Monday, March 25, 2013

19th century Imaginations - Furstenberg Alpine Troops

In the northern-most regions of both the Kraznikrenz Province and the Protectorate of Graatz, the alpine conditions of the Karzstan Mountains makes life difficult for the locals.  The population is a mixture of Urbs, Bosni-Balkanians and the Karzstan hill people (a rough tribal culture, but not as rough as the Drover Highlanders).  From this mix comes a tradition of mountain hunting that is the perfect basis for forming select units of Alpine Infantry.

Furstenberg Alpine Uniform
These Karzstan Mountaineers live in rough and rugged country, and make their livelihood by tending tough mountain cattle, and by hunting in the mountains.  They also have to regularly drive off Bosni-Balkanian raiders, and fight in local territorial disputes with the Urb hill tribes that they share their valleys and slopes with.  Because of this, they naturally develop and cultivate the skills that make them expert Alpine infantry.

There are six Regiments, each of four battalions, of Alpine Infantry in the Furstenberg Army at the time of the 23 Weeks War.  These are named for the Karzstan valleys that they are recruited from.  Each of the Regiments is numbered, in the Furstenberg Regimental system, but each also retains their traditional names and traditions as well.

The first Alpine Regiment, "34th Alpen" are also known as the Karzstan Ritter zu Fuss, are an old regiment, going back to the late 16th century.  These were the remnants of a religious order (Ordo Milites du Gourd en Karzstan), ordained several centuries earlier by the Holy See of Balkania.

During the late 16th and into the early 17th century, they were responsible for driving out the Urb tribesmen in and around the Aleman river valley, in the southwest reaches of the Karzstan Mountains.  This allowed for the establishment of (what would later become) the frontier city of Alemansberg.  Initially it was a travelers hospital and refuge in the mountains, operated by the Ordo Milites.

Grandmaster Horst Gourdkapp, of the Ordo Milites
Painted on the ceiling of the Alemansberg Cathedral of the Vine

As time went on, the Order was attracting more and more secular knights, and became known simply as the Karzstan Ritter zu Fuss.  During the Great Northern Furstenberg War, around the turn of the 18th century, units of the Ritter zu Fuss were sent to fight for the Grand Duchy of Poppenheim.  The Ritters were especially noteworthy for their role in the battle of Neugourd, where they held off the massed Bombastia guard regiments, who were advancing on the church Tithe barn that the Ritters were defending.

After the wars of Furstenberg Unification, the Ritter Zu Fuss were officially recognized as the first Alpine Regiment, and still retain somewhat of an elite status.  Because of this, the Margravate has almost always allowed the 34th Alpini to muster 6 battalions, rather than the typical 4.  These often see duty with several of the Furstenberg Corps.

Col. Friedel Henken, killed February 1872, battle of Vineykopp

Here is a table of the Alpine Regiments, along with unit distinctions, and the Regimental Commander (typically of the first battalion) of each at the start of the 23 Weeks War.

Furstenberg Alpine Regiments, Autumn 1871
RegimentTraditional NameCollarDistinctionCommanding
34th Alpen "Konigtal" Karzstan Ritter zu Fuss Forest Green Yellow Col. Friedel Henken
42nd Alpen "Hochtal" Hochberg Schnaikorp Forest Green Red Col. Xavier Groesser
66th Alpen "Waldental" Tannenbaumkorp Forest Green Brown Col. Wolfe Zant
68th Alpen "Sorrtal" Sorrberg Ritterkorp Forest Green Black Col. Stanek Nadler
71st Alpen "Mariktal" Alpenjunkers Forest Green Light Blue Col. Johan Meus
80th Alpen "Urstromtal" Norden Hoffnungkorp Forest Green Dark Blue Col. Richard Klauss

The uniform consisted of a dark blue tunic, light blue trousers, a jaeger style hat, gaiters and boots.  The gaiters were frequently the first casualties of any campaign.  Regimental distinctions manifest as embroidered stitching surrounding the green tabs on the collar.  Battalion numbers appear on buttons and equipment.  While not on regular campaign, the jaeger hat was discarded in favor of a large floppy beret.  Alpen troops were frequently used as police troops and rescue personnel in mountain operations, when they were not attached to divisions for military operations.

Col. Friedel Henken was celebrated as a beloved hero, due to his role in mustering mountain troops against the Urbik Horde, during the wars of unification.  At the start of the 23 Weeks War, he was not only at the head of the 34th Regiment, but was also nicknamed by the papers as the "General of the Mountain Men".  He was present at the battle of Vineykopp, against the Rumpwhistle forces, in February of 1872.  He was given command of the Alpen Brigade, which consisted of battalions from the 34th, 42nd and 71st.  Also attached were companies of the Simian Jaegers, and a mountain battery from the Alemansberg Freikorps.  Although the crossing of the Vineywasser was defended, the second battalion of the 42nd was decimated, and in an effort to relieve them, Col. Henken (at the head of the first battalion of the 34th) was shot by a Rumpwhistle sharpshooter.

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