Thursday, 18 August 2016

Caldiero: the final phase

My apologies for the delay in posting the final report on the Caldiero scenario, but events conspired against me.  The previous post on Caldiero ended with Lotheringen and Pino fighting for control of Gambion on the French right flank.  In the centre Tolstoy was hanging on to Caldiero in spite of being pressed hard by Gardanne, but Duhesme's reserve division was poised to join the attack. Orlov was struggling to hold his position against Verdier and further to French left Mesenzov was being pounded by Massena's grand battery and threatened by D'Espagne's light cavalry.  On the French left, Molitor and Remesov continued their long range bombardment of each other.  Pahlen's light cavalry after driving off Molitor's skirmishers had returned to the ridge awaiting further orders from Bennigsen.

Play started with the expected French cavalry attack on Mesenzov, preceded by a final bombardment from the grand battery.  D'Espagne's cavalry swept up the slope and caught the 1st battalion of the Kexholm regiment attempting to form square.  The 1st Chasseurs hardly paused as they charged through the disorganised mass, scattering it beyond recovery.  Beyond lay the 12lb battery which had inflicted heavy losses on Verdier's infantry and the cavalry now closed on them.  They were met by a devastating discharge of canister which emptied many saddles and the few bold chasseurs which reached the guns were driven off by the crews.  To the right of the 1st Chasseurs, the 3rd Chasseurs had attacked Mesenzov's divisional artillery.  This had already been weakened by fire from the grand battery and offered only feeble resistance and the French cavalry swept over them.  However, behind the guns, Mesenzov's infantry had formed square, presenting a formidable barrier to further progress. Reluctantly, the 3rd Chasseurs fell back from the ridge to reform, leaving the huddled masses of Russian infantry to the tender mercies of the French guns.

The first wave of D'Espagne's troopers attack Mesenzov

The 1st Chasseurs charge the guns
Meanwhile on the French right, Lothringen's attack on Gambion was making a little progress.  The 3rd battalion of the Weidenfeld regiment had driven back the 1st battalion of the 1st Italian line regiment, but was then counter-attacked by the 2nd battalion of the same regiment.  Already weakened by musketry the Austrians broke and fled from the field.  Fortunately for Lothringen, the Lindenau regiment was able to hold the Italian surge,  The 2nd battalion of the Weidenfeld regiment pushed back 2 battalions of the 4th Italian line regiment and closed up to the outskirts of Gambion, although the village was still in Italian hands.

In the centre, Caldiero was also now in Italian hands.  The Grenadiers of the Italian Guard from Duhesme's division had driven out the 1st battalion of the 15th jaeger and given new heart to the battered divisions of Gardanne and Verdier.  Both now moved forward to attack again.  Gardanne was held by Tolstoy, mostly due to splendid spirit of the Lithuania regiment, which drove off attacks from two battalions of the 46th line; inflicting such heavy losses that they had to leave the field.

Caldiero falls to the Italians
Orlov was under more pressure.  Not only were Verdier's battalions pressing forward, but the second wave of D'Espagne's cavalry had moved forward in support.  In particular the 4th Chasseurs, having dispersed a unit of skirmishers, charge the 2nd battalion of the Smolensk Infantry Regiment.  These had just enough time to form square before the cavalry reached them.  Faced by the steady bayonets of the Russian infantry, the French cavalry had no option but to fall back to reform.

The Russian square halts the French cavalry
This proved to be the high watermark of Massena's attack.  He had control of Gambion and Caldiero and Tolstoy, Orlov and Mesenzov were all under heavy pressure.  However, D'Espagne's men needed time to recover and Massena only had the remains of Lasalle's division (two regiments) to pin Mesenzov and guard against an attack from Pahlen.  From his position by Mesenzov, Bennigsen had sent a courier to Pahlen with orders to attack the French cavalry.  Orders had also been sent to Berg, who commanded the grenadier division to move forward and retake Caldiero.  Berg reacted first and his six battalions of grenadiers moved forward with purpose.  After a delay, Pahlen ordered his men forward, but the leading two regiments, the Siberian and Polish Uhlans both suffered casualties from the French artillery.  When charged by Lasalle's regiments both were driven back in disorder. Pahlen's second wave stopped the French advance, but suffered heavy casualties in doing so.  The end result was that most of the cavalry on that sector of the field was now spending time recovering and it was down to the infantry and artillery.

At Caldiero Orlov was not waiting for Berg's grenadiers, he ordered the 2nd battalion of the 21st Jaeger to attack the Italian's holding the village.  This they did with elan, driving off the Italian guardsmen and reclaiming the centre of Bennigsen's position.  With the cavalry threat temporarily removed Orlov attacked Verdier again, breaking the 4th battalion of the 2nd Line and forcing the division to fall back to recover.  Massena had therefore to deploy Duhesme's remaining battalions to prevent Orlov moving any further forward.  This stopped any renewed attempt to recapture Caldiero.

Orlov's jaegers recapture Caldiero
Around Gambion, Lothringen had at last managed to deploy his infantry to advance around the village.  However, his first attack was met by devastating volleys from the battalions of the Italian Light regiments.  Lothringen's leading battalion, the 2nd battalion of the Weidenfeld regiment was shredded by the fire and this attack stopped almost as soon as it started.

This seemed a logical time to draw the game to a close and declare the result a draw, as it was historically.  The French attack on Caldiero had been repulsed with substantial losses, (Gardanne and Verdier having lost half their battalions), but Gambion still remained in Italian hands.  The divisions of Tolstoy and Mesenzov were too battered to exploit any French withdrawal.  Orlov too had lost almost half his battalions.  Berg was too far back to intervene and Frimont's cavalry had any forward progress  opposed by the French reserve artillery and squares of Gardanne's infantry.  Bennigsen had half his artillery batteries overrun some guns may be salvaged, but dead crew are more difficult to replace.

Many thanks to Steve for taking the role of Massena and making the game so enjoyable.

1 comment: