Sunday, 30 May 2010

Bridges part 2

This week saw the return of the Annexation of Chiraz campaign. The Battle of Cressay continued with more cavalry action on the eastern bank. Regardless of their reduced numbers the gallant Chiraz light cavalry continued to hamper and hinder the progress of the two Electoral League cuirassier regiments. Although pushed back they would reform and return to the fray.
Meanwhile General Marquis de St Evremond fretted at the speed with which his Lorraine forces were deploying into position. Circumstances were not helped by the telling fire laid down on the Lorraine forces by Major Brummer's Electoral artillery. Although two brigades of Lorraine infantry had escaped attention, the rear two were suffering heavy casualties and incurring delays in redresssing ranks and replacing injured officers. Fortunately the grenadier battalions were doing a sterling job covering the bridges and causing some hesitation in the Electoral ranks.
Wilhelm sensed that he was losing the initiative and ordered General von Harding to cross the Goldsmith's bridge without delay. Under cover of a howitzer battery the Electoral infantry began to cross the bridge, glancing nervously at the Lorraine battalions which awaited them on the opposite side. St Evremond was nervous also; he could see that those waiting battalions were losing men with each salvo of shell and there seemed to be many 'assisting' the wounded to the rear. However, his main concern was on the northern flank. The last of the four bridges was covered by the Cressay town guard, a rag-tag assembly of apprentices, tradesment and burghers under the command of the town mayor. If they could hold for another 20 minutes his lead brigade would be in position and his flank would be secure.
It was not to be. The lead electoral curassier regiment (Von Seydlitz - whose inhaber was from a cadet branch of the Prussian Seydlitz's) managed to elude the covering Chiraz light cavalry and dashed for the bridge. The sight of these horsemen was too much for the town guard, which took to their collective heels. Once over the bridge, Seydlitz formed his men up and led them forward towards the nearest brigade of Lorraine infantry, that of General Puilly. When charged one battalion broke and fled, their supports stood and fired a ragged volley, but they were also scattered. Just then an aide galloped up and shouted that yet more Electoral cavalry had been sighted advancing from the south. St Evremond could feel the noose of envelopment tightening around his army. He dare not risk losing such a significant part of the Lorraine forces. Quickly, he issued the orders for retreat. Puilly was to stand and face down the enemy cavalry, but the rest of the forces fell back westwards leaving the day to the Prince Elector.
Wilhelm acknowledged the part played by his subordinates in the victory. Majer Brummer was awarded the Order of the Bear (3rd class)for his handling of the artillery. General von Harding received the Star of St George (2nd class) for the advance over the Goldsmith's Bridge. The main award went to General Seydlitz who was awarded the Electoral Star, with crossed swords and a victory standard for his regiment for his decisive charge.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Planning for June

Brief break in the report on the Battle of Cressay, work reared its ugly head and meant that this week's meeting had to be postponed. However, that gave me the opportunity to start planning a game for next month. It will be a 15mm Napoleonic using the Shako rules (version 1, not the recent publication). Although based roughly on a historic battle, it will cover part of the action rather than the whole thing. This is due to lack of figures and space to do the thing at an appropriate scale. I know that some people like the experience of re fighting the key battles of history using a relatively small number of stands or units and their versions may well be more to scale and able to be finished in an evening. But, for me, if you are commanding IInd Corps it feels better to have 20 battalions, attached artillery and a supporting light cavalry division.

The Russians will be the main opponents for the French and their allies, here are the 5th Division. Standard infantry establishment is 8 line battalions plus 2 Jaeger battalions and two skirmisher stands. In addition the division will also have at least one foot battery. The figures are a mix of various manufacturers, I think the two jaeger battalions at the front are Lancashire Games as are the battalions of the Ingermanland Regiment by the trees. The Russian church is painted by Phil Olley.

In addition to the 4 line divisions there will be a reserve division of Grenadiers. This is not up to

full establishment yet, only 8 of the planned 12 battalions and as with the line divisions there are a mix of manufacturers. Recently I have started using Fantassin figures for the elite units, they are 'large' 15's and therefore look imposing and although it identifies the shock troops to the opposition, who wants their elite troops to be invisible?

The Russian cavalry are somewhat unbalanced, I am a sufferer that the common disease of the Napoleonic gamer, 'cuirassieritis'. As a result there are more units of cuirassier than any other type of cavalry, there is a definite need for more Hussars and Chasseurs. Here is the division of line cuirassier, the Guard heavies form another division and there is a further one of dragoons. Any more and the table will start to tilt!

Friday, 14 May 2010

A Bridge Too Far?

After a diversion to 17thC Poland for last week's battle, this week saw the return to the Annexation of Chiraz and the continuing efforts of the Electoral League to thwart the ambitions of the Grand Duchy of Lorraine. The Prince Elector Wilhelm von Schlangen-Augen, commanding the forces of the League, was determined that the less than competent efforts of Lord Percy would not hinder his, (Wilhelm's) military ambitions. Anxious that Chiraz and Lorraine would not gain any advantage from Lord Percy's attempts to cross the Junger, the Prince gathered his forces and pushed on with all speed to seize the bridges over the River Cressay.

His vanguard of light cavalry and jaeger reported that the nearest bridge, that of the Goldsmiths, was guarded by infantry behind an improvised barricade and enemy light cavalry were observed to the North.

On the other side of the Cressay a growing dust cloud heralded the approach of more enemy forces and so Wilhelm ordered his cavalry forward to secure the eastern bank of the Cressay.

This opened up a gap between the vanguard and the main body of the army and the commander of the Lorraine forces pushed a second brigade of light cavalry forward to cross the Goldsmith's bridge and cause more delay.

The light cavalry melee flowed backwards and forwards with first one side and then the other gaining an advantage. Just as the second Lorraine light cavalry brigade threatened to overwhelm the Electoral cavalry, support, in the form of Von Seydlitz's cuirassier brigade arrived. In a short, and unequal contest, they overwhelmed their lighter opponents and cleared the way for the Electoral infantry to advance on Goldsmith's bridge.

By now the main Lorraine forces were arriving, 18 battalions of foot, hurrying to secure the bridges. Wilhelm's own infantry, delayed by the threat posed by the Lorraine cavalry and hampered by the restricted terrain, also began to move northwards hoping to secure the vital bridgehead. The gallant defenders of the Goldsmith's bridge, the Cressay Militia, who had observed the growing enemy strength with some alarm, were delighted to receive the order to fall back to the next line of defence. Their Colonel, an officer in exile, by the name of Mannering, was heard that he would have liked to, "have a go at the them, but had been denied the chance by those half-hearted types across the river". Perhaps fortunately for his men, the orders to withdraw arrived before Mannering could implement his plans.

Phase two of the battle, where the main bodies engage, will be reported on in due course.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Adrift on a raft, or, how not to cross a river

This week saw the return of the Annexation of Chiraz campaign, with the forces of the Electoral League attempting to cross the river Junger against oposition from Chiraz local forces. What follows is a rather wordy account of the events of the day. I will leave it to the reader to decide who played the part of Lord Percy.

The pontoon train and covering force was under the command of Lord Percy Wimppe, who was still confused as to how he came to find himself in this rather awkward situation. Things had started out quite well really. His father had secured him a foreign posting to the court of the Electoral League just as the misunderstandings about the outcome of a gentlemanly game of cards were becoming 'unpleasant'. At the court he pursued his allotted task of promoting the interests of His Majetsy (as Elector of Hanover, rather than King of Britain), in curtailing the influence of the Grand Duchy of Lorraine, and by extension, France. Not only was he quite successful in this, but he had the good fortune to become acquainted with the rather comely daughter of the Grand Duke of Neustadt. Then, with the worsening diplomatic situation it was deemed necessary for Hanover to be represented in the Electoral League forces. The first choice, General Wurmer had the misfortune to be thrown from his horse whilst en route to take command. His replacement General Grosbek was on such bad terms with the overall commander Prince Elector Wilhelm on Schlangen-Augen he refused to be in the same room and returned home within a week. With the timetable for operations set and only 24 hours to go, the burden of representing Hanover had fallen on Lord Percy.
He now stood looking at the grey waters of the Junger with his aide Captain Schwarznatter; "this local chap of yours has organised the rafts hasn't he? It will be dashed awkward if the Prince turns up and we are still on this side"
"Baldric won't let us down" replied Schwarznatter. Just then, some rafts appeared through the early morning mist, drifting gently downstream. "Here he is" said a relieved Schwarznatter.

As the rafts bumped gently against the bank, Lord Percy decided to send one of his light cavalry regiments across first to carry out a reconnaissance. They would be followed by the jaeger and then a brigade of line infantry. The pontoon operation would be covered by the second brigade of line infantry. With the cavalry loaded the barges began to cross the river. To their dismay they saw that enemy forces were in position waiting for them. A volley caused mayhem on one of the rafts as horses, already nervous at being on the raft, broke free from their tethers. Swiftly the local watermen returned to the eastern shore. The senior surviving officer reported to Lord Percy that a mixed force of infantry and cavalry were in position on the opposite bank. Lord Percy decided that infantry was the solution, he would shoot the oppostion away. Confusion reigned on the riverbank as Baldric attempted to sort out the rafts. He ordered two to move back upstream to clear space for some light artillery which would support the second attack. As the two rafts moved slowly away against the current, they came in range of the enemy infantry. A second volley rang out and some of the watermen were hit. Unfortunately one of the casualties was the poleman. One of the rafts began to drift away downstream, across the front of the rafts loaded with infantry. Immediately Baldric ordered one of the rafts loaded with infantry to intercept the drifting raft and take it back under control.

As the two rafts came together volleys began to be exchanged and although a new crewman (actually a 'volunteer' jaeger),was put on the drifting raft, he was wounded before being able to bring the craft under control. Volleys continued to be exchanged, but casualties amongst the Electoral infantry rose inexorably. Baldric sent a second raft to the rescue, with a company of jaeger on board. This managed to reach the raft and men scrambled across, but one unfortunate slipped, disappeared below the surface and was not seen again.

After a great deal of delay, a third attack was organised. A line battalion was loaded onto the rafts, the artillery had a clear field of fire, but the Chiraz forces had retired!
The engineers and pontoon staff had quietly worked away assembling their bridge and its imminent completion had convinced the Chiraz commander that he had done his duty by causing significant delay and confusion. For the loss of a few lightly wounded militia he had caused 25% losses on three units of the Electoral forces. Lord Percy was not looking forward to his meeting with the Prince, especially as he could not seem to find either Schwarznatter or Baldric.

To close some photos of the recent Sudan game where the Dervishes triumphed