Blucher at Beilenberg

Last night our miniatures were deployed for an 1813 game between a Russo-Prussian army under Blucher and and the French under Ney. Unfortunately I failed to take many photos of the game and with a late start time was more limited than usual. Still, I trust even this shorter than usual article is of interest to a few readers.

The Allied Army of Silesia was strung out in road column. Forming the advanced guard was the Prussian I Corps. Advanced elements of the Corps had secured the high ground near Beilenberg when French forces were observed to the front. Kleist deployed three divisions of I Corps. Advancing towards Beilenberg were at least five French infantry Divisions. An additional two divisions moving towards the Prussian left though these were clearly delayed by a marshy banked stream to the Prussian southeast. In all two full infantry corps were moving on a converging course towards three Prussian divisions. Interestingly no French cavalry were evident and Kleist assumed the French cavalry would soon approach from the west to reinforce the French centre.

Blucher, arriving on the scene around 4pm was soon aware of the predicament the Allies now faced. He concurred with Kleist’s general deployment. He however ordered the main defence, centred on rising ground in the Prussian centre, to be protected with withdrawn flanks. This position while exposed would allow room for reinforcements to deploy and utilised what terrain existed to strengthen the position. On the left the line was somewhat protected by a wooded area. Blucher believed this could be an ideal position for the Landwehr who were known to be brittle in open battle. On the other flank the small town of Beilenberg would mark the Prussian right.

Below, the general situation around 5.30pm, with the Russo-Prussians mostly deployed. Elements of Prussian III Corps have however not yet arrived and nor are all French forces are in the photo.

Blucher’s left was clearly the most exposed and here he placed the next two divisions of I Corps – the infantry divisions are called brigades in Prussian parlance. The Prussian 12th Brigade, some three regiments, under August von Preussen was pushed to the left. Von Roder’s Cavalry Reserve took a more central position on the left.

Blucher however was soon to be surprised. He had expected the French cavalry to be advancing towards his front. Now, at 4.30pm and to his surprise and alarm, French cavalry were reported to be advancing rapidly against his open right flank in a clear turning movement which would unhinge his entire position.

Fortunately Baron Wilhelmovich’ Russian XI Corps had made good time and around 5pm entered the battle area. Blucher ordered Wilhelmovich to deploy on the Prussian right with his two divisions running from the town of Beilenberg due east facing north. They would have to halt this new threat. The various Russian regiments were well supported by position batteries as well as division and corps artillery. Below, the Russians can be seen deployed.

Soon after their deployment the Russians were hit by French light cavalry supported by two horse batteries, shown below.

The stoic Russian musket and cannon fire was to prove devastating. Despite the some initial success, where French cavalry overran two Russian batteries and forced two others to fall back, the Russian infantry remained in place. Having suffered heavy casualties in the initial charges the French cavalry were in no position to suffer the massed fire of the Russian infantry. By 6.30pm the French cavalry had fallen back demoralised and exhausted.

Soon after the attacks on the Prussian right the French infantry moved forward against the Prussian centre and left, despite their preliminary artillery having produced little results. The focus of one such French attack was the point in the Prussian line held by a Reserve Regiment of Pirch’s Brigade and where the Prussian line turned 90 degrees. Below, the point where the French attack would be launched.

Disordered by close range artillery fire the the regiment, along with several others, were assaulted by French cavalry and several infantry regiments. These attacks resulted in several Prussian regiments routing. However, further down the Prussian line determined Prussian brigades fought off a series of French attacks. Around 7.30pm, on the extreme Prussian left, Ney was wounded and the attack thrown back while encouraging one such attack against a Landwehr regiment of von Klux’s Brigade.

Prussian artillery continued to belch death at the French formations assailing the left and that had advanced in support of the attacking regiments. Now a series of localised Prussian counterattacks where launched to reestablish the line, starting at 8pm. With Ney wounded and elements of Prussian III Corps now fully deployed, French resolve for further attacks lessened. The Allied line had held, though the position remained perilous.

The game had been developed using the Road to Glory system. The Allied commander had selected Card 7, Advance Guard – Echelon Centre. In contrast the two French players had selected Card 24, Turning Manoeuvre – Left from the two possible cards they had drawn. All figures are from Heroics & Ros 6mm ranges. The Allies are from my own collection while the French are from Jon’s collection.