Friday, 13 July 2018

St Pierre du Mont, February 1814

As usual on the Sunday following the Phalanx show, Steve hosted a full day game. Here is a much delayed report on the game.  This year it was a Shako "Big Battles" fictional scenario set in the 1814 campaign.  Napoleon is attempting to stop the advance of the allied Hauptarmee commanded by Schwarzenburg which contains Austrian, Prussian and Russian troops.  The allies have secured two bridgeheads over the Ouise river and are preparing to continue their advance westwards along the road through Recourt and Clairveaux, both of which towns are  overlooked by the abbey of St Pierre du Mont.

The forces deployed are as follows:-


60 infantry stands (40 strength points) in 7 divisions,  16 cavalry stands (19 strength points) in 4 divisions and 4 guns

48 infantry stands (30 strength points) in 5 divisions, 14 cavalry stands (17 strength points) in 3 divisions and 4 guns

96 infantry stands (64 strength points) in 10 divisions, 32 cavalry stands (31 strength points)  in 7 divisions( including 3 Cossack), 8 guns


62 infantry stands (36 strength points) in 6 divisions, 12 cavalry stands (15 strength points)  in 3 divisions, 4 guns

48 infantry stands (29 strength points) in 5 divisions, 12 cavalry stands (15 strength points) in 3 divisions, 4 guns

60  infantry stands (35 strength points) in 6 divisions, 18 cavalry stands (16 strength points) in 4 divisions, 4 guns

30  infantry stands (26 strength points) in 4 divisions, 22 cavalry divisions (28 strength points) in 4 divisions, 5 guns

Napoleon has ordered Ney and Victor to come to the aid of Marmont, whose command has been pushed back by overwhelming numbers of enemy troops.  The emperor has marched his mobile reserve (Imperial Guard) to the area to add its weight to the counterattack.  Schwarzenburg's  planned advance has been disrupted by the Austrian tardiness in getting their troops over the river, (Kolowrat the Austrian commander threw a '4' on a d10 meaning only 4 guns/divisions had managed to cross to the western bank),  which in turn has given Ney, who commands the French Army of Lyon on that flank, an opportunity to attack.

Victor's troops deploy around Varvinay

Marmont covers Recourt 

The Austrians queueing to cross the Ouise

The thin defencive line awaits Ney's attack

Ney's corps advances from St Julien le Croix

Steve and I umpired the game, with me taking the Prussian/Victor flank which also involved Marmont and part of the Russians.  Details of Ney's attack are therefore sketchy, though for some reason, I seem to have more photos of the Austrians than the Prussians.

On the Allies' right flank Blucher ordered the bulk of his cavalry to move onto Mont Varvigny to threaten Victor's flank.  However, Oppen's division was to advance on Clairveaux and if possible seize it.  Meanwhile Blucher directed his infantry to defend the  Braquis bridgehead.  In the centre
the Russians were taking their time advancing onto Mont Jacques, the Cossacks were watching Marmont, but they had no supports.  Kolowrat's Austrians were doing their best to create a defencive line and he was driving the remainder of his force across the bridge as quickly as possible.

For the French, Ney and Victor attacked, whilst Marmont covered Recourt and waited for Napoleon to arrive before attacking Mont Jacques.  Victor moved some cavalry to his left to counter the Prussian advance, which weakened his main attack.  In a bloody melee the Prussians had some success, but their infantry supports were too far away.  Their 'blown' units were driven from the field by a concerted combined arms attack and the reserve cavalry were also pushed back, having to seek the safety of their own lines. Over half the Prussian cavalry were lost in this attack, but it did buy some time.  Meanwhile Oppen had almost reached Clairveaux, (crossing the front of Marmont's cavalry unmolested in the process).  However, further progress was stopped when the massed ranks of The Imperial Guard were spotted.  Oppen immediately turned to regain his own lines.  He narrowly avoided being intercepted by Victor's cavalry, but made it back to report the Guard's arrival.

The cavalry melee on Mont Varvigny
It was now that Marmont's cavalry at last acted on initiative (Marmont was too far away to give them an order himself) and charged forward.  Up to this point , all three divisions had failed their initiative tests on 3 successive occasions.  Fortunately for Marmont's reputation (and career) the fact that the division of cavalry they charged was Victor's was discovered just in time, (their charge move ended 1" short of it's intended target).

Napoleon's arrival had galvanised Marmont into advancing his infantry and the blue-coated infantry moved up the slopes of Mont Jacques.

Marmont advances against the thin line of Cossacks
Victor was continuing his methodical attack against Blucher.  First he subdued the Prussian artillery and then attacked the infantry with combined cavalry and infantry attacks.  Prussian units were driven back time and again only for Blucher to rally them and send them forward again.  However, nothing could hide the thinning ranks of the Prussian infantry.  The loss of Pirch's corps necessitated a shortening of the line and with Kleist and Nordmann both suffering over 50% casualties, Victor seemed on the verge of success.  Just in time Schwarzenberg released the Russian reserve corps to aid the  Prussians.  Bolstered by two elite Russian divisions the Prussian line resisted the next series of attacks and the allied line stabilised.

Victor's cavalry attempt to break the Prussian line

The Prussian position
In the centre, the Russians had taken a long time to get organised, but their deployment onto Mont Jacques arrived just in time to face Marmont's attack.  Both sides gained some small successes, but the decisive action took place just to the north of Mont Jacques where Napoleon had committed the full might of the Guard cavalry, plus two heavy cavalry divisions to try and create a breach in the line where the Russian and Prussian troops met.  The Chasseurs and Lancers of the Guard met the Russian Guard Light cavalry head to head and came off second best, whilst the two divisions of cuirassiers made no impression on the resolute Russian infantry.

The decisive cavalry melee between the opposing guards
Only in Ney's attack on Moissy sur Ouise  could the French see any glimmer of success.  Initially outnumbered, the Austrians had put up a determined resistance which was reinforced as more troops reached the western bank.  The Russian cavalry had helped out, but had paid a heavy price.  Attack and counter-attack saw the French and Austrian lines move forward and then back.  With time running out, Ney launched one more attack which had his men on the verge of capturing the town of Moissy sur Ouise.  He needed reinforcements to push home the advantage, but Marmont was fully committed and the Guard was far away.

Austrians preparing for the French attack

Kolowrat rallying his troops

Russian dragoons driven off by Ney's infantry

Yet more French attacks
The fight beneath the walls of Moissy sur Ouise
We had to call time at this point and declare that it was a "winning draw" for the French in that they stopped the Allied advance and inflicted heavy casualties on both the Prussians and Austrians.  However, they had not done enough to change the course of the overall campaign and the losses suffered by Ney in particular could not be replaced.

In retrospect I would have changed a couple of details.  French reinforcements would have been available from the start and the Russian reinforcements could have been delayed more.  The delayed Austrian advance was a greater impediment than I had intended, but it still gave a good game on that flank.  Due to circumstances there were fewer players than I had planned for, but John, (as Russian commander) did a sterling job controlling twice as many troops as anyone else and also supplying some more photos.

Casualty returns (strength points lost)
Infantry 16 out of 40 (40%);    Cavalry 15 out of 19 (75%)

Infantry 21 out of 30 (70%);    Cavalry 6 out of 17 (30%)

Russians (does not include Guard reserve)
Infantry 12 out of 64 (18%);   Cavalry 19 out of 31 (60%)

Infantry 24 out of 36 (66%);   Cavalry 10 out of 15 (66%)

Infantry 6 out of 29 (20%);    Cavalry  6 out of 15 (40%)

Infantry 11 out of 35 (30%);  Cavalry  7 out of 16 (40%)

My thanks to Steve for helping with the umpiring, Chris, Dave, Ian, John, Nick and Phil for playing the game and the lady gentlemen pensioners, Gwen, Kay and Lynne, for providing a very good lunch.  Hopefully, it won't be another four years before we have a large multi-player Napoleonic game!

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