Once King Ivan had committed his army to a futile pursuit of the raiders of Orehovo, Hassan Muhtar Pasha found himself free to unite his forces from Moltuja and Polishov and mass them up before the walls of Klow. Without real interference, they dug earthworks and began to bombard the city’s fortifications. The small Syldavian garrison left in Klow was heavily outmanned and attempted to fire back while keeping their heads down. The “siege” (in reality, simply the preparation for an assault) progressed in orderly fashion, though it suffered delays from the start.
Several of the Bordurians’ biggest guns had become stuck in the snow, ice and mud resulting from the late spring storms that struck during the Bordurian and Syldavian maneuvers. The bombardment was slower and lighter than planned. Also, believing them to be fatally compromised, Hassan Muhtar had concentrated his cannons on the same section of walls that Ivan had breached in his attack on the city the previous fall. However, during the fall and winter, Ivan had acted on the advice of an experienced engineering officer recruited from the Habsburg army and made great efforts to repair the breach rebuild the walls. This work was not completed but, to Hassan Muhtar’s chagrin, the collapsed wall had been covered by an ample if incomplete earthen bastion that proved capable of absorbing the early bombardment. A few days of determined pounding by the small Bordurian siege battery proved necessary to effectively reduce the temporary defences.
Impatient to retake Klow and forewarned of King Ivan’s impending return to Klow with the bulk of the Syldavian field army, Hassan Muhtar ordered a hasty assault of the battered walls under cover of darkness. The assault was headed by a unit of Janissary troops, among the best troops in Hassan Muhtar’s piecemeal army. The Janissaries succeeded in gaining control of the damaged bastion and a section of adjacent walls but the attackers spent much time and energy fumbling in dark and muddy defensive ditches inside the rampart. The attack finally stalled under the pressure of hot musketry fire from the men of King’s Musketeer Regiment. A desperate all-or-nothing counter-attack by that regiment stopped the Janissaries and a unit of mediocre provincial troops sent to reinforce them. After a few minutes of bloody hand-to-hand fighting, the Bordurians broke and ran. The King’s Musketeers had repulsed the attack but had suffered at least as badly as had the Janissaries in doing so.
While licking his wounds the following morning, Hassan Muhtar Pasha received reports from his cavalry patrols that Ivan’s approaching army was now about day’s march west of Klow. The Syldavians were also reported to be fatigued and disordered, strung out along a long stretch of road with bunches of tired stragglers extended for miles to the west. Hassan Muhtar was surprised by the news for Ivan had shown unexpected powers as a commander, having managed to bring his army force march his men though poor conditions in time to disrupt the attack on Klow. Nevertheless, Hassan Muhtar saw that for the moment he had a substantial numerical advantage and he decided to use it. He ordered the bulk of his infantry to leave the blockage and siege positions around Klow and march west with his cavalry and a battery of more mobile artillery to engage Ivan’s army before he could rest or regroup. A detachment of provincial infantry and steady cavalry were to remain outside Klow to protect the siege artillery, who were in turn to continue to amuse themselves by bombarding the city.
Later same day, a little less than a dozen miles west of Klow, in the broken and marshy lowlands bordering the Wladir river channel, Ivan’s army ran into a Bordurian detachment guarding the road to Klow. An ambush was sprung to which the Syldavian army could only react sluggishly due to the disorder the men had fallen into on their cold and trying forced march. The Bordurian post was too weak however to stop Ivan and after a sharp skirmish the Syldavians finally brushed their enemy aside. The experience did however convince Ivan of the necessity to rest, refresh and he reorder his men while he could. Ivan had halted his army in a place that offered reasonable potential as a defensive position (a long low ridge which skirted the edge of a wide and partially wooded marshy basin). Ivan had his men set up a camp which he protected with simple timber breastworks improvised in the moment and he get to work reforming his regiments.
Ivan’s army had indeed fallen into disorder during the hurried march from Orehovo. Cavalry patrols continued to bring up a slow and steady stream of stragglers. Having personally lead company after company on the road to keep his army on the move, Ivan had more or less lost track of the state of the army as a whole. He rued both his haste and the mistakes that lead it. By Ivan’s own estimation, all his regiments were now visibly understrength and there wouldn’t be enough time for all of his lost soldiers to get back into their ranks should the Bordurians, now surely alerted, forced battle. If they came, he would have to make do. The only advantages left to him of the winter’s repose were the extra training and drill his men received, and the luck of having reasonable ground to defend.
In early afternoon, Ivan’s scouts reported that large Bordurian army was closing in. He sent out skirmish troops to delay and distract the Bordurians and so succeeded in buying some time. By the time Hassan Muhtar finally fixed Ivan’s position, the afternoon was wearing on. He hastily maneuvered he force into battle line, placing skirmishing infantry in the marshy ground to his left, infantry in his centre and cavalry on an expanse of drier ground to his right flank. Raising his mace in the air, Hassan Muhtar Pasha confidently gave the order to march straight to the Syldavian lines, where tents and plumes of cooking fires were visible. The battle was joined!
Coming up next: The Battle of the Zileherhoum Marshes after-battle report. Yes, that’s right, a battle actually was played over here in Syldavia!