Despite the successful defence of Soulbrois on the 6th of August during the evening General Frossard and his II Corps was ordered to retire under cover of darkness. Such was the changing strategic situation as the Prussians elsewhere had forced French forces back. Unfortunately, on the morning of the 7th Frossard was yet again under pressure.
Readers of the action at Soulbrois will recall that Frossard had three divisions under command. The 1st Division under General Verge, the 2nd under Bataille and finally the the 3rd Division under De Laveaucoupet. During the previous night the 1st, having taken the full brunt of the previous days fighting, had fallen back from Soulbrois and deployed around the town of Remaucourt. Then the other two divisions fell back to the positions around two miles south of Remaucourt. Yet, as General Verge was about to start his own retrograde movement, and rejoin the other divisions, the telltale sign of a Prussian haze was visible in the distance. The Prussians were advancing directly on Remaucourt. Frossard ordered an immediate halt and Verge’s regiments prepared to hold the Prussians once again.
Verge had deployed his regiments as follows. The 4th Ligne was deployed within the confines of the town of Remaucourt along with the 1st Chasseurs. To the left and some what to the rear was the 1st Ligne and to the right were the 2nd and 3rd Ligne. Interspersed were 12 guns from the division artillery battalion, a Mitrailleuse battery and a number guns from II Corps artillery train.
Above the French 1st Division around Remaucourt with the town held by the 4th Ligne and the 1st Chasseurs.
The Prussians advancing parallel to Remaucourt road comprised General Weltzien’s 15th Division and on their left extreme left flank, well clear of the French, was Count von der Groben’s 3rd Cavalry Division. It was not until 8am that the first Prussian guns were beginning to be deployed on ridge overlooking Remaucourt and the open fields adjoining the town. Around 8.30am the Prussian artillery opened fire.
Above, the situation around 7.30am as viewed from the Prussian lines, and below from the French lines.
The Prussian continued to concentrate. By 9.30am they had succeeded in massing some 60 guns on the ridge. Further, Barnekow’s 16th Division was also deployed each side of the Remaucourt road. Two regiments deployed in support of the artillery while two further regiments deployed on the west side of the Remaucourt road advancing throw a large wood.
While French artillery had previously engaged the Prussian infantry the 4th Ligne deployed within Remaucourt now engaged the Prussian infantry with their Chassepot rifles. The withering fire caused two Prussian regiments to fall back rather than risk further casualties.
Meanwhile on the French right the Prussian 15th Division was moving around the flank of Remaucourt. This movement, eventually by all four regiments of the division, was around a mile from Remaucourt but directly compromised elements of Verge’s Division that extended the French position at Remaucourt. Initially Verge’s realigned the 2nd Ligne and the Division’s Mitrailleuse battery to protect his flank. However, Frossard also ordered Bataille’s 2nd Division to the French right.
Above, the general situation viewed from the French lines. Battaille’s 2nd Division is in the bottom of the picture while the Prussian flanking movement can be seen on the right. Below, another view as elements of the French 2nd Division begin to threaten the Prussian left flank.
The situation on the French right now quickly gathered pace as the French Chassepot started to dominate the ground but equally the Krupp guns, some 1400 yards distant, delivered accurate fire on the 2nd Ligne. Fortunately, like most of the the French 1st Division the 2nd Ligne had gone to ground resulting in fewer casualties.
General Bataille had by now compromised the Prussian flank, but rather than attack with the bayonet the French troops poured a withering fire into the East Prussian Fusilers and the 7th Brandenburg Regiment that marked the end of the Prussian line.
Compromised, von Goeben moved to the offensive. But instead of engaging the French 2nd Division he order the 2nd Rhine Province Regiment to charge the French 2nd Ligne while simultaneously conducting a further concentrated artillery bombardment.
Below, the battlefield viewed from the Prussian lines. The 2nd Rhine Province Regiment is visible centre left and the supporting Prussian artillery, some five artillery battalions, or 60 guns, on the right.
The Prussians advanced with great courage over the fields devoid of crops. Prussian elan was however met with a withering fire by both the 2nd Ligne and the supporting Mitrailleuse battery. Under this fire the 2nd Rhine disintegrated. Yet the supporting Krupp guns delivered an equally deadly fire and the valiant 2nd Ligne also broke.
Prussian casualties continued to mount until the East Prussian Fusilers, now under devasting Chassepot and Mitrailleuse fire from elements of the 2nd Division, broke. Soon General Weltzien’s 15th Division was in retreat. The French right had held.
On the French left and centre the Prussians had also been busy. As the Prussians of 16th Division protested around the town of Remaucourt elements of General von Manteuffel’s 1st Armeekorps advanced against the French left. Here a large wood and the arrival of General De Laveaucoupet’s French 3rd Division stopped the advances of von Pritzelwitz’s 2nd Division.
Above and below the situation on the French left as the French 3rd Division under General De Laveaucoupet deploys to halt the Prussian 2nd Division under von Pritzelwitz.
Again Prussian artillery had been plying its trade. By assembling several corps batteries and 2nd Infantry Division’s artillery Manteuffel concentrated 36 guns. This grand battery belched shell on the French 1st Ligne on and off during the morning. Conscious of his limited ammunition, and a general lack of progress, around noon Manteuffel ordered forward the 8th East Prussian Infantry. With standards flapping in the midday breeze and to the beat of Prussian drums, the regiment advanced over the 1200 yards to the French defenders. Again the French fire was dramatic but the Prussian attack carried the position and the 1st Ligne fell back, a spent force.
Below, the attack is delivered. The white marker on infantry units denotes they are prone which gives them a saving throw from artillery fire but reduces their effectiveness when charged. A white marker on artillery denotes it is unlimbered.
Yet the French response was swift. Before the 8th East Prussian could reform, and with no nearby supporting forces to bolster the Prussians, the French 3rd Ligne countercharged. Supported by fire from the 11th Ligne the attacking 3rd Ligne carried the position and the Prussians were thrown back.
Below, the 3rd Ligne counterattacks. In the foreground artillery of the French 1st Division has already retired to the south bank of the Remaucourt stream, the situation on the north bank becoming increasingly untenable.
For a time Manteuffel considered sending in the cavalry of von Hartmen’s 3rd Cavalry Division. However, he hesitated allowing Frossard the necessary time to order the last elements of Verge’s 1st Division, now exhausted, to retire to the south bank of the Remaucourt stream. The division, or what remained of it after almost five hours of fighting, moved from its advanced positions across the stream.
Yet again the French had held their ground and the Prussians, while fighting with valour, had paid a high price for the ground won.
So ended another fascinating fictional Franco-Prussian War game. The scenario was somewhat based on that of Quatre Bras with some modification due to our limited forces.
From a casualty perspective both armies had suffered similar losses. The Prussian 15th Division was exhausted and two other divisions had suffered only some casualties. The cavalry remained fresh. The French 1st Division was exhausted and casualties on the 2nd Division were mounting. The 3rd Division however remained fresh and despite being engaged had suffered no casualties – in game turns at least. The scenario proved an excellent game and one that highlighted many of the technical differences of the period, specifically the weapon characteristics and the associated impact these weapons had on tactics.
The figures are all 6mm miniatures by Heroics & Ros with the French from my own collection and the Prussians from Robin’s collection.