Sunday, 19 September 2010

Raab variant

This week saw another run out for the 15mm napoleonics with a 'what if' scenario from the 1809 campaign. Eugene, was trying to bring the Austrian forces under Archduke Johann to battle. Johann had managed to link up with Archduke Joseph and was gathering Hungarian 'Insurrection' troops. The arrangement was that the Johann would take up position on the Csanak Heights covering the entrenched camp at Raab. In the evnt this didn't happen, a position futher east at Kismegyer was held and it was here that the battle was fought in June 1809. But what if, instead of enjoying a leisurely lunch in Raab, the two Archdukes had supervised their troops more closely and the Csanak position had been occupied. How would the French and Italians have fared?

The Csanak ridge was steep and covered in vinyards, and lay at 90 degrees to the Raab river. Between it and the river lay open grassland, ideal for cavalry. The village of Menlo lay by the heights and the village of Gyirmot by the river.

The Austrians garrisoned both villages and deployed two divisions of infantry on the ridge, Colloredo on the left and Jellacic on the right, nearest the river. Andrassy, with the cavalry, deployed on the plain. Frimont, with the grenadiers and reserve cavalry was ordered to advance from Raab to support the main force.

Eugene resolved to attack with the forces he had in hand, two divisions of infantry, Seras and Durutte, plus the light cavalry under Montbrun. Seras would attack the ridge, whilst Durutte would attack the village of Menlo and the adjacent heights where the Csanak Ridge ended.

The French battalions attacked in their usual columns, taking casualties from the Austrian guns, but continuing to advance. Five battalions assaulted Menlo, defended by a single battalion of the Weidenfeld Regiment. The Austrians disciplined volleys caused the attack to stall and Durutte had to deploy screening battalions to reorganise his attacking force. To Durutte's left the French light cavalry attacked their Austrian counterparts. They had the advantage of numbers and quality, as half of Andrassy's men were of the Hungarian Insurrection. However, the French did not have everything their own way, some of the Austrian units overcame their more illustrious opponents and both sides withdrew to regroup.

Meanwhile Colloredo was having difficulty holding the ridge line. The 1st battalion of the Benjowsky regiment was attacked by 3 battalions of the French 2nd line regiment. Two were disordered by the terrain and the Austrian volleys, but the French 1st battalion charged home with the bayonet. The Austrians buckled under the pressure and then broke. Behind them in the second line was an Insurrection battalion, calmly they stood and began to fire volleys into the French on the ridge crest. Jellacic was also having his problems. Durutte had ordered the four battalions of the 46th Line regiment to attack the heights above Menlo. Advancing through rounds of canister fire the 3rd battalion managed to gain a foothold on the heights, and then forced the Lindenau infantry battalion to retreat. Again, an Insurrection battalion stepped into the breach.

The Austrian commanders were dismayed to see yet more French troops in the distance, including Grouchy's division of dragoons. Where was Frimont? without his troops the position could not be held.

Seras launched a second attack up the ridge against Colloredo. Unaffected by artillery the assaulting battalions struck the 2nd battalion of the Esterhazy regiment and scattered it. To their left the 1st battalion of the Ludwig Joseph regiment was also pushed back. Colloredo ordered forward his reserve, the Zach infantry regiment and that retook part of the ridge and gave time for the artillery to be pulled back. Menlo village had aso been taken, outnumbered 4 to 1 the Weidenfled battalion was bundled out of the village. Their supporting Grenz battalion was engaged in a firefight with the combined elite companies of the legere battalions, so one of the Insurrection units attempted to retake the village.

Back with Colloredo two of his Insurrection battalions had tried to hold the ridge but were swept away by Seras troops. His losses were now approaching 30% and still Frimont had not arrived. His right flank was no longer in contact with Jellacic as yet another French battalion forced it's way onto the ridge. Jellacic was concerned about the French cavalry forcing their way through the open area between Menlo and Gyirmot. Andrassy was doing his best, but weight of numbers was beginning to tell and there were the fresh squadrons of Groucy's dragoons approaching. It was time to fall back, before he (Jellacic) was surrounded. He sent his escort in search of Colloredo to let him know of his decision and then ordered the retreat. Twenty minutes later Frimont arrived with new orders for the infanry divisions from the Archdukes. They were to avoid serious losses and fall back to Kismegyer, covered by Frimont's men.

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