Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Leipzig Allied Commanders Report

Our campaign game to the East of Leipzig came to an early end on thursday night. The Allies consisting of a Prusso-Russo Corps commanded by Neil had attacked Dom's French but found little success and consequently began a staged withdrawal around turn sixteen. Doms' Corps will now have a twenty four hour respite to refit before he has to fight again. This is Neils version of events, I have Dom's and will post it in a couple of days.

This was a battle that should not have been from my point of view….. A week earlier we had marched south and west from our depot in Torgau advancing on the enemy formations based in Leipzig. Not knowing their route, strength or composition, the force proceeded cautiously but determinedly with a strong cavalry division scouting ahead. At Kilenburg our cavalry reported enemy scouts and after driving them back we fell upon a sizeable all arms force behind and were forced to retire before them towards Mokrehna where we joined up with our Prussian Infantry. The Russian Division had meanwhile marched on a more southerly route and was proceeding unmolested.

Word arrived from Army command that the Russian Corps from Wittenberg was driving South on Leipzig with as much haste as they could muster so we set off again toward Leipzig to support our allies attack. Marching hard every day we made good progress, just encounter signs of the enemies passing until we approached the very outskirts of Leipzig itself southwest of Taucha. With my Russian division outflanking from the East we prepared for battle and committed to the field to fall upon the French Corps.

The timings suggested that we would be attacking a French force just having fought against our Russian allies but for reasons I have yet to ascertain, on the eve of the battle reports came to me of no conflict having occurred, the French being at full strength and holding a defensive line. Indeed it appeared that my Russian ally was still some 2 days march away to the North!!

The ground for the battle was less than ideal with the centre dominated by a large hill sheltering the French held Village, the right flanks principal objective another village and associated orchards and fields and the Left flank cut off from the rest of the field by a large wood and ridge of hills.

The plan was a simple one, engage the French along the line with the Russian Division under Justin drawing off and cancelling out the French right (Noel), me pinning the centre (Dom) with part of my force and attempting to maintain the gap between their centre and left while my right flank, under the control of Eric, to engage and destroy the French division commanded by Andy. My heavy cavalry division was behind and either side of the centre as support. Hopefully this would mean whilst I took substantial casualties, the French would take more and up to a third of his force would be damaged or out of action when they tardy Russians eventually did make their appearance!

The opening turns began as expected, the Russians advanced en-masse, I gently probed toward the village centre whilst Andy and Eric engaged in a race for the Village and Orchard on the right. The biggest problem becoming apparent very quickly was the sheer size of the formation facing Justin’s Russians. Maybe it was deceiving but it appeared to be several battalions stronger and with substantial Cavalry and artillery support. To try and counter this and support the Russians, my Cuirassier regiment advanced beside the wood and drew off 3 infantry battalions from the Russians in the process. This early ‘distraction’ turned into a problem for me, when protected by squares, a 12lb foot battery set up and began a withering fire upon my squadrons. Under this fire I was forced to retire the Cuirassier, who were rendered toothless by the squares to prevent their worthless destruction.

This set-back effectively meant an acceptance of the Russians being ‘on their own’ but in an effort to counter that from a distance, my Prussian Infantry began to press harder on the centre. Andy had managed to seize the Village on the right but Eric was massing to throw him back and had already begun a softening up process on both the village and the French artillery, which was sent scuttling back behind a hill for fear of destruction.

The campaign setup and battles were a bit of an experiment for me in 3 ways, firstly BIG infantry divisions with integral cavalry. We use generals to order a charge with only a 12” range and by about turn 4 it was already apparent that the flexibility of having a 4th smaller Infantry division to operate between mine and Eric’s position would have been a boon. The second experiment was a 3 regiment heavy cavalry division on our scale of games – was it too many to deploy effectively again with a single general to order charges, admittedly with an 18” range, it loses a lot of flexibility. Finally it was the use of a Howitzer battery, never deployed before at the garage. Shitty terrain for it to be deployed and bloody expensive in campaign points how much use would it be? We will see….

Anyway, back to the battle…. Justin’s Russians were closing fast on their French counterparts coming to meet them. The previously mentioned ridgeline, whilst masking the Russian approach had also rendered their 6 gun battery impotent and I know I would rather have had no ridge and giving as well as receiving casualties but it was not to be. In the centre I could only mass a paltry 3 battalions against the village due to my positions frontage but to the right of centre an advance of its own was taking shape.
Eric’s little minions threw themselves manfully at the walls of the village and after a bloody and desperate fight, with reinforcers flying in on both sides, the Prussians were forced to retire to reorder having bounced. Light cavalry were exchanging blows on this flank and whilst the militia cavalry were coming off generally worse, at least it committed and tied up the regiment of lights supporting the French infantry there.

Turn 7 and 8 saw the first big clashes in the centre and left. On the left hordes of French columns crashed into soldiers of the motherland and sent them fleeing, whilst my Prussians advanced, loosed a volley at the village and then attempted to break their way in. Sheer numbers of French reinforcers soon swung the fight and after seeing one of my musketeer battalions die where it stood, another musketeer and grenadier battalion turned tail and ran. Prussian Heavy dragoons were pinning French infantry in position while my other infantry attack developed in the centre and a squadron of cuirassier moved up in support. The Russians meanwhile were still engaging the French but desperately trying to gain good order at the same time.

Turn 10 and the Russian 6lb battery ran before a small squadron of Hussars but some of their number were ridden down as they fled off table. More unformed Infantry fled out of range of pursuing cavalry and the Russian defeat was almost complete on that flank. In the Centre a French line broke in the face of Prussian Dragoons and ran through a battalion of their companions, sadly on the reverse of a hill and out of sight, whilst also in the centre, a regiment of French lancers advanced bravely to try and block the advance of the Prussian Cuirassier and Heavy dragoons… the scene was set for an almighty clash. On the right Flank, Eric’s Prussians stormed the orchard and threw out the French occupying it (now controlled by Nick)

Turn 11, a critical time as it turned out…….
Russian Cuirassier advanced toward French Infantry who rather than form square decided to fall back before them. Prussian Infantry in the centre pushed on toward both the village and the French on the hill and the massed cavalry crashed into each other in a swirling melee. Sadly for me the lancers kept their discipline and it was the Prussians who met a wall of pointy death as 6 of their number fell to the initial charge with only a single French man falling in reply. The remaining troopers’ morale broke and they fell into headlong flight whilst the Lancers rode back to their own lines to the rousing cheers of the neighbouring Infantry. The balance in the centre had swung and my Infantry no longer had a secure flank to press home its attack.

Turn 12 and the final offensive die in the centre was cast as both a full squadron of Cuirassier and a 50% strength squadron of Heavy Dragoons launched themselves upon enemy Infantry. On the right flank, Eric continued to press and harangue the French, however he had done such an effective softening up job that they had lost the will to fight and repeatedly ran before his assaults without him able to cause much damage.
The dragoons took a volley but then fanatically charged home, circling the terrified Infantry before riding back to their own lines. The Cuirassier suffered only a sporadic inaccurate volley from their victims, fired off too early and the heavy horse crashed into and through the densely packed Swiss Infantry battalion who had been newly raised and trained for this campaign, cutting men down on all sides.
Meanwhile Aides de camp galloped off in both directions, confirming to Eric and Justin what I am sure they could see, that the offensive in the centre was over and requesting that they withdraw their formations in good order and if possible gave whatever cover they could to the flanks of the centre.

With the general retreat sounded, the Infantry in the centre fell back under long range cannon and musket fire, with several battalions breaking and running in their efforts to put distance between themselves and the enemy. With the Russians 2/3rds fled and the remainder marching off, Eric’s Flank retiring unmolested and the centre falling back there was only a single action left to resolve, the stand of 2 brave squadrons willing to sacrifice themselves to protect their retreating countrymen and allies. Placing themselves between the retreating Infantry and a full fresh regiment of Heavy Dragoons, the troopers tightened their hold on the reins, slipped their swords from the scabbard and advanced toward the enemy. With their horses nearly blown, having been involved from the opening salvos until the bitter end, the Allied heavy cavalry disappeared under a sea of Dragoons but resurfaced in little pockets fighting on and hacking at the enemy. Though heavily beaten they fell back behind the retreating Infantry, knowing that their sacrifice had not been in vain.

So how would I sum up the battle…. As I stated at the start, it was a battle I did not want to fight in a position I did not want to be in. From the set-up my hope was to exploit the gap in the French lines, and cut off and destroy the isolated Division. My Russians had a torrid time but (thankfully?) due to them running whilst they were tactically beaten heavily they did not suffer that heavy a losses. On the right Eric did a sterling job, took minimal Infantry losses but equally did not deliver the crushing kills that I hoped as the French ran, like my Russians. It was in the centre where most of the death occurred, nearly equal on both sides but I fear the scale of losses in my heavy cavalry and experienced Infantry will cost me dear in the coming campaign days as I struggle to recover numbers. As for my lessons:
1 – 11 battalion divisions with a 12” C&C is too large, 8 is probably more suitable as they would then be able to sustain a 2 or 3 phase assault or defence by rotating units before exhausted but remain controllable.
2 – The heavy cavalry can be controlled as 3 regiments per division, staff officers are a real benefit to squadrons and can make a difference to getting that charge home, but should the field have been more open I think I would have struggled more than the single time I did to get charges in.
3 – The howitzer can deliver lots of damage in successive turns and cause defenders problems. Being able to fire along the flat from behind friendly troops is a very big advantage and paying the extra to make them elite to improve their hit chance was worth it as without that I would have hit even less often than I did and I don’t think they would then have justified their inclusion.

I have now retired a couple of days march, picking up new recruits and troops sent up from depot on the way to try and head off another French corps that is beginning to threaten my line of supply back to Torgau. Hopefully my troops will have some chance to recover and rest before they next fight and whatever damage I was able to cause upon the French will prove decisive as the tardy Russians now arrive to continue the assault on the defenders of Leipzig I began.

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