Napoleon’s Revenge

Friday evening found six locals assembled for another multiplayer Volley & Bayonet game. This time the game was set in 1813 and involved a French army of three corps engaged against an allied army of two Prussian and one Russian corps.

The aging Blucher deployed his allied army as follows. General von Kleist’s Prussian II Corps deployed in the centre while Bulow’s Prussian III Corps formed up on the right. On the Allied left the Russian I Corps under Gorchakov deployed, partly on high ground and partly along a stream. The Prussians were a mixed bag with many new recruits and a number of Landwehr brigades. The Russians in contrast, while numerically inferior, were well drilled and supported by a considerable number of guns.

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Above, the Allied right and in the distance the Allied centre. Below, a portion of the Allied centre. Visible are the von Roder’s Cavalry Division von Klux and Pirch’s Infantry Divisions.

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The French under Napoleon comprised Marmont’s VI Corps in the centre and Oudinot’s XII Corps of the right. The French left however was heavily reinforced. In addition to Bertrand’s IV Corps, of two infantry divisions and one cavalry division Napoleon allocated his reserve comprising the 2nd Old Guard Division and two heavy cavalry divisions, including Walthier’s 2nd Cuirassier Division. Below, a portion of the French left and in the distance the French centre.

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The French attack against the Allied right was delivered with unprecedented determination. The Guard crashed into the Prussian infantry, those recently recruited standing little chance. Then as the Guard surged forward, Frontanelli’s Italians added their weight to the attack. While Roussel d’Hurbul’s 2nd Light Cavalry Division was thrown back in bloody repulse the Prussian left was soon in crisis.

Both August von Preussen’s and von Thurman’s Divisions bore the brunt of the attacks. Despite several counter-attacks soon Preussen’s Division effectively ceased to exist the fighting being so bloody.

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Above the general situation as the French advance begins. The Prussians are on the left. The French reserve has clearly conducted a flanking movement. Below, the situation after four hours of fighting.

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On the Allied left Gorchakov led two of his Russian divisions forward in a poorly conceived attack against elements of Oudinot’s Division. Here the fighting was mostly between Pachthod’s French Division supported by some Bavarian units. In depressingly limited time Helfreich’s 14th Russian Division was a spent force while Tschapilitz Converged Cavalry Division was forced to give ground. Below, the Russians advance on the left against the French right.

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While the flanks were heavily engaged the centres of both armies were not. Below, a view from the French centre towards the Allied centre. Apart from a intermittent artillery exchange the centres faced each other for four hours.

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Blucher and his commanders had by this stage lost all the initiative. Blucher it seemed was more like a frightened hare caught by a pack of snarling and hungry wolves.

After just five hours of fighting Blucher ordered a full retreat, determined to save what little remained of his army. Napoleon it seemed had recovered from the 1812 Campaign and had his revenge!

The game was developed with the Road to Glory System and this time each army comprised 4000 troops, many being poorly trained. We usually use 3000 points for our Friday evening games. The Allies had selected Card 26 “Full Deployment” and expected to be on the attack. However, the French had drawn two cards and of these selected Card 27 “Flank Attack”. The game was a complete French victory with the French having delivered 42 hits while only receiving 14. It was an Allied debacle!

All figures are by Heroics & Ros and are from my own collection.

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Frossard’s Defence

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.

French Valour & Prussian Resolve

I have been distracted over the last few months as we have been moving house. As a result finding time to post game reports has been difficult. In the process of cleaning up some files I have however found a few notes from an earlier game along with a small selection of photos. This has allowed a very brief summary, though late and lacking in some detail, from what was the last Napoleonic game held in in my old games room.

This engagement used the Road to Glory System to generate the scenario and with each army comprising some 3000 points, which in this game equated to two reinforced corps for each army. Interestingly there was a significant variation in the cards drawn and selected by the players resulting in a variation from our typical game. In particular the Prussians and their Russian Allies had selected “Advance Guard – Echelon Left #4″ while the French player selected “Full Deployment #25”. The resulting scenario meant that the French were deployed on the battlefield, though not all opposite the enemy, while the Allies would be arriving over several hours and would therefore be at risk of defeat in detail.

Around 3pm Marshal Ney had concentrated the two corps under his immediate command and aware of the enemy’s weak position, ordered the army forward in a a rapid move toward his right.

He planned to fall upon the advance guard of Blucher’s Prussians before reinforcements could strengthen the Prussian position. Indeed just one division of Prussians occupied a small ridge across the Allied line of communication. To the right of the Prussian position a series of woods provided some protection to the Prussian line of march. Then with the Prussian Advance Guard engaged frontally by elements of Oudinot XII Corps Rapp’s X Corps was to attack the Prussian right flank as it marched towards the battle. The Prussians would be caught to front and flank and rolled up.

Above, the general situation around 5pm. The Prussians are on the left and the French the right, some elements are already engaged. Below, French troops and various allied contingents moving forward.

As planned the first units to be engaged were elements of Oudinot’s XII Corps with attacks against the Prussian Advance Guard. Below, the Bavarians begin their attacks against the Prussians. The use of artillery at close range was critical to unhinge the Prussians on the high ground. Later the French and Bavarians here would make a number of charges, some of which were successful, while others were thrown back.

Below, the French attack develops. The Young Guard are visible in the foreground moving the the extreme French right. The Bavarian regiment on the top left with yellow and red markers has recently routed.

Blucher had also been busy. As reinforcements arrived they were desperately fed into the line at various points, some to the left some to the right and others to the centre. In particular he bolstering his right flank which from the start looked likely to be overwhelmed by Rapp’s X Corps.

Below, a view from the Prussian lines. The Russians are now starting to deploy while Prussian cavalry form a rear line. The Prussian Advance Guard has taken heavy casualties and the high ground is almost lost, but additional Prussian infantry units extend the Prussian left.

In the increasing chaos Ney moved the focus of his attack to a corner of the Prussian line where the Prussian centre and right joined at an angle.

Here to the Prussians fought with great resolve but the French and their various allies, which included divisions comprising Poles, Bavarians, Baden, Hesse and Italians, were relentless in their attacks.

Determined to obtain a breakthrough Ney personally led attacks by the Baden Converged Infantry Regiment in the centre while nearby Hessian troops and Heudelet’s division of Provisional Infantry distinguished themselves with great valour by carrying several artillery positions and compromising the Prussian centre and right.

Above, Ney located in the woods, prepares to lead another attack on the expanding Prussian centre.

In addition to attacks on the centre Oudinot was by now moving against the Allied left. Here Raglovich’e Bavarian division and Patchod’s division, who had been pinning and engaging the Prussians, finally broke the Prussians who occupied dominating high ground.

Then for a time the Prussian left looked to stabilise when Barrois’ Young Guard Division, part of Ney’s reserve, was repulsed in its attack against the Prussian extreme left. This reprieve was short lived. Soon the various brigades of the Young Guard reformed, and now supported by elements of Defrance’s 4th Heavy Cavalry Division, advanced and swept aside the Prussian left flank.

Prussians casualties were by now crippling. However, the late arrival of two fresh Russian infantry divisions, and nightfall, gained Blucher a reprieve. He was finally able to retire his much weakened army.

Another fine evening of gaming which provided plenty of entertainment and one that really did illustrate French valour and Prussian resolve. All figures are 6mm miniatures from Heroics & Ros and are from my own collection.

The Defence of Soulbrois

By 3pm on the 6th of August 1870 General Frossard was generally comfortable with the deployment of his forces, even if his corps was not fully concentrated. He could from his position await the advancing Prussians. Situated several hundred yards from the town the otherwise peaceful town of Soulbrois a ridge ran generally north to south. This ridge was lowest where it was crossed by the Soulbrois road, yet despite this the ridge clearly provided a strong defensive position. It was along this ridge Frossard deployed his troops.

Above, the French position viewed from the northeast and below from the north. The town of Soulbrois is visible on the right.

Both the 1st Division (General Verge) and 2nd Division (General Bataille) contained four regiments. Three were placed in-line and the fourth in reserve. Each division was further supported by a battalion of Chasseurs, an artillery battalion of 12 guns and a battery Mitrailleuse guns. Finally, three artillery battalions comprising a further 36 cannon drawn from the corps reserve were in support. Of these some were in-line and others in reserve. Frossard’s 3rd Division however was not on hand and this division, under the fiery General de Laveaucoupet, was not expected to arrive for another three hours.

As Frossard scanned the valley to his front it began to take on a dark blue haze – the Prussians had arrived. The Prussians, all from General von Goeben’s VIII Armeekorps, comprised two infantry divisions, a cavalry division and five artillery battalions. In all some 20,000 infantry, 2,000 cavalry and 60 cannon. Below, a portion of the arriving Prussians.

By 3.30pm, the French southern portion of the line, held by the French 2nd Division was under fire from the Prussian Krupp guns at ranges of over 1600 yards. The most significant concentration was on the Prussian left where 36 guns had been deployed. In the Prussian centre two artillery battalions, deployed in supporting positions but not concentrated, began to bombard the French centre. In reply Frossard’s own guns, despite being heavily outnumbered began their own fire. Unfortunately as they were not concentrated and as a result were forced to spread their fire on several advanced Prussian infantry regiments.

Soon after 4pm reports came in that additional Prussians were advancing from the northwest. Here advanced elements of General von Manteuffel’s I Armeekorps we’re advancing rapidly. Leading the advance was the division under General von Pritzelwitz. This division also comprised four regiments, with each regiment again having a greater bayonet strength than the French regiments opposite. By 4.30pm the French we’re engaged along the line.

As Pritzelwitz’s guns began their bombardment in the north the guns the bombardment in the centre and south grew in intensity. Further, three regiments of the Prussian 15th Division (VIII Armeekorps) were ordered forward by General Weltzien against the exposed French 2nd Division flank in the south, the French right.

Above, the French right. The green markers denote a stationary regiment, the white when assigned to infantry that it prone.

With it clear that both flanks were exposed Frossard ordered his reserves to each flank. In the north the 4th Ligne moved to engage the with long range Chassepot fire the advancing Prussians while the 1st Chasseurs secured the small Bournan Farm in the extreme north. In the south the 8th Ligne formed at 90 degrees to the main line while the 2nd Chasseurs were thrown forward to engage the advancing Prussians by seizing a portion of a large wood. In addition the various regiments holding the main line, who had for two hours been formed up in ranks for the expected infantry attack, were ordered to take cover and into prone positions. It was hoped that this would in someway reduce the impact of the long range Prussian artillery fire. Finally, Frossard ordered both divisions to pull back their Mitrailleuse batteries. These weapons lacked the range to engage the Prussians who remained out of range to all except the French rifled artillery. Instead they would form Frossard’s final reserve.

The Prussians however were undeterred. Soon after 5pm no fewer than 5000 Prussians were committed to clearing the Bournan Farm, driving out the 1st Chasseurs. In the south the 7th Brandenburger and East Prussian Fusiliers extended their line in preparation for a subsequent attack against the refused flank of the French 2nd Division. In less than 30 minutes Frossard expect the attacks to begin. The French position was now comprised.

Above, the action around Bournan Farm, with 1st Chasseurs in the farm buildings and obscured.

Yet Frossard was upbeat, for just after 5.30pm his 3rd Division was sited to the south advancing rapidly, the fiery General de Laveaucoupet had arrived. Shaking out of road column the three regiments advanced on the exposed Prussian flank. Pausing 150 yards from the East Prussian Fusiliers and the 7th Brandenburgs the advancing French regiments delivered a series of devastating volleys. These were further supported by long range fire from 8th Ligne and 2nd Division’s Mitrailleuse battery. The French attack was devastating, soon both Prussian regiments fell back.

Above, Laveaucoupet’s 3rd Division attacks.

As the action in the south was turning in favour of the French left Frossard’s position in the north was unraveling. With the 1st Chasseurs evicted from their defensive bastion of the stone walls of Bournan Farm French forces in the north were compromised. Soon after 6pm the Prussians, having secured the Bournan Farm, pushed forward and engaged the now isolated 4th Ligne.

Clearly outnumbered the 4th fell back forming a new line, and then when that was compromised a final line supported by 1st Division’s Mitrailleuse battery. Around 8pm two Prussian regiments were committed, their attack if successful, would have destroyed the French left flank. However, at a critical moment Prussian morale faltered under French Chassepot and Mitrailleuse fire.

Below, the French left with the French now stationary with both the 1st Division Mitrailleuse and 4th Ligne in the foreground. Limbered French artillery is behind having recently retired.

For some time in the centre Frossard was acutely aware of increasing casualties and had finally around 7pm removed the 3rd Ligne from its position astride the Soulbrois road where it crossed the ridge. Frossard hoped in doing so he would avoid unnecessary casualties from the unceasing Krupp gun fire while at the same time form another reserve should his left flank collapse. In doing so he weakened his centre and therefore risked an attack on his centre. Around 8pm, von Goeben ordered forward two further Prussian regiments, this time from Barnekow’s 16th Division. The 3rd and 7th Rhine Province Regiments advanced to some 300 yards and delivered repeated volleys from their Dreyse needle guns. Rather than further support this attack with additional infantry Goeben believed the attack could be adequately supported by long range artillery. This decision exposed the flank of the 3rd Rhine Province Regiment.

Frossard ordered an immediate counterattack. Soon after 8.30pm the 3rd Ligne attacked, closing with the bayonet in attacks more representative of 1859. This attack, supported by 12 rifled cannon rolled up the the 3rd Rhine Province Regiment and stabilised the French centre.

Above, the French counterattack of the 3rd Ligne. The white markers for artillery indicated they are unlimbered and forming while the white markers for infantry indicate a prone regiment.

However, it was on the Prussian left that the battle would be decided. Since driving back the Prussian left around 6pm Laveaucoupet had maintained the pressure and in the some three hours his regiments pressed the Prussian left with great determination. Twice the 9th Ligne was forced back by the Prussians but each time its officers reformed the regiment and advanced again to engage the Prussians. The three regiments of 3rd Division, supported the Chassepot and Mitrailleuse fire of 2nd Division were unrelenting.

Finally, around 8.30pm as the attack in the centre reached its own climax, the East Prussian Fusiliers broke and the morale of the Prussian 15th Division collapsed. With it Prussian resolve dissipated, Frossard had held, just.

The Battle of Soulbrois was of course a fictional affair, though aspects of it generally aligned to the nature of the initial disorganised battles of the frontier. The scenario while small proved an excellent challenge for both players. We use half scale so the massed infantry are based on 1 1/2 square stands and 1” equates to 200 yards, though the time scale remains standard, that is one turn equates to one hour of actual time. The game was played on a 3’ x 2’ table and lasted six turns. The total playing time was 2 1/4 hours. The miniatures are all 6mm scale and from the Heroics & Ros Franco-Prussian range. French are from my own collection while the Prussians are from Robin’s collection.