Sunday, May 29, 2022

The Wall

I don't know about you, but every so often I hit some kind of block that I call  'the Wall'. The ideas are there, I have stuff I can write about or do something about, yet the motivation to continue simply vanishes.  I just don't want to know. Anyone who notices such things will have observed that after a fairly prolific (by my standards) output in this blog spot this year, there has been nothing for over a month. The whole of May has nearly slipped by without an entry.

This really is unacceptable, but I find it hard to do anything about it. I haven't been ill, or otherwise indisposed. There really is no excuse. Unfortunately, it will happen again.  Even to post this I'm having 'to hold an imaginary shotgun to my head'.  

It is not as though I've nothing to do. I still have two or three postings of the 'Byzantiad' narrative to do. They'll come in due course. But in the meantime, I have reached a closure point in a narrative I began about 5 years ago, that also hit 'the Wall'. This was the Retreat from Smolensk campaign, intended as a 'prequel' to the War of the Nations (Sixth Coalition) that was to take place in 1813 Europe.

The narrative began thus:

French II (Oudinot) and VI (St Cyr) Corps preparing to
assault General Yorck's Prussian Corps holding the ridges.

Narrative: Retreat from Smolensk

For the rest of his life after the disastrous campaign of 1812, Napoleon allowed that instead of wintering his army in and about Smolensk, he would have had more success bringing Tsar Alexander to the negotiating table had he continued on to Moscow.  The area around about the ancient border city was soon eaten out, though the bulk of La Grande Armee clung on through the entire winter season into 1813.  But with the approaching thaw, the game was up.  Becoming increasingly mutinous, despite the efforts of the Emperor and his Marshals to maintain discipline, the Army was perceptibly fraying at the edges.  A further advance into the Russian vastness being out of the question, retreat remained the only option.

This article continued with a battle to force a passage through a Prussian blocking corps by two French Corps, the action taking place somewhere to the west of Polotsk.  At quite the other end of the front, just north of the Pripyat Marshes, a considerable Austrian army attacked elements of three French army corps under command of Prince Eugene Beauharnais. Quite unexpectedly, the Austrians won a great victory, that sent Eugene's command reeling to the northwest.
Austrian Army under Archduke Charles (restored to favour
after his defeatism in the 1809 campaign) advancing 
against a large French army commanded by Prince 
Eugene Beauharnais

It so happened that on the same day, an army corps sized detachment under command of Marshal Davout, a few miles to the east of the Austrians' battle was attacked by a larger force of Russians led by Admiral P.V. Tchitchigov. Although this was mentioned in the continuing narrative, I never did, until a couple of weeks ago, play out that action. 

Lead elements of Admiral Tchitchigov'e army moving upon a 
French outpost...


Davout's command was something of a flank guard for the larger force led by Prince Eugene. An outlying village was held by a regiment of IV Corps, 13th Division, together with a regiment of light cavalry. The Russians poured across the river a quarter mile to the east and began an encounter battle in which both sides entered piecemeal into the fray. Although the French garrison held out for several hours against overwhelming odds, they finally lost the village. A series of French counter-attacks failed to recover the place, and were successively defeated, until the battered corps retreated across the Horyn river eventually to join Eugene's retreat to the northwest. The erudite reader might recognise this as the 'Taking the Initiative' scenario, #20 from the Grant and Asquith Scenarios For All Ages (the Red Scenario Book).  But I upscaled this from a Brigade-level action into Army Corps level. I also 'mirror-imaged' the map.

But finally, the Retreat from Smolensk story was concluded the Saturday before last (21 May), with Paul 'Jacko' Jackson handling the French. This was Napoleon's battle in the centre of the French and Allies' line, fought somewhere west of Mogilev and the Dniepro River. This was a large action, involving 3 Army Corps and the Imperial Guard on the French side, and on the Allied, 2 Russian army corps, plus one each from the Prussian and Austrian armies. This was to prove a hard fought affair, as Napoleon turned at bay to administer a check to the pursuing Allied armies. We'll see in due course the outcome of that clash.  
Major battle as the French III, V, IX Corps 
and the Imperial Guard turn on the pursuing Allies 

To be continued...