Monday, 27 April 2009

The Battle of Saint Gotthard, Revisited

My goodness, I think we've all heard of the "Fog of War", but have you heard of the "Fog of Research"? In addition to my post here, I also posted on the PanMark Yahoo Group, dedicated to warfare in the eastern theater of operations, requesting any information that their members might have. Now I have heard from Dan Schorr, as requested, and from a PanMark member named Daniel Staberg of Sweden, both of whom pointed me to some excellent documents in German and Viennese period archives of the deployment and Order of Battle for Saint Gothard. In addition, Dan Schorr has now gotten back to me with yet another source, this one in French, on the regiments participating in the battle. The "fog" thickens Dear Readers! So, see what you started with your innocent question Theo? ;-)

In the interest of at least attempting to accurately post information here, I feel I must now amend my earlier post regarding French units present at the Battle of Saint Gotthard, 1664. Make of this what you will.

According to the excellent deployment map and Order of Battle from the Marburg Digital Archive pictured above (not attributed to a particular artist or archivist that I can find), we have four “named” French formations of infantry and two infantry detachments with the cavalry. Those “battalions” are labeled as “Frenchmen”, La Forti, Turenne and Piemont, and the detachments are labeled as Turenne and “de la Ferté”.

The problem is, “Frenchmen” could mean or be anyone under French command or in a French “uniform”. La Forti is not listed either in Susane’s “Histoire de l'ancienne infanterie française” or in the database listing of the French Vexilollogie site for regiments of the Ancien Regimé. However, two regiments called La Ferté are listed in Susane, but according to that reference, one was deactivated in 1639 and never reactivated, and the other newly-activated in 1651. Turenne and Piémont were, of course, part of the “Vieux Corps” and are well documented in several sources.

According to Kurt Peball in “Die Schlacht bei St. Gotthard-Mogersdorf 1664. Heft 1.Militärhistorische Schriftenreihe” (Peball was an archivist at the Kriegsarchiv in Vienna); the four battle formations of French infantry were attributed as the following: Grancey-Espagny, Morvas-La Ferté, Fifica-Touraine and Chavigny-Piémont. Also, Peball has an excellent map of the army’s deployment for battle that is significantly different from the one in the Marburg Archive, along with a detailed Order of battle that names not only specific squadrons, but even specific companies that made up formations in some Allied “battalions”. Good stuff. Here is the Peball map and Order of Battle, courtesy of Dan Schorr.

Turning once again to Susane and the Vexilollogie database, Espagny was amalgamated with or became Guyenne in 1649, the original La Ferté ceased to exist in 1639 and the new La Ferté was activated in 1651, Morvas, Grancey, Fifica and Chavigny do not exist as “regiments”, and Turenne has now become Touraine, a completely different regiment, obviously. Only Piémont remains a constant.

And finally (also from Dan Schorr), Belhomme in “Histoire de l'Infanterie en France", states that the entire contingent present at Saint Gotthard was composed of 102 individual companies drawn from the following: de Piémont, d'Avergne, d'Espagny, de Lorraine, de Grance, de Turenne, de Guiche and de la Ferté.

So, again using our common resources, the mystery deepens. First off, does Belhomme refer to the official name of the regiment or to the field commander? While Susane doesn’t confirm all of the regimental names, he does refer specifically to individual officers named “Jacques d’Estampes, marachel de la Ferté” who commanded the Hepburn or Hebron Scottish regiment, a “marquis d’Espagny” who commanded the Espagny Regiment until its incorporation into the Guyenne Regiment in 1649, and both a regiment “Guiche” and a commander named “de la Guiche”. The regiment known as “Guiche” was not called by that name during the period of this battle, but a “Claude-Maximillian de la Guiche” commanded the Saint-Géran regiment during this time period.

And nowhere is there any reference to the Carignan-Salliéres regiment, or troops specifically from that regiment, taking part in the Battle of Saint Gotthard. That doesn’t mean they weren’t part of the “Turkish Expeditionary Force”, just that nobody mentions them at the battle itself. But, given Belhomme’s reference to 102 companies from various regiments being drafted, it’s still very possible that some of these troops made up the “1,000 to 1,100 men and 100 officers” that arrived in Canada supposedly “fresh from the wars with the Turks” according to the "History of New France" web site and database.

So, if I was a wargamer wanting to refight the Battle of Saint Gotthard in 1664 (which I am), and wanted to be reasonably accurate, what the heck would I do? Who knows? Who can say with any certainty? I would probably be fairly comfortable fielding Piémont and Turenne (2 to 1 sources claim that it’s Turenne and not Touraine), but what beyond that, especially since real “uniforms” as we know them hadn’t come into official use in 1664? Beyond that, I would probably field a lot of generic French with several standards; possibly Auvergne (instead of Avergne), Lorraine, Espagny and Guyenne (was Guiche). That or I would field at least one battalion with just Colonel’s colors.

Until we figure out how to get Professor Peabody and Sherman’s “WayBack Machine” to actually go back to August 1, 1664, who could say you were wrong?

My thanks to Dan Schorr for the Belhomme and Peball references and to Daniel Staberg in Sweden for the Marburg Digital Archive resource. By the way, if anyone wants the link to the Marburg Digital Archive, an excellent source of historical research, let me know and I'll send it to you, or you can just do a Google search for that name and get there.

Bill (confused in Texas)


Anonymous said...

Dear Bill,

What can I say? "Astonished" and "thanks" spring to mind for a start!


Steve-the-Wargamer said...

Too right - I love posts like this, real Sherlock Holmes stuff...! :o)

As an extra source that you may want to check for uniforms (and you may already know it), I would add this site:

...some beautiful period prints..

PS. With regard to your quest, I would go with what you feel is correct - no one is going to be able to prove otherwise after all!

Sir William the Aged said...

No problem Theo. I think you actually provided a challenge and a pleasant diversion for several of us both here and on the PanMark Yahoo Group for the last few days. And I think we will probably see some gaming reports appearing here and there.

The two maps we have available, even if they conflict each other to some degree, do provide excellent Orders of Battle and excellent opportunities for gaming and possibly introducing Lace Wars gamers to Eastern Renaissance gamers and vice-versa. I, for one, will be doing some regiments that I know I can use in the eastern Theater now, and will be doing some Poles once my French and some Dutch and Germans are done. I already have one friend with a 15mm Ottoman army and I don't think it will be too difficult to gain his interest.

Thank you for providing the "momentum" for this project.