Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Muhlerburg 1813: a Shako scenario

This scenario is set during Napoleon's final campaign in Germany, with Vandamme's XIX corps on the Muhlerburg plateau, covering the flank of the Army of Germany.  A joint Austro-Russian force under the command of FML Rosenberg is attempting to copy Napoleon's own tactics and co-ordinate the march of several columns to reunite on the battlefield.  Vandamme has 5 divisions present, with another marching up in support.  The majority of these divisions are fairly weak, (including Domon's cavalry) and so Vandamme will need to husband his resources to avoid his army being destroyed piecemeal.  His objective is to hold his ground, inflicting the maximum casualties on his opponent.

Rosenberg has three divisions (15 battalions), of infantry under his immediate command.  The approach march through rugged terrain means that he has no cavalry support and his artillery are still struggling over the broken ground trying to reach the battlefield.  His plan is to make frontal pinning attacks, drawing the enemy on him and allowing his flank attacks under Hessen-Homburg and Frolich the best chance of making a decisive contribution.

Here is a sketch map of the table layout; the area below the abbey is impassable to all troops and the river is unfordable.  

Rosenburg ordered his infantry to advance behind a screen of jaeger and grenz.  Within minutes the French gunners had found the range and roundshot began to plough bloody lanes through the advancing white coated ranks.  The 3rd battalion of the Weidenfeld Infantry Regiment was particularly badly hit, losing over 25% of it's strength before reaching the slope up to the plateau.  Further to the right, the battalions of Deutschmeister also suffered casualties, but continued to press forward.  Ocksay's brigade was fortunate in that it had no artillery in front of it and the Austrians plodded forward towards the towering walls of the Abbey.  On the ridge, Lefol had quickly assessed that he was outnumbered 2 to 1 and sent a courier off to Vandamme, requesting the supporting divisions be sent forward. Vandamme had already ordered Berthezene to advance and support the troops holding the Abbey.  Another ADC was sent galloping towards Girard's division with orders to support Lefol's left.

French troops on the Muhlerburg
As the Austrian attack closed on the French line, another messenger arrived at Vandamme's position. He brought the unwelcome news that further Austrian forces were advancing from the south, threatening Berthezene's flank.  These forces consisted not only of infantry, but also artillery and cavalry.  Vandamme had a tricky decision to make, if he ordered Domon to move to support Berthezene it would open up the left flank of Lefol.  Could Lefol hold on until Girard arrived? However, if Domon remained in position, Berthezene's 4 battalions would struggle to hold off twice their number of infantry, especially as the Austrians had cavalry and artillery support.  Turning to his ADC, Vandamme dictated an order moving Domon's cavalry south to support Berthezene.  As the aide galloped off, another ADC was sent with a message impressing on Girard the need for speed in moving forward to support Lefol  Orders were also despatched to Habert, ordering him forward to support Berthezene.  With all his available forces committed, Vandamme could now  only wait on events.

Deutschmeister attack
Lefol's men were now firing volleys at the advancing Austrians, supported by canister fire from the artillery.  The Austrians countered by sending their jaeger forward to pick of the gunners.  The French fire seemed to slacken and sensing an opportunity, Rosenburg ordered his men to charge the enemy line.  French volleys stopped some of the attacks, but on the French left, the volley of the third battalion of the 46th Ligne failed to stop 1st Battalion Deutschmeister, who fell on their foes with levelled bayonets and drove them back in disorder.  Behind the 3rd battalion stood the 4th/46 and as the officers shouted themselves hoarse ordering their men to 'stand firm', Deutschmeister swept on. The 4th was all that stood between the Austrians and an open flank, but in the end they passed the test.  Perhaps disordered by their earlier charge and being sniped at by French voltigeurs to their flank the Austrians could not repeat their success and were bundled back down the slope.  For the moment the French flank was preserved.  All along the front the Austrian attack had been repulsed and the two sides paused to take breath.

The Austrian cavalry attack
On the French right matters were serious.  Hessen-Homburg had ordered his cavalry forward and they charged the French line.  In the lead were the Merveldt Uhlans and they were caught by a round of canister as they neared the slope; a volley stopped them in their tracks and then a second round of canister drove them from the field.  Behind them, the Stipsicz Hussars rode down the 3rd battalion 2nd Marine Infantry before they could form square, but were then met by the 28th Dragoons from Domon's cavalry brigade.  Caught by the heavier cavalry the Austrians fell back to reform.  Seeing a chance to disrupt the Austrian advance the colonel of the 28th ordered his men to attack the leading Austrian infantry battalion.  However, the Austrians formed square and drove off their aggressors and the Austrian artillery inflicted further casualties as the French cavalry fell back.

Ocksay had attacked the Abbey again, IR Zach leading the way.  The Austrians forced their way into the buildings and drove out the 3rd Legere who formed the garrison.  Berthezene's battalions were now attacked from front and flank and matters were made worse when 2nd battalion 2nd Marine Infantry were overrun by a charge by grenadier battalion Reuber.  Fortunately, Habert's division had now moved up and helped to stem the Austrian advance.

Lefol's men are pushed back
Vandamme's final reserve, Rey's infantry division now entered the field and received orders to advance with all speed to support Lefol.  As it advanced, Frolich's Austrian division appeared on it's flank.  However, Frolich's men turned to their left and moved after Girard's infantry, leaving Rey to continue his advance.  In spite of the orders to advance with all speed, Girard had not changed to column formation, but advanced in line.  This had allowed Frolich's men to gain on him and with all eyes on the conflict before them, where Lefol's men were struggling to hold the plateau, the French were caught napping.  As the orders were given to charge the enemy before them, two battalions found themselves attacked from the rear.  All order was lost and Girard's division was finished as a fighting force before it could take part in the battle.

Just as this disaster befell the French, the Austrians mounted a third attack against Lefol.  By now the fire from the artillery was weaker and the volleys less effective and grudgingly the French had to give ground.  Vandamme was staring defeat in the face, but at the vital moment Rey's men crested the ridge onto the plateau.  Their arrival gave heart to Lefol's weary men and they reformed their lines. As the Austrians pressed forward they were met by volleys and their advance faltered.  On the French right Habert had managed to contain Hessen-Homburg's advance, though Berthezene's division was destroyed.

At this point we had to call a halt and the action was declared a draw, though the advantage lay with the Austrians.  Two French divisions had been destroyed and one Austrian.  The scenario notes required three destroyed divisions for a 'victory'.  It had been a close fought game and both Steve and I had felt we had a chance of victory.

The scenario had come from Chris Lleach's "Fields of Glory" scenarios for shako rules and was actually Rivoli, though with no Revolutionary period figures I transposed the action to Germany in 1813.

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