point for the defensive line chosen by their commanders. To the right lies the Star Palace and its walls, held by Count von Schlick and his men. In the centre are Prince Christian of Anhalt, and to the left Count von Thurn. Their army would tax a polyglot, comprised of Bohemians, Movarians, Hungarians. But most confess with Calvin’s faith, and as such they already know that God has determined the outcome of this battle through predestination. No probability for them, providence is all; they stand or fall on the sins they have, or are about to commit and how they atone for them.
Fortuna Belli is less certain about providence. Her domain is probability, mixed with a little capricious whim. Minerva also looks on with interest at the dispositions chosen by the generals. Large, dense tercios have punch, but little manoeuvrability. This contrasts with a double linear line atop a hill, mixed with a few strongpoints. Mars always revels in the fight regardless of who will win.
The Catholic cannons open their barrage, and Calvinists fall. The Bavarian Catholic league begin their Hail Mary’s.
AVE MARIA, gratia plena, Dominus tecum. Benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Iesus.
The order to advance is given, and the Tercios move forward; pikes to the sky, matchlocks lit, horses at the walk.
Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc, et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen.
A Soldier must not fear his enemies
O Lord, be gracious unto us; we have waited for thee: be thou
their arm every morning, our salvation also in the time of trouble.
Isa. 33: 2.
Atop the hill, the Bohemians see the tercios slowly march towards them. It will take many minutes before the moments of truth begins. Time enough to return fire with their own cannons. Catholics fall to the shot,
… Et ne nos inducas in tentationem, sed libera nos a malo. Amen.
and in return, so do the Protestants on the hill.
Onwards the Bavarian banners to the Holy Virgin flutter alongside the double eagled flags of the Austrian Imperialists, amidst their pikemen in the tercios.
A soldier must pray before he goes to fight
Ye shall not fear them; for the Lord your God he shall fight for you.
Count von Thurn has had plenty of time to consider how to respond to the tidal wave about to break over the left wing of the Bohemians. Cavalry from behind their main battle line swings round to the extreme left, with orders to flank the advancing Imperialists. The first Austrian tercio, steadied by Count Buquoy has almost reached the redan holding the cannons on the Bohemians left. So far their cannonballs have failed to stop the advance, and the gunners are beginning to face the wall of pikes levelled at them. Soon the tercio’s muskets will be firing out.
A soldier must put his confidence in God’s wisdom and strength.
God is our refuge and strength; a very present help in trouble.
Psa. 46: 1.
On the left flank, the approaching Protestant cavalry draw the Imperialists out, and outnumbered, they eventually break, leaving the Bohemians free to pursue and engage the tercios. Count Buquoy urges his men onwards, and they storm the redan and capture the cannon from the Bohemians. Those gunners who did not flee are not spared, much to the delight of Mars. A fierce battle ensures, with the second line of the Bohemians pressing forward to retake the redan before the Imperialists can use the captured cannons. To their right, the second Imperialist tercio has fared worse, after a brave cavarly charge threw it into disorder. The tercio tries to reform, but this is difficult under fire. A counterattack by Imperialist cavalry in turn throws back the Bohemians.
On the right wing, the Catholic League led by Count von Tilly continue their steady advance. Maybe the battle will be resolved before they get to engage. The battle on the left is held in the balance. Whom will Fortuna Belli favour?
A soldier must not rely on his own wisdom, his own strength, or any provision for war.
There is no king saved by the multitude of a host; a mighty man is not delivered by much strength. A horse is a vain thing for safety, neither shall he deliver any by his great strength.
Psa. 33, 16:17.
Count von Thurn‘s gambit has paid off, and the cavalry on the left routs the tercio attempting to storm the redan. The Imperialist attack on the left has faltered, as both tercios fall back. The redan has been recaptured at some cost by the Bohemians, but lost at even more cost by the Austrians. Despite their success, the Bohemians do not pursue.
In an inspired move, von Schlick has gathered the cavalry reserve of the right wing and brought it to the centre, where it forms a new reserve.
The Catholic League’s leading two tercios press the redan in the centre, in an attempt to break through and secure victory for the Bavarians. Emboldened by success on the left wing, a regiment of Bohemians marches forward to engage one of the tercios, and a fierce fight ensures.
A soldier must consider and believe God’s gracious promises
The Lord your God ye shall fear, and he shall deliver you out of the hand of all your enemies.
2 Kings. 17: 39.
The battle for the central redan rages, with one of the Catholic League tercios breaking under the weight of a cavalry charge. They flee for their lives, whilst their colleagues in the other tercio do better on the other side of the redan. The Protestant regiment supporting the artillery retreat, the Catholic League troops storm the barricades and take the guns. If they can hold on, and turn them against their former owners, they may yet tear a whole in the centre of the Protestant army through which they may pour in.
Alert to this threat, Christian of Anhalt sends forward his cavalry to outflank any breakthrough.
On the left, Count von Thurn‘s men will not advance off their ridge, as the Imperialists slowly retire.
A Soldier must not fear his enemies.
When thou goest out to battle against thine enemies, and seest horses and chariots and a people more than thou, be not afraid of them, for the Lord thy God is with thee.
The Catholic League attack on the central redan has failed, and the tercios retreat after being pressed hard by the Protestant cavalry. Only a few tercios remain in good order, and they shield their less fortunate comrades from further attack.
The Bohemian Protestants seem reluctant to press fowards and to claim an even bigger victory.
A Soldier must Cry unto God in his heart in the very instant of battle.
When Judah looked back, behold the battle was before and behind; and they cried unto the Lord.
The Protestant cavalry moves forward to engage with the tercio ‘sacrificial lamb’ before the town of Ruyzene on the right of the battlefield. The men in the tercio call out to each other, and for the moment they hold back the horsemen who surround them, firing their pistols before wheeling away again.
Count von Tilly can do little to save them; their duty is to save the remainder of their army for another day, and another trial of strength. Slowly, the remainder of the Catholics retire.
And let Soldiers and all of us know, that if we obtain any victory over our enemies, it is our duty to give all the glory to the Lord, and say:-
This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes.
Psa. 118: 23.
Even the bravest of men cannot withstand an endless onslaught, and so the final tercio yields. Men fall, flee, and are pursued by their antagonists, with Mars amongst them. In the centre, another tercio is pushed back. Elsewhere the remainder of the Catholic army still pulls back. They know that the field belongs to the heretics.
The Protestants on the hill watches the Catholics retire. Time to tend to the wounded or sing out a song of praise for having been spared.
Minerva approves at such caution from both armies. Despite the dreams of generals, wars are rarely won in a day, and decisive battle remains the Fata Morgana of strategists. A string of victories will bring an opponent to their knees, and for that you need a cohort of veterans.
A Soldier must Consider that sometimes God’s people have the worst in battle as well as God’s enemies.
The sword devoureth one as well as another.
2 Sam. 11:25.
The combat is complete; the battle has ended. Having lost fully one third of their men, the Catholic assault was firmly rebuffed, and the Bohemian revolt will last one more winter. Perhaps even the new king on the throne in Prague can rest more easily tonight. The Holy Roman Emperor will not receive the news well, and promises to raise an army to devastate Bohemia next spring. Cooler heads in other cities will take note of these threats, and will pull their men back from the coming conflict, better to defend their own when the tidal wave strikes them.
Fortuna Belli favoured the defence today. On the field, the Catholics dazed by their defeat will sing a Te Deum tonight for surviving the battle, and to ask forgiveness for their sins. The Protestants will sing the 68th Psalm and recite the following passage from Exodus.
The Lord is a man of war; Jehovah is his name. Thy right hand, Lord, is become glorious in power: thy right hand, Lord, hath dashed in pieces the enemy. And in the greatness of thine excellency thou hast overthrown them that rose up against thee.
Exod. 15, 3,6,7.
Here’s an animated gif for each move in the battle.
The Generals fighting this battle were