I set the scenario in the early years of the Great Northern War, meaning the Russians had some raw troops, (approximately 60% of the infantry and 50% of the cavalry), but made 25% of the Swedish infantry raw to balance things out a little. A Swedish force commanded by General Axel Lindstrom has been carrying out operations to the east of Riga and is now returning. Russian forces are gathering to surround it and blocking the route west is General Shapishnikov's corps. The Swedes need to break through the Russian force to avoid encirclement.
|The initial deployment|
I laid out the troops as shown in the photo above. What cannot be seen are the two woods on the flanks, which narrowed the field. Prior to the game I gave Steve the opportunity to redeploy his forces (the Swedes) if he wished. He therefore massed all his cavalry on the right wing.
To the left of the cavalry were two brigades of infantry, each of 4 battalions and a light gun. The cavalry consisted of four regiments of cavalry in two brigades.
Shapishnikov also had two brigades of infantry, though these had 6 battalions each. There were also 5 regiments of dragoons in two brigades, the weaker, (of only two regiments), being on his left flank. In his centre he had two field guns.
The Swedes had the initiative and began to advance, at least the infantry did, the orders to the cavalry seem to go astray. This gave the Russian left wing cavalry commander a chance to get more manoeuvring room. As the Russian dragoons on the left swept forward, the commander of the adjacent infantry brigade began to redeploy to extend his front. On the opposite flank, the Russian dragoons also advanced, hoping to pin the opposing Swedish infantry brigade back.
The proximity of the Russian dragoons seemed to galvanise the Swedish cavalry commander. His leading brigade charged, eliciting a spirited counter charge from their opponents. Brave as the Russians were they were unable to deal with the more experienced Swedish troopers and in no time at all they were streaming back in rout.
|The Russian dragoons rout|
Although defeated, the Russians had inflicted some casualties on their opponents, a delay in following up by the Swedes allowed one of the Russian dragoon units to rally and an infantry battalion to move up to the dragoon's flank to add some support.
On the opposite flank, the Russian dragoons had also advanced. Their less experienced brigadier had allowed the units to become separated and their attack on the left hand Swedish infantry brigade went in piece meal. With the garrison regiments in the rear, the experienced infantry leading the brigade dealt with the dragoon attack without any difficulty; driving the horsemen back in disorder. However, although costly, the dragoon attack had forced the Swedish infantry to halt and this opened up a gap between them and the infantry brigade to their right.
|The attack on the Swedish left|
An overview of the battle. At the top of the photo, the Swedish left is about to be attacked again by the Russian dragoons. In the foreground the Swedish cavalry is pursuing the retreating Russian left wing dragoons and the reserve brigade is moving up in support.
The leading Swedish cavalry brigade now charged again. On the right, they caught the defeated Russian dragoons before they had rallied and swept from the field. In the process they lost a good number of casualties and had to pause to rally. The second unit charged the infantry which had supported the remnants of the Russian dragoons. They had been 'softened up' by a volley from the infantry of the right hand Swedish brigade and offered little resistance to the cavalry and routed. Once again however, the Swedes suffered sufficient casualties to force them to pause to rally.
|The Swedish cavalry break the Russian line|
This was galling, as they had nothing in front of them other than routing Russians, the Russian infantry line was 'in the air'. Lindstrom ordered the reserve cavalry to move round the first brigade and then wheel and attack the Russian centre whilst the first infantry brigade pinned them with a frontal attack. On this occasion, the normally excellent Swedish staff system failed and the order to Brigadier Wallender was delayed, giving the Russians just enough time to get an infantry battalion in position to oppose Wallender's attack.
In the centre, the Swedish infantry charged home. The leading regiment disposed of their first opponents easily and moved forward to take on the second line. They, although a garrison battalion, proved tougher opposition and although forced to retreat, rallied behind the regiment supporting them. Glaz, the Swedish brigade commander, ordered a unit to take on the Russian artillery as their fire was proving a problem. This attack proved a disaster as the close range canister decimated the Swedish ranks and forced them to fall back to rally. With his attack now beginning to falter, Lindstrom needed some help from his second brigade, but they were struggling.
|The Swedish attack on the guns fails|
The unit on the right of the right hand Russian infantry brigade was led by Colonel Archibald Fraser, who had served in the Russian army for more than a decade. he had drilled his men relentlessly and emphasised the need for effective musket fire. This day his men excelled. Their fire cause two Swedish units to fall back to rally. Encouraged, the rest of the brigade pushed forward, the left of the rear line wheeling towards the centre increasing the pressure on the Swedish right. Lindstrom, in desperation, attempted to block this attack with one of his garrison battalions, even though it was sorely needed to support the attack. Their fire did indeed halt the Russians and a charge completed the job.
|The garrison battalion pushes back the Russians|
However, behind the defeated Russians was another infantry battalion and a volley from them drove the Swedes back. Lindstom received news from Wallender that the Russian infantry volleys were preventing him charging home. Gathering the remains of the first cavalry brigade, Lindstrom led them in a desperate charge against the Russian right. Although they managed to smash through one infantry battalion, they were unable to break a second and had to retreat.
Accepting defeat, Lindstrom began to pull back his weary infantry, covering their retreat with the remains of the cavalry. For their part the Russians were too battered to pursue.
A close run thing. The quality Swedish troops threatened to smash their opponents in no time, but with losses mounting, momentum slowed. A few crucial order failures and some excellent Russian musketry proved decisive.