Category Archives: Battle Report

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 He however ordered the main defence, centred on rising ground in the Prussian centre, to be protected with withdrawn flanks.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.

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Hamstrung at Hazel Run

In September 1863 Longstreet was detached from the Army of Northern Virginia to reinforce the Army of the Tennessee. Likewise the Union army, commanded by Meade, also had troops detached. Lee learned of this and as a result in early October began an offensive sweep around Cedar Mountain with his remaining two corps, attempting to turn Meade’s right flank in what is known as the Bristoe Campaign. Meade turned north and followed. Well, that’s the historic part and from here we delve into a report of our most recent game, set on the 12th of October 1863.

The terrain in the vicinity of Hazel Run was a mix of open farmland and heavily wooded areas. Lee had camped on the southern banks of the Hazel Run with much of his army deployed with their flanks mostly protected by the various creeks, some of which were marshy, that fed into Hazel Run. Lee, now planned to turn early and inflict a crushing defeat at the pursuing Union forces.

Meade, suspecting Lee was dispersed, planned to press Lee’s rearguard eventually bringing on a general action. With limited intelligence he had ordered his advanced elements forward and by 1pm he was near to engaging Lee’s army. His main initial force comprised Warren’s II Corps, of three divisions, two of which were to the left of a large forested area near Widow Payne’s Farm. The wooded area, thick with heavy undergrowth and locally known as Todd’s Wilderness was around one mile in width and an equal distance deep. To Warren’s right was French’s III Corps which comprised only two divisions. Warren, had one division on the right of the Todd’s Wilderness on the Loganville Turnpike, and a further division moving into Todd’s Wilderness.

It was soon apparent to Meade that he was far from engaging Lee’s rearguard. Across the rich farmlands and spreading north of Todd’s Wilderness was Ewell’s Corps of three strong divisions under command of Rodes’, Early and Johnson. Together these three divisions comprised 12 brigades, with Rodes’ division being the strongest with five brigades. To the Rebel right two further divisions, drawn from A.P Hill’s Corps and under command of Heth and Anderson respectively. These divisions were, by 1.30pm, converging on Warren outnumbered forces.

Above, the area of battle viewed from the west. The Confederates are visible on the left (north) and elements of Meade’s Army of the Potomac on the right. Central is the open farmland which includes Widow Payne’s Farm, while behind is Todd’s Wilderness. Both areas are bordered by various streams that converge on Hazel Run to the north. Two divisions of Hill’s III Corps are visible in the left foreground.

Below, a view of Warren’s II Corps in the vicinity of Widow Payne’s farm. General Meade, now aware he is facing Lee’s veterans who are fully concentrated, has ridden forward to ensure his veterans of Gettysburg are well deployed. Two advanced brigades will fall back before the butternut and grey ranks of Lee’s legions. They will then form a line with Warren’s artillery. Warren’s artillery, comprising rifles and Napoleons are visible just prior to their deployment.

Below, elements of Rodes’ Confederate Division move to the attack, advancing through Todd’s Wilderness and across open farmland. Rifle fire is illustrated as the two armies come to grips in the Wilderness.

Meanwhile on the Union right flank the artillery of both armies began to exchange fire across Simpson’s Creek which cuts across the Loganville Turnpike. Initially Union artillery concentrated on the Rebel artillery, but as they were found to comprise a concentration of Napoleons French requested his artillery commander to switch to engaging the Rebel infantry. Here they plied their trade with determination eventually forcing elements of Early’s Division to retire. The Union infantry here are mostly from Birney’s Division.

Meanwhile, back at Widow Payne’s the Rebels we’re pressing forward with determination. Confronted with a fully deployed Union line Lee ordered the deployment of his artillery supported by increasing numbers of infantry, shown below. Clearly Lee was attempting to pin the deployed Union ranks while he worked for advantage in the woods.

Unfortunately for the Rebels Lee lacked the required numbers in the Wilderness. Further, the thick undergrowth made it difficult for the Confederate to press the outnumbered Union infantry. As a result, Lee’s attacks started to stall. Below, a view of the eastern end of Todd’s Wilderness where Prince’s Division was hotly engaged. Prince’s veterans held their ground despite horrific casualties.

Below, a more general view around 3pm when the first of Meade’s reinforcements, Sedgwick’s VI Corps started to arrive. First to reinforce the blue lines were the divisions of Wright and Terry. The creek defining the Federal left flank was marshy and as such created a significant obstacle to Anderson’s Division visible in the left foreground. In the area of Payne’s Farm the green markers denote stationary brigades and artillery battalions while yellow denote those that have become disordered.

By 6pm Sedgewick’s VI Corps was fully deployed and forming up on a line 600 yards behind the original Union positions. Wright and Howe’s Divisions formed the new line and were bolstered by Sedgewick’s Corps artillery, as can be seen below.

Just prior to 7pm the final Confederate attack occurred. Near Payne’s Farm three Rebel brigades launched one final attack on the 2nd Brigade of Terry’s Division. Meade and Lee were both present as the butternut waves moved forward, with a familiar battle cry. They were met by an equally horrific reply – a hail of rifle fire swept which repeatedly through the trees and brambles. The Federal line held, and the Confederates were forced back.

With darkness intervening Lee had to consider his options. Three of his divisions were all but exhausted, having suffered heavy casualties. Opposite Meade’s army was marginally in a worse condition. Two Union divisions were exhausted or near exhaustion, and Webb’s had collapsed. However, Union reinforcements were now fully deployed and overnight more reinforcements would likely bolster the Union lines. Lee had no other choice. He had been hamstrung at Hazel Run, but the campaign was not yet over. Using the cover of night he pulled back and continued his march north covered by his cavalry.

The scenario was of course a fictional encounter developed using the scenario system “Road to Glory”. The Confederate commander having selected the Card 25 “Full Deployment” was concentrated while the Union army was more dispersed it’s commander having selected Card 10 “Build-up Echelon Right”. All miniatures are from my own 6mm collection with infantry based on 1 1/2 square bases.

Return to Wavre

With the terrain for Wavre still set up from our game earlier in the week we were able to revisit the battle, this time as a multiplayer affair. The Prussians were to be commanded by Jon and Adrian, while the French were commanded by Alastair and I.

As previously, elements of III Corps were launched at Wavre and spurred on by Grouchy. They took first the suburbs on the southern bank before ejecting the Prussians on the northern bank. Below, at 3pm the situation as III Corps begin to advance on Wavre. Bierges is visible in the centre and Limale on the extreme left.

Repulsing Prussian counterattacks Grouchy began to slowly reinforce his hold on Wavre. A tenacious French advance on to the fields north of Wavre was later countered by Prussian Landwehr and Berthezène’s Division was driven back through Wavre. In the process the bridges over the Dyle at Wavre were finally lost.

Around Bierges things were equally desperate. Here Vandamme, commander of III Corps, took a slightly more cautious approach. Rather than execute an immediate attack he first bombarded the Prussian defenders on the opposite bank using a combination of 12 pounders supported by lighter horse artillery as well as the batteries allocated to various infantry brigades. Thielmann countered with his own artillery, though it was less effective. As Prussian casualties increased replacement Prussian regiments were pushed forward. At this point Vandamme ordered the first of a series of attacks that would last for several hours. Below, the situation around Bierges just prior to the crossing of the Dyle at this point.

Around 8.30pm a bridgehead over the Dyle was secured at Bierges. Eventually comprising two brigades of from Pecheux’s 12th Division and Domon’s cavalry. Grouchy moved between his troops encouraging his veterans. The French were subjected to a desperate counterattack around 9pm that forced some French formations back across the Dyle. Undeterred, the bridgehead was reinforced and as darkness began to intervene Shoeffer’s brigade and III Corps heavy artillery, having repulsed another Prussian counterattack, held Bierges and the associated bridge across the swollen Dyle River. As last light fell Hulot’s Division began to cross the Dyle.

Alas at Limale the battle was unfolding very differently. The Prussians 19th Line, not part of Thielemann’s III Corps, held the village. The Prussians deployed forward of the village on the banks of the Dyle. With the Prussians soon to be reinforced by additional troops the French attempted to secure the crossing by coup de main. A series of attacks began around 5.30pm with later ones supported by artillery. Around 7.30pm, and having suffered heavy casualties, the Prussian 19th Line broke. However, the Prussian defenders had by now been reinforced by the Prussian 12th Brigade (Division) and later by elements of the Prussian cavalry reserve. Constrained by enemy positions only two French brigades were to establish a fragile footing across the Dyle. Alas, each was thrown back by determined Prussian counterattacks. In all five French attacks across the Dyle would have been made with all eventually unsuccessful.

Below, one of the many failed attempts to cross at Limale.

As darkness fell on the 18th of June the butcher’s bill was significant. Two Prussian Divisions of III Corps had collapsed or been eliminated, while a third was exhausted. Only Luck’s weak Infantry Division and Hobe’s Cavalry Division were combat effective, and then only marginally. French losses were equally horrific with many divisions suffering significant casualties. Some in particular had suffered terribly. Habert’s Division had collapsed, while Berthezène and Vichery’s Division were exhausted. It was true that a bridgehead had been achieved. However, with the decision at Waterloo soon to be known, both commanders opted to disengage rather than renew battle on the 19th.

Another excellent refight of Wavre. As previously the game ran to around four hours of playing time and covered the fighting from 3pm to 10pm or seven turns of play. There are of course only limited tactical options in this battle, being only three places to cross the Dyle. Yet all players were faced with on-going problems of when to attack, how to attack and how to reinforce success. Wavre, Bierges and Limale all require different approaches. Truely fascinating…

A Bloody Day at Wavre

A regular wargaming opponent and I decided to take the opportunity of a recent public holiday to deploy some figures and refight the Battle of Wavre. While I’ve not played Wavre for a number of years I felt comfortable that it would fit well into our limited gaming window of four hours. In preparation I spent some time revitalising some Wavre specific terrain and reviewing the orders of battle for both armies.

The scenario is outlined in the Volley & Bayonet scenario book “Napoleon Returns” along with the other battles of the Hundred Days Campaign. The scenario book utilises ratings and organisations for the first edition of the rules. Not surprisingly wanted to use the ratings that Frank introduced in the second edition of the rules, so some updates were required. In a future post I will aim to outline these changes, including some variations I have decided to include. For now I will focus on a few photos of our game.

As a refresher the Wavre scenario, like the battle on the 18th of June, effectively starts at 3pm and runs until the end of the 9pm turn for a total of seven turns where each represents an hour. The scenario then allows a portion of the second day to be played.

As can be expected the our refight of the battle opened with a substantial and concentrated attack starting around 3.30pm by a massive assault on the parts of Wavre located south of the Dyle River. As the Grouchy hoped the position was carried Prussians reeled back in disorder.

Above, the general view with Wavre in the foreground being attacked by Lefol’s 8th Division and Berthezene’s 11th Division. While below another view highlighting the Prussian regulars. Behind them a Landwehr unit can be seen in northern Wavre.

Below, Lagarde’s Brigade occupies the southern sectors of Wavre.

The disorganised retreat caused considerable confusion to Prussians located on the north bank. With no substantial counterattack forthcoming Grouchy pressed forward. By a feat of arms he had by 4.30pm, and now supported by two batteries of 12pdrs, secured a portion of Wavre on the north bank. Below, Grouchy advances across the bridges into the areas of Wavre on the north bank.

Yet his advance was short lived and 5pm Grouchy and Lagarde’s Brigade had been routed completely out of Wavre! Another attack was launched around 6.30pm but unable to regain the momentum the northern parts of Wavre were to remain in Prussian control.

Some two miles south, at Limale, another attack was taking place. An initial bombardment had caused some casualties on the Prussians here. Teste, commanding the 21st Division now ordered an attack and the composite brigade surged forward to be meet by a hail of Prussian fire. Disordered by the confines of the narrow bridge French troops the attack suffered heavily and the brigade would play no further part in the action.

Following this repulse Gérard, commanding IV Corps, issued more conservative orders to General Vichery who commanded the 13th Division who had now been tasked with securing this crossing. As a result Vichery ordered a long range bombardment of Limale and surrounds – which was unfortunately woefully ineffective.

With the other attacks stalled Grouchy focused on the crossing near the Bierge Mill, slightly south of the village of Bierges. Initial attacks were supported by a bombardment but around 4.30pm Gengoult’s Brigade surged across the bridge.

Above, 10th Division supported by other elements engages the Prussians at Bierge.

Despite being repulsed after a bloody melee further brigades formed up and progressively attacked over the following hours. These attacks here were particularly confusing and difficult to summarise. Below, an attack around 6.30pm. Of note the Prussians are no longer defending the banks of the Dyle.

However, by 7.30pm a foothold was gained by the French on the north bank. In part as the Prussians opposite were paying a bloody cost for their determination. This bridgehead was no sooner gained than it was lost, only to be secured around 8.30pm. Below, the situation around 9pm.

Prussian counter-attacks were thrown back and by 9.30pm French artillery started to cross. Yet this foothold was fragile and by 10pm this tenacious bridgehead on the north bank of the Dyle was lost. As darkness fell so to did the French hope of securing victory. It had indeed been a bloody day at Wavre.

Wavre was an excellent battle to refight, I had forgotten how enjoyable it is. An error I did make was how to represent Limale. Due to the area the village occupied I represented it as as a V&B town sector. Further research confirms the buildings within the village were dispersed. As a result it would have been more realistic to model it as a village. All miniatures are from my own collection and are all from the excellent 6mm Heroics & Ros miniatures. They are all based at half scale where 1″ represents 200 yards. Trees are from Irregular Miniatures, hills and roads are home made while the river is a Battlefront “Stream Section”. The table measures 1.2m in width and 0.9m in depth.