This last weekend, went to Waikuku, for a Napoleonic game to playtest Colin's Napoleonic Rule Set 'Vive l'Empereur'. Colin directed the play, Ross and I took the French, whilst Geoff and David commanded the British. It was to be a meeting engagement; each side's command of all arms and similar size being ordered to clear the valley of a reed and scrub-lined stream that I shall call the Belleau River.
Here is a sketch map by General Loison's Chief of Staff of the general battle area (i.e. the table top).
The River Belleau, fast running, deep, its banks lines with trees, scrub and reeds was crossable nowhere except at the bridges.
The British burst into the valley from the Northeast. Divided into two commands under General Craufurd (Dave) and Fergusson (Geoff) the Corps comprised:
- 9 Infantry battalions, including the elite 95th Rifles (each bn with 5 stands);
- 1 Heavy and 2 light dragoon regiments (each with 6 stands);
- 1x9pr artillery company, Royal artillery (with 3 stands);
- 1x6pr artillery company, Royal Horse artillery (with 3 stands).
This would represent a force of some 4500 infantry, 1350 cavalry, and maybe 300-400 artillerymen with 12-16 guns (I have since discovered that Colin's rule set envisages 120 bayonets and 80 sabres per stand. I tended to think of them as 100 and 75 respectively).
From the southwest, and restricted to a single road, Loison's Corps was also divided into two commands, both comprising all arms.
Overall, Loison had with him:
- General Charlot (Me) and General Ross (Ross - I have forgotten who the other French brigade commander was supposed to be);
- 8 battalions, including 1 elite Guard battalion and 2 light battalions, all with 6 stands apiece;
- 1 cuirassier, 1 Dragoon (the heavies) and 1 Chasseur and 1 Hussar (the lights), all with 6 stands;
- 1 Heavy artillery company (3x12pr stands)
- 1 Horse artillery company (3x4pr stands).
Overall, perhaps 4800 foot, 1800 horse, and, say, 3-400 gunners with 12-16 guns altogether. I took the Guards, Cuirassiers, Chasseurs-a-cheval and heavy guns; Ross had the Veteran line and light infantry, the Dragoons and Hussars, and the horse guns. Otherwise we shared the commands evenly: 4 foot, 2 horse and a battery each.
In case one feels the Brits to be overmatched by numbers, Colin's rule set awards the British infantry a considerable firepower bonus, which, on the day, might well more than have offset the slight numerical advantage enjoyed by the French infantry...
Rather than write up a narrative, I'll allow the pictures to tell much of the story, though there was a period of brisk action in the middle of the day for which no pictures are available.
Here are some general views of the opening moves in the battle. The British decided to concentrate west of the River Belleau, leaving a single battalion to mask the North Bridge, leading into their left rear...
The French, meanwhile, also placed the bulk of their forces west of the river, sending only the Hussars to accompany the Horse battery across to the east bank.
As the French advanced on a broad front, with Charlot's Cavalry leading, the British Advance Guard, comprising two light cavalry and the horse artillery, formed a line, with the left flank resting on the North-west angle of the St Armac village.
Unfortunately, the opening action wasn't caught on camera. I'll relate the action in my next posting.