Monday, 20 June 2011

Naseby, Phalanx and Bautzen

A very busy wargames weekend with two games and a visit to the Phalanx show at St Helens, all part of the AGM of that august group, the Gentlemen Pensioners. On Friday, the Naseby game, using the basic Armati rules ended with a very narrow victory for the Royalists , with the opposing left wings, (cavalry and infantry) being broken.
The St Helens show offered its usual range of demonstration and participation games and a very busy Bring and Buy. It was good to have the opportunity to chat to local gamers and also buy those essential items from your shopping list.
The Bautzen game on Sunday was quite a large affair on a 12 x 6 table using the large battles version of 'Shako'. We had tried Borodino a couple of years ago using the divisional level rules but got bogged down in the more detailed procedures. Although the umpires had tried two scenarios with the rules, this would be the big test and generally they came through ok. There were suggestions for alterations regarding the way artillery is dealt with in melee and the control mechanisms for corps commanders caused some problems. We will look at ways to tackle these should another large scale Napoleonic battle be planned.

This is a general view down the table from the southern end with the Russians along the Blosser Wasser stream. Krekwitz and the heights held by the Prussians extend to the north with the Russian reserve on the hill to the right. In the far distance are the forces under Barclay de Tolly protecting the allied army's right flank. The allied plan was to hold the line, inflict damage on the French and if necessary fall back to the second line based on the strongpoints of Krekwitz and Preititz. The French were hoping to pin the allies in place and then Ney, advancing from the north could roll up the allied line.
Ney's force had a large percentage of raw troops and they really struggled to make any progress against the Russians and Prussians. They were not helped by the constricted terrain and the number of guns they faced; nor by Ney's ability to consistently roll low dice.

Bertrand was following orders and attacking the Prussians on the Krekwitz heights. Although outnumbered the Prussians stood their ground and beat off the first wave of attacks, inflicting heavy casualties. One French success was achieved by the heavy cavalry of the Guard who overran one of the Prussian batteries. Bertrand tried again and under cover of the infantry attack moved forward his artillery. This attack was more successful, but Morand's division was again repulsed by Pirch, who rather recklessly then decided to attack Bertrand's guns. As the Prussians came down the hill they were met by salvoes of canister which totally disorganised them and they took no further part in the action. In the centre Napoleon was pushing forward with the Guard and the 2nd Cavalry Corps to sweep away the Prussian reserve cavalry and support the flank of Oudinot's Corps.

The French deployment meant that Milarodovich's corps had no troops facing it, but as it had defend orders it required a change of orders from Wittgenstein (the Allied C in C) before it could attack. With the large table it took quite a few moves for the order to arrive and allow the Russians to re-deploy. Oudinot meanwhile was moving towards the line of the Blosser Wasser, which was a significant obstacle, the defence being supplemented by redoubts and other earthworks.

Milarodovich did send his Cossacks on a raid through the woods to threaten the flank of Oudinot's advance but Rostov's command became involved in a confused and indecisive melee with one of Oudinot's divisions and the advance was not delayed to any great extent.

In the northern half of the battlefield the Prussian divisions were beginning to suffer increasing losses. Jagov and then Zeithen were overwhelmed by the troops sent up the Krekwitz heights by Bertrand and Marmont; though they exacted a heavy price from their attackers. This left Blucher with only the reserve division of grenadiers and guards to hold the hill, supported by three artillery batteries. His cavalry were recovering from their tussle with Napoleon's guard cavalry and then were needed further north to hold the flank when the divisions of Kleist and Yorck began to give ground before the corps of Ney and Lauriston. (Will McNally was taking the part of Ney and his blog has a report on the battle). After heavy fighting the French captured the Gleina redoubt and began to regroup for the advance on Preititz. This delay allowed the division of grenadiers dispatched by Wittgenstein to move in as garrison and provide a further obstacle to Ney's advance.

In the centre a prolonged struggle was taking place between the opposing reserve and guard cavalry divisions in which the advantage swung one way and then the other. The French guard Chasseurs and Lancers began to suffer heavy casualties, a worry for napoleon because it would be difficult to replace these veterans.

Slowly, the French were making progress in the south with Miloradovich beginning to be forced back and the link between the allied centre and left flank becoming very stretched. However, Wittgenstein now had his second line, comprising his elite reserve divisions in place in the centre and they would stop any possibility of pursuit.

In a final attempt to clear the Pussian reserve division from the Krekwitz heights, Napoleon sent in the Old Guard division under Roguet. To almost universal surprise, (except, of course Roy, who commanded the Prussians) the French elite were defeated.
As the wargaming day came to an end the result was close to the historical one. The allies would have to retreat, but the French were in no real condition to organise a pursuit. One advantage for the French was the virtual destruction of the Prussian component of the army, historically, they had manged to escape. The OOB on Nafziger (link above) shows quite a high proportion of regular units in the Prussian force, without those quality troops, the later campaign culminating at Leipzig may have had a different outcome. On the debit side the French cavalry, particularly that of the Guard had taken heavy losses. Already short of cavalry, this would have exacerbated an already difficult situation for Napoleon.
Checking the 'kills' recorded on the command stands the three front line commanders of the allies lost over half their strength, the majority falling on the Prussians. The French losses fell mainly on Ney's command of second rate troops; with Bertrand and Oudinot also losing divisions. The French had higher losses, but they had the larger force and had been attacking. The allies had achieved their aim of standing on the defensive and fighting the French to a standstill. Strategically and politically a drawn battle would encourage Austria to throw in their lot with Prussia and Russia when hostilities resumed after the armistice.
On reflection it mayhave been better to allocate more space to the northern flank and less to the south. The cramped position and number of artillery batteries meant that there was no scope for manoeuvre and this severely handicapped the French. We may also have to look at the rules on concentration of artillery fire for future games.

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