Move Swiftly, Strike Vigorously!

Having been held by a determined defence along Praxton Creek on the 23rd August General Lee gave Major General John Pope the slip during the night and flanking the Union position continued his advance north. Pope, ordered the Union army north trying to keep his army between Lee and Washington. Lee for his part was spoiling for a fight and with his army relatively concentrated turned on the 25th of August to strike advanced elements of the Union Army of Virginia.

With Confederate scouts reported the Union forces were generally strung out in line of march. Lee determined to strike swiftly, with a portion of his Army of Northern Virginia attacking two Union divisions. While it was true the Union divisions had the advantage of high ground Lee was determined to retain the initiative. His army was divided into two commands of corps size, one under Longstreet and the other under Jackson. For the forthcoming engagement Longstreet would be able to call upon four divisions, some ten brigades. Jackson would support this with two further large divisions, another eight brigades. Stuart would also add his small cavalry division to the attack. In all General Lee would be able to commit some 30,000 infantry, 2,000 cavalry and over 72 guns to the attack.

Above and below the Confederates approach the Union forces deployed on Weaver Ridge around 3pm. From left to right are Anderson’s, Jones’ and Ewell’s Divisions. Union forces on the ridge are the 1st and 2nd Divisions from McDowell’s III Corps, Army of Virginia.

Lee moved his army forward in three general bodies. Anderson’s Division would pin the two Union Divisions in place on the wood covered high ground locally known as Weaver Ridge. At the same time Jones’ and Ewell’s Divisions would slide to the right before moving against the exposed Union left and line of communications.

Above Confederate artillery, comprising rifled and smoothbore guns, form a massed battery of 36 guns and begin to bombard the Union left. Simultaneously the Ewell’s Division begin their attack moving swiftly forward. Forno’s Brigade attacks Union guns while Lawton’s Brigade is advancing astride the Kylertown Pike, the main route of advance for Union reinforcements. Five additional brigades extend the Rebel right.

The divisions of Hood, Kemper and Stuart, all relatively small and forming the Confederate left flank, move from the Rebel left and advance on Weaver Ridge from the left, flanking the position. Below, the Confederates advance against the Union right, holding the extreme Union right of Weaver Ridge.

By 5pm the Union reinforcements were arriving. First to deploy was Siegel’ I Corps. No sooner had they deployed these two Union divisions faced another attack, under the watchful eye of General Lee. Below, the Forno’s, Toombs’ and Jones’ Brigades are in the foreground while in the distance Early’s, Lawton’s, Trimble’s and Drayton’s Brigades attack.

While Lee was in the thick of the fighting Jackson moved along the line encouraging troops of Ewell’s Division. “Move swiftly, strike vigorously! These Yankees will break!” Despite the rapid Confederate advance additional Union reinforcements were now pouring on to the battlefield, primarily from Heintzelman’s III Corps, Army of the Potomac. Now increasingly outnumbered the Rebel attack on the right began to stall. Lawton’s Brigade was first to crack. Below, the Rebel brigades in a sea of blue around 6pm.

Meanwhile in the centre, the Union 1st Division had earlier abandoned the safety of Weaver Ridge and advancing through the cornfields attacking the Rebel centre. Below, two Union brigades, along with US Sharpshooters advance on Armistead’s and Mahone’s Brigades, both part of Anderson’s Division. Mahone’s Brigade, shown below on the Confederate left, suffered heavy casualties over two hours of desperate fighting.

Yet Longstreet was feeding in troops. Three Confederate Divisions crossed the south branch of Otter Creek about 5pm. Below, in the foreground, is Hood’s Division, which comprises Hood’s Texan and Whiting’s Brigades. In the distance Kemper’s Division, comprising Kemper’s Brigade and that of Jenkin’s Brigade. Between them are Fitzhugh Lee’s and Robinson’s cavalry brigades from Stuart’s Division.

Now, around 6pm, the exposed Union Division in the Cornfield, is hit from two directions. In the rear by Hood’s Division and from the front by Garrett’s Brigade from Taliaferro’s Division (Jackson’s Corps) and Wright’s Brigade from Anderson’s Division. Hood’s Texans in particular gave the Yankees a surprise, attacking with great élan. Below, the Union 1st Division defends the Cornfield.

While the action in the Cornfield plays out the two brigades of Kemper’s Division attack the final Union brigade holding the Union left supported by Fitzhugh Lee’s dismounted cavalry brigade at 7pm. The combination of all these attacks on the 1st and 2nd Union Divisions were disastrous. Both divisions were driven back in disorder having suffered crippling casualties.

However, Union reinforcements continued to deploy including extending the Union right. Below, two Union infantry brigades prepare to counter-attack while Pleasanton’s cavalry, some three brigades form behind the northern branch of Otter Creek.

Further along Weaver Ridge the shattered Union centre began to be reinforced by another Union division around 8pm. With light fading Longstreet ponders a further attack. Anderson’s Division is itself however nearly exhausted. Any final push would need to be by Hood’s Division, on the left, or Stuart’s dismounted cavalry far left.

On the Confederate right, below, the attack by the southern brigades had stalled earlier and now prepared to face a possible Union counter-attack. Ewell’s Division was exhausted though Jones’ Division remained fresh. Several disordered Union regiments can be seen on Weaver Ridge.

There was no doubt General Lee was pleased with his troops aggressive spirit and determination to advance. The Southerners had fought hard and pressed the Yankees at every turn. One Union Division had collapsed and another exhausted, giving Pope grave concern. However, yet again the hoped for destruction of the Union forces was not complete. The Union army had held.

The scenario was of course another fictional encounter developed using the “Road to Glory” System with each army comprised of 3000 points. The Union commanders had selected “Advance Guard – Echelon Centre #5” while the Confederate commanders selected “Returning Detachment – Reserve #20” and therefore had the burden of attack. Miniatures are all from Heroics & Ros 6mm range, with the Confederates from my collection while Jon provided the Union forces.

Advance to Kutzenberg

The dawn following the desperate and bloody battle along the Weissbach was pleasing to Prinz Schwarzenburg. Ney, it seemed, had abandoned the field retiring northwest. Could this be the beginning of Napoleon’s defeat? Schwarzenburg ordered an immediate advance and the Austrian regiments moved forward in pursuit, the white clad ranks of Austria moved forward confident in their cause. By noon however the French forces were located around two miles east of the important town of Kutzenberg. Ney had formed a new line northwest of the Weissbach.

In the centre Schwarzenburg deployed Colloredo’s 1st Korps, some three divisions, all veterans of the previous days fighting. The 2nd and 3rd Divisions, comprising infantry, formed the centre with four regiments deployed on two seperate hills while other regiments deployed in support. The 1st Division, a mix of Grenz and Hussars, covered the left. To the right the Austrians were supported by the Prussian 2nd Corps, commanded by von Kleist. This corps deployed a further three divisions, of which two were infantry while the third comprised cavalry. 

Above, Colloredo’s 1st Korps. On the left is Hardegg’s 3rd Division and on the right Greth’s 2nd Division. In the distance is Wimpfen’s 1st Division.

With the French opposite having a considerable numeric advantage. Prinz Schwarzenburg now focussed his attention on deploying more of his advancing Austrians into position, particularly Klenau’s 4th Korps and elements of the Austrian Reserve before the expected French attack could fall.

Unlike the Allies, with two corps deployed, Ney was concentrated and had three corps in position. On the French right Marmont’s VI Corps was well positioned despite it’s retreat from the Weissbach. In the centre was Lauriston’s V Corps, reinforced by a division of Young Guard. Of all the French corps on the field this was the largest. Finally, on the French left, and therefore opposite the Prussians, Reynier deployed elements of VII Corps, reinforced by a division of Westphalians.

Two situations perplexed Schwarzenburg. His left was lightly held and it would be another hour before Klenau’s 4th Korps would arrive on the field. Another two hours would likely pass before it would be fully deployed. During this time the Austrian left could be hard pressed. However, of more immediate concern was the right. The redoubtable von Kleist was clearly spoiling for a fight and had advanced his corps forward towards the town of Geisig. This resulted in a gap between the Prussians and Austrian centre which could be exploited.

Ney, around 2.30pm ordered forward Reynier’s VII Corps. While Gruyer’s Brigade secured the town of Geisig other brigades from the 13th and 32nd Divisions moved further to the French left no doubt to counter any Prussian flanking movements. Meanwhile on the French right and centre, the various divisions of Marmont’s VI Corps and Lauriston’s V Corps moved forward. Progressively French batteries would deploy and over the next couple of hours a series of ineffectual bombardments of the Austrian centre would occur.

The battle now focussed on the Allied right where von Kleist at 3pm launched his Prussians forward in a dramatic attack on the town of Geisig. No less than three regiments drawn from the 9th and 10th Divisions were thrown into this attack. While two regiments were well drilled, one comprised Silesian Landwehr and its early commitment indicated the resolve of von Kleist to seize the initiative and the town. Despite being heavily outnumbered the French fought with determination and the Prussians were forced back with the Silesian Landwehr in full rout.

Above and below the Prussians attack the French in Geisig. The central of the three Prussian regiments is the Silesian Landwehr of von Klux’s 9th Brigade. The Prussian 2nd Corps Cavalry Reserve, some 3000 men under von Thielmann, can be seen in the left, in reserve.

While the attack on Geisig had failed Schwarzenburg took heart as the Austrian Reserve deployed in the centre. The Converged Grenadier Division of Bianchi and three cavalry brigades from Klebelsberg’s Division would soon become a critical reserve plugging the gap between the Austrian centre and Prussians. 

Below, the Austrian Reserve moves forward and will soon deploy to the right.

Unlike the French left the French right seemed less aggressive. Colloredo fearful of an attack on his left, before 4th Korps had arrived, hoped to secure his left by securing the town of Hauberg. As a result one of the Grenz Regiments from 1st Division moved forward to seize the town. This of course resulted in a counter attack by the French. No sooner had the Grenzers deployed than two French brigades advanced. While fighting desperately the Grenzers were ejected. Acting quickly Schwarzenburg ordered three additional regiments forward. An additional Grenz Regiment as well as two regiments advanced under Schwarzenburg personal direction driving the French from Hauberg.

Before the Austrians could consolidate their hold on Hauberg another French attack was launched resulting in more confused, but desperate, fighting. Yet again the Austrians were forced back. 

Undeterred Schwarzenburg ordered more regiments of the Austrian left flank forward, now supported by horse artillery. Again the French fell back unable to withstand Austrian determination. 

Below, Deutsch-Banet Grenz and Froon’s infantry regiment attack Hauberg.

Now, unwilling to contest Austrian resolve, the French attacks against Hauberg ceased. 

Colloredo, finally reinforced by elements of 4th Korps, slowly increased the pressure on the French left. First by massing his artillery and later, as dusk approached by attacks launched from Hauberg itself, such as the one below, by the Deutsch-Banet Grenz.

However, Schwarzenburg had faced serious problem on his right for much of the afternoon where no fewer than four French cavalry divisions, from the reinforced II Cavalry Corps advanced against the Prussian right in the early afternoon. Here the French cavalry commanded by Sebastiani comprised a total of 4000 light cavalry, 2000 Dragoons and a further 2000 Cuirassiers in four divisions.

Above, the French cavalry as it arrives on the battlefield and below the general situation.

Below, the Prussians an hour later, now supported by Austrian Grenadiers, and realigned to face the French cavalry.

Around 4.30pm, supported by various horse artillery batteries the French cavalry surged forward. Simultaneously Decouz’s Young Guard advanced against the Prussian left flank. The hastily formed Prussian line generally held and where some brigades broke the gaps were in turn filled by Prussian cavalry, Austrian reserve infantry or Austrian cavalry in a dynamic battle that lasted for two hours. Casualties were heavy with several divisions, of both armies, exhausted by the unceasing attacks and counter-attacks.

Above, a gap is created in the Prussian line. Soon another Prussian regiment would retreat. Below, Austrians launch a counterattack against Decouz’s now isolated Young Guard.

Below, Prussian Landwehr engage in a musketry exchange on the Allied right against two brigades of Württembergers.

As dusk fell both armies paused for breath. Ney, with the burden of attack had failed to dislodge the Allies. His cavalry while launched at the Allied right with determination had failed to break the resolute Prussians supported by the Austrian allies. Indeed, the French cavalry were falling back from the fresh and advancing Allied cavalry. Decouz’s Young Guard had also been exhausted by their attacks, though so to had the Austrian Grenadiers. Yet despite the losses Schwarzenburg prepared to renew his advance in the morning…

The battle had again been developed using the Road to Glory system with both armies comprising 4000 points of troops. The Allied players, of which there were two, had selected Build-Up Echelon Right #10 while the French player selected Turning Maneuver Left #21 and therefore had the burden of attack. All figures are from Heroics & Ros 6mm range. The Allies are from my own collection while Jon provided the French.

Eagles on the Weissbach

In early October 1813 the two armies, one with gold eagles the other with black eagle on yellow standards, were separated by the meandering Weissbach stream, which in this area generally ran south to north. In front of the two armies three bridges crossed the Weissbach. Between the norther and southern bridges the banks were firm. Outside this area the banks were less defined and often broken by traditional ponds and marshy banked. As the two armies deployed, banners flapping in the wind a frontal assault by one or other of the combatants seemed likely.

In general terms the main French and allied armies were north of the Weissbach, with the Austrians holding the southern front. Indeed, Napoleon had pushed his main army east and the Austrians along the Weissbach found themselves southwest of Napoleon and therefore potentially exposed.

Prinz Schwarzenburg had deployed on the Weissbach two of his Austrian Korps. The 1st under Colloredo and the 3rd under Gyulai. To the rear, and available to support any attack, were Graf Weissenwolf’s Grenadier Division and a Cuirassier Division under Klebelsberg. Much of the Austrian army was solid if unadventurous, best described as plodding, solid in defence but arguably lacking in élan when pressing home a charge. The French, commanded by Ney, in contrast were full of fighting spirit but apart from three divisions were recently formed and, unlike the Austrians, they generally lacked drill making the difficult manoeuvre. They comprised Marmont’s VI Corps and the smaller IV Corps under Bertrand. Ney, hoping to achieve a decision in the area of the Weissbach had sent requests for reinforcement from the main army.

Yet Schwarzenburg, unwilling to retire, planned to launch an attack. This was thwarted when Ney advanced several French divisions aggressively towards the Weissbach. This was especially so on the French left where the divisions of Bertrand’s IV Corps, specifically Morand’s and Fontateli’s Divisions, advanced against the Austrian right held by Colloredo’s 1st Korps. Some 36 guns formed a grand battery near the town of Lichnau.

Opposite the Austrian centre, which itself contained the divisions of Murray and Hessen-Hamburg from III Korps were the two divisions from Marmont’s VI Corps, Compan’s 20th and Lagrange’s 21st Divisions who took up blocking positions ready to exploit any success. On the Austrian left, Crenneville’s Light Division demonstrated forward to pin the French right, which comprised Friederiches’ 22nd Division and Rousseau d’Hurbal’s Light Cavalry Division.

Above, the Austrians, in the foreground, face the French across the Weissbach. The town of Lichnau is visible on the right. Several Austrian brigades have become disordered by the French artillery forming opposite.

Soon, however the French divisions detached by Napoleon approached the Austrian flank. Now all hope of an Austrian offensive was gone. Below, Curial’s Guard Division and Defrance’s Heavy Cavalry Division advance on the right rear of the Austrian line.

Schwarzenburg ordered Colloredo to realign the right flank and repel the expected attacks. Simultaneously reinforcements moved to form a second line. The town of Lichnau would become the corner of the line which now turned at right angles to the Weissbach stream. No sooner had Greth’s Division redeployed than the French attacked.

Above, the French attacks can be seen attacking Greth’s Division, while Wimpfen’s Division forms to the rear. Simultaneously the Austrian forces are subjected to attacks along the Weissbach. Austrian resolve, though tested, held. As a result the Guard and cavalry attacks were repelled with massive casualties.

With the right flank stabilised Schwarzenburg now ordered counter-attacks along the Weissbach to drive back the French and Italian troops who had crossed near the town of Lichnau.

Above, elements of Wimpfen’s 2nd Division engage in counter-attacks while Austrian converged grenadiers, under command of Wissenwolf, advance in support. Below, additional Austrian formations can be seen engaged along the Weissbach, while Austrian Cuirassiers have advanced forward and prepare to exploit any opportunities. While some Austrian regiments would press home their attacks others would attempt to utilise musketry and artillery to dislodge the French.

On the Austrian left the situation had also become critical. Friederich’s 22nd French Division, forming Marmont’s right, finally advanced across the Weissbach in a section that ran generally east to west for a short distance. Three French provisional brigades, almost 8000 men surged forward late in the afternoon. They were supported by artillery and Rousseau d’Hurbal’s Light Cavalry Division. Facing them was Crenneville’s Light Division comprised just 3000 Grenzers and 2000 light cavalry. The Austrian cavalry countered, crossed the Weissbach, and routed a number of French cavalry.

Below, the situation after a French cavalry regiment was destroyed. Austrian infantry of Murray’s Division have crossed the Weissbach to reinforce the attack.

Alas, the Austrian success was short lived. Friederich’s Provisional Brigades pressed the Austrians and as dusk fell the entire Austrian left collapsed. Now both armies left flanks had collapsed and the centres had fought each other to a standstill. It had been a costly clash which surprisingly had resulting in stalemate.

The scenario was developed using 3000 point armies and the “Road to Glory” Scenario System and used my 6mm Heroics & Ros miniatures. The Austrians had selected card #20, Returning Detachment, which meant their reserve wing comprising converged grenadiers and heavy cavalry arrived during the game. The Austrians expected to be attacking. However, the French players opted to use Card #23, Turning Manoeuvre Left, which placed the French Reserve on the Austrian right. With such a high card the French had the burden of attack. At the end of the battle both armies had sufferd heavy casualties. The Austrians having suffered 29 while inflicting 26. The French Guard had collapsed and several other divisions had been exhausted or were almost exhausted. The Austrians left had collapsed and two other divisions were exhausted or near exhaustion. It had been a dramatic battle for both armies!

Across the Rappahannock – 1863

It has been a while since I’ve posted here so I thought it opportune to post a short summary of our most recent game. This time with a lack of photos the report is somewhat brief. The encounter was a fictional American Civil War engagement developed using the Road to Glory. Each army comprised 3000 points but the card system ensured a very challenging game as troops arrived over the course of the game. In game turns the Union commander opted for a low card, Advance Guard Left #2 but with only a small portion of his army it would be several hours until the Union forces were deployed. The Confederate commander selected Returning Detachment #18. Only two divisions were not on table and even these would arrive before any Union reinforcements. 

Lee’s army, having given the main Union army the slip, had crossed the Rappahannock in two groups. Under his immediate command were two Corps. II Corps, under Ewell, was concentrated and elements of A.P Hill’s Corps would be on the field soon.  Lee, aware of the situation seized the initiative and ordered a general advance.

The Union forces on the field were well to his right. Therefore all his divisions would echelon to the right and attack. They would have insufficient time to form up in direct support but rather advance to the right in succession.

Rhodes’ Division, Lee’s largest at five brigades, would advance from the centre and attacked at an angle the Union left. Adam’s Brigade showed much valour as it swept forward and into the Union line in an area known as the angle, where the Union line sharply turned 90 degrees. The initial attack was supported by two artillery battalions, and later Dole’s Brigade. To Adam’s right Daniel’s and Iverson’s Brigades advanced in support. They formed a dramatic picture as they advanced through cornfields into rifled musket range of the blue clad enemy. Having exchanged musket fire soon these two brigades would surge forward. As some Union brigades crumbled others realigned in a desperate attempt to halt the Rebel attacks.

In the coming hours additional Union divisions deployed and were thrown into line, extending the Union line and forming the Union centre. As they deployed elements of Johnson’s Confederate Division and artillery aligned opposite some 800 yards distant. The Rebel artillery here, drawn from several divisions eventually comprised some 50 cannon and outnumbered the Union guns.

Above, the Rebel centre as the gun line begins to form. A portion of a large wooded area is visible on the left.

A large wooded area covered the Union right. Additional Union reinforcements, drawn from three Union Divisions, deployed in the open as elements of two Confederate divisions pressed through the woods. Early’s Division advanced on the left while three brigades from Johnson’s division provided support on their right. A vigorous exchange took place, with the Rebels forming in parts along the wood edge while in other areas attacking through the woods Union Brigades that had advanced into the woods. In time the initial Rebel advantage here was lost and as the battle continued several butternut brigades were forced back deeper into the woods.

Meanwhile, on the Confederate right, Rebel forces continued to focus their attacks on the Union left. Heth’s Division, having marched rapidly by road to the far Rebel right deployed to attack.

Below, on the right, the brigades of Pettigrew and Archer prepare to attack the disorganised Union left. Daniel’s Brigade has just completed a successful attack on the angle. The resulting retreat by the Union brigade holding the angle has disordered several other Union brigades. The large field in the foreground contained a large cornfield and slowed the initial Rebel advance.

For a time Heth’s Division looked set to sweep the exposed Union left from the field. However, Union forces, yet again, extended the line before the Union line could be broken. Indeed, Union forces now overlapped Heth’s Division and in turn advanced tentatively against the Rebels. As casualties mounted Pettigrew’s and Archer’s Brigades were driven back.

As darkness bought peace to the battlefield Lee realised he had no other option but to retire. His attack had not achieved the result he had hoped for. While Union forces had suffered heavy casualties his outnumbered army and his gamble, had failed. Yet the Army of Northern Virginia remained ready for battle…