Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Portable Montereau February 1814 (2)

Turn 3: French seize the initiative.
Assaults on Surville and St Martin. Marshal Victor leads Chateaux's and Duhesme's Divisions - now starting to look rather ragged  - against Doring's Wurttembergers just east of the town, whilst Gerard brings up the Paris Reserve for an assault on St Martin. Milhaud's horse artillery takes up a supporting battery position. General Milhaud himself leads Pire's Dragoon Division into Jett's light horse west of St Martin.  

The Allied artillery on the south bank of the Seine is proving something more than nuisance value. Victor's Corps artillery gets the worse of the artillery duel against Koch's foot artillery deployed close by Hohenlohe's brigade.
Close by Villeron, the Austrian hussars are being gradually driven back, but are still giving  a good account of themselves. Along the Bois de Valence road, Walsleben carries on a stubborn resistance against the National Guardsmen. 

Ominous news: a considerable column of Austrians are spotted marching down the south bank river road towards Montereau. This is Bianchi's Austrian I Corps - the Advanced Guard of hussars, dragoons and grenz; followed by two infantry Divisions and lots of artillery.

This was an option given for the original Age of Eagles scenario that I thought ought to be included for 'play balance'. I may come back to that! Meanwhile, you can see the advantages of 2-figure stands: a road column looks like a road column!

Turn Four: The initiative remains with the French.

Bitter fighting continues on the front of Surville and St Martin. The Wurttembergers are holding up well for all Victor's exhortations, and the Austrians are inflicting casualties also on the Paris Reserve. This picture is one of those occasions in which the disparate scales of the Italieri plastics (the figures are actually Prussian) and the Minifigs metals are apparent. The Austrians are also Minifigs. 

So fierce has been the Wurttembergers' resistance, that despite Victor's august presence, their assailants are fairly repulsed. In response to the enfilading artillery fire, he orders a change of front alongside his own battered guns. The counter-battery can not last much longer.

Near Villeron, the Allied horse can count five times their numbers of mounted enemy close by, though for the moment only Pajol's dragoons are in direct combat with them. However, now the rather supine Bavarians, isolated in the Piat Buisson village, still can't make up their minds to break out. This is the downside to Prince Wurttemberg's rather scattered defence: keeping all the elements in hand.

I'm a whisker more generous than Bob Cordery's Army Corps level Napoleonic game in determining whether Corps Commanders' orders are carried out. Rather than taking each multiple of 3 or part thereof of grid areas distance between commander and unit under command, I just round the quotient (3 still the divisor) to the nearest whole number. Piat Buisson being 5 hexes from where stood the Prince of Wurttemberg, they required a 3 or better on a D6 to make any kind of move. So far, that wasn't happening.

By now the head of Bianchi's column had reached Montereau. Kirsch's Austrians and the accompanying battery have already crossed the river, and is passing though Surville. The artillery has formed a battery position between Surville and Villeron, where they are covered by Jett's cavalry. Having driven off Milhaud, Jett strikes the Cavalry Corps main body in flank just north of the latter village.
French progress is slow, and costly. Though Pajol's dragoons continue to drive back the Austrian hussars, they are taking heavy losses, and are starting to look a little worse for wear.

General view: Jett's cavalry defeats Milhaud's dragoons, the latter retreating as far north as Piat Buisson, though keeping some distance form that place. Jett follows up into the flank of the main body of Milhaud's Cavalry Corps. Supported by Milhaud's artillery, The Paris Reserve continues to batter away at the Austrian garrison of St Martin, but are taking heavy losses. In the distance, Pajol is making little progress; Pacthod even less. Allied reinforcements are starting to pour across the bridge.

Turn Five: The French retain the initiative.

Driving along the riverbank, Marshal Victor sees the opportunity to cut off the whole Allied bridgehead by pushing into Surville. His whole Corps is still stymied at the edge of the town and village. Having rallied his dragoons, General Milhaud piles into the flank of Jett's cavalry, still engaged with the main body of his cavalry corps. But his command has by now taken heavy losses already: 3SP overall. So has Victor: 5SP from his infantry alone. Not that the Allies in Surville and St Martin have come off unscathed: 3SP lost from the two defending brigades.
Bianchi's march. Kirsch's Austrians have already crossed into Surville to reinforce the western defences. Wurttemberg is under heavy pressure, but his troops are giving a good account of themselves. 

Walsleben's cavalry, embattled for hours, has been driven back almost to Surville itself. The jagers in Villeron have been almost cut off, but for the moment well enough placed to engage the enemy. The Bavarians in Piat Buisson really are cut off, but still haven't made up their minds to break out. 

Ominous portent for Marshal Victor - though not unforeseen: his artillery park has been silenced. Now the Allied artillery may, with complete impunity, bombard the flanks of his infantry trying to storm Surville.

Matters are looking far grimmer for the Allies west of St Martin. Walsleben's cavalry has been pushed back all the way to Surville, and Jett is being assailed front and rear by Milhaud's whole cavalry corps. There was to be no escape for him and his command.

Jett's cavalry overwhelmed, the only link between Stockmeyer's light infantry at Villeron and the garrison is the battery of Austrian guns close under St Martin. But the rest of the Advance Guard is still on the road west, hanging on, but also in danger of being cut off. Once more Milhaud brings his cavalry up, this time to assail those Austrian guns.
The battle continues to rage on Victor's front, the Allies grimly hanging on and refusing to budge. Rather than the Allied garrison, it was Victor's corps that was looking more than a little frayed at the edges. General Doring himself is commanding at the bridges, and bearing a charmed life. But he has found it necessary to deploy a gun battery to bolster the defences. Although against the added gunfire the already understrength Divisions of Duhesme and Chateaux have been simply battering themselves to pieces, it does mean that the sole river crossing from south to north is for the moment blocked.
By now, the Allied bridgehead has been forced back into a tight perimeter about Surville and St Martin - apart from the cut off elements: The light troops in Villeron, the Bavarians in Bois Buisson... and the road block on the road junction a couple of kilometres west of the town.  
Holding for hours against seemingly overwhelming numbers, the resistance of this band of artillery and jagers has been finally overcome when Pajol's dragoons, victorious at last over the Allied light horse that resisted them for so long, came up the road to take them from behind.  General Walsleben has surrendered with the few survivors.


Seeing at last how the battle was shaping, the Bavarians sheltering at Piat Buisson have undertaken to fight their way back towards Surville, to re-establish contact with their allies. This is in fact a second attempt, the first having been summarily driven back by masses of French cavalry.  This time coming up into the left rear of Pajol's Hussars, they drive them away from Villeron, and make contact with the garrison.

For the moment it seems that the Bavarians might escape, and perhaps add weight to the defence of the bridgehead.

The light infantry garrison at Villeron is also attempting to break out. Some confused fighting breaks out in the area of St Martin and Villeron between French cavalry and Allied foot. Milhaud's chasseurs rode over an Austrian gun battery, but ran into Kirsch's infantry beyond. Practically surrounded on three sides - St Martin is still in Austrian hands - the situation seems untenable for the French light horse.

Marshal Victor continues to drive on his army corps that is being worn to a shadow. Very little remains of the unfortunates of the Paris Reserve, although the Austrian garrison has also taken severe losses. 

But now, seemingly in the tide of French assaults and the Allies desperate defence, the initiative passes to the hands of the latter...
Turn 6 - Allies win the initiative.

To be concluded... 

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Portable Montereau February 1814 (1)


Against the Allied invasion of France in 1813, Napoleon had, in a flurry of combats and battles, forced the Army of Silesia, commanded by Feldmarschall Blucher, back, away from Paris. By this time, Prince Schwarzeberg's Austrians and German allies had reached Mormont, just 20 miles - 32km - from the capital. Catching the advanced elements literally napping - or at least barely wakened from the night's bivouac - the French attacks scattered formations (if they could still be so called) of Russians, Austrians and Germans.  At once Schwarzenberg called for a retreat through Montereau to the south bank of the Seine. The Corps of Prince Wurttemberg - a mix of Wurttembergers and Austrians, with a small formation of Bavarians - was ordered to maintain a bridgehead at Montereau, and to hold the crossings. 

Montereau was precisely the where Napoleon chose to concentrate his army before a decisive strike. 

The leading pictures show the table battlefield, the following map forming the 'blueprint' for the layout.
For an introduction to this action, check out 'Yet Another Portable Wargame' from 4 December.

The opening French attacks formed a species of pincer movement. General Pajol's Provisional Corps advanced from the west, through the Bois de Valence and Dragon Bleu. His rather polyglot formation, comprised three brigades of cavalry and one infantry Division, backed by a sizeable park of artillery, horse and foot. The cavalry comprised a mix of chasseurs, hussars and dragoons.  From the east through Courbeton, came the V Cavalry Corps of General Milhaud, and II Corps under Marshal Victor.

The following pics show the location of the scattered elements of Wurttemberg's command. The accompanying map will identify the various formations: The Bavarian Brigade at Piat Buisson, Advance Guard in Villerton (Wurttemberg light infantry with a skirmish element) and in the scattered wood between there and Dragon Bleu; Schafer's Austrians at St Martin, with Doring's Wurttembergers close by near Surville.  The rest of Koch's Division, Hohenlohe and the artillery, are some distance off, on the south bank of the Seine. Kirsch's Austrians are on the south bank also, west of Montereau itself, along with one of the two Austrian batteries. The other, horse artillery, are close by Jett's cavalry, near St Maurice. 
Bavarians at Piat Buisson.  In the distance, Stockmeyer's
light infantry at Villeron, and Wasleben's light horse and guns 
blocking the road from the west. The Division commander 
seems to be conducting a personal reconnaissance.

Schafer's Austrian Brigade at St Martin. Close by, at Villeron,
Wurttemberger light infantry (I'm using Nassauers as proxies)
On the east bank of the Seine: Hohenlohe's Brigade, Wurttemburg artillery,
Austrian horse artillery and Jett's Dragoons and mounted Jager.

View from behind the Seine, as Marshal Victor's
Corps pushed down the river bank from Courbeton.

Turn One. French (White die) win the initiative.
St Martin and Villeron.

The action opens: General Pajol's Provisional Corps, comprising Pacthod's National Guard Division, stiffened (presumably) with 'Le Terrible' 57th Regiment; two brigades of light horse (chasseurs and hussars), and one of dragoons, emerging from the Bois de Valence.  The cavalry fan out whilst the infantry and guns continue down the road toward Surville and Montereau.

General Pajol himself leads the chasseurs through Dragon Bleu, whilst the hussars push down alongside the infantry on the road, and the dragons sweep around the north side of the hamlet. Facing them is Walsleben's light horse - Austrian hussars - and Wurttemberger Jagers zu Pferd. The latter have dismounted some of their number as skirmishers.
Off the the east, Marshal Victor's II Corps marches down the road directly towards Surville. General Milhaud's V Cavalry Corps takes the parallel road heading towards St Martin.

As Victor's infantry, preceded by a cloud of skirmishers, trundle toward the town and its river crossings, Allied artillery open up from the south side of the river.  Luckily, their first salvos are not very effective...
Milhaud's cavalry - two small Divisions of dragoons and one of chasseurs à cheval, swing northwards, almost as far as Luat, to make room for Victor to expand his front to attack Surville and St Martin, both.
At the other end of the battle front, the Allies set up a road block of artillery, supported by the mounted Jager skirmishers. Although Walsleben himself stands with the road block, his excellent light horse take on Pajol's chasseurs, led by the Corps Commander himself.  In this battle, the Austrian Hussars are rated 'elite', Pajol's cavalry - inexperienced and indifferently mounted - as 'poor'.*

The French hussars cross the road to reunite with the rest of the corps cavalry, causing a delay to Pacthod's infantry column.
Turn Two. Allies win the initiative.
The Allied artillery have plenty of attractive targets to begin procedings.  East of the town, safe from any counteraction by the French, Koch's foot and horse artillery enfilade Victor's columns pushin towards the town.
Walsleben's guns, under their general's eye, pounds the French column on the road.
The first clash of sabres begins at the crossroads west of Villerton. Unexpectedly, the inexperienced chasseurs get the better of the fight, and the hussars take some loss...

Meanwhile, anxious to permit the passage of reinforcements from the south bank - Jett's Cavalry and Kirsch's Austrians - Doring's Brigade, having themselves moved through the town to face Victor, begins a counter-attack that sweeps aside Duhesme's skirmishers. Pushing on, the Wurttembergers inflict casualties upon Duhesme's main body as well.

From small beginnings, the cavalry battle near Villeron drew in the whole of Pajol's mounted arm.  Whilst the chasseurs held the hussars in front, the dragoons and hussars came in from left and right.  This ought to have swept the Austrians aside, but, after such an inauspicious beginning, the latter recovered their fighting aplomb. The French hussars were forced to break off, and the dragoons took some losses as well.
Probably now would have been a good time for the Bavarians, watching the roads north for the arrival of another French column - Napoleon was up there somewhere - to have inserted themselves into this cavalry action. They did eventually, but by then events had overtaken them.

As yet the battle was just beginning. Though Duhesme's Division of Victor's Corps had been intercepted on the road - and was taking enfilading fire from Allied artillery, General Gerard's Paris Reserve Division (long on Strength Points but short on 'quality') was bringing St Martin under close assault. They were to find the defending Austrians stubbornly hard to shift.

In an effort to relieve the Divisional columns of Duhesme and Chataux from the gunfire incoming from across the river, Victor ordered his own guns to deploy for counterbattery action. In the event, this did little enough to help the infantry...

So far, the overture.
To be continued...

* The 'poor' rating of Pajol's cavalry belies their performance in the actual battle. Ordered into a charge, they swept all before them, all the way into the town, apparently because the troopers could not control their mounts.  Experienced cavalry commander as he was, Pajol counted upon precisely this lack of riding experience when he ordered the charge!