Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Post Gloucester part II

Above is the situation shortly after we resumed battle.  The Parliamentary forces are covering the road and are trying to get two units of infantry plus the wagons down that road to the safety of the enclosures.  On the right the Royalist infantry are attempting to pin the Parliamentarians frontally, whilst moving around their (the Parliamentary) left flank.  In the distance the Royalist dragoons are meleeing the Parliamentary cavalry.

As the game resumed I enjoyed two quite sizeable chunks of luck.  Firstly, my dragoons not only managed to survive the first charge of the Parliamentary horse but then, against the odds held their position and then began to push their opponents back.  When the Parliamentary cavalry routed, my raw dragoons predictably followed them, but in the nick of time (ie the table edge), managed to cease pursuit and rally.  With no immediate threat in the area, they then began to move towards the Royalist centre to offer support where necessary.

The second stroke of luck was that the charge by the remaining Parliamentary cavalry against the right of my line was defeated.  The infantry stood their ground and fired a volley at short range, then won the resulting melee.  As the cavalry fell back they were treated to another volley which finished them as a fighting force.

With the Royalist right secure, Rupert led his cavalry reserve up onto the ridge to seek out an opportunity for a battle-winning charge.  He espied a unit of green-coated infantry which was operating as the rearguard, blocking the road.  If that unit could be defeated, the whole Parliamentary line would be at his mercy.  Giving the matter no further thought, he led the charge.  As the cavalry galloped forward the infanrty stood firm and levelled their weapons.  A close range volley emptied a good number of saddles and as blows were exchanged Rupert's horse stumbled and fell.  Without their leader the cavalry wavered. More men fell and the Royalists routed; sent on their way with another volley.

Command of the Royalists now devlved to Wilmot, who was busy trying to maintain the pressure against the Parliamentarian right.  He only had one unit in position and this was facing two opponents.  The weight of shot was beginning to take its toll, but if he advanced his supporting commandded shot too far forward they would be easy prey for the Parliamentary pikes.  Long range musketry duels were favouring the Royalists but they would not prevent the Parliamentary force from escaping.

In desperation Wilmot scraped together the remaining remnants of  the Royalist cavalry which had made the initial attack.  (We have a house rule which allows below strength units to amalgamate at a penalty of reducing their morale level eg standard becomes raw.)  These were sent forward to take on the Parliamentary guns which were doing a great deal of damage.  This attack was made just in time as the first unit of Parliamentary infantry had reached the security of the enclosures and another was on its way.

The ragbag of Royalist cavalry advanced between the gaps in their infantry and charged the enemy guns.  Seeing them approach, the gunners opted for the safety of nearby infantry formations.  However, having charged the cavalry now forgot their initial orders to disable or carry off the guns and instead continued forward intent on seizing the draft horses as remounts.  Their recklessness cost them dear.  Not only did they lose men to a volley from nearby infantry, but the crew of the light gun darted forward and fired a round of hail shot into their disordered ranks.  Thus the last of the Royalist cavalry made its way towards the rear, leaving the infantry to try and win the battle.

Wilmot did his best.  Pressure increased on the Parliamentary rearguard and the Trained bands unit was reduced to under 50%.  However, it was the green coats who saved the day for Parliament.  Reforming after their victory over the Royalist cavalry they met and defeated a determined charge by the Royalist red coats.  Over enthusiastic officers waved their swords and their men took it as a sign for the pursuit.  In no time the unit was running after their foes, chasing them back the way they had come.  With their flank threatened a unit of commanded shot had to reform to meet the new threat and the pressure on the Parliamentary centre weakend.  Taking their chance the remaining infantry began to fall back towards the road.  Wilmot's only reasonably fresh units were the commanded shot and they could not face the pikes so gradually the action ceased with the battered Parliamentary forcecontinuing its march eastwards.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable scenario which had the benefit of making the commanders consider how to deploy their troops for the action and also incorporated a 'fighting retreat' at a point when most battles finish and the players shake hands.


Sunday, 16 March 2014

ECW Scenario post Gloucester 1643

Essex had successfully raised the siege of Gloucester and now faced the hazardous march back towards London.  In the river valleys the close terrain nullified the Royalist cavalry advantage, but on the open uplands the Parliamentary army was more vulnerable. This scenario has the Parliamentary force making its way across some open terrain and being caught on the march by a Royalist advance force.  The Parliamentary objective is to get the army and its provision wagons into the safety of the next valley, the Royalist want to delay the enemy march long enough for the main force to arrive.

The Royalist force consists of 6 units of cavalry (2 elite, 2 trained and 2 raw), 2 units of dragoons (1 raw) and two units of commanded shot.  Three units of infantry will arrive as reinforcements, but there is no artillery.  The Parliamentary force has 5 units of infantry, 3 of cavalry and 1 of dragoons.  They also have 1 heavy gun and 1 light gun .

The Parliamentary army, with dragoons and cavalry in the van
A die roll decided that I should command the Royalists and I deployed my first two units of cavalry on the flank of Steve's column of march.  Steve decided to send his dragoons forward to occupy the enclosures covering the road into the next valley whilst his cavalry turned to face my approach.  He also deployed his first unit of infantry off the road towards my line of advance to cover the supply wagons.

Ignoring any fancy deployment. in true 'Rupert' style I charged forward with my first line of cavalry.  The first round of melee was inconclusive, but I had the advantage of further cavalry units to hand, whilst Steve did not.  I committed two more units to the melee and these reinforcements swung matters in my favour.  The outnumbered Parliamentary horse were pushed back and then routed and true to type my raw cavalry lost their command when not charging off after them.  I did manage to rally two units and one charged the first Parliamentary infantry unit whilst the other attempted to capture and draw off the wagons.

The first cavalry melee
The charge against the infantry was a disaster.  Although the angle of the charge meant that the Parliamentary infantry were unable to fire a volley, my elite cavalry were outscored in the melee and had to fall back.  This brought them in range of the field gun which duly served them a round of hail shot.  Failing the resultant morale test the cavalry then suffered further casualties from the Parliamentary musketeers.   The battered remains of the unit fell back and took no further part in the battle.

There was more success with the attack on the wagons.  Although suffering casualties from the fire of a second unit of Parliamentary infantry, my cavalry did manage to capture one wagon and bring it to my lines.

The Parliamentary army begins to deploy
As more of my troops arrived, I sent one unit of dragoons to the left to take on the Parliamentary dragoons, whilst a second unit moved to the right to find a good position from which to fire on the Parliamentary infantry as they deployed.  The two units of commanded shot were moved forward to fire on the infantry unit which had defeated my cavalry.  A lucky dice roll meant that my reinforcements began to arrive early and two unit of infantry went forward to support the commanded shot and also increase the pressure on Steve's flank.  The third unit marched to the left to support the dragoons and try to block the road into the next valley.

Steve had reformed his cavalry and they attacked again.  Once again they were defeated, but my cavalry pursued the remnants and strayed into the arc of the Parliamentary artillery.  The gunners made no errors and inflicted heavy casualties on my cavalry, which had to fall back to reform.

More Parliamentary units were now deploying on the open terrain and my dragoons had opened a nagging fire on them.  The Parliamentary cavalry rearguard now appeared and began to move through the enclosures to attack the dragoons.

The Parliamentary rearguard
This caused me some problems because, even though I had started with a distinct advantage in cavalry, I now found that I only had one unit left in good order and this was some way from the threat posed by the advance on my right.  However, Rupert took command of this unit and led it off in support of the dragoons.

At this point we called a halt and decided to continue the battle next week.  It was interesting to try out a scenario which involved so much deployment before action commenced.  The Royalists have slowed the Parliamentary advance, but their cavalry have suffered heavy casualties.  Will the infantry be able to push on; or will the Parliamentary counter-attack clear the road?  

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Chateau Thierry 1814

Another 1814 Shako scenario, this one from the "Time of Victories", the fortnight in February 1814 when Napoleon attempted to stop the advance of the two allied armies facing him.  He managed to defeat the separated corps of Blucher's Army of Silesia, but in the end was too weak to achieve a decisive victory.
Chateau Thierry took place the day after the defeat of Sacken at Montmirail (11th February 1814).  Yorck had intervened late in the day to cover the retreat of the Russian forces and on the 12th, Napoleon pursued the Prussians, hoping to trap them and their baggage train against the river Marne at Chateau Thierry.

The sources disagree on the exact OOB for the troops involved, but the scenario calls for the French to be in two columns.  Napoleon has Friant (2 battalions Guard, 2 battalions Young Guard and a skirmisher); Colbert (3 regiments of Lancers and Chasseurs of the Guard and a horse battery) and La Farriere (3 regiments of Gendarmes, Grenadiers a Cheval and Dragoons of the Guard); plus two army guns (12lbers).  Mortier's column has Christiani (4 battalions of Fusilier Grenadiers and Chasseurs, with a skirmisher stand and a foot battery); Meunier's line division (4 line battalions plus a skirmisher stand) and Defrance with three light cavalry regiments and a horse battery).  Their objective is to drive the Prussians from the hills and continue their advance on Chateau Thierry (off the top of the map).

Yorck has two Prussian infantry brigades (Pirch and Horn), each of 7 battalions. The infantry area mix of grenadiers, line and reserve/militia.  Each brigade has a skirmisher stand and an artillery battery.  Supporting the infantry are Jurgass' reserve cavalry (4 regiments comprising dragons, hussars and landwehr).  Yorck also has available 4 Russian line battalions (Heidenreich) and Vasilchikov's cavalry (  2 dragoon and 2 hussar regiments).  Yorck's objective is to prevent a French advance on Chateau Thierry.

The stream takes half a move to cross (a full move for artillery).  The wet weather meant that the ground was very soft and so round shot only affected the first unit it targeted.

The dice decreed that I should take the part of Yorck, whilst Steve was Napoleon.  Rather than fall back to the second row of hills I opted to defend the first ridge, hoping that I would delay the French long enough to prevent them reaching my baseline before night fell.

On the French left, the divisions of Christiani and Meunier advanced, the former attempting to move round the flank of Horn's position whilst the latter moved straight forward, pinning the Prussians in position.  Colbert's light cavalry also advanced with the intention of pinning the Prussian infantry whilst waiting for Friant's infantry to arrive.  Horn's artillery opened fire and soon found the range of Meunier 's columns, with the 2nd battalion of Naval infantry suffering the heaviest casualties.  Nevertheless the line infantry continued to advance.  The Prussians did not have things all their own way as the French 12lb batteries targeted the infantry of Horn and Pirch and soon disordered two battalions of reserve infantry.  On Pirch's left, the 2nd battalion of the Brandenburg  Infantry regiment was caught by the Polish lancers whilst it attempted to form square, in no time at all, the battalion was destroyed.  However, the destruction did buy time for other battalions to form square against the French cavalry.

This would have been a good time to send Jurgass' cavalry forward to relieve the pressure on Pirch.  However, with impeccable timing, I had just sent them to the opposite flank to counter the flanking march of Christiani.   Shako's rules for altering orders and committing reserves impose a one turn delay on Allied commanders and therefore for the next few moves, before Vasilchitkov's cavalry could come to their aid, Pirch's men were pinned in square and subjected to canister fire from Colbert's horse artillery.

Jurgass was causing Christiani problems.  Trapped in the bend of the stream and under canister fire from the cavalry's horse guns, the French infantry were forced to wait for the arrival of Defrance's cavalry.  The 2nd battalion of the Fusilier Grenadiers suffered losses of over 50% but maintained their place in the line.  Meunier was now closing on Horn's position.  On the extreme right was a battalion of Silesian Militia.  This had come under fire from the French skirmishers and had lost several officers.  As those remaining attempted to reform the lines the battalion was hit by a charge from 1st Battalion of the 10th Line.  In no time all order was lost and the militia were driven from the field.  Fortunately, Horn had a battalion of the Pomeranian regiment in reserve and these fired a volley and then charged the French, who were driven back in disorder.

Whilst the infantry battalions had been fighting for the ridge, Meunier's skirmishers had moved further left in search of more targets.  This meant that they were spotted by some of Jurgass' landwehr cavalry.  Ignoring their orders, the uhlans charged forward and quickly dispersed the skirmishers, but their success was their undoing.  Their charge had brought them in musketry range of Christiani's battalions and a crushing volley from the elite French infantry emptied many saddles.  Before order could be restored, the remnants of the uhlans were charged by hussars from Defrance's division which had arrived in the nick of time. In a short, one-sided melee the uhlans were destroyed.  In an attempt to wrest back the initiative another landwehr regiment charged forward, but this too was defeated by the French hussars.  Perhaps carried away with success the hussars now charged a unit of Prussian grenadiers who were covering Horn's right.  Caught unawares, the grenadiers were too slow in forming square and were overrun.  However, the hussars were now blown and when charged by the Prussian dragoons offered little resistance. The loss of the hussars caused Defrance to pull back to reform his division (he failed the obligatory morale test for one third losses) and this would have caused problems for Christiani had not Jurgass' cavalry been severely weakened by the hussars attack.

On the Prussian left succour was at last arriving for Pirch's infantry.  The Russian cavalry moved forward and against the odds drove off the 2nd (Dutch) lancers and the supporting Gendarmes d'elite from la Farriere's division which had just arrived.  A second attack by the Russian dragoons from the Riga and Neu Russland regiments met the Empress Dragoons and the Grenadiers a Cheval.  In spite of the exalted status of their opponents the Russians held their ground initially and only grudgingly fell back to reform (in the melee the first die roll resulted in a tie as did the first re-roll, a second re-roll resulted in a 1 pip victory for the French). As the two cavalry forces fell back to reform Friant's hard marching infantry entered the fray.  The two battalions of the 3rd Chasseurs made short work of the 1st battalion of the Brandenburg Infantry regiment and the 2nd battalion of the West Prussian landwehr.  Supported by a battalion of the Young Guard and the the Marines of the Guard, the veterans took the ridge.  Pirch used his last reserve, a battalion of grenadiers, to try and  regain the ridge, but they came off 2nd best against the Chassuers.  As the grenadiers fell back, a charge by the Polish lancers overwhelmed them.

Horn's brigade was desperately trying to old back Meunier's division.  Although the French battalions had suffered losses they still continued their advance.  The 2nd battalion of the 10th broke the 1st battalion of the Pomeranian Infantry regiment and then a mlitia battalion.  A counter attack by the remaining Prussian militia was defeated by the Naval infantry and the battered remnants of Horn's command broke and ran back towards Heidenreich's position.  Pirch's men were also falling back and Vasilchitkov's cavalry attacked again to buy them time to evade the French cavalry.   This time the Russians were quickly bested by the French Guard cavalry.  As the remnants of Vasilchitkov's regiments were driven from the field, the Guard lancers fell on the unfortunate Prussian infantry and butchered them.

At this point we decided that the French had won.  Jurgass was too weak to intervene against the French cavalry and only four formed battalions remained under Yorck's command (Heidenreich's Russians).  There was little Yorck could do to prevent the French cavalry advancing on Chateau Thierry and the bulk of the elite French infantry were in good shape.  French casualties had mainly fallen on Meunier's division which had only a third of its strength points remaining.

Post match analysis suggested that the Prussians should have fallen back sooner and thereby preserved more of their infantry.  Also the faulty deployment of Jurgass made life extremely difficult for Pirch.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Napoleon versus Graf Von Grommitt?

It is not unusual for ancient wargames to feature armies which could not have met in historical fact; Ancient Egyptians against Celts, Macedonians against Mameluks etc.  This weekend my grandson visited and asked if his soldiers could fight mine.  His soldiers are 25mm Napoleonics, chronologically, the nearest 25mm figures I have are Grand Alliance, so casting reality aside two small forces were arrayed on the table. 
The Napoleonic French were defending an enclosure with a wooded hill to their right and open terrain on their left, this is where my grandson deployed his cavalry.  He placed his voltigeurs were in the woods and 5 battalions held the central enclosure, supported by a field gun.

I deployed my cavalry on my right, with 3 battalions and a field gun in the centre.  My main attack, of 3 battalions, would try and move round the French right and then attack the enclosure from the flank.

The French centre
 My troops began their advance and with artillery support made good progress.   As the battalions in the centre reached musketry range my grandson, eschewing the 'whites of the eyes' option began blazing away.  Soon the ranks of my infantry battalions began to thin, whilst their French opponents seemed to have charmed lives.  However, my flank attack was making progress, pushing back the voltigeurs by sheer weight of numbers.
The Voltigeurs skirmishing in the woods

 By mutual consent the two cavalry forces charged into melee.  On my far right the Erbach regiment took on the French lancers.  In a short conflict the French lancers shattered their opponents and pursued the remnants towards my baseline.   The other cavalry melees were undecided and continued over the next two moves

The French cavalry advance
One of my infantry battalions in the centre, Erbprinz, had the misfortune to advance into short range artillery fire and was soon forced to retire with over 50% casualties.  As they approached the enclosure my infantry tried to charge home, but failed the morale test (due to casualties received).

It was at this point that disaster befell my forces.  The French lancers, having driven Erbach from the field, succeeded in rallying from pursuit, reforming and were then in an ideal position to charge my remaining cavalry as it fell back from melee.  (After three rounds of melee if there is no result, both sides fall back to reform) .  Caught at a disadvantage my cavalry were destroyed and this left the infantry with their flank in the air.  The reformed French cavalry now charged again and my centre disintegrated

Happy days for the French cavalry
The day belonged to the French.