Saturday, 28 January 2017

The Retreat continues: a further Ga Pa scenario

Following on from my previous post, the Russian withdrawal eastwards from Grodno continued. Ogilvy requested reinforcements and Moscow sent a brigade (4 battalions of veteran infantry) to strengthen his force.  Encouraged, Ogilvy sought another delaying position to inflict further losses on his pursuers.  Near Ostrino he found what he was looking for.  Although it lacked a ridge, his chosen position had both flanks secured by woods, ensuring that once again the Swedish army would have to make a frontal attack.  Ogilvy deployed his infantry in the centre.  The brigade of Schlepin in the first line, supported by Rostov's brigade.  On the right was Repnin's brigade of veteran infantry.  The few Russian guns were placed in the centre.  On each flank were brigades of dragoons, Menshikov on the right and Denisov on the left.  Ogilvy held the small regiment of Horse Grenadiers as a reserve in the centre, behind the infantry.

The Swedes under Rehnskjold had not been idle.  Reinforcements had been gathered from each garrison and force-marched to join the main army.  Rehnskjold's force now consisted of 9 battalions of infantry in two brigades (Horn and Sparre) and two brigades of horse, (Krassow and Hummerhjelm).  Although outnumbered the Swedes were the more experienced force and keen to avenge the check that they had received at Ogilvy's hand.  Reaching the Russian position, Rehnskjold deployed his force with Krassow's horse on the right wing, then Horn's infantry, Sparre's infantry and finally Hummerhjelm's horse.  His plan was to make a general advance, probing for a weak spot then use his horse to break the enemy line.

Above is an overview of the table before the action started.

Menshikov's cavalry

Repnin's brigade of infantry
The Swedish foot prepare to advance
The whole Swedish line advanced and although the Russian artillery worked hard, they were unable to stem the tide.  First into action were Hummerhjelm's horse.  Menshikov's dragoons were slow to deploy and the Sibersk regiment was driven back in disorder by a charge by the Skansa regiment.  To the right of Skansa were the Uplands regiment.  They were also successful, but were disordered by the melee and whilst they regrouped, the Semyonovsky regiment advanced and fired a devastating close range volley.  Such were the losses that the Uplands regiment took no further part in the battle. On the opposite flank, Krassow's horse were also in action.  Densiov had decided that the best tactic was to use his dragoons' firepower to weaken the Swedes and then charge home.  Schlepin had provided extra help by deploying one of his battalions, (1st Tula) to provide flanking fire. Unfortunately for the Russians, the musketry fire proved totally ineffective when their men were faced by the onrushing Swedish horse.  The Moscow dragoons were totally defeated in the melee and fled, disordering their supports, the Vladimir dragoons.  It was only a charge by the Neva Dragoons which stopped the Swedish onslaught.

Krassow's horse drive off the Russian dragoons
In the centre the Swedish infantry continued their steady advance.  Once in musketry range they delivered a volley and then charged.  Against Repnin's veterans they were less successful, their Russian opponents standing their ground and giving as good as they got.  However, against Schlepin's battalions they made some headway, forcing the Russian line back.

On the Russian right, Menshikov's dragoons had regained the initiative.  Recovering from their initial combat with their Swedish opponents, they advanced against the Taube and Skansa regiments.  Once again the Semyonovsky regiment provided supporting fire and this helped the Sibersk Dragoons overcome the Skansa regiment and drive from the field.  An indecisive melee between the Taube and Czarinski regiments resulted in both withdrawing disordered.  A Russian advance against the Swedish left wing seemed a realistic prospect.  Ogilvy decided that he should commit his Horse Grenadiers to help Densov drive off Krassow's horse and thereby relieve the pressure on his left.  His confidence had been boosted when the 1st battalion of the Smolensk regiment had delivered a deadly volley to drive back the Swedish Grenadier battalion in disorder, just as it prepared to charge.    

The infantry prepare to charge

Artillery support can prove decisive
Rehnskjold, although giving grudging admiration for the steadfast defence of the Russians, issued orders to his brigade commanders to "press on!"  Although his command had been severely weakened in its struggles with Menshikov, Hummerhjelm gathered his remaining troopers together and taking position at the head of the Taube regiment, led them forward again.  Perhaps surprised at the speed and ferocity of the Swedish assault, Menshikov's men met the charge at the halt.  First the Sibersk Dragoons were driven back, then the Czarinski.  Menshikov's third unit, an amalgam of the elite troops of each regiment, was disordered by their fleeing comrades and then driven from the field by the exultant Swedes.  In no time at all, all plans for a Russian counterattack against the Swedish left were left in tatters.  Indeed Repnin's brigade, already holding off Sparre's Swedes, now had to deploy battalions to deter a possible flank attack by Hummerhjelm's horse.  Once again the Semyonovsky regiment saved the day, driving off the Swedish horse with a disciplined volley.

On the Russian left, Ogilvy's Horse Grenadiers had, by their presence, caused Krassow to pull back his leading regiments.  Sensing the opportunity for an attack, the Horse Grenadiers moved forward, but in doing so exposed their flank to Ducker's regiment of horse.  They charged forward anticipating an easy victory.  However, against the odds, the Russians held their ground and drove off their opponents.  With Denisov's dragoon regiments still attempting to recover from their earlier drubbing, Schlepin ordered 1st battalion Tula to advance and drive off the Swedish horse with musketry volleys.  Meanwhile Schlepin's remaining battalions were beginning to waver under the unrelenting pressure from the Swedish foot.  Rostov's brigade were ordered forward to support them, but all these battalions were untried new recruits.

The Horse Grenadiers charged in flank

Sparre's infantry press on
It was at this point that Krassow, seized the initiative and ordered the Hielm regiment of horse to charge the Tula regiment.  A scattered volley was ineffective and rather than meet the Swedish horse, the Russians ran.  Behind them were their 2nd battalion, who seeing the rout, joined in.  With the Abo and Ducker regiments advancing towards Denisov's dragoons, who seemed on the verge of quitting the field, the Russian left was in a state of collapse.

Hielm strike home
With losses amongst the infantry rising, no effective cavalry and increasing pressure on his centre, Ogilvy had little option than to order a withdrawal.  It was a Swedish victory.

This was a nicely balanced game.  When we broke off for lunch, it seemed as if the Russians, having weathered the initial Swedish attack, had the advantage.  However when we resumed and the Russian lines became more disordered, the command structure began to break down and the Swedes regained the initiative.
The wider frontage (fighting across the table, rather than along its length) meant that artillery did not become too powerful.  Unfortunately this also meant that there was not the same depth available for retreats etc.

1 comment:

  1. Good stuff. Those semi flats look very impressive en masse.