And now for the French view, full of angst and self recrimination and stuff.
Despite an obvious numerical advantage and knowing roughly where the Austrian reinforcements would arrive planning the attack proved trickier than expected. Not knowing how far in the Austrians would start I decided to ignore the village on my right and concentrate on the centre village and then look to strike with 2 divisions to the left village which would be defended by the Austrians.
By concentrating on a narrow frontage I hoped to bring vast numbers to bear on hopefully a weak Austrian front. The big difference in planning this battle to most of those I have previously fought is the “campaign factor”. In a single game there is no real reward for caution and everything tends to just get thrown against the enemy. Had this been a stand alone encounter my plan would undoubtedly have been different, however as it is a campaign game throwing away troops in a foolish attack would not be a wise idea, I would need these men again.
A balance therefore had to be made between going all out for that decisive victory and the cost of many lives and caution, where I might not get the required result but might live to fight again. In hindsight I clearly missed an opportunity in this battle to really hit the Austrians. I have been over cautious in my approach, I should have exploited the right flanks of the Austrians which would have been undefended and forced something to happen. Instead my fear of the Austrian cavalry has completely stalled the attack. While destroying the Austrian lines in combat would have been easy the Cuirassier behind them would have made short work of my battalions after the combat. With no cavalry support in the centre this would have been foolhardy.
Now on Turn 9 I face the reinforcements from Austria and I am probably more on the back foot than before, I do not believe the Austrians are going to really hurt the French but anything other than a mighty French victory will always seem to be a victory for the Austrians. In short – I was to cautious in deployment, afraid to lose too many men instead of seizing the initiative I handed it to Eric, a steep learning curve indeed!
At the end of the 1st week I was bemoaning my poor / over cautious deployment. The centre was going nowhere and getting shot and my reinforcements were ambling up my right flank, things were not happening and I was putting on a rather good demonstration of snatching defeat from the gaping jaws of a possible victory.
With all that in mind it was time for some more positive thinking, what to do now to get things going in the right direction? Well to start with, as I was not going anywhere down the middle why stay there and get shot? So back with those boys and shoot the Austrians with some artillery from afar. This worked out quite well, as one of the Elite 12lb guns of Eric’s Austrians fell by the wayside – hurrah.
While the centre was pulling back in good order I sent my guard division from the centre to the right flank to support my “militia” division against the incoming horde of Austrians. The Austrians sneaked right up my flank causing some concern, but fortunately I had previously sent my cavalry division to protect the flank.
This is where all the fun started, The Austrian Hussars charged forward and were met by my light cavalry and the dragoons. Steel clashed and down went a lot of French cavalry, it was bad, very bad, but then the fickle finger of fate turned, the French stayed their ground and were joined by their comrades to sweep the Hussars away – victory to the French. With this flank secured and the Guard coming to help clear out the Austrian avant guard things were looking brighter.
So to the Militia Division! I stated previously my desire not to fight over the village on the Austrian left, and based on the quality that was now pouring along the road it was probably a good idea. The militia boys had taken a bit of a battering from the Prussian guns but were holding their ground. The Austrians were coming and battle was unavoidable. In order to try and gain an advantage I tried to “reverse” the militia division while Andy turned the centre division to support the left of the attack. But wily Eric had none of it, seeing that I was trying to open up the area so that I had 2 divisions to fight with he raced forward with his veterans – not slowing to reload their weapons they closed in rapidly. Clearly reversing the Militia was not going to help now so as they faced off ready to go in we held our breath. Then the bloody Prussians came in and effectively took two battalions out of the coming melee by forcing one to retreat into the other.
So the charges were declared and too my relief – if not my surprise my 1st 3 battalions all made it – to be met by two massive veteran 48s :(
All eyes were now focussed on the melee and carnage that was to ensue. The first round was a very bloody draw, and was probably more than I could have hoped for, so in went the reinforcements, 3 more battalions for me and 2 more massive 48s for Eric. It must be said that half my troops in the melee were militia class and were fighting at ¾ effect so the Austrians had a slim advantage and the French lost the 2nd round of melee. Fate decreed once again the French would stand and a final round began, it was close once more but the Austrians edged it and finally the French fled. The cost has been dear to the Austrians and another division is about to pounce so all is not over yet!!
Into the 3rd week we went with just 7 turns to go, things were still in the balance, but the tide was about to turn in the favour of the Austrians. My left flank division advanced again to consolidate their position and my right flank was secured by the impetuous young guard and my cavalry division. But this could not help my centre. Despite showing his adeptness with the artillery under his command Lieutenant Andy wielded his infantry with less adroitness and while preparing to counter attack a joint Austrian and Prussian advance on the French centre was caught out by the cunning Prussian heavy cavalry pincer movement. The Prussian cavalry cut a swathe through the French battalions at the front of their line and a massacre ensued. The French were routed and the Austrians pursed. Meanwhile the young guard had made inroads to the Austrian left flank but could advance no further without a secure centre. Regretfully the guard withdrew and under heavy fire received further casualties, but not enough to deter their return in the future.
As darkness descended across the battlefield the French withdrew, not entirely in good order but by no means demoralised. Lessons have hopefully been learned by the French command on the strengths and weaknesses of both French and Austrians alike. Come the end of the battle casualties on both sides were pretty even, but I would be foolhardy to believe the battle had been a draw. The Austrians carried the field at the end of the battle, I could lay the blame on luck, but that would be unfair on Eric and would be untrue. The dice balanced out (as they usually do) and it was Eric’s ability to seize the advantage after I had handed him the initiative. My undoing then was to have too cautious a deployment, this was compounded by not actually following through on my initial plan – again due to caution – I had the initiative, I had the men, I had the numbers. I did not have the victory that was there to be had!!
As you can see, Nick is an adherent of Maoist self criticism. Both sides need to regroup now. Watch this space for further clashes.
Fontenoy AAR - Part III - The town of Fontenoy was garrisoned with up to three battalions of Austrians, two 3-pounders and one 6-pounder cannon. The left flank of the Prussian In...
21 hours ago