Sunday, 28 September 2014

Sudan decision postponed

Events conspired to prevent me getting to Steve's this week, so the conclusion of the current Sudan scenario has been delayed.  In the interim I have added another page to the gallery with more photos of the recent Kukrowitz game.  These have been sent to me by John, one of the Allied commanders.  At the same time I have updated the page with our local version of the Shako 'Big Battles' rules, so that it now includes the most recent amendments.
All being well a report on the conclusion of the Sudan scenario will appear next week.  Meanwhile, here are a few more photos of the Kukrowitz game

The Austrians defend the Klosterberg

Ney's infantry cross the Thaya

Russian counter-attack against Bertrand

The Allied position begins to crumble

Monday, 22 September 2014

Return to the Sudan

The last time Steve and I fought an action from the Sudan was at the Sunday game following the Phalanx Show in June.  With 8 players the pace of the action was quite slow and did not really reach a conclusion, so Steve decided to reprise the scenario on a slightly smaller table.  I took control of the Dervish forces and noted their deployment on my map.  I placed two units of riflemen forward, hoping to disrupt the Imperial advance, with further units of melee troops behind them in support, taking advantage of the broken ground.  I placed a 'brigade' of Hadendoah in the rear and a mixed 'brigade' in Ad Dueim itself in case the steamer attempted to land the blue jackets.  Off table I had some cavalry and a further 'brigade' of Hadendoah.

The initial Imperial deployment and as you can see my riflemen found themselves rather out on a limb.  Steve sent troops around both flanks of riflemen and pinned them from the front with a battalion of infantry.  I initially got the better of the rifle fire, but when a second Egyptian battalion joined the first the weight of fire proved too much and my men gave way, heading towards the rear.

The Egyptian camel corps was pressing forward and one of my melee units broke cover charging towards them.  Surprisingly, the Egyptian troops dismounted and formed a firing line to meet the charge.  As my men bore down on them, the Egyptians fired a volley.  This was ignored by the Dervishes and the two sides met in melee.  Against the odds, the Egyptians prevailed and it was the Dervishes who were driven back in confusion.

The Egyptians had little time to dwell on their success as a second Dervish unit now crashed into them.  This time the Egyptians were defeated, almost being wiped out.  The Dervishes carried on, but their next opponents were British regulars, whose rapid fire stopped the attack in its tracks.  As the natives tried to reform they were hit by the Egyptian cavalry and cut down.

On the river, the gun boat was making steady progress towards Ad Dueim, firing on the Dervish formations as it passed.  Although under fire from from Dervish artillery, the gun boat reached the village, where Dervish troops waited to charge up the jetty to attack it.

On the Imperial right the brigade of British troops had made good progress towards the small village.  Dervish charges towards them had been defeated by rifle fire.

 A flanking manoeuvre by the Imperial cavalry and camel troops arrived just behind the village, hoping to outflank any defensive line.  However, this was why I had placed one 'brigade' in reserve and these troops charged forward, attempting to stop the attack in its tracks.

Attacked by three units, the British cavalry was really struggling, suffering very heavy casualties.
This was where matters came to a close, with good progress being made towards Ad Dueim, but the Dervish reinforcements were still to arrive.  Action will recommence next week.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Lines of Castenay

The scenario this week is set in the War of the Grand Alliance.  Those old adversaries, the Comte de Salle Forde and Graf Von Grommitt once more crossed swords in the continuing wars of Louis  XIV.  To forestall any incursion by the Alliance forces into newly acquired French territory, orders had been issued by Versailles to construct defence lines, one such was in the neighbourhood of the village of Castenay.  A low ridge between two areas of boggy ground seemed to offer the perfect blocking position and a local contractor, (monsigneur Charles Balle-Foure) had been engaged by the emigre engineer Alexander Beattie to supervise the works. Two local militia battalions had been drafted in from a nearby fortress to do the required digging, but  when news that the Alliance army was on its way was received, the militia quickly decided that their duty lay in garrisoning the fortress and it was left for the Comte de Salle Forde to hold the ridge.  He had eight regiments of infantry, four squadrons of cavalry and a light gun.  The militia had managed to start work on two redoubts on the ridge and these provided cover for the ends of the Comte's front line of 5 battalions.  The only open ground was on the left and here the Comte stationed the Chevalier Aubusson with two sqaudrons of cavalry.  It would have made sense if the remaining cavalry had also been on the left, but the Marquis de St Evremonde insisted, as the senior cavalry commander, he should be on the right.  With friends at court, the Marquis could ignore the Comte and chose to do so on this occasion.

Initial deployment of forces, French on the left

Von Grommitt had 10 battalions of infantry and 5 squadrons of cavalry plus a medium gun.   He too opted for the classic deployment of infantry in the centre with cavalry on each wing and decided to advance against the whole French line, keeping his grenadiers in reserve, ready to exploit any gaps.

Von Grommitt advances

 As the Alliance forces advanced the marshy area in the centre, opposite the gap in the ridge caused problems as the grenadiers had to try and manoeuvre around it.  Von Grommitt had to leave matters up to the battalion commanders as he was fully employed getting the Hessian infantry into position.  To further complicate matters, the French chose this moment to attack with their left wing cavalry.  the Chevalier Aubusson led his squadrons (Aubusson and Vaillac), forward, hoping to attack the flank of the infantry line.  He found that instead he was opposed by the Austrian cuirassier brigade (squadrons from the Jung Hannover and Herbestein regiments).

Aubusson attacks the Austrian cuirassiers
 These horsemen did not attempt to charge, but calmly waited for the French to get close enough to fire at them with their pistols.  The pistol discharge was delayed until the last moment and emptied several saddles.  Amongst the casualties was the gallant Chevalier, who made it a point of honour to be the first to reach the enemy line.   Aubusson were repulsed, but Vaillac pushed on and the second impact was sufficient to drive the Jung Hannover squadron back.  Both sides now took time to reform, the French hampered by the loss of their commander.  Seeing the disruption on his left, the Comte galloped over and took personal command of his cavalry.  Inspired by his presence, the French charged again and drove the Austrian cuirassiers from the field.  However, events on the ridge had now reached a critical stage and the Comte had to quickly regain his former post behind the front line.

The Austrian infantry near the ridge

On the Alliance left the Austrian brigade had reached the ridge and started to move forward into a gap created by the retreat of the Zurlaben infantry battalion which had had to fall back due to casualties from artillery fire. As the Metternich battalion neared the crest they were attacked by the Marquis' cavalry which he had led forward.  The Spanish horse charged forward but were stopped in their tracks by a deadly volley from the Austrians.  As the remnants of the unit fell back, they left the field clear for the Marquis' second unit, the Cuirassier du Roi.  This also charged Metternich and undeterred by the volley closed on the infantry.  Sheltered by their pikes, the Austrians held their ground and again the French had to fall back. The Dutch battalion in the Austrian brigade had by this time driven Solre back from their works and was attempting to form up on the ridge.

The Spanish horse charge forward
 Meanwhile on the French left, the Comte had taken control of the defence of the ridge.  Directing his artillery to fire in support of the Bavarians he was able to stop Erbprinz from closing.  Wartensleben was also struggling to get the better of a fire fight with  Toulouse.  Von Grommitt was fully occupied trying to cover the rear of his attack from the French cavalry.  Fortunately, lacking a commander now the Comte had returned to the ridge, they took their time reorganising and this allowed the Alliance cavalry from the left to cross the battlefield to come the the aid of their infantry. Outnumbered, the French fell back behind their lines.

In the centre, the leading battalion of Alliance grenadiers had attacked Languedoc, who were holding the part-built lines.  These gave the French some advantage, but when the second grenadier battalion moved up the French gave way and fell back on their reserves.

As the light began to fade the Alliance had a foothold on the ridge on their left flank and in the centre, but were facing the bulk of the French reserves plus the Marquis' cavalry.  On the Alliance right, the Hessian brigade had taken heavy casualties trying to take the ridge and Von Grommitt decided he should withdraw.  The Comte could hardly believe his luck, he too had been on the point of ordering a withdrawal and the sight of his enemy falling back allowed him to order his troops to return to their positions on the ridge.

The closing position

 We used the Ga Pa rules for this scenario and they worked much better with the linear deployment.  The rules allow for galloping and trotting charges and we decided to make the French cavalry 'gallopers', although they were disordered by their charge. This represents their philosophy of the "charge en forageurs",  where the emphasis was on speed rather than cohesion.    The Alliance cavalry were trotting cavalry, who relied more on breaking up the enemy charge with pistol fire.  This gave interesting cavalry melees, but pike-armed infantry seemed to have little difficulty seeing off cavalry charges.  Next time perhaps we'll set the scenario a little later when pikes had been phased out.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Kukrowitz - a Shako 'Big Battles' scenario

For the last couple of years the Gentlemen Pensioners have put on a Shako 'Big Battles' scenario at the Gauntlet show run by the Deeside Defenders.  This year, Steve very kindly offered to host a similar game, which made things a lot easier with regard to transporting the figures and assorted paraphernalia. How do you follow Bautzen, Borodino and Leipzig?  After considering several  options I eventually decided on creating a 'what if..' scenario set in 1813. This avoided me having to use Prussian troops to make up the numbers at Austerlitz for example, or to have troops in late war uniforms at the earlier battles.  The template for the 'Kukrowitz' was Znaim, the final battle in the 1809 Wagram campaign.

This is a map of the area from the Allied side of the table.  It is not an exact representation of the terrain that was on the table, but contemporary maps were not always accurate.  The two c-in-c's each received a map to help with their planning.  The French, commanded by Napoleon, had four corps commanders, Ney, Oudinot, Marmont and Bertrand, with the corps commanded by Victor due to arrive after 4 or 5 moves.  Three cavalry corps and the Guard arrived at the end of play on Saturday.  The Allies also had four corps commanders, two Russian, Miloradovich and Gortchakov, an Austrian, Kolowrat and Blucher for the Prussians.  Allied reserves were available and the elite Reserve Corps, commanded by Grand Duke Constantine was due to arrive at the start of play on the Sunday.

Prussian and Russian troops on the Zuckerberg
 The scenario had the Allied army retiring after their defeat at Dresden.  The Austrian rearguard was being pressured by Ney, whilst Napoleon was marching hard to move round the flank and trap the Allies against the Thaya river.  To make matters worse for the Allies their sole line of retreat was blocked by a problem with the army's supply train and they would have to hold a defensive position for the whole day (the two days gaming).  Blucher had his troops in the vicinity of Winau, stretching onto the Zuckerberg.  To Blucher's right was Gortchakov and then Miloradovich, whose troops were deployed from the Zuckerberg, through Zuckerhandel and onto the Klein Berg.  Kolowrat's Austrians were deployed on the Klosterberg and in front of Alt Schallersdorf and the Kloster Abbey.  Ney faced Kolowrat across the Thaya.  Marmont was ready to assault the Klein Berg and Bertrand was with Oudinot on the French right.

Excelmans charges the Austrian line.

 Napoleon had issued attack orders to his corps commanders and true to his nature Ney was happy to oblige.  His light cavalry, led by Excelmans and Briche were quick to cross the bridge and move at speed towards  the Austrian lines.  To the right, Grouchy led his dragoons across the ford and deployed ready to charge the Austrian guns on the Klosterberg.    Unfortunately for Excelmans, Frimont's Uhlans were supporting the Austrian infantry and the uhlans were quick to advance through the lines and countercharge the French cavalry.  The French were caught by surprise and driven back.  Carried away with their success the Austrians charged on into Briche's horsemen.  However, disordered from their melee they were driven back with heavy loss.  Briche's men retained their control and fell back to reform.  Although costly, the cavalry attacks had covered the advance of Verdier's division towards Alt Schallersdorf.  Grouchy had formed up his division and now charged the guns on the Klosterberg.

Grouchy charges up the Klosterberg
The Austrian gunners were sabred, but isolated, the French dragoons fell back to reform. Behind Grouchy more of Ney's infantry were crossing the Thaya.

The Baden infantry division crosses the Thaya

   On the French right, Oudinot was advancing on the Prussians.  There were some losses from the Prussian artillery, but the infantry continued to move forward.  To Oudinot's left, Bertrand was sending his troops up the slopes of the Zuckerberg.  Franquement's division was charged by Kochin's cavalry and bundled back down the slopes. The Russian cavalry reined in and fell back to reform. To Franquement's right Neubronn's division charged home on the Prussian guns.  As the Wurttemburg infantry swept through the guns they were charged by Roder's cavalry.  Disorganised, they stood little chance as the horsemen hacked about them.  Only a few of Neubronn's men made it back to the French lines.  Bertrand's corps cavalry was also attacking the ridge but the Russians formed square and drove them off with heavy casualties.

Kochin's cavalry sweep down the slopes of the Zuckerberg
Marmont was making slow progress against Miloradovich's troops.  His cavalry were destroyed by the Russian cavalry and the first wave of infantry was driven back with heavy losses.

After three moves all the French attacks had been repulsed and the Allied line was holding, but undaunted, the French resumed their attack.  First, Oudinot sent in Scheeler's division against Winau, they were beaten back, but a Gazan's division was ready to take their place.  The failure of Bertrand's attack on the Zuckerberg had encouraged the Russians into a limited counterattack.  One of Gortchakov's infantry divisions was threatening the flank of Bertrand's line. To counter this Pino's Italians were moved to a blocking position.  As they redeployed they became the target for all the Russian guns on the Zuckerberg.  Vast gaps were torn in their ranks and Bertrand had to pull them back, but the division was so damaged it took no further part in the battle.  Bertrand's position was now perilous.  His cavalry were much weakened, his infantry battered and the enemy seemed as strong as ever.  To his relief he saw fresh troops arriving.  Napoleon had directed Victor's corps to strengthen the French right.   

Ney had not been deterred by the failure of his first attack on the Klosterberg.  Briche's light cavalry charged forward against Schaeffer's division.  The Austrians tried to form square, but were caught in the manoeuvre and stood little chance against the French cavalry.

Oudinot's advance on Winau

Kolowrat sent a message off to the Allied headquarters requesting reinforcements; but so early in the battle his pleas fell on deaf ears.  As a precautionary measure Kolowrat garrisoned Alt Schallersdorf and the Kloster Abbey with men from Splenyi's division.

On the French right, Gazan's division drove the Prussians from Winau and then defeated a counterattack.  Blucher was now in serious trouble, with his left threatened and struggling to maintain contact with Gortchakov's troops to his right.  He also sent off an aide to Allied headquarters requesting reinforcements.  His plea was accepted and the Prussian grenadier division and the Prussian heavy cavalry were soon marching towards Winau.  Reports of Victor's arrival in support of Bertrand resulted in the Russian reserves heading off towards Kukrowitz to bolster the position on the Zuckerberg.  With a second plea arriving from Kolowrat, saying that his line was under extreme pressure, being accepted by the Allied command, all the Allied reserves had now been committed.

The Russian reserves move forward

Marmont made a second attempt to drive Miloradovich from the Klein Berg, only to see his infantry driven back down the slopes in confusion.  Fortunately, help was at hand, as Ney's infantry, led by the Baden division stormed the Klosterberg and drove Abele's division from the hill, creating space for Marmont to deploy more men in future attacks.  With Abele's defeat, the French now had control of the Klosterberg. With Dubreton driving Splenyi's men from the Kloster Abbey and Vial capturing Alt Schallersdorf, Ney felt confident that he had the Austrians on the run.

The French attack on Alt Schallersdorf
But Kolowrat had other ideas.  He ordered Splenyi to counterattack and try and regain the abbey.  The Austrian infantry moved forward with a will, but were unable to dislodge the French.  They suffered heavy casualties in the melee and fell back, taking no further part in the battle.  The light cavalry also made charges, forcing the infantry to form square, which made them excellent targets for the Austrian guns.  All this bought time for the Austrian reserves to march up. Nostitz's cuirassiers lost no time in charging the French on the Klosterberg, but could make no impression on the solid infantry and had to fall back to reform.  However, Kolowrat had had time to form a solid defensive line in front of Edelspitz, linking up with Gortchakov's men on the ridge behind the Klein Berg.

Kolowrat forms a second line

Blucher was struggling to contain Oudinot.  Dombrowski's Polish division was making headway against Jagow's division, which contained a large number of Reserve Infantry regiments and Militia.  The inexperienced troops could not stand against the veterans and fled from the field.  Pirch's division tried to stem the tide but was swept away by a combination of the Poles and Oudinot's light cavalry.  A yawning gap opened in the Prussian lines, which the arriving reserves struggled to fill.  Only the assistance of some Russian reserves allowed some semblance of a line to be re-established.

The Guard arrives
 With play drawing to a close late on Saturday afternoon, the French reserves arrived.  The Imperial Guard, accompanied by three corps of reserve cavalry.  Napoleon allocated Victor, Oudinot and Ney one corps of cavalry each; retaining the Guard under his personal command.  Although the French had taken heavy losses in the day's play (70 stands to the Allies 57), they had made significant gains on both flanks.  In the centre, where Bertrand (and latterly Victor) , had repeatedly attacked the Zuckerberg, only small gains had been made; but, with almost all the Russian forces drawn into this sector it gave the French the advantage of numbers on other sectors.  The Russian Guard, commanded by Grand Duke Constantine was due to arrive on the Sunday morning and the deployment of those reserves would be vital to the Allied cause.  Ideally they would oppose any moves made by the French Imperial Guard, but other priorities may arise on the morrow.

When we assembled again on the Sunday, the newly arrived Grand Duke Constantine had a brief opportunity to weigh up the best course of action and decided that he would like to move towards the likely target of the French Imperial Guard, Kukrowitz. However, the plight of the Prussians on the Allied left and the need to safeguard the road meant that two elite infantry divisions were sent in this direction.

The Guard cavalry attack
 Refusing to protect the Guard, Napoleon launched his cavalry towards Gortchakov's infantry covering Kukrowitz.  Scherbatov's division quickly formed square and their bayonets were steady enough to force the elite horsemen to fall back.  The Russians had no time to celebrate their success as the massed columns of the guard infantry marched towards them.  Quickly reforming to meet this new threat the Russians welcomed the supporting fire from their heavy batteries and could see the Russian light cavalry of the Guard  heading towards them.  However, nothing could stop the advance of Napoleon's elite infantry.  They swept the Russians aside, overrunning the supporting batteries and cleared the way towards Kukrowitz.

Marmont made a third attempt on the Klein Berg.  This time he was successful, slowly but surely, pushing the Russians back.  As the Russian infantry retreated the French beat off attacks from the Russian cavalry and claimed possession of the heights, renaming it the Marmont Berg.

The French take the Klein Berg
 Oudinot wasted no time in putting his reserve cavalry to use.  The cavalry galloped forward and in concert with the infantry launched a series of devastating attacks on the thin Prussian lines.  In no time at all the Prussian grenadiers and reserve cavalry had been swept from the field and Constantine had to direct even more resources to try and secure his left flank.  Blucher's command now consisted of a much weakened cavalry division and the remains of the division which had garrisoned Winau, plus an artillery battery.  This battered remnant clung to the Brunberg heights, but could do little to influence the battle.

Ney attacks the Austrian squares
 Kolowrat meanwhile was doing his best to keep the enemy at bay.  His cavalry made repeated charges against the French guns which Ney was attempting to bring forward to aid his advance.  Several batteries were destroyed and whilst there was no danger of Alt Schallersdorf and the Abbey being recaptured by the Austrians, Ney's troops were making little progress.  Indeed, Ney was throwing his newly acquired cavalry corps against Austrian squares in a desperate attempt to make further gains.  At the Zuckerberg the carnage continued with Victor beating off Russian attacks and continuing to pin Gortchakov in place whilst Oudinot and Napoleon worked round his flanks.

After two hours play the balance of the game had shifted dramatically.  The Allies had lost 10 divisions, pushing their total stands lost beyond 120 (their army breakpoint was 160).  Meanwhile the French had lost only a further 15 stands.  

With his eyes set on Kukrowitz, Napoleon ordered his Guard to continue their advance.  With Friant leading the way the infantry bypassed Zuckerhandel, leaving Marmont's troops to mop up resistance there. The Guard cavalry advanced on the flank of the infantry and the Chasseurs and Lancers charged the lights cavalry of the Russian guard.  In a close melee, the French prevailed, driving the Russians back.  To the right of the lancers the Guard heavies rode down a Russian infantry division which failed to form square in time.  Friant's grenadiers entered Kukrowitz unopposed, the Russians sent to garrison it arriving too late.  As the Russians formed up to attack the village they were caught in the flank by Houssaye's dragoon division and totally destroyed.  This proved the decisive loss for the Allies as they reached their army breakpoint and their orders would then automatically be changed to withdraw.

Dombrowski's Polish division attacks the Russian Guard
 The day belonged to the French.  With the Allied army in such a battered state and their supply train vulnerable perhaps it would end the campaign in Napoleon's favour and Leipzig would never have been fought!

This had been a thoroughly enjoyable game, with much of that due to the Gentlemen Pensioners who played in the right spirit.  Thank you to the two Johns, the two Garys, Ian, Roman, Chris, Nick, Phil and Will for all your efforts.  Not forgetting Steve, who combined the role of host with that of umpire to such good effect.  My apologies to the commanders who may feel I have not mentioned some significant events, but especially on the Sunday morning things were happening so quickly it was difficult to keep track of them all.  

Further photos, including some panoramic views of the battle, can be found on Will's blog together with Bertrand's take on the battle!  In addition, a strategic overviewfrom the French perspective can be found on Phil's FoG blog.  Both well worth visiting.