Sunday, 26 July 2009

Second Leipzig

If you've been keeping up with things here on the blog, you'll be aware that after defeating Neils' Prusso-Austrian corps just outside Leipzig Dom was attacked a mere twenty four hours later by Justin's' Russian corps. The resulting battle is still ongoing though it's already reached turn seventeen and once again I'll be asking the commanders to give their own views of how it went.
For the time being however I've put up a picture of the initial deployments for both sides and a few pictures of the action so far. The observant amongst you will notice that there are only two Russian infantry divisions on table, the reason for this will become apparent shortly. I've already listed Dom's corps in a previous post and other than it being a bit smaller since the first battle of Leipzig its organisation remains unchanged.
This first photograph shows the terrain looking down the battlefield from the North and shows the Russian deployment area. The river is fordable to infantry only, at all points. Movement is half speed and troops are unformed until clear of the banks. The broken ground, which was made by Justin has the same effect. There's a very basic error in the picture if you can spot it.

The Russian orbat is as follows:
1st Inf Div
8 x 32 Veteran
6 x 6lb Elite Foot Battery

2nd Inf
8 x 32 Veteran
6 x 6lb Elite Foot Battery

Guard Cav Div
2 x 32 Guard Dragoons
1 x 32 Guard Cuirassier
1 x 32 Guard Uhlan
1 x 32 Hussars
4 x 6lb Elite Horse Battery

And there you have it, small but perfectly formed. No licornes and strangest of all no skirmishers. I'll leave it to Justin to decide whether it's a good choice for the 4000 points allowed, doubtless he'll let us all know in his after battle report.

Here's a shot of the Russian Guard Cavalry, actually they're all line regiments but I don't have any guard cavalry figures so these lads will just have to suffice for the time being. This battle has been the first one to feature guard units as so far no one else has been willing to pay the crippling cost of them, each guard cuirassier costs 11 points, making a 32 man regiment 332 points. You can get two battalions of elite infantry plus one of first class line for that with a little change to buy some skirmishers. That said they certainly do have a presence about them. Just a hint of them getting in to charge range has every infantry battalion in the area immediately forming square.
An incident from early in the game, these Connoisseur (correct me if I'm wrong Chris) French infantry get on the wrong end of the Guard Uhlans' lances. As you can see everyone else has formed square so it was a limited success, but it does make commander's a little more wary of sticking their battalions' noses out too far.

Well the game should end this thursday night as much of the fighting has already been done. Hopefully we'll have the first of the commanders reports in quite quickly and I'll get them published along with lots more photos as soon as I can.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Leipzig: French Commanders Report

This is the battle report from the French perspective, written by Dom very much in the style of a young Tolstoy.

This report is of the first Battle of Leipzig between the French and a Prusso- Russian Corps. Having held our ground we will fight a second battle with perhaps only one days rest and no option for withdrawal, as we fight to defend the base of operations for our Corps; the city of Leipzig itself.

While the Battle of Plauen was running its course in the south we had conducted operations against the Prussian supply base at Torgau, but intelligence reports of a strong Russian Corps in the area of Delitzsch forced all our Divisions to retire on Leipzig and wait for a suspected Russian attack. The Prussians chose this moment to follow up, and to our surprise showed more energy than the Russians, covering a greater distance quicker, and engaging us in an area North and East of the city. The route of both armies to the battlefield determined some of the initial set up, so 12th Division which was screening a Prussian corps in the area of Wurzen found itself on our right flank, with two infantry Divisions (13th and 14th) and the cavalry then being free to deploy to the centre and left.

The next issue was the choice of terrain. As the defender I was offered the option of either side of the battlefield, but there was little obvious advantage. In fact after the decision was made there was much debate between the players about what others would have done. My choice gave little room for artillery, and having some 5 batteries this was a problem throughout the battle. However the choice was clear for me because the large woods on my right placed a natural obstacle between the Prussian forces advancing from the north and east. The decision influenced the overall strategy to hold on the left and centre, and throw as much weight against the eastern division, before launching a counterattack in the centre.

The left was held by Andy controlling the lucky 13th Division; his initial deployment was short of the village of Gordemitz and its attached orchard. His orders were to seize the village and orchard to restrict the Allies movement across the battlefield. In truth he was on a limb to a certain extent. The enemy was ably handled by Eric, who with the aid of a 12lb battery caused the 13ths battery to be withdrawn early in the battle, and brought heavy fire on both the village and orchard. However the one major early melee saw the French repulse Prussian battalions in the orchard before beginning a series of fighting withdrawals. That was the situation by the end of the first evening (up to move 9).

The enemy facing the 12th on the left turned out to be a Russian Infantry Division, with a 6lb battery but only Cossacks as cavalry support. The 12th had already been given the 12lb battery which was used by Noel to great effect to screen their front, while two squadrons of Heavy Dragoons and a horse battery were sent to be deployed against the Russians. Noel was instructed that he could only have the cavalry commander (nicknamed Polish Pete) for 10 turns. By then the Heavy Cavalry Division in reserve in the centre would probably be in action, and could not conduct any charges without their officer being within 12”. As the Russian assault unfolded it turned out that the fight would become an all infantry affair. The 12ths own light cavalry charged a Russian line battalion which disrupted the Russians at a vital moment, and the ensuing infantry melee was a crushing French victory. Not to be outdone another squadron of lights at only two thirds strength, then drove off the deployed Russian battery. Unfortunately the Heavies could not break into the remaining Russian columns, but Noel had succeeded on shattering the Russian Division in 9 turns, and returned Polish Pete in time for the glorious French cavalry finale.

In the centre I faced Neil, the Prussian army commander. We had both exchanged worried looks as the action ebbed and flowed on our flanks. I had occupied the village of Gotha nearest our lines; Neil had Weltewitz. It was here that he chose to deploy a howitzer battery that did a great deal of damage during the game. My own guns were not able to deploy and in fact did not fire a round throughout the battle. This rapidly turned into an action where I deployed infantry into the reverse slopes and waited. When I did crest the two hills to my centre there were a series of cavalry charges, combined with infantry and artillery fire which caused nervous moments. Worse one of the newly arrived Swiss battalions was broken into by Russian Cuirassiers, and after a momentary withdrawal (some photo’s may suggest route, I can’t clearly remember) they reformed and redeployed off the battlefield. That aside the centre stood. Better news was that the Prussian assault on Gotha around Turn 8 was repulsed with heavy losses, and the Prussians were never in a position to try again.

The battle was effectively won by a series of actions that took place in the area between 13th and 14th Division. The Prussians had pushed their own Heavy Cavalry into this area, some six squadrons, to threaten the flanks of both infantry divisions. Polish Pete was not yet back to command the cavalry, and worse still the lead squadrons were pinned by a battalion that had retreated from the left of the two central hills. All that stood between the Prussians and the flanks of the Infantry were the Line Lancers of the 14th. One squadron was just finishing reforming as the action began so only two squadrons contacted the Prussians. The tension of the combat was palpable (and my cavalry dice can be pretty poor) but this was to be the first of a series of victories. The Prussians were soundly beaten (Six 6’s on sixteen dice from me, I was almost embarrassed). Better still the Lancers then rallied on the spot, charged the pinned supporting Prussian cavalry and after winning another melee pursued it from the battlefield. On seeing this, the Prussian attack in the centre began to falter. The Prussians brought up some of their own Russian Cuirassiers to protect the exposed flank that had now been created, but by now the Heavy Dragoons were on top of them. The melee that followed saw the Prussian and Russian cavalry badly beaten with only one Dragoon lost. By Turn 15 the battle was effectively over. Though we had suffered some damage on the left flank where Andy (and Nick in the following week) had worked hard to contain Eric, the centre and right flanks had brought victory. We now rebuild and reorganise with what little time we have and await the likely attack of a Russian Guard or Elite Corps.

Well it turned out that Dom only had one day and a measly sixty five points of resupply to dish out before he was attacked by a fresh Russian corps. We started the game on thursday night and have already reached turn ten. The commanders reports will be posted once the battle is concluded.

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.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Bautzen Weekend

We returned on Sunday from what turned out to be an excellent weekend at the Wargames Holiday Centre where we had a refight of Bautzen. For those of you unfamiliar with the battle it took place on May 13 1813 and though it was a French victory, it was to a large extent negated by the French lack of cavalry which precluded an effective pursuit.
The eight of us were split into four French and Allies per side with Ged Elliot, our host taking one of the French corps to help move things along. As in the real battle the French significantly outnumbered the Allies in infantry but were at a distinct disadvantage regarding cavalry and artillery. In addition on the Allied right Marshall Ney soon began to arrive with both Lauriston, and Reyniers' Saxons to further increase the odds.
The Allies had a good defensive position and were allowed to place three more redoubts after the initial deployment. These were equipped with twelve pounder batteries which meant any frontal assault would be very costly. The French plan was to pin the Allied centre left with an assault by Marmonts corps whilst Ney attempted to force the allied right. On the right MacDonalds corps was pushed up through the woods in order to outflank the Allied redoubts which would in turn allow Oudinot to advance.
The first shot is from the rear of Ney's command as it advances towards the Allied right flank. This second shot gives a good view of the French deployment against the Allied redoubts. In the foreground MacDonald advances through the woods and has already forced the evacuation of one redoubt. Then in order leading in to the distance are Oudinot, Soult, Bertrand and finally Marmont who had to cross the river Spree before attempting to assault Kreckwitz. The Guard infantry and the Guard cavalry were deployed on the rear table in the area of Bautzen with the restriction that the cavalry could not be committed until turn 7 and the infantry until turn 11.
The Allies deployed their line corps in the defensive positions with the guard cavalry and infantry in reserve and awaited the onslaught. In general terms the battle went pretty much to plan for the French. The diversionary attack by Marmont across the Spree took a pounding but tied down precious allied resources and took some of the pressure off Neys advance which ground slowly forward. In the centre Soult and Bertrand supported by the Guard foot batteries began to push forward whilst taking heavy fire from the Allied line and on the right Macdonald was able to advance practically unopposed to un-pin the Allied left supported by Oudinot.
Here we see the Russian Guard cavalry which was deployed to the Allied right in an attempt to slow the advance of Ney. At the other end of the Allied line the Guard infantry was pressed into service to counter Macdonald and Oudinot but found itself outnumbered and hampered by retreating troops from Barclay De Tolly's command. It wasn't all plain sailing for the French, in the centre Soult and Bertrand were both repulsed with heavy casualties and only the arrival of the Guard allowed the French to maintain any pressure. Whilst on the left as expected Marmonts corps after struggling across the river and into the teeth of a four gun redoubt finally broke and several battallions were ridden down.
In the end however The French were able to claim a victory as both Allied wings began to collapse under the enormous pressure of numbers. The game had been hard fought throughout with successes on either side. With four out of the eight players being WHC virgins, Bautzen was a good choice for a first battle. There were plenty of troops to command without the numbers being overpowering and there was still enough room to maneouvre. We got through the game in quite a short time as everyone was conversant with the rules and were able to get in a second battle before driving home on the Sunday to plan next years game.