Sunday, 31 March 2013


A third Shako scenario for this year featured the action at Kulm.  Following his victory at Dresden Napoleon ordered his commanders to pursue the allies through the mountains and complete their destruction.  Vandamme commanded one of these columns and his orders directed him to occupy Teplitz and thereby block the main retreat route.  He was advised that the columns under St Cyr and Mortier would be following him in support.  Already he had overcome two rearguards and as he debouched from the mountains and approached Kulm, he received news of yet another enemy force barring his advance.
This was Osterman-Tolstoy with two divisions of infantry and two of cavalry.  His orders were simple, stop Vandamme's advance, whatever the cost.  Reinforcements would be sent as they became available.

The map (apologies for the poor quality), sets out the position at the start of the action.  Vandamme is with Revest's division (4 battalions and a battery), north of Kulm.  Dupas' division (8 battalions and a battery) is marching along the road and has reached Kulm.  behind Dupas is Chastel's light cavalry (5 regiments). Following Chastel are Gorbrecht (5 light cavalry regiments) and Dumonceau with 8 more battalions.  Further back are the corps artillery and Phillipon's infantry division (10 battalions).

On his left flank Osterman has Rosen's Russian Guard division of 6 battalions with two heavy batteries deployed between the villages of Straden and Priesten.  Between Priesten and the southern road to Teplitz are Pischnitsky's understrength division of II Corps (6 weakened battalions) and Pahlen's light cavalry (3 light regiments and 1 dragoon regiment).  Expected Russian reinforcements are Schachafskoi's infantry division and the 2nd Cuirassier division.

Steve took the part of Vandamme and faced the same problem, wait for all his forces to deploy and risk the Allied force becoming stronger, or, attack with what troops he had present.  He decided on the latter, (just like Vandamme) and after a short bombardment Revest's infantry moved forward with orders to seize the village of Straden.  Dupas was to attack Priesten and Chastel move south to counter the threat of Pahlen.

The Russian guns opened up on Revest's infantry as they moved forward, but the men of the 10th line had a proud tradition and ploughed on.  The 2nd and 3rd battalions attacked the village, whilst the 1st battalion, supported by a screen of skirmishers moved round the northern flank.  Rosen had a battalion in Straden and this held off the first attack with ease; the Russian volleys stopping both battalions in their tracks.  The 1st battalion of the 10th was attacked by another guard battalion.  As the Russians advanced, several of their officers were picked off by the French skirmishers and then more casualties were incurred by a volley from the 10th.    With levelled bayonets the guards continued their advance, confident that they could overcome their opponents.  The 10th were equally confident and the two units crashed together. After a short melee it was the Russians who fell back, ceding the ground to their opponents.  Indeed, so overwhelmed were the guardsmen, they took no further part in the action as their remaining officers struggled to restore some semblance of order.  Fortunately for Rosen the 1st battalion of the Semeniovsky regiment was in reserve and they stepped forward to hold the line.  They could not prevent the 10th from overrunning a Russian battery, but they did eventually force the French to fall back across the stream.

In front of Priesten, Pischnitsky's men deployed to meet Dupas' men as they advanced from Kulm.  The long column of Frenchmen were subjected to the fire from the 12lb batteries as they neared the bridge over stream.  Nevertheless they pressed on and soon were massing for an attack on the Ashperon regiment which formed Pischnitsky's front line

A solid phalanx of men swept forward into a maelstrom of musketry from the resolute Russian infantry and though heavily outnumbered, the line held.  His attack having stalled, Dupas deployed into line and began a musketry duel.  Osterman had seen the mass of Frenchmen gathering before Priesten and observing their lack of cavalry support had ordered Schavitch's Guard Light cavalry to attack their flank.  The way was led by the Guard Eger, who bore down on the 1st battalion of the 9th legere who formed the flank guard for Dupas' division.  Unwilling to wait and perhaps a little overconfident, the guards rode forward.  Just in time the Frenchmen formed their square and faced off their assailants.  Unable to close, the Russian cavalry lost men to the defensive volleys and had to fall back to rally. 

However, the withdrawal of the Eger provided no respite for the men of the 9th legere.  They were in canister range of two Russian batteries and felt the full force of their fire.  As they struggled to maintain their ranks the squadrons of the Guard Dragoons charged forward.  This second attack found the gaps created by the artillery and broke into the square, which disintegrated, men fleeing in all directions.  Strenuous efforts by the dragoon officers prevented an uncontrolled pursuit and the regiment rallied back to reform.  The dragoons had been joined in their charge by the Guard Uhlan regiment.  This unit had caught the 2nd battalion of the 9th legere as they waded the stream.   The unlucky infantry had no chance, being butchered where they stood.  Their blood lust awakened, the uhlans charged again and found the flank of the 4th battalion of the 46th line.  This battalion also dissolved into chaos; Dupas' division was on the brink of disaster.  Fortunately for Vandamme, Dupas rallied his troops and Priesten was still under threat.

Although effective, the charge by the Russian cavalry had left a hole in the Russian line.  What Osterman had not seen when he ordered the attack was the approach of Gorbrecht's light cavalry.  Vandamme had directed them to support Revest's infantry, who had tried and failed a second time to wrench Straden from the grip of the Russian guards.  As Gorbrecht moved forward he had seen the Russian cavalry attack and the lack of reserves to cover the Russian centre whilst the Russian cavalry reformed.  All that lay before him were two batteries of guns, eliminate those and the road to Teplitz was open.   With the Polish hussars in the van, the light cavalry moved forward.

On the southern flank Chastel had moved round the village of Karwitz and deployed to attack Pahlen.  His approach had been subjected to fire from Pahlen's horse artillery, but only light losses had been suffered.  Bugles blared and the two divisions of light cavalry closed to melee.  It was at this point that fortune favoured the Russians.  All three melees were won by the Russians and the margins were so extreme that all three units were destroyed.  The subsequent divisional morale roll also came up as '1' so the remaining units also left the field.  With the southern flank secure, Pahlen could be redeployed to the centre, perhaps in time to thwart Gorbrecht.

Unfortunately, we ran out of time at this point, which was a shame as the battle was so finely balanced.  Revest's men were hanging on in the north and had inflicted some damage on the Russian Guard.  Dumonceau's division was at Kulm and following Gorbrecht towards the Tepltz road.  Schavitch's Light Cavalry needed time to recover and Pischnitsky's division was nearing a morale test, being worn down by Dupas' attack.  Schachafskoi's infantry division would arrive in two moves time to support the centre and Priesten.  The Cuirassier division was still some way off.

1 comment:

  1. Nice report. I really like to play 1813 scenarios.