Advance to Mulsanne, August 1870

Last night provided an opportunity for another Franco-Prussian War engagement between two French Corps under Bazaine and two Prussian Corps, supported by a Bavarian Corps, under the Crown Prince of Prussia.

The situation on the border was now fluid. Now, as the afternoon sun reached its peak, the Crown Prince knew he had an opportunity, if only briefly, to decimate the exposed French before him. With two Prussian Corps concentrated he clearly had the burden of attack and moved rapidly forward as the French, under Bazaine, focussed their efforts to reinforce the greatly outnumbered division of Laveaucoupet’s currently deployed near the previously peaceful town of Mulsanne.

Frossard was to push the two remaining divisions of his II Corps forward with speed, but would it be sufficient? Some distance off was Ladmirault’s IV Corps were ordered to march to the sound of the guns. Bazaine was nervous, would his reinforcements arrive in time? Would the Prussian attacks be held, even for a time?

The Prussian attack was not long in coming, around 1pm shells from 24 Prussian Krupp guns, firing at extreme range, began to fall extreme range. Indeed, the range was such the the twelve outnumbered French guns were unable to respond and would soon be decimated, while the supporting French infantry would go to ground in an effort to escape would would be a terrifying bombardment. This ”going to ground” was something that the French would repeatedly do in this battle, such was the deadliness of the modern battlefield.

The Prussian infantry meanwhile pressed ever forward in three general converging paths. Above, a general view of the field with the Prussians on the right.

Above, the Prussian centre while on the left, and below, the Prussian right.

In the centre the Prussian advance was led by elements of von Kirchbach’s V Corps, in particular von Standrart’s 9th Division. The division advanced to 600 yards of the French and began to exchange fire with French, with the aim at least initially, of overwhelming one French regiment. However, French reinforcements were now arriving and soon a significant number of additional formations began to return fire on the Prussians, often at extreme range.

The Prussian divisional commander Karl Gustav von Standrart refused requests by his various regimental commanders to go to ground, preferring to overwhelm the enemy with his concentrated fire from his needle guns. Eventually, around 5pm, a combination of Chassepot and Mitrailleuse fire would instead overwhelm 9th Division, preventing any further Prussian advance. Below, the centre around 5pm.

Meanwhile, V Corps’ 10th Division was deployed on the left of 9th Division, as seen below. The division began its move around 2pm maintaining its position on 9th Divisions left.

Around 4pm it launched a devastating attack on the town of Mulsanne. The town was currently occupied by the 2nd Ligne from Verge’s 1st Division. They had secured the town some 30 minutes prior when advancing, with such confidence to replace a Chasseur detachment who themselves now moved to support other elements of Laveaucoupet’s Division. The 2nd Ligne, under direct command of Bazaine, would surely hold the town.

However, Mulsanne was attacked by now three regiments of Prussian 10th Division supporting by effective Prussian artillery fire. In all over 7000 men and twelve guns. The fighting was short and violent and after thirty minutes the 2nd Ligne was unceremoniously evicted their retreat causing much disruption to French reinforcements. Worse the chaotic disorganisation on the road meant no subsequent counterattack could be organised to retake the town. It would seem that Mulsanne would remain in Prussian hands and as such could compromise a portion of the French position. Excepting this, at least for a time, elements of the French right instead engaged in firefights around the town.

Above, Mulsanne in Prussian hands while French regiments expand to their right.

The third and final pincer of the Prussian advance was against the French left. Here elements of Prussian XI Corps advanced in two divisional groups supported by a cavalry division. The French were drawn from Bataille’s 2nd Division. They deployed quickly from road column before being thrown forward over the open ground in an attempt to hold the left.

Again the Prussians advanced to 600 yards and attempted to engage in a firefight. The French again went to ground, before moving forward artillery and a Mitrailleuse battery. Once deployed any hopes of a Prussian attack passed, at least until the deadly Krupp batteries could be fully deployed. But fortunately the Krupp guns were delayed by terrain and time.

Around 6pm, with the French IV Corps deploying into line, the opportunity for a successful Prussian frontal attack started to fade. Bazaine drew a deep breath, he had held.

Above, the French left with elements of the French IV Corps now moving into support the French left. One division was dispatched to the left, another to the right flank.

The Prussian commander now took stock of the situation. While both Prussian Corps were deployed the Bavarian I Corps was still well behind the frontline. It would take at least two critical hours to deploy. In contrast the French now had numerical superiority. The Crown Prince’s advance had been foiled, instead he would look elsewhere for an opportunity.

The scenario was developed using the “Road to Glory” scenario system and was particularly interesting due to it’s advance to contact nature, coupled with the changes of weapons in the Franco Prussian War. Throughout the challenges focused on countering the Chassepot, supporting the Prussian attacks with artillery fire and of course effectively countering time and space. A fascinating game.

All the miniatures are 6mm from Heoics & Ros and are based at half scale. The French are from my collection and the Prussians from Robin’s.

Hapsburg Eagles

Field Marshal von Daun sat uneasily upon his horse as a stiff wind blew across the Bohemian countryside in the spring of 1757, the war had been raging for a year now. Opposite him line upon line of blue uniforms stretched across the countryside around a mile and a half distance. As he sat upon his horse he contemplated much. How would his army perform? Would it drive the Prussian foe from the field as the Emperess Maria Theresa expected? However, his thoughts were cut short by the interruption of his aide. “My Lord, General Sincere reports a significant movement against our right and centre, as you expected”. Excellent he thought, there was a chance, despite the terrain that he could secure a victory against Frederick after all. He moved his horse forward, battle was to be joined.

Constrained by the Roslomitz stream on his left and the rising ground at his front, the Bousov, and a heavy wood immediately to his centre rear von Daun was left with few options but to form a line running from the stream northeast towards the town of Kuklena, bending at the Bousov. His three infantry divisions moved forward as directed. 

Above, the general situation with the Austrians on the left. The town of Kuklena is in the right foreground, the Bousov in the centre and the Roslomitz stream in the distance.

The Austrian left was held by General Marshall who directly commanded the 1st Division, and was nominally the deputy army commander. This division contained four infantry regiments and was reinforced by 12 medium guns and the reserve heavy artillery also of 12 guns. A total of 24 guns, excluding the lighter pieces allocated to support each infantry regiment. The Austrian centre was formed by General Starhemberg’s Division and also contained four infantry regiments. Initially the rising ground of the Bousov, conical and perhaps 700 yards in width at its widest point, was to be held by a regiment of the left and two regiments of Starhemberg’s Division with his divisional artillery and another regiment extending to the right between the high ground and the town of Kuklena. The final regiment, Infantry Regiment 26, formed a reserve. The Austrian right was held by General Sincere’s Division and was the strongest with five infantry regiments. To the rear of the infantry divisions were the three Austrian cavalry divisions. Namely those of Luetzow, Stampach and Serbelloni. In all Daun had deployed some 16,500 bayonets, 7,500 sabres and 48 medium and heavy guns.

Above a view of the Austrian right viewed from the Prussian left. While below a view from the Austrian centre and left. Here the Prussian centre is clearly visible, while the Prussian right is still some distance away.

Daun was expecting an determined Prussian attack on his centre and this was soon confirmed when the telltale headgear of the Prussian Grenadiers were seen some 1200 yards from the Bousov.

Below, another view from the rising ground of the Bousov.

Soon after the Austrian regiments deployed the Prussian grenadiers and a regiment of 1000 dragoons hit the Austrian centre.

Austrian Infantry Regiment 4 and 13 were the focus of two Prussian Converged Grenadier Regiments, while Infantry Regiment 47 was to face Prussian cavalry. Below, the Prussian attack.

The ensuing engagement was bloody. While Austrian Infantry Regiment 4 threw back the attack by one Prussian Grenadier Regiment, Infantry Regiment 13 was swept away by the second. The Prussian Dragoons attacked with great elan and decimated Infantry Regiment 47. In just 30 minutes Starhemberg’s Division had suffered the loss of two of it’s four infantry regiments.

Daun was far from demoralised by the ferocity of these attacks and over the next two hours would order several counterattack attacks by cavalry and infantry in an attempt to hold the high ground or at least contest it.

Meanwhile on the Austrian right the battle was equally ferocious. In an attempt to support the Prussian attack on the centre several Prussian regiments advanced forward and began an exchange of musket and artillery fire with Sincere’s Austrians. One Prussian regiment secured the town of Kuklena from which it poured fire, though ineffectively on the Austrian flank. However, it was now the Prussians who were constricted by terrain and facing a withering Austrian fire. Muskets, light cannon and heavier field guns belched death at the Prussians opposite. 

Above, a view of the Austrian right flank. Prussian infantry have seized the town of Kuklena, visible in the right foreground.

Then, about 4pm General Sincere ordered three of his regiments, held in reserve, on to the offensive. Regiments 42, 21 and 48 marched with great discipline to the northeast with flags flying and drums beating where, on their arrival, they fell upon the Prussians with great determination.

Below, the Austrian attack underway. Infantry Regiment 42 has just failed a morale check while the Prussian defenders are also still disordered after seizing the town.

The Prussians not expecting such ferocity fell out of the town in considerable disorder. Worse for the Prussian left this defeat, combined with previous casualties, resulted in the Prussian left falling back in some disorder and exhausted by the fighting.

Yet Field Marshal Daun was unable to capitalise on this stroke of fortune. His right was clearly victorious but his centre remained precariously weak. Below, the Austrian left where it rests on the Roslomitz stream.

To his consternation his left was being pressed by more Prussian formations. A Prussian cavalry attack on Infantry Regiment 7, already shaken by concentrated artillery fire, forced Daun to bolster his line with his last fresh cavalry reserve. Simultaneously Daun ordered a final cavalry charge by the converged Cuirassier Brigade comprised of the Cuirassier Regiments 5 & 20 which he accompanied personally. The Prussians were driven back.

However, by 7pm the situation had become completely untenable and Daun, now somewhat despondent, reluctantly ordered his army to retire from the field – covered by the threatening demonstrations by General Sincere against the now outflanked Prussian left.

It seemed that Maria Theresa’s Legions had been badly handled by Frederick, but the Emperess had not lost hope and von Daun would soon take the field again.

This was the first outing for my Seven Years War Austrians, so certainly a game worth recording, despite the result. Interestingly it was the first Seven Years War battle for my opponent’s Prussians, though they have frequently found themselves engaged in 1806 Napoleonic games. With both armies limited in numbers it was a smaller game, but certainly had a very different feel than the Napoleonic games we often play.

Casualty wise the Austrians had taken a hammering. Two infantry divisions were near exhaustion, while the third was fresh. In addition the Austrian cavalry divisions were spent. One had collapsed, one was exhausted and the last near exhaustion. Of the Prussian divisions one was exhausted while the Grenadier Division was also near exhaustion.

The figures are all of course 6mm and from the excellent Heroics & Ros ranges.

Maria Theresa’s Legions

Over recent weeks I’ve been slowly working on my latest Volley & Bayonet project. Specifically my Seven Years War Austrians.

The figures available were purchased second hand some years ago unpainted for something of a bargain. Regular readers will know I use 6mm Heroics & Ros almost exclusively for my Volley & Bayonet armies. Why you ask? Well, in my view they are both a good physical size allowing a reasonable number of miniatures per base, while anatomically well proportioned. However, before I could start the project I really needed to sort through the figures, they have after all been in my lead mountain for rather a long time.

Finding where to start such a project can be difficult. Specifically, how many troops should I paint and which units? Should I focus on a specific battle or build a more generic army? In the end for this project I decided to primarily focus on the Battle of Kolin, partly as a result of having visited the battlefield in 2017 and partly as it seemed a reasonable sized battle to start with. However, while in the planning stage I decided to allow a little variation from the Kolin order of battle for variety.

I further decided to break the overall project into manageable portions. First off was some 13 infantry regiments. Of these 13 regiments 12 were at Kolin and the remaining one was added to provide some variety with facing colours. These regiments would provide the core of the regular infantry.

I’m of course using Volley and Bayonet and use “half scale”. Therefore each regiment is mounted on 1.5” wide base which is 0.75” deep. After some experimentation I felt that 16 figures per stand would provide a good visual representation and at the same time ensure that the base provided sufficient protection when handling the bases.

Above, an Austrian Infantry Division containing five regiments. In the foreground from left to right are IR 12 Botte, IR 4 Deutschmeister and IR 59 Leopold Daun. Each regiment carries the correct facing colours and are labeled on the rear.

Above a another view of the infantry showing the labels. IR 12 has now fallen into the second line. Below, the initial batch of Austrian infantry regiments without commanders.

The first cavalry and then artillery were next on the painting queue, as were a number of commanders.

As is my custom I now place ten cavalry on each brigade base, which are 1.5” square. Interestingly many of the Volley & Bayonet Austrian cavalry stands at Kolin are composite formations formed by a combinations of various regiments. Sometimes these composite brigades contain both cuirassiers and dragoons. All these factors, as well as having a limited number of dragoons available, meant I would again deviate slightly from the composition at Kolin defined in Frank Chadwick’s Kolin scenario. With limited cuirassiers I would initially paint four stands of cuirassiers and two stands of dragoons.

The cuirassiers are generally in the same uniform with the regiments being differentiated by the saddle cloth edging and standards. The exception being Cuirassier Regiment Alt Modena (18) with blue cuffs which at Kolin order of battle is brigaded with CR Gelhay (16). As way of clarification I have tended to use the regimental numbers introduced in 1769, but where disbanded before this date I have used the numbers listed at the very useful Kronoskaf site.

Above and below the Cuirassiers. Inspection of the labels shows the brigaded cavalry. The most obvious is the Cuirassiers Regiments 16 Gelhay and CR 18 Alt Modena in the right foreground below.

The dragoons are a more interesting and colourful mix. I opted to model initially two brigade sized amalgamations merging the DR 37 Kolowrat-Krakowski and DR 9 Prinz Savoyen to form one brigade and then DR 19 Hessen-Darmstadt and DR 39 Zweibrücken-Birkenfeld to form the second.

With plenty of Horse Grenadiers present I included a couple of Horse Grenadier figures on each base. Later I will complete a converged Horse Grenadier brigade, which promises to be colourful drawing companies from several regiments. Below, DR 19 and 39 are on the left while DR 37 and 9 are on the right.

At Kolin there were around 150 Austrian cannon comprised of various calibers. While the infantry regiments had supporting artillery attached to them, the more concentrated heavier pieces are represented in Frank Chadwick’s Kolin scenario by four of the five infantry divisions having artillery. For my purposes I painted four stands of artillery with stand nominally representing around 12 guns.

Of course I am well short of the full Kolin order of battle but with the addition of various commanders I would at least be able to use the army for some fictional games while I paint more units. To that end I completed several divisional commanders (one mounted figure per stand), a couple of wing commanders (two figures a stand) and an army commander (three mounted figures). All the commanders were based on a base 0.75” square.

Above and below more generic photos of elements of the army arranged for battle. Visible, and supporting the infantry and cavalry, are several artillery stands and various divisional, wing and of course the army commander.

Next on the production line are the Grenz Regiments, some Hussars and a few additional commanders. On the way from Heriocs and Ros are some additional figures to further supplement Maria Theresa’s Legions.

Across the Rapidan

Friday evening allowed time for another fictional American Civil War encounter, this time set in 1864 in the east. As with many of our games we used the Road to Glory system to develop the scenario. Given that we were using a portion of the armies involved at the Battle of the Wilderness an engagement set in the general area, though outside the Wilderness battlefield, seemed a good place to start.

Grant had ordered Meade on to the offensive and Union forces crossed the Rapidan River on the 4th of May. Lee, advised of the enemies movements moved his own forces on an intercepting course, but delays meant his planned attacks through the Wilderness were unable to be delivered.  By the 7th of May Union forces had pushed south from Wilderness Tavern towards Rodessa.

Lee’s army remained dangerously strung out and by noon on the 8th only General McLaw’s Division was positioned near the small town of Rodessa. Around 2pm General McLaw’s pickets reported that Union forces were advancing on the division in significant strength. Advancing towards McLaw’s front was General Hancock’s II Corps. To McLaw’s front were the divisions of Barlow and Gibbon and moving against his right the divisions of specifically Birney’s and Mott’s.

McLaw deployed several hundred yards north of the town of Rodessa astride the Rodessa Turnpike just south of the Stone Bridge. Here his three brigades supported by 24 guns would await the advancing Yankees.

Above and below the view from the Confederate lines with McLaw’s Division in the foreground.

Around 3pm the Rebel guns opened fire at a range of 1000 yards and caused heavy casualties on the Union lines. By 4pm four Union divisions were  deployed along the banks of the Nile Creek including an ever increasing number of Union artillery batteries. Below, a view along Nile Creek.

With his flank now turned McLaw ordered a retrograde movement to the high ground nearer Rodessa. While this new position provide some protection for his now critically exposed flanks it it did not free him form the growing Union bombardment.

As this movement was completed Rebel reinforcements were finally coming into line. While McLaw was part of Longstreet’s Corps it was two divisions of Ewell’s Corps first to shake out under the watchful eye of General Lee. Lee was intent on gaining the initiative and ordered General Early’s division to the right. Johnson’s Division meanwhile was ordered to the left flank. The much needed artillery was now also pushed into line and while Lee would never have an artillery superiority  he hoped to make the Union formations along Nile Creek uncomfortable.

Above, Johnson’s and Early’s Divisions move past Rodessa. McLaw’s Division is in the distance.

For the next two hours the artillery exchange between blue and grey continued with determination. The Union gunners concentrated their fire on Rebel batteries while Confederate artillery tended to engage Union infantry formations, unless replying to Union guns. Aware this unequal exchange could not go on indefinitely Lee prepared to press the Union flanks, despite being out numbered. On his left General Hampton’s cavalry were pushed out in a deep turning movement while elements of Rhode’s Division moved slowly through the north and south branches of Nile Creek.

However it was on the right flank that Lee hoped to gain the most advantage. Here Early’s Division was positioned and Field’s strong division had been dispatched to further reinforce Early’s Division. While the Union formations opposite had a similar number of brigades the divisions were smaller Lee hoped that his Divisions could deliver a more determined attack and sustain the eventual casualties while maintains the offensive. Hoping to attack with both divisions simultaneously the situation around 6pm warranted a staged attack.

Above, a view from the Confederate lines. Early’s Division is on the right and preparing to cross Nile Creek. Clearly visible are the gun lines of both combatants. Below, a view of the Union lines. Reserves are being moved to the Union right extending the line, which currently is in the air.

Simultaneously Rebel cavalry moves further to the left in an effort to further extend and apply pressure to the Union right and draw Union reserves away from the main Rebel attack.

Now three brigades of Early’s Division moved forward quickly crossing Nile Creek and hit the brigades of Mott’s Union Division with a determination unseen in the day’s fighting. One Union brigade dissentergrated at the Rebels advanced first supporting by artillery fire from Cutshaw’s artillery battalion. The second brigade was then shattered as the Confederate infantry pressed their attack. However, with Union infantry fleeing Union artillery unleashed a deadly toll, especially on Pegram’s Brigade which was now too a spent force.

Below, the situation after the Rebel attack by brigades of Early’s Division. A portion of Field’s strong division is visible on the right foreground, unfortunately delayed and unable to support Early’s attack.

Further Union retribution was swift. Crawford now ordered a counterattack by elements of his division with 1st and 2nd Brigades. Gordon’s Brigade was hit hard with heavy casualties if was destroyed as a fighting force. Despite many stragglers breaking through Hay’s Brigade. Brigadier General Harry T. Hays rallied his mean sufficiently to repel the attacks launched at him. Finally with the division a spent force Hays ordered a move back across Nile Creek.

Lee’s attack on the left now paused. While elements of Field’s Division engaged the Union forces across the stream increasing casualties forced the still relatively fresh Rebel centre to fall back. Lee had achieved his goal of concentrating more of his army while slowing that of the Union. Indeed General Meade had failed to fully utilise his more concentrated Union army and two of his divisions had been greatly weakened by the day’s fighting.

Another fine battle which produced an interesting meeting engagement. All figures here are by Heroics & Ros and are from my own collection. They are based for half scale where 1″ on the table represents 200 yards. Each infantry stand represents a brigade of around 1500 to 2000 men. Trees are by Irregular Miniatures and buildings from Timecast.