Thursday, May 2, 2019

Portable Napoleonics: Division Combat at Perwez du Pahaux

Germans defending the town; the French attack plan is clear.
As the evening of 14th June drew in, the victorious Prussian - actually North German - Advance Guard entered Permez du Pahaux and awaited the arrival shortly after sunset, of the remainder of 2nd Brigade.  The local pair of bridges being the only practical crossing of the Pahaux stream, General von Mueller ordered the town to be placed in a state of defence, to await the arrival of the main body of the North German Army Corps, at that moment still a good day's march back down the road to the east.
This action devolved pretty much into a attacker-defender
combat, with the French having a slight quantitative and
qualitative edge.
General Mueller (6SP) had with him:
2nd Hessian Brigade:
     Town Garrison: Oberst von Gruber 3SP
          Grenadier Battalion von Haller  5SP Elite
          I/ Kurfurst Rgt 4SP
          II/ Kurfurst Rgt 4SP
    Bridge Guard: Oberstleutnant Schimmelpfennig 3SP
          I/ Kurprinz Rgt 4SP
          II/Kurprinz Rgt 4SP
Cavalry Brigade: Generalmajor von Warburg 3SP
     Leib Dragoons 3SP Poor
     North German Hussars 3SP Poor
Artillery Company 2SP

12 units; 44SP, break on -15SP.

German garrison.
The shattered remains of the French Advance Guard soon rejoined their parent Division just about to encamp a mile or so south of Permez du Pahaux (not to be confused with Permez du Marche, several kilometers tot he West).  During the hours of darkness, the battered units were rallied, given a pep-talk, and made ready for a second look at the town upon the morrow.
The cavalry battle begins.  It was to be a prolonged
contest of charge and counter-charge, as both sides sought
for flank attacks. 
General of Division Merlot (6SP) had available:
1st Division (Genl Merlot):
     Brigade Colonel Cointreau 3SP
          I Carignon Converged Grenadier Battalion  4SP Elite
          II Carignon Conv Gren Bn 4SP Elite
     Brigade Brigade-General Grand-Marnier 3SP
          3rd  Legere, 2 Battalions, each 4SP
          20th Ligne, 2 battalions, each 4SP
Cavalry Division Cabernet-Sauvignon 3SP Good
          9th Hussars  3SP Elite
          21st Chasseurs-a-cheval 3SP
Artillery Company 3SP

13 Units; 48SP, exhaustion point -16SP.

20th Line and 3rd Light Infantry in regimental columns
advancing upon Perwez au Pahaux.
Before continuing, some background.
1.   The first action was played under the Brigade Rules from Bon Cordery's Portable Napoleonic Wargames book, this one was played under the Division Rules chapter.  The third was to be played under the Army Corps set.
2.   The losses from each battle were not carried forward, the strength points simply assigned anew for each action.
3.   The first battle was played on my square-grid table; the other two on my hex-grid.
4.   The observant reader will note that Kurfurst Regiment seems to have shed a battalion. Quite right: I had simply forgotten.  No doubt Graf Kleist had detached that unit to guard some vital point back along the line of communication with Germany.  It was not until after the battles had been fought that I noticed the discrepancy. (Update: It turns out I was mistaken about that - there was no 'missing' battalion, and no missing SP after all!)
The German horse has so far given as good as it has taken...
Marching up the road, General Merlot was faced with the task of closing off the east-west highway that led towards the main theatre of war somewhere around distant Charleroi.  That meant taking the town of Permez, and closing off the bridges over the Pahaux River.  Appearances were that the Hessians opposing him were close to his own numerical strength.
... and perhaps even better as the dragoons find the Chasseurs' flank.
The plan he settled upon was to assault the town directly with the four battalions of Grand-Marnier's command advancing up the river road on the west bank of the stream, supported by his lone gun battery; the cavalry to envelop the German right to seal off the road west; and march the grenadiers under General Cointreau up the east bank of the river to try and force the crossing there.  Possibly not the best plan, but it was a plan, and had the virtue of simplicity.
Yet, assailed in flank, and the enemy to the front having the slope,
 Chasseurs drive the Prussian hussars off the feature.
The action opened with the French cavalry rapidly advancing towards a slight eminence to their front, which was occupied betimes by the German horse.  There ensued a prolonged cavalry melee of charge and counter-charge that swirled all around and over the hillock, neither side seeming able to deal the decisive blow.
Both sides continue to seek advantages for themselves, the generals
in the thick of it!  
The cavalry effectively neutralised for the time being, 3rd Light and 20th Line closed in upon the south face of the town, defended by the Haller Grenadiers, flanked on each side by a battalion of Kurfurst Regiment.  The opening exchanges went badly for the French.  Third Light Infantry found the enemy grenadiers formidable opponents, losses mounted rapidly, with no progress.  To their right, 20th Line were also being held by II Kurfurst.
Initial French assaults are held, and even face a counter-attack
by I Bn, Kurfurst Rgt.  I/ 3rd Light has already taken losses.
Matters were such as to encourage I Kurfurst battalion to counter-attack against the flank-front of 3rd Light.  The Prussian guns then switched their attention towards the distant French artillery, and forced them to change their position.  The French cavalry had been forced back from the hill, and the lead battalion of light infantry badly depleted.  At this point, the way things were going, the French commander began considering whether to break off the attack.
The counterattack seen off, II/ 3rd light swing out from
behind I Bn to attack I/ Kurfurst.  Meanwhile I/ 3rd
Light's losses are too heavy, and they flee the field.
However, the Kurfurst enveloping attack met a surprisingly sharp rebuff.  Driven back into the town under a galling gunfire, they found themselves assailed by the II/3rd Light Infantry, which unit had swung out from behind their comrades, charged into the town and inflicted further loss upon the importunate Hessians. 
Their counter-attack was more costly to I/ Firfurst than to
the French - 1 SP lost to French arty, and a second to
the French infantry....
Driving back I/Kurfurst, II/3rd light infantry turned their attention upon the gun battery to their left.
... until I/ Kurfurst are forced back to the main road lest
they incur further losses.  
By this time, after a brief pause for a breather, the respective cavalry battalions were once again in combat with pistol and sabre.  Count Cabernet-Sauvignon was still in the saddle alongside the hussars, despite taking slight wounds to his right arm and leg; but von Warburg was himself sporting a rag bloodied from a minor head wound.
Still no decisive result from the cavalry battle, also all four
units have taken a loss, and both generals have taken
minor contusions.
Finally, the Chasseurs found the flank rear of the Prussian Hussars.  Already depleted, the Hussars found this last attack too much, and broke, fleeing off the hill and away to the north.  Unwilling to take on double their numbers, the Dragoons also fell back to try and reach the town.
Note: contrary to appearances, the units haven't moved from
one 'contact' hex to another.  Between pics one side or both will
have separated from their opponents, enabling them to use
their mobility to find enemy flanks. 
[Aside: occasionally you will see a green and a blue die lying next to each other.  These are the close combat rolls, for the French (green) and Prussian (blue) respectively.  The 5-3 result between the respective Hussars give a modified '5' for the French (+1 for general with unit; -1 for enemy uphill) and a modified '2' for the Prussians (-1 for being attacked in flank by enemy unit).  The loss of the final SP destroyed the German hussars, who promptly fled.]
At last, a decisive result!  The Prussian Hussars break and flee.
The prolonged urban fighting along the riverbank was drawing closer to the river bridge, by which time, von Mueller began to bethink himself of ordering the evacuation of the town.  The Grenadiers Haller were now in something of a salient, from which its counter-attacks were proving ineffectual, and even costly (now down a SP).  The French 20th Line Infantry were still in good fettle as they pushed to cut off the German garrison from their only route to safety.
The Hessian Grenadiers Haller still holding the south
face of the town, but French are now in their flank rear
closing upon the river bridge.
Meanwhile, what of events on the east bank of the river?  Advancing up the river road, Col. Cointreau had formed the Grenadiers into order-mixte in the expectation of brushing aside the defending battalions of Kurprinz Regiment.  That expectation was rudely to be corrected, and after a good half hour or so, the French had taken some loss with the Prussian line unmoved.  The II Grenadier battalion shook itself into line to the right rear of the lead unit, and so began a drawn-out, inconclusive firefight.  Although occasionally driven back across the Chemin des Ramillies, I/Kurprinz was ever ready to return to the fray. [After a considerable time, both Grenadier battalions had taken a 1SP loss each; and II/Kurprinz 2SP loss, the I/Kurprinz, accompanied by von Wurzburg himself, none so far].
So far, despite some loss, Kurprinz Infantry are holding off
the attempt by French grenadiers to cut the east road.
If the French could point to no progress at the east end of the river bridge, their momentum was gathering on the west bank.  Count Cabernet-Sauvignon waved the Chasseurs on to chase after the fleeing enemy light horse, whilst keeping 9th Hussars to face off the opposing dragoons.
Off go the Chasseurs, looking for new harvests to reap.

The German hussars having scattered and disappeared, the Chasseurs fixed their sights upon the German gun battery, which had withdrawn, somewhat depleted, to the northwest of the town.  The infantry garrison had pulled back into a small bridgehead perimeter, still under pressure, especially for 20th Line Infantry.

The battle rages in the town...
Although driven back across the Chemin des Ramillies, I/Kurprinz still offered a bold front, encouraged by their adversaries also finding it convenient to draw back to recover their organisation. [At this point, both sides took hits; but it seemed to me that neither would have been inclined to take the SP loss to maintain their position.]  Standing astride the main road east, the Germans were manfully keeping it open for their beleaguered comrades in the town.
A pause on the east side of the river.  The French not willing
yet to push too hard for victory.

There the situation was sufficiently dire.  Driven back along the river bank as far as the river bridge, II/Kurfurst battalion finally disintegrated.  If the Frenchmen could reach the river bridge before the Germans, they might bring about a wholesale surrender.
German garrison forms a perimeter around the bridgehead.

At the same time the French Grenadiers, renewing their drive for the opposite end of the bridge had brought II/Kurprinz to the edge of breaking...

II/ Kerprinz looking depleted as the Grenadiers return to
the attack, but they are still holding the road open.
... and the II/3rd Light infantry had caught up with the gun battery and overrun it before it could limber up and make off.  Only barely in time did I/Kurfurst make it to the bridge ahead of the French, and ensure the safe withdrawal of the remnants of the Germans garrisoning the place. 
Where has the Prussian battery gone?  Overrun by the
light infantry.

Having lost 16SP by now, the Germans had reached their exhaustion point.  The French losses fell rather short of their exhaustion point (11SP only), and so were capable yet of continuing their attacks.  Generalmajor von Muellar ordered the general retreat to be sounded, whilst the road east remained open.  The French had won.
Close of the action.  The Prussians are able, just barely,
 to make good their escape.

A word about the figures.  My Prussian army was made up of Italieri plastics, apart from the Revell 7YW hussars, and the metal gun and gunners.  This army was about to be deep-sixed by their previous owner, until I offered to take them off his hands.  It has to be said that this is not the prettiest army you ever saw; the figures really are moderately horrible (and the cavalry are still a work in not much progress, as uninspiring as they are).  On the other hand, the generals and some of the officers make quite nice command vignettes (you can see Generalmajor von Mueller and his staff at the town's edge in the above picture).

The French line and light infantry were made up of 'First generation' Minifigs, of which I have a small number, as being more compatible with the Italieri plastics.  The Grenadiers were also metals, but I am unable to identify the makers.  The French hussars, General and artillery were 'Third Generation' Minifigs, and the Chasseurs, Hotspur.  Note, by the by, that the Minifigs 'S' Range (of which I also have a small number) are what I call 'Second generation' Minifigs.

To be continued: the Battle of Rosiere - an Army Corps level action.


  1. Great looking game Ion, I'm looking forward to the next one.

    1. Cheers, Paul - Same table; different battlefield!

  2. Nice report, and nice to see the Prussian Guard (Grenadiers) in their parade plumes too! :)

    1. Yes, well... :-D If you looked at my Brits, you'll find the Guards and Fusiliers in bearskin caps... Not historical, but I'm prepared to take historical licence with my armies... That army is also designed for the Peninsular War, but the units are actually Waterloo. Why? Because the Waterloo flags were easier to come by on-line.