Altensdorf, October 1813

Over the weekend five of us assembled for a fictional engagement to mark the anniversary of the Battle of Leipzig. Our action draws on many of the historical formations present at the historical battle but is set further south of Leipzig.

The engagement was fought on a table that measured 6’ x 4’. Given we use half scale this translates to a table 12’ x 8’ and represents a battlefield some eight miles in width. On the table a little over 3,000 miniatures manoeuvred for advantage and glory.

Given the scale of the action only a brief summary of the battle can be made. However, I hope my report provides something of interest to the reader. The report can be found on my “On Campaign with Volley & Bayonet” blog here.

In addition I have experimented with creating a short video. I hope it provides a different perspective of the battle. It can be found here.

On Campaign

Of late I have become aware that the storage at this site is being consumed at greater rate than originally expected. No doubt in part by my increasing use of images.

This has resulted in my conscious decision to reduce the number of After Action Reports I post here. Instead over the last few months I have explored various methods of recording the games, both for the players involved and something of a record for myself. These methods have included using a combination of Facebook and our own local wargaming mailing list. While generally these have worked something was missing. In particular I was concerned that a more permanent record would be lost.

Therefore to provide this ongoing record I’ve finally decided to place these reports on a seperate blog. My intention is this new site, reserved for after action reports, will compliment this Volley & Bayonet. As part of this I have now published a back catalogue of games played over recent months. Reports of future games will be added progressively.

If you are interested in these battle reports I encourage you to visit this new site and, if it is of interest, bookmark or follow it. The new site, entitled “On Campaign with Volley & Bayonet” can be found here.

On the Road to Brussels & Namur

On the evening of the 18th of June 2021 a group of six players and an umpire gathered for a multiplayer Volley & Bayonet game to mark the anniversary of the Battles of Waterloo & Wavre. In something of a first we opted to refight our battle using two tables each of our battles being fought simultaneously. While the forces were drawn from those at Waterloo & Wavre with limits on terrain and time we opted for a little historical variation. Despite this the Allies fielded 72,000 infantry, 15,000 cavalry and 234 guns. Opposite the Emperor had assembled a numerically similar army with 73,500 infantry 15,000 cavalry but with just 196 guns. These forces would be represented by around 2,600 6mm miniatures.

As noted previously our battles followed a slightly different path to the historical battles of Waterloo and Wavre. The following, taken from the player briefings, summarises the situation.

The twin battles of Quatre Bras and Ligny fought on the 16th of June were extremely bloody affairs. The Prussians suffered particularly heavy casualties and the three Prussian Corps involved at Ligny were split in the chaos following the battle. They have fallen back on their lines of communication towards Namur though becoming more dispersed in the process. Wellington, aware that Napoleon is trying to split the allied armies, has moved his army east in an attempt to remain in communication with Blucher. To do this he has establishing a new line of communication with Brussels via the Brussels to Wavre Road.

Napoleon pursuing east has dispatched a portion of his army, including those troops under Grouchy, to cover parts of the dispersed Prussian forces while protecting his own left and rear from attack from those British forces deployed around Hal. Napoleon has his main army concentrated against the Anglo-Allied army commanded by Wellington. Wellington has drawn up his army to halt the Emperor. Unfortunately his position is not as strong as that around Mont-St Jean where he had planned to fight. On the morning of the 18th of June the Emperor has assembled something in the order of 42,000 foot, 10,000 cavalry & 118 guns in his immediate vicinity. Wellington meanwhile has at his disposal some 38,000 foot, 9,000 cavalry and 100 guns, though the quality of his army is mixed.

Simultaneously a smaller French army, commanded by Marshal Grouchy, is facing those Prussian forces nearer the Anglo-Allied army. Grouchy’s forces are unfortunately not fully concentrated. Initially they comprise Vandamme’s III Corps of some 16,000 infantry, 1,000 cavalry and 36 guns. Opposite the Prussians have drawn up Pirch’s II Corps. This comprises 24,000 infantry, 3,000 cavalry and 60 guns. Like Grouchy’s French the Prussians are also not fully concentrated with additional forces likely to arrive. When and where these reinforcements arrive is not yet clear.

Now, to the battles fought on the 18th of June.

On the northern battlefield the Emperor deployed I Corps on the left under d’Erlon, while Reille extended the French centre with II Corps. Elements of the Imperial Guard, under Drouot, were deployed on the right where they were to be quickly engaged. In reserve was Kellerman’s III Cavalry Corps. Below, the northern battlefield viewed from the south with the French on the left.

On the southern battlefield Grouchy had Vandamme’s III Corps and was outnumbered by the Prussians opposite. Marching to reinforce Grouchy was Excelmans I Cavalry Corps and Gerard’s IV Corps. However, orders were issued for IV Corps to instead move north to ensure overwhelming odds in the north.

The Allies meanwhile were deployed as follows. On the northern battlefield the Anglo-Allied army comprised I Corps, under the Prince of Orange, was deployed on the Allied right. It included one cavalry division. In the centre was II Corps under Hill. Both the right and centre were dominated a series of ridges some offering reverse slope positions to defenders. Along the line several small towns or walled farm complexes provided additional defensive positions. On the Allied left Picton’s III Corps was deployed, where it was more open. From here a road that run due south. It was on this road that the Prussian reinforcements would arrive. In reserve were two divisions of cavalry, Somerset’s Heavy Division and de Colleart’s Netherland Division.

Above, a section of the Anglo-Allied line showing a portion of the I Corps and II Corps. Below, a further view of the Anglo-Allied line with the Brunswick Division in the centre.

On the southern battlefield the Prussians deployed Pirch’s II Corps, some four infantry divisions and one cavalry division. Marching to support the Corps were Ziethen’s weak I Corps and two divisions of III Corps. Of these I Corps was to be diverted north to support Wellington’s outnumbered Anglo-Allied army. This battlefield offered fewer defensive lines to either the Prussians or French.

Below, a view of the southern battlefield viewed from the Prussian right. Clearly shown is the town the would play a pivotal part in the battle.

The ensuing battles were confusing and complex, as such only a brief summary is possible.

On the northern battlefield Napoleon ordered a general advance around 11am and began to apply pressure to Wellington’s line. However, his main attack was to be in the south where the Imperial Guard surged forward against the Anglo-Allied left. Here two Guard Infantry Divisions, those of Morand and Friant’s, threw themselves at the 2nd Netherland Division forcing the Netherland Division back despite at times heroic defence by the Nassau troops that formed part of the division.

Above, the Guard advance against the Anglo-Allied left.

Simultaneously, Reille’s Corps pinned the Allied centre and pressed the 5th Allied Division. Eventually, when the 5th Allied Division broke, French cavalry surged forward, its target the Netherlands infantry and cavalry holding the Anglo-Allied left. The Netherlands cavalry collapsed under an attack from l’Heritier’s 11th Cavalry Division while further cavalry formed for the pursuit.

Above and below, the Netherlands cavalry are attacked while Lefebvre-Desnoettes Guard Light Cavalry remain in reserve.

The Anglo-Allied left was in crisis and near total collapse.

In the extreme north the fighting was even more confusing. The French I Corps under d’Erlon comprised four small infantry divisions, each of two brigades, and one cavalry division. It was also well served by artillery. It advanced boldly against the Allied right commanded by the Prince of Orange who, as noted earlier, commanded the Anglo-Allied I Corps. This corps had just three divisions, but all were strong. Two were infantry divisions and comprised a mixture of veteran or guard brigades. They were supported by Grant’s cavalry division. Further, the corps was supported by three other divisions of the centre and particularly Clinton’s 2nd Allied Division.

Below, the situation in the north of the northern battlefield with the Anglo-Allied I Corps in the centre and left foreground. In the left distance is II Corps. Advancing from the right d’Erlon’s I Corps.

Not surprisingly the French advance here was quickly held by the Prince of Orange. He then ordered a series of blistering counterattacks by the British Guard and Peninsular veterans driving d’Erlon back. Below, the Allies press forward.

In four hours of fighting no fewer than three of the four French infantry divisions of I Corps would collapse. That said butchers bill was equally high among the Prince of Orange’s corps.

Combined the engagement on the norther battlefield had seen the lines swing 90 degrees, a result of both left flanks having been driven in. Napoleon’s plan for the defeat of the Anglo-Allied army had been foiled. Now, as Gerard’s IV Corps arrived, it would be used bolster the collapsing French left flank – rather than crush the Anglo-Allied army as Napoleon originally intended.

Meanwhile on the southern battlefield, the battle had raged with equal ferocity. Around 11am Grouchy, despite being outnumbered, pressed forward seizing a central town. Below, a portion of Vandamme’s III Corps advances under the watchful eye of Grouchy.

Fighting was initially fierce on the French right where a Prussian cavalry division attacked with unprecedented vigour only to be unceremoniously broken.

Pirch was undeterred and his attacks continued to drive the French back soon capturing the central town. Below the general situation with the Prussian on the left. Prussian forces from Krafft’s 6th Division attack the central town.

Despite the loss of the town Grouchy continued his defence carefully moving reserves from one critical point to another in a desperate attempt to counter each new threat.

Eventually both armies were reinforced, the French with Exelman’s I Cavalry Corps of two divisions. Below, cavalry from Exelman’s I Cavalry Corps begin to deploy.

Simultaneously the Prussians received their own reinforcements in the form of elements of III Corps. The situation was now hopeless for the French. After five hours of gruelling fighting Grouchy ordered a retreat.

Fortunately, we have a report from Grouchy to the Emperor which provides a little more information on the events on the southern battlefield.

To the Emperor Napoleon,

I arrived on the field near Namur on the morning of the 18th june, 1815. With Vandamme and the Army Headquarters Staff I considered the options available. Our intelligence reports indicated that the Prussian II Corps under Pirch had superior numbers: a three to two advantage in infantry, a three to one advantage in cavalry, and an almost two to one advantage in artillery.

I therefore decided to make a feint in the centre by occupying the village with a brigade of Lefol’s 8th Division (37th and 64th Lignes). To support these troops in the village I deployed the remainder of Lefol’s 8th Division (23rd and 15th Legeres) along with a brigade of Corps Cavalry (4th and 9th Chasseurs) and a battalion of Corps field artillery to the immediate left of the village. To further support the village, I advanced Berthezene’s 11th Division with a battalion of Corps field artillery to the right of the village. To protect the 11th Division’s right flank from advancing Prussian cavalry, I positioned Habet’s 10th Division to form a loose arc between the 11th Division and a battalion from Girard’s 7th Division (4th Ligne and 12th Legere) that he stationed on a hill facing the stream.

Three Prussian cavalry brigades advanced between these French troops and the stream, then turned and charged the two brigades of the 10th Division, with support from a battalion of horse artillery. The 10th Division sustained heavy casualties in the melee, were forced to retreat, became exhausted, and finally routed. Vandamme quickly redeployed his 11th and 7th Divisions, supported by a battalion of heavy Corps artillery, and subjected the three Prussian cavalry brigades to a withering fire. The Prussian cavalry units were either destroyed or forced to retreat back behind the Prussian lines.

Meanwhile, on our left, the Prussians moved against our flank attack with artillery and infantry, forcing the retreat of the cavalry brigade comprising the 4th and 9th Chasseurs. I ordered the orderly withrawal of one of Lofol’s brigades (23rd Ligne and 15th Legere) and the battalion of corps field artillery back to a defensive position to the rear of the village. Simultaneously, three Prussian brigades of infantry assaulted the village being held by the still disordered regiments of 37th and 64th Lignes. Unfortunately the fierceness of the attack resulted in this brigade being expelled from the village and it routed back behind the French lines. The Prussians occupied the village.

I was not overly concerned by the loss of the village preferring to maintain the mobility of our forces for an eventual orderly withdrawal of the army from the field. To faciliate this strategy I kept our forces behind the village and in an arc between the village and the hill referred to above. I was awaiting the arrival of reinforcements in the form of Exelmans’ I Cavalry Corps. Unfortunately for the tenability of our task of holding the Prussians, I had learnt that Gerard’s IV Corps would not be arriving to support my forces. It had been redirected by your staff to support the main battle against Wellington.

The Prussians soon renewed their attack on our right by bringing up artillery which disordered the 12th and 56th Lignes regiments causing them to route into the 33rd and 86th Lignes who now themselves routed.

Meanwhile Exelmans’ I Cavalry Corps arrived onto the field. I ordered Exelmans to deploy his four brigades and battalion of field artillery in an arc between the French 8th Division behind the village out to the left to discourage the advance of the enemy’s brigades massed in two lines between the village and a wood on the Prussian’s far right.

On our right, the Prussians began to advance four brigades of infantry to join their artillery by the village. At this point in the battle I received word that Prussian reinforcements were arriving, including three brigades of infantry, three brigades of cavalry, and additional artillery.

To give time to organise an orderly retreat in the face of vastly superior Prussian forces, I ordered two brigades of artillery to unlimber and to destroy the Prussian artillery on the right of the village which they succeeded in doing. Further, I dispatched Chastel’s 10th Cavalry Dvision to backup an attack by Girard’s 7th Infantry Division. The 7th charged an advancing Prussian brigade while the heavy artillery fired on an adjacent advancing Prussian brigade. Unfortunately our troops lost the fighting here, with the 4th Ligne and 12th Legere routing over the river and the 82nd Ligne and 11th Legere being forced to retreat behind the heavy artillery.

At this point I decided to call off the holding action. I began to withdraw our troops from the field behind a protective rearguard shield of our largely intact cavalry before the fresh Prussian reinforcements reached the Prussian lines.

Maréchal Grouchy

So ended our twin battles with a bloody stalemate on the northern table and a Prussian victory on the south – despite heroic displays by a greatly outnumbered French force. It seemed a great way to mark the anniversary of the 18th of June 1815.

As to the miniatures they are all from Heroics & Ros 6mm range. They are based for half scale where an infantry brigade is on a 1.5” square base. Each table measures 4’ x 3’ and each inch represents 200 yards. Terrain is a mix of commercial models including Heroics & Ros, Timecast, Hovels and Irregular Miniatures supplemented by selected home made rivers and roads. All miniatures and terrain are from my own collection.

Champion Hill, May 1863

The Battle of Champion Hill was the pivotal battle of Grant’s Vicksburg Campaign and Confederate defeat at Champion Hill would result in the siege of Vicksburg and the loss of the city which critically overlooked the Mississippi River. Yet for all its strategic importance the Battle of Champion Hill remains a relatively underrated engagement infrequently studied and even more infrequently refought on the wargames table. We always here of refights of Gettysburg or Antietam yet Champion Hill, for many, is unknown.

The following is a short summary of our refight of the battle. The scenario is based on that in the Volley & Bayonet scenario book “Battles of the American Civil War”. I have updated the scenario a little as a result of my own reading and by viewing various maps, though the latter have often proved contradictory. The scenario starts around 10am with the Rebel forces generally deployed in their historical positions. Two Union divisions are deployed forward on the Clinton Road not far from Champion Hill. Additional Union divisions are advancing on the Clinton, Middle and Raymond Roads, though their arrival will take time and be spread over the course of the day. Eventually some 22,000 Confederates would be deployed against 32,000 Union troops.

The initial Union forces on the Clinton Road include Hovey’s and Logan’s Divisions. Around 10am Grant orders a tentative advance towards Champion Hill with Logan’s Division moving to the right in an attempt to outflank the Rebel positions. Neither Union division was ordered to bring on an early engagement, rather Grant was determined to deploy as many of his troops before taking the offensive.

Elsewhere Osterhaus pushed his division along the Middle Road where it soon became entangled in the rugged wooded ground that lay several hundred yards east of the crossroads, which marked the intersection of the Clinton and Middle Roads as well as the Ratliff Road that followed the high ground southwest. Below, the general situation in the north with Confederate positioned on Champion Hill and Osterhaus advancing on the crossroad via the Middle Road.

As something of a counter to Osterhaus’ advance along the Middle Road Pemberton continued to move Bowen’s Confederate Division towards this section of the battlefield. Historically as the troops moved passed Pemberton’s Headquarters, located at the Roberts House along the Ratliff Road, the stirring sound of ladies singing “Dixie” was heard. Designed to encourage the advance of Bowen’s 5,000 strong division one wonders if the same occurred as the miniatures marched past in our refight? Either way Rebel morale seemed high.

On the Raymond Road Smith’s and Blair’s Divisions, part visible above, marched with singularity of purpose towards the Rebels deployed astride the Raymond Road where the road rose towards the southwestern, and much lower end, of Champion Hill. Here Loring had deployed his three brigades of his division along the wooded ridge that generally followed the Ratliff Road. Below, a view of Loring’s Division with Union forces just visible across Jackson’s Creek.

Around 11am Smith began to deploy and began an intermittent bombardment of the Rebels using the greater range of his rifled artillery. Over succeeding hours Blair’s division would extend to the right.

By 1pm, and with no communication from Grant on the overall operation, McClernard ordered a probing advance against Loring’s left with Blair’s Division. He hoped that this would pin Loring’s Division in place should Grant determine to attack. However, no sooner had one brigade crossed Jackson Creek that it received a swift Rebel response. But it was not from Loring, rather from a portion of Bowen’s Division.

It will be recalled that Bowen had previously moved north to reinforce the flank of Stevenson’s Division facing Grant. Deployed near the Middle Road, and not as yet occupied by Union forces, Bowen now dispatched one of his brigades south, specifically that of Brigadier General Martin B Green. Green’s brigade, comprised of Arkansas men, drove into the flank of Blair’s Division, in particular Smith’s Brigade which comprised regiments from Illinois and Missouri. Despite a determined resistance Smith’s Brigade fell back. Blair caught off guard initially now however ordered a strong counterattack. Yet despite the attack comprising two fresh brigades, and supported by artillery, the Union attack was thrown back by Green’s single Rebel brigade. Clearly the tunes of Dixie had bolstered morale! Now, as the Union brigades were forced back in disorder Loring’s three brigades launched a series of attacks decimating Blair’s Division. Below, Blair’s Division is attacked by Loring’s three brigades.

By 3pm Blair’s Division had collapsed and any chance of an offensive along the Raymond Road was lost.

As stragglers from Blair’s shattered division poured back across Jackson’s Creek, intent on saving their lives, Grant finally decided to unleash his attack in the north. For several hours he had been building up his forces and engaging in a long range bombardment of Rebel forces on the crossroads, where you will recall the Clinton and Middle roads converged. Now at 4pm the Union divisions in the north began their advance. The attacks comprised two parts.

The first centred on the Rebel left which stretched generally northwest along the Middle Road towards the Bakers Creek crossing. The attack by two brigades of Logan’s Division fell on Lee’s Brigade, of Stevenson’s Division. Lee’s troops, comprising five regiments from Alabama, were unable to halt the advance and were soon driven back. Below, two brigades of Logan’s Division attack Lee’s Brigade.

Simultaneously Osterhaus ordered his brigades forward the 1st Brigade, under Brigadier General Theophilus Garrard. This brigade fell on the right flank of Stevenson’s Division formed around the crossroads. The position was held by Cumming’s Brigade who, being subjected to a ferocious fire from rifled musket and artillery, were also forced back. Below, Garrard’s Union brigade on the right, surges forward.

Stevenson tried desperately to hold the line but the weight of the Union attack was overwhelming. As troops retreated cohesion was lost. Sometime after 5.30pm, having suffered unprecedented casualties, Stevenson’s Division collapsed. Casualties were particularly high among Cumming’s and Reynolds’ brigades. Below, the position of the Rebel positions around the crossroad just prior to Stevenson’s collapse.

Bowen now tried to reform a new line but Carr’s Division was now engaging them frontally while Osterhaus troops pressed their flank, seen below.

Unable to repel their opponents initial attacks or disengage, Bowen’s two brigades surged forward in desperate but unsuccessful counterattacks. By 6.30pm the division had collapsed and with it any hope of Rebel victory.

Pemberton, with no other option, ordered the retreat towards Vicksburg. True to history Loring began to retire his relatively unscathed division. The battle had taken a very different path to the historical engagement, yet the result was mostly the same. Stevenson’s and Bowen’s divisions were decimated while Loring’s Division, who failed to support the action in the north, was mostly untouched. That said Loring’s determined action about the Raymond Road had provided a bloody repulse to the overconfident Blair. Now with Rebel forces falling back on Vicksburg the critical siege would soon be underway.

The game involved four players, one Confederate and three Union. Each Union commander commanding the troops advancing along one of the three roads. The miniatures are all from Heroics & Ros 6mm ACW range and are based for Volley & Bayonet half scale, where 1″ represents 200 yards. Each game turn still represents an hour. Terrain is mostly homemade with trees and fences from Irregular Miniatures.