Sunday, 22 August 2010

Return match at the Arsenal

The final instalment of the Chiraz campaign took place recently. The umpire was not too forthcoming, but I suspected that matters were fairly evenly balanced and the esult hung on the holding of the arsenal at Petresville. The initial action there had seen the Electoral forces under Major General Karl Erfahren-Gemeinsam (afterwards E-G) capture the arsenal and then allow the defenders free passage back to Chiraz. The following days had been very pleasant, a little scouting by the light cavalry, some drill on the open ground near the arsenal and several excellent meals at the Three Barrels Inn in Petresville. The Electoral troops and the locals had rubbed along fairly well, aided by E-G's insistence that everything be paid for in hard cash.

8am found E-G at his usual table at the Three Barrels, wondering how long this very pleasant posting could last, when he was disturbed by the arrival of a young hussar, reporting that an enemy force had been observed advancing from the south.

The hussar was dispatched with orders for two of the infantry brigades to take up position, one on either bank of the Cressay, covering the bridge just to the south of Petresville. The western force was supplemented by a jaegers, the eastern one had its flank covered by the light cavalry brigade. Each force had one light gun. The reserves remained in the arsenal, (5 battalions, one being grenadiers) and Petresville (1 battalion of grenadiers) .

Approaching from the south came the Lorraine force. Rather unusually this was commanded by a woman. Tradition demanded that the Constable of Lorraine should accompany the army on campaign. Through circumstances too involved for this report, but having no little bearing on the disputed succession to the Grand Duchy of Gerolstein, the current holder of the position of Constable was held by Mathilda, eldest daughter of the late Grand Duke. Under her command were two brigades of line infantry, each with an attached light artillery battery, two battalions of light infantry, a regimant of hussars and the local Cressay volunteers and woodsmen who had previously been the garrison of the arsenal. The volunteers plus one unit of light infantry were on the western bank, with the bulk of the force on the eastern bank. After consulting with her brigadiers, Mathilda decided that the force on the western bank would pin the Electoral troops there, whilst the main force would defeat the outnumbered troops in front of the arsenal. Under the gimlet eye of the Constable, the Lorraine troops advanced, paying particular attention to their dressing. On the western bank the light infantry surged forward to occupy the wood and deny any cover to the Electoral troops.

It was at this point that Mathilda received the first of many pieces of bad news. Her spies had suggested that the defenders of the arsenal consisted of no more than two brigades of infantry and i unit of light cavalry. Her light cavalry, scouting ahead, reported that they were opposed by twice their number and could not advance to flank the enemy infantry. Then an eager young lieutenant rode up to report that more enemy infantry were deploying from the arsenal. The odds against the Lorraine forces were lengthening. On seeing the Lorraine advance E-G had decided to move his reserve line infantry brigade from the arsenal to support his force on the eastern bank of the Cressay.

Hampered by the buildings near the river and the need to deploy to the right of the existing defenders due to the laws of precedence, Brigadier Grun made slow progress.

On the western bank desultory skirmishing began between the light infantry, but the Electoral troops were more closely supported by their light atillery and line units. Artillery shot began to fall on the wood and unluckily, the first slavo killed the senior captain and injured two more. If the Lorraine forces on the western shore were pushed back, the main force would be fired on from the flank as well as from the front. Would the western force hold?

Mathilda called another staff conference. Her brigadiers voiced their opinion that with equal forces, their chance of advancing to victory were very small. However, if they could induce the Electoral forces to advance then they may weaken the enemy enough to then move to the offensive. Then another messenger arrived. Electoral grenadiers had been spotted advancing from Petresville towards the Cressay volunteers. Outnumbered 3 to 1 by better quality troops they would not be able to stand and if they retreated then the main force would have to.

Determined not to suffer unnecessary casulaties, Mathilda ordered a retreat, leaving the field to the Electoral forces.

On the night we continued the game as a 'what if the Lorraine forces had remained in position?'. The result was the destruction of the Lorraine light infantry on the western bank and it was obvious that the volunteers would follow.

So to the umpire's report. Casualties during the campaign were remarkably balanced, not enough difference to generate a victory point for either side. Loraine gained 5 points for the battle of Cressay, plus an extra two points for capturing a gun and Lord Percy. The Electoral League scored 5 points at Drew, plus another 5 for holding the arsenal and Petresville, giving them an advantage of 3 points. Thus both sides withdrew from Chiraz, but the League did negotiate an advantageous deal for the supply of powder.

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