Category Archives: Napoleonic

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 He however ordered the main defence, centred on rising ground in the Prussian centre, to be protected with withdrawn flanks.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

One of the strengths of Volley & Bayonet is the ability of refighting historical battles. Further, the rules for me capture both the feeling of a major battle yet retaining sufficient detail that I know I’m fighting a Napoleonic battle. In fact picking up a description of these famous battles and I’m struck by the fact the the authors dialogue could equally be describing last week’s Volley & Bayonet game.

Over the years I’ve refought a reasonable number of battles using the rules. But one I haven’t played is Borodino. The other week I was contacted by email regarding the availability of the Borodino Scenario which, like several others, has been off-line while I reformat them. While reformatting is a slow process at the best of time, the email encouraged me to push this scenario further up the queue. After a several hours work I’m pleased to report Geoffrey Wootten’s epic Borodino Scenario is again on-line. It includes a few minor updates to align it with the latest edition of the rules, but is otherwise unchanged.

In many ways Borodino needs no introduction, yet perhaps it does. For me David Chandler places it into context in his “The Campaigns of Napoleon”. Napoleon had at his disposal around 124,000 infantry, 24,000 cavalry and 587 cannon. The Russians 72,000 infantry, possibly 10,000 militia, 24,000 cavalry including Cossacks, and 640 cannon. During the course of the battle Chandler notes the French alone would fire 90,000 artillery rounds and perhaps two million infantry cartridges during the day. The result would be almost 30% of those engaged would become casualties.

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Now, if you are thinking of refighting Borodino you will be wondering how many figures will be required. Well a quick review of Geoffrey’s scenario suggests you will need the 43 stands of French and allied infantry, 32 stands of French and allied foot artillery, around 10 stands of horse artillery and a respectable 26 stands of cavalry. The Russians on the other hand will require 45 stands of infantry, 5 stands of militia, some 49 stands of artillery and 20 stands of cavalry. Not a small number, yet certainly achievable. That said I’m woefully short of Russians with a paltry 17 stands of foot artillery based.

Enough of an introduction. You can find Geoffrey’s fine scenario here, or under the Napoleonic Scenario Section of this site.

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.