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 The enemy was ably handled by Eric, who with the aid of a 12lb battery caused the 13ths battery to be withdrawn early in the battle, and brought heavy fire on both the village and orchard.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.


Stryker said...

I really enjoyed both battle reports and the superb photos - looking forward to the next instalment. Vive le Emperor! (not that I'm biased in any way).


Peeler said...

Excellent write up, and great pictures, thanks for another enjoyable read.