Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Battle of Kagul 1770

This was one of the major battles of the Russo-Turkish War 1768-1774.  It was also one of the largest battles of the century; with estimates of up to 180,000 combatants, c40,000 Russians, 70,000 Ottomans and a similar number of Tartar allies.  The battle is not well known but here  is a link to a report on a refight in 15mm by Black Wolf Wargames.

We divided the battle into three stages, an attack by the Ottoman cavalry, followed by an attack by Ottoman infantry and then (hopefully), an advance by the Russians on the Ottoman camp.  The Russian force was deployed in four divisional squares, each with cavalry supporting them from the rear.  Each square had integral artillery and a small reserve to fill any gaps appearing in the ranks.

I took the part of the Russian commander Rumyantsev and tried to appear unconcerned as hordes of cavalry swept down on the squares.  The square on the far right occupied by Rumyantsev himself, acquitted itself well.  The artillery causing heavy casualties amongst the horsemen and then the infantry standing to deliver volleys at close range.  Those determined Ottomans who reached the Russian infantry were unable to make any impression on the squares. 

 Gauging the moment had arrived to counter attack, I ordered the unit of Horse grenadiers to clear the remaining cavalry away.  This was an error.  The Horse Grenadiers advanced, their flank covered by Hussars.  However, the Hussars were no match for the Spahis, who quickly swept them from the field.  Quickly the Ottoman cavalry reformed and attacked the rear of the Horse Grenadiers.  These could not respond to the threat because they were busy fighting the cavalry to their front.  In no time at all my largest cavalry unit was a broken mass of fugitives seeking shelter off the field. Fortunately the Ottoman attack on the neighbouring square had also been repulsed and this allowed me to move more cavalry over to cover my flank.

Meanwhile,  the square on the far left had been ordered to advance on the Tartar camp and disperse the light cavalry.  I had not appreciated just how many Tartar cavalry there were and soon they were swirling around the square, pushing back the Cossack cavalry protecting the flanks.  Whilst the heavy cavalry had had real difficulty making any progress against the squares, luck favoured the Tartars.  Their continual archery must have unsettled the infantry because when charged one of the battalions broke.  This of course created a gap, which was exploited ruthlessly. The light horsemen poured into the square, pursuing the fleeing infantry and attacking the hastily assembled reserve.  This was cut to pieces and the general commanding the square was lost trying to assemble a new defence line.  The individual colonels took matters into their own hand and ordered their battalions to form square. Most managed it, but all divisional cohesion was lost, along with the artillery and two battalions of infantry.
On the Russian left the battle was now a stalemate with the Russians unable to advance and the Tartars contenting themselves with shooting at the immobile infantry.

The main Ottoman cavalry attack had been all but driven off, but it had allowed time for the infantry to advance.  Rumyantsev was again fortunate that the infantry attacking his square were low grade militia who could be driven off by artillery.  The smaller square to his left was not so lucky, they were facing Solaks.  Undaunted by the infantry volleys the Ottomans charged home and after a stiff struggle broke through into the square.  The rear of the square about-faced and fired a volley which cut down many of the Ottomans, but they still fought on, causing yet more casualties before they were finally wiped out.  The square to the left of the one attacked by the Solaks was attacked by the last Spahi unit and this was successful.  The Ottomans destroyed the unit they faced and then carried on to attack the one at the rear of the square, this too was dispersed, but the Ottomans were then charged by the supporting cuirassiers who wiped them out.

The remnants of the two damaged squares were amalgamated, so now two Russian squares would advance on the Ottoman camp.  The cavalry would be fully occupied in protecting the flanks  against attack by the remnants of the Ottoman cavalry.

I hope to report on the third stage of the battle next week.  

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