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.

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