Infantry Attacks: Black Mountain
Scenario Preview, Part Two
By Mike Bennighof, Ph.D.
Montenegro went to war with no strategic plan; the men of the Black Mountain wanted to fight the Austrians, and most of all they wanted to kill Bosnian Muslims. The Montenegrins advanced everywhere except their far southern frontier.
The six Montenegrin “divisions” fielded about 5,000 men each, with limited artillery and machine-gun support and practically no medical, engineering or signal services. One small division went to the southern border with Albania, where the Montenegrin government still hoped to make territorial gains.
Another division, with most of what passed for the Montenegrin Army’s artillery park (soon supplemented by French guns and gunners), occupied Mount Lovcen overlooking the Austrian naval base at Cattaro to lob shells at the Austrian ships below. Three divisions formed the Hercegovina Detachment along the central part of the border. And one division – the newest such formation in the Montenegrin Army – along with some independent battalions made up the Sanjak Detachment, on the Montenegrin portion of the Sanjak of Novipassar, a small formerly-Turkish territory partitioned by Montenegro and Serbia in 1913.
On the Austro-Hungarian side of the frontier, the XVI Corps had been set up in 1909, controlling one infantry division of four mountain brigades, and three additional independent mountain brigades. In practice the corps managed the seven brigades as independent units, with the division headquarters acting as an ad hoc staff directing groups of various numbers of brigades (some formally part of the division, some not).
Since the Imperial and Royal Army only received authorization to increase its recruit intake in 1912, the seven brigades were formed by detaching individual battalions from regiments stationed all over the Dual Monarchy. These were given intense training in mountain warfare, and conducted constant patrols and marches through the Bosnian countryside.
By August 1914 Feldmarschall Leutnant (FML) Wenzel Wurm of XVI Corps commanded a flexible, well-trained organization perfectly suited to the “small wars” of the Balkans. Where Austro-Hungarian units on other fronts flung themselves heedlessly at the enemy, ignoring their own massive losses, Wurm’s XVI Corps set up flanking attacks and made use of terrain to minimize their own casualties. His stand on the Isonzo River in May 1915 against the Italians immediately after the Italian declaration of war would be credited with saving the Dual Monarchy from collapse.
Wurm operated under secret orders to refrain from an outright invasion of Montenegro, in order to appease the still-neutral Italians. Apparently, these did not preclude operations on the Montenegrin side of the border; at least the Austrians conducted them, though they tended not to stay on Montenegrin soil very long.
Infantry Attacks: Black Mountain has ten scenarios, in two scenarios each with its own battle game to link them together, and comes with a downloadable set of series rules for Infantry Attacks and everything else you need to play (except dice). It’s an exclusive for the Gold Club. Let’s have a look at the second chapter.
Pursuit into Montenegro
17 August 1914
Wurm’s XVI Corps had very clear orders to drive the Montenegrins out of Austrian territory, but not to follow them into Montenegro. GM Heinrich von Pongracz of 3rd Mountain Brigade, having chased two Montenegrin brigades out of Austrian territory, pursued them over the border in hopes of rendering them unable to resume their attacks on the Dual Monarchy.
The Austrians would later describe Pongracz’s attack as a “raid,” but he apparently did attempt to seize strong positions within Montenegro to help keep enemy soldiers and komitadji irregulars from filtering back over the border to terrorize local Catholics and Muslims. The Austrian brigade inflicted a sharp defeat on the Montenegrins, then on orders from corps headquarters retreated back over the border into the Dual Monarchy’s territory.
The Austrians are on the attack, taking the Montenegrins by mild surprise and trying to inflict many casualties on them. The Montenegrins, for their part, are not enthused with this plan.
18 August 1914
While Austro-Hungarian diplomatic policy prohibited a general offensive against Montenegro – something XVI Corps was in no position to undertake in any event – the Austrians could still make local attacks across the border. Seeking to outflank the Montenegrin batteries operating from Mount Lovcen – the Black Mountain itself – to shell Cattaro, the lone brigade in the area advanced into the rough ground just west of the looming black mountain.
The Austrian Mountain brigade made little headway into Montenegrin territory, finding the enemy eager to defend their homeland. While the small-scale invasion did draw troops away from Mount Lovcen, the Montenegrins realized that with the Austrians invading to the west, they wouldn’t be climbing the black mountain at the same time, and the rain of shells on Cattaro continued unabated.
The Austrians are on the attack, through rough ground, with the Montenegrins dug in to await them. The Austrian mountain troops can move more quickly (relative to the walking pace of Infantry Attacks) and have much more firepower; the Montenegrins hold strong positions and there are many more of them.
19 August 1914
As soon as XVI Corps ordered GM Pongracz and his 3rd Mountain Brigade to relieve the fortress garrison at Bileca, being assailed by thousands of Montenegrins, he started his brigade to the north-west to march to the garrison’s assistance. Even as the Austrians began to move, scouts reported a Montenegrin advance from over the border. Pongracz turned his brigade back to meet them.
The Montenegrins managed to briefly occupy the ridge before the Austrians threw them back off of it. Pongracz then ordered an attack on the retreating Montenegrins, who turned and fought for hours before eventually giving way. The lack of formal organization hindered the Montenegrins in many ways, but their thirst for close combat remained absolutely intact.
We stuff a lot of troops into a very small place, and that leads to a swirling brawl across hill and gully. The real goal here is to chew up the other guys, and that will definitely happen.
Fourteen Hours at Kazanci
23-24 August 1914
Rather than break away from the Montenegrins to relieve Bileca, Pongracz and his brigade pursued the Montenegrins back to the border. There, the Montenegrins turned to defend their frontier right on the borderline, which ran alongside the Bosnian village of Kazanci. Pongracz obliged them by ordering his troops to attack.
The Austrians and Montenegrins brawled throughout the day and through the night; as the sun threatened to rise, the Montenegrins broke off and retreated to their side of the border. Once the fighting ended, FML Wurm of XVI Corps ordered Pongracz to abandon any intent to chase them and march quickly to the relief of Bileca.
And that wraps up Infantry Attacks: Black Mountain.
I wanted to do something a little different with the final scenarios, and this lengthy battle fit that quite well. It’s much longer than the typical Infantry Attacks scenario, involving sunset and night turns as the combatants keep combatting all through the night.
Just like the Golden Journal, the Golden Annual is only available to the Gold Club (that’s why we call it the Golden Annual). We print enough of them to handle initial demand and a few extras, but once they’re gone we’re not likely to reprint them. If you want your fighting Montenegrins, the time to grab it is now.
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Mike Bennighof is president of Avalanche Press and holds a doctorate in history from Emory University. A Fulbright Scholar and NASA Journalist in Space finalist, he has published a great many books, games and articles on historical subjects; people are saying that some of them are actually good.
He lives in Birmingham, Alabama with his wife, three children, and his Iron Dog, Leopold.
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