Monday, 20 April 2015

St Amand - a Shako scenario

The 200th anniversary of the battle of Waterloo comes round in just a few weeks. During June I am sure we will be treated to some great Napoleonic games at the shows and most Napoleonic gamers will be running their own versions of the battle.  The anniversary weekend coincides with the Phalanx show at St Helens. Steve and I will be putting on a game for the Lance & Longbow Society and thus the weeks before will be taken up with ironing out the scenario/rules/figures we will need. Therefore I decided to get a Waterloo themed game in early and as the action on the 18th June is so well known (and I don't have a single Napoleonic British figure in my 15mm collection) the choice settled on Ligny.  With a 6 x 4 table the best option was to concentrate on a sector of the field and so Vandamme's attack on the villages of St Amand and La Haye was chosen.

 Here is a map of the table layout.  For clarity I have not drawn in the hedges and fences around the villages.  The Ligny brook takes a full move to cross unless the fords behind St Amand or the bridge behind La Haye are used. (The bridge and fords are the only places artillery can cross).  Vandamme commands four divisions (25 battalions) of infantry (Lefol, Berthezene, Habert and Girard) with the latter arriving as reinforcements on turn 6.  Domon's cavalry division (2 regiments of light cavalry) is functioning as the flank cover for the army and can only be used in extremis.

Zieten's Prussians have two brigades (16 battalions of infantry) along the Ligny brook with Tippelskirch's infantry (8 battalions) and Roder's cavalry(3 regiments of light cavalry) available as reinforcements if the two villages are occupied by the French.

Berthezene's division
Overall, the Vandamme's strategy was to draw the Prussian reserves into action creating the opportunity for the decisive attack elsewhere.  Zieten hoped to slow the French advance by contesting the villages and then establish a second line on the brook, with a final stand (if necessary) at Brye.  Hofschroer, (1815: the Waterloo campaign, Wellington, his German Allies and the battles of Ligny and Quatre Bras) seems to have a generally low opinion of the Prussians. On page 235 he states:

"A substantial part of Blucher's forces consisted of raw levies capable of two basic manoeuvres; going forward in a state of disorder and backwards in a state of chaos."

Each of the Prussian brigades therefore has 6 2nd rate battalions and 2 1st class battalions (shako ratings) and the cavalry has 2 militia and 1 line regiments

The dice determined that Steve would command the French and Lefol and Berthezene's divisions advanced on the villages.  All the Prussian artillery was deployed north of the Ligny brook and therefore took little part in the early stages of the battle, waiting for the French formations to come into range.  With only 3 battalions deployed to hold St Amand,  Jagow's men were outnumbered 2 to 1 and soon had to fall back from the hedges and fences into the village.  Two of the attacks were repulsed, but the central sector of the village fell as the 2nd Pomeranian Militia was totally overwhelmed by the 1st battalion of the 46th Line. Lefol attacked a second time and secured one more sector of St Amand, ejecting the 1st Battalion of the 1st Silesian Infantry Regiment after a fierce melee.  The 2nd Silesian Infantry Regiment tried to recover the central sector from the 46th Line but was thrown back in disorder.  The 2nd Pomeranian Militia charged forward to cover the retreat of their comrades, but their bravery cost them dear.  A deadly volley from the French was followed by a bayonet charge which inflicted such heavy casualties that the battalion took no further part in the action.

Steinmetz at La Haye
At La Haye, Berthezene was also making good progress.  He had moved forward his artillery and after canister had softened up the defenders the 3rd Legere charged forward and drove the 1st Battalion 4th Reserve Infantry from the village.  Buoyed by this success the Legere continued over the bridge, attempting to gain a foothold on the northern bank of the Ligny brook.  However, they paid for their rashness as they were scythed down by canister and then charged by the 1st West Prussian Landwehr.

After 5 moves all the village sectors were in French hands and this triggered the release of Tippelskirch's brigade.  In view of the heavy losses Jagow had suffered, Zieten directed this brigade towards St Amand.  Vandamme also received reinforcements and Habert moved to the right of St Amand to outflank the line Jagow was forming along the Ligny brook.  Girard went towards La Haye where Berthezene was struggling to make headway.  Zieten had already moved the reserve artillery forward to support Jagow, and these guns came under increased pressure as Habert and Lefol's artillery, plus the French reserve artillery attempted to suppress them.

The action along the Ligny brook
Lefol was making pinning attacks against Jagow, buying time for Habert and Girard to come forward.  Berthezene also attacked again, preventing Steinmetz from aiding his colleague by extending his line to the left.  Girard's leading unit, from the 23rd Line crossed the ford and charged the flank of the 9th Reserve Infantry.  The Prussian unit dissolved into chaos and streamed for the rear, passing the leading battalions of Tippelskirch as he advanced to support Jagow.  The latter was in dire need of assistance, his command had losses nearing 50% and when the Fusilier battalion of the Pomeranian Infantry regiment was routed as it attempted to hold the other ford behind St Amand, it carried with it the remainder of Jagow's command.

As Tippelskirch hastened to deploy, Zieten commited Roder's cavalry in a last attempt to shore up his left flank.  Roder's men arrived just as Habert's infantry crossed the Ligny.  Luckily for the French they managed to form square in the nick of time.  Carried away by the thrill of the charge, the inexperienced Landwehr cavalry did not rein in, but continued towards the squares.  The experienced French infantry stood their ground and drove back the impetuous cavalry in bloody ruin.

23rd Ligne cross the Ligny brook
On the Prussian right Steinmetz was holding his own.  Berthezene's division had fallen back to lick it's wounds and Girard's men were struggling to cross the brook near La Haye.  However, it was on the Prussian left where the action would be decided.  An attack by Tippelskirch's leading battalions had been repulsed and as the men fell back they were charged in the flank by battalions from Girard's 23rd Line.  The Prussian line was in danger of being rolled up and Zieten requested more reinforcements.

We called a halt at this point.  The French objective had been achieved, more Prussians would be drawn into the fight near St Amand and this would reduce the number available to challenge the main French attack near Ligny village.  French losses had been heavy, particularly in the divisions of Lefol and Berthezene, but those of the Prussians had been even heavier.  In retrospect I could perhaps have cut my losses and pulled Jagow's men back behind the Ligny brook sooner.  This may have produced a more resilient defence against Lefol and Habert.


  1. Hi,
    Very nice AAR--makes me want to try it myself (but I currently lack the necessary figures).

    For what it's worth, I am very careful when it comes to the opinions and analyses of Mr. Hofschroer. For years he has been on a one-man campaign to prove that the Prussian Army was by far the best in Europe; one of the back-handed ways he pursues this dubious thesis is to exaggerate the problems the Prussians had to face, and yet still accomplished all those astonishing victories! (The fact that they didn't is an unfortunate reality he ignores.) Part and parcel of his approach is to accuse Wellington of trying to sacrifice Blucher's forces in order to enhance his reputation. (???)

    Even the 1806 Prussian Army was vastly superior to its French opponent; I'll bet you didn't know the Prussians were far ahead of all other armies in Europe in the use of light infantry!!

    And woe betide the fellow who dares criticize his work! I guess this means I'd better be careful turning the key in my car's ignition...

    Best regards,

    Chris Johnson

  2. Chris
    Thanks for the positive comments re the AAR. I think that if we re-run the scenario the Prussians will be strengthened by making all line regiments 1st class, though that will still leave almost 50% of the infantry as 2nd class.


  3. Excellent work! So many miss the entire right wing actions of the 100 days that it has the uninformed thinking that Wellington won the war on his own!