Saturday, 13 January 2018

Riesbaden, May 1809; A Shako scenario

In the first game for 2018 I returned to my roots, Napoleonics.  Dipping into Jack Gill's "Thunder on the Danube", I decided on a scenario based on the campaign in the Tyrol, specifically Lefebvre's advance on Innsbruck.  Due to the Austrians 'defending everything and therefore defending nothing'  most of the clashes were one-sided affairs, but a bit of judicious 'tweaking' produced a workable scenario.

A mixed force of Bavarians, Badeners and Wurttemburgers is advancing along the Weisswasser valley towards Innsbruck.  The advance guard, commanded by Stockmayer, (4 battalions of jaegers and light infantry, with 3 regiments of light cavalry and a horse battery), is approaching the village of Riesbaden.  The Austrians have their advance guard, under Frimont, (3 battalions of Grenzer, 2 regiments of light cavalry and a horse battery in and around the village.  Both sides have further troops behind them.  The allies have two divisions of line infantry (both of 8 battalions) and a light cavalry division (3 regiments).  Arriving for the Austrians are 2 divisions of infantry (each of 5 battalions), a grenadier 'brigade' of two battalions and a light cavalry brigade of 2 regiments.  The narrow, steep-sided valley means that there is no chance of flanking movement, so the more numerous allies are at a disadvantage.

Allies enter from right
The allies need to break through the Austrian position and reach Innsbruck.  For the Austrians, stopping the allied advance is the ideal result, but inflicting delay and heavy casualties would be acceptable.  From the table layout it can be seen that there the main line of defence can be located by the St Agatha Convent, the Weiswasser is impassable, covering the flank.  The main task of Frimont's troops at Riesbaden is to delay the allies long enough for the Austrian main body to arrive and deploy.

Frimont's troops await the onslaught
The arrival of the reinforcements was determined by die roll by the commanding general after a die roll had allocated the Austrians to Steve.

Observing the Austrian deployment, Stockmayer placed his cavalry on his left, with the infantry and horse battery opposite Riesbaden.  Frimont had deployed his grenzer units in and around the village, with his cavalry and artillery on the right.  As the Wurttemburg troops advanced the Leib Cheveauleger regiment came under artillery fire, causing disorder in the ranks.  Undaunted, the allied cavalry advanced and when the opportunity came, charged the Austrians.  In accordance with their proud heritage the Austrian Uhlans and Hussars accepted the challenge and in a brutal melee totally overwhelmed their opponents.  The Leib Cheveauleger were driven from the field and the Jager zu Pferde Prinz Adam forced to fall back to rally.  When the 2nd Cheveauleger tried to intervene the Stipsicz Hussars met them with such force that the Wurttemburg unit was destroyed as a fighting force.  Within minutes Stockmayer had lost most of his cavalry and his attack on Riesbaden was in the balance.

The cavalry melee
For their part the infantry had advanced and pinned the Austrians in position and begun to manoeuvre their extra battalion on to the flank of the Walisch Illyrian Grenz who held the left of the Austrian line.  On the right of the Austrian line, the Warasdiner St George Grenz had been subjected to 'softening up' by the Wurttemburg artillery, the Konig Jager had fired a volley and then followed up with a charge.  The Grenz had fought well, but in the end had been forced back in disarray with such heavy losses they were finished as a fighting force.  Just as they were about to push home their success, the jager saw that their flank was endangered by the success of the Austrian cavalry, so they fell back to form a new flank supported by the artillery and a second jager battalion moved over from the right flank.

Morand's Wuttemburg division advances 
The Austrian cavalry took time to recover from the melee and by then the position for the Austrians was perilous.  Although the Deursch Banater Grenz, who held Riesbaden village itself, had repulsed two attacks by Light Battalion Wolff, the Walisch Illyrian Grenz on the left flank were beginning to crumble under the fire from Light Battalion Brussell and the attending skirmishers.  When the Wurttemburgers charged the Grenz they offered some resistance, but eventually disintegrated and fled to the rear.  Frimont had now lost two of his 5 units and with the cavalry coming under artillery fire he cast increasingly anxious looks over his shoulder willing the reinforcements  to arrive.  He could also see a column of allied infantry marching past Riesbaden to his left threatening to cut him off.  An aide was sent to village to order the garrison to fall back and another was sent to the cavalry requesting them to cover the retreat of the remaining infantry and artillery.  However events now overtook the orders.  In the village, the gallant grenz were finally driven from their positions and the Merveldt Uhlans were charged by the Jager zu Pferde Prinz Adam.  Already weakened by the earlier melee and artillery fire, the uhlans were destroyed, effectively eliminating Frimont's command.

The new Austrian line forms up
Riesbaden had been secured, but the delay had enabled the Austrian main body to begin to deploy along a second defensive position by the  St Agatha Convent.  As Frimont galloped back to give his report, accompanied by the remains of his cavalry he could see the long lines of white-coated infantry forming up, awaiting the coming allied attack.  On the right of the Austrian line, 1st battalion Deutschmeister from Weiss's division, occupied the walls of the St Agatha Convent.  To their left were the 2nd and 3rd battalions, supported by 1st battalion Lindenau and the Viennese Landwehr,   Further left, Meyer's division filled the gap to the wooded hillside.  This comprised the three battalions of the Wiedenfeld regiment, one battalion from Reuss-Greitz and the Salzburg Landwehr.  Each division had an artillery battery and a unit of skirmishers.  The Austrian commander, Chasteler was expecting a brigade of grenadiers (2 battalions) and also a light cavalry brigade (2 regiments of uhlans).  Hessen's grenadiers would fill the gap between the convent and the un-fordable Weisswasser.

Advancing up the valley towards the Austrians were Lefebvre's forces.  On the right, Morand's Wurttemburg division began to deploy to face Meyer, whilst Deroy;s division with Baden and Bavarian infantry moved up opposite Weiss.  Stockmayer's depleted command reformed around Riesbaden and was then ordered by Lefebvre to move though the gap between the convent and the Weisswasser.  Lefebvre was waiting for Sevdevitz's Light cavalry division to arrive, conscience that, after the fighting around Riesbaden he had no mounted troops.  Stockmayer and Deroy's commands got in the way of each other and so Morand's attack went in on its own.

Some confusion as the allies advance past Riesbaden
At first all went well, the allied skirmishers dispersed their opponents and then began to target the Reuss-Greitz regiment.  The skirmishers had taken to the wooded slopes and their fire unsettled the Austrians.   The Fusiliers Von Neubronn led the way forward with the battalions of the Kronprinz regiment supporting them.  As they neared the Austrian line volleys were exchanged and the grind of a fire fight began.  Over on the allied left Stockmayer's division was approaching the gap between the convent and the Weiswasser, but instead of open ground they found Austrian grenadiers and Uhlans, Chasteler's reinforcements had arrived just in time.

As he surveyed the field, Chasteler noted that the allied advance was disjointed, with the left (Stockmayer and Deroy) unable to support the right (Morand).  He sent an aide galloping off to Frolich, commanding the Uhlans, with orders to advance across the field to fall on the flank of Morand's division.  Frolich sent the Carl Ludwig Uhlans towards Stockmayer, forcing the Wurttemburg battalions to halt and thus give the Schwarzenburg Uhlans the chance to cross the field unmolested.  The uhlans caught the1st battalion Kronprinz regiment totally unprepared.  An attempt to form square failed and the majority of the battalion were cut down.  As the 2nd battalion Kronprinz had managed to form square, the uhlans swept on to hit 1st battalion Prinz Paul.  This battalion was also destroyed, but the uhlans success was to prove their undoing.

1st battalion Kronprinz are caught by the Schwarzenburg Uhlan

The inevitable result of failing to form square in time
The uhlans now found themselves facing the fresh regiments of Sevdevitz's light cavalry division which had just arrived.  Hastily falling back they then found themselves being canistered by the artillery of Deroy's division.  Reeling from the heavy casualties they milled around and suffered further losses as Stockmayer's artillery joined in.  All control was lost and the pitiful remnants of the regiment straggled back to the Austrian lines.  There they found the remains of the Carl Ludwig Uhlans who had been goaded by Stockmayer's artillery into an unwise attack on the guns.  Shredded by canister the horsemen had failed to charge home and had left half their strength lying in the grass before the guns.

Carl Ludwig charge the guns
Heavy  though the cavalry losses had been, they did contribute to a slackening of pressure on Meyer's division.  Weidenfeld and Von Neubronn had been exchanging volleys for some time.  Seeing that Von Neubronn's supports had been destroyed by the uhlans' charge, Meyer ordered an attack.  The Austrian infantry needed no further encouragement and charged forward.  Caught unawares, the defensive volley from the allied infantry was ineffective and in the short melee they soon turned and ran.  Morand suddenly found that he had lost half his division.  He therefore called a halt, seeking time to reorganise his battered units. 

Meyer's counter attack
Meyer thought he saw an opportunity to drive home his advantage, ordering a general advance against Morand's men.   The enthusiasm of the Austrians was quenched by canister from Morand's artillery and volleys from the Ptinz Friedrich regiment.  Vast gaps appeared in the white-coated ranks and the pace of the attack ebbed away.  The Reuss-Greitz and the 1st battalion of the Weidenfeld regiment were to all intents destroyed and now it was Meyer who had to consider how much more his division could take.  With the Salzburg Landwehr beginning to falter under the incessant fire from the allied skirmishers and the sight of a fresh division of light cavalry the omens were not propitious.   The decision was taken out of Meyer's hands by the arrival of a courier from Chasteler with orders to begin to fall back towards his right, the army was going to withdraw towards the Inn Valley.

To buy more time, Hessen's grenadiers were ordered to move against Stockmayer and halt any further allied advance through the gap between the convent and the Weisswasser.  The attack went forward but the cost was heavy.  Grenadier battalion Leningen lost 50% of its strength in its attack on the Konig jaeger, whilsy Grenadier battalion Reuber was destroyed by a combination of artillery fire and volleys from jaeger battalion Neuffer.

Nevertheless, Chasteler managed to extract most of his forces to another defensive position guarding Innsbruck.  For his part, Lefebvre wrote up the action as a victory, though he took the remainder of the day to rest his men, apart from the squadron of hussars sent forward to keep touch with the enemy.

A good day's gaming.  Due to circumstances, Steve and I had a full day for gaming so were able to fight this two stage action.  A couple of 'issues' with the rules cropped up which we discussed over coffee and 'amendments' will be tried out in our next  Shako game.

No comments:

Post a Comment