Friday evening and time for another Volley & Bayonet game. This time Robin and I decided to revisit the Franco-Prussian War for our fourth game in recent months using our 6mm miniatures. The scenario was developed using a modified version of the “Road to Glory” scenario system, in part due to the scarcity of French forces. Yes, I need to paint some more figures. As to the scenario as luck would have it both commanders ended up with their centre and right wings available and the left wing beginning to arrive soon after.
General Frossard, commander of French II Corps, stirred in his saddle. He was a strong proponent of the defensible position but today his frustration was overwhelming. He would take the battle to the Prussians. He deployed his 1st Division in the centre it’s left flank resting on the Saparale stream. To his right, astride his line of communication, was Laveaucoupet’s 3rd Division. Opposite Frossard’s centre was the the 15th Prussian Division of General Goeben’s VIII Armeekorps. To Goeben’s right were elements of von Manteuffel’s I Armeekorps. The Prussians were clearly going to attempt to turn the French left, but their own left was exposed. Frustrated with the Prussians being on the offensive, and confident of being able to unhinge the Prussian left while using the terrain on his own left to delay the enemy, Frossard ordered an advance.
Above the general position with the Prussians on the left and the French on the right. Elements of the Prussian I Armeekorps are visible on the left foreground. Below, a view from the French centre. The town of Combrailles is visible in the distance.
His 1st Division secured a wooded heights dominating a valley that stretched around 800 yards to the town of Combrailles which soon formed a line on which the Prussian centre formed. The woods prevented the deployment of Frossard’s artillery but provided a deadly position for his infantry armed with the modern Chassepot rifle. While 1st Division was deployed to the woods edge and the Chassepot started to engage the Prussian Laveaucoupet’s division surged forward supported by the 4th Ligne to engage the Prussian exposed flank.
Above and below the French attack goes in. French rifled artillery (top right) can be seen adding their fire to the assault. Further French artillery wait in reserve in the foreground. The white markers indicate an unlimbered artillery stand while a white marker against an infantry regiment indicated it is prone. Green markers indicate stationary units. Yellow and red disorder.
The 9th and 10th Ligne swept forward encouraged by Frossard himself in an attack more reminiscent of 1859 than the last few days. The Prussian regiment, though not fully deployed produced a deadly fire from their Needle guns. Yet the French regiments surged on until a confusing melee resulted. Despite the French attack having local superiority and being well supported the French were forced back. As the Prussian line steadied Frossard ordered up the corps artillery reserve and soon a dramatic exchange of artillery shell and rifle fire wrapped its deadly arms around the combatants.
Marching to the sound of the firing General Bataille’s 2nd Division moved swiftly forward to outflank the Prussian left and add weight to Laveaucoupet’s attack which had become deadlocked, but time was against Frossard. At this point Frossard had just 23,000 infantry, 72 guns and 12 Mitrailleuse at his disposal. The Prussians had 30,000 infantry, 96 Krupp guns and 4000 cavalry. A decision now was critical.
Above, the French right flank. Laveaucoupet’s 3rd Division has formed a line now well supported by artillery while Bataille’s 2nd Division can be seen on the extreme right.
As the regiments of Bataille’s 2nd Division moved rapidly forward the Prussian 16th Division moved to support the Prussian line by extending the line. As the Prussian units moved into their supporting position they were met by a hail of Chassepot fire from the French 2nd Division.
Increasingly both French and Prussian units were going to ground in the minor folds of the land and thus reducing their vulnerability to the deadly fire of the bolt action rifles. But as elements of the Prussian 16th Division took cover Bataille ordered three regiments forward supported by the division’s Mitrailleuse battery. The cranking fire of the Mitrailleuse provided comfort for the French infantry and again caused consternation to the Prussian. In the next two hours the Prussian 16th Division would suffer horrendous casualties as Bataille’s attacks were unceasing. By 7pm the Prussian flank was in tatters and the 16th Division had collapsed. This had a ripple effect and soon the French centre was falling back to a second line.
Above, a general view of the centre and French right as it attacks. A portion of the Prussian centre is also giving ground.
Unfortunately things had not been as easy on the French left. Manteuffel, and elements of his I Armeekorps, had been tasked with engaging the French left. While two artillery battalions attempted to engage the French left other elements crossed the Saparale stream then move parallel to the river before turning on the French left. Frossard attempted to cover the left with just the 8th Ligne, a handful of rifled artillery and his remaining Mitrailleuse battery. A spirited defence was undertaken but weight of numbers told.
Finally around 8pm the Prussian main attack by the French right was launched, following on from a limited attack around 7pm. Two Prussian infantry regiments and a Prussian Cavalry Division, supported by the fire of 60 breech loading Krupp guns unleashed a torrent of fire. Combined they made the French left untenable.
Above, the French left comes under attack as two Prussian infantry regiments and Prussian cavalry are unleashed.
Once again Frossard was forced to surrender the battlefield, but yet again the Prussians had paid a devastating price in what was another stirring game.
The miniatures here are all 6mm from Heroics & Ros. The French from my collection and the Prussians from Robin’s. All miniatures are based at half scale and 1″ represents 200 yards. Each turn of course represents an hour.