Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Napoleonic Clash - continued


The Austrian cavalry having routed the chasseurs, they await
the response of the French husaars.

We left the narrative in my previous posting (link HERE) with the French hussars seeking to administer a harsh requital for defeat of their chasseur comrades.  But before returning to the outcome of that clash, let us review what was happening elsewhere upon the field of battle.
Klenau's Division under pressure; arrival of cuirassiers from
the reserves.
In and around East Village, Kaiser's Division continued to maintain its 'hesitant'stance.  Paul allowed afterwards that at no time during the eight or nine turns he had the Division under his command did Kaiser show anything but an extreme reluctance to do anything positive.  The lead column stalled, and even lost its fire discipline.  It was probably fortunate that the French made no serious effort to attack this Division or to carry the East Village, beyond pressing in a crowd of skirmishers on three sides.
St-Julien's Division falters, just as the cuirassiers arrive.
The arrival of the Cuirassiers, followed soon after by the two 12-pr position batteries, we hoped would give weight to St-Julien's effort against the North Village.  These arrivals coincided unfortunately with the collapse of St-Julien's lead regiment, which also caused the whole division to falter.  Rather than reinforcing what little success the Austrians in this sector had so far enjoyed, they rather reinforced failure.  It is true, however, that the French seemed to make no determined effort to follow up their success.  Possibly that was due to the hurts that the lost regiment had themselves inflicted before their collapse, and the deterrent posed by the heavy horse and guns.  Subsequent pictures indicate several French units with wounds to think over.
All quiet on the northern front.

On the extreme north flank, only Pieterwardeiner Infantry and Vukassovic's artillery sustained the fight against the village garrison.  This was never going to be more than an affair of popping musketry punctuated by the odd shell burst.  The respective light cavalries continued to eye each other, both as yet unwilling to chance their arms.
French infantry around the North Village look as though
they have recently been in a fight!
 Although the French infantry continued to occupy the area around North Village, several showed visible signs of the battle they had endured, as the above picture shows (the orange markers).  (Aside: At some point around this time, I carried out a count of 'hits' taken by my wing - a total of 44.  If the rule set ran to figure removal, this would have amounted to 44 figures out of a whisker over 300 - over 14%.  That's quite severe, and we weren't done yet!  Mark did a quick count and his wing had taken something over 60 'hits'!  This mauling was not at all obvious from my side of the battlefield).
The southern wing cavalries square off

By contrast, the action in the southern half of the world continued here and there to spark into violent life.  Having seen off 1st Chasseurs, the Austrian horse clashed with the enemy hussars.  The chevauxlegers - for the first time in more than a merely supporting role - faced 6th Hussars, the uhlans took on the 5th.  Perhaps coveting the laurels that the uhlans had already won, the chevauxlegers dealt brusquely with the 6th Hussars, flung them back beyond their own infantry, and, with hardly a loss to deplore, pushed into the ground won.  The outcome of the uhlan's battle was not to be the same.

Defeat of 6th Hussars.  5th Hussars and 1st Uhlans fight
each other to a standstill.
Flushed with the tide of success so far, the uhlans might well have anticipated a repetition.  They didn't get it.  Unlike their comrades of the 6th, the 5th Hussars did not give way at the first shock, but sustained the fight into for long enough to persuade the unlans that this unit was not for turning.  (The first dice rolls were evenly matched, which took us - from memory - into a second round.  That, too, proved indecisive.  At this point, both players had the option to withdraw.  Honour satisfied, I didn't wait for the hussars' decision, and opted to pull out the uhlans. Back they trotted past the churchyard, pride intact).  The drawn fight between 1st Uhlan and 5th Hussars satisfied the pride of both sides.  For mine, there seemed to be nothing to be gained from sustaining a chancy battle in such an exposed position.
Weber's Division pulling back to form a new line well short
of the South Woods.
The fact was that Weber's Division was in no position to support the light horse, being rather inclined to pull back well out of range of the skirmishers in the South Woods.  This might not have been the smartest policy, in the circumstances.    But I felt that this formation was too small to achieve much against the French right wing.  Had I (Feldzeugmeister Kollowrat-Krakowsky) appreciated more fully how much of a mauling the French had so far taken, I might have tried something a bit more aggressive here.
Brady's Division in a holding action against the French
centre-right.
It was upon Feldmarshalleutnant Brady's front that I had my eye.  For the moment Brady's Division was carrying out a holding attack against the French line.  What was wanting was the masse de rupture - the Brigade of Grenadiers.  Where were they?  Good question!  For three turns in a row I waited in vain for their appearance. (Aside: one rolls for the availability of aides-de-camp by which one issues orders. The Austrians could get a maximum of 6 - 3 per wing - with one added for the cuirassiers and for the grenadiers when they arrived.  It required two of such gentry to call up the grenadiers, and then with no certainty of their arrival.  Having said that, General d'Armee seems to be one of those rare rule sets in which a holding, or pinning, attack is feasible and worthwhile.  On this occasion it was prolonged farther than I would have preferred).


The withdrawal of the uhlans having left the chevauxlegers isolated, the latter, too, began to with draw to their own lines. Those lines had been slowly receding before the crowds of  French skirmishers.
At last, at the fourth (!) call, FZM Kollowrat sent three ADCs to bring up the grenadiers.  There they were, advancing up beside the east Village, three splendid battalions, the force of decision.
Here come the Grenadiers - 3 turns later than hoped for, but
here they are!

Awaiting this reinforcement, the Division Brady regiments had extended its front - Coloredo Infantry shook out into line formation, whilst Zettwitx Infantry formed a refused flank.  Even so extended the Austrian musketry was hardly equal to the musketry incoming from at least three French regiments and a skirmish line as well.   The small band of skirmishers available to FML Brady might have to be called upon to protect the line, if only a little.  When Zach Infantry lost some of its cohesion, that intervention seemed to be indicated.


The sector of decision, seen through the 'Zeke' filter


Weber, of course, continued his retrograde, under the pressure of heavy French clouds of skirmishers.  Already, FML Klenau had ordered counter-measures.  Pulling back the uhlans to his main line, he left the chevauxlegers covering the left of the churchyard.  his artillery and jagers he swung leftwards towards the flank of the enemy skirmish line.  The Austrians had little fear of a disaster on the south flank, not with this flanking counter-attack in train. 

Austrian cavalry have pulled back; Jagers and Klenau's
artillery moving to rake the enemy's advanced
skirmish line
All that, however, was mere diversion.  The centre would be the decisive sector  - supposing a decsion were possible in Austrian favour.  I'll admit right here, that, although I'd been having a lot of fun, I still didn't think an Austrian victory likely under the terms of the scenario.  There I now think I was mistaken, but I daresay that sort of thing can easily happen in warfare.  The commands of Gudin, St-Hilaire and Pujol (Mark) had taken already a greater battering than I realised at the time.  A stronger, more aggressive effort might well have been feasible.
The plan of attack.  But I want to broaden it to more than
one column width.
Having said that, the Austrian cause had been helped in no way by the Grenadiers' tardiness.  Dependent upon the Grenadiers' masse de rupture, the attack had to await their arrival.  That left Brady's strong Division, assisted it is true by the churchyard garrison, to sustain the holding action.  Losses to Zach infantry caused its temporary loss of cohesion, and losses were mounting rapidly to Coloredo as well.  We could count ourselves lucky (though henceforth I assigned ADCs to prevent it) that there were no further delays to the Grenadiers' march.
This one almost snuck under the spyglass: the French
chasseurs wake up and charge!


Almost unnoticed amid the unfolding drama in the south, on the extreme northern flank, General Jacquinot nerved himself to charge the Austrian hussars.  Possibly the latter were surprised at such belated hostility, or maybe had simply been lulled by the relative peacefulness that had prevailed all morning and well into the afternoon.  The qualitative superiority of the Austrian horse seemed to avail them little as the Frenchmen struck home.

Hessen-Homburg Hussars taking a mauling.


At first contact, the chasseurs concentrated their assault upon the Hessen-Homburg Husaren (probably everyone's favourite Austrian hussar unit, certainly mine, for the colourfulness of its uniform, its known military record, and the name of its Inhaber).  Colour, name and reputation seemed to count for little on this occasion.  Inflicting five hits to one, the chasseurs beat the Austrians back, coming within an ace of driving them pell-mell from the field.

At once, the victorious chasseurs turned their attention upon the Archduke Ferdinand Hussars, and served them out the same way.  Back went the Austrian horse, though, again, not so as to abandon the field.  At the same time, the Pieterwardiener Grenze and the horse artillery bethought themselves of their own safety.
General view from south wing, looking north along the
Austrian line.
As Vukassovic's Division was being driven in on the northern flank, Weber's in the south had stopped their retrograde and were holding up the oncoming French skirmishers.  Losses mounted on both sides, but the intervention from Klenau's light infantry and cannon were to tip the balance well in favour of the Austrians.  It was not long before the French skirmish line began to feel the weight of the incoming musketry to heavy to bear, and to pull back.

For his part, FML Klenau was beginning to feel his oats and joined the chevauxlegers by the churchyard.  The troopers could see by the maniac glint in his eye that the good Feldmarschalleutant had some deviltry in mind.


Klenau's charge for glory!
His thirst for glory as yet unslaked, Klenau and his men dashed forward, 5th Hussars their target. (Aside: This is one of the 'chrome features' of General d'Armee - special orders, some of which are as you would expect, such as the Grenadiers' receipt of  'Infantry Assault' orders that apply to the Brigade or Division as a whole, others a little more ... erm ... subjective in nature.  This was the 'Glory' order that you might see in the picture.  This presents certain advantages to the side attacking under it.)  Manfully, the hussars counter-charged, but to no avail.  The Austrian horse hurled them aside in as brusque a manner as their comrades had been by the uhlans.  The affront of the 5th Hussars' halting the uhlans' tide of success was thusly summarily avenged.

5th Hussars retreat.
The developing attack...
Events at this point were unrolling with ponderous deliberation in the centre.  One thing about this rule set, is that infantry attacks do seem to have a sense of weight that can not be hurled about with the lightness of the cavalry.  Brady's Division had to contract its front, the main reason to poke the small force of skirmishers in between the lines.  The was little to be gained from the Grenadiers attacking on a single regiment front.  Even as it was, the crowded field presented a superb target to the French battery close by the West Village.

Grenadier casualties mounting uncomfortably rapidly...




Before resuming the tale of other dramatic events, another quick survey of the quieter parts of the field seems in order.  In the south, the French skirmish line, quite unsupportrd by any close order troops, had reached their high-water mark and were beginning to come under counter-pressure themselves.  The Austrian right centre were still unable to unravel themselves.  The lead Hungarian regiment had taken a fearful battering all day, without the slightest support (you can see the 'hesitant' marker that obviated any means of relieving the situation from within the Division, and no help was to be had from St-Julien's Division, which, failing to rally, was in the process of quitting the field altogether.
FML Vukassovic leads Hessen-Homburg's unexpected
comeback!

The one ray of sunshine that was to pierce the northern darkness was to come from an unexpected quarter.  Placing himself at the head of Hessen-Homburg, FML Vukassovic rallied the hussars, exhorted them to a supreme effort, and led a headlong charge into the flank of the 18th Chasseurs.  In a trice and despite the presence of General Jacquinot, the chasseurs broke and vanished westwards.  Paul had to leave at this point.  Having gained the initiative the following turn, I would have liked to have sealed the Austrian resurgence here by attacking the other chasseur regiment.  This turned out to be mot possible on account of one unit being obstructed, and the other unable to wheel betimes.  Instead, they could do no more than to form a line of regiments and present a united front against the 19th Chasseurs.  The latter soon made off to join their comrades.


After that there is little more to relate.  For some time the weather had been threatening, the distant thunder (rattling of the dice, which began from move 10 to determine when it struck) heralding an approaching storm.  That didn't stop the counter attacks by Weber and Klenau Divisions


The grenadiers storm the French line...
Nor did it halt the long awaited assault bu the Grenadiers.  Much as I would have liked to have sent the two columns to attack simultaneously - I do like to hit hard - this turned into a right-and-left, one-two combination.  The right column went first.  Braving the defenders' musketry, gunfire and fire from a flanking line of skirmishers, the grenadiers smashed the French line back with ease.
... and break through on a wide front -
just as the thunderstorm breaks and ends the battle.

In went the second column.  The defenders took a considerable toll as the attackers forged on.  Shrugging them off, these grenadiers repeated the performance of their comrades.  Back went a second French unit, through the woods, and beyond.

With this breakthrough, perhaps the Austrians might have been able to achieve more, with the grenadiers trundling on and Klenau's Division joining them in a general assault. It was not to be.  The long threaten thunderstorm broke, and the action came to an end.  We had played out the 12 turns.

Well, I knew the parameters of the scenario, and in those terms, the French had won.  Our one Victory Point came from the churchyard we had taken from the French.  They could count the North Village, the Southwest Village and the dispersal of St-Julien's Division. In addition, our call upon the reserves awarded the French a fourth VP.   Although several French units had taken heavy batterings, not one French Division had routed off and dispersed.   Not had Marshal Davout seen the need to call upon the heavy horse of St-Sulpice.

The remaining 8 pictures show the state of the battlefield at the close of the action. They begin at the Austrian south wing, travel north, and then repeat on the French side

End of Battle - Austrian left flank
I had a ball in this battle, and from my perspective, this didn't feel like a defeat at all.  But I have to acknowledge that scoring more in the way of VPs was, in hindsight, probably more achievable than I believed at the time.  At that, had the grenadiers showed up at first or even second call, we might have been able to mount a whole 2-Division general assault upon the French right-centre, and who knows where that might have led?  I don't believe we have much to complain of in terms of play balance play-balance.  After all, the French reserves amounted to no more than two cuirassier regiments, and they felt no pressing need to call upon them.  This defeat did not feel like a defeat.
End of battle: Brady's division
This was my second outing with this rule set - the first was back in July, also with Mark's kit at his home (July posting).  I'll tell you what: Mark had to work hard to keep track of combat results and morale outcomes.  I tried to follow on the quick play sheets (4 pages, colour coded), but it took a long time even to figure out what columns I was supposed to be looking at. 
End of battle: the Austrian centre
There is a heck of a lot of chrome to these rules, and that seems to lead, judging by my experience so far, to a great deal of command 'friction'.  That friction can lead to frustration, there's no doubt.  Kaiser's division did its bit protecting East Village, but Paul and I wanted more than that from such a powerful formation.  Unsupported, St-Julien was simply outmatched.  Having said that, it is still possible to do things, given the patience.  It's hard, but not impossible, even for an unhandy army like the Austrians.  I would like to try playing the French, some time, though!
End of battle: Austrian right centre
There is, I think, a fair amount of luck, as well.  I enjoyed good fortune all day with the combat dice.  Maybe I could have ridden that luck, but I'm not really inclined that way.  I'm no gambler - or at least, not much of one.  Luck for mine describes past events, and says nothing of the future nor one's stannic bunns.
End of Battle: Austrian right wing


End of Battle - French right wing
Initiative plays a big role in this game.  With the better commanders and the more flexible armies, it much easier for the French to win the initiative.  The Austrian army makes up for this somewhat by its large infantry units, which can hit hard and are the more durable (although I suspect not proportionately so).  All the same, the four occasions out of twelve the initiative fell our way, we found ourselves able to do more than on the other occasions.  This was especially true of the three-turn sequence beginning about the middle of the game.  I had the same 3-move experience in July; that was when the Austrians were at their most dangerous.  Winning the initiative on Turn 1 was of immense benefit to the French, though, as, by advancing rapidly with a special order, they were able to seize all three non-baseline villages.  Thereafter, they were inclined to stand rather on the defensive, which might well have proved a riskier option than it seemed.

End of Battle: French centre-right
 Thanks Mark for a great day, and for Andrew's and Paul's participation. 
End of Battle: French centre and centre-left

End of Battle: French left wing.




9 comments:

  1. Excellent! This must have been a great day out for all. Well told!

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    1. I certainly had a lot of fun! It would have been hard to write up an objective account of the day.

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    1. Vraiment. Ca c'etait un combat sanguinaire!

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  3. Excellent second part too, always enjoy reading your reports Ion, cheers!

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. Thanks Mark. I might start looking anew at my own Napoleonic collection. My Austrian Army could do with another Hussar and another Cuirassier regiment... Oh - and more cannon...

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  4. An excellent battle report that had me gripped from the outset. It is good to see the old Airfix Afrika Korps taking to the field too!

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    1. The second generation 8th Army and Afrika Corps were very nice sets of figures, in my view. Give or take the bren gunner! Having said that I rather like the light anti-tank gun that came with the first generation set, and the first generation bren gunner, though a pretty munted bren gunner, made a very fine Boys anti-tank rifleman. I didn't include any in this game, but they might show up if I can Operation Crusader off the ground!

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