Sunday, December 11, 2022

Assault on Kutaisi

The town of Kutaisi is a considerable habitation along the great northwestern highway from Tiblisi, lying on the west bank of the River Rioni, nestling within a bend of the stream. An outlying farm connected by bridge to the town, lies on the opposite bank. A separate bridge crossing carries the main highway into the town. The river is crossed a third time by the road south, on the way to distant Baghdati on the road to the even more distant Kars. Some distance to the north of town a fourth bridge takes a minor road across the river, whence it eventually connects with the road to Ghori, and the Kavkaz mountains beyond. It is at this place, that Count Ignatieff chose to take a stand.

The country round about is dotted with a few hills, cultivated fields and tracts of forest or swamp. The elevation close by the town to the southwest the Count caused to be crowned by a redan which contained the 20 guns of III Mountain Battalion (the other 20 having been lost at Khashuri).  The region close by the 'north bridge' being open to gunfire, he also had constructed there a redoubt into which he placed the 8th Regiment.  Covering them to the rear was the IV Mountain Artillery battalion.  

The main body of infantry garrisoned the town: 5th Regiment covering the bridge south, and 6th and 7th watching over the bridge crossings to the east.  His powerful cavalry stood ready to strike at any crossings the enemy might make north (7th and 8th) or south (5th and 6th) of the town.  
Before resuming the narrative, I have to state here that the accidents of terrain design, especially of rivers, meant that the map I generated had to be reworked a little for things to 'fit'.  Here's the map as generated: 

It turned out that the river sections simply wouldn't 'go'.  So I had to make certain adjustments that led to the elimination of the marshy ford just north of the town, and the creation of a bridge crossing at the top edge of the map. The forded sections having been decided by a die roll (straight sections only, requiring a '6'), the northern one had to be replaced by a bridge. The resulting table looks more like the emended map:

A word about the generation of this map.  The table comprising 10x10 square cells, I used the Portable Colonial Wargames system of battlefield generation, but with D10s in place of D6s.  The town was a set piece, intentionally located fairly centrally, but the river was semi randomly generated along its length.  

Observing minutely the layout of the defences (very good recon), the Turcowaz commander, Abdul Abulbul Ameer, opted for a direct frontal attack by one of his three infantry Divisions (5th), whilst the two others carried out a double envelopment.  The Machine Gun detachment and V Mountain Artillery would support the 4th Division on the right or the 5th in the centre as seemed likeliest to do most good; VI Mountain Artillery would carry the same role on the other wing.

Izumrud-Zeleniya defences...

The force that Ameer had with him had been somewhat diminished by the sharp encounter the week before, but remained nevertheless a formidable army with which Count Ignatieff's Kavkaz Column had to deal.  

Turcowaz: Kars Command

Army Command, Staff and HQ: Abdul Abulbul Ameer (Average) 6SP

4th Division: HQ (3SP elite), 37th Rgt  @2SP, 39th Rgt @3SP 38th, 40th @4SP  = 16SP (poor)
5th Division: HQ (3SP elite), 41st, 43rd Rgts @3SP, 42nd, 44th Rgt @ 4SP = 17SP (poor)
6th Division: HQ (3SP elite), 45th, 47th Rgt @2SP; 46th, 48th @ 4SP  = 15SP (poor)
X Machinegun Battalion = 2SP (average)
2nd Cavalry Brigade: 21st @1SP;  22nd, 23rd Cavalry @ 2SP = 5SP (average)
V, VI/ 3rd Mountain Artillery @ 2SP (average) = 4SP
101st, 102nd Medium Transport Battalion @ 1SP /2CP (carrying capacity) = 2SP/4CP
113th, 114th Pack Transport Battalion @ 1SP /2CP = 2SP/ 4CP

26 units, median = 13.  Units activated per turn = 12/13/14 
Turcowaz 6th Division at the southern
end of the battlefield.

69 Strength Points (SP): Army Exhaustion Point -23SP; Rout Point -35SP 

The Count set some store by the defensive possibilities the Kutaisi position seemed to offer.  Somewhat concerned for his left - his northern - flank, he hoped that his mounted reserves would recover any lost ground there.  He had available:

Izumrud-Zeleniya Kavkaz Corps:

Corps HQ: General-Major Graf N. P. Ignatieff  (Good*) = 6SP

2nd Rifle Division: 
     HQ (3SP elite), 5th, 7th Rgt @3SP; 6th, 8th Rgt @4SP = 17SP (average)
2nd Light Cavalry Division: 
     5th, 8th Rgt @ 2SP, 6th, 7th Rgt @ 3SP = 10SP (average)
2nd Mountain Artillery Regiment:
      I Bn @1SP, II Bn @2SP = 3SP
     5th Medium Transport; 1st, 2nd Pack Transport columns (Poor) @1SP/2CP = 3SP/6CP

15 Units; Median = 8. Units activated per turn = 8/9/10 ('Good' Commander)
39 SP: Army Exhaustion point -13SP; Rout Point -20SP

Turcowaz 4th and 5th Divisions fronting up to 
the river line.

The Ameer's infantry, buoyed by their success the week before, seemed eager to come to grips. Their first activation roll was high, and as the transport units weren't going anywhere, quite a lot of fighting units were very soon engaged. The Ameer had them drawn up in Brigade columns so that movement and manoeuvre would be the more brisk (i.e. 2 stands {regiments} to the hex and activated together for movement). With the assailants' artillery and machinegun support immediately to hand, they soon had the Zeleniyan lines under heavy pressure in the town and to the north.

Having farther to march - and that under artillery fire - before they could properly envelop the southern end of the Zeleniyan line, 6th Division was longer coming into action.  However, they had more than the one bridge crossing by which to reach the edge of the town, the river being fordable in two places: close by the bridge on the east side, and a little farther off on the west.  Fortunately for the Turcowaz in this sector of the field, the Zeleniyan practice was none too effective, the 46th taking some loss, but the 48th without loss reaching the bridge and the other two regiments lining the river bank to their right.

All this while, the 5th Division attacks were going in.  Seizing the farm, 43rd Regiment stormed across the bridge beyond.  Soon they found themselves embroiled in street fighting on the edge of the town, alongside the 44th Division crossing the other bridge.  The defenders had been stretched across the whole east face of the town. That is to say, both stands were deployed across 2 hexes, which extended their line, but had the effect of making their lines thinner - more enemies could attack them.  This might not have been the wisest decision.

4th Infantry Division and 2nd Cavalry Brigade
fighting their way across the North bridge

Meanwhile the right wing Turcowaz column, 36th and 38th Regiments, had forced their way across the bridge crossing and were tackling the fortifications beyond. Although they had the support of V Mountain Artillery Battalion, they discovered that their immediate objective lay outside the range of the machine guns meant to aid the assault. With 38th Regiment shooting them in with rifle fire, along with the rest of the Division peppering the redoubt from across the river, 36th Regiment went in to close assault.

This was to reckon without the Zeleniyan cavalry, standing either side of the gun line, some distance beyond the river.  Suddenly 36th Turcowaz Infantry found themselves assailed in flank by vengeful lance-armed light cavalry.  Such a rude irruption ought to have occasioned a sharp repulse - and so it did, Turcowaz infantry seen fleeing across to their 'own' side of the river.  But it was too late. 36th Infantry held up the Zeleniyan light horse just long enough for the 37th to burst into the redoubt at the point of the bayonet and wipe out the garrison. 

(I admit here that the fog of war descended a bit in this sector, lacking a vital picture of this front between the garrison with 1 SP left still occupying the strongpoint, and what is clearly the 37th Regiment (4SP) subsequently installed (see later).  What I have described seems to me a plausible account of events.)

At the far end of the line, the lead units of 6th Division were beginning their own storm across the river and into the town. The galling flanking fore of 20 cannon at short range caused heavy casualties to 48th Regiment crossing the bridge, but engaging the Zeleniyan 5th Infantry Regiment, prevented its intervention to relieve the pressure upon the 6th.

The Turcowaz machine guns lacking alternative targets, they added their fire to the rifles of 41st Regiment and the guns of VI Mountain Artillery into the northeast quarter of the town, held by the Zeleniyan 7th Infantry. The combined firepower (an an episode of truly awesome dice rolls in one turn), reduced the town's quarter to rubble and splinters, ash and smoke. Their right wing at the same time under close assault, 7th Infantry simply fell apart, its survivors reduced to a horde of fugitives. Under mounting pressure, 6th Infantry fell back, joined by Count Ignatieff himself, and still fighting. But that uncovered the flank of 5th Infantry defending the south bridge, which now found itself fighting on two fronts as the Turcowaz infantry drove further into the town. 

By now it was becoming plain that the river line as a whole had been lost and would not be recoverable. Even the remaining toehold upon the town could not retained much longer. For his part, the Ameer was finding that, despite having taken the redoubt, breaking out from the northern bridgehead proving something of a trial. He flung the two lead regiments of his weak cavalry brigade in an effort to drive off the opposing horsemen whilst the infantry behind them renewed their attacks. 

Much to the Ameer's surprise and gratification, the expedient proved remarkably successful. The lead Zeleniyan horse (8th Light Horse) were driven back and fled. The 7th Light Horse held the following up Turcowaz, and even destroyed the weak regiment leading, but the damage was done. There was little left with which to hold up the Turcowaz tide - even with the two unengaged light horse units hurrying up from the south.  

Count Ignatieff had already issued orders for the evacuation of the transport columns. The IV Mountain Artillery pulled out of their redan just before the Turcowaz 48th Infantry (depleted at they were) could turn their attention to the enemy that had been galling their flank all day. The weary Zeleniyan infantry in the town offered a fluid defence (falling back, when allowed the option, rather than 'taking hits').  Overall, the Count acknowledged the battle as lost, and sounded the retreat.

The remaining pictures show the gradual Zeleniyan withdrawal.  

This was one of those occasions in which the outcome of the battle was clear well before either side's losses had reached their exhaustion point. Although I didn't play out the whole withdrawal - just enough for the transport columns to get clear and the artillery to be well on their way - the Zeleniyan losses were still short of their exhaustion point and unlikely to reach it. So the Zeleniyan column retained its order (apart from the wreckage of 7th and 8th Regiments), as they made their way westwards. 

Somewhat surprisingly, the Turcowaz losses turned out (again!) to have been heavier than their enemy's. It was the 6th Division, on the south flank, that incurred the heaviest casualties, a measure perhaps of the determination and vehemence behind their attacks. Overall, they lost 15SP against their exhaustion point of 23SP (C.f. Izumrud-Zeleniya 11SP against E.P = 13).

Breakdown of the 'Butcher's Bill':

5th Infantry (3SP) -2SP 
6th Infantry (4SP) -2SP
7th Infantry (3SP) -3SP (destroyed)
8th Infantry (4SP) -4SP (destroyed)
Other arms - no loss 
Total loss: 11SP

Net loss 7SP (2/3rds rounded, having lost the battle)

4th Division (16SP)    -3SP
5th Division (17SP)    -1SP (surprising this, as they bore the brunt of the urban fighting in the centre)
6th Division (15SP)    -7SP (equally surprising - the other way!)
Machine Guns (2SP)   -2SP (company silenced by Zeleniyan artillery, but too late to save 7th Infantry)
Cavalry (5SP)             -2SP
Other arms - no loss
Total loss: 15SP

Net loss 8SP (1/2 rounded, having won the battle)

Translated into numbers, the Zeleniyans, 14,500 strong at the outset of the battle, admitted to 2750 casualties.  The 27,000 strong Turcowaz lost 3750.   

To be continued...

Retreat of the Kavkaz column -
Situation at nightfall 4 June 1875


  1. Another magnificent game, looking forward to the next installment.

    1. Thanks, Mark. The next campaign moves have been drawn - but I really ought to push this along a bit more quickly. I've allowed myself to become sidetracked...

    2. Sidetracked? What sort of wargamer allows themselves to be sidetracked? Errr… pretty much all of us, to be honest 😉

    3. I sometimes find that I have the attention span of a hamster when it comes to distractions. I'm currently bouncing back and forth between four different projects!

    4. The upside is, of course, that one never quite gets bored. There's always another project, to begin, to finish, or to come back to...

  2. An exciting and interesting read...Regards.

    1. Cheers, Tony.
      The coming campaign moves will be interesting, I think...|

  3. Nicely done Ion. Roll on the next instalment.

    1. Tense situation coming up: the armies almost united, the Zeleniyans with the 'interior lines'... Tricky, though. The Kavkaz column's LOC cut off, and the Coastal column has to be mindful of its own... Meanwhile, what of the Zeleniyan landing flotilla: where is its destination?

  4. As always your campaign and the actions generated are great to follow. Very believable the one force would start to withdraw before things got too sticky for them, so that they can live to fight another day etc.

    1. Thanks, Steve -
      It was actually quite surprising how easy it was for the Turcowaz to unhinge the defences. But now the Kavkaz column's infantry are quite badly depleted. They might have to come up with some other method.