Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Second Leipzig: French Commanders' Report

Here's French Commander, Dom's report and his version of our last outing. I'm not sure where he's received news of an armistice, there's another battle waiting to be fought between Neils' Prusso-Austrians and Andy's French Corps. However that game will have to wait for a couple of weeks while we do some much neeeded work on terrain and the garage in general.

The Second Battle of Leipzig is over, and this report is written in the knowledge that the scale of losses inflicted upon the Russians by this French victory has dictated the speed at which a truce has been agreed in the current campaigning season.
For all of that this was one of the more unusual battles I have experienced. This was driven partly by the fact that the second battle fought only two days after the first meant that the Corps was 5 infantry battalions short of its usual compliment of 31, as well as missing some skirmishers and one artillery piece; the Russians would be at full strength, but the loss of their supply depot would affect them with deductions in morale, so both sides faced impediments. The Russian Corps was also a bit of a curate’s egg. The rumours were of guard or elite troops across all three arms. It was likely to be smaller than our force, yet of a much better quality.
There was however a sense of nervous anticipation amongst the French command team, because in fighting the Russians as the second set piece battle, there was a very real feeling that the enemy had made a mistake. The Russian attack would be outnumbered, and 2 Divisions of Infantry no matter how good could be counter-attacked and defeated. The Corps might suffer heavy losses, perhaps even lose, but the losses to the Russians could effectively turn the immediate course of the campaign in the French favour. This indeed turned out to be the case.
The first challenge was deciding which side of the table to defend. The battle was brought about by the Russian advance on Leipzig, and as the player holding the ground I had to choose which side to occupy. The map for Second Leipzig would suggest that with woods and villages skewed to one side it would have been the natural choice to defend. However I chose the other side of the table for a couple of reasons. Firstly the villages and woods cramped the Russian advance toward to the French lines. The Russian batteries are made up of 6 guns, the tight terrain left them with either little room to deploy as single batteries, or forced batteries to separate, removing the option of a ‘battery hit’. Also by offering the attacker so much ‘defensible’ terrain, there was the possibility that units would become detached from any attacking manoeuvre to hold on to these gains. The Russian contention is that the battle did not begin until turn 11; I would suggest that by turn 11 the battle was over, it was merely a matter of the scale of the losses that we could inflict upon the enemy.
The Corps deployed with the two healthier formations on the flanks, 12th on the left (10 Infantry battalions and artillery), and 13th on the right (9 Infantry battalions and artillery). 14th Div with only 7 Infantry battalions held a central position. Just to the right of the14th and behind some rough ground the Corps 12lb battery, 14th’s own battery and a Horse gun battery were deployed. The plan was to maul the Russian infantry with artillery and counter attack when possible. When the enemy positioned itself to begin, 1st Russian Div with eight infantry battalions headed for the villages between 12th and 14th Div, whilst 2nd Russian Div occupied the two villages between 13th and 14th Division. Between them sat a mass of Guard Heavy and Light Cavalry with a number of artillery pieces.
The early turns were a series of artillery exchanges; the Russian infantry did its best to use the villages as cover. The Russian 2nd Div held its ground and chose (quite wisely) not to advance toward three or four gun batteries (13ths guns could not find too many targets because of terrain limitations). The Russians waited for their elite guns to tell and break the French batteries in the centre, but advanced on our left. 12th Div occupied the woods with some skirmishers and began to pepper the forward Russian columns, while the horse battery redeployed to add its weight of shot against these targets. A French column from 14th Division was then sent into the woods, to reinforce the skirmish screen, but primarily to provoke a Russian assault. The moment that the Russian attack was ordered against the woods the enemy was on the point of being defeated.
The Russians attacked in two columns, with supporting pairs of columns coming on from behind. At that moment 12th Div launched a cavalry attack deep into the Russian flank on the battery that had deployed to the left of the village now occupied by Russian infantry. This had the aim of tying down the battery and holding the infantry in the village; we also choose not to reinforce any fighting in the woods. The enemy was attacking 2 columns wide and three columns deep in wooded terrain that would always be un-forming to their formations. After the French battalion had been beaten in the woods the whole of 12th Division fell upon the flank of the Russian 1st Division. The enemy was hampered by terrain and routing troops, and in its efforts to extricate itself from the woods was effectively strung out with no means of supporting any melees. The first of the attacks from 12th Division commenced on Turn 11, and the Russians were never to recover on this flank; the woods, and village were taken, the battery suffered massive casualties and the fleeing troops interpenetrated much of the enemy cavalry.
The battle then became a matter of the scale of losses that could be heaped upon the enemy. In retrospect advancing 14th Division was a poor move as it suffered at the hands of the enemies Cuirassiers and the order to attack on the left with 13th Division was probably a turn too late. The attack by the 13th was ultimately unsuccessful, and their retreat covered by some sterling work by the French Heavy Cavalry. These were though, mere blemishes on a victory which left the French as victors in the field and in terms of the campaign able to undertake offensive operations in some 5 to 6 days, while the Russians would have been a retreating corps, perhaps out of action for some 20 days due to the cost of replacing higher quality troops.

Losses for this battle were high on both sides. The French lost a total of 254 infantry, 23 gunners,6 skirmishers and 28 cavalry. The Russian losses though lower at 198 infantry, 34 gunners and 22 cavalry will be much more expensive to replace.


Ged Elliott said...

Just some comments on the rules. Notwithstanding that you have house rules, 3 gun batteries that fire at a target and all pieces hit, do count the +2 for battery hit.

As to the report, how did the Russian player think that columns 2 wide and 3 deep could force a wood. Remember that only formed troops can declare charges or declare reinforcing a melee.
I assume I'm missing some aspect from the write up.

Lastly, the Russians were rolled up piecemeal, unable to extricate themselves etc. This was the main motivation for designing a formation breakoff rule. If this had been available, what impact do you think it may of had on the game just played?

Chris Cornwell said...

I must admit I was a bit puzzled by the Russian column attack in the woods, both in the description and the pics...the Russians can't charge in column (but could be in double line) they couldn't have charged unformed either, and even in double line the re-inforcers can't fight (4 ranks only fight in woods). Bit suprised that the French (+ skirmies) didn't win this.

Dom said...

Hi Chris and Gerry

On the battery hit, did not know that about the split batteries but I think its a house rule.

On the Russian charge, it was begun outside the open wood, skirms evaded to rear. Russian columns became unformed against 1 French Btn in line. French lost in second or third round of melee but by then Russians were at about half strength. The supporting pair of Russian columns had entered wood, so were unformed to support any extra round of melee.

On the replacement division, it would have made a difference. If only the Russians had one ;)

On the armistice which precedes my report, my assumption for this was that both sides had agreed one after the last battle...unless there are new developments?

Noel said...

I think Dom's explained the point about the assault into the woods sufficiently. Touhg I think that it's possible that Chris' point regarding only four ranks fighting in woods may have been overlooked.

As for the split batteries not counting battery hits, I'm unsure where that came from. There's certainly no house rule regarding this and as far as I remember we've always counted it.

I don't think in this particular game that the break off rule would have helped the Russians much. There was very little room left for them to go and they would have ended up blocking the Guard cavalry.

Chris Cornwell said...

Finished your Wurtemburg battery today Noel...and rather nice it is too!

Noel said...

Ooh, lovely stuff any chance of a photo? I'll post it on the blog if your lensmanship is up to your painting ability. By the way nice put down of the guy who didn't like blogs, made me chuckle.