Monday, 1 August 2016

Battle of Caldiero, 1805. A Shako scenario

It seems a long time since the Napoleonic collection managed to get onto the table, so the latest battle was based on the Battle of Caldiero, an action from the Italian theatre in the 1805 campaign.  A French army under Massena was facing an Austrian force commanded by the Archduke Charles.  The armies were fairly evenly matched, though the French were outnumbered.  This had led to a stand off, with the two armies watching each other across the Adige river.  When news arrived of the French victory at Ulm, Massena decided to attack, perhaps in anticipation of the Austrians withdrawing.  Archduke Charles had indeed intended to withdraw, but Massena's attack forced him to make a stand and by driving back the French, give himself time for an orderly retreat.

 Here is a map of the battlefield.  We used Steve's table which is 8' x 6'.  The Adige is unfordable and the marsh impassable; the hills are steep enough to give defenders the +1 bonus in melee.  Not having sufficient Austrian figures for Archduke Charles' forces, they became Austro-Russians under the command of Bennigsen.  On the left was Lothringen with 10 battalions of Austrian infantry and a foot battery.  On the right, under the command of General Stroganov, were the divisions of Remesov  (8 battalions and a foot battery) and Mesenzov (10 battalions and a foot battery).  In support was Pahlen's light cavalry division of 4 regiments.  Around Caldiero under Bennnigsen, were the divisions of Tolstoy and Orlov, both 8 battalions and a foot battery.  The reserve stood by the road from Caldiero to Verona and comprised Berg's grenadier division (6 battalions) and Frimont's light cavalry division (4 regiments and a horse battery).  The army gun has been deployed to support Tolstoy at Caldiero.  Bennigsen's objective is to hold his position and inflict such damage on the French that he can withdraw unhindered back towards Vienna.  His initial orders are for the centre and right to stand on the defensive with Lothringen advancing to capture the village of Gambion and thus threaten the flank of any attack on his centre.

Massena has the divisions of Gardanne (10 battalions and a foot battery) and Verdier (9 battalions and a foot battery) in the centre.  On his right is Pino with 8 battalions and a foot battery; supporting Pino is Lasalle's Light Cavalry division (4 regiments).  Molitor is on the left with 8 battalions and a foot battery.  In between Verdier and Molitor is D'Espagne's Light Cavalry division (4 regiments and a horse battery).  As a reserve Massena has Duhesme's Grenadiers division (4 battalions) and two foot batteries, one of which is a heavy battery.  Massena's objective is to capture Caldiero and then advance down the road to Verona.  His initial orders are for Pino to capture Gambion, covering his flank and Verdier and Gardanne to attack straight up the road.  Molitor is to threaten the Austro-Russian right but not attack.

Terrain in place, awaiting troop deployment

Lothringen ready to advance

The French right, Pino and Lasalle 

Verdier and D'Espagne

Mesenzov holds the ridge
One advantage for the French is that they have the ability to move and change formation, whilst the Austro-Russians can move or change formation.  The Austro-Russians are also a linear doctrine force so any supports have to be in line formation.

Massena's plan unfolded with his centre moving purposefully towards Caldiero.  In their dense columns they suffered from that attentions of the enemy artillery, but they grimly plodded on. Moving forward in support, Lasalle's impetuosity got the better of him and seeing Tolstoy's men in line he ordered his leading regiments to charge.  However, the Austro-Russians had artillery support and their flanks secure they did not form square.  A closing volley and a resolute wall of bayonets drove back the French cavalry with heavy losses.

Lasalle's ill-fated attack
 The race for Gambion was developing, with Lothringen and Pino both urging their men forward.

Pino's men near Gambion
Lothringen's men are losing the race
In their columns, Pino's men reach the village, install a garrison and push forward the skirmishers to harass the Austrian attack.

Meanwhile in the centre Verdier and Gardanne are closing in on Caldiero.  As the pressure increased, Bennigsen ordered Orlov forward to support Tolstoy.

The French attack Caldiero
All this time the divisions of Molitor and Remesov had stood watching each other; action was limited to skirmishing between the lines.  However, the French skirmishers were more numerous and some were able to start targeting the line of infantry on the crest of the ridge.  As losses amongst the officers increased, Remesov needed some help in driving off the skirmishers.

At this point our first gaming session came to a close.  Half the day had been taken up with setting up the terrain and deploying the troops, so it was a case of "to be continued...."

Overhead shot of the closing position, French on the lower half of the picture.


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