|Situation, 3pm, looking eastwards from Permez. The|
French Chasseurs have seized a small rise near Noville;
Prussian cavalry on the Permez road keeping them under
As the great battles were about to begin north of Charleroi between the Armee du Nord
and the Anglo-Prussian Armies of the Seventh Coalition, some distance to the east, smaller armies were also about to try conclusions. Whilst mustering around the region to the west of Koblenz, the North German Federal Army Corps, commanded by General der Infanterie
Graf Kleist von Nollendorf, began to receive rumours of a French force pushing up west of the Argonne Forest, apparently to insinuate itself between the main armies of Prinz Blucher and the Duke of Wellington, and possible communications with Prussia. Ordered at once to intercept, although, owing to the shortage of horse and guns, his Army corps was less than ideally fitted for the rigours of a campaign, the able Graf Kleist was only too eager to set his command in motion.
|Map of the Permez area. Drawn by Major Jean Davidhomme|
commander of the Corps' topographical engineers.
The rumoured French 'force' was none other than the so-called 'Army of the Meuse', under command of Count Beaujolais, amounting to a small army corps of 14-15,000 officers and men. They had been ordered to cover the network of fortified towns along the border facing the Ardennes forest, and if possible to menace the German east-west communications between Blucher and Kleist's 15,000-plus strong army.
|In the forground, I/ 3eme Leger infantry|
In their haste to meet the enemy, both columns became rather strung out, Kleist marching in a westward direction, Beaujolais more or less northwards. At last, at about mid-afternoon of 15 June, the brigade-sized advance guards met where the roadways converged at and near the town of Perwez au Pahaut. It being very desirable to seize the place to secure the line of march, action was soon joined.
|Troops on the march. The French look a bit more scattered|
than their opponents.
The forces were;
Prussian (Hessian) Advance Guard: (Drawn from 2nd Hessian Brigade, Commanded by Oberstleutnant Bluemfondl SP6, Average):
Grenadier Battalion Haller SP4, Elite
I Kurfurst Battalion SP4, Average
II Kurfurst Battalion SP4, Average
Hessian Hussars SP3, Poor
Federal Artillery Battery, SP2, Average
Total: 6 units (median 3), 23SP, exhaustion point, loss of 8SP.
|The Voltigeurs continue on the Permez; whilst I/3rd Light|
Infantry veer off towards the river bridge to Noville.
French Advance Guard: (Drawn from 1st Division, Armee de la Meuse, Commanded by Colonel Tarquin, SP6, Average)
I/ 3rd Legere, SP4, Average
II/ 3rd Legere, SP4, Average
Brigaded Voltigeur companies (skirmishers, armed with smoothbore muskets, SP3, Average)
21st Chasseurs-a-cheval, SP3, Average
Gun battery, SP2, Average
Total: 6 units (median3), 22SP, exhaustion point, loss of 8 SP.
|Hessians build up their line along the|
Chemin des Ramillies
The action opened with the cavalry entering the battleground on move 1, and the rest of the respective advance guards arriving at any of the first 3 turns. This was determined by a dice roll. Which of the two roads they arrived on was also randomly chosen. Finally, I used my own dice method of determining who moves first in any 'bound' and the number of 'units' that may be ordered.
|Overall picture of the field|
This turned out to be the 'order of march' - road and time of arrival
Hussars: NE road, Move 1
Battery: NE road, Move 1
Commander: E road, Move 2
II Kurfurst Battalion: E road, Move 2
Grenadier Battalion: NE road, Move 3
I Kurfurst Battalion: NE road, Move 3
Chasseurs: S road, Move 1
I/ 3 Legere: SW road, Move 1
Commander: S road, Move 2
Light company skirmishers: SW road, Move 3
Battery: SW road, Move 3
II/Legere: S road, Move 3
The French seized the early initiative (i.e. rolled to move first).
|View from the northest, behind Prussian lines|
As the French light horse mounted the rise hard by the village of Noville, they could descry the leading Prussian units emerging from the roads east. In their turn, the Hessian troops turned to face what appeared to be the menace from the south. Hoping to catch the leading Hessian battalion as it deployed from the Chemin de la Montagne, 21st Chasseurs essayed a charge. Dismayed by the bold front presented by the Hessian infantry (both sides rolled 'six' for their combat outcomes), the horsemen veered off and returned hastily to their hilltop.
|Prussian Hussars charge.|
This attack had the effect of delaying the Hessian march, as they deployed in the plain north of Noville. The Voltigeur companies entered Permez town uncontested, crossed the bridge and, from the woods on the far bank, set about peppering any Hessian horse foot or guns that came within their range. A point about these skirmishers. I made a slight departure from the rules for rifle-armed skirmishers, as these, specialists as they are, were armed with smoothbore muskets. So I kept their shooting range to 3 grid areas only. They still got the benefit of mobility (3-grid area move whilst dispersed).
|Prussian Hussars charge....|
The artillery battery followed the Voltigeurs into the town, but as the pressure began to increase on the east side of the river, the Ist Battalion, 3rd Light Infantry, crossed the southern river bridge to join its companion battalion west of Noville. Hoping to get in a strike before the II Battalion could be reinforced, the Hessian Hussars tried a charge of their own. This went a little better than the French charge, and did some damage before the light infantry could form square.
|... before pulling back in the face of a flank threat. The II/3|
Lights have taken a knock...
Nevertheless, the arrival of French infantry on their flank hastened the hussars on their way, though with little loss.
|... but successfully formed square.|
At this point, the situation for the French was already looking unpromising. It was touch and go whether they could occupy the village before the Hessians could, and they were occupying the exterior lines of an 'L' shaped front.
|The French gunnery from the town was effective only|
in causing the enemy to pull back out of range...
From its west bank position in a Permez street (Rue des Ramillies) French gunfire was none too effective, as the Prussians drew back a little from the riverside.
|... whilst the Hessians prepare to attack Noville.|
The French too reformed into a more coherent line.
His command now organised into a proper line, Oberstleutnant Bluemfondl determined that the key to the action was the seizure or capture of Noville village, closing off the road south therefrom, and then, if possible to carry the bridge beyond. Forcing the enemy away to the south and southwest, the Hessians could take Permez, and secure their own continued march westward.
The operation began with the infantry attack by both battalions of the Kurfurst Regiment. Much to Colonel Tarquin's dismay and disgust, out popped II/3me Leger like a cork from the place. An attempt to recapture Noville was sharply rebuffed with loss; a second French cavalry charge was badly roughed up; and at last the French grip was pried loose from the village. At this point the French had lost 6 Strength points (SP); the Prussians, zero!
Thus encouraged. the Germans applied further pressure. Although the French managed to score some damaging hits of their own, they finally acknowledged it was time to depart the arena. It was touch and go whether the voltigeurs would get away - and it was probably lucky that the Hessians did not bethink themselves to go after the French cannon. During the retreat the French fell below the 'exhaustion point', having lost 8 SP; but handed out a few sharp reminders that reduced the Prussians by 4 SP. Having distanced the pursuit, the French drew off to the south. The Hessians could occupy Permez without interference.
The Hessians could claim a decided success; it was now a matter of whether they could consolidate upon this victory.
To be continued: The Divisional Action at Permez.