Klein Clausterthal May 20, 1809
With apologies to Marshal Marmont and General Leutnant Klenau
20 May 1809. Camp outside Klein Clausterthal, Austrian Empire.
To: The Duke of Portland, No 10 Downing Street
I have the pleasure to report to Your Excellency that the Austrians showed a bit of fight this day, battling the corps of Marshals Soult and Marmont for eight hours. They will be forced to retire on the morrow – news has arrived in camp that Davout threatens to interpose between us and Vienna, but it was a glorious action!
Prinz Hohenzollern, showing unusual energy for an Austrian, aroused his III Korps in the early morning hours and advanced on the exposed corps of Marshal Soult at the small crossroads of Klein Clausterthal. Despite several couriers, General Leutnant von Klenau was delayed in rousing his VI Korps and thus the Prinz was forced to start the action alone.
Marshal Soult, upon seeing the approach of the Prinz and being warned that von Klenau was nearby, dispatched riders to call up Marshal Marmont’s corps to his aid and launched General de Division Morand in an all-out attack from the French right. Morand, his troops well in hand, was soon fully engaged with the Prinz’s left-hand division under General Leutnant von Schwartzenburg. Meanwhile, General de Brigade Lasalle advanced his outnumbered French hussars to engage Major General Brady’s hussar brigade in advance of Klenau.
Prinz Hohenzollern, unperturbed by Morand’s attack, pressed forward with Hohenfeld’s division as well as General Leutnant Hesse-Homburg’s grenadier division and Major General Nostitz’s Grenzer division. However, without Schwarzenburg’s division, Soult launched another spoiling attack, sending the 3rd Swiss into Hohenfeld’s flank. With Lasalle and Brady fully engaged and Klenau not yet up, Soult also made a spoiling attack on his left (north) with the 105th Line.
Schwartzenburg bent but he did not break. The French surged ahead with their usual intensity and elan. Over the course of the entire day’s fighting both Infantry Regiment Number 14 Oranien and Infantry Regiment Number 24 Strauch were forced to retire. But both rallied and, eventually, returned to the fray. In a death match Infantry Regiment Number 38 Wurttemberg destroyed the 48th Line, literally grinding it out of existence and capturing its eagle. At one point the 10th Legere captured the 3rd Reserve Battery but, again, by day’s end, the Austrians had recaptured and recrewed their 4 undamaged guns.
Lasalle and Brady surged back and forth, first one squadron sweeping forward only to retire before the sabers of its foe and then repeating, but in reverse. In triumph, well past midday, Lasalle forced the Austrian hussars to quit the field, only to succumb to the fresh horses of Nostitz’s uhlan brigade. By then, however, the sun was sinking low, and Marshal Marmont’s corps was well up. There would be no horsemen thundering over panicked infantry.
At Klein Clausterthal, brute force won the day. The 105th Line succeeded in chasing away a cavalry battery during its spoiling attack, and then forced the Peterwardiner Grenzers back. However, a third opponent was too much. As Lasalle’s hussars were retiring, blown, and the 48th’s eagle was finally falling, the 3rd Converged Grenadiers forced the 105th to retire on Marmont, clearing the north face of the village.
On the south face, the Swiss drove off Infantry Regiment Number 22 Lacy and then, after much desperate fighting, Infantry Regiment Number 9 Clerfayt. The 13th Legere was fed into the fight by General de Division St Cyr and they defeated the 2nd Converged Grenadiers and then fought the resurgent Warasdiner Grenzers (see below) to a standstill. However, these two French regiments’ reward was to end the day virtually surrounded by Hesse-Homburg, Hohenfeld, and Nostitz, suffering over 200 men captured before they could recover their own lines.
At the crossroads all honor went to Infantry Regiment Number 29 Wallis. Ignoring the Swiss, who were causing so much havoc to the rest of their division, Wallis surged forward when the bugle sounded and routed the 111th Line regiment. Then, pivoting, smashed into the 30th Line and forced them to retire. This placed them to the rear of the village where they faced Molitor’s entire division in Marmont’s advance as night began to creep over the battlefield.
In the village itself, the boys of Warasdiner Grenz Regiment were repulsed by the 108th Line. Hesse-Homburg then gave the order for the 4th Converged Grenadiers, and they stormed into the village. The French line troops were forced, grudgingly, out of the village. They prudently retired out of the range of Wallis’ muskets, leaving the village, smoldering, in the arms of the grenadiers.
Von Klenau, when he came up, did come with a rush, swinging wide to the north of and simultaneously through a copse of woods to engage Marmont. General de Division Friant’s division was fully engaged with General Leutnant von Ulm’s division on the far northern end of the battle when darkness brought an end to the slaughter.
Losses were extremely heavy. From official reports coming into this headquarters, Klenau suffered about 900 casualties. Marmont, it is said, 600 with another 300 stragglers. Soult, from sources, including a young staff officer captured after dark, has 5000 men who will not fight tomorrow. Finally, Prinz Hohenzollern, he of the unusual energy for an Austrian, has suffered 6000 casualties, or over 22%.
Honors to the French 10th Legere who captured one color and, for a time, 6 cannon. The 3rd Swiss who took two colors. The 48th Line, who fought to the death. The 13th Legere who took 1 color. The 105th Line who repulsed three attacks and, again temporarily, took 6 guns. And, finally, to General de Brigade Lasalle and the French Hussars who fought almost the entire day, outnumbered, and triumphed over the Austrian Hussars.
Honors to the Austrian Infantry Regiment Number 38 Wurttemberg who destroyed the 48th Line. To the 3rd Converged Grenadiers who took the north edge of the village. To the 4th Converged Grenadiers, the honor of taking the village. But highest honor to Infantry Regiment Number 29 Wallis, who captured two eagles and made the furthest contested advance of any Austrian unit.
Your Excellency, Prime Minister, we may yet have a worthy ally in the Austrians.
Major Douglas Heresy, Special Observer for the Crown
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Diatribes are simply often humorous recountings of the games played by the Long Island Irregulars. We play with toy soldiers and are unabashedly happy to have never lost this part of our childhoods..