|Opening clashes on the French right|
The Battle of Portable Waterloo began traditionally, with assaults upon the Allied left, and the Hougoumont strongpoint that acted as bastion defending the Allied right. The first attacks upon the plantation south of the chateau itself were carried out by 9th Division
from the southeast and the leading brigade of 6th Division
from the southwest. The defenders there were fairly shortly driven in, whereat the 9th Division
entered the wooded enclosure to assault the chateau itself.
|6th and 9th Divisions attacking the Hougoumont |
Seizing the initiative (higher initiative roll), the 2nd
and 4th French Divisions
of I Corps
quickly occupied the hamlets of Papelotte and Frichemont. Third Division
took up the space between, while 1st Division
remained echelonned to the left rear of the line. The I Corps artillery
took up a battery position behind Papelotte, from which position they brought La Haye Sainte under fire. The Allied reserve artillery
there were quickly compelled to abandon the position, which was soon taken up by the British/Hanoverian 3rd Division
. Henceforth, all formation identities will be colour coded: French Blue
, anglo-Dutch Red
, Prussian Black
|General view, looking west from Paris Wood|
The seizure of Frichemont gave the 1st Cavalry Division
the opportunity to swing through the defile between that place and the Paris Wood, to fall upon the Allied Flank. However, the 5th Division
commander had detached betimes his trailing brigade, the 5th Hanover
, which, hastily forming square, stood off the French light horse. The Cavalry of 4th and 6th Allied Brigades
waiting overlong to respond, left the inexperienced Hanoverians on their own, not only against the French light horse, but also the cuirassiers of Milhaud's
|General view looking SW. |
As the 5th Hanover Bde
fought its private little battle against heavy odds, the rest of the 5th Division
, together with the 2nd Dutch-Belgian
and the 6th Divisions
, began a series of assaults upon the French positions about the villages. This had the effect of stalling the French attack altogether, the Allies unable for a considerable time to break in, but the French unable to break out.
|The battle on the east flank. In the hands of 5th Hanover Bde |
lies the safety of the Allied left flank. Where are 4th and
6th cavalry brigades?
About the Hougoumont, 9th Division
, having cleared the plantation, was beginning its assaults upon the Chateau complex itself. On the road to its left, a brigade of Jerome Bonaparte's 6th Division
was also engaged in the same emprise. The prolonged fighting tended to draw in the 5th Division
as well, so that the beleaguered garrison was for a time facing adds of at least twelve to one, almost the whole of the II Corps infantry. That not all II Corps
could assault at once reduced the odds to seven to one, but that simply meant the attackers had plenty of reserves available.
|Two and a half French Divisions attack the Hougoumont|
at odds of at least seven to one
This did not, of course, account for the large bodies of Allied troops unengaged behind the Hougoumont, available for reinforcement or counterattack as the Allied chose. They were not long choosing.
For the moment the action looked deadlocked along the whole front. Then the 4th and 6th Cavalry
Brigades lurched into motion, and thundered down upon the French 1st Cavalry Division
. Stuck in a salient hemmed in by the Paris Wood, Milhaud's Cavalry
and the Hanoverian square
; already having taken heavy losses, and now facing odds of five to one into the bargain, Jacquinot
's light horse stood no chance. They were scattered to the winds.
|Allied cavalry - 4th and 6th Brigades - charge a |
much depleted French 1st Cavalry Division
Having taken so long to get going, the British light dragoons were now hard to stop. On they went, straight for the 13th Cuirassier Division
, led by General Milhaud
himself. The heavy weight of the French horse was enough to bring the lighter Allied to a standstill. They fell back, alongside the relieved Hanoverians, both congratulating themselves that, for little loss (1SP lost to 5th Hanover
) they had smashed an enemy cavalry Division, and shored up the open flank. For their part, the cuirassiers also drew back where they united with the 14th Cavalry Division
|Charging ever onward...|
|The Allied left now safe, the opposing horse there |
fall back to regroup and keep watch and ward
I should probably mention at this point that were I to do this again, I rather think I would place the Hougoumont two hexes closer to the western edge of the table. It seems that there was historically very little action west of the place, the chateau and its grounds practically forming the battlefield's boundary on this flank in the same manner that the Paris Wood formed one on the other flank. So it was, in this incarnation of the battle, that on the French side, Jerome
was to detach a brigade from his Division, whilst the whole of Kellermann's III Cavalry Corps
would join 2nd (Light) Cavalry Division
to protect the flank of the assault upon the Hougoumont. With Milhaud's
heavies also drawn to a flank, there would be no charge of the heavy horse upon the Allied line between Hougoumont and La Haye Sainte. And yet, a mounted French attack would eventually be directed thereto, late in the day...
|Kellermann's Cav Corps moving off to the west flank...|
The allies were already in motion. The inexperienced but numerous 3rd Dutch-Belgian Division
(12SP in 2 Brigades) were moving up from Braine d'Alleud, to join counter-attacks by 3rd and 5th light cavalry Brigades,
and 2nd Infantry Division
. It was not long before Jerome
found himself fighting off the attentions of Allied horse and foot, and no time for the Hougoumont. In any case, surely the place must fall soon, even without his Division?
The fighting on the flanks left rather a vacuum in the centre. The rival artilleries settled down to what was largely a counter-battery duel (much to my annoyance: I hate
counter-battery!). I and II Corps
largely syphoned off to the flanks, General Count Lobau's VI Corps
, weakened by detachments to Marshal Grouchy's command, began moving slowly up to fill the space between the Guard
artillery in action along the road up from Maison du Roi, and the right flank of II Corps
. A lucky salvo from the Allied II Corps artillery
gave a check to the trailing 20th Division
- a gap opened up between the columns, and Lobau
was finding it difficult to get the Corps
united again (a really bad activation die roll).
For their part, the Imperial Guard
remained motionless in and about Maison du Roi, when they might usefully have moved forward even a short distance, that it's masse de rupture
might be thrown in in a timely fashion. Only the Guard artillery were in action - at least for the time being. The only other move was to bring in the Guard heavy cavalry closer to the main body of the Guard infantry.
So matters stood, perhaps a couple of hours into the action, the opposing forces heavily engaged on both flanks. D'Erlon's I Corps
continued to cling on to Papelotte and Frichemont, without being able, yet, to force their way beyond. Allied attempt to wrest the villages from the enemy were proving equally fruitless, as losses mounted on both sides. The garrison of the Hougoumont refused to be shifted, and II Corps
was equally stuck fast. The French build-up in the centre was proceeding much too slowly.
|General view, just before...|
So matters stood. But now a dark cloud began to appear in the east, a shadow spilling over the ground between the Paris Wood and Maransart Village. It might have been Marshal Grouchy's
command, so far south along the battlefield edge did the shadow appear. But Marshal Grouchy this was not. The lead elements of the Prussian Army
|... the arrival of the lead elements of the Prussian |
IV Army Corps...
To be continued - The Prussians
Looks good mate.ReplyDelete
I need to sort a hex board out.
Doesn't have to be a big one. People are getting by on a chessboard, 8x8, though I reckon you might prefer a 10x10. Recall too that I got a lot of mileage out of my 10x10 board for the Blacklands war.Delete
So far so good. Very interesting but I can't help but feel the Emperor would not have allowed so much of his army to get sucked in to attacks on both flanks simultaneously. Perhaps he was planning a Hannibal style double envelopmennt?ReplyDelete
Hi Mark -Delete
Well, actually, that is pretty much what happened historically, though it has to be said that the the attack on Hougoumont probably got a little bit out of his control. Now that I look at it it is possible that what he had in mind was not so much a double envelopment, but to commit the Allied army with holding attacks, and send the masse de rupture up the centre. Again, that is almost what happened historically, but it all kinda went turnip shaped.
My reading of the Waterloo battle in the last few years suggests to me that Wellington ought probably to have won the battle WITHOUT Prussian intervention. Napoleon was outnumbered in the infantry arm by Wellington's army alone at Waterloo.
What he didn't do is allow the battle to extend westwards beyond the Hougoumont, as I did, and certainly not permitted such eccentric moves as I have made with the heavy cavalry corps. We'll see how that went in due course.
Can't wait to see how it worked out. By the way, excellent layout and I love the notations, it makes it very easy to follow the action.Delete
Very grand indeed. Having done a few Waterloo refights, the French almost inevitably seem to get sucked into battles on the flanks. The most decisive victory was when they just did a series of mass attacks in the centre. Broke the Allies just in time to turn on the Prussians.ReplyDelete
Hi Martin -Delete
As I write up this battle, I am becoming conscious of the notion of pinning the whole line down, then straight up the guts with the Guard (or probably a combined arms assault). My battle didn't go that way, but still had its points of interest, I think.
Something I read recently indicates that both sides were a little more fixated upon the Hougoumont than the place warranted. I think now a special rule might have been enacted whereby any strength points lost to the Chateau garrison my be taken from any formation within 2 hexes of the place, with a clear path to it. This would represent the continual trickle of reinforcements that were fed into the place all day.
It is fine as it is, I'm sure. Wellington sent individual units in as reinforcement during the day, which PW would allow you to do.Delete
Interesting. The battle is going so far broadly along historic lines as far as I can see. The Prussians seem to have arrived a bit early however so I very much look forward to the next installment. Regards.ReplyDelete
Hi Tony -Delete
Yes, very broadly as historical. I think the Prussian arrival is actually about right. It took some time, though, both historically and in this game to bring them on fully. You'll see why next time, I dare say.
Excellent recap of the action. I like the color coordinated unit naming convention. I wonder if the French are concentrating too much on Hougoumont? As Tony notes above, the Prussians seem to arrived earlier than they did historically.ReplyDelete
I do enjoy the shorter battle installments.
Cheers, Jonathan -Delete
Hougoumont is sure acting rather like a magnet for II Corps, that's for sure. But it had rather a fascination for the Duke of Wellington as well, who made sure the garrison was being reinforced continually throughout the day. Possibly both sides saw the place as one of the major keys to the battlefield.
Until recently I was inclined to the view that the French would have been well advised to mask the place, but I'm now not sure that that would have been feasible. It's quite a large and prominent feature.
I was not too worried about the Prussians' time of arrival (beginning move 4, when the die roll was the required '6', at which the leading elements are placed upon the table edge). It took a wee while for them to have an impact...
All the best,
Great looking table as always:) I am particularly taken with your buildings:)ReplyDelete
Hi Brian -Delete
Thanks for your comments. Yes, most of those buildings are home made, but there are four or five from other sources. If ever I do this one again, I think I'll make some small chances to the table, stretching it a little bit westward, and there is a wood I forgot about...
I have read and re-read this partial battle report, and I am struck by how much it reads like a real description of the early part of Battle of Waterloo! It is truly superb … and I can hardly wait for you to write up the next part.
I always hoped that the PW would produce reasonably realistic results, and this certainly seems to be the case here.
All the best,
Cheers, Bob -Delete
This whole battle might have gone fairly historically but for certain aspects of the set-up. Having said that, I was pretty happy with the way the thing turned out - not so much the end result, as the process of getting there.
There are one or two little issues that I will examine and perhaps discuss to close off this series. Meanwhile, the pics for the next instalment have been uploaded, but I probably won't be starting the narrative until tomorrow. Busy day.
What I find particularly remarkable with this rule set is that 72 foot figures, 20 horse, 10 gunners with 5 cannon, plus 19 'command' figures - about 120 figures all up - can look like a sizeable army.
All the best,