Sunday, March 31, 2013

19th Century Imaginations - Furstenberg Seebataillone

It is difficult for a military adviser from outside Balkania to imagine how a landlocked nation like the Margravate of Furstenberg requires naval infantry, and even more difficult to picture them participating in the 23 Weeks War, which was waged largely in the Karzstan Mountains, and the hill country north into the Confederated Cantons of Rumpwhistle - but both of things are true, and deserve some treatment in the ongoing series of descriptions of troops in this important conflict.

The eastern border of Furstenberg is the mighty Krenz River, and it divides Furstenberg from other Balkanian Principalities.  Because of this, and especially because the Krenz also borders Rumpwhistle (although north of it's Furstenberg shorelines), the Margravate maintains a riverine navy.

Over the years, this small segment of the Furstenberg military establishment has gained quite a history for its ships and associated men, and has participated in a number of interesting conflicts against other Balkanian powers.  Protecting both the ships and naval facilities are a number of companies of naval infantry.  These serve as on-shore garrisons for the different naval ports, as well as serving on the capital ships of the navy as marine detachments.  They fulfill the typical role - assisting gun crews in combat, providing security for officers, and serving as boarding and shore parties in operations.

Together these various units of naval infantry are the Furstenberg Seebataillone (officially listed as just one battalion, albeit closer to division strength, although never gathered together in one place).  It consists of a number of different "companies", but each company can be as large as 600 men.  It is the tradition that the troops assigned to either a shore facility or to a single ship are all termed a Company (as in Ship's Company, or the Port Company).  The name should not be confused with a typical infantry company (which in the mid 19th century in Furtenberg is about 150 men).

Furstenberg Seebataillon - 1871
Around the time of the 23 Weeks War, the Furstenberg Navy was very much still a Navy in Transition, to use the terminology of the day.  It consisted of some 6 ironclad ships, and approximately 24 wooden ships.  Most of the wooden ships had been outfitted with auxilliary steam power, which is quite important when navigating the rivers of Furstenberg.  At the outbreak of the war, none of the ironclads, and only four of the wooden vessels (the aging ship of the line "Duchess Helga", the more modern battle cruiser "Queen of the May", and the two masted cruisers "Absinthia" and "Eiderduck") were present on the Dukon River, and all of these were in the river port city of Thorn.  These were rapidly called up to Graatz Province, and their naval infantry companies and some of their guns were made available to the expeditionary forces preparing for war against the Rumpwhistle forces.  The Duchess Helga was not seaworthy at the time, but her Seebataillone company was sent along.

Captain Akorn-Tabbac, of the Eiderduck
Once in the Graatz naval weapons station at Korndock, the troops were organized.  The 600 men from the Duchess Helga were made into Company One.  The troops off of Absinthia, Queen of the May, and Eiderduck were combined to make up Company Two.  And finally, detachments from Thorn and Korndock were combined into Company Three.  Together with a battery of light guns from the Eiderduck, that were hastily mounted on field carriages, these were deemed a Light Brigade, and sent north to help out in the war.

As far as actual naval actions in the war, there was some gunplay between the Eiderduck and Urbik river pirates, on the Dukon River, however this is typical in the region and did not seem to have much to do with the conflict against Rumpwhistle.

The three Companies did see action, in a number of different battles, and men of the Duchess Helga company (Seebataillone Co. 1)distinguished themselves at the Battle of Krump's Farm.  The whole brigade was brought together after that action, and during the Maduro Valley campaign, fought together as a unit, under command of Port Admiral Kriegwasser, from Thorn  He had his whole staff with him, which was a mixed blessing.  They were a command that was accustomed to working together, however much of the work they did was to organize ship repairs, supervise operations against river pirates, and handle recruiting and naval logistics.
Admiral Kriegwasser and his staff.

In 1871, the uniform of the Seebataillon forces consisted of the typical dark blue tunic, similar to that of the infantry (although with Light Blue collar tabs, and according to the Furstenberg military roles, a "fair amount of gold or red stitching, as befit naval infantry").  They wore sky blue trousers, tending towards a bloused style (although not as much as the zouave trousers of the Drover Highlanders).  Rifle and kit were very much the same as the Infantry.  Unit distinctions tended to be the name of the ship or port that the company was detached from, stitched around the back of the kepi.  A dress shako, with a naval infantry gold plate as a frontspiece, was rarely worn in the field.

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