This last weekend a sub-committee of the Gentlemen Pensioners put on a Borodino game at the Gauntlet Games Weekend organised by the Deeside Defenders . We used the 'Large Battles' version of the Shako rules (the original edition, not Shako II) with a few alterations. The troops were deployed in roughly their historical locations, although some adjustments had to be made to fit the terrain onto the 12 x 6 table.
Originally the orbats were drawn up on the basis of having three 'wing' commanders per side plus the 'army' general (ie Napoleon and Kutusov). On the day, we were looking at only two per side, but were rescued by three passing volunteers who, although new to the rules joined in 'to see how it works' and enjoyed it enough to come back on the Sunday. Many thanks to Gary, John and Martin for stepping into the breach.
Because of the scale of the game (manouevre elements are divisions), the attack by Eugene on Borodino village was decided by die rolls. The result was that the French achieved complete surprise in their attack and thus captured the bridge over the Kolocha river intact. This proved to be somewhat of a mixed blessing because Eugene sent Broussier's divison over the bridge and up towards the Raevsky redoubt. Unsupported, Broussier became the target for several Russian batteries and although he charged Olsufiev's division he was driven back down the hill, so heavily damaged that the division took no further part in the battle.
Davout had started his advance on the Bagration Fleches which were held by Vorontsov's division. Morand and Friant moved forward quickly and although the Russians fought bravely, numbers told and the Fleches were soon in French hands. Bagration had sent forward Neverovsky's division in support, but their counter-attack failed and they too had to fall back and regroup. With Ney's corps also moving forward on Davout's left, Bagration sent an aide post haste to Kutusov requesting reinforcements.
Poniatowski's corps had begun to advance on Utitsa, but Tuchkov's corps was waiting for them and had the greater weight of artillery. A stalemate developed with neither general able to gain an advantage.
Just as the French seemed to be strolling to victory the Russian flanking attack by Uvarov and Platov appeared on Eugene's flank. Dornano's light cavalry tried to hold back the Russian dragoons but they were overwhelmed and a flanking attack by Triari's Italian dragoons on Uvarov failed. With his cavalry falling back to recover, Eugene requested support from Napoleon. The III Reserve Cavalry Corps was sent to Eugene, but with specific orders that it was not to be committed to anything other than countering enemy attacks. With the Italian infantry in squares to hold off the Russian cavalry, the Italian artillery did its best to subdue the Russian guns, particularly those of Barclay's Corps which were inflicting heavy casualties. To try and relieve the pressure Eugene sent the division of Compans forward against the Raevsky redoubt. Again unsupported, the attack was driven back by heavy losses.
On the Russian left Bagration's last reserve, Mecklenburg's Grenadier division provided a rock around which Neverovsky and Voronstov's infantry could rally. Siever's dragoons moved to the left flank threatening to drive off Davout's corps cavalry. More in hope than certainty Davout's hussars charged the Russians and against the odds, prevailed. To counterbalance this setback Vorontsov's division pushed back Friant and Mecklennburg's grenadiers pushed back Morand, in addition Osterman-Tolstoy's Corps arrived giving Bagration two fresh infantry divisions.
That is where the action drew to a close on the Saturday afternoon. On the restart on Sunday morning Kutusov and Napoleon issued orders to their 'wing' commanders. Bagration was 'requested' to retake the fleches as he pondered how he was to achieve this, Davout's infantry advanced again to support Ney. Davout had been reinforced by St Germaine's cuirassier division and given orders to clear the enemy in front of him and then move north towards Gorki. In the ensuing melee, Mecklenburg's grenadiers pushed back Friant, but Vorontsov was overwhelmed by St Germaine's cuirassiers before they could form square.
Ney's orders were that he should cross the Semeyonovskii stream and secure the ridge beyond. To assist him he had been allocated the IV Reserve Cavalry Corps and the Reserve Artillery (3 12lb Batteries). With his usual elan Ney advanced confident he would seize the ridge.
On the far right of the French army Poniatowski had received a rather curt order from Napoleon enquiring why he had not captured Utitsa. Fulfilling his orders Poniatowski advanced but in doing so triggered a flank attack by Tuchkov's cossacks who had been put in the woods for such an eventuality. Krasinski's men found themselves attacked frontally by Konovnitsyn and threatened by the cossacks to their left rear. Pulling back his artillery, Poniatowski launched Kaminski's and Bruyere's light cavalry at the cossacks. Outfoxed by their more agile opponents the French cavalry fared badly, but in the end both sides had to pause to recover. Konovnitsyn had by now charged Krasinski's troops and had driven them back. The advantage now lay with the Russians.
On the opposite flank Eugene was pulling back his Italian infantry to protect Borodino and the guns which were firing at Barclay's Corps which protected the right flank of the Raevsky redoubt. He sent Compans and Dessaix's divisions forward in a frontal attack against the Redoubt, supported by Grouchy's dragoons. Although artillery had been bombarding the redoubt throughout the battle its fire was not slackening and the attackers suffered heavy losses in their advance. Compans was repulsed by Vasilchikov's division and Dessiax never even reached the Russian line, heavy losses forced him to retreat and take no further part in the battle. However, Dessaix's unsuccessful attack had allowed Grouchy to approach unmolested and he led his men forward against the Russians. In a fierce melee the cavalry prevailed and forced Olusiev's division to fall back. A foothold had been gained on the hill, but there was no infantry available to hold the ground, so Grouchy fell back to reform.
In the centre the struggle between Bagration and Davout continued with one and then the other moving forward. Bagration's hand was strengthened by the arrival of the last Russian reserves, the Guard infantry and cavalry divisions. Their presence helped to sustain the wavering ranks of Mecklenburg's grenadiers. Ney was by now locked in battle with Osterman-Tolstoy and found himself outnumbered. His cavalry had been driven back and now his infantry were having to form square right under the muzzles of the Russian guns. The cavalry divisions of Mourier, Lorge and Rozniecki seemed unable to reorganise after their defeat and while they dithered, the infantry suffered.
At Utitsa the Russian advance began. Poniatowski had tried to buy time by ordering Bruyeres light cavalry to charge Marov's Militia, but the horsemen had been driven back by the Russian artillery. Kniaziewicz's infantry division found itself attacked by both Konovnitsyn's infantry and Strogonov's grenadiers. A fierce melee developed with little quarter but the Polish spirit won through and both Russian divisions fell back. After this the fighting died down as both sides fell back to their initial positions and maintained an artillery duel.
Behind the Raevsky redoubt Dokhturov had been ordered to take his corps forward to reinforce the troops supporting the redoubt. It was as well he did because the troops of Barclay and Raevsky were nearing the end of their strength. They had endured artillery bombardment, infantry attacks and cavalry attacks throughout the battle and another attack was being launched. Defrance's heavy cavalry division, supported by Pajol's light cavalry surged up the slope towards Vasilchikov's infantry. Now hit by fire from the reserve artillery brought forward by Ney the Russians were swept from the ridge. At the same time Grouchy charged Dokhturov's divisions. One held, but the other was driven back. Again, the ridge was in French hands, but Junot's infantry were too far back and the French cavalry had to fall back again.
It was at this point the battle ended. the corps of Davout and Ney had been stopped by Bagration and Davout's troops in particular were close to exhaustion. At Utitsa no progress had been made, the position around the redoubt was uncertain. A draw was declared, which was for the French a strategic defeat. The Russian army had not been heavily defeated and losses had been high amongst the French infantry divisions. Napoleon had kept his Guard fresh whilst the Russians had been forced to commit all their reserves.
The French committed troops with a total breakpoint of 143 and lost 82 points, 55 of those in the troops of Eugene and Davout. The Russians committed 162 points and lost 66. Of these 27 (out of 40) fell on Bagration's original command.
This was an excellent weekend. Many thanks to the Deeside Defenders for providing an excellent venue and refreshments. If you have the chance, drop in at next year's show. I close with especial thanks to the Gentlemen Pensioners (Alasdair, John, Roy and Steve) plus the 'volunteers' Gary, John and Martin who contributed so much to making the game so enjoyable. Many thanks chaps!
I will post more photos in the gallery over the next few days including some supplied by John which give more of an overview of the battle.
Napoleonic Polish Infantry
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