Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Action at Falshof River, continued...

We left the action at my last post with the first French attacks being somewhat ignominiously repulsed, but Marshal Dubonnet was not the type of general to await the outcome of an attack before deciding what next to do. Already - as can be seen from the following picture - French preparations were well underway for attacks on the flanks: Thirty-fourth Line would soon join with the 61st for the assault upon Falshof village, supported by half Dubonnet's artillery. The attack upon the enclosures on the other flank would, unfortunately, lack much in the way of artillery support, but the local commander, Beaujolais had 3 regiments available.

Uhlan's striking a French square. On this occasion the Allied horse did rather better than had the French cuirassiers not long earlier, and managed to force the infantry to retire - for the time being at least.

In the meantime, the French centre had to sustain itself as best it might against the heavy cavalry attacks that von Jaxen mounted. At that, the Allies enjoyed rather more success than the French had, and succeeded in forcing the enemy back across the river road. The Uhlans scored the astonishing feat of forcing the square of the 64th line break up. But to achieve so much exhausted the Allied cavalry almost as much as the French horse had been. The Uhlans were left a rump of their former numbers and presence, the other Allied cavalry were equally unable to undertake further action.

Shall we let the gallant Marshal take up once more the narrative:
'... under cover of these early attacks, and despite the enemy's effort to drive in our centre, our infantry were advancing in great style, all along the line. True, Beaujolais's attack on the enclosed field failed for want of artillery support, but the wavering of the infantry and silencing of the unicorn battery was sustained only by the stubbornness of the Murmansk Grenadiers - a crack formation. On the left, the Prussians were pitched out of Falshof at bayonet point, a brief resistance at the southern end of the town swiftly dispatched, and finally, the column of the 34th with to its right the line of the 61st, the both preceded by their voltigeur companies in skirmish order vanished into the late afternoon shadow of the heights beyond the village. ...'

The French attack came within an ace of carrying the enclosed fields, but the Russians held on by their teeth, and it was the French who had to give back and draw breath.

'... The discomfiture of Beaujolais's command was completed when some squadrons of Russian heavy cavalry struck the flank of the 40th line before that unit could form square. Though taking considerable loss, the survivors fell back in reasonably good order, but the Cuirassiers' success bore a high cost. They would be unable to undertake any further such adventures for the rest of the day.

'The day, indeed, was drawing to a close. General Cabernet-Sauvignon's adance up the slopes of the heights behind Falshof were slowed more by the steep slopes than the resistance offered by the remnants of the 8th Jager and the Silesian Landwehr, despite the support the latter were receiving from a 6pr battery. I (Dubonnet) called up some 12-pounders to assist, which rapidly beat down the lighter Prussian ordnance, whereat the defenders crowning to heights incontinently gave up their charge and abandoned the position. On the right, Beaujolais had called up two batteries and was at last pounding the Russians out of the enclosures. In the centre, our advance was becoming general as the Allies began losing cohesion. With the day well advanced, the sun sinking behind the smoke of Beaujolais's battle, the enemy finally pulled out.

Our river crossing was secure.'

The final pictures illustrate the final stages of the action. Here, the Prussian lines are already looking ragged.

"The Hand of God" was what Paul Jackson (who played the role of Marshal von Jaxen, and took the pictures as well) called this. The dude leaning across the table is none other than myself, on this occasion in the role of Marshal Dubonnet. Unfortunately, my left arm somewhat obscures the successful storming of the Falshof Heights (The 61st Line is completely invisible).

End of the action: the Prussian abandon the heights, and the Allies pull out.

'May I close, sire, by commending my Division commanders Cabernet-Sauvignon and Beaujolais for their tenacity of spirit and constancy of purpose: and to the unfortunate Morlot, who, despite misfortune, had sufficient cavalry under command at the end of the day to present a bold front to the enemy. We have now under guard about 800 prisoners, and estimate further losses to the enemy of perhaps 2400 at least. Our own, I place at 2600 - almost the half incurred by the cavalry. Though I deplore the loss to our horse, our forcing of the River Falsover was an undoubted success.

I remain, etc, etc,...'

Monday, December 28, 2009

Action at Falshof River: 28 April 1813 (14 Dec 2009)

Rather than resume the good Marshal's report to Berthier, at this point I thought I'd turn the thing into a 'pictorial narrative,' perhaps to rejoin the military epistle nearer its close.

The final two pics in the last posting showed Prussian troops occupying Falshof, and thinking about thrusting for the river bank; whilst the Russians on the opposite flank occupied a field partially enclosed by a stone wall.

To Resume:

The Russians pour into the field flanked by a 6pr Unicorn battery. This artillery was to prove very troublesome for the French - as indeed were all the Russians present on the field.

French 8th Cuirassiers canter past 13th Light Infantry. They may be some time...

The light horse of the French 9th Husaars have an appointment with some unicorns...

The Prussian 2nd Silesia confidently await the French heavies...

... And General Morlot had the mortifaction of seing his cavalry melt away like ice in the sun with ineffectual and costly charges. Particularly painful was the failure of successive charges, at a cost of 50% casualties, to inflict the slightest hurt upon the unicorn battery (I was prepared to accept the losses, but expected to take the battery. This is where chance and morale in wargames really should kick in. My army had been reduced by 24 cavalry figures for absolutely no loss to the enemy. How many wargamers would have been prepared to carry on the fight to secure the (still-distant!) ridge-line?)

To be continued...

Action at Fallshof River crossing, 28 April 1813.

From: Marshal Dubonnet, Duc du Quax
Before Mockern
30 April 1813

To: Marshal Berthier, Prince de Neuchatel et de Wagram

In accordance with the Imperial Orders I received (25 April) from your HQ (dated 22 April), I at once marched with the XIV Corps under command to the line of the River Falsover. Arrived there late afternoon near the village of Falshof, and the place appearing to be empty of enemy, I at once began crossing the stream, but a heavy, though brief, fall of rain at the close of the day halted operations until they could be put in effect the following day.

A bright, fine dawn disclosed that the enemy had during the hours of darkness occupied the Falshof village, and heights beyond, in considerable strength. We should have to force the ridge, and that supposing we could do even so much as to retain our rather tenuous bridgehead.

The situation may be seen in the Colonel Pernod's accompanying map (unavailable until I can sort out how to upload hand drawn maps into this thing).

The Order of Battle of XIV Corps is attached here, my having placed a riverbank under the command of the Infantry divisional commanders, with Morlot commanding the cavalry in the bridgehead as they come available.

Gen-Officer Commanding XIV Corps: Marshal Dubonnet, Duc de Quax

1st Infantry Division (Genl. Cabernet-Sauvignon, in Bridgehead):
13th Light (centre), 30th Line (right) , 61st Line (left); 1x8pr bty; 2nd Div. 8pr bty attached.

2nd Infantry Division (Genl Beaujolais, North Bank):
17th Light, 34th Line, 40th Line, 64th Line, 88th Line. Artillery detached to 1st Division. Corps Artilley (2x12 Batteries) attached to 2nd Division.

Cavalry Division (Genl Morlot):
7th, 8th Cuirassiers*, 11th Dragoons, 9th Hussars* (attached. The units marked * were in the bridgehead.

Reconnaissances and field glasses disclosed an enemy not far short of our numbers, lacking something of our weight in horse and guns, and whose deficiency in numbers lay solely in the infantry arm. Given the division of our Corps, the stream that divioded us being, though narow, deep and swift-flowing - altogether uncrossable in the localty but by the two rather tatterdermalian masonry bridges.

Apprehending, therefore, that the Allies would make a serious effort to eliminate the Bridgehead altogether, I ordered that one Corps battery be placed om the near banks of the stream to cover the flanks. I was determined that I would reach by last light the distant ridgeline whatever Marshal von Jaxen might have to say to the matter...

To be continued...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Testing, testing...

Can I add a picture?
Seems I can!
Scene from early in a recent Napoleonic action played at the Woolston Club between myself (French) and Paul Jackson (Allies - mostly Russians and Prussians).